FFXIV Around Dragonhead

If I’m to complete a full week of FFXIV posts, I need to think of one more topic to write about. I thought I would describe a typical play session. This one happened on a Thursday night.

I login with my Miqote Archer. I’m semi-embarassed that I’m still playing the adorable cat girl with the squirrel tail that I made on a lark back when I started, but I’m stuck with her now because I’m not going back to level up another character now. Maybe someday I’ll use my change-appearance potion but I’m not sure if it will let me change my race/gender, and I’m pretty sure it won’t let me change my distinctly female-sounding name.

I’m level 40 at the time of this writing, so I’m in a place called Dragonhead in the Central Highlands of Coerthas. It’s a nice mountainous, snowy place where the season never changes and it’s winter all the time. It’s windy too, which is a nice touch on the character models. It’s also apparently filled with Inquisitors who are not very nice to unbelievers. For some reason that I don’t fully understand, my character is in Coerthas chasing down the lost airship of this guy Cid who lost his memory or something. Why Cid would pilot his airship through these frigid mountains is a mystery. It’s no wonder it crashed.

Sunrise around Dragonhead (or maybe it's sunset, who knows)
Sunrise around Dragonhead (or maybe it’s sunset, who knows)

There’s a fair amount of FATE grinding going on in this zone. So when I log in, there might be a FATE activity happening nearby that I’ll join. Maybe Svara the dragon is making mischief north of Dragonhead, or maybe a Roc is terrorizing people to the west (I think). I summon my chocobo to do some fighting and gain some more experience for his Attack skill tree. This FATE might lead to several others if I end up following a train of people grinding FATEs all over the map. FATEs, by the way, are group activities very similar to Rifts and Dynamic Events in Rift and GW2. They are a big selling point of this game to me. I love doing group activities without the hassle of actually forming and maintaining groups.

I like doing FATEs but I also want to work on my main story line, which has something to do with helping Cid of the long white, windswept hair find his airship. I really need an epic story summary in these games because I never remember what’s going on in the epic story line from day to day. Anyway, I pick out a few other side quests at my level too, but I don’t do every quest I see, because I know that someday I might be leveling another class and I might want to save some quests for then. So I only do the minimum number of non-story quests that I can get away with. (Leveling is not very fast in this game. I can gain a level each night if I push it, but it often takes me two or more days per level because I’m a bit lazy. And this is with a bunch of rest experience stored up.) I get to a place where I’m supposed to kill a big monster and collect some meat for a cook. I summon it, fight it, and die. Only then do I realize that I was supposed to summon the monster and sprinkle some stuff on him to make him killable. The second time works much better. While doing these quests, I also stop by any more FATEs that pop up along the way.

After a few FATEs and quests my mind starts to wander. When I first played FFXIV I enjoyed dungeons, but it takes a long time to queue on my server because I’m DPS. Also, the highest dungeon I can get into now is Qarn, and I have heard that PUGs aren’t always very successful in it because of some mechanics. (They don’t look that hard to me, but then most people don’t look up a guide beforehand.) Any boss that require a PUG to do more than tank and spank can be a bit frustrating, so I’m not sure if I want to deal with that, particularly since there is no easy way to leave a dungeon once you’re trapped inside. I typically avoid queueing for anything during the week, and save them for weekends, even though dungeons are by far the best experience you can get in FFXIV.

I notice I’ve got over 5,000 Company credits or whatever saved up, so I head back to Old Gridania to buy a promotion in my Grand Company (from 3 to 4 I think). This will let me peruse the higher level equipment, although I’m starting to realize that as soon as I buy a piece of armor from my Grand Company quartermaster, it gets replaced half a level later by a piece of quest gear. I should really just wait until I get to 50 to deal with Company gear. Meanwhile I’m 10 levels from 50 and only at Rank 3 out of what, 12? At any rate, it turns out I need to make more progress on my Company Hunting Log, which I had completely forgotten about. I open it up and find what I need to kill. This requires me to teleport all over the world and search for obscure mobs out in the wildress. It’s easy work, until I get to these three entries which are said to be in Halitali.

I go to the Halitali area, hoping I can find them wandering around in the desert outside, but to no avail. I surmise I’ll need to go into the Halitali dungeon to check these three guys off my Hunting list so I can promote myself. I try to enter the dungeon by myself, but it just brings up the queue. It’s getting a little late in the evening, and I know it’ll take at least a half hour for a dungeon queue to pop, so I resolve to do this dungeon tomorrow, on Friday night. It’s actually one I haven’t done before, so it might be fun.

Then I’ll get my Company promotion and go back to FATEs and story quests. Ten more levels to go!

FFXIV The Return of Adolescent Jerkiness

When I first started playing FFXIV sometime around October 2013*, it was extremely quiet. Very few people made comments in the general chat. I’m sure we’re all used to a more-or-less constant scroll of adolescent jerkiness going on in MMO general chat, so it was weird and kind of nice that there was none of that in FFXIV. Most of what you saw, to be honest, was gold spam.

Now, however, I see a lot more activity in the general chat. And by "activity" of course I mean adolescent jerkiness.

I’m curious why things changed. I suppose it’s related to FFXIV 2.1’s new ability to right-click on chat and blacklist names directly from the context menu. Previously, general chat was basically a solid wall of constantly scrolling gold spam. To blacklist them, you had to manually bring up a box from the social window and key in the name to block, and you can imagine that gold sellers didn’t always have easy-to-type names. I usually took the time to do it, but I would guess that most people simply unsubscribed from chat altogether rather than try to blacklist the gold spam.

Now people can easily clear out the gold spam with a few mouse clicks, leaving general chat ready and waiting for adolescent jerkiness to ensue. That’s my theory, anyway. The only other thing I can think is that more people are playing on PCs (as opposed to PS3s) than before.

(By the way, the adolescent jerkiness still isn’t that bad, comparatively speaking. Most of the talk is actually about the constant, obsessive running of FATE groups.)

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p>* Date corrected.

FFXIV ARC or BRD (Archive or Beard)

My main (and only, since you can play any class with the same character) in FFXIV is an Archer. (Or "ARC," as they like to abbreviate class names to 3 letters for some reason – I still have trouble translating those – ARC looks like Archive to me – why is it hard to add three more letters to make "ARCHER?") Archer is a straight-forward, low-stress ranged DPS class that’s fun to play.

When you reach level 30 in Archer and level 15 in Pugilist (or PUG, which obviously stands for pick-up game), you can specialize in the "job" of a Bard (or BRD, which looks more like Beard to me). You are now asking how combining a bow-wielding archer with a fist-punching monk-ish class turns you into a music-playing bard, aren’t you? I don’t know the answer to that. There’s some FF lore to explain it, but the bottom line is that it just does. It’s one of life’s great mysteries.

You "enable" your BRD by equipping a job stone thingy. The BRD is about 99% the same as an ARC. At first, you only get one new ability, which is a buff that uses your mana to restore the rest of the party’s mana. That’s a reasonably handy spell in a group, as I would imagine it to be quite helpful to a healer.

Unfortunately the Beard’s mana buff ability comes with a pretty steep price. The first is that while the Beard’s mana buff is up, the Beard’s damage is reduced by a whopping 20%. Not cool when you’re supposed to be doing DPS.

The other big problem with the Beard is that you can only pull in alternate abilities from the Pugilist and Lancer classes. Those skills are … what’s the word I’m looking for here .. TOTALLY USELESS. Yes, that’s the one. (Well, mostly.)

However, I quite often need (or want) the ability to throw out a heal, which I can only do if I remain an Archive. When I’m soloing, I sometimes need to heal myself. Now that I have a chocobo companion, I sometimes need to heal him. Sometimes when I’m in a FATE group I might see a tank about to die and I might want to heal him up. My heals are pretty terrible compared to those of a dedicated Conjurer (CNJ, or kunge), of course, but they are better than nothing.

So I guess my point is that the Beard doesn’t feel terribly useful in the overall scheme of things. I can see where the mana boost would be helpful to a party, but is it enough to compensate for the DPS loss and the loss of off-healing capability? I’m not so sure. If Beard is supposed to make you into a support class, why rob you of the ability to off-heal?

FFXIV Heavensturm Event

Like just about everything in Final Fantasy XIV, seasonal events are kind of weird. I’m not really sure they should be called "events" at all. They are more like, you know, regular quests.

In most games, a seasonal event is a big deal. There’s a big gathering of people. There are games and activities and daily event quests. There’s a special dungeon or a special boss to defeat. There are special mounts and costumes and occasionally some meaningful gear as rewards.

In FFXIV, an "event" is basically a quest line with a bit of odd story-telling, after which you get a weird bit of costume gear. I’ve done two of them so far. The first was a Halloween event, in which you traveled to each city hub to do a few things, then returned to get … a spooky ghost costume. Actually I got two of them, and they both looked the same. As far as I can tell, you can’t wear them without sacrificing some real armor, because I can’t see where you can setup costume outfits in FFXIV.

I skipped the Christmas event because I couldn’t figure out who to talk to. Then the latest one was Heavensturm, which was refreshing in that it was not at all related to an Earth holiday. (At least, I don’t know of any Earth holidays that celebrate horses.) It takes you to the three big city hubs to talk about the merits of horses versus chocobos. (If you don’t know, chocobos–sort of ridable ostriches–are the default mount in FFXIV and I assume the entire Final Fantasy francise.) There are these folks from "the East" who want to bring horses to Eozera, but they apparently needed an adventurer to pave the way and tell people about the benefits of horses (by prancing around in a ridiculous-looking horse hat).

Hornless! Hornless!
Hornless! Hornless!

In the end, you get a mildly amusing mini-story, a handful of ridiculous-looking horse hats, and a handful of semi-neat-looking samuri-style dragon hats. None of which you can wear because you don’t want to take off your real helmet.

Personally I hope this means they’re going to add horse mounts to the game soon. Riding a big chicken is … weird. I’ve seen a lot of white unicorn mounts around but I’d rather have a wider variety of color and style choices. Plus unicorns are for girls. (I’m just kidding! Don’t send hate mail. My character actually is a girl.)

If they do add horses soon, then this little Heavensturm event is a neat way to do it. It’s better than just a patch note that says, "Boom, here’s some horses."

FFXIV Followup On Guild Houses

I’m all-in on FFXIV at the moment so get ready for wall-to-wall FFXIV posts this week!

Last time I wrote that Square Enix wouldn’t do much about their guild housing prices unless people didn’t buy them. After I wrote that, they backed off a bit on their ridiculous prices, but not by much. Out of curiosity, I snooped around the guild housing areas to see just how many of the plots had been bought up already, because I assumed people would buy them no matter how much they cost or how much mindless grinding they had to do.

Looks like I was dead wrong. As of this writing (Jan 8), only three plots have been purchased on my server, one in each of the three areas. So I guess there aren’t very many rich guilds on my server.

On the positive side, if Square Enix sticks to their guns, this might be a good way to scope out potential guilds you want to join. You could check to see if a prospective guild has a house to see if they are "legit" enough for you.

Early Access MMOs and Character Wipes

There are a lot more "early access" games now than ever before, thanks to Steam and Kickstarter. Basically what this means is that some random, poor game developer can release what amounts to a semi-playable demo of their game and then ask people to buy it for a (surprisingly minor) discount, hoping that they’ll raise enough money and interest to fund the rest of the game development.

In a lot of cases that is as janky as it sounds, because some Steam developers think it’s okay to put out crap that is buggy and unplayable, but I think it’s a concept that can work well for the MMO genre, since MMOs are almost always in constant flux even after their official releases anyway. MMO players as a whole should be used to bugs and change.

So in the MMO space, I’ve been looking at games like Gloria Victis, Life is Feudal, Shroud of the Avatar, and Star Citizen as possibilities to buy into early. I’ve already bought into Trove and EQ Landmark.

But here’s my problem. It’s not at all clear how these games will handle character wipes during development.

If I sign up to beta test a game and I get selected for a closed beta, they are in effect paying me for my service as a tester. I feel an obligation to actually test the game and provide feedback, in exchange for the opportunity to see the game early. I fully expect that I’m going to lose whatever progress I make when the beta ends, because I’m not there to have fun. I’m there to do a job.

But if I actually pay money to get "early access" to a game, I don’t feel nearly as much of an obligation to do a job. I’m paying them for a service, not the other way around. I’m fully prepared for and fine with bugs and unfinished content, but I also expect to be able to play.

I can accept dealing with bugs and server down time and whatnot (we have to deal with that after launch day too). But if I spend money to buy into a developing MMO a year early, and I spend a year playing that game, working around bugs and providing feedback, maybe even kicking in some more money because I like where the game is going, and then all of my progress gets wiped on some nebulous future launch day, I’m not going to be very happy about that.

If I know beforehand that I’m going to lose my progress, I’ll play entirely differently (and frankly, less often). Or maybe I would only kick in $10 or $20 just to "see" an early game, whereas I might kick in $50 or more if I know I won’t lose my progress.

(Trove, which is the only MMO that I’ve "funded" and actually received, so far wipes with every new patch. Granted it isn’t a huge scale MMO and there isn’t much progress worth keeping, but it does not fill me with confidence for other early access MMOs.)

Early access games need to be very clear about their wiping policy, and so far they aren’t, and that’s super janky and misleading.

Not Cool, SOE

Yeah, so we’ve been waiting for Everquest Next Landmark, right? We all thought they would start in January, right? We all bought an alpha or beta package even though we don’t want to admit it because it’s stupid to buy beta access for a free game, right? So what do you think goes through my mind when I get an email with a subject that looks like this:

> Ultrviolet, you’re invited to play EverQuest Next Landmark!

I’ll give you a hint, it goes something like this: HOLY CRAP I’M GOING TO BE PLAYING LANDMARK TONIGHT!

So you rip open the email and look for the download link, only briefly considering the possibility that it might be a scam to infect your computer with a virus. And that’s when you see that it’s an invitation all right … but not like a beta invitation … it’s an invitation to go to an event in San Diego … at the end of January … where they are going to reveal the game to the public.

And then you write a scathing set of tweets and a blog post expressing your irritation about such a misleading email subject line.

WoW Battle Pets FTW

This is it. It’s all or nothing. My marmot is almost out of health. He won’t survive another round, and he’s the last one. I throw the box. I watch with breath caught in my throat as it teeters … totters … and falls down on the frog. I got it! I pump my fist and celebrate the capture of a new battle pet in WoW.

My gnome jumps for joy on the screen, too. For this is not just any captured battle pet. This is a blue. A blue frog, to be specific. Not blue in skin color, mind you. Blue in rarity. That means it’s a special frog with lots of health and survivability. You don’t see blue battle pets out in the wild very often, so you try to grab them when you see them.

The blue frog will immediately be drafted into the second slot of my starting lineup, bumping the green marmot down to slot three, and knocking the green cockroach out entirely. Only slot one remains the same: I’ve been cultivating a blue cockroach for a while now, and he’s made it up to level 14. One level below my new frog, but the scuttling, disgusting cockroach has tons of health, so I like it in the lead-off position to inspire an appropriate amount of fear and loathing in my opponents. Two blue pets and a green, one 14 and two 15s. A formidable stable of battle pets as we head into the Blasted Lands.

I never would have believed it, and I laughed along with everyone else when I heard about battling pets coming to WoW, but I’ll be dipped if they aren’t fun as hell. And worth a surprising amount of XP, too. I wonder if one can level a character exclusively through pet battles.