Category Archives: FFonline

OTC – Big Deals Edition: The Challenges of Virtual Poop, Undertale and DPS Meters still suck, thank you!

You guys, I actually used “poop” in a topic title! *Achievement unlocked!*

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The big deal that is pooping in ARK

I’ve been playing some ARK over the past weekend after finally upgrading my old graphics card to a 970. The game is beautiful but also rather straightforward and boring, to the point of where I am calling over-hype. Coming from the suspense that is 7 Days to Die, ARK still has a long way to go before it catches my survival fancy – “just surviving”, as in making sure you’re not starving, isn’t a good enough reason to sink hours into a game and build fortresses for me. That’s all well though and I will return to ARK once it received more content love and fixing.

Of course one very under-reported, hilarious feature in ARK is your character’s defecation mechanic which has caught many an unsuspecting player by surprise. It also spawns fantastically comical forum threads such as this one which was my main inspiration for looking into the topic. For those who don’t know how it works, just a brief summary: player characters in ARK randomly poop all over the place with a “you defecated” message popping up on your screen and an overly realistic bowel sound effect going along with it (eww). Also, you can pick up player poop and do things with it! There’s apparently a way to initiate pooping yourself (I did not know this), rather than being taken by surprise when your character relieves himself in the middle of your base like he’s part of the livestock.

This is noteworthy because most games never dare venture into the no-go zone that is human poop, no matter how high their authenticity bar is set otherwise. I only remember encountering virtual pooping in the Sims and Conker’s Bad Fur Day myself in the past. Even toilets as part of game settings are kind of a big deal, as was recently deliberated in this RPS article. Cross-reading different ARK forums, there’s plenty of players utterly aghast at this, nevermind all the violence and moral decay portrayed in videogames otherwise but…..poop? No way! I actually got a buddy of mine to play ARK and he is turned off so much by the defecation thing, he’s already stopped playing. I couldn’t stop laughing after it “happened” to his character the first time around!

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So many places to do your business!

Now, I am possibly the last person to ask for poop mechanics in videogames, or any simulation of mundane bodily functions for that matter, since I’m all for the idealized, stylized and aesthetically pleasing fantasy environments! The fuss over something as trivial as poop in a game like ARK cracks me up though; I guess I’m okay with the fact that my human body does that sort of thing and so does yours because y’know, we’re part of nature no matter how fancy we dress and talk. We tend to be fine with “manure” (different word for poop!) from beefalos when playing Don’t Starve, so let’s try be a little less Martha Steward about the whole thing, shall we?

The Tunes of the Undertale

Undertale, a successful Kickstarter project that’s been created for the most part by one guy named Toby Fox, has recently been released on Steam with a bang. Not only is it difficult to find anything but raging reviews from players and journos alike, the fact that many would go as far as calling it the best RPG they ever played or at least among the best, got me curious to check it out myself. Only about 1 hour in and without wanting to spoil anything, I think it’s safe to say that lovers of the (J)RPG genre will find this to be an interesting journey for its toying with player expectations, tongue-in check approach to classic tropes and unorthodox approach to round-based combat. That is, if you can get over the minimalistic graphics. I’m not even sure how much I like Undertale yet myself but there is something about it I need to get to the bottom of.

What’s already won me over is the game’s soundtrack – a whooping 101 tracks of oldschool goodness composed by Toby Fox again (that guy!), and available for only 9.99$ on his bandcamp site. If you’re at all into retro VGM, this is for you and one great deal for the buck!

And MMOs are still better without DPS meters

Most players who have ever spent a decent amount of time in FFXIV: A Realm Reborn will at some point talk or write about its incredibly friendly community that seems at odds with the current WoW-based MMO standard. I have mused on this not too long ago and so have other bloggers, and it requires no great leap of logic to grasp that FFXIV’s lack of (acknowledged) DPS meters, as well as its very forgiving dungeons for the most part, have a lot to do with it. FFXIV relies heavily on social engineering in many different ways and pugging is as essential to the player experience in this MMO as it is in WoW and other games, toxic hells that their LFGs have become. I have lamented the state of pugs in WoW as well as in Guild Wars 2 in the past and Eri did in fact recently write a similar review on returning to Tera.

Now Rohan linked an interesting experiment from reddit in his post yesterday, in which some guy parsed both the harassment and the DPS for pugs in both FFXIV and WoW. Bottom line: the jerks in WoW are often also the “good” players (no doubt using meters as their justification). In FFXIV on the other hand, in case of a bad pug it’s more likely that the loudmouth is also a bad player (that’s simply never detected). So far goes the result of the experiment.

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More dps whyyyy…look I have a pretty angel!

It’s easy enough to believe this data. Like Rohan, I fail to see how any of the two options are superior in theory because well, I generally don’t want any jerks in my pugs. Doing well on meters doesn’t entitle you to be a jerk. Where I disagree slightly is the bottom line that the two approaches to meters are on the same level / cause equal inconveniences; in reality I am a lot less often subjected to harassment in FFXIV than I am in WoW by virtue of how the FFXIV devs handle meters. And this is a big deal.

Would you rather deal with a 5% chance of getting ebola or a 70% of getting SARS?  The 5% suck but are preferable to the 70%! Naturally, these are my uncorroborated percentages to illustrate approximately how often my pugs have been awful in FFXIV vs. WoW. Source whatever you like, it would surprise me greatly if you didn’t end up with a huge disparity between these two titles. I must have done a 100 runs myself in FFXIV by now and I recall precious few group disbands either, outside those 2-3 single raid boss encounters everyone seems to loathe.

Of course the question of whether bad players matter much towards outcome, factors into this and once more FFXIV appears to be more laidback and forgiving where the majority of its puggeable content is concerned. I mean look….the 4-man dungeons aren’t exactly difficult. I am still undecided whether WoW’s dungeons are truly that much harder to warrant meters – I’ve a feeling this is not the case. The amount of harassment in WoW happens because meters are readily available and because people can. So, I’ll take a few loudmouth players in FFXIV who are “also bad” any day, if it means a much friendlier overall community.

[FFXIV] A special Heavensward Tribute

I am in love with Eorzea; the snowy lands beyond Coerthas, the forests of the Black Shroud, the windmills of La Noscea. The sense of scale and immersion created in the zones of FFXIV are only matched by LOTRO. And some of them are unrivaled entirely. I didn’t expect to ever find a “go-to MMO” again after WoW, a game that I will log on to after an exhausting day just to unwind and find comfort in its world. FFXIV is that for me.

My journey through Heavensward has been rather wonderful up to this point, both in terms of traveling around as well as following the engaging storyline. I have taken around 900 screenshots of this expansion alone. There are so many favorites that I decided just picking a few and uploading them somewhere won’t do – this time, I’ll showcase them a little differently than usual.

Slideshow clips aren’t my favorite thing on youtube but in this case I felt it was a perfect way of arranging and uploading quite a lot of screenshots that are also tied together storywise and for the most part, in chronological order from lvl 50-60. For those who aren’t playing FFXIV or haven’t been to Heavensward just yet, my tribute will be less meaningful than for me maybe and other HW players. I get incredibly sentimental watching clips like this but I hope it can serve as a worthy teaser too for someone who’s never been to Eorzea, showing them a few of the most wonderful moments and sceneries to be encountered in this MMO. Enjoy!

P.S. Yes, I like my dragons, what can I say!

FFXIV “High Adventure #5″

Important info: as of now, my MMO music quiz is still unsolved. That means you still have a shot at winning a copy of The Witcher 2 and be declared glorious victor of this formidable challenge! Head here for the quiz! (winners who already own the game may have it gifted to a friend.)

My fifth screenshot in the High Adventure series for FFXIV is one of snow. I love snowy maps in MMOs and winter themes. Heavensward is full of cold and dark places but there’s brilliance in winter too and solace.

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[FFXIV] An Anniversary to Remember

Thanks to Rohan’s post this week I got around doing the FFXIV anniversary event “The Rising“, which is still available until September 7th. It was hands down the greatest anniversary quest-line I’ve ever come across in an MMO, so I am very glad there was still time. Because I read Rohan’s post first I had a vague idea of what it was gonna be about and a good thing too – I would’ve missed a lot of the inside jokes and references otherwise and likely have clicked impatiently through half the speech bubbles first. Don’t do it!

*Spoilers ahead*

As Rohan mentioned too, The Rising is one remarkable and successful shattering of the fourth wall in an MMO. Strictly speaking, MMO anniversaries are all a little out of character anyway, as they specifically celebrate the existence of your virtual fantasy world since [insert launch date]. SE have more to celebrate than most though and so they’ve taken things as far as it gets; if you have any history with FFXIV/ARR or SE at all, or any context of how far this title has come since 1.0, you really need to take the 20mins to experience this unique event! It is delightful in its self-irony and heart-warming in its humbleness. As far as my own MMO experiences are concerned, The Rising is also very much unprecedented in its very personal and direct address of the player base. Also, when do you ever get to explore a dev team’s virtual offices or sit with one of your favorite MMO composers’ alter ego?

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Talking MMO music with ol’ Soken!

For those who won’t be experiencing The Rising either because they can’t or don’t want to, you can check out the essential cutscenes on youtube and read about all the not-so-hidden references on the reddit mega thread. That only leaves me with saying “you are welcome, SE” and kudos for not giving up on a legacy that’s dear to so many franchise fans worldwide! May our adventures in Eorzea indeed be a continuous source of joy and wonder! Happy weekend everybody!

Shared hopes

Shared hopes

FFXIV “High Adventure IV” [#Blaugust 22]

Back in primary school we used a lot of watercolor and Neocolor wax crayons in art class. I remember when our teacher showed us a special (and messy) technique one day, in which you started off covering an entire leaf of strong paper in all the different colors of the rainbow, wildly mixed. This first layer would either be normal crayon or water color.

Once everything was dry and finished, a second layer of thick black Neocolor would go on top and completely cover up the entire page. Such a smeary affair it was that we all looked like chimney sweepers afterwards, with black wax covering our hands and faces and god knows what else. But that’s when the real fun started and we finally got to carve out the actual image with a piece of wire or a spatula-like instrument, by scratching away fine lines out of the wax to reveal a magical world of colors underneath. I absolutely loved this technique for its wondrous effect and that negative contrast.

This fourth pick in my ongoing FFXIV “High Aventure” screenshot series is therefore an homage to those early days of creative experimentation. I think am gonna call it Cloud Watcher.

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[FFXIV] Manderville Dancing all Night long! [#Blaugust 14]

This morning when I got up and went to the bathroom, I stepped right into a tack. Foot bleeding and howling, I groggily stumbled towards the kitchen for disinfectant, only to step into cat puke with my other foot. This is a true story. Some days we need to fight with all we’ve got.

Lucky for me, I have the Manderville to do just that – and now you’ve got it too! Happy frivolous Friday everybody, enjoy the weekend and don’t forget your next Blaugust post!

*dance*

DPS Meters can suck it [#Blaugust 13]

Today’s post is sort of a sequel to some of yesterday’s discussions, in case you’re confused. I know not everyone uses DPS meters in MMOs to be a jackass and harass other people in pickup groups (although too many do) – you’re okay!

Anyway, I just….I basically had to do this.

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Let’s just say I reserve my epic right to “suck” in MMOs whenever I damn well please. Nothing is more annoying and tedious than running trivial daily dungeons with the leets who’ve been rejected by all the serious guilds.

P.S. Let’s go bowling.

So, how is FFXIV “better” than WoW? [#Blaugust 12]

Yes I’m doing it, am comparing two popular subscription MMOs with die-hard audiences, some of which are very very vocal. Wish me luck!

I’ve drawn a comparison between FFXIV’s and WoW’s endgame lately, both of which are rather lacking in their straightforward, gear-grind focused approach. However, it seems FFXIV often gets compared to WoW for all sorts of things and I’m not exactly onboard with most of them, given that I’ve played its predecessor in 2002 long before WoW launched. There is plenty of MMO tradition in SE’s two titles for sure (same as for WoW) and no doubt the dev team analyzed WoW during ARR’s development (especially for re-launch). But FFXIV has its own spirit and way of doing things.

The venerable King Mogglemog XII

The venerable King Mogglemog XII

If I keep saying FFXIV is the better overall game than WoW, I should at some point explain why that is or rather, why it is for me. As an ex-WoW player and now-FFXIV follower I am totally biased, just like everyone else is. So agree with me or not, these are my reasons to prefer playing FFXIV over WoW today, in no specific order:

  1. Regular content: Over the course of 1.5 years between re-release and Heavensward expansion, ARR has known a respectable number of content patches. Steadily, SE have released new encounters, dungeons and driven the excellent story forward via questlines. The newly released expansion has already had content added to it. How many content patches did Warlords of Draenor have again?
  2. Great writing and stakes: I have gushed about how uncompromisingly SE handle storytelling in FFXIV. You can certainly dislike storydriven MMOs like that but at least they’re doing it damn well. In this, the game is second to no one and you’ll find detailed reasons in the post I just linked, if you care to.
  3. Superior LFG experience: Or maybe I should just say superior community because it is unbelievable how 98% of all PuGs in FFXIV are just the nicest social encounters ever. EVER.
  4. No stupid ass meters: There’s an unspoken rule in FFXIV that if you use any meters, you need to keep quiet about it. If not, well everyone’s too scared to go there. Apparently (although I cannot locate an original source) SE have taken a clear stance on dps meters: use them for yourself only or fall under the harassment offense. How awesome is that??
  5. World feel / graphics: FFXIV is a zoned world very much like WoW is but in terms of that authentic world feel, from how terrain is crafted to the texture of rocks, light and shadow or the sound of things, right down to how NPCs behave, it is simply the much superiorly crafted world. This is obviously a question of graphics style, engine and power too. FFXIV is a newer game than WoW is.
  6. Lousy Achievements: The lackluster achievement system in FFXIV remains unobtrusive and rather inconsequential in the greater design of things. Quite a few players have moaned about this since day one, while I want to kiss frogs and marry princes because it’s so wonderfully ignorable!
  7. Cosmetics/gear: Myeah, let’s move right to point 8.
  8. Housing and other whimsy: Not the greatest housing model in the world, FFXIV still let’s you have your own space to decorate and has equipped guilds with their own, individual hubs and more recently airships. WoW sports garrisons which I actually quite liked…they just don’t make up for housing. Furthermore, FFXIV includes experiences like the Thornmarch encounter or barber NPC Jandelaine, which I’d like to call wonderful experiences in wild japanese humor and whimsy. Harris Pilton and Indiana Jones questlines are mildly entertaining but that stuff is plain madness.

If you’re fuming at this point because I’m being very unfair to WoW, I’ll readily make the following concessions: there’s pet battles and plenty of cool mounts to collect, flex raids and a much, much better account management system with actual player connectivity across realms, regions and games even. Also, WoW let’s you use parties, mounts and pets at the same time – a feat of epic proportion for FFXIV it seems.

The mogstation really is teh worst and we all know this but it’s not like I log in there every day. This is largely the thread where I tell you why FFXIV > WoW for my personal intents and purposes and yup, I have a clear winner kupo!

Today in Rants: FFXIV and the Endgame Gear Grind [#Blaugust 10]

For those of you not familiar with FFXIV’s endgame, it consists largely of this:

  • Hit max level
  • Do all the dungeons and trials to unlock roulette LFG and hardmodes
  • Farm roulettes for marks to raise item lvl
  • Farm more roulettes for higher item lvl
  • Farm raids for even higher item lvl
  • Do story quests and trials after content patches

If you’re a WoW player then this sounds very familiar, only in FFXIV the grind for marks is even more straightforward in my opinion. There’s all this gear available at the endgame hub from the getgo and from there it’s basically chain-queuing LFGs for this week and that week, racing through different gear sets. You can solo your way through, as in no guild required, and it’s rather fast. That’s why SE limit the amount of marks/week for the higher tier gear and also the weekly drops from the new raid instance. When I re-joined for ARR this February, none of these restrictions were in place anymore for the old content, which made chasing up that gear ladder even more bewildering. I guess that’s what happens when you insist on item-lvl restrictions for content.

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Oh hai, we’re here for that gear!

I must say, am a little peeved at the whole thing. I can’t bash WoW for its linear, uninspired endgame grind and turn a blind eye to FFXIV at the same time. Eorzea certainly has more to offer besides just dungeons to explorers, there’s some side/holiday-activities and the regular content patches with updates to the storyline (although that usually sends you into dungeons) – nonetheless, I would have expected Heavensward’s endgame to take a different, more refreshing approach to group content and raids. Idyllshire, which replaces Mor Dhona as the highlevel hub, is conceived in the exact same way and centered around the vendors that trade marks for gear and upgrades. Everyone’s favorite lootz NPC Rowena even moved over from Mor Dhona because this is “where all the business is”.

Now to clarify, it’s nice that there’s all this gear and cosmetic choice in FFXIV and I dig running different dungeons. It really wouldn’t hurt making the acquisition of high-level gear a bit more varied though and the gear itself more “meaningful” – I don’t have a better word for it. At least the dungeon sets you can collect while levelling up need to y’know, drop from different dungeons. I am crushed that even my unique BLM class set is part of the same mundane marks grind in Heavensward! Already the first time around, we got our sets completed when dinging level 50 in ARR and from there I probably wore my Wizard’s attire for about 2.5 seconds before it got replaced by the first tier of marks gear. One more for the cosmetics tab which never happened – it’s too much hassle glamouring gear all the time and it’s not exactly free either.

Guess that’s where SE did change things up a tiny bit in Heavensward, since the new class sets can only be bought for second tier marks (currently). That is still one tragic case of missing a great opportunity because unique questlines and challenges in MMOs rock! Heck, I would’ve been happier with a set of individual achievements (*gasp*) and dungeon runs for my set over this exercise in boredom.

And yes I know, I obviously don’t have to do all of this; I can just wait until it becomes even easier to get all the gear and speed through all dungeon content, with overgeared groups, just so I can follow the storyline. What a great prospect.

/rant out