Tag Archives: Final Fantasy XIV

Skeptical Plays: Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn [PC]

This post is really just an excuse for me to log on and post some screenshots from the stunning Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn.  These were all taken recently, from the currently running Heavensturn event.

It is a short event, with the whole quest chain clocking in at just under an hour. The story revolves around a small group of traders from the Far East, who were unimpressed by our chocobos, and have travelled to our shores with the wish to introduce, as a replacement, exotic creatures known as…  horses?  And yes, before you ask it really is as silly as it sounds.

The Heavensturn event started on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 15:00 (GMT), and is due to end on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 14:59 (GMT)

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Skeptical Plays: Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn [PC]

Square-Enix’s somewhat archaic and unconventional feature designs, in my opinion, had actually made the original 1.0 release of Final Fantasy XIV one of the most unique and interesting experiences available at the time.  Sadly, the critics disagreed.  The game did not fare well with the mainstream audience, and it was considered widely to be a failure.

Fast forwarding now to 2013, after three long years of redevelopment with a brand new team, the game has been given a new lease on life with the recent 2.0 relaunch, aka A Realm Reborn.

The game is still very much Final Fantasy XIV at its core, retaining the original graphical and audio assets, as well as elements of the gameplay mechanics. However, great efforts have been put into bringing the game in line with the other existing MMOs on the market, with everything ingame having been streamlined and “modernized” to some degree.

While I am appreciative of their efforts, I find myself feeling somewhat let down by a lot of the changes that 2.0 had brought.

Take the addition of the hundreds of new NPC quests for example.  Instead of fleshing out the world and providing players with interesting new content, what we ended up with was a series of generic and forgettable quests, which only serve to lay down linear lines of progression, discouraging exploration, and at the same time giving the game a very closed theme park feel.

Adding to that theme park feel are the new fully open map zones.  While the new open map design does give the illusion of a larger, more persistent world, in my opinion it also gave us more generic map zones that are far less interesting to explore.  Worth mentioning too is that some of the more interesting areas have now been converted into timed instanced group dungeons, and are sadly no longer accessible by smaller groups, or the odd solitary explorers like myself.

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Despite my skepticism, the game is not without its strengths and charms.  Most gamers I’m sure would find the franchise’s signature creature designs, with your chocobos, moogles, cactuars and the like, to be a welcoming change from the often overused generic high fantasy bestiary.  The iconic Final Fantasy tunes and sounds are excellent as always, and I am happy to report that the unique crafting mini-game transitioned over largely unchanged, as has the excellent multi-class jobs system, which allows players to experience all of the games classes without having to create new characters.

Also, being designed with the subscription payment model in mind, it is sure to please the more traditional gamers, folks like myself who might be looking for a strong character-based non-restrictive gameplay experience – something away from your real-money Cash Shops and Locked Boxes, where you constantly feel like you are being punished simply for not paying extra.

At the end of the day, it pains me to say that A Realm Reborn now plays a lot more like your average generic MMO, with its industry standard hotbar control scheme; the mindless kill-ten-rats NPC quests; simplified one-click gathering; the grindy daily quests; and the focus on its number of generic loot grind dungeons.  While the Final Fantasy name is sure to attract fans of the franchise, I remain unconvinced that in the long run, the game as it stands with its traditional theme park gameplay, is enough to appease your average modern gamer – but, as always, only time will tell.

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ARR +

  • Subscription based – development focus is on story and gameplay, not on expansive cashshop items.
  • Stable client software.
  • Optimized UI and more accessible controls.
  • Fantastic Final Fantasy music and art designs.
  • Engrossing main and job storylines that carries on from 1.0.
  • Non-restrictive jobs system that allows players to level up multiple classes with a single character.
  • Unique crafting mini-game.
  • Intriguing world with strong lore and an unique sense of identity.
  • Mount/Combat Companion.

ARR –

  • Generic NPC quests.
  • Improved but still clunky gear management.
  • One-click materials gathering.
  • Some of the more interesting areas have been removed and converted into generic timed group dungeons.
  • Removal of Companion NPCs
  • Mindless XP grinding FATE parties seems to be a focus of the communities.
  • Multiple class job leveling can get repetitive and grindy.
  • Questionable long term appeal for casual social players.

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Final Fantasy XIV: Legacy Campaign

Earlier this year I found myself wondering back into Eorzea, the world of Final Fantasy XIV, after having been away from the game for over a year.  Of course, a multitude of fixes and extra content have been added since I left, and as a result the game had seemed unfamiliar and fresh.  And for a while, I found myself lost in the honeymoon bliss that one usually experience with a new MMO.

However, as beautiful as the game was, and as much as I love its world, with the small number of both players and NPCs around, it all felt pretty barren.  Plus, the game’s socialization options were still horrendous.  There was still next to no interaction between players outside of their linkshells (ie. FFXIV’s version of clans), and with the clunky chat UI and a lack of regional and zone chats, finding new people to chat and socialize with was pretty much impossible.  It might have been down to being on the wrong server at the wrong time, or just plain bad luck, but I was disappointed to find that even after weeks of yelling in the cities, I was still unable to find people to party with for group contents.

There were numerous other little issues as well, both from a gameplay and technical perspective – some of which, I might add, were the very same issues that had caused me to quit the game in the first place.  And that was why I had stopped logging on a few weeks ago, and why a couple of weeks ago I had actually cancelled my subscription.

However, having said all that, I must also say that somehow, this week Square-Enix has suckered me once again into re-subscribing with the announcement of their Legacy Campaign.

http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/campaign/campaign.html

The Legacy Campaign introduces several benefits for those who have subscribed for at least 90 cumulative days since January 6th, 2012.

1. Legacy members will be able to play at a specially discounted subscription price post-launch of version 2.0.

2. Legacy members will receive an exclusive in-game Chocobo mount at the launch of version 2.0.

3. Legacy members can request that their name be displayed in the credits for version 2.0. One name per service account can be listed in the credits.

Version 2.0, by the way is stated to be due sometime between October and December of 2012 to early 2013.

For former players of Final Fantasy XIV I would also like to point out that there is an upcoming Welcome Back Campaign happening from May 9th to May 20th, where former players with inactive service accounts will be able to play for free during this ten-day period.

I must admit I have been rather down on MMOs lately, and I have become a rather jaded skeptical bastard in the past couple of years.  However, Final Fantasy is a strong brand with a large dedicated fanbase, and judging from Final Fantasy XI I would say Square-Enix have the expertise and the stamina to create a decent MMO with a strong stable playerbase and communities, so I do have rather high hopes for this franchise, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 will bring to the genre.


Generically Average

Square-Enix announced earlier this month game-wide server mergers and character transfers for their MMO ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘.  However due to player feedback, they removed the announcement a few days later, stating “In order to ensure that the most desirable and effective outcome is achieved, we will be reassessing the method of the merger process.”

[UPDATE: Square-Enix have announced that the server merger process has been reevaluated, and are going ahead starting from March 1st, 2012.  Details could be found at http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/topics/detail?id=13222abe211533c87814786dc7c7c72707574cb8 ]

I must say, my feelings are kind of mixed about the whole ordeal.

On one hand, I feel like I SHOULD be happy, myself having resubscribed to the game recently.  Their willingness to reassess their merger process due to feedback means that there are still a large number of active players, and more importantly, a large number of active players who are passionate enough about the game to raise their voices, and give game-changing feedback.  It also means that perhaps, just perhaps, the current developers care about their players, and indeed care enough to listen to and take their feedbacks seriously.

On the other hand, this serves to highlight a problem that I have with a lot of game developers today.  I understand that like the rest of us, they need to make a living too, and that they are under constant pressure from the publishers, the press, the players, and indeed from the rest of the industry in general to succeed.  But it really annoys and saddens me, seeing the way how so many developers could just abandon and change the direction and the development of their projects so easily and willingly.

Personally I have just about had enough with their constant drive for appeasement, and it is breaking my heart, this seemingly lack of conviction on their part.  Again I say, I understand that it is their job, and that they are in the business of producing games that appeals and sells to the masses.  But I couldn’t help but feel that somewhere along the line, their quest for the dollars has lead to the abandonment of their integrity, creativity, and artistic vision, and have in the process let innovation fall by the wayside.

While I might not be a fan of all of their works, I really do admire folks like David Cage, Peter Molyneux, Hideo Kojima, Will Wright, Richard Garriott, and others like them.  I just wish more would join the ranks of these dwindling number of stubborn, self-righteous developers – people who are willing to stand their ground, and create products that are the results of the conviction of their own artistic visions and concepts.

Even if they don’t always succeed on what they set out to create, or deliver on their promises, at least you’d know that each time you start up one of their games, you’re in for something unique and distilled with personality.  You know to expect pieces of art, and not some generically-average mass-produced clone of all the other games currently on the market.

Perhaps this is why I feel so jaded nowadays, and why the industry as a whole feels so stagnant to me.  Damnit, I WANT to be shocked; I NEED to be scared; to be outraged; surprised.  Perhaps I am unique in the way that I feel, but I just don’t want to be pleased anymore.


The Return To Eorzea (Part 2)

Having resubbed to ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘ recently, I am somewhat amused to report that in the past few weeks, hours of my life have somehow slipped by, and seemingly vanished into thin air.  It has been a long time since I have been so engrossed in a MMO, and a longer time still since I had this feeling of being lost in a fantastical online world.

A large part of my current engrossment, I think, is due to the core designs of the game.  Having been away so long, I had almost forgotten how uniquely different this game could be.  Despite what anyone else might say, I personally really appreciate some of the core designs and gameplay elements that went into the game – things like the classless jobs system; the crafting/gathering minigames; and even things like the random XP system that was based on skill usage and not on kills…  Most would disagree with me, but I believe the devs had gotten a lot of things right, where the rest of the genre have been failing in in the recent years.

As I had mentioned previously, I had left the lands of Eorzea over a year ago, just before Christmas 2010.  Needless to say, there had been a lot of changes made to the game, as well as a ton of content added in the time since.

The game did not do well when it was first launched, bombing critically with generally negative reviews all around.  And thus, I can understand and appreciate the fact that in order for this to become commercially viable, major changes were needed.  But while it saddens me to see the game failing as it did, and while I do want the game to turn around and secure a place for itself in the market, a large part of me is disappointed in seeing the more unique elements of the game being patched and phased out, and seeing the game becoming more and more generic and mainstream-friendly with each patch.

Having said that, it all just serves to highlight just how dynamic and mercurious MMOs can be.  In fact, it is exactly that precarious nature of these worlds which makes me love the genre so much.  I love the fact that MMOs are constantly evolving – shifting and changing, adopting new features, graphics, storylines, characters and more on a sometimes day to day basis.  There are always exciting new things to see and experience, and you never know what each new patch might bring. Each MMO is literally a never-ending adventure; a constant companion that thrives and grows alongside you in realtime.

Anyways it was my plan originally to talk more about my thoughts on some of the changes in the game, using screenshots to highlight some of my experiences – but, I’m sure you would agree this post has gone on long enough already.  I am still in the process of revamping and improving the blog by the way, and at the moment one of my main focuses is on shorter (and perhaps more regular) posts, and I am also thinking of perhaps adding a separate screenshots page.  But… it all depends on how lazy, and how bothered I could be on any given day – so, as usual, only time will tell.


The Return To Eorzea

Once again highlighting the fact that timing and dealings with money are NOT some of my strong points, earlier this week I find myself reinstalling and resubscribing to the MMO ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘ by Square-Enix, a game which I haven’t played or been subbed to since December 2010, despite the fact that it has been essentially running under the F2P model for the past year.

‘Final Fantasy XIV’, incase you are not aware, was panned critically by both reviewers and players alike when it was launched back in September 2010, and has been in a state of semi-limbo since.  The universal negative feedback resulted in a major reshuffling the entire development team, with plans of a complete overhaul of the game systems.  The backlash also resulted in a surprising temporary suspension of the subscription fees, meaning since launch. In fact, it wasn’t until a month or so ago that subscriptions for this game was resumed, returning the game to full P2P status.

I really enjoyed this game way back when it was launched, and I was perhaps one of the few people who actually liked the game for what it was, despite its many perceived flaws.  I thought the world was imaginative and enchanting, and I loved the over-arcing storyline and the NPCs that were involved. I enjoyed the combat mechanics, the leveling, the crafting and gathering systems, the music, the graphics…  To be honest I enjoyed pretty much everything that the game had to offer.  For me the many flaws that other people complained about weren’t really flaws as such – for me they were just… different.  The game was a pretty unique experience, which was a rare thing indeed in our overcrowded modern day MMO market.

However having said that, there were a few things which stopped me from fully loving the game.  The inability to regen your mana without having to return to a town or a camp was one – this means I was unable to just roam around the maps and explore, which is one thing I enjoy doing with MMOs.  Another thing was the focus on Guild Leves (which are basically generic repeatable timed quests – eg. 30 minutes to goto three map points and gather 6 ores), and the lack of NPC quests beyond the main quest.  Combined with the lack of mana regen, this means the game pretty much forces you to hang around the camps and towns and grind leves, which I dislike.

There were other little technical issues which bugged the hell out of me too, things like the inability to alt-tab to Windows while in fullscreen mode, and the inability to run other things in the background which accesses the graphics card – trying to check the temperature of my card while playing the game for example would crash the game.  Also whenever your game crashes or your connection drops, the leve you were on would automatically fail, even if you logged back into the game before the time limit ends.  This was particularly frustrating for me since my net connection was very unstable at the time.

And finally, the thing which annoyed me the most was perhaps the people, the gamers who populated the worlds.  Sadly it’s a common theme among MMOs – assholes who runs in and steal your mobs and your gathering nodes; not being able to find people to play and chat with; or finally finding a clan to hang out with, only to find that all the other players have formed their own little clicks and are out doing their own things.  My time in the game was pretty frustating, me having to jump around three or four different servers before finally finding a friendly English speaking clan, only to find them all playing and chatting within their own little clicks; to find the server filled with rude assholes wherever I went; and to find that the only friendly players who understand the meaning of “teamwork” are all non-English-speaking Japanese players.

Anyways for better or worse, I’m planning on spending more time in ‘Final Fantasy XIV’ the next few weeks.  I might spend some time in ‘Champions Online‘ too, and thinking about dropping into ‘Star Trek Online‘, which have just switched to F2P.  Who knows, perhaps I might stop by here and tell you all a bit about my experiences – as usual though, only time will tell.


Patience, Grasshopper

Personally I find it comforting, seeing a few online titles clinging on to the old good subscription-based model of gaming, from the older titles like Ultima Online and Fallen Earth, to the more recent titles like DC Universe Online, Final Fantasy XIV (kinda), and the upcoming Rift.   The market has changed a lot since the early days, and is now dominated by a whole new generation of gamers, with a whole new outlook and a whole new set of demands.

Games are fast becoming more bite-sized and faster paced, with the market becoming dominated by micro downloads in the form of DLCs and Apps.   The old all-you-can-eat subscription-based model is quickly falling out of favour, with demands for the F2P models on the rise.  Today more and more online games are either being released with as F2P, or in the process of converting to.

While I am personally not a fan of the à la carte style of the F2P models, I can certainly understand and appreciate their appeal.   However what I fail to understand is just why people are so negative towards subscription-based games, especially games that are new to the market.   It annoys me seeing all the complaints about the apparent lack of content, especially when compared to older games on the market, and how the sub and the game should be avoided until it becomes F2P.

Unlike in the past where players were in it for the long haul, and their main focuses were socialisation, exploration and role-playing – it seems to me that a lot of players nowadays, especially the more vocal ones, have the tendency to bypass a lot of the content.  Contents such as the lore, the side quests, the exploration, and the socialising – instead focusing on power-levelling to max level, and what they perceived to be “endgame”.  And when these players don’t find the same max level gear and raid instances popularised by established games such as World of Warcraft and Everquest, they post angry negative comments on forums, complaining about how the game is NOT worth paying a subscription for, how they would NOT go back to the game until it goes F2P, and then rage-quits before their subscription payments even starts.  It is highly ironic that a lot of these very same players, would make the same complaints when they are introduced to F2P games, and would rage-quit those to go back to their reliable subscription-based World of Warcrafts and EVE Onlines.

In my opinion, this not only have a negative impact on the ongoing development of these newer games, but also affect the stability of the communities that plays them as well.  I say stop with the negativity!   Have a little patience and give the developers a chance, support them with subscriptions and give them a regular source of income to work with.  Give them a chance to develop proper contents for their games, instead of focusing their time on item shop fluff, or rushing around looking for their next projects. Subscribe for a month or two at least and enjoy the games for what they are.   It will not only give the studios a chance to polish and grow the games, but will also tell the publishers that the games ARE worth keeping and maintaining.   Remember good things can take time – it’s true for cheeses and wines, and it’s certainly as true for our online games.


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