FFXIV FATEs Versus GW2 Zergs

This thought occurred to me one night while I was running around in a FATE group in FFXIV: Why am I enjoying this zerg but when I play in a GW2 zerg in Escape from Lion’s Arch I want to gouge my own eyes out?

When I’m in a FFXIV zerg (or Rift, or most any other), I have a feeling of control. I’m filling a specific role, and when I execute my part of the plan, the whole group experience is better. I feel like I’m part of the team, one of the people working together, following some unspoken telepathic plan to reach the collective goal of loot and experience. When the enemy is killed, I have a sense of a job well done.

GW2 zergs are completely different. When I’m in a GW2 zerg, I feel like I’m all alone. I’m not a part of any whole, or on a team. I’m in the midst of a stampede or a swarm, buffeted back and forth on chaotic storm winds, swiping at anything that runs in front of me. I can’t see anything, I don’t have any control over anything, and my only goal is the stay alive in the hope that my swing might be the one that happens to kill the enemy. When it’s over I feel like a victim of a natural disaster.

I suppose it’s a matter of taste which experience is "better." The GW2 experience is probably more "realistic" in terms of how actual combat would be: Fast, chaotic, and confusing. And it’s fun to a certain point. But GW2 zergs take a lot out of me. Whereas FFXIV zergs are sort of relaxing.

WoW – $60 Seems Reasonable

I don’t have a problem with Blizzard’s $60 for a level 90 character. It’s within reach, but high enough to keep it from being an impulse buy (for me, at least). I think I would only pay to level a brand new character. It seems like a waste of money to take a mid-level or higher character up to 90.

If you’re a person who can play all day and night, I could see where $60 seems high, because you can probably level a character to 90 within a month of subscription time, which is $15 I think. Even I could probably level a character to 90 in less than four months, which is $60 of subscription time. (Not counting 3-month discounts.)

But let’s face it. At this point, leveling in WoW is not fun. There are no Instant Adventures. There are no FATEs or Rifts or Dynamic events or Zone events. There are no potions to increase your experience gains. There are no shortcuts for the long, long running times from the quest hubs to the quest areas. There are no new zones or mobs that we haven’t seen a hundred times before. (But, okay, there are Battle Pets.)

I will refrain from commenting on what it means to have a wildly popular game that is so objectionable that people will pay to skip playing it, though.

At this moment I don’t think I’ll be buying Warlords of Draenor at launch, whenever that is, because I haven’t ever gotten a WoW expansion at launch, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything. ESO and WildStar are considerably more interesting to me right now than another WoW expansion. Even FFXIV patches are more interesting to me, to be honest. WoW will still be here years from now; there’s always going to be time to play it. ESO and WildStar? You never know.

FFXIV – Ding! 50 White Mage

Hrm, well, this is the first day I haven’t had a workday post scheduled in advance in a long time, and I can’t find anything among my Drafts that is both finished and interesting.

I can report the fascinating news that I reached White Mage level 50 in FFXIV last night. I had been buying Darklight Healing gear for a while, so I was able to quickly jump from around item level ~40 to item level ~60 in a span of moments. I only need to buy the Darklight robe to complete that set, then it’s off to Crystal Tower to farm iLevel 80 gear.

I think I cheated a little bit in getting from level 35 to 50. I basically stopped doing dungeons appropriate to my level, and just did a low-level Duty Roulette every day. Then I spent most of the rest of my time around Camp Dragonhead running around in FATE zergs, which are almost continuous in the evenings, and give out decent XP even when you’re synced down. So I haven’t healed any dungeons since Temple of Qarn. It probably wasn’t a good idea because now I’m nervous about attempting to heal anything at level 50.

Next I believe I’m going to level up Dragoon, which I now have around 35. It’s a fun class, especially since spear-wielders are pretty rare in MMOs. Given the incredibly long DPS queue times, I’ll probably spend a lot of my time in FATEs around Camp Dragonhead again.

Eventually I plan to screw my courage to the sticking place (or whatever that saying is) and start working on a tank.

FFXIV – I Said It Couldn’t Be Done

Amazingly, I completed Titan Hard Mode in a PUG! Finally. It took around three weeks of trying. I stubbornly refused to use the Party Finder because, since I had spent so much time attempting it in a PUG, I wanted to finish it in a PUG. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make much sense. :)

Almost there... this is a truly remarkable PUG to have everyone alive at the end.
Almost there… this is a truly remarkable PUG to have everyone alive at the end.
He's gooooone!! Yay!
He’s gooooone!! Yay!

So I finally got my Relic Weapon. And I upgraded it, too. Yay.

It's a fold-up bow with a harp built-in. It's completely reasonable.
It’s a fold-up bow with a harp built-in. It’s completely realistic.

Pingzapper

I tried out a service called Pingzapper that might be useful if you’ve experienced weird lagging in MMOs or I guess really any game.

The alleged problem is that your ISP might be "traffic shaping" your data in a way that interferes with games. They are almost certainly messing up your streaming videos as much as they can get away with, so it makes sense that they would extend that policy to other areas. Because god forbid people should have high-speed Internet that they can use for whatever they want.

Ahem. Anyway, I hadn’t noticed any serious problems with my connection until recently with Final Fantasy XIV (say, in the last two months). It is most noticeable to me in Trial instances which usually require a lot of precise positioning and timing. What happens is everyone will freeze for up to a second (or more!) while I continue to move, then everyone zooms around on fast-forward to catch up to what I’ve been doing. A couple of seconds disconnected from a game is a really long time. You can imagine what would happen if a particularly bad AoE goes down during the lag spike: You die instantly when the lag is over. That categorically sucks.

So I heard about this service called Pingzapper. Allegedly it provides a tunnel from your computer to the game servers through some Pingzapper intermediary server. It’s supposed to hide the game traffic from your ISP, so they won’t interfere with it.

I installed the free demo, and it didn’t crash my system entirely, so I paid for a month, which was 3.99. So far, it seems to be working. I can confirm that those FFXIV lag spikes entirely vanished after I started playing through Pingzapper, and now I don’t feel like I have to over-run every AoE line by fifty feet just to make sure I’m actually clear of it. I was worried the game would feel slower because of shuffling the game data through more servers, but I haven’t noticed anything like that.

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p>All-in-all, I give Pingzapper a thumbs up. For whatever that’s worth. I can see these kinds of services becoming more and more necessary as ISPs continue to try their best to deliver less and less bandwidth.

GW2 – Escape from Lion's Arch

Still wanting to want to play GW2 more, but falling short. Here’s a summation of the new GW2 content: Same chaotic zerg fights, different location. I will give them credit for blowing up Lion’s Arch though. That’s cool. But the stuff you do in the blown up zone isn’t enough to pull me away from FFXIV.

I still have no idea who Scarlet is. Or why Lion’s Arch got blown up. Only in this last update was I able to put a face to the name, because it’s the first time I can ever remember seeing Scarlet. At least I assume that was her up on the ship looking diabolical in the cut scene.

But that’s one of the nice things about GW2. You can patch up quickly, log in quickly, watch the new cut scene, warp to the place, find a zerg, auto attack for a bit, throw in some other random skills to see if you can remember what they do, dodge red circles for a while, pick up some loot that probably isn’t worth anything, then log out after 15 or 20 minutes, and you’re pretty much up-to-date with what’s happening in the game world.

Having played so much FFXIV, though, I keep forgetting to pick up my loot. Running over to actually pick stuff up is sooooo last year.

FFXIV – Thaumaturge Dirge

When I was leveling the Archer/Bard, I often looked at Thaumaturges and Black Mages and wished I were them. They always seem to do more damage, and they just have cooler spells with their fire and ice and whatnot. And even more importantly, they actually have a useful Limit Break. (I would not wear the silly Gandalf hats, though.)

Then I actually played a THM through level 15, and quickly changed my mind. It’s not often that I actively dislike a class, or find it so annoying to play that I actually wish harm upon the developers who created it. But THM was definitely one of those classes. It was very aggravating to solo with, because every time you move out of an enemy telegraph, you stop casting. And the casting times are really, really long, so by the time you’re ready to get another spell off, the enemy is forcing you to move again. Once I got to 15 I was glad to park that class. It will probably be the absolute last class I ever get to 50.

Then I started leveling a White Mage, and wanted that lovely Swiftcast spell. Oh, Swiftcast. Why did you have to be a THM spell? So began the arduous task of leveling THM from 15 to 26.

(Swiftcast, by the way, lets you cast the next spell instantly, which is incredibly handy for instant battle rezes.)

Thankfully, once you get to level 15 you can stick to dungeons and never go out soloing any more. Still, I find it a very aggravating class to play. Maybe I just don’t have a natural aptitude for it.

It feels like you’re constantly having to make judgment calls. Do you have enough mana for one more Fire spell or should you Transpose to Umbral Ice now? Should you cast another Blizzard and wait for the Transpose cooldown, or should you just start casting Fire early? (I think the answer to that one might always be yes, wait.) Does the enemy have enough health left to justify another spell cast or should you switch to another target? Is it worth the extra cast time to throw out the Thunder DoT or should you just skip it? And any time you get something wrong you end up wasting a really long spell cast. Oh, and you can’t move.

I’ll admit there is a certain challenge to getting everything right, but it doesn’t feel like it’s worth the extra effort. I mean if I knew that a BLM could achieve double the DPS of a BRD, I could see sticking with it. But I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet. In my highly scientific test of running one dungeon with a BRD, my DPS was about the same, according to one of those janky log parser thingys. Then again, I’m pretty terrible at THM so maybe a more skilled player actually could do twice the damage.

ESO – It’s About The Horse

Yeah I pre-ordered the $79 Imperial Edition of ESO. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

I didn’t do it for the Imperial race, which I don’t care about. I fully expect Zenimax to make that available for purchase later anyway. I didn’t do it because I’m an Elder Scrolls fan boy and I think ESO is awesome. (I tolerate TES and I merely think ESO is better than average.*)

I mainly bought it for the horse. Because I happen to remember how much gold it took to buy those things in the beta, and I was able to calculate the amount of time it would take to buy one based on the rate that I was accumulating gold. (Hint: Infinite.)

(Of course, it’s possible they jacked up the horse prices in the beta so that a lot of people would make the same decision I did.)

(Also, somehow, in the beta, people managed to buy horses. I cannot even conceive of how much time those people must have played the beta, or why they would want to play a beta that much.)

I’m having a hard time understanding all the hate about ESO. It’s not a bad game by any stretch.

I’m seeing some disappointment that ESO isn’t more of a sandbox. This is mind-boggling to me. I feel like there’s now some twenty years of solid data to indicate that the majority of MMO gamers don’t want a sandbox. If people didn’t naturally gravitate toward theme parks, then EQ wouldn’t have become popular, and WoW wouldn’t have become popular after it. Sandboxes are for niche players only, so of course a smart AAA studio isn’t going to spend millions of dollars making a sandbox game. Especially when it’s going to a console.

I also feel like a lot of people are clinging to the idea that a new MMO needs to "feel like home" before they will spend any money on it. That it somehow needs to prove it will stay alive and active for at least as long as WoW has before anyone will commit to it.

I’m not looking for that at all. For a box price, I only hope to have fun for one month. Anything beyond that is gravy. If it’s a really good MMO I might have fun for about three or four months before burning out and needing a break. (Right now, FFXIV is starting to reach the end of that lifespan.)

I have seen an argument that it’s pointless to buy ESO now because it will eventually go free-to-play because subscriptions can’t last. I think maybe this is a generational thing. I generally don’t go around expecting to get things for free. Even if ESO does become free later, I don’t want to wait that long, and I’d rather play it when it doesn’t have all the ads anyway. It’ll be at least a year before it converts, if other games are any indication. Even TERA took a year, I think. I bought TERA when it came out and played for a month and decided not to subscribe, and I don’t feel the slightest bit cheated about it.

So I’m fully prepared for ESO to go free-to-play a year from now, if it happens. I’m not going to feel ripped off or cheated. I probably won’t be playing it by then, but I might see it as a chance to jump back into it. That’s what I did with TERA.

Having said all that, you should definitely not take my advice on whether to get ESO or not. I do have a tendency to spend discretionary money on games I don’t necessarily need or want. (I can’t even count the number of Steam games I’ve bought but never installed.) Quite often I’ll buy 3-month subscriptions to games on an impulse and then not play them. I’ve been cheerfully ignoring WoW, EVE and LotRO subs to keep playing FFXIV.

* My definition of an "average" MMO is something like Dragon’s Prophet or Allod’s Online.