#FF14 – Finally 50

I will say that the trek from 43-50 was longer than I expected.  That being because my expectations are leveling speeds found in pretty much every other game.  Then I realized I hadn’t even unlocked my Challenge Log and in 1 day I made 2 levels.

Level 50

I actually hit 50 just after the first “raid”, or at least 8 man party. It was a 1 boss battle and the LFR-ish tool (Duty Finder) took under 10 minutes to find a group with me as a healer.  Wasn’t too hard either.  Following Rohan’s advice, I bought the expansion ahead of time, so you can see that I’m a bit into level 50.  Seeing as how I can’t unlock ANY level 51 content for about 50 quests, this seems like it should be a nice head start on the other content.

Looking forward to getting my own!

Looking forward to getting my own!

Clearly I’m not very far content-wise and I’m rather ok with that.  There are plenty of other people playing at this level, most of them Machinists or Dark Knights, so the queues are pretty much instant.  And I am absolutely blown away at how those dungeon runs give you massive chunks of experience.  One a day (each takes about 20-30 minutes) gives a huge boost.  You get another boost at 3 and 5 in a week.  It’s such a drastic swap out from other games leveling pattern.

On to the next set of quests.

FF14’s Content Mountain is Good Gaming Glue

The crux of the “games as art” argument is that both are subjective to interpretation.  And as much as there is shitty art, there are shitty games…so let’s no belabour the point too much.

Jewel over at Healing the Masses has a neat post about her qualms with the forced narrative in FF14.  While I understand the complaint, I think it’s one of FF14’s main benefits.  Here’s the logic.

Let’s say you’re a new player and you want to play with your friends who have been there for some time.  In nearly every other MMOs, you jump in, level up what needs to be done (or get carried, or buy a character) and in a week or so, you’re in the expansion territory.  FF14 takes a completely different approach.  From 1-50, you must complete the following quests to progress.  It’s not optional, you simply won’t gain other skills, jobs or be able to access other dungeons/content.  These are major gates.  And that’s just what launched with 2.0.  Once you hit level 50, you need to complete the majority of these quests in order to access Heavensward.  Jewel’s point that many of these quests have you running around the world is accurate – some of these quests can take 5 minutes or require you to clear an entire dungeon.

There are two options here. Either you look at that mountain of quests and say screw it, or you climb that mountain and meet the other folk who did the same.  This is a massive content wall, something that pushes away every 3-monther from giving it a shot.

WoW decided to open the floodgates to everyone.  Within 2 weeks of the WoD expansion, if you had never played you could have seen all the mandatory content from start to finish.  And when LFR came out, you could have cleared each wing out in a day.  A month or 2 in, and everything is done.  And then you lose 3m subscribers.   What was the record for hitting level 100?  Under 4 hours I think?

Wildstar took the crazy* approach of attunement but only at max level.  The original skill level required to attune was quite high but you could reach 50 by mostly face rolling, with some exceptions.  They’ve modified it since, but it’s such a massive departure from the rest of the game it throws people for a loop.  If there were more people playing this would be less of an issue but at current server pops, it’s a real challenge to complete.

FF14’s optimal leveling path is dungeon runs and group content.  The LFD system actually works pretty well since every single dungeon you have unlocked is available.  At 49 I was running a level 15 dungeon, and I scaled to its level.  That means that nearly all the content, in nearly all the zones, is relevant at nearly all levels.   Plus, forced grouping makes your social presence important.   This also means that people are going to quit at various parts of the leveling game, rather than reach the end and go away.  It’s a very interesting approach to “gaming glue”.

Which sort of begs the question, are you playing an MMO for the game for the people, for the mechanics, or for the game as a whole?  The 3 examples above fit into those categories.

As a final remark, I’m at 49.5 now on my White Mage.  I’m looking at that list of quests left to do and it seems like quite a task.  But the content is fun, the people are fun and it scratches a heck of an itch.

Quick Note – FF14 + GMG

People say a lot about Steam but I find that Green Man Gaming has just as many (if not more and better) deals.  You can use the following voucher for a nice 23% off any game, for the next few hours.

GET23P-ERCENT-OFFGMG

Worked out pretty well, I just picked up the FF14 expansion for a better deal than anywhere else I could find.

Hard Lessons are the Best Lessons

3 main topics for today!

Pre-orders

I’m not sure how many times I’ll say it but pre-orders suck nuts.  Arkham Asylum is such a mess that they stopped selling the game.  I know I wanted to pick it up and I heard the console version is great.  I also waited 2 days for the PC reviews to come out and I’m now saner for it.  At least they’re giving out refunds.

Wildstar

Free to play is coming and with it a whole bag of changes.  Stats are being revamped to more simple terms (and balance) and gear is being re-itemized in turn.  I’ll be honest, I have to play with a mod to understand heads or tails of all the stats on different characters.  This is a great quality of life change.

Dungeons are being scaled out more, so that you don’t see the first one at 20 and hit that wall.  Well, protostar games has been in for a bit at level 10 but that’s not really a dungeon as much as a tutorial.  This is good news as the dungeons in Wildstar are amazeballs.  They are also being rebalanced so that the damage from enemies is going more into telegraphs and less into standard attacks.  I’m hoping they tweak the logic of telegraphs though, as the timing on some of them is very hard to avoid. Especially when there are 4-5 effects on the ground at once.

Other items (some currently available as mods) include always-on sprint, world bosses clearly demarked, sell junk button, navigation system, revamp of the tutorials, and neighbourhoods.  This last one is pretty neat, where groups of 20 players can decorate together.  That’s pretty sweet.

All of this will be on the test realm shortly, in time for the fall conversion.  It looks quite promising.
FF14

After hoops and hurdles I finally got to play FF14 again.  I haven’t bought the expansion mind you, as my white mage was only 43.  He’s  47 now and that’s from fate grinds, main quests, levequests (sort of like random dailies) and taking down Garuda.  If there was a class that dealt the least amount of damage, white mages would be it.  Thankfully I have a tanking chocobo that I can just chain heal and he does most of the work.

From WoW and Wildstar, I’m used to a fair amount of mods.  Even SWTOR has a fairly customizable HUD, where you can resize items.  FF14…I can move the boxes around but that’s it.  Not that I have skill bloat, but there’s some tweaking I’d like to do to real estate.  Playing a healer, I’m used to a certain look and feel.  The 2.5s GCD is the most glaring change of pace to me and I’ll be honest, I struggle with it constantly.  I realize the GCD affects monsters as well, but they are already queued on their next attack before you can start yours.  Healing a smart tank is ok, healing a new one is quite painful.  The problem seems more pronounced when there’s AE happening, or multiple targets.  Triage at 0s is different than at 2s, and you’re 80% of the way through a cast…

I had mentioned this in a previous post and Rohan echoes it well enough, FF14 has a rather unique community.  The pace is much slower than other games and the rush to 50 on a new character is not a simple one.  There are many cut-scenes throughout and the mandatory dungeon runs put a huge hamper on “typical MMO” progress.  Going from something like Wildstar to FF14 is like F1 racing to a buggy cart.

Then you have the actual difficulty of the game, which to be honest, is higher than most other games. The increase in difficulty is gradual mind you, spread over the 50 first levels, but it does get hard.  And it’s not like there’s a ton of random stuff to do at max level that doesn’t include group content.  It doesn’t take much to develop a reputation on a server and it pays dividends to be nice as you’re going to need them later on.

I’ll give Garuda as an example.  I needed to clear that boss to progress and it took at least a dozen wipes and 3 groups to get it done.  First group I disconnected from due to a crappy network, but our DPS was too low on the feathers.  Group 2, the black mage wasn’t able to get their AE to work properly and again, the feathers.  Group 3 the tank was playing more of a DPS role, and was taking at least 50% more damage than the others I had healed and eventually they just quit.  The new tank was quite solid and we cleared it on the first try.  The entire run through was positive and light hearted.  No one lost their cool.  There were tips given out “have you tried this?” but never anything I’m used to seeing “oh you suck”.  There just seems to be a better level of understanding between players.

If you get frustrated easily, the odds are extremely high that by level 20-30 you’ll have burnt out on the game.  If you do manage to scrape your way to end game, you can only do it by having friends.  It’s a very interesting model where there’s a constant triage of players and it’s clearly a conscious decision.  I wouldn’t call it exclusionary, but more like it’s targeted.  Where Wildstar targeted (which they are doing an about face) the 1% of hardcore raiders and WoW targeted the grandmas and teens (which they seem to be focusing on more and more), FF14 seems to be aiming for the people who value strategy and social structures.

A few more days and I think I’ll be in expansion territory.

Health Update – Pushing and Pulling da Heavy Tings

Aside from family, work and gaming, I also play hockey.  I find that sports are a great stress relief, whether it’s competitive or just pickup.  But 5 years on since my first daughter was born, I was feeling a little pudgy.  Apparently, beer gives you a belly.  I think they should have a warning on the label.

6 weeks ago I started getting back into an exercise routine.  Nothing too fancy, just some dumbbells, a pull-up bar (or rather a pull down bar) and a yoga mat.  I live in Canada.  Running works for about 4 months of the year and who runs in the dark?  I had previously done the original P90X routine before I had kids and that was quite an effective exercise routine.  You’ll lose weight and built some muscle for sure, but you’ll never be as big as the guys on the TV doing high intensity workouts.  Tony H is a great instructor and has a good rapport with the other folks in the video.  If you’re going to pop in a DVD every day for 3 months, you don’t want them to be annoying.

Later on, I tried the Insanity workout, which is borderline stupid if you ask me.  It is a pure cardio exercise, with a large helping of plyometrics.  It’s not possible to do the routine completely, and on schedule unless you are already fairly close to fitness.  I mean, the people on the video can’t even complete them without dropping.  Shaun T is an ok instructor but the people in the video are the type you’d want to punch in the face.  Tonya in particular.

I’ve tried the Jillian Michaels stuff my sister had passed me.  The Ripped in 30 is the better of the bunch and a decent way to start a program.  The pace is solid, but the workouts are very repetitive.  Plus, she’s all hell annoying.

So I went back looking and found the P90X3 program.  Yes, a 3rd one.  Actually, the 2nd one was the sequel with some new workouts but this one is a different beast.  It’s 90X in 30 minutes.  Imagine taking a 1 hour workout, rests and all, and then crushing it down to 30 minutes.  There’s one workout, The Challenge, where my sheet afterwards indicated I did about 200 pushups and nearly 100 pullups in 30 minutes – including warmup time.  Nutbar.  But the results are great and the relationship between Tony and the workout folks is even better than in the first set.

Exercise doesn’t mean much if you’re not eating well.  A recent article stated that obese Americans outnumber overweight.  The only way to put on weight is to eat more calories than you burn and that can be an extremely easy thing to do.  The bad news is that in North America, most foods are empty calories due to the abundance of corn and artificial filler in everything we eat.  The good news is that I have a rather severe intolerance to animal fat and artificial preservatives (specifically nitrates), better news is that my wife is intolerant to corn.  I am absolutely incapable of eating fast food and most food in a restaurant doesn’t jive.  My shopping is on the outside of a grocery store, rarely in the aisles aside from some cereal, pasta and baking goods.  So calorie management is pretty easy for me, aside from the beer.  I will say that the food portion of weight management is the hardest part.  Exercise is easy, you only do it 30-60 minutes a day.  Food is around you 24/7.  Its own long topic…

Finally, I being a tech guy, I have a few gadgets to help out.  A FitBit One to measure steps taken and sleep (which the wife has appropriated), an Amiigo for workout tracking (with so-so results so far) and a smart scale that measured weight, BMI, body fat and water ratio.   Well, that scale took a data dump.  One day I was 270, the other 190, the next I was weightless.  So we bought a FitBit Aria, which works with the FitBit app (score) and on wifi.  Well, let me tell you that this scale is something else altogether to setup.  First, it only works in an 802b network.  You know, the one that’s been out the door for 10 years?  Plus the security only works with WEP/WPA.  In a day and age of “push to connect” this is like an ancient relic.  It took me 3 hours to complete the setup, searching the bowels of the interwebs.  I had to reset nearly ever setting on the router to get it to work, and now I need to reconfigure all my other appliances to connect back.  Well, the good news is that it works at least… but for $150, I would recommend everyone stay away until it undergoes a big engineering redesign.

That really long post to say that I’m down over half my weight goal so far.  My eldest daughter is interested in fitness (always a plus) and I’m slowly pulling my wife into a more active lifestyle, given the ease of tools and quite obvious results.  Results are certainly motivating and since I’ve past the 1 month mark, I’m in more of a habit than anything else now.  And once you’re in that groove, you start looking forward to the next time.

What’s an Expansion worth?

FF14’s expansion Heavensward is $40.  Warlords was $60, though it included a “free” level 90, which is $60 after the fact (though really, that’s what, 20 hours of gameplay at most nowdays?).  Most expansions runs between $30 and $60, depending on what’s in it.  Even more so when you think about if the game is F2P or subscription based.  Some don’t even charge for expansions – Neverwinter & EvE come to mind.

GW2 is 2 years old and aside from that first box price, I’d wager the majority haven’t dropped more than $20 in all that time.  $50 is absolutely reasonable for an expansion, if you know what’s in it.  And I guess that’s the rub.  Asking for money on faith is always a hard bargain to make.  Certainly with mixed messages and a rather poor PR department.  NCSoft barely has any PR, though I guess it’s better than having Smed going off on some tangent.12:00

I really think this is just a storm in a teacup.  By the time the expansion rolls around, everyone will go back on their “don’t buy it” mantra and scoop it up on release.

Let’s face it, MMO gamers are always looking for the next shiny thing and no matter how much they complain, it’s still going to sell to the active playerbase.

It is popcorn-worthy to see the frothing mind you.

Back Online

The last couple weeks I’ve just had drained batteries.  Completely kaput.  I took this week off, mostly unplugged and slept what seemed to be a dozen+ hours per day. Typically when I take time off work, I still have some contact.  I’ll check mail a few times a day, maybe take a call or two to sort things out.  This week I let my BlackBerry drop dead and just disconnected.  I think that’s honestly the first time I’ve done that in 10 years, at least in a situation where the was a signal possible.

E3

I did keep up with the news somewhat mind you.  E3 came and went, and there really wasn’t much to talk about.  If you love sequel-itis, then hey, they’ve got you covered.  More Battlefront (with an amazing deluxe package that gives you a damage boost on normal packages), Fallout 4 has a date and an iOS app, Uncharted has a sequel, FF7 is coming back (curious how that will work out), SWTOR has a neat expansion/reboot…It’s not bad news so much.  I think devs have finally figured out how to use the consoles properly now, so the games are looking pretty amazing.

Anyone taking bets on when The Last Guardian will actually come out?

Steam Sale

There was a lot of stuff on sale, holy bajeebers!  I picked up Ori and the Blind Forest, which is a cool game in the metroidvania style.  With amazing art and music.  Superb game actually, great throwback to a fun game style.

The rest of the stuff I either already had or it didn’t interest me much.  Stick of Truth I did pick up, for something like $10, so that will fill some dead time eventually.  Arkham Knight isn’t on sale but apparently it’s the best of the series.  Winter sale I guess…

Marvel Heroes

2 year anniversary on a super cool ARPG.  Syp has posted a fair bit on it and it’s well worth your dollars.  I think they have a really great cash stop mechanic, though I’m curious as to how much is left in the Marvel vaults for them to release as playable characters.

I picked up Doom with some Eternity Crystal (the droppable F2P currency) and I am quite impressed.  He has great lines, looks cool and his moves are all pretty signature.  Due to some other characters being at 60 (including Cyclops) I was able to get him to level 60 in about 2 days of sporadic playtime.  Then with a bunch of lucky drops, kitted him out for some solid damage potential.  I also took the time to level up Squirrel Girl.  She’s awesome!

Wildstar

I had mentioned before how I wanted to get back into this game.  Well, I subbed up this week and patched my way in.  I had posted about what I thought was missing from the game, and I am rather happy to say that most of that downside list has been addressed.   There’s a lot of casual/daily content now at 50, shiphands, adventures, dungeons, plot dungeons, battleplots, battlegrounds and 4 main daily hubs.  Raids have been dropped to 20 players, itemization has been tweaked so it isn’t as crazy.  Lot of classes have been balanced as well (notoriously the warrior).

There are people playing, I see them all over the place.  That said, it need more people STAT.  It’s great that it’s going F2P in the fall but there needs to be something in there now to get more people playing.  I’m a bit reminded of what happened to SWTOR in this case, where the game dropped subs like the servers were on fire. It was a 90% server merge after all.  When F2P hit, the game took a few months but picked up a ton of steam and now there’s players everywhere.  Wildstar needs that player boost.  It’s a quality MMO.

FF14

Expansion hit a few days ago.  I have an old account I played with for a couple months, and I was impressed with what was there.  I dropped out however, due to real life taking almost all my free time.  I’m curious to see what’s about mind you so I wanted to get back into the game.

Let me say that Square Enix has some of the absolute worst infrastructure/support services on the planet.  It’s is almost absurd.  Trying to log in, my typical passwords aren’t working.  Ok, now I get locked out for some reason, though no idea how long I’m locked out.  I try again in 10 minutes, same message.  A quick search tells me it’s a 30 minute lockout, and extended by some magical number everytime you retry and the lockout is still in effect.

Fine, let’s try a password reset.  Ok, none of my security answers are working.  Maybe it’s the case of the answers.  Nope… not that either.  Ok, maybe I have a token attached to the account (there’s a field there but it doesn’t tell me if I have one).  I check my mail and it looks like I tried to attach one, but there’s no success message.  Fine, let’s try it out.  The app won’t work on my iPod and won’t work on my Android tablet.  It will work on my wife’s.  Super.  Put in the data to restore it, invalid key data.  Arghhhh!!!

I end up on the support site, submitting a ticket.  Interestingly enough, it asks me for the same security questions as before to submit but doesn’t give me any errors when I put in the answers I thought were correct.  I haven’t received any notice it was sent, or that there was an error.  Just an on-screen message that it may take some time.

So at this point, I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do.  Calling them is apparently a 2 hour wait and since they are only open during “business hours”, I’m not quite sure what that will accomplish other than a massive long distance charge on my phone.

/amazing.