Tag Archives: Final-Fantasy-XIV

#FFXIV – why I can’t leave

I’ve written some pretty unhappy posts about Final Fantasy XIV over the last few months, but no matter how angry I get, one thing keeps me playing. And this is it. My house in Mist:

From the outside

From the outside

The front door

The front door

Warmth and books

Warmth and books

And a place to cook :)

And a place to cook 🙂

Going downstairs...

Going downstairs…

...into...

…into…

...the bedroom!

…the bedroom!

with its own oriental ensuite!

with its own oriental ensuite!

And finally the best feature of all – the view.

Dawn breaks in Mist

Dawn breaks in Mist

Yet as pretty as this scene is, it still doesn’t convey the eerie sense of reality I get when I sit here, staring down at the beach and watching the waves come in. Yes, there are waves and breakers and they move, seemingly at random.

But the waves are not the only things that move. Birds fly overhead, casting a shadow, or the quality of the light changes due to time of day or weather, or off on the horizon you see the dim outline of a ship with massive sails, majestically sailing out of sight…

No prizes for guessing where a lot of my ideas for Innerscape came from.

Have a lovely Sunday,

Meeks

p.s. most of the furnishings are crafted. If anyone is interested, I can tell you what each piece is, which craft makes it and what level recipe it is. Let me know in comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


FFXIV and the #Heavensward expansion – too much stick and not enough carrot?

Costa del Sol at dawn

Costa del Sol at dawn

When Final Fantasy 14 came out in version 1, it was vilified by the majority of players because it worked so badly. There was no auction house, no bank, no end-game content – all pretty much standard fare on MMOs. And the servers simply could not cope with the demands of the game. You could wait for seconds for a menu to open, and lag was endemic on all but the most powerful computers.

Nevertheless, as someone who played it from start to finish, I have to say that version 1 did at least try to be innovative. One of the good things it did was to break with its predecessor’s mold when it came to solo play. In FF11 [the first Final Fantasy MMO], even ordinary mobs were so hard, only a competent group could take them down, hence a group was needed for all progress beyond level 10.

By contrast, Final Fantasy 14 Version 1 allowed casual players to progress by themselves! It also allowed players to progress via battling, crafting or gathering – i.e. if you liked crafting better than fighting, you could do your crafts and level up your character without ever having to fight.

For those who did like to fight, anything was possible. You could customize your character’s skillset by taking cross-class skills from other melee and casting classes – i.e. your warrior could use a ranged skill or cast a spell if that was how you wanted to play it. The choice was yours.

And finally, although Version 1 did have a very interesting storyline, it was an added ‘extra’, meaning you could spend time on it or not. There were a few things you ‘had’ to do, but mostly the choice was yours. In this sense, it was more like what we now call a ‘sandbox’ than a standard MMO.

For those who don’t know, the term ‘sandbox‘ refers to:

‘… a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will.’

Too much choice? Too much freedom? Or simply a case of throwing the good out with the bad?

I don’t know, but a very vocal segment of the Version 1 players hated the game and felt ‘cheated’. As a result, the version 1 team was dumped and a different team took over. They rebuilt FF14 from the ground up, and when version 2.0 finally launched, it was as bright and shiny as a newly minted gold coin. Everything worked [except the payment system], and everything was beautiful.

The world was graphically stunning and did not require bleeding edge computer hardware to run. There was no lag. Everything ran like clockwork and crafting was once again an exciting mini-game where ‘luck’ was balanced with skill.

But to counter all these goodies, some of the most desirable early features – ‘carrots’ – could only be unlocked via the main storyline, and the main storyline required that you complete a number of low level dungeons [the ‘stick’].So, for example, you could not unlock retainers [a kind of ‘bank’ mechanism] without completing the first three dungeons. To unlock the ability to ride a mount, you had to complete a 4th dungeon.

Now I know that 98% of gamers will not find the running of dungeons a hardship. In fact, I know that most would be devastated to find that a game did not have dungeons, so these gamers would not even see the carrot-and-stick mechanism at play. They are the norm, not old ladies like me. But even young gamers can resent the lack of choice.

The linear straitjacket of the main storyline came into sharp focus with the advent of version 3, Heavensward. Not only would gamers have to be at level cap – i.e. at level 50 – to play the new content, they would also have to complete every last bit of the main storyline from the previous version.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the main storyline comprises scores and scores of quests, dungeons and trials. Skip any part of the storyline and you can’t even see what the new Heavensward areas look like.

So let me recap. To play the Heavensward expansion, players need to:

  • buy the expansion
  • reach level 50
  • AND complete the entire version 2.xx storyline

As someone who hates dungeons, it literally took me months to complete the storyline requirement, but even a ‘normal’ player would need at least a week. That is a lot of delayed gratification for someone who’s already at level cap.

Like me, a lot of returning players did slog through the storyline to get to the carrot, but I wonder whether they thought the effort was worth it?

I’m about half way through the expansion, and I have to say, I am disappointed. Heavensward was promoted as this new, shiny thing with lots of yummy toys, but the reality falls short of the hype, at least for me.

One of the pretties we all looked forward to was flying mounts, and sure enough, once I slogged through yet more of the storyline, I was given a rather elegant black choco – the first of the flying mounts on offer. But, of course, the damn chocobo wouldn’t fly, would it?

In Heavensward, you may get a flying mount, but the ability to make it actually fly requires that you unlock all the aether currents in an ‘area’ [or zone]. You are given a kind of aether current compass and told to go exploring…on foot. No problem. But then you discover that there are two kinds of aether currents:

  • those you can discover via exploration and
  • those you can only unlock by doing quests

I should point out that these are sidequests, not part of the main storyline. Yet, lo and behold, one of the aether current quests in the very first area sends you to…a dungeon. And you have to unlock ALL the currents before you can fly.

Did I mention I hate dungeons? Not only do they stress me out, they also eat into my life because on my server, the only time I can realistically expect to get a group is in the morning [timezone disparity between Australia and the rest of the world]. But I work. I have a life. Bah…

Suffice it to say that it’s taken me weeks to get around to running that stupid dungeon. I can now fly, but only in one area. This means that all the gathering I need to do in the next [higher level area] is on foot, again, because of course flying in that area is not yet unlocked.

And this brings me to more of the Heavensward straitjacket. The new map is huge, yet I can only access three areas of it:

  • Cloud Top
  • Western Coerthas
  • Dravanian Forelands

Why? Because the higher areas can only be unlocked via the main storyline. And you guessed it, the next part of the main storyline requires that I do a dungeon, one that even experienced dungeon runners describe as ‘tricky’.

I can understand how connecting up all the content would make sense, from a game developer’s point of view. If you force gamers to complete the majority of the content in order to progress, you are getting the most bang for your buck from that content. But that does not necessarily make for a great gaming experience…for the gamer.

To me, a great gaming experience is one in which there are independent content streams that allow me to control how and when I play. If I want to do nothing but crafting, I should be able to do that. If I want to play solo, I should be able to do that. If I want to chat to people and develop in-game friendships, I should be allowed to do that without being forced into some artificial model of ‘community’.

In other words, I should be treated like an adult and given the right to choose. It can be done. In fact it has been done, very successfully, by MMOs like Guild Wars 2 [GW2].

I played GW2 for quite some time in between Final Fantasy 14 versions 1 and 2, and I really enjoyed it. Fun and innovative are two things that immediately spring to mind. It was also a free-to-play MMO. But there were things it lacked – like player housing, and mounts. And although much more attractive graphically than say, World of Warcraft, GW2 has never been as beautiful as Final Fantasy 14.

It may sound a bit twee to talk about beauty in an MMO, but there are times in Final Fantasy 14 when I literally catch my breath in wonder at how lovely a scene is. The game has weather, and a day/night cycle, and lighting that shifts subtly with the time of day and the weather pattern. It feels as real as a 2 dimensional world can get, and I love it…

But as an adult, I feel as if Final Fantasy 14 is squeezing me through one of those sausage making machines, and I don’t like it.

Will I leave? I don’t know. I’ve been subscribed to FF14 for over 720 days. That’s a long time, and I have a lot invested in the game, including my house. If I unsubscribe, my characters will probably remain in storage on some server somewhere, but I know that my house will be ‘repossessed’ to allow other gamers the privilege of owning a house. Because, of course, there is not enough housing to go around.

So there are consequences with leaving, even just for a few months.

For now I’m going to trudge my way through Heavensward, but with Christmas approaching, I may start hinting to the Daughter that I wouldn’t mind being given the new Guild Wars 2 expansion. She has been playing it and loves it. And many of the things she tells me about the game sound innovative and fresh and new…

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Virtual gaming worlds of the future

FFXIV emotes - Meeka is shockedI just went back to Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn, so it’s not surprising that I dreamt about gaming last night. However what did surprise me was the logic of the dream. I leapt out of bed and immediately wrote it all down, before even putting the kettle on. If you know me you know I can NOT survive without my caffeine hit.

Anyway, before I tell you what my dream was about, let me give you some background on MMOGs of the present. MMOGs – Massively Multiplayer Online Games – come in all shapes and sizes but they all have two things in common:

– the worlds are persistent, – i.e. they continue to exist even if you, the player, are not there to see it, and

– thousands of real people play in them.

These two elements give MMOG worlds a semblance of reality that is very addictive. Unfortunately, the semblance is paper thin. In the real world we have to do things to survive. In the current gaming worlds, survival is a given, and the purpose of ‘doing things’ is to either :

– gain levels

– or gain better gear

Once gamers have achieved the maximum levels and gear the game will allow, they struggle to find exciting things to do.

As someone who loves crafting, I have an added layer of purpose in FFXIV because of the player housing. Crafting things for our group house, and making it look warm and welcoming give me something to do most days. Unfortunately, most of the other endgame activities bore me to tears. Eventually I, and other players like me always leave to find a new gaming world to discover.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Just as we find a purpose for ourselves in the real world, we could also create a purpose for ourselves in the gaming world …if we were the ones in control instead of the devs [developers].

It can be done because different types of MMOGs are already doing elements of what’s needed. Unfortunately none of them are putting it all together into one coherent whole. In my dream, however, I did.

Part of the plot of Innerscape [the human-centric sci-fi novel I’m working on] takes place in a gaming world of the future. That world will behave something like this :

Meeka’s dream gaming world

The gaming worlds of Innerscape won’t charge a subscription fee. They won’t even charge to download the gaming software [or whatever performs that function by 2100]. But they will charge for in-game necessities such as housing.

Essentially, everyone will pay ‘rent’, and the rent will be on a sliding scale from a few credits a month to hundreds, perhaps even thousands.

Rental of two credits a month will pay for bed and breakfast at a common Inn, or whatever the cheapest form of accommodation is in that world.

For that basic rental, the player will get enough ‘sleep’ and ‘food’ to get them through one gaming day. In fighting worlds, this will mean that players will have a 50/50 chance of winning against non-player foes at their level. Now a 50/50 chance of winning is no better than random chance, so the aim for most players will be to increase that chance of winning as quickly as possible.

How a player increases his or her chances of winning depends on the type of game they are playing, but generally, the process will mimic real life in that there will be two major streams to follow – the hero stream or the villain stream. Or something in between.

Heroes are good guys who earn the respect of the non-player characters [npc] in every city, town and village. This respect translates into increased strength, endurance, agility etc when the hero is fighting a villain in the city, town or village. Not surprisingly, the opposite happens with villains. They lose the respect of the npcs in the city, town or village, which in turn, weakens them in all the important attributes.

As an example, let’s use some numbers to explain the effect of respect. A hero player may have combined attributes worth 100 points. However when this hero enters a city, town or village, the respect factor boosts their combined attributes by a maximum of 50% – e.g. the hero’s attributes go from 100 to 150.

Now lets look at what happens to a villain when he/she enters a town. Out in the wildlands, the villain’s attributes are worth 100. Inside the city, town or village, however, their attributes plummet by 50%, i.e. they drop to 50.

A hero with attributes of 150 can easily beat a villain with attributes of 50, so it makes sense for heroes to gain respect, and for villains to stay away from areas where they are weakened.

Of course gaming is never that straight forward. If a very powerful villain [say one with attributes worth 400], enters a town, his/her attributes will only drop to 200 – i.e. 50% of 400 = 200. 400 – 200 = 200. 200 will beat the local hero who is only at 150.

But what if there are two local heroes in the town when the villain attacks, and they both fight back. The chances are their combined stats will be more than high enough to beat off even a very powerful villain.

Clearly then, towns favour heroes. But what if a group of villains attack? Again, the result will depend on numbers; 3 villains at 50 would have the same ‘power’ as one hero at 150. However if you add one more villain, the balance suddenly changes in their favour – i.e. 4 x 50 = 200 vs the 150 of the hero.

As with all things mathematical, two heroes would again easily beat four villains [of the same level] so the balance of power is constantly in flux and makes for interesting, player initiated events.

One such event will be the capture of a city, town or village. If a large enough group of villains capture a stronghold, and can hold it against the heroes for one week, the npcs in that stronghold will turn neutral. If the villains make an effort not to antagonize the npcs, their ability to hold on to their captured territory becomes easier. If they are ‘cruel’ to the captured npcs, they risk turning the npcs towards the heroes again. And that could lead to the loss of the stronghold when the heroes launch a counter offensive.

But why would the heroes do that? Because their homes and businesses are in the captured stronghold, and while the villains are in control, the heroes can’t access any of their gear. They will literally have nothing but what they stand up in, and carry in their personal inventory. Thus the motivation to recapture a stronghold will be core to the game.

To recapture a stronghold, the heroes will have to begin by winning over the npcs on the outer perimeter of the stronghold. This is effectively like being Robin Hood.

Once enough npcs have been won over, the dispossessed heroes have to form an alliance and then, when their combined respect is high enough, they must launch an attack against the villains holding the stronghold.

Given the tendency of npcs to side with heroes not villains, villains have to expend a lot of energy to take a stronghold, and even more to hold it. This gives the advantage to the heroes, but only in the places where some form of order reigns. Out in the wild lands, both villains and heroes are dependent on their own prowess. Or on their ability to create and hold groups.

Groups of Heroes can tame sections of the wildlands, but here they will suffer the same difficulties as villains do in cities – the terrain is against them, and they must fight twice as hard to achieve anything at all.

Once a slice of the wildlands is captured and held for one week, however, crafter and builder classes can move in to consolidate the taming of the wild. Players can come in and create farms, and lay the foundations for a new village. These players contribute to the well-being of the battling classes that protect them, making them more effective. Sound familiar?

Once the heroes have carved out a certain level of ‘safety’ for the village, npcs will migrate to the village and help make it stronger still. If the heroes can keep the village going for one month, they will gain the respect of their npcs and after that, fighting off the villains will become much easier.

The internal structure of these gaming worlds will go much deeper than simple wars to gain territory. When heroes are not out fighting off villains and imposing order on the wildlands, they can go in search of treasure. Often the treasure will be nothing more than money, [after all, even heroes have to eat]. However, sometimes the heroes will find recipes that crafters can learn.

As everything in the gaming worlds has to be created by the players, such recipes are worth more than gold as they allow new techniques and new gear to enter the economy. This gives heroes an advantage over villains who generally do not craft, and must enter strongholds to buy the gear they need. Or steal it if they believe they are strong enough.

These recipes also give crafters a degree of power and influence they would not otherwise have, making it more logical for heroes of all stripes to work together so everyone can prosper. Those heroes who prove to be overly greedy will slowly lose their respect levels and that will make them more vulnerable when the next villain attack occurs.

Basically, then, the gaming worlds will have in-built structures to act as checks and balances, but how the worlds actually develop will depend largely on the players themselves. They will be the ones who create the society in which they live.

Of course in any world, there has to be some wiggle room for those players who hate to conform in any manner, shape or form. So each world will have the potential for players who fit the nomad category. These players will pay no ‘rent’ and will function as hunter gatherers. They will live  rough, eating only what they can capture/harvest in their weakened state.

Progress for these nomads will depend on how effective they are at surviving in a hostile environment. If they can find enough to eat they can build a humpy [a small shelter made of branches and leaves]. In time they can trade furs or other natural ‘ingredients’ they have gathered to the villagers for money.

That money can then be used to buy a tent and perhaps some cooking implements. In time, such successful nomads might join together to form tribes of hunter gatherers. Of course, whilst living in a tribe would have distinct survival benefits, it would also create its own unique problems, and players would have to create rules that balanced co-operation with freedom.

If you’re still reading this long brain fart, you will have noticed that in my ideal gaming world, every action has consequences. You may also have noticed that the world combines virtually every type of MMOG currently in existence – PVP, PVE, strategy, conquest, social reality, you name it, it’s there because that’s exactly what we have in the real world.

I can’t see such an all encompassing world arriving any time soon, but as a writer I can make the future into anything I want, and this is what I would like to see in the MMOGs I play. If you’d like to see something different, don’t be afraid to say so in comments. I only bite trolls. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Sunset in Final Fantasy XIV

I’ve been far too tense lately, and that has been reflected in my blog posts, so I thought I’d show you one of the reasons I love playing Final Fantasy XIV so much.

ffxiv coco and sunset

As you can see, FFXIV is graphically beautiful, but what makes it so immersive [I think I just made that word up] is the blend of time, weather and graphics.

Time passes in FFXIV. During the course of a few hours we go from day to night, and in the process we have sunrises and sunsets. And they’re not all the same. This particular one was so beautiful, it literally made me catch my breath, as if I were looking at the real thing.

The weather, too, affects me like the real thing. Dappled sunshine seen through leaves gently swaying in the breeze makes me happy. Mist is eerie, rain is a bit depressing, thunderstorms with lightning kind of make me duck my head.

And then there are the sound effects. My footsteps crackle on dry grass, squish when running through puddles, tap on stone, have a slightly hollow sound on wooden boards.

Add all this sensory sleight of hand together and you have a world that looks and feels real. Innerscape may not be that far off after all. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


How I’m keeping my sanity

The Certificate IV course in Training and Assessment I’m studying is nearing the pointy end, and I’m behind in my assignments. I literally have been working my butt off for weeks now, but the official-speak leaves my brain feeling as if it’s been through a pasta maker and turned into spaghetti. 😦

The balance I used to have in my life is gone, and I miss it. But at least I do have an escape to keep me sane – gaming. I can only play for an odd hour here and there, but it’s enough. Just.

I’ve done the odd post about Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn – the latest MMO I’m playing – but none of that has given even a hint as to the sheer scope and brilliance of the game. So now here is the opening cinematic. It tells of the final battle that led to the realm needing to be ‘reborn’.

Even if you don’t give a fig for games, I hope you’ll enjoy this short piece of cinema. And the music is lovely too. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Flash fiction vote, Meeka fumée, and FFXIV A Realm Reborn

Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts. Let’s start with some pretty pictures, shall we?

First off we have Meeka Thara, one of my female toons on Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.

Meeka Thara

Followed by two of my boys.  This one is Takh Ahn

tahn ahn

And last but not least we have Nikko Tahn

nikko tahn

The reason I’m foisting these photos onto you non-gamers is because I’m so taken with the graphics. All of these photos show in-game graphics, not the super-dooper animations they did for the game trailer.  Computer graphics truly have come one hell of a long way in the last decade. And I have to say, Final Fantasy XIV has come an even longer way from its first launch.  Version 2 – A Realm Reborn – is everything we Final Fantasy fans were hoping for, and didn’t get with version 1. I feel as if I’ve finally come home again. Thank you Square Enix. 🙂

The odd bit of french in the title basically translates as smoked-Meeka – you know, like smoked salmon but not so pink. 🙂 I’ve just spent 5 hours burning off in my back yard and I reek. Even the dog is giving me strange looks and she’s not known for her discerning taste. Nonetheless, I’m done, and I’m relieved. All, and I mean all of the storm damage has now been tidied up and I’m that much closer to having my block ready for the coming fire season. Phew.

And finally, a request. Some of you have read my flash fiction entry for this week’s competition. Now I’m asking you to read the other entries because, sadly, they’re bloody good. I still like my story, but I suspect I’ll be voting for Jon Jefferson’s entry, it’s that good.

Anyone can vote so please check the entries out and make your mark on the future of some very good indie writers. You can see all the entries here :

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/09/07/flash-fiction-challenge-the-headsmans-block/

Okay, that’s it, I’m done. Now I’m going to spend a long time in the shower so the dog will like me again. 😉

cheers

Meeks


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