Archive for the “World of Warcraft” Category

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…

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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!

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About a year ago, I decided to quit FFXI for WoW, like a lot of Vana’diel veterans, then quit that not too long afterwards after a very bad run in the Pit of Saron, went MMO-less for a couple of months, then went back to Vana’diel for a short while. That was very short-lived as at that point I wasn’t ready to mess with Abyssea, even though I acquired a Stone Gorget for myself.

I then went back to Azeroth and played WoW until late October when a minor change in life coupled with Patch 4.0.1 made me rethink what I was doing with my time. Fortunately, the day before, I acquired [The Horseman’s Reins] and had a horse that galloped through the sky if I decided to return, and sure enough I did a few weeks later.

A friend of mine had moved his characters to Shadowsong and changed to Horde for Cataclysm. I had adjusted to 4.0.3’s version of Protection Paladin and had fun questing to 85. Then came running instances. I will definitely say that Wrath’s instance model was a lot easier: grab everything and AoE it down. Cata’s reliance on crowd-control and the small number of instances to run is just plain irritating, and I still haven’t done a Heroic.

Then came one thing I had sort of secretly been hoping to hear from this same friend: he was considering going back to Vana’diel. I like WoW, but I also like the relative simplicity of FFXI vs. WoW’s ludicrious “you must have a thousand addons and one that yells at you to be good.” Another friend of mine said it pretty well: “WoW is fun half the time, but FFXI is halfway fun all the time.” I think I like the latter better because there’s usually something fun to figure out in XI.

Magian trials haven’t driven me completely nuts yet: I need about 100 more elementals to die on lightsday to get to Surya’s Staff, then another 175 of the same for the +1, and 15 light geodes (easily acquired from the AH) for the +2. I’m still trying to decide if I want to make an Almace (which would require joining an endgame linkshell) or Badelaire +2 for my “final” mainhand sword. The only good thing about this is that the STR Shamshir +2 is easily done, as will be the remaining damage staves.

I do have a lot of work to do on support jobs, however. WHM was already 49 from my time over the summer, and BLM is close, hitting 43 last night, but beyond that, the melee subs will be painful, but I can do FoV + /DNC to make those easy, and of course the remaining mage sub of SCH will suck hardcore as it is a mere 10.

All in all, I probably shouldn’t have departed Vana’diel back last March, but it was probably best at the time. I will probably play this game until the servers are switched off, and perhaps at 99 a new “full” expansion will come out to solidify a true “endgame” area for the “true” max level. Abyssea feels too much like a “farming” area once you’ve hit 90 and capped all your merits and such as opposed to a true “endgame” area like Sky or Sea or a “raid” like Dynamis or Limbus. But enough banter, now we get to the real meat of this entry.

As one who has long considered Red Mage to be his main job, I would always check patch notes when a new one occurred to see what RDM got or didn’t get. The lack of Cure V as of now kind of sucks, but getting Regen II again was rather nice. Additionally, access to the Tier 4 elemental nukes is amazing, and we are sure to get Thunder IV in the next update. The removal of caps on Enhancing Magic is crazy. By my calculations, at 400 skill, which should be relatively easy to accomplish, I will have a Phalanx that absorbs 38 and a 25-damage Enspell. Furthermore, with capped enhancing at 90, I can cap Stoneskin with any support job naked. Haste/Fast Cast ahoy! I am happy with this paradigm shift of 100% curebot to backline support with enfeebles, though I’m not sure where RDM’s place in a party is in Abyssea with ridiculous Refresh available from Atmas and a lot of the awesome things RDM brings to other party members directly is available as /RDM. Refresh II is nice, though probably somewhat redundant, and apparently people don’t like enfeebles anymore? I can’t imagine why. When a BLM will soon be able to Haste and Refresh himself, I’m not sure that RDM will really have a slot in a party. Maybe I’m just seeing an unfortunate shift of RDM to how it originally was back when the game first came out: a job without a party slot so long as one of the “specialists” were available.

Maybe some amazing thing will happen in the next update to allow RDM to have a guaranteed party slot once more. RDM is still the strongest soloist, but is that relevant in a world of lowmanned things where a WHM can Refresh himself and heal many times better and a MNK tanks? I still love RDM, but I’m not sure I like this brave new world. But hey, none of this is relevant until I get my other support jobs up to 49 and decide which job(s) I want to take to 90 as well, right?

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After quitting FFXI back in March, I decided to devote my MMO time entirely to World of Warcraft. I’d been playing it between events in XI for a month or so, and the constant prodding of a friend of mine, coupled with SE’s gigantic “EFF YOU” to most of the playerbase in raising the cap to 99, which I still consider to be a desperate act, drew me completely to Azeroth. I was playing a human Paladin, so I began the grind to 80 in earnest. With the exception of a dozen or so quests and a few instances, I did it entirely solo.

While I took a short break from WoW a month or so after hitting 80 and went back to XI for a month or two, I decided to go back to WoW last week. I sort of wish I’d never left, heh.

Before I quit, I would run the undead half of the instance Stratholme at a shot at the mount from the boss, Baron Rivendare. The item, [Deathcharger’s Reins], is a very rare drop, and after 27 kills, I managed to acquire it last night!

Overall, I find WoW to be a much deeper and better game than FFXI. The biggest reason is that you can do a significant majority of the content by yourself. Compulsory grouping is one of the larger turn-offs to FFXI. Not to mention the ability to log in for an hour and actually get something done in WoW as opposed to that hour being the time necessary to get a party together or wait for the boat or whatever in FFXI.

My gear isn’t nearly what it should be, but one of my friends is helping pull me up, and I need to get off my duff and run random Heroics for emblems. My Armory can be seen here.

All in all, Azeroth is a much more forgiving world than Vana’diel on many levels. If FFXI is boring you, give WoW a try. If anything, the world’s scale is a lot bigger and the attention to detail is higher.

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