Bad Launches

Good morning you happy people… it is the beginning of another work week and I still feel sore as hell from the weekends adventures.  The odd thing is my thighs are killing me… and I am guessing it was from all the random times I had to squat down to take a shot throughout the wedding festivities.  I still need to sift through the photos and cull it down to a final set of “wedding pictures”.  As I just reached up to scratch my forehead… it appears that the sunburn is starting to peel… so I have that itchy mess to look forward to over the next few days.

Pre-launch Problems

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The above animated image pretty much sums up my experience with the weekend pre-launch of Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn.  Essentially I got to play a bit before the wedding madness started on Saturday morning, and then at almost every point afterwards I received some form of an error trying to log in.  Essentially I think all of the issues encountered can more or less be chocked up to the poor infrastructure we have seen at various points during the other tests.  Almost everything about this weekend could have been reconciled if they had the forethought to include an actual login queue system.

Sure there is a sort of queue that exists, but the highest number in queue my friends and I have seen is somewhere in the 400s… which leads me to believe that the queue is limited to something ridiculous like 500 members.  This leads to the very fun process of spamming a character login only to get the ubiquitous 1017 error stating the world is full.  That is hands down the most frustrating part about the whole experience.  It seems like complete blind luck as to whether or not you are going to make it in.

Bad Timing

Ultimately another large portion of the failure that was the FFXIV head start, was the fact that they were holding it entirely over a weekend in North America.  Normally pre-launches begin on a Thursday night and continue on through Friday… at which time they can begin to see what the scaling issues are going to be like and adjust accordingly.  Holding it on a weekend essentially means that all infrastructure resources in North America are closed for the weekend.  I feel as though if they could have thrown a few more servers at this issue a lot of the problems would have been resolved.

Instead the game team and infrastructure resources are operating on a significant time lag.  An example is that Sunday evening… at what would be 8:30 am Japanese time… they managed to stabilize the JP servers.  As a result I was finally able to roll a character on the Japanese network of servers and at least spent a little time before going to bed playing around on Ultima.  My friends think that this morning we will see the EU/NA servers stabilize similarly.  I still question whether or not they actually care about customer service, but that is part of a much larger issue.

Bad Launches

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So far this is probably the worst game head start I have experienced.  Normally when a game launches, we get a few blissful days of stability during the head start as only the pre-orders get to play… and then can chill out for the first day as the servers burn around us knowing you already have characters that are pretty far into the game.  Quite honestly this is the first time that I can remember ever experiencing large periods of not being able to play the game at all… during a head start weekend.  Lots of head start experiences have been riddled with lag or other issues… but the game was at least partially playable.  During the entirety of the weekend I got roughly 2 hours of gameplay.

One of the things I found interesting however is that while talking to friends over text and mumble… I did not realize just how subjective a launch experience was.  For me I herald the launch of Rift as quite possibly one of the smoothest I had experienced.  However talking to one of my friends… he remembers tons of issues during that launch.  This lead me to crawl back through my forum posts and blog posts from the time… and I literally found no mention of any issues brought on by the launch.  Did I just not notice the issues because I was enjoying myself… or did I really not experience the problems that he had made note of.

So this makes me wonder… how many of the bad launches I have experienced are purely subjective?  For example, I considered Guild Wars 2 an extremely solid launch since it was playable for me the entire time… albeit I spent most of that time on the overflow shards.  However the simple fact that we could not really play on our “real” shards made it an extremely frustrating experience for certain other players.  Do they consider that launch a failure… whereas I consider it a pretty solid success?  Additionally I struggled with massive amounts of lag during the SWTOR launch, but my friends consider that to be one of the more successful launches to date.  It felt like a rocky start to me, and as such I got extremely frustrated by it.

King of Bad Launches

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So far the two worst launch experiences I have played under are both from the same company.  World of Warcraft has gone down in history as the rockiest start.  I can remember the game being more or less unstable for a solid month.  I remember almost always being able to connect to play the game… but functionally the server side lag made it next to unplayable.  There were times I could level without issue… so long as I never attempted to loot anything I did not already have in my inventory.  Likewise the launch of Diablo 3 was essentially an unplayable mess for the first few weeks and constant error codes.  I had far less forgiveness in me around that launch, because after the rocky wow start… they should have had better preparations in place for another blockbuster success.

The thing is… at the launch of WoW more or less the gamers dealt with not being able to play the game… because it was in so many ways leaps and bounds ahead of what else was currently on the market.  It was “worth” waiting for.  I feel like companies simply do not have the luxury of time to fix their problems.  I posted a complaint about the Final Fantasy launch over on G+ and immediately people brought up the failure that was Diablo 3.  Gamers tend to hold a grudge against the games that floundered and while some of them will develop a short memory and return to your game happily once the issues are resolved, there is a certain percentage that will never again trust your company.

With these catastrophic infrastructure failures… I feel as thought Final Fantasy XIV has roughly a weeks time to fix everything and get the servers in a relatively permanent state.  The roughest part is the fact that this is occurring during the pre-launch and we are not even seeing the final launch day crowds.  Right now every one of these frustrated players has the opportunity to log into amazon, or green man gaming and cancel their preorder.  I know of a handful of players who have done just this.  The rough reality is that other than the Final Fantasy diehards, the title is just not good enough overall to make the masses wait to play it.  There are way too many other games on the market, and many of them without the subscription fee.

Wrapping Up

Here is hoping that the next few days see massive improvements in the stability of Final Fantasy XIV.  Right now I am extremely disappointed and this probably goes down as the worst pre-launch I have experienced.  The next few days will determine if it can compete with Blizzard for the worst launch category.  Hopefully they can throw enough hardware at the problem to fix it quickly.  I hope you all have a great week, and that you were able to get in more playtime than I have to date.

Wedding Daze

Good morning folks… I return once more to my morning posts and am doing so in an extremely groggy fashion.  Before I went to bed last night I took some Motrin PM… and while the box says you should be prepared to sleep 6 to 8 hours… it seems as though my body wanted more like 10 to 12 hours.  As a result my thoughts are not entirely cogent, and I am spending a good deal of time just staring off in random directions searching for some purpose.  I just finished probably the worst sausage roll I have ever had, and now it is time to make words happen.

Wedding Daze

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Yesterday one of our oldest and dearest friends got married… and since for the most part they were trying to do the wedding on the cheap and quickly…  I got tagged to take the wedding photos.  If you read any of the posts leading up to yesterday, you could tell I was extremely nervous about the prospect of being responsible for recording a once in a lifetime type event for a good friend.  I would have simply hired one of my friends to do it… but I wanted to make sure that the family had full access to all of the photos without having to worry about re-ordering through someone else.  Ultimately I will write up a letter saying it is okay to reprint the photos and then they can take them literally anywhere to get larger photos made.

At this point… my everything hurts… literally.  Yesterday was a lovely day more or less, but an extremely hot and humid one.  The wedding was slotted to be outdoors and in an area without much shade.  Our friends decided to get married at her parents house… and they set up a nice makeshift altar… and were planning on having people seated on straw bales.  Again I have a massive problem with the concept of straw poking me in the ass when I am attending a wedding, but I understand the idea since straw is relatively cheap.  To make it a little bit more palatable they covered the bales with various vintage bed sheets.  As the photographer however I was literally on my feet from roughly 10 am until 1:30 pm or so when we took the final photos.

Respect Thy Father

After yesterday, I have a brand new respect for my father.  Essentially all of my life I have been attending weddings as my father shot a fair number of them each year as I grew up.  When I got into high school, I would attend them as his assistant, manning a camera from the balcony or some other stationary position getting long ranged shots of the key members of the ceremony.  So I grew up having the big moments of the ceremony ingrained in my head.  The only problem is… I am not my father… I just don’t enjoy taking pictures of people, nor do I really know the first thing about how to light them properly.

However even more than that… I simply do not have the juggling skills he always did.  The photos you take before and during the wedding are the easy part.  Sure I had to spend a lot of time running around to get the right angle at the right time and kneeling a lot to get the right shot… but this was all like riding an amusement park ride since the flow of the ceremony dictated a certain time frame.  Getting people to cooperate after the wedding was finished… that was the pure hell.  Everyone wants to derail the proceedings… and as a photographer all you care about is trying to get everyone to stand together in the right number of groups for the correct pictures.

While they don’t seem to care about getting the right shots… they most certainly care about them when you are done with the pictures and months later they realize they were left out of the pictures.  The key problem yesterday was the extreme heat and total lack of shade where the altar had been set up.  Everyone wanted to sneak away and get out of the wedding clothes.  It was 94* with pretty high humidity and next to no cloud cover to speak of… as a result everyone was having to combat the heat while wearing stuffy clothes.  Ultimately after making it through the family shots, and the brides family it was decided we all needed to take a break and since most of the grooms family was already eating… we would ultimately have to wait until after they finished.

Dehydration

In part the “waiting for them to finish” was a call I made because quite frankly I myself was in pretty bad shape.  I opted to wear a black shirt… since the inevitable sweat would not show on it… but in the heat that just made everything worse.  I allowed myself to get rather dehydrated over the course of the day, and at one point while taking pictures I kept bordering on blacking out from what I can only assume were the beginning stages of heat stroke.  My vision would go completely blank for a moment then recover… to say blacking out would be a misnomer I guess… since my field of view went completely white as thought I had just seem a huge explosion.  There was a wheel barrow full of water, and I downed three of them to try and catch up on my water consumption… but quite frankly it scared me more than a little bit.

Like I said above… I have a new found respect for my father because he always made this look so easy.  He would expertly juggle the distractions of the family members and burn through the photos in what felt like record time each time.  All the while doing this wearing a suit, even when the photos were taken outdoors in the heat.  I guess a huge difference is that my dad always had my mom there as the manipulator in chief… lining up the shots and making sure the right people were standing by waiting.  My wife was taking her own photos, but since neither of us are really good at dealing with human beings… we lacked that role of someone greasing the wheels and making sure everything was rolling along smoothly.

Ultimately I have a lot of respect towards both my parents and their ability to make the process of photographing a wedding appear effortless.  Ultimately we got the job done… and got all of the shots I thought we needed to make the family ultimately happy when they go through them later.  Now begins the hard process of culling down 1038 shots I took yesterday into a narrative that tells the tale of the wedding.  Encountering some technical difficulties this morning, as I realize that a Google album has a maximum of 1000 photos.  Essentially my normal process involves uploading everything to Google and then deleting out the photos I don’t view as “keepers” until I have a nice visual story to work with.

Wrapping Up

The order of business for today is to recover… and right now I am planning on planting my ass on this comfy couch for most of it.  I will be spending my time in a mixture of Rift and FFXIV and trying to do as little as humanly possible that actually “matters”.  I walked away yesterday with a pretty decent sunburn and I am hoping as the day goes on the pain fades.  Right now it is manageable and I can ignore it more or less.  Hoping you all have a great rest of the weekend… and you too can do as little as humanly possible that actually matters.

Lucian Arrives

Good morning my happy people out in the land that is digital.  I am feeling a bit better this morning, so I must have managed to get a decent amount of sleep for once.  Quite honestly I think a good deal of my issues right now stem from the fact that my allergies are going into overdrive.  Normally bit late August things have calmed down a bit here in Oklahoma.  However all of the rain we have gotten seems to be kicking all the things into overdrive.  Dear summer sun… why you no kill these weeds?

Lucian Arrives

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Yesterday was mostly about League of Legends for me and some of my friends.  The champion Lucian finally was available, and this was something several of us had been anticipating.  Over lunch Rae and I both played him a bit in a 1v1 game to test out his abilities.  Overall he feels like a much less tanky Graves, but with a few more murdery tricks up his sleeve.  When we played him he felt extremely mana hungry…  but apparently early in the day yesterday his Q was costing double mana…  which could very well account for this.

He seems to have the same slowish building period that Graves does, but once he has a fair amount of gear his attacks become extremely potent.  I know later in the evening Tam played a few games with him and really liked the end result.  The Champion spotlight does a pretty good job of outlining his abilities.  Personally when I played him I was constantly out of mana, because the cooldown on his abilities is far shorter than your mana pool can ever support.  Essentially he feels like a bottom lane champ I could maybe get used to playing.

Seeking Bot

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To this point… pretty much all of the champions I really enjoy playing have been top lane champions.  Currently my favorites are WuKong, Darius, Garen, and Riven… all of which are primarily suited to the top lane…  though I feel like Riven would do fine mid.  Essentially the problem is… when playing with my friends I tend to always hog that one position of the map.  While no one has complained… I just feel like I should branch out a bit and try and find something I enjoyed on the bottom lane.

As a result I have been playing quite a few 1v1 custom maps to play with various champions, and see which ones I could get used to.  Early on Graves was a champion that Tam suggested I might like, since he played a lot of him early on.  I enjoyed playing him, but I was prone to rushing things and engaging way before my items and abilities would support it.  So he was a champion I played for a little bit while I was finding my own play style, but never really returned to.  Lately I have dusted him back off and realized that I do really enjoy him quite a bit for what he is.

Additionally I had picked up Jayce when he was on sale some time ago but never actually got around to playing him.  I have to say I really like him as a bottom lane champion and the tool kit is especially useful once the laning phase is over.  The Shock Blast / Acceleration Gate combo seems extremely good at harassing other champions in your lane since you can poke at them near the turret with impunity.  So far my favorite one of his attacks is To The Skies!… at one point last night I finished off a champion and stole the blue and red buffs with this little quick pounce.  Essentially any champion with a “pounce” attack is a champion I like.

So combined with Lucian, that at least gives me three champions that I like on the bottom lane.  I feel like there are probably more I should try.  I picked up Kennen at some point because I like ninjas… but have never really played him much.  The problem is… because of my dislike of mages… I tend to shy away from AP champions.  Building AD feels natural to me… but the AP items all feel odd to me.  I feel like this is a thing I need to get past at some point… but ultimately right now the ranged champions I enjoy are the ones that are also ADCs.  The problem is that I have pretty much exhausted the AD ranged champions that I like.  Ultimately I will have to get over the hurdle and start digging into some AP ranged champions to add some variety to the bottom lane.

Realm Reborn

 

This weekend begins the official head start for Final Fantasy XIV and I am climbing down off my fence and giving it a shot.  Quite honestly a good chunk of what changed my mind was the fact that Green Man gaming has a 25% code(GMG25-OGRUH-7SM8H) that you can apply which takes down the Digital Collectors Edition to a level I am willing to gamble on.  Additionally there are going to be a large number of House Stalwart folks giving it a shot.  For me at least this is going to be mostly a weekend game.  I still planning on playing Rift during the week because there are a number of things I want to do there.  Additionally the guild is still pretty active and I love the vibe we have built there.

Final Fantasy is not really a primary game for me… the job system is really interesting… but it is still very wow like overall.  Quite honestly… I know that this game will have worked its way out of our systems well before the First Quarter 2014 release of Elder Scrolls Online.  I am under no illusions that this is the type of game that is going to hold the attention of our guild for very long… but it might be enjoyable to explore for awhile.  Being brutally honest… the majority of folks will have burned through whatever they wanted and gotten bored of it within the first month…  but for a few people it might hold some meaningful long term gameplay.

With the ability to do all the jobs and all the professions on one character… I really plan not to alt at all.  Belghast Sternblade will be my only character far as I am concerned.  We are settled into the Cactuar server, and I am really hoping Square pulls their heads out and fixes the server capacity issues we experienced last weekend.  I was finally able to get in and register my head start code yesterday, so hopefully that is a sign that they have gotten a number of the kinks worked out.  Overall the gameplay has been enjoyable, but we have struggled with infrastructure problems that never should have made it out of alpha testing.

Unfortunately this weekend I am not really sure how much playtime I will get.  Friday night we have a wedding rehearsal, and Saturday morning I am photographing a wedding while my wife is a bridesmaid.  Then Saturday night we have a baptism to attend.  So that pretty much fucks both Friday and Saturday, leaving only Sunday to do anything enjoyable.  My hope is that between the Wedding and the Baptism… we can run any errands we need to run so that Sunday we do not have to leave the house at all.

Wrapping Up

Well I have rattled on more than enough and now it is time for me to get my ass out of this house and on with the day.  I hope you all had a good week and that you have a far less busy and annoying weekend ahead of you.  I am nervous as hell to be honest… I have never shot a wedding.  But this is a favor to a friend so I am sure I will muddle through as best I can.  I am just not one for portrait photography… people tend to bore me as subjects go.  But she was happy enough with the family portraits I shot for her…  so here is hoping she will also be fine with my wedding photos.

The Flood

Good morning all you people out in digital land…  I am trying to wake up enough to string cognitive words together.  I did not sleep much last night, and I will go into reasons later… but suffice to say I am exhausted.  In addition I have a royal mess to deal with today, so I likely will be staying home.  Hopefully once I have a schedule for the day I can catch a cat nap.  Here is hoping that my old friend coffee will be enough to keep me going until then.

The Flood

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Today is the first day back to school with kids for my wife, and as a result the weekend was fairly stressful with her trying to prepare for everything.  During the summer I pretty much get a break from doing a lot of the household chores, but with the school year starting back up it is once again my job to take care of those things as she stresses out over lesson planning and grading on the weekends.  Previously there was a load of clothing that we had started but not finished… so I started that up again.

Once finished I noticed that a pet bed had come apart in the wash.  So I picked up the pieces and started a second load… this time of darks… since that tends to be the load we absolutely must do each weekend.  I went along about my business and an hour or so later I went in there to check on the progress… expecting to swap it into the dryer.  As I was walking towards the washer I noticed that the whites were wet… but it didn’t dawn on me until I was further down the hall what was happening.  Essentially the laundry room, parts of the closet, the hall, and our bedroom were soaked in water as apparently instead of draining out the water drained all over everything.

The Aftermath

So I hollered up at my wife, but while she surveyed the scene she was still in “I am freaking out because of too much school work” mode… and simply could not take in additional information at the time.  One of the positive side effects of owning a pool, is that we have a ridiculous number of beach towels for when people come swimming.  So I got into the closet, pulled out all of the beach towels and started sopping up the water.  This got up the bulk of the water, and I gathered those up in a trash bag and took them out into the back yard to hang up.

One of our neighbors brought down his wet/dry vacuum and got up the rest of the water as well as much from the carpet and pad as he could in the bedroom and closet.  Finally I brought down my big fan from my office upstairs and set it up pointing at the floor and turned it on high, hoping that the air circulation would dry the carpet the rest of the way.  After that it was pretty much just up to time to see if it would dry out.  My jeans were in the washer load when it blew… and it apparently did not make it all the way through the rinse cycle…  so since drying them out over night was not really an option I ran to the store and picked up another pair so I would actually have something to wear today.

The Denouement

The big air mover fan… made an odd kind of white noise… and all night long I kept waking up thinking I heard something strange.  I am fairly resistant to change, especially in my personal space.  The addition of a really loud fan on the floor beside my side of the bed was a rather disturbing change, and I ended up waking up every thirty minutes to an hour as the night went on.  As a result this morning I am feeling completely sapped.  The good news however is that the carpet is dry to the touch…  there is still a dark spot which tells me it is not completely dry.  We will leave the giant fan running for the next few days hopefully drying everything the rest of the way.

I emailed my boss to let him know what had happened… so my day today is pretty malleable.  One of several conclusions will happen.  We have the phone number of a reputable repair service, and I plan on calling them at 8 am.  Either after explaining what happened they tell me that they think it is easily fixable… like a clogged drainpipe or they tell me that I most likely have a dead washing machine.  So we either have the repair woman out…  or I go to Lowes and buy a new one that is on sale… and hopefully am able to do so early enough to arrange for same day delivery.  I believe Lowes will deliver, install and haul away the old unit… and we also have a line of credit there for such situations.

The Subligar

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So since everyone on Mumble was playing Final Fantasy XIV… I continued on yesterday.  The above picture is the result of questing around level 10.  Essentially I had picked up all of the pieces… thinking they looked odd but not really noticing it much… until I finally picked up the pants.  This is in fact a matched set of the level 10 quest gear in the “Lemon Lozenge” area of the game…  yes that is what I called Lima Lominsa.  The leather harness thing was a bit sketchy… but it looked okay-ish with my poofy red pants… that and I had gotten used to the occasional “nipple chest” from Rift and GW2.  The pants… well I wasn’t paying much attention and I picked them up…  despite warnings from my friends about the existence of the “Subligar”.

Turns out this is a running joke since FFXI but having to wear it… it doesn’t feel terribly funny.  Personally I find this kind of armor completely bullshit.  I am sure this is some dev’s odd kink at work, but too often this is what women have to wear ALL the time.  At least when I started my next set of quests I was able to upgrade to something that covered me.  Maybe I am an odd duck but I feel like armor should you know… be protective.  There is nothing heroic feeling about having to wear a pair of underwear while fighting monsters with a big axe.  If people want this crap in game… that is fine… just don’t make it a quest reward.

Ultimately after playing for about 10 minutes… I downgraded all my gear to my level 8 set… which realistically was only a few points of defense difference.   What was so disturbing about it was… that my previous set was this really amazing “leather plate” appearance, with a unique chest piece graphic apparently for marauders… then in the course of a few quests go to lemon yellow panties.  I posted a picture on G+ bitching about it… and was essentially met with a chorus of “QQ More” from the women… since this is pretty much every game experience for them.  I totally get that…  but no one should have to wear armor like this period.

It used to frustrated the shit out of me when I would find a nifty looking pair of plate pants… only to hand it to a female character and see it turned into a shiny metal bikini.  I am completely fine with the irony of having the tables turned… but remember I am one of the guys supporting you.  Make the assholes that dressed their companions in SWTOR in the Slave Girl outfit wear this… not someone who farmed for days to try and get proper Jedi robes for Kira.  Once I could solo it… I literally ran “The Esseles” a good 50 times until I got the orange moddable robes to drop so she could have something decent to wear as I leveled up.  Anyways rant about skimpy clothing over.

The Game

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I am in a really odd place about Final Fantasy XIV in general.  There is a lot about the game I am enjoying greatly.  Then there are other things that bug the hell out of me.  I honestly do not know at this point if I will be playing once it releases or not.  I have not had this much trouble deciding if I actually like a game or not since I played Guild Wars 2.  There are many aspects that I really dig like the whole jobs system… but so much of the game is just messaged really poorly.  Essentially you have to have some ancestral knowledge from other players to keep you from screwing your character up.

For example…  DO NOT SELL ANY ARMOR EVER!  I did… I regret it.  So something I did not realize… when you switch classes later you go back to level 1… and a ramification of this is that you will not be able to wear any of your armor period… other than the starter gear.  I sold mine long ago… thinking I would not need it.  As a result I had to run around buck naked in the Gridania starter zone until I could hit 5 and actually equip some gear.  Luckily I pretty much have every set of gear from that point on, but to the best of my knowledge based on what I am seeing from the vendors… there appears to be no way to rebuy that level 1 equip-able gear.

So much of the game feels deeply foreign to me… as though they set out to purposefully buck the western MMO traditions.  The game is at its core exactly the same as a World of Warcraft type MMO… just nothing is called by the right names, and nothing actually works in the same ways.  Essentially most of my time playing has been building this translation matrix of figuring out what a thing is called… and what it means to me.  I guess to some extent… that intrigues me… that the game can be so similar at the same time as it is completely foreign.

Like I said… at this point I seriously do not know if I will be playing this at launch.  If I do it will likely be a weekend thing.  My friends were wanting me to rush through the content… so I could get to some point where they needed a tank.  Really though I was far more happy to piddle aimlessly than to try and push through the quests to reach a point that they were already at.  I tend to out-level my quests by a large margin.  I am still afflicted by my desire to kill everything in sight… and that seems to be a super effective means of leveling.  The only mission type that seems to piss me off are the ones that involve using some emote on a target.

I guess at this point I have to say that I begrudgingly enjoy this game.  There is something about it that is charming, and despite all the jacked up characteristics… like the Subligar… there is enough here that I find enjoyable that I could see playing it.  I just am not sure if I could ever play the game seriously.  I definitely do not have the same admiration of all things Final Fantasy that it seems to take to really be 100% committed to this.  I guess I will see how I feel about things after the head start weekend next week.  That will ultimately determine if I play or not.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to prepare to call the repair woman and see if I can get an assessment of the situation.  If not… I will go to Lowes and see if I can get a washer delivered today.  I hope you had a much better Sunday than I did, and that you have a great start of the work week.  I am going to try and take a nap after I deal with these phone calls so that hopefully I stay fully functional.  Hopefully the carpet finishes drying as do the towels out in the back yard.

Lego Episode

Good morning you happy people out in digital land…  I Belghast am doing my best to try and be noble and bloggified this morning…  but seeming to fail miserably.  If you have not figured out by now… this top paragraph is really just me psyching myself up to write.  Think of it as the wind-up to a pitch, and while I do divulge important bits of information from time to time… mostly it is just my way of easing into writing about “things”.  This morning I am still drinking a cup of coffee, so who knows what adventures my mind will go on throughout the course of the day.

Lego Friends

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So a few weeks back my niece wanted Legos for her birthday.  This was one of my happiest moments as an uncle, and I spoiled her fairly rotten.  I may or may not have bought like $80 in Legos for her… because by god I am going to support the notion of my niece being into “building things”.  I have to say I was extremely disappointed in what I was able to find however.  It seems like all of the Lego City products have essentially nothing but male minifigures.  On a completely seperate row… were the Lego Friends toys… and scattered in among those were an assortment of “real” Lego sets with female characters.  So I ended up getting her a pink bucket with a girl minifig, a blue bucket with a boy minifig… and this princess horse grooming set because the minifig in that one looked a lot like her.

I was woefully sadden later to find out that she used some of her own money to buy a bunch of the Lego Friends sets.  Feminist Frequency released a video on the Lego Friends and for the most part I agreed… that they were an un-needed aberration in Legoland.  I had no clue why they existed in the first place.  I could not understand why they did not just release a series of Lego city sets with female heroines.  But yesterday I think I finally grok exactly what the Lego Friends do that the minifigures do not.

We spent most of our day yesterday either preparing for or spending time with family.  We had a surprise get together for my wife’s fathers birthday, and this was the first time I had seen my niece in awhile.  During my wife’s insane Lego find she found 3 sets for my niece.  One Lego friends set, and two normal lego sets but with gender neutral themes and including girl minifigs.  Thing is…  when we gave them to her… she was excited about all the sets for different reasons… but she was especially excited about the Lego Friends set… because it she did not already have “Andrea”.  I never once thought about the fact that the Lego friends might have names.

So I started listening to how she talked about Lego friends… and it finally made sense.  She cares about the different characters and their personalities much the same way as a little girl assigns attributes to each of the members of the Barbie universe.  The catch is that instead of teaching copious consumption… in that you need to buy Barbie all these things… like a dream house and a car…  it is letting her BUILD things for her new imaginary friends.  She talked about that she is building a house for all her lego friends… which is going completely off the map since none of the sets we have gotten for her so far was anything resembling a house.  Essentially from my standpoint Lego Friends are “working as intended”.

She is having all sorts of imaginative play… but she is building various aspects of the universe inhabited by these five named minifigures.  So I no longer feel like a horrible person for buying into this “Friends” franchise.  She is building and creating and imaging all sorts of new experience for her “dolls” and it seems like it is the best of both the Lego and Barbie experience.  She is having aspirational play imaging herself as a vet or a doctor or a home builder…  but doing so in a way that she is actually making the things happen by building them… rather than waiting on another trip to the store to acquire another item.  Here is hoping that she continues to build and create… and we will do our best to keep supplying a fresh set of bricks to incorporate into her little world.

Heroica

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Part of the whole going to see family thing, involves going to a small town about an hour from Tulsa.  With it being back to school time, my wife wanted to stop and see if they had any different school supplies… or more importantly ones on clearance at the small town Wal-mart.  While we did not really find much in the way of school supplies they had a bunch of Lego stuff on clearance.  I have seen the various Lego board games for awhile, but never actually picked them up.  I have heard they were an awesome source for relatively rare pieces, but they were always way too expensive for me to just pick up on a lark to part out.  I found these two Heroica sets for less than twenty bucks combined so I figured it was well worth that.

It got me to thinking… wouldn’t it be cool to run a D&D or similar pen and paper campaign using the Lego board games as a mapping system?  I saw a picture from G+ the other day of a dad teaching his kids D&D using minifigures to represent their characters.  It seems like father of the year material there, but wouldn’t it be cool if you also built the dungeon they were exploring out of Lego?  Granted it would involve kitbashing a TON of these sets to find enough pieces to be able to do it…  but it seems like a noble undertaking.  Sadly I don’t really have enough friends nearby to really support a D&D campaign.  When we do pen and paper we tend to do it as a google hangout… and I think the tactile experience of Lego everything… would be lost horribly over a camera.

Nipple Chests

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When I finally got back home from our family outing excursions… I sat down on the couch just absolutely drained.  I initially fired up Rift, but I just was not feeling up to grinding my harvest skills any further.  Granted I know I could have played something else… but I am somewhat obsessed with getting my Cleric to a level at which he can do Storm Legion content.  I logged into Mumble and everyone there was playing Final Fantasy XIV… so I figured… what the hell… might as well join them.  The game is growing on me, I will admit…  but I am just not sure to what extent.  There are still so many things that bother me about the game in general.

If my character looks awesome… I feel awesome while playing it.  This is why I am such a huge proponent of cosmetic gear systems.  If I can set my appearance and always look amazing… I will feel happy while playing that character.  Final Fantasy XIV has way too much of the bullshit you see in the above picture.  Wearing a “nipple chest” and powder blue assless chaps does not make me feel heroic in ANY way.  I just feel like a walking punchline to a horrible joke.  This shit might fly in Japan… but I just feel like a moron walking around like this.  Sadly earlier my character looked amazing…  I had a really slick looking set of gear… that fit the way my character plays… but since FFXIV has no cosmetic system to speak off… I am stuck looking like an abomination if I want to wear the most effective gear.

There is definitely something charming about the gameplay however.  It feels like a much better version of World of Warcraft.  The world looks nicer, the character models themselves are awesome… and the way combat chains off other abilities is a huge step forward from the WoW model.  The world seems fairly intricate as well, with lots of little things to explore and find.  I am still experience the whole things named nonsensically aspect… like what the hell is a Guildleve or a Levemete in the first place?  It feels like when Americans try and make ethnic sounding names that end up just being gibberish.  The whole game could do with a better cultural pass to change the names of things into something that makes sense.  As a result I can never remember what anything is called and just end up making names up for them.

I figure I will play the rest of the weekend and see where I feel about the game at the end of it.  It is more enjoyable than TERA or Dragons Prophet for example…  so were this a free to play game it would be a no-brainer as to whether or not I would be occasionally playing it.  But the whole subscription thing is still a sticking point for me.  I keep hoping that it will miraculously get better.  One of the things I want to try out is the jobs system.  I need to get up to around 15 to fully unlock the airship system be able to travel to the towns that have the guilds I want to pick up.  I think I am more than likely going to switch to pugilist or lancer first after getting Maurader to 15.

Wrapping Up

Well I managed to ramble on about meaningless stuff for another hour.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  I am guessing I will be splitting my Sunday between FFXIV and Rift.  I might even go upstairs and build some more Lego sets since that seems to be on my brain.  I still feel like I am potentially coming down with something… and as of this morning my wife seems similarly effected.  Here is hoping it just ends up as allergies and nothing more serious.

Goodbye Elrar

Good morning folks.  I am getting up and around rather slowly this morning as I still fell rather like shit.  I have scarfed down my traditional QuikTrip Sausage Roll breakfast, and imbibed enough caffeine to be cognizant.  Now I should really pretend to be brilliant and write up a post that people will love… or at least not hate.  Like most mornings I feel like this is an insanely daunting task.  We have a rather busy day of family gatherings and such…  so I feel as though this morning there is added pressure to be expedient.

Goodbye Elrar

elrar_pbr Roughly halfway through the day I had a moment to check my RSS feed and I stumbled across this article on Rift Scene.  At first I thought I had misread the title… because for the last two years… Elrar has been the public face of Rift in general.  But it turns out that in fact it was true… and that he was in fact “laid off”.  I am not sure the reasoning behind this but I do know that most every player will miss him.  As a big guy as well, I immediately identified with him, and after years of watching him on live streams I got used to his voice and antics.  It feels kinda sad to know that the recent stream where he showed off the amazing hedge maze… was to be his last with us.

There isn’t much official word out there, and Trion really has not posted an official statement other than one from Dahanese across the dev tracker.  I can only assume that this is more of the whole “changing direction” topic that Scott Hartsman mentioned when he took over as CEO.  When he said “We’re going to rapidly be laying the groundwork for a new strategy for Trion” I don’t think any of us realized just how rapidly he would be geting to work.  In the eight days since the announcement he has closed two offices and now sacked the public face of Rift.

Elrar went over on the MMO-Champions forums and posted this note…

Hey all,
I won’t be long – but wanted to say it has been the utmost pleasure getting to spend each day with all of you who make up the RIFT Community. You will be missed & I will fondly remember the time we had together.

Not sure what my future holds at this point, but I’m excited for the possibilities – gaming or beyond! I hold no ill will towards Trion or the folks still working hard to succeed today. The RIFT development team is full of kick-ass individuals who very much share the same passion for the game that I shared with you.
While I’ve never really used it, I’m going to try out managing my own Twitter account to better stay in touch with those who want to:
www.twitter.com/GiantApproved
I’m also musing a Twitch channel, at least with my new-found free time, if I start anything up it would be at www.twitch.tv/elrar
Thanks again everyone & my best wishes to you all

I wish him the best of luck to him in his future ventures.  I have loved having him as our community manager in Rift, and hopefully he will find another community to nurture in the future.  Ultimately that is what a community manager does more than anything.  I have so much respect for the community folks out there… my decade as a guild leader has made me realize just how difficult a job it is to always be on… and always be extolling the virtues of the company line.  A CM has to buy into their product 200% and always be ready to present a positive spin on even the darkest of commentary.  It would be so hard to meet a standard “fuck you all” thread with a smile and happily turn it around into a positive.

Ultimately I think the community team learns how to feed off the positive experiences to shield themselves from the negative ones.  Combine that with the fact that every action they do is always under a microscope of scrutiny and you have a recipe for endless torment.  However the community staff seems to feed off of it… draw power and inspiration and find a way to keep going the next day.  Even in games where I have not liked or agreed with their community staff… I have had the utmost of respect for what they do as a whole.  In the best cases I have become friends or at least friendly with the community team…  and in cases like Elrar or Morteia I will miss them terribly.

Now to do my own amount of spinning… as much as I will miss Elrar…  I really hate all the crap that has been shoveled in the direction of Dahanese over the last 24 hours.  No one ever wishes to replace someone else, especially someone beloved by the community.  This is not her fault and as a result the community really should refrain from giving her grief over the events.  I am sure she is going to do the best job possible for us as players, and as sad as I am about the events… I welcome her with open arms in her new role.  She will most certainly work her ass off to support the community and be a new face for us all to come to love.

Mining Madness

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Last night I was pretty drained so I spent most of the evening running around trying to work all three harvest abilities up to 300 so I could officially start Storm Legion content. I feel as though this whole plan of mine might be madness… but I don’t really want to get too far into Cape Jule without the ability to harvest all the resources I find.  I am wanting to level up my cleric so I can have a nice pre-3.0 healing resource to help the guild with dungeons and the sort.  One of the things I have learned since the last time I leveled multiple harvest professions… is that regardless how much slower the skill-ups seem… that I am far better off finding camps of mobs that can be harvested rather than running around aimlessly looking for pops.

As a result I spent a good chunk of my time out in Shimmersand in the highest level area.  I have been farming the above camp of crystaine and iron golems trying to hit 300.  I managed to get butchering up to 300 while killing drakes in the same basic area.  My real challenge is going to be finding an area of boglings or similarly forageable critters to kill to finish topping off foraging.  Of the top of my head I really cannot think of any… but I figured I would try Stillmoor.  I vaguely remember camps of life creatures… which are often times forageable.  If any of my readers have a suggestion of where to go from 250-300 foraging… I would greatly appreciate it.  Worse case scenario I will run around aimlessly and pick herbs in Iron Pine Peaks.

Another Shot

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Awhile back I posted that I had cancelled my preorder for Final Fantasy XIV, and my commentary about the game in general.  However apparently I still have access to this last beta phase.  With a good number of my friends super excited about the game…  I thought I would go ahead and download it last night.  I figured giving it another shot is never a bad thing.  Fortunately or unfortunately… my commentary above from earlier in the day still applies.  The game is rather charming in many ways… but at the end of the day it is just not different enough for me to really be able to get past the “wow with chocobos” aspect.

Firstly… and this will be a huge killer for so many people… it has without a doubt the worst intro sequence I have ever had to sit through in an MMO.  You are essentially surrendering thirty minutes of your life as you play through a completely unimportant sequence of events I assume intended to introduce you to characters that will for some reason be important later.  The probably is… there is no Escape key to allow you to skip it… and after you have seen one of these sequences you pretty much never need to sit through it again.  However on each and every character you are forced to slog through the annoying cutscene.

Once you get into the game… unless you know otherwise… you are treated to a series of banal quests as you run errands around town.  I made the mistake of doing these the first time I sat down to play the game.  Now I at least know that I can pretty much just go to my guild master, do that quest and go out into the world killing things with great zeal.  The gameplay is enjoyable and the world is gorgeous…  but it all feels like an poor fitting shoe.  There is so much familiar but at the same time… so foreign.  There are symbols and glyphs all over the place, that I feel like I am supposed to natively understand what they mean.  Additionally things are called by weird names… and it almost feels like something was lost in the translation from Japanese to English.

That is pretty much the problem I have regularly with the title.  It feels as though another culture set out to create World of Warcraft.  So it is WoW but with a completely different set of cultural norms.  So this is what adds to the whole familiar but odd at the same time feeling that I just cannot shake.  I used to be a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series… but my affection for it stopped almost exactly at Final Fantasy VI.  So there is a certain amount of nostalgia here… but at the same time it feels like it draws more heavily from the later games.  So while I am casting spells I might recognize…  the world itself does not feel familiar apart from a smattering of familiar critters.

I figure I will continue to play it off and on throughout the weekend with large sessions of Rift in-between… but I still feel confident in my feeling that this is a pass game for me.  Like I said before… if this was a “buy the box” title, I would have gladly snapped it up and played it off and on when friends wanted to.  However that said, there is no way I can see justifying a monthly subscription fee to play it.  I know my friends who are extremely into the Final Fantasy setting will love the title.  It is charming and does a good job of bringing the FF setting into the WoW Genre.  But for someone who doesn’t really care about Final Fantasy… it comes off as just another WoW Clone… albeit a well done one.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to get on with the morning.  In addition to the family gathering this afternoon, my wife apparently has a compiled list of things that she needs to run errand wise.  So I need to finish this up and get on with the day.  I hope you all have a great weekend, and hopefully I will see some of you either in Rift or in FFXIV.  My current character name over there is “Belghast Sternblade” but anyone who has played with me long could have guessed that one.

Goodbye Chocobo

Last night was a fairly good night.  It was cool outside so we decided to go for our evening walk pretty early.  After we got done with our loop of the neighborhood I decided it taking a dip in the pool sounded absolutely awesome.  So after cooling down in the pool, I finally settled in for some serious Rift time, and luckily by then the servers had mostly stabilized.  There was apparently an issue with the backhaul for the Trion datacenter that was generating a ton of lag for certain players.

Goodbye Chocobo

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Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn releases on August 27th, and a good number of my friends are extremely pumped about this.  As a result I got a bit caught up in the hype myself and had preordered the game through Amazon.  I got into the beta and enjoyed myself and even wrote a relatively positive review.  The problem for me is that once the nostalgia wore off, I was essentially left playing a game that was very much rooted in the wow era traditions and really didn’t push the bar forward much.  With each successive beta test I found myself with less and less desire to actually log in and play it.

Don’t get me wrong… there is nothing wrong with the game, nor is it a bad game.  In fact it is a really good game, and if you are deeply rooted in the Final Fantasy Mythos and/or really like the JRPG style of artwork and graphics…  it is likely going to be an amazing game for you.  That said.. I normally do not like the JRPG art and character style… and while I have a good chunk of nostalgia towards the Final Fantasy franchise… all of that comes from the 2D era of the game.  I feel as though that nostalgic buzz has worked its way through my system.

Additionally right now I am really trying to set down some semi-permanent roots in Rift.  The House Stalwart guild is hopping every night and people are friendly and happy and engaging.  I don’t want to go off and play anything else, even on a lark and take a chance of jinxing this awesome thing we have going.  I also lack the desire to really play Final Fantasy XIV.  It was a game I was definitely going to play because I had several friends who were really excited about it.  However my fear was that it would be another TERA for me, I play it one week and then cancel my account never to play it again.

For all of these reasons… yesterday I went into my Amazon account and cancelled my preorder.  The biggest detractor for me, and the point that made me go ahead and pull the trigger…  is the subscription fee.  It is funny how things have shifted for me… and I have gone from being a player who didn’t want to play a game without a subscription option… to being one who really criticizes any game that ONLY has a subscription model.  Ultimately the game was just not fun enough for me to be willing to pay a monthly fee to play.  If it was buy the box, I would have gone ahead and picked it up and piddle around in it whenever I felt like.  However knowing that I only had 30 days of playtime to decide if I liked the game enough to pay a monthly fee for it… was a massive hindrance.

I hope the game does well, and it finds its niche after all the work they have put into it.  It really is an enjoyable experience, but for me just not compelling enough to pay for.  I feel like I want the game to succeed, because at this point ANY MMO failure is a negative thing and causes the number of companies willing to fund a AAA MMO to shrink.  Based on the number of people that are truly hyped about the game, I figure it will be a modest success which will hopefully be enough to keep the ball moving forward.

Night of the Hunt

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Yesterday I ended up writing a piece in response to a blog post, and did not really go over what happened Wednesday night for the guild.  For awhile now we have been trying to make Monday and Wednesday nights a time when we pull something together.  The Monday side of the equation has been faltering, however most every Wednesday night we at least do something as a group.  Monday has long been The Secret World night amongst a large group of my friends… and I am thinking we might simply need to start doing that as well.  Wednesday night however we usually have a critical mass of players, and this past one I had huge plans.

In the Storm Legion concept there is something called a Hunt Rift that you can purchase from the Torvan Hunters.  Essentially you are helping the Torvan Hunters capture dangerous planar beings.  You open the special lures at any planar tear, and it starts a little multiple stage event that works somewhat different than a normal rift.  During the first stage you help the hunter build the machine to trap the being, then you defend it against an onslaught of planar mobs trying to stop your efforts.  Finally after defending the machine for several phases the mini-boss is summoned and you defeat them.  The reward is lots of Torvan Hunters rep, a chest full of goodies, and being able to check off one hunt from the achievement that eventually unlocks Great Hunts.

The lures are roughly 5000 planarite each, and I decided I would purchase the first dozen that make up tier 1 of the torvan hunts.  The plan was simple…  we would grab whatever available level 50+ characters we had… grab the few 40+ players we had and teleport them to storm legion content via a rally banner… and wreck the hunts.  This was an awesome theory… but was thwarted by the fact that apparently the Rally Scroll has limits on being able to teleport too low a character to the Storm Legion content zones. 

We opened a single rift and closed it, but I made the call that it would just be more enjoyable if we could do something we ALL could participate in.  It is never fun to be sitting on the bench when you perceive that other players are off doing amazing things.  I searched my brain for an idea… and finally landed on the fact that myself and Tibuant had a decent stock of old world elite lures laying around.  These were challenging encounters designed for 10 players at level 50, and our original Rift guild had many Elite Rift nights.  As a result I had half a dozen lures still taking up bank space, and Tib had another couple himself.

We spent the rest of the night bouncing back and forth between the yellow elite tears in Iron Pine Peaks and Stillmoor opening the encounters.  While most of the gear has long since been replaced with better Storm Legion greens, our youngins were able to pick up a few pieces of epic quality gear that might hold them for a little bit once they start into the new content.  Honestly however that was just gravy, the real fun was just running around as a group and doing something out of the ordinary together.  I am glad I made the choice to pick something we all could do, rather than excluding a batch of players due to level.

There will be other guild nights and other times we can finish the tier one hunt rifts.  Each of the lower level players we toon along got one or more dings over the course of the night.  So we slowly but surely moved them forward towards being able to participate in bigger and grander things.  I am not saying there will not be nights that we run things higher level that some of our crew may not be able to participate in.  But my hope is to be able to include the largest batch of players in the process.  I am just enjoying running around together doing whatever the hell we end up doing.

Wrapping Up

I normally do three segments, but these two segments seem extra long to me.  Additionally the time is getting late and I need to be getting on to work.  This morning I need to run laundry by the cleaners and that always takes up a bit of time.  Last night we had a lot of fun closing Rifts for the guild quest and hopefully we can finish off the second “close 100 rifts” quest tonight.  We dinged level 5 yesterday but are a long ways from level 6.  I hope you all have a great Friday and that it is the start of an awesome weekend.  Tonight we will be picking up a printer from some folks on craigslist, and hopefully I will get on before too late.

Sense of Humor

Be warned… this is one of those mornings when I just don’t really feel like doing a blog post.  It isn’t necessarily that I don’t want to write… it is that I don’t feel like I have anything really exciting to share with the world.  But several months ago I made a commitment to blog every morning or evening, and I have not dropped that promise yet.  Though quite honestly the timing of the evening posts has been a bit odd and something I need to work on.

Searching for Something

Most of yesterday was spent in some fashion roaming around town.  At first I was on a mission to hit a bunch of used bookstores, namely the largest ones here in town looking for something I could not quite describe.  Essentially I am doing a lot of pre-writing for my attempt on NaNoWriMo this year.  I am one of those people that I don’t feel like I can write about something, without knowing more about the world itself.  The world I have built in my head is extremely intricate and as a result I am having to do quite a bit of research.

The only problem is I cannot put my finger on exactly what I am looking for.  I have been searching for ethnic folk tales, lore, and even role-playing game books that are set in non-European/American settings.  I feel like in those two realms I have a fairly firm grasp on the classical lore, mythology and cast of creatures.  Where I am really lacking is China and the countries of the former USSR.  Additionally I could definitely use some more information on the creatures of the African continent.  I know some of it, but not nearly the clarity I would like.

Essentially I am trying to build political struggles, kingdoms and relationships between various groups of magical creatures.  I have a lot of things in place, but I want more resolution and granularity of who lives where and  controls what.  The irony about this whole thing is… that the story I will likely weave through this world will only touch a tiny tiny bit of it.  But I feel like I need to know what the topography of the world is like before i can populate any part of it with characters. 

This is also why I am getting started this far ahead of November, trying to weave together a world that makes sense to me.  One of the things I hate about a novel is when it feels like there was no master plan to the world, or that when a big reveal happens. it is a massive let down because it doesn’t make much sense.  Since this is a hang-up of mine… I feel like I have to build the world first and then write about it.  I thought that maybe I might stumble onto a collected book of folklore or something like that, but at the end of the day I pretty much came up empty.  I got one very thin children’s book that collected some non-traditional mythology… that will mostly be a point of reference as I look up all of the tales it mentions online.

Sense of Humor

ffxiv 2013-06-29 09-23-50-26 The one overarching thing about Final Fantasy is that at no point can you really take yourself too seriously.  For a good chunk of yesterday when I was not out and about searching for whatever I was looking for…  I ran around looking like this.  This is one of the few times I wished I was colorblind…  this was all bought off the same vendor mind you.  Not sure how a red horned helm, green hauberk, pink gloves and white/yellow pants go together…  but man is it colorful.  That is the thing that makes  Final Fantasy so different that most of western games, is that it is over the top absurd at times… in the character designs, the bosses and monsters, and even the dialog.

To some extent this makes the game play more enjoyable because you are unable to get completely focused in on the mission at hand.  I find I have done a lot of “stopping to smell the roses” in this game so far as I haphazardly roam around the countryside looking for whatever I happen to need for a quest.  There are a ton of intricate systems in this game, and most of them are not well explained to the player.  I stumbled onto a hunting system that seems to involve you killing a certain number of mobs with a “cheese wheel” icon on their head.  These are lumped into ranges and there is some kind of reward for completing a difficulty tier.

Additionally I figured out that the “Golden Pretzel” Icon I kept seeing is actually anytime you are gaining experience.  This is no lie… I seriously kept trying to figure out how I could spend all those pretzels I was gaining.  Upon second look… I am guessing it is probably a golden cherry blossom or something of the sort.  But to me it looks like a pretzel.. and the advance dialog icon still looks like an ice cream cone.  I can tell this game as a whole was not designed for western eyes.  Like I am sure not everyone sees a pretzel when they look at that icon, that for someone else it would make a lot more sense.

Story Quests

ffxiv 2013-06-29 14-33-37-24 One of the other cool things I stumbled onto was what I am calling Story Quests for lack of a proper term.  Essentially every so often you will get a quest that involves you going to investigate something.  When you do it will launch into a short cut scene, and then usually a pretty epic battle that is sometimes assisted by NPCs joining your fight.  From what I understand these are unique to your class, so that the ones I am getting are for marauders alone.  They remind me a lot of the SWTOR class storyline in that you have an opening cinematic/dialog the fight itself and then a resolution cinematic/dialog after it is over.

ffxiv 2013-06-29 14-32-33-13 Some of the battles like the one above are just absolutely insane.  Essentially me and the party of NPCs had to deal with wave after wave of giant crabs, each wave including smaller mobs and big boss mobs.  From what I can tell the secret seems to be.. focus on the smaller adds and let the NPCs deal with the big guys for you.  Once they have solid aggro and you have finished off the trash waves, you can help them burn down the big guys.  I’ve done three of these so far, and that seems to be the rule for each.  How you can generally tell is if the boss type mob is a significant number of levels higher than the trash mobs.

Wrapping Up

So far I am still enjoying myself playing the beta.  I still feel like there is a ton that I just do not quite understand yet… but overall that has not prevented me from enjoying the game as a whole.  This is one of those games that is deceptively simple at face value, but seems to have a ton of different and intricate systems once you get engaged with it.  This should help to keep players hooked on the title for the long haul.  I did not experience the 1.0 version of Final Fantasy XIV but the 2.0 version seems like it is something that western audiences will really enjoy.  I hope you all have a great weekend, as right now I am cutting this off and going to go play some more.

Chocobo Nostalgia

Good morning you happy people, or at least I am trying to view the world as happy people.  In the process of waking up, and I have just munched on a wonderful sausage roll.  My wife is back safely from her trip, so honestly it is a pretty good day.  Later on we are going to go out used bookstore shopping… essentially I am looking for reference material for my process leading up to a run on NaNoWriMo.  I am doing a lot of pre-writing and world building to give myself a base to build a story upon.  Nonetheless it should be a pretty leisurely welcome back to town activity, since we are both bibliophiles.

Chocobo Nostalgia

ffxiv 2013-06-28 20-30-24-75 Last night I got the opportunity to play Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn for the first time.  I went into this process a little sceptical based on the horror stories I had heard about Final Fantasy XI and the original revision of this game.  However Square Enix has spent lots of money and many years making the title over for this relaunch and it shows.  I have an odd relationship with the Final Fantasy franchise.  These are among some of my favorite games, but something happened along the way.

After Final Fantasy IX it seems like they change the style of gameplay.  They went from lots of open world exploration to mostly “on rails” action sequences blended between a ton of cut scenes.  I have never been a huge fan of the whole “interactive movie” experience…  I want to play a game… not watch it.  So as a result I have fallen fairly out of love with Final Fantasy and the vast majority of JRPGs.  However recently I have been replaying my favorite games in the series… namely Final Fantasy 4,5 and 6.

Final Fantasy XIV seems to be a call back to this noslagic area of the game, and I am completely fine with that.  The setting is magical and steampunky at the same time… and there is an ever present evil empire component to the storyline as told through the opening vignet.  I had flashbacks to the opening sequence of Final Fantasy 6 as I saw the same magitech walkers here.  Additionally there are chocobo stables sprinked throughout the world and this really gives the overall feeling that you are back in the classic area of Final Fantasy.

The Character Creator

ffxiv 2013-06-28 21-47-24-19 Character creation is an essential part of any game, in that can you create something you want to play.  Normally I have this problem with asian mmos… for whatever reason I can never create a character I like the appearance of.  I have never really gone in for the “pretty boy” appearance that they all seem to want to give you.  Final Fantasy however strikes a good blend between that standard and the rough and tumble western ideal.  Essentially you can choose between playing humans, elves, gnome like Lalafel, big ogre-like race, and finally the mi’quote the cat people.

Oddly enough after playing with the character creator a bit I found that I really liked the appearance of the Mi’quote so I ended up rolling a cat person.  I am not really sure how to quantify it, but they feel far less like a “gag” race than this concept normally is.  I felt like I could make a really interesting looking character that felt roguish and tough in spite of the fact that it has a tail.  Essentially they are more “Thundercat” and less Popori from TERA, and since I have always dug the Thundercats… it works for me.

The big improvement of this game and their character creation over most of the Asian MMOs is that they have facial hair.  This probably is not a big deal to most of the population… but for me…  all of my characters have facial hair.  One of the biggest problems i have with Dragon’s Prophet for example, is that I had to choose between one of two looks…  Handlebar Moustache or Unruly Man from the North.  There should always be steps between, and all games should have a nice clean moustache and goatee combo.  To developers out there… the fastest way for me to not like your game… is to not have a facial hair slider.

The Combat

ffxiv 2013-06-28 21-06-55-39 I had done some research ahead of coming into the game, and at the suggestion of friends that know my play style tastes… they suggested that I play a Maurader.  It is essentially a semi-defensive two handed wielding warrior.  I only managed to get through level 8 last night but I had several things in my arsenal at that point:  a standard strike, a sunder armor type attack, a cool short term defensive buff that has an animation similar to “Shell”, a damage over time ability, and an ability that causes the next attack to heal me.  Essentially all the trappings of the ideal high survival off-tank.  I will be curious to see if they become more tanky over time, but I am pleased to know it really does fit my play style.

Combat itself is deceptively simple, in that you could mash buttons and kill mobs relatively effectively.  However there seems to be some form of a built in combo system.. so that pressing one button will highlight the next attack in sequence.  Doing the attacks in sequence ends up dealing a very significant amount more damage.  Essentially the rotation I started doing was opening with my damage over time, refreshing my defensive ability if it was down, hitting my main strike and then hitting the sunder to complete a short combo.  By then I at most would need another basic strike to finish the mob off.

The other thing that feeds my bloodrage is the chain system.  Essentially after killing two mobs in a row it starts a timer in the lower right hand corner of the screen.  The game keeps track of every kill you make after the initial two, and at the end of the timer you are awarded bonus experience based on a multiple of the number of mobs you are able to kill in that timeframe.  While I have not tested this out, I think this will mean that grouping and keeping up a chain will be a far more efficient way of leveling.

The Quests

ffxiv 2013-06-28 20-40-35-30 This was admittedly the biggest barrier I had to the game at first.  After slogging through a truly excessive amount of cutscene that is not skippable… and requires you to keep clicking the “ice cream cone” icon to progress the story…  you are planted down in a port down and forced to run a ton of fed ex missions for the towns folk.  The positive is that the dialog is extremely well written and often times laugh out loud funny.  The negative is that there appears to be NO voice over at all.. and as a result the game feels extremely quiet.  It is funny how we have gotten used to some measure of voice dialog feedback.

Some of the quests are actually interesting… like there is one where you have to try and cheer up a pirate captain… and it walks you through the usage of common emotes.  So you have to /rally at one point to bolster her spirits.  Additionally it is nice that all quest items seem to be instanced, in that everyone gets their own copy of whatever clickable item needs to be clicked for a certain quest.  Again however, if your tolerance of fed ex style chores is minimal you will struggle with this phase of the game.  However it does reward a ton of money for doing it.

What I found out after the fact from my friends is that you can essentially just leave town and immediately start doing combat quests.  This is probably something I would opt for in the future… because after all the slogging through cut scenes… the last thing I really wanted to be doing was more cut scenes as I accepted all the townsfolk quests.  Supposedly if you go out and start the combat quests, you catch up in level extremely quickly and there is really no need to ever do the work for the townsfolk other than to get money or as a way of touring the town.

The World

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This is hands down the best part about the game… the world is completely gorgeous.  Everything about it just screams careful art direction.  The buildings are huge, the countryside rolling and open…  this feels every bit the part of a modern Final Fantasy game where everything is pretty and filled with activity.  Additionally it runs amazingly well on my laptop.  All of these shots were taken last night as I played and I was getting roughly 60 frames per second the entire time.  In certain ways the world reminds me of older MMOs, in that there are lots of little dungeons appearing all over the place… without actually declaring themselves dungeons.

There are so many things that exist just to exist and I have not found quests associated with them.  The game definitely seems to lay things out in a way as to encouraging exploring your way across the countryside.  Additionally I like that there are “revenge mobs” in the middle of leveling areas that you need to avoid.  In an area with level 2 and 3 mobs for example, there are giant roaming level 13 grass ogres that you have to be aware of.  Granted at this level they are non-aggro but I am sure that will not be the case eventually.  I have to admit I have great nostalgia for the fear that the Sand Giants in Oasis of Marr induced in players… and I look forward to seeing this progress as I move through content.

The Rundown

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Final Fantasy XIV feels like World of Warcraft got lucky with Final Fantasy XII…  and this offspring was the result.  Final Fantasy XII always felt like a single player MMO to me… and this game takes that concept, adds addditional people, fleshes it out and borrows a ton of polish from World of Warcraft.  It has better written and more creative quests, but there is no real innovation in that department.  If you hate WoW questing you will likely struggle here as well.  It has extremely simple and satisfying combat, but again no real innovation.  If you struggled with traditional MMO combat, you will also struggle here.

The real selling point of the game is that it proves an extremely polished final fantasy MMO experience.  Everything about this world screams final fantasy, from the opening sequence, to the way everyone dresses, to the UI feedback sounds and orchestral fill… all proudly say this is a final fantasy game.  If you always wished you could play a Final Fantasy game that was like World of Warcraft…  bam you have your ideal title right here.  I found it extremely enjoyable and pretty much as soon as I finish writing this review I will be booting back up the game and continuing my journey.  This game is proof that you don’t always have to innovate to make something enjoyable.