Of Vana’diel, Eorzea, and Azeroth…

I’ve played a lot of MMOs over the years, some noteworthy, others not so much. Focusing on the noteworthy side, I’ve chosen to make the first post in nearly two years about what I consider the most noteworthy MMOs I have played: Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV, and World of Warcraft.

Why are these three so noteworthy? FFXI was Square Co., Ltd. (now Square Enix)’s first foray into the MMORPG field, WoW is the most successful MMO of all time, and FFXIV had a very successful relaunch when other companies simply would have shelved the game and cut their losses. I’ve played FFXI off and on since February 2004, WoW since July 2006, and played a little bit of the original version of FFXIV and have played its current version off and on since its launch in August 2013.

Why write on these games and their worlds, though? Maybe it’s because I find myself some days wondering if I should log in or not, or if I should deactivate my account yet again and play some other game, or go running or cycling more, or just hit the gym and pump iron? Who really knows?

Back in the wet winter of 2004, I found myself a bit listless, as I was wont to do in those days, so after messing with the overclock settings on my laptop’s video card to make FFXiBench 2 have an acceptable score, I traipsed off to the local Media Play to pick up the Windows version of Final Fantasy XI. I had to run the game at quite minimal settings on that laptop, so I was really unable to take in the game’s beauty until later in that year when I acquired a laptop with a better video card. It was at that point that I started to become engrossed in its world, Vana’diel…

Maybe it was the first time I wandered into the La Theine Plateau after braving the familiar forest of West Ronfaure and seeing the Crag of Holla in the distance, or the first time I made it to the beach of the Valkurm Dunes. Maybe one evening in the latter part of 2004 where I found myself partied up with a couple of friends in Valkurm and were eventually joined by 4 Japanese players that proceeded to drag us through the Konschtat Highlands, Gustaberg, and through Bastok’s Zeruhn Mines to the Korroloka Tunnel that led between the continent of Quon and the island of Kuzotz to its southwest. Both of these events shaped my worldview of Vana’diel and caused me to decide to stay in that world for a while.

It took me nearly two years to hit the level cap the first time, something I attribute to my rather inconsistent playtime for the first year. Once I’d finished college I had far more time, and I played pretty much continually from mid-2005 until mid-2006, reaching endgame, exploring pretty much the entire world, and fighting very large monsters. It was tons of fun, and I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

Perhaps Vana’diel’s engrossing nature can be attributed to the fact that a significant majority of the game’s content can be considered “open world.” Only a handful of things were locked into an equivalent to later games’ “instance” concept, commonly called “BC” after “Burning Circle” which was the entrance point for the first ones most players would encounter. A player could feasibly walk from his or her starting town to the other side of the world, all on the open world. The zones were quite large too, or at least seemed that way due to the camera’s position and relatively low movement speed, not to mention the very real danger in higher level areas.

The next MMO I played regularly was World of Warcraft. I’d dabbled in it a bit in 2006 and 2007; however, I never really started playing it “full time” until early 2010, around the time SE announced the raising of FFXI’s level cap. I rage quit, I’ll admit, but it was worth it at the time. Azeroth is definitely an engrossing world on a different level than Vana’diel. If one has played the previous Warcraft games, it is highly likely they wanted to visit the places from those games: Lordaeron, Silvermoon, Stormwind, Outland, Northrend, Orgrimmar, and the rest of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. Then there’re the instances, which themselves had fabulous atmosphere. WoW proved that open world and instanced content could give the same immersive environment. Sadly, I’ve not spent nearly as much time in Azeroth as I did Vana’diel, nor do I have as much emotional investment in Warcraft in general. I like the lore, sure, but the game itself and its focus on raids wasn’t my cup of tea, despite the fabulous raids in Wrath of the Lich King.

Moving right along to the current “hot” game: Final Fantasy XIV. This game is set on a world called Hydaelyn in a region called Eorzea, comprised of the continent Aldenard and the island Vylbrand. FFXIV “1.0” had quite expansive seamless zones that had their design flaws. Despite this, I was captivated by the photorealistic textures and recall wandering out of Ul’dah into the desert of Thanalan and being amazed by its scale. As mentioned previously, I didn’t play 1.0 very much. I’d tried it sometime in 2011, then later in early 2012 I started the character I still play today and got to Level 36 in one class before shelving it until the remake was finished.

Thus came A Realm Reborn… and the journey was incredible. The zones were smaller, yet different. I’d played in the ARR Beta and been drawn in. The first two beta phases were centered on the city-state of Gridania and its surrounding area, The Black Shroud. I’m not sure why…there was something special about the first beta phase. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but it was there. Beta 3 solidified the game as I was able to log in with my existing character as well as take one up from scratch. As official service started, I ended up grinding pretty hardcore to finish the story because my name is in the credits as a Legacy player. I didn’t stop to “smell the roses” as that would detract from the grind. Did I do myself a disservice? Perhaps. Maybe the 2.x world was “cramped” to me: all the interesting stuff was locked behind instances, and it was quite easy to see the whole world quickly.

The game’s first expansion, Heavensward, somewhat alleviated the claustrophobic feeling the “old world” has by introducing flying mounts and far larger zones. The journey through this expansion’s story wasn’t nearly as incredible as ARR’s, though it was quite good in its own right, in spite of a certain quest series in one particular zone.

Though, for all its praise, I can’t get super engrossed in Eorzea, despite my best efforts. Maybe it’s the changes in my personal life these days, or maybe it’s because the game is, at its heart, a WoW clone. Do dungeons, get loot, raid for more loot, lather, rinse, repeat with every patch.

Perhaps there is hope, however. Last weekend at PAX East, Yoshi-P teased a forthcoming bit of content called “The Deep Dungeon” and “Palace of the Dead.” Both of these names are references to Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, respectively. I spent many hours in FFT’s Deep Dungeon in my youth, and from what he said, this will be similar to Lufia 2’s Ancient Cave where characters will start at Level 1 and gain strength from items and such in the dungeon itself. Quite interesting, and maybe just the thing to scratch the NetHack itch…

Patch 2.4, Miscellany, and Expansion Packs

Oh boy, I’ve not posted in here in ages! Guess that means I’ve been keeping myself busy enough.

Anyway, today is the big maintenance for FFXIV Patch 2.4, which adds a new class and associated job, the final leg of the Coil raids, a new type of token currency, and even more main storyline.

How do I feel about this as very much a casual? Well, yesterday I finally cleared Coil Turn 5, Leviathan Extreme, and Titan Extreme, things I’d honestly been slacking on. Turn 5 ended up being not quite as difficult as I’d expected once I realized the “barrier” around the arena is fire and will kill you. Once that was done, my role as offtank was simple. Helped that I went in with an experienced group.

Levi EX I should’ve completed over the summer, but the high temperatures in the summer where I live coupled with some minor FC drama didn’t help my overall mood when we attempted. Again, went in with an experienced group and cleared it easily.

Titan EX is still a hated fight by me. I’ve gotten over the hate of Titan Hard, and of course Story Titan is a joke, but Titan EX is just frustrating because of tank-swap mechanics. I forget the specifics of the win, but I won nonetheless. Again, with an experienced group.

All that’s left for me to do from 2.3 and earlier, excepting Second Coil, is Ifrit EX, Ramuh EX, Syrcus Tower, and three dungeons: Hullbreaker Isle, Tam-Tara (Hard), and Stone Vigil (Hard). Ifrit is apparently significantly easier than Titan, Ramuh I’ll eventually do I’m sure, ST I just need to queue up and slog through, which is definitely doable now with the removal of loot lockout, and the dungeons I’ll grab help from the FC. Oh, and I’m still on the Atma stage of my relic sword and shield. Oops.

In between all this I leveled up Archer to 34 for Quelling Strikes, Lancer to 34 for Blood for Blood, and Pugilist to 30 to unlock Monk. I unlocked Bard and Dragoon as well. Bard will likely become my next 50 once I get back into the swing of dungeon spam.

And what’s this about an expansion in the Spring? Excitement doesn’t begin to describe my feeling about it. Finally foraying into Ishgard, new jobs, one of which is Dark Knight as a tank, and content dealing with the “heavens of Eorzea.” A new Tu’Lia, perhaps?

I just hope my all-time favorite Final Fantasy job, Red Mage, gets implemented in some fashion. I honestly don’t see how it can be done in this world of specialists, though. Even in FFXI where Red Mage was long the strongest job, once the content approached Lv.99, its usefulness started to taper off, which is par for the course of FF games. In both FF3 and FF5, a Red Mage is a strong asset early on, but as higher tier magic became available, switching the Red Mage to a Black or White Mage or a weapons user was a better use of the party slot. Though in FF1 a full party of them worked very well, so it really differs from game to game. However it’s implemented, if it is, I’m sure I’ll play it.

And thus the withdrawal starts… Tonight’s going to be interesting.

Back in Eorzea

I’d toyed with reactivating my FFXIV account after reading about the additions in 2.2 and how the game is starting to have more content. However, I decided that if I were to do this, it wouldn’t be on Sargatanas.

Sure, my old friends from Ragnarok FFXI are there, and if I really wanted to, I could raid with them, but that really isn’t one of my in-game goals. Even in WoW I was very “eh” about raiding because of the negative effect on myself when I was in hardcore mode in XI years ago.

So a month or so ago I decided to transfer to Ultros, as an old friend from Phoenix XI and the linkshell we were in together was there, but it seemed a large majority of them had quit, so I laid low, unlocked Crystal Tower, all the new dungeons, and basically got myself set where I could begin playing catch-up before deciding “maybe the LS I was in in 1.0 is still active.” This lead to transferring to Excalibur, where I played in 1.0, and applying to the Free Company the LS evolved into. I logged in the following day and was in.

So far it’s been a good ride. I managed to catch the story up, do some CT runs, and basically math out just how to get myself in full Mythology Tome equipment so that, maybe, if enough people are there, I can actually run Coil properly.

I’m glad that the FC has some very helpful and friendly people that, despite not needing any drops directly, don’t mind helping out. It’s nice to be in a casual environment that doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on the members to gear up with the latest things.

Now if I’ll just update this more often!

Transitioning: Vana’diel to Eorzea and Beyond

Well, it’s been quite a while since I posted here! In the past, oh, 8 months or so since my last post, I played through the FF14 beta phases and did some goofing off in FF11 between them, all leading up to the release of FF14, which I jumped into with both feet.

I ended up getting my Paladin to 50 within a week or so, saw my name in the credits, and started the arduous “token grind” to get endgame gear. While waiting on a friend’s Scholar to hit 50, I leveled Fisher to 50 over a weekend, and soon after that the grind began in earnest. However, after fitting myself with full Darklight and a +1 relic, I hit a wall and really didn’t know what to do, so I took some time off from the game, popping in if people needed things tanked or to level Miner more.

But all this is done now. A friend asked if I wanted to run Bahamut’s Coil in a set party, so I said I did. Sadly, the second week things went sour, and myself and a friend have all but quit the game.

Which leads us to where things began with in the first place for me: Phantasy Star. I was looking for a new game to play, and discovery of the English patches for PSO2 got me to log back in to the account I set up to attempt to slog through with my very limited Japanese reading ability.

It’s actually very fun! I think it’s nostalgia right now, but I’m really not minding the grind. Plus, the fact that most of the characters are voiced by anime voice actors is nerdishly fun.

I’m on Ship 02, and the “About” page will have my character info there. Hope to see you there!

Mathy Mathy Mathy…

Ugh, Excel is both the most awesome program ever and the most dangerous. I took some time this morning to tabulate up how many merit points I need to fully merit my 5 99s and associated categories: 691. Ouch. Guess I got a lot of worm parties or whisker burning to do…

On the less daunting side, however, I managed to get up to the 400 plantoids stage of the OAT Great Sword and got enough skill to use Resolution, which has one merit in it now. This is definitely doable if I put my nose to the grindstone.

Patch day today, whee!

Looking Forward…

Thus far the use of Ninja to collect seals and +2 items has gone rather nicely. Wednesday night I killed Pascerpot a few times with a friend’s BLM to get the 8 seals for Iga Kyahan +1, and we killed 3 Bukhises as well, which weren’t nearly as smooth, even with another NIN to help, heh. After we left Abyssea, I researched what NMs dropped both Voyage Stones and Voyage Cards, which was what we were hunting Bukhis for to begin with and found that Ovni in La Theine fit the bill, so he became last night’s target. My friend got enough Voyage Stones to finish her PLD feet +2, and I ended up 2 shy of RDM feet +2, and one Voyage Card shy of NIN feet +2. Tonight is ADL, and I’m going to try to get a group going for Fjalar to finish T1 of Tavnazia VW afterwards, so the great seal/+2 hunt will resume tomorrow.

Speaking of seals and +2s, every time I end up with a large amount of merits stored, I go through the list of merits to decide where to put them and usually end up throwing them in to DRK’s Group 1 and 2 steadily, which makes me want to sit down and finish skilling Scythe and GS up and actually see about reequipping it. I logged on at lunch today and picked up another Break Blade with the intent of actually finishing the OAT Fulgrante this time instead of abandoning it midway through the ladybug extermination stage, and last night I joined in an Arch Omega fight with a friend and some others because the legs are good for DRK. I guess the need for a heavy DD is growing in me again. Sadly, the seal/+2 hunt will be extended to that job too…

And speaking of +2 equipment, I’m lacking 1 Vision Card to having 5/5 on BLU, and several other miscellaneous ones for the other jobs. Soon, I hope!

Back to the workday for now…

A Heart Beneath a Blade, Clothed in the Light of Dawn

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything over here, so it’s time for some recap action!

I’d started work on finally finishing the Lu Shang’s Fishing Rod quest, even going so far as to compile a spreadsheet to track remaining fish, stacks of fish, and full 200-catch fishing days, but some reading about utilizing Requiescat on Red Mage lead me to the decision to finally finish up the Wings of the Goddess storyline to acquire a TP Bonus/Attack Moonshade Earring for that and many other weapon skills.

I’d postulated that with a healing job and a burst-damage job at 99, both quite sturdy in their own right, I would be able to fairly easily solo my way to the end. Excepting one open-world and one BC fight, I was able to solo them all, including the final fight. I feel proud of my ability to finish them all off so easily after being stuck at Crossroads of Time since 2009 or so. Champion of the Dawn, indeed.

In between all this, a friend of mine sent me a tell one day asking if I was interested in doing ADL. Seeing as my money supply is slowly dwindling, I asked her what times she was planning, and they were sufficiently early enough in the evening for me, so I signed up. Thus far we’ve not been able to pick the correct ADL clone, but otherwise we’re doing great! I brought my Red Mage out of retirement for this event, which is quite awesome!

Once I’d finished the WotG missions and all the cutscenes, I almost immediately suited up Ninja, bought three stacks of Inoshishinofuda, went down to Quicksand Caves, and started nuking spiders and Antica til 230-ish skill at which time I went to the Boyahda Tree to nuke Steelshells til somewhere around the old 75 cap. I was pretty close to running out of tools at that point, and it was getting late, so I headed off to bed, shelving the great skillup experiment for another day.

Well that day was the past two nights. I bought another few stacks of Inoshishinofuda and went to Abyssea-Grauberg to nuke Glen Crabs, ending up somewhere over 300 Monday night. Last night I went out there again and skilled while waiting for a LSmate to log in for Ulhudashi spam, ending up at 396 by the end of the night. I’m very close to capping, and even with uncapped skill and my totally-not-amazing gear I was able to enfeeble Ulhudashi and not get interrupted too much when recasting shadows. I think I’ll be able to easily acclimate myself to true shadow tanking after far too long. Tonight I should be able to cap Ninjutsu for sure, which will be one less skill to cap. Next up after that will be Dark Knight and Paladin’s skills. Joy. And to make matters worse, Red Mage’s still aren’t capped either! At least Blue Magic capped while I was doing WotG missions last week, heh.

But for now, it’s back to the rest of the day at the office!

Another New Month…

I’m back in Vana’diel for the Nth time. An old friend of mine, the original owner of my second account in fact, started playing it again and posted on Facebook that he needed an Earth Staff. So happens I had one on a mule signed by someone who was in our old HNMLS on Ragnarok that helped the two of us camp Wyvernpoacher Drachlox all those years ago, so I reactivated and let him borrow it.

My first priority was finishing my stupid Fire Shikargar, which I eventually did. After that I finished the Wind Shikargar for more evasion and dual-wielded them for a bit until the recent update that made Coins of Glory and the other Walk of Echoes coins sellable in bazaars. I quickly bought 30 of them and turned my no-helms-turned-in Nobilis into a Badelaire, which became +1 and +2 right away, thanks to the plethora of Kindred’s and High Kindred’s Crests I had stored up. I guess I wanted a CdC-equipped sword to use until I get motivated to camp the NMs and VNMs again then farm up helms, skins, and horns to make a 90 Almace. So far it’s impressed me a lot, being very effective for taking down old content and for dealing large damage in Abyssea despite being the cheap knock-off version.

On the jobs front, I now have Ninja at 99. That is one job I swore I would never take past subjob levels, but after reading this excellent guide on the FFXIAH NIN forum one day, I realized I had equipment already in my inventory to get started once I’d completed the NIN AF quests. So a couple of Fell Cleave parties later and my NIN was 99, all ready to be skilled up. I capped Evasion and Katana a few days ago, and Ninjutsu is in the 150s, so I still have a ways to go before I can really start using it to farm seal NMs or just goof off.

But the biggest highlight is finally getting my White Stratum Abyssite to VI. Over the past few weeks I watched the live shouts page for Voidwatch Jeuno Tier Climb shouts, taking one that started out fine, easily felling the Tier 1 NMs in the present, but it went sour after we lost nearly an entire party and the group disbanded after several wipes on the taurus in Sauromugue [S]. Thankfully, another one popped a few days later, and that one got me to Tier 3, but it was far too late by the time the group hit Tier 3, so it disbanded pending completion the next day. Well, I didn’t join in that group because I was helping a friend with CoP missions, but another potential full climb happened a few days later on a Friday night. I had to work the next day, but I decided I’d go with it and see just how far I’d get before it got far too late. The answer is Tier 4, leaving me with Stratum Abyssite V and very little sleep for work.

In the meantime, a person from my old Dynamis LS, who was frequently the WHM in my party in fact, was in need of Jeuno T1-6, and very nearly got into the second T1-3 climb, but due to her not logging on soon enough missed out. I told her I’d keep an eye out for tier climbs, and one popped the following week after my run to Tier 4. She ended up getting through Tier 4, so we were then on the same stage. This past Saturday night I did a repeat, sort of, of my Zilart M6-12 run years ago by standing in the midst of Port Jeuno shouting, well /yelling, for a long while to get a full alliance that stayed pretty much together for the entirety of 1 T3 fight and T4-6, excepting Botulus Rex and Ig-Alima. I used two Void Clusters on Kalasutrax and refused to take payment for them, as I’d wanted these done as much as the next person.

Thus far I’ve not touched the expansion too much besides unlocking Rune Fencer and Geomancer. I guess spending so much time away from the game in the past 3 years since I quit for WoW has my in-game priorities shifted to a very different point than it was years ago.

But there is still plenty to do in Vana’diel!

Life on a Role-Playing PvE Server…

TERA is a game I was never certain I would play. It’s not that I thought it was a bad game at first, I just didn’t feel like playing it as I was still figuring out what game I wanted to play between FFXI, WoW, or FFXIV since I finally had a computer capable of playing Unreal Engine 3 games.

So far I am having a blast! I tried Lancer, got it to 12, then rerolled as a Warrior, which I got to 24, but I kept reading forums and stuff, so I rerolled yet again as a Lancer. This, coupled with the Kingsguard skin off the cash shop, cements it as my main. Tank 4 lyfe, yo! …or something like that.

I’m Level 44 and having a blast. One of my good friends is playing a Sorcerer, and now that I’ve caught up with him, we are duoing quests and other things, but I’m not totally up on taking care of BAMs. Now that I’ve got a strong weapon, I might go back to lower levels and slag those.

At any rate, the leveling experience in this game is vastly different from other games I’ve played: it’s the usual quest-to-cap-with-dungeons-thrown-in that WoW started, but it also has the auction house interface in every city or town, instead of just the capitals, which is awesome. The journey really does feel like one where you only return to “home” (i.e. the capital city) on occasion instead of every other day to make sure you have materials for crafting or new armor or other similar.

And the story isn’t bad either, though somewhat predictable.

As for being on a role-playing server, it’s interesting. I occasionally see people role-playing in the field or in the towns, and a few of the more RP-oriented guilds have events. In time I’m sure I’ll acclimate myself to a story or similar, but for now I’m just trying to hit 60 before the FFXIV beta starts.

New Year, New Goals, and a Beta?

It’s been a while since I blogged here, hasn’t it?

Since last July, I’ve waffled between FFXI, FFXIV, and Guild Wars 2, which I picked up on release date. GW2 was fun at the start and I actually enjoyed doing some PvP as a Guardian. I quickly got a little tired of it, however, once work trips returned, so I answered Vana’diel’s siren call once more in addition to logging into FFXIV on occasion.

In XI, I ended up joining what Petezag@Phoenix had created as kind of a new HomingMissiles, Neosutra@Phoenix’s LS, comprised of members from HM and a few people like myself who knew people within HM from ages ago and had returned. We started hunting ADLs and doing other events. The ADLs were late in the evening, around 11pm my time, so most days I was up far too late and had started going to work tired like back in ’06 when I was a Kings Hunter. Eventually things came to a head and I decided to just log out in between ADLs and go away from the LS.

At that point I basically decided to just play offline games and occasionally pop into XI to hang out with a friend and her LS, slowly working on the VNM phase of Almace and the fire trials for the STR Shikargar, both of which still lie incomplete, though the latter is on the gil-sink phase.

I’d deactivated XIV once I got Legacy status in anticipation of 2.0. I actually liked the game and the graphics are truly amazing, but while playing it I had this urge to overclock my CPU… Not really the best idea with the stock cooler. Plus I felt like I was too far behind to get things done like AF, job quests, and a Relic. I’d chosen Paladin as my job as Red Mage doesn’t (yet?) exist in XIV, and I suppose I’ll go back to that once 2.0 comes along.

Somewhere in the past few months, however, I reinstalled WoW and found out my old friend Yael@Ragnarok was playing Alliance on Runetotem, so I decided to roll a Death Knight there and goof around. I moved my Paladin over as well, but once I got to Zangarmarsh in Outland after the always fun DK intro, my friends from Phoenix XI had finally convinced me to give the Mass Effect Trilogy a shot, which I did in spades.

I’ll say that the Mass Effect Trilogy has one of the best stories of any game series I’ve played in quite a long time. Plus, Tali is insanely cute. One vote here for renaming straws emergency induction ports.

So here we are 8 days into the year that wasn’t supposed to exist: 2013. What’s on my agenda for this year? First and foremost is the soon arriving A Realm Reborn: FINAL FANTASY XIV Closed Beta, Phase 1, which as a Legacy member I am eligible for. I am quite pumped for this and can’t wait for the client to be released.

This will be a great year, I’m certain!