The state of the Onion Helm

 

Being unemployed has its perks, I suppose.  For one thing I was able to wake up nice and early yesterday and watch the live letter from the producer as it was live.  Me and about 20K other people.  I was able to watch the Q&A thread populate in real-time.  I was able to follow the community on the Lodestone as they commented about what as going on, and I was able to watch Yoshi-P and Foxclon fiddle with different settings as their live stream went out a few times and they had to switch channels. I did enjoy being on the front lines of the media and watching everything as it happened, it was fun.

I didn’t understand a word they were saying, as I don’t speak Japanese and have never had a chance to learn, but I did pick up on some of the body language so that I had a good idea what they were talking about by what was on the screen at the time.  I remember seeing the chocobo fighting on screen and knowing they were talking about fighting companions.  I could see when they were talking about the new hair styles and the changes to the character creator.  I could see the new maps and mounts and UI Changes.  And I was watching at the exact moment they were talking about the Scholar class – watching Foxclon point to the picture behind them with the Scholar and Yoshi-P giving his nod of confirmation.

Overall the live video did answer a lot of the burning questions we had – some news better than others (such as beta phase 3 not starting until mid-June) but also give us a lot of questions going into E3, which of course will be when beta testing resumes, a bunch more information comes out to the public, and when the next live letter will be held.  Having played many other MMORPGs since FFXIV went down I really think ARR is going to deliver in all those places that other MMORPG’s are missing.

 

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The things I look forward to the most in FFXIV 2.0:

  1. The community
  2. The lore
  3. The UI
  4. The variety of content
  5. Graphics

Community:
It’s been said that a P2P model keeps out a lot of the riffraff, which may very well be true.  But for FFXIV the community is not just limited to people who can afford a monthly fee.  Sure it requires a certain kind of dedication and devotion to a game to play one where you pay each month, but let’s not forget that a majority of the players will either be fans of the Final Fantasy series, people migrating from a long-term standing in FFXI, or people who genuinely are interested in playing a top-quality MMORPG.  From what I’ve learned of the FFXIV community it is that we are fun, respectful, helpful, and easy-going for the most part.  Even those I’ve met who are “elite” players are able to take a break once in a while and parade around in their swimsuits and get a few laughs from their friends.

The Lore:
It is refreshing to have a lore based around something other than the generic “dragons and castles” lore we see in a lot of other MMORPGs.  And to have a lore that is as long standing as the Final Fantasy lore – that doesn’t require having to make everything up on the spot for just one game, it establishes itself deeper than something like TERA or RIFT or any other new game out there.  The lore of Final Fantasy dates back to the 1980’s when the first title was released.  It has had a lot of time to grow and mature and refine itself along the way.  Certain items, jobs, monsters, summons, creatures, buildings, names – they all carry a weight to them.  We know what airships are, what Ifrit means, what a Moogle is, who Cid is, and what a Phoenix down does long before we ever step foot into this title.  We know the names of legendary weapons and why we should fear the Tonberry.  Anyone who is a fan of the series will feel comfortable going into FFXIV 2.0 because it is based on all the refinement that came before it.

The UI:
One thing I can’t stand about a UI is when it is in such a way that it doesn’t do what you want it to do.  If you can’t put a box where you think it should go, if you can’t read a map like you think it should be read, if you can’t tell what items you own, how much money you have, and what you are doing and where to go next – then the UI has failed.  FFXIV 2.0 is doing a great job with their UI.  They took ideas from WoW, GW2, TERA, and put it all in a way that makes sense.  They’re also adding options to re size every object on the UI.  And unlike WOW, they actually got the chat box down in the corner and the action bars can be moved freely and don’t get in the way of anything.  I feel with this UI I can actually manage and customize things to the way I want to play and not the way the game forces me to play.  The development team listened on this, and it will always remind me on how they listened.

Variety of Content:
One thing that irks me to no end in other MMORPGs is never being able to take a respite from adventuring, questing, and leveling up.  You’re either fighting and gaining experience points, or you’re wasting time.  Not true in FFXIV 2.0.  First of all they are adding a housing system so you have a place to display your achievements, a place to return to regularly, and a place to work on improving.  There is a great crafting system to the point where you can craft anywhere at any time (no need to find a town with a crafting station).  There will be mini-games, chocobo breeding, a great market system, and a variety of places to explore, quests to undertake, and maps to unlock.  The fact that any player can switch to any class at any time means areas have a lot of replay value and you always feel like you’re connected to a living and breathing world and are free to do any single thing in it.  You can be one crafting class, or all crafting classes.  You can be a healer one minute, and switch over to being tank the next.  You can spend all day gathering materials from nature and crafting items to sell and fill your pockets with gold.  You can hang out all day and RP with your friends – heck you can craft with your friends, while you RP.  The sky is the limit.

Graphics:
The single main reason I gave FFXIV a chance when 1.0 came out was the graphics.  Up until this point most games were clunky such as WoW, FFXI, the original Guild Wars, Star Wars Galaxies – just a bunch of low-quality avatars and walls of text to read, crummy UI and very difficult game play.  When FFXIV came out I finally felt like they had gotten it right.  When I played the game it didn’t feel like a typical clunky and dated MMORPG, it felt like a professional, top notch RPG that added other players into it.  The characters and world was detailed, the cut scenes pulled me in, the world just felt so real and lifelike.  I was hooked.  Looking at even the more modern MMORPGs now such as TERA and GW2 – even though their graphics cleaned up nicely, when I played Beta in FFXIV 2.0 – everything seemed to run so much smoother, with so much more detail and life to it.  It was like sliding on a new pair of socks and gliding on the kitchen floor.  (yeah, that’s how it felt – don’t judge me).

ImageI’m hoping at E3 we will see many more developments and hear about even more content for FFXIV 2.0.  I’m excited for Beta 3 as I can’t wait to step back into the streets of Ul’dah again and see all of my friends and see what new abilities I have and what the new fighting feels like.  I hate to say it, but I think with all the announcements heard recently I’m about ready to stop hoping for more and more news and just be able to play with what news we have.  I know there is so much more content planned and so much more people are asking about, but with Scholar now coming along with Summoner, all the new maps, items, story lines and new players coming on board, I think we have more than enough to keep us busy.  I hope they finish up what they are working on soon and that everything gets ready soon because I want to dive in.

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What I don’t like about Guild Wars 2

I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 for a long while now, and I feel that time I put into the game along with the money I’ve sank into the game over the past few months entitles me to have a little more of an opinion on this game than I’ve had in the past.  Up until recently I had nothing but good things to say about this game.  The graphics are nice, the environments are well made, the questing system is fresh and innovative, the crafting/gathering system is OK, and the community is fine.  But even though this game has all these great and wonderful things about it, I’m just not that into it anymore.

The first thing that bothers me is the story in GW2.  Yes, there is a story.  It is voiced over well and has cut scenes and a path to follow.  But the story is boring and lifeless and really isn’t all that immersive.  I’ve played on three different characters with different story lines, and none of them are very interesting or memorable.  It really shows that the stories were made somewhat similar to each other.  Where in one storyline your sister was kidnapped by a group of bandits and you have to go rescue her, in another storyline your prized invention was stolen by a group of thugs and you have to go recover it.  The dialogue is different, but the goals are essentially the same.

Secondly something that bothers me is the questing in GW2.  Yes, it isn’t the same old “go fetch this,” and “go kill x mobs” quests from other MMORPGs, but over time it still feels repetitive and worn out.  There are random events throughout travels instead of NPC quests, but the game areas cycle through the same events over and over, and they all are based off of killing some mobs, gathering items, or escorting a caravan.  There is still an NPC you can talk to to get a reward after the quests.  That same tired questing system from other games does rear its ugly head after a while.  And once you’ve seen all the random events there is to see in an area, and then notice they all kind of follow similar timers and cycle through over and over – the game kind of loses its luster.

Exploration is another thing that was awesome when I first started the game, but then it has gotten tired and worn out.  When I unlocked the first map to 100%, it felt like fun.  The second map was also fun.  The third map was OK.  But after unlocking my fourth map I really got tired of unlocking maps.  Each map has some points of interest, waypoints (teleport locations), and other spots (already marked on the map) that you have to travel to in order to get 100% unlocked.  A good system until you realize that for every character you make, the maps need to be unlocked again.  So if you work hard and get five maps unlocked but want to play as a different class, you gotta go back and redo all the events and fights and exploration again.  Yeesh.

I’m finding the social aspects of the game to be a bit lacking as well.  I am used to the world chat in other game being full of people talking and cracking jokes and asking questions and asking for help and having a good time.  In GW2, things stay pretty quiet.  In the main starting areas, there seems to be more traffic, but even then their busiest chatting is comparable to a fairly quiet area on other MMORPGs.  That’s one thing I never liked about GW2 from the beginning – how quiet everyone seems – even on a “very high” population server.  I still have a lot of questions about this game and still want to have fun.  It isn’t easy to do when there isn’t anyone around to talk to.

ImageBut, I can’t just give up on the game either.  I like having a social outlet for gaming, and I can’t stand a lot of the elements in other MMORPGs such as TERA, FFXI, RIFT, WOW, SWTOR, and others.  While I like to toy with the idea of going back to one of them just to get out of my GW2 rut, I know i’ll get mad and ragequit at their lack of stories, poor graphics, mob AI, crafting systems, or something else.  GW2 is still the best of what is out there, and I’m sure eventually i’ll get into the swing of the game if I give it more time and find a guild that’s right for me.  Right now though, I’m just not fitting in, and if I don’t fit in and become one with the game, my mind will start to reject it like a bad kidney transplant.

I can’t wait for FFXIV to finally come out so I can get into something good again.

Phase 3 is on the Horizon

Wouldn’t you know it?  Beta Phase 3 is scheduled for sometime in early June, so we’re gonna have a month of waiting and wondering what is in store.  What I can’t wait for is basically everything that will be offered during phase 3 (and of course the NDA lift so I can freely talk about how I feel on things).  Seems like most everything we’ve heard about in the development team’s blogs and videos and interviews will drop at that point, and we’ll be able to get a good feel on the final game.  I’ve heard a lot of comments on the forums that things need worked on or should be different, and the all too common response would be “wait for phase 3 before making a judgement.”  So finding out what changes are going to be seen in phase 3 ads a lot of anticipation into the air.

What irks me though is that during phase 1 and 2 of beta, there hasn’t been a lot of drastic changes made from what what offered in Alpha.  Most of the game’s content (UI, classes, items, maps, mobs) won’t be available until phase 3-4, and it seems like beta phases 1 and 2 were mostly just thrown out there as a sandbox for us kids to play in so we didn’t get too fussy.  Seems like every element I’ve seen in phases 1 and 2 will have some changes and tweaks implemented come phase 3 – so I feel the real beta testing won’t happen until then and the rest was all fluff.

What also irks me is that I’ve been unemployed since November when 1.0 went down, and at that time we were under the impression 2.0 would be ready by end of December or late January, so waiting this long and having all this free time that can’t be used to get that beginner’s edge in FFXIV is a bit upsetting.  When 1.0 came out, I was also unemployed I believe so I had those first few months after launch to play every day and get to know a lot of people on my server which made the game very enjoyable.

So in my meantime I’ve been taking to Minecraft, which is a type of MMORPG in a way.  I would keep up at GW2, but I took the mistake in GW2 to switch to Piken Square, which is hosted out of Europe and everyone is asleep when I want to play.  It will cost 20 bucks of real life money to afford a server change back to the United States, and I don’t have money for that kind of commitment right now (unemployed and all).

One of my favorite things to do in Minecraft is make some TNT and blow up houses.  People who made the houses wouldn’t agree so much.  But I figure if I wanted to keep my stuff protected from griefers like me, I would either hide it, or join a server where there is protection from such things.  I don’t do hacks or anything special.  I just explore the far corners of the map looking for interesting points of interest.  And let’s face it, most people join a server, build for a few day, get bored, and leave their stuff where it is at never to return.  I don’t know many people who would think it smart to join a server without protection, and plan to stay there for a long time and leave their stuff out in the open.  That’s just my opinion.  I consider it treasure hunting when I am on the prowl for houses that aren’t protected.  I like to see all the nice things people have found or made.

Right now I’m playing on a server that is over 50K blocks in either direction from spawn, so there are plenty of places to venture off into and hide away from people.  I like this server because I know I can grief others, but they are also free to grief me if they find my cleverly hidden house.  Because the server’s owners specifically state you are free to do whatever you want in the game, and it doesn’t have any plugins or rules, everyone has to be smart while playing.  Many people come and go on the server and it stays pretty busy, so there is always that wonder what someone might have built over the next hill.

ImageAnyway, I just wanted to check into the blog and share some thoughts on what I’ve been up to lately.  Not too much going on in the world of online gaming while I am waiting for 2.0 to drop.  We’ll see in the next month or two what FFXIV will have to offer and if all the hype pans out to a great game.  I think it will.  They’re scheduling a summer release, so that means probably at the end of July we’ll see it available.  I for one hope there are new bikinis to look at.