Category Archives: FFonline

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

FFXIV “High Adventure III” and Fairytales [#Blaugust 7]

Am kinda loving #blaugust this far and at some point I will have to blog about that. If you’re currently in need for more topics, check out the prompts on Anook and the blaugust AMA thread!

It’s handy to have a screenshot series going during events such as blaugust and while these don’t tend to spark discussion, I hope someone is enjoying them. The whole idea behind High Adventure is that I pick my favorite FFXIV screenshots from Heavensward and then tweak them to look like they came out of a picture book or children’s tale. I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I grew up with a lot of stories – fairytales, folklore, mythology, you name it. They were and are an important part of who I am and some defining choices I’ve made along the way.

If you live in my hood of central Europe, the Grimm’s Tales are every child’s standard source and early inspiration as far as the classics go. There are the cautionary adventures of Wilhelm Busch’s Max&Moritz and of course Hans Christian Andersen’s work – melancholic father of the Little Mermaid, the Ugly Duckling or the Snow Queen. When you read the original texts of his more popular tales, you realize how they are way more heart-breaking than their mainstream adaptions and there’s rarely a happy ending. Already as a young child, I was profoundly moved by the difficult emotions therein.

At some point I dove into a collection of greek myths and from age 12, latin and everything about Roman society (who have basically adopted Greek mythology) became part of my school curriculum. I went from Hercules to Thor and Siegfried with some Sindbad in the mix. Mythology is pretty gruesome stuff actually but nothing ever scared me more than this guy, so as far as I was concerned the eagle eating Prometheus’ liver, every day, was okay.

Considering this path and my big audiobook collection of illustrated international children’s tales by grandpa, it made perfect sense that I ended up reading D&D-based fantasy novels and Tolkien as a teenager. I remember my enchantment by Larry Elmore’s cover on the first edition of Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight, which I am keeping on my shelf to this day. I own illustrated versions of most of my favorite books and stories, if such a thing is available and I completely freak out if one of them is missing. There’s a story about a certain nervous breakdown that shall remain untold.

I will continue this topic next time around to talk about some of my favorite book illustrators, new and old. My third screenshot from FFXIV was taken in Aziz’la and this time I went for a more ink&spatter feel –

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Riding the skies.

Happy Friday everyone and keep that blaugust spirit up!

Irresistible, futile player housing (#Blaugust 3)

Last night I finally rid myself of a 300k gil in FFXIV to acquire a private chamber in our guild house on Cactuar, mostly out of curiosity to see how SE handled the housing feature. Five hours flew by in which I found myself in a familiar building and decoration frenzy until I was pretty much “done”, browsing web databases and the auction house included. Significantly lighter in the pocket change department, I had to ask myself: what’s it all for? It is the age old question of the MMO player and the future still hasn’t arrived.

Welcome to the cosy SPA!

Welcome to the cosy SPA!

Maybe we’re asking for too much when we demand meaningful housing from MMORPGs. Building and housing simulations are an entire genre of their own and one need only look at Landmark, Minecraft or the Sims to understand the required freedom and complexity to make this activity, even as an end in itself, appeal to players longterm. The issue with building and decorating your house in an MMO is simply that “it ends” without further use or consequence but MMOs aren’t designed toward the finite. Once that item limit is reached on your plot, and FFXIV sports an underwhelming 50 items maximum, there’s only so much re-decoration you’ll be willing to do (or afford). At most, you’ll be adding the odd achievement trophy further down the line, yet the question about more meaningful and consequential player housing remains. May be that the two genres really aren’t a great fit, may be that nobody’s interested enough to allocate more resources towards figuring it out.

For what its worth, I had immense fun with my room in FFXIV while it lasted and SE’s housing isn’t even that great. Dealing with their fussy and limited tools, I missed my huge Wildstar plot with a sudden, overwhelming acuteness. And yet, as self-serving and ultimately futile as this whole activity was towards my further journey in FFXIV (if we are even allowed to question the futility of any actions in MMOs), it was engaging and made me learn a few more things about the world I hadn’t realized earlier. It was 5 hours well spent because I enjoyed it – I just wish there was a bit more to it than immediate and short-lived solo gratification.

FFXIV “High Adventure II”

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Over the years, I have spent a good while searching for perfect screenshot moments in MMOs but it’s rare for a scene to come together this well, all by itself. When my black mage entered Matoya’s cave for the first time in Heavensward, no stage designer nor dramaturg could’ve conceived the scene better; the strange magician with her pointy hat speaking to the resident frog servant, with tomes of magic piling up in the background and animated broomsticks sweeping the dusty floor. For a moment, I was the magician’s apprentice rather than a wayward Au’Ra, chasing the next chapter of Square Enix’ storyline. For a moment, I was a character in a much bigger story than the one that’s been told.