Landmark First Impression

Apparently the NDA was lifted, so here’s my first impression of the game:

It doesn’t have invert mouse yet, so it’s a major, major chore to play it.

It literally boggles my mind that devs don’t include this in their alphas, or even their finished games. I mean, surely it must be a built-in feature of the game engine somewhere, right? Even if it’s a stupid registry key somewhere, show me where it is!

Other than that, it looked neato.

FFXIV – Endgame Life

In another post I wrote about your basic objectives in FFXIV endgame and what there is to do, but in this post I’m going to talk more frankly about the more practical experience of what the endgame is like when you’re not in a big Free Company with lots of people available at your level.

It’s like sitting around waiting in a queue for a long time.


And again.

And again.

In each daily playing session I typically do the Duty Roulette – Main Scenario, which yields a whopping 300 tokens of Philosophy, then the Duty Roulette – Low Level, which yields another 100 or so tokens and a few Mythology tokens. (If I knew any of the dungeons yet I would also want to do Duty Roulette – High Level to get even more tokens and item drops.) After that I basically do the Crystal Tower instance over and over again, which yields more tokens and a chance at some level 80 gear once a week.

All of those instances are fun, but these queues take a fair amount of time to pop. Main Scenario is an 8-man group, Low Level is a 4-man, and Crystal Tower is a whopping 24-man group. On weeknights, as DPS, it’s a good half hour wait for these things, if not longer. And it can take a good while to go through the instance itself, depending on the makeup of the group. It’s almost impossible to get through all of the stuff I listed above on a weeknight without staying up to all hours.

Fortunately you can level alt classes while waiting in a queue, so it’s not quite as bad as standing in one place jumping up and down. Of course alt classes bring their own set of issues, such as the fact that it takes a veritable eternity to level up to 15 (the point when you can start dungeons) on subsequent classes.

My basic point is that the FFXIV endgame can be challenging to enjoy because of all the waiting. And, to be honest, right now there isn’t as much to do as some other games (like Rift). But on the plus side, what there is to do is pretty fun.

FFXIV – Learning The Endgame

I reached level 50 in Final Fantasy XIV and entered "the endgame," that fabled zone where only the elites live. Now I can evaluate FFXIV’s version of what some vehemently insist is "the only real game."

As with any MMO (except GW2), the FFXIV endgame is a gear grind. Your basic goal is to increase the "average item level" of your gear. This in turn allows you to unlock more and more difficult instances, in which you can acquire gear with higher item levels.

Unfortunately it doesn’t all open up to you at once. You have to go through and "unlock" all of the new endgame instances one at a time by jumping through quest hoops. Crystal Tower, for example, requires a painfully long quest chain during which you have to complete four FATEs that are basically impossible to complete without groups. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll get to the FATE area at the exact time that other people are doing them. Otherwise, you’ll stand there waiting for other people to show up.

The currency you’ll be farming at endgame is what I call Allegheny Tokens, but which are actually called Allagan Tokens of Philosophy (lower tier) and Allagan Tokens of Mythology (higher tier). With Philosophy tokens you can buy item level 70 Darklight gear from a vendor in Revenent’s Toll. With Mythology tokens you can buy item level 90 gear. There’s a limit to how many Mythology tokens you can farm each week.

Where do you get these tokens you ask? Running instances over and over and over again. You unlock Castrum Meridian and The Praetorium by completing your main storyline (I think). These are 8-man instances which reward 100 Philosophy tokens each. There is also a Duty Roulette – Main Scenario, which rewards an extra 200 Philosophy tokens every day. Other Duty Roulettes also reward Philosophy and even Mythology tokens daily.

You can also get them from a handful of new dungeons unlocked at 50. I have not yet done any of these dungeons because I’m super lazy and to be honest you don’t really need to do them except one for your relic weapon quest. I’ll need to learn them eventually though so you can do the Duty Roulette – High Level, which awards extra tokens.

Okay, so you’re getting your Allegheny tokens and getting your Darklight gear. What else can you do? Well there’s this thing that everyone calls the Crystal Tower (but the game actually calls it the Labyrinth of Something), which is a 24-man "raid" you can queue up for and farm for item level 80 gear. It also rewards Allegheny tokens. You get level 80 gear from CT, but you can only get one piece of gear a week.

I put raid in quotes up there because it’s more of a public quest kind of raid than a real raid that requires coordination. Only a handful of people need to actually know what they’re doing to get through it. Most people just run around in a chaotic dance of lights and explosions. Personally I think it’s easier to farm for the tokens, although it can take a while to get in through the Duty Finder.

Oh, I almost forgot the Hard Mode Trials. Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda have 8-man harder instances available that you can do. Ifrit requires 51 item level, and Garuda requires I think 54 item level. I haven’t gotten to Titan yet but I would assume it’s higher. There is also an Ultima Weapon trial that requires item level 61, which I’m assuming is a repeat of the final boss fight(s) at the end of Praetorium. These hard mode trials drop a chest at the end from which you can get weapon upgrades if you haven’t yet done your relic quest.

I’m assuming that once you get all your 80 gear from CT, then you can go to this thing called Coil which I think is a more traditional-style raid, but I haven’t seen it. I’m in an FC now but I’m about a tier and a half behind everyone else.

One nice thing about the FFXIV endgame is that you can do almost all of it *without* an FC. However you will need to suffer through PUGs to do it. The people in this game seem more polite than average, but there’s still a number of dorks who are trying to speed run everything.

Bye Vanguard and Wizardry Online

I’m sure you’ve all heard the news about SOE closing down Vanguard, Wizardry Online, and two other MMOs.

Vanguard is a game that I always wanted to play more, but I could never seem to keep it on any kind of daily schedule. I always thought of it as a "crutch" game – I knew if there was absolutely nothing else to do, and I didn’t want to spend any money, I could always fire up Vanguard and be entertained for a little while. It had its faults, though. Mostly I think it suffered a lot from a slow, laggy combat system. But one thing I will always credit Vanguard for is introducing me to those deck-building card game thingys that everyone but me seems to play. After playing with Vanguard’s Diplomacy, I suppose I now understand why people go nuts for games like Magic and Hearthstone and whatever fifty million other card games are out there.

Wizardry Online was universally panned, but I found it fun in a weird, quirky sort of way. Not enough to play a lot, though. Anyway, people who are always complaining about "yet another carebear themepark MMO" should have liked WO, because it was a throwback in many ways. It reminded me of RPGs back in the early 1990s. But it was just too weird for a Western audience I guess.

WoW – Who to Boost

I am blatantly stealing TAGN’s post subject here, which is the question of who to boost to 90 for Warlords of Draenor. My situation is a lot different than his though, because I only play WoW when I’m really bored with other games, and my highest-level character has only recently broken into the Wrath of the Lich King era of the game.

Hunter? This was the second character I created when I started WoW in 2006, and my second-oldest surviving MMO character. (The first oldest is a warrior that I never play and should delete, but, well, he was my first WoW character.) He’s around level 72 now, having just left Outland for Northrend. It would be interesting to bump him up to 90, but then I would probably never experience any of that solo content between 72 and 90. I think I’ll pass on him.

Mage? My mage gnome was created in 2006 as well, and in 2013 I leveled him from below 20 to 55 exclusively using the LFG tool. I think this would be my leading candidate for bumping up to 90, because ranged DPS is a great "tourist" role when you want to look at group content, but not really have to work all that hard hehe. And in WoW, the queue times for playing DPS are actually tolerable, unlike, oh, every other MMO in the world.

Warlock? My undead Warlock is around 40, and I like him a lot, but I feel like he’s all alone because he can’t interact with my other mostly-Alliance characters. I don’t think I would boost this guy first, but he might be second if I get another chance at it.

The rest of my alts are at 25 or less, including two Warriors, a Druid, a Priest, a Shaman, and a Monk. Of those I would probably pick the Druid to boost simply because of his jack-of-all-trades capabilities, but he wouldn’t be first.

So there you have it. I guess Mage it is. I hope they do better damage at 90 than they do at 55.

As a relative newb in WoW, am I worried about jumping to 90 and suddenly having more skills than I know how to use? Am I afraid I’ll drag down the group because I don’t know what I’m doing? Actually no, not in WoW. Taking my Mage as an example, in group play I have used basically the exact same skills from 20 through 55. Spam a bolt until some other thing procs, then shoot that other thing. (It’s entirely possible that’s why my damage is bad, but I keep looking up guides and they all say that’s what I’m supposed to do.) In my limited experience it seems that each class is based around a "core" set of two or three abilities, and that never changes. So at 90 I only expect to have to learn maybe a couple of new abilities, if that.

(EQ2 is another story. I would be terrified to jump up to 85 in that game.)

Changing the Holy Trinity

I read Scree’s A Snapshot of Pantheon, an excellent summary of the things that Brad McQuaid wants to do with Kickstarter MMO Pantheon: Something of Something. I’ll save most of my comments on Brad’s game vision for another post, or never, because I don’t think it will get funded. The part about changing the Holy Trinity model is what stood out to me today. Apologies for quoting so much of this:

"Holy Trinity Shattered (maybe); The Holy Trinity has always been a Tank, DPS, and Healing based player roles (dating back to somewhat inaccurately, Everquest). Pantheon is seemingly bringing back the Support role initially with the Enchanter class (possibly also Shaman as Support?). Support was always a powerful role to include in vanilla Everquest and hopefully its return in Pantheon signals the end of the dreaded trinity. For those of you unfamiliar with Support, its a role that sometimes includes minor capabilities in Healing or DPS, but primarily enhances the abilities of the other roles around him (making everyone else that much more powerful)."

This brought to mind a couple of things. First, I see a lot of people talk about The Holy Trinity like it’s some arbitrary draconian law imposed upon us by the gaming industry, like it’s a prison we need to break free of. (At least, it sounds like Brad McQuaid thinks that.)

I have a slightly different take on it. I think that The Holy Trinity was invented by players back in the day as the most efficient way to tackle group content. Back then, players rolled their own Holy Trinities by customizing character skills or equipment to specialize in tanking or healing. Over time, game makers saw what those players were doing, saw that it was good, and eventually built it in as a feature of the game. They then added the "taunt" feature to allow The Holy Trinity to work even better. (I feel like WoW was the first to do that, but I am probably wrong.) Naturally I don’t have any tangible evidence to support it, but that’s my personal theory on the origin of the Holy Trinity.

My point is that I think there is a reason why The Holy Trinity exists: It has a proven history of working within the mechanics of many different MMOs.

Over time, the three roles have definitely grown more and more specialized, there’s no doubt about that. But I feel like there’s nothing inherently wrong with the core concept. (Personally, I’d like to see more games allow you to shift roles in the middle of dungeons or even fights.)

Here’s my second point. I am mystified about why Brad thinks adding a Support role in any way changes the Holy Trinity. I did not play in vanilla Everquest so I have never seen a Summoner in action and don’t get that reference. But I know that Rift has a Support role and many class abilities that fall within the scope of "enhancing the abilities of others." It’s a great concept, but in actual practice people rarely need Support in groups, because the buffs aren’t good enough to compensate for the loss of a person’s DPS.

Now suppose the Support person can throw out massive buffs that justify his position in a group. He’s not really changing the core tank-heal-DPS model, he’s just making the tanking, healing, and DPS better.

(By the way I wholeheartedly support more games supporting Support roles. Ha-ha! I said support three times! But yeah, I like playing supporting roles.)

While we’re on this subject, how do you shatter the Holy Trinity model?

The short answer is I have no idea. But I think you’d have to start by removing or somehow changing the taunt mechanic, thereby trimming down or eliminating the tank role. Once you do that, I think parties would be more free to compose groups however they wanted to.

I think it would be instructive to look at what Guild Wars 2 did in their effort to destroy the Trinity. I feel like battles in GW2 are not so much a group effort as they are a chaotic free-for-all with every man for himself. They eliminated healers by basically making everyone a healer, but that resulted in the alienation of everyone who likes to play a healing role. Unfortunately I can’t comment too much on it though because I’ve never done a GW2 dungeon. It’s still on my todo list.

Without taunt, I suspect that crowd control would suddenly become a lot more important (by which I mean more important than the current level of zero). We would still need some way to keep monsters from running straight to the healers and glass cannons, and if we can’t taunt them away with a tank, then we’d have to slow them or trap them. Or possibly have a way to put down obstacles that they would have to go around, like barrels. (That could be cool – before pulling the boss, the party would have to build a big tower defense-like blockade of barrels and traps and machine-gun turrets in front of the healer.)

So to summarize this wall of text, I don’t think changing the Holy Trinity is going to be easy. I’d like to see it toned down a bit though, or at least not have characters locked into one role at a time. I personally would like to see fights be a littler easier to continue if the tank and/or healer dies.

GW2 The Hidden Origins of Madness

Due to a devastating blizzard of perhaps a half an inch of fine powdery snow, I had 2 extra hours one morning to look at The Origins of Madness, the new Living Story content for Guild Wars 2.

I patch up, log into my Necro, and I have mail telling me to go to Lornar’s Pass. Naturally it’s one of the places my Necro hasn’t been so I can’t fast-travel there, so I get out my Norn Ranger, who has been all through those wintry mountains. I go to lookup the location in Lornar’s Pass again, only to find that the mail was not sent to my Ranger. Nice.

I get back onto my Necro and run all the way to Lornar’s Pass, through mobs that are actually dangerous to my endgame character because of course GW2 takes away all of your power wherever you go. (My feelings about that have gone from ‘okay, whatever’ to ‘holy crap this is annoying’ over the past year, if it isn’t obvious.) I pass several radar-like stations prominently marked on my map, surrounded by mobs. They look new to me, but I can’t tell if they are part of this patch or some previous one, and I’m in a bit of a hurry so I don’t stop to fight them.

Once I’m in Lornar’s Pass, there’s no in-game way to know where to go unless I click on "Show Me" in the mail. No signs, no friendly NPCs standing at the entrance to the zone saying, "Hey if you want to do that cool new thing you heard about, go down that road there!" But that’s the GW2 we’ve all come to know and love. (I’m ragging on them, but this is actually an improvement over previous content, which did not even send me mail.)

Once I have the general area pinned down, it’s very obvious where the action is, because there’s about ten "commanders" there with bright blue markers on the map. So I run down there, going the wrong way about fifty times and getting trapped in mountains, trying to jump down a cliff and remembering halfway down that you take falling damage in GW2, running back from a waypoint after dying from said cliff dive.

I find one of the blue commanders standing with a group of other people at the end of what appears to be a narrow canyon or cave. Beyond him, there is a wall with a big opening onto a much larger area. There’s a control panel there, but otherwise there is nothing happening. Just the commander and a group of twenty or so people standing around. Some of them are jumping up and down, some of them are running in circles, some of them are dancing. Very clear signs that these are people waiting for an event to begin.

Other commanders are in different places on the map, spread out in a semi-circle around the big chamber. I think I see some vendors on the map in the other places, so I head toward them hoping to find out why these people think something is about to happen, or get an idea of the progress of whatever pre-event things are happening, or maybe just see something other than a cave and one control panel that might give any kind of visual or audible clue about what is new in this patch. (There is not even a gold Living Story star marker anywhere on my map; I have looked and looked for it even though I know from past Living Story episodes that it doesn’t always take you where you’re supposed to go.)

I find one of the other commanders and his group of followers waiting around. I see now that these caves are like spokes radiating from the central area, where one presumes "something big" will appear. It looks like there’s another control panel at the end of this cave, too. I have to surmise that someone will have to push a button on this control panel at some point, and I guess that glorious duty will be the responsibility of the commanders. It turns out that the vendor I saw on the map was summoned by a player.

Running to another cave spoke, I notice that there are NPCs standing at the entrance to each cave. I recognize Rox the outcast Charr from previous Living Story installments. Finally! I think. Rox will surely tell me something useful. I click on her, and she says a single forgettable paragraph, not at all helpful to me in any way.

Thoroughly befuddled and having exactly zero fun in this new patch so far, I spot a little village hub a bit south of all the caves and commanders. Surely that’s the logical place to find all the special event NPCs with all the instructions for what is about to happen and how I can participate. Even though there is nothing on the map to make me think that. But surely there must be some kind of base camp there with Asura gizmos and gadgets and control panels.

Well, if you’ve followed the story this far, you can probably guess that nope, there was nothing there either. At least nothing obvious.

I got tired of looking, and my window of free time was closing, so I logged out.

(To be fair, kind of, I knew there was supposed to be a big giant death turtle or something there, which is supposed to be super hard, kind of like the super-charged Tequatl. But I only know that because I read the email that ArenaNet sent reminding me to log back into the game to see The Origins of Madness. To be honest I have no interest in participating in another massive, laggy, chaotic, uncoordinated boss battle; I just wanted to watch from afar for a moment and chuckle at all the people raging in chat about noobs not doing their jobs.)

(P.S. It’s a Great Jungle Worm, not a Big Giant Death Turtle. My memory is quite bad sometimes.)

(P.P.S. The place I described above is actually the easier Twisted Marionette event.)


p>EDIT: (P.P.P.S. It’s entirely possible that control panel I mentioned up there was a figment of my imagination, because I don’t see it now in lane 4, just a couple of pillars.)

Rift – What’s It Going To Take?

I read a fluff article on about 5 Things Rift Must Do In 2014, which got me thinking. What would it take to get me to play Rift again on a daily basis again in 2014?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Give me an expansion with new zones and more levels.

(Alternately, if I totally ran out of stuff to do in other MMOs I’m playing, I would probably play Rift.)

First of all, let me say that in my mind, Rift is the best WoW-clone out there by a long shot. If you take everything you love about WoW, throw out all the things you hate about WoW, and add in an awesome class system, you end up with Rift. It’s a really great MMO. (I expect to see something similar to that formula from WildStar, although the classes don’t look nearly as interesting as Rift’s.)

So why am I playing FFXIV right now instead of Rift?

Basically, because FFXIV feels new and interesting, whereas I feel like I’ve done everything there is to do in Rift. I have one character at 60 and three others at 51+. I would love to get my three other dwarves to 60, but going through Storm Legion is pretty tedious and that whole process would probably take a month or more.

Rift 3.0 is supposed to give us a new level cap and new souls, and that will be a must-play for me. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Trion will even be around long enough to get Rift 3.0 out the door. It was a bit shaky for them in 2013, although from what I can tell the game itself is perfectly fine. I would love to an expansion in 2014, but when I look back at articles talking about what’s going to be in 3.0, I start to wonder if they can fit all of that in before the end of the year. (Combat pets, new souls, level cap increases, PvP dimensions, and you would assume a bunch of new zones.) If this was the Trion of two years ago I’d say sure, no problem, but Trion today is not the Trion of two years ago, unfortunately. They aren’t putting out Rift patches nearly as fast as they once were. And they’ve got a bunch of different games to manage now, not just one.

So sadly, without an expansion, I don’t see myself doing much in Rift except popping in for holiday events now and then. I’d like to level more alts to 60, but it’s not very high on my priority list right now. By the time I finish with the games I’m playing now, ESO and/or WildStar will almost certainly be out, and that will probably supercede leveling those alts again, for at least a couple of months.

Perhaps after the shininess of ESO and WildStar wears off, Rift 3.0 and my quartet of dwarves will be there waiting for me.