Monday Quick Notes: ESO, EVE and the guild

Elder Scrolls Online

Last week saw me seriously returning to The Elder Scrolls Online in a normal manner- by that i mean questing through Greenshade instead of just doing random things on guild night. And it pulled me right back in with the expertly crafted questing experience. I’ve also made good progress taking Nuria from Level 28 to almost 32 in a week. The birthday cake helped, of course. I could have progressed even further if i would have played on friday night instead of having a guild meeting. The downside is that i’m outleveling Greenshade and maybe even Malabal Tor a bit, seeing that it starts with level 32 and i’m not done with Greenshade by any means. I guess i’ll be 35 by the time i’m ready to move on.

I still need to refocus on Nuria’s crafting abilities, though- she’s deconstructing items and researching traits all the time, but i don’t think she created armor or weaponry since…forever. Crafting in ESO is quite complex- my guess is that, to create something really useful, you would have to create the armor/weapon with a good trait and a good enchantment. Enchanting, however, is one frustrating craft to level, as you usually don’t find that third type of artifact. But i’ll look into doing more crafting with her soon.

Elder Scrolls Online really needs to add downleveling to zones as the game is quite easy by now, anyway, and being of a higher level than the quests you’re doing just adds to that. I continue to be very happy with the game, in fact, i feel it’s a rabbit hole i’m diving into deeper and deeper. Elder Scrolls Online is the first MMORPG since WoW where i want to add something external to my gameplay experience, ranging from podcasts, maybe even books and finally, i want to know more and have found a way to get what i want- the really great Lore series by Shoddycast i discovered via HeadBurro Antfarm. I’ve watched the first two episodes yesterday and learned a lot about Daedra and Aedra.

Jita is quite busy.
Jita is quite busy.

EVE Online

Speaking of crafting- EVE online was a surprise. It wasn’t on my radar at all when news began to heat up about World War Bee. I haven’t played since i wrote last, but i got the additional 30 days for 10€. As i’ve mentioned, for now, i’d like to do some trading, but my first shy steps into this area have been confusing. EVE’s economy is vast- with hundreds or thousands of different items to trade and thousands of places to trade them in. Even with using online resources, i had trouble finding out what and where to trade.

I feel like trade might be one of those things where knowledge of the game’s inherent systems might be a good thing. So i’ll continue to try and have trade as a primary focus (as you don’t need to know how stuff works to buy low and sell high- it’s simply more difficult to find out what to trade where), but will take sideway-looks into other areas like producing stuff (ships, maybe?) and maybe even combat via missions to get a better understanding of the game.

As is usually the case, i find EVE to be utterly impressive. One commenter on Massively Overpowered wrote that EVE is the one game where the devs took the concept of MMOs and ran with it. This is the game that has everything- if only it were a fantasy MMORPG, maybe with a bit more restrictive pvp (not much, though) and a company that doesn’t let their community loose on each others, this would be that game for me. BDO isn’t EVE in Tolkienland, though, so there’s still only EVE being EVE and i haven’t decided yet if my space travels will continue after those 30 days.

thead4

The Guild

On friday, we had our monthly guild meeting. I wasn’t surprised to see poor attendance, with only three people turning up- including myself. On the other hand, i know one had something come up on short notice and one fell asleep (that happens to me from time to time, too), so we could have been five. Still, it’s this i’d like to change- and there’s only one way to do it, in my opinion: positivity. Create and share awesome experiences and our love for the game. Continue to offer stuff and make the guild be and feel alive.

So we talked a bit- i don’t want to get into too much detail, but in the end, this were the results:

  • we ditch Teamspeak and move to Discord as Chat & Voice client
  • we’ll have three guild activities running, all on different rhythms
    • as i said, we need more continuity on guild night, so we chose to vote on the activity we want to tackle first and see it finished before switching to something else. This will occur on a weekly/biweekly basis
    • level characters together- everyone in the guild who’s interested is invited to join us as we level characters together through the game. This will occur when everybody who mentioned an interest has time
    • dungeon nights will probably occure more often than the leveling of characters, we’ll look for groups in our forums and it will happen when/if four people are available/signed up. I’m still thinking about making this another regular event, but honestly, i’m at my limit when doing one thing a week.

That’s mostly it- well, i want to work on the homepage a bit to make it more attractive- the decision on whether to stay with Enjin or move on our own site has been postponed for now.

I’m also happy to say that we grew by one new recruit, bringing our ingame guild to 10 players. Ingame, we are reaching our critical mass now, with 5 of us playing quite regularly the chances that you’ll log in and find yourself the only one being online are slim now, the goal being about 10-15 active players. Yesterday evening, we were four…and i’m still expecting another application soon.

So, all in all, with patience, a focus on positivity and creating good experiences while sharing them in the forums/homepage, i am very confident that our guild will become active and alive some time this year.

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Meet Nuria Solstrum

…the Nord fighting for Queen Ayrenn in the Aldmeri Dominion.

Nuria_Aldmer_Embassy

I’m still working/thinking about in-character details. To be honest, i’m not really much of a roleplayer, although the concept intrigues me and i might link up with a german roleplaying community in Elder Scrolls Online. Sooner or later, i’m going to need to find an explanation for a Nord fighting for the Dominion. Well, a better one than “i like big swords and the Nord seem to use them quite well”.

Now, what did you say? She’s wielding a staff in that picture above? Yes, that’s right. I just re-skilled her. It took almost all her ingame gold to do that, despite her being an old character and having no skill points set when i restarted playing her after our guild chose to go with the Aldmeri Dominion.

When picking up an old character, or even one i played two weeks ago, i’m always having trouble “returning” – what were their crafting jobs? What were her goals, where was she in game, where did she want to go? So this post is mainly to remind me- and also to share some experiences in the game- and i really can’t tell you how much ESO is growing on me the more i play.

Skills to choose from

Nuria was supposed to be a Stamina-based Templar with a few healing abilities to support and/or self heal. She was supposed to wear medium armor, a two-handed sword and Dual Wield as a secondary weapon choice.

The more i played her, though, the more i felt this wasn’t supposed to be her role. See, all Templar class abilities are Magicka-based. It also started to happen that i would be out of magicka during fights. That’s when i thought that, maybe, the dps/heal hybrid i have in mind would be better served with her being Magicka based.

So i reskilled her and am in the process of re-training her by fighting and turning in quests while using the secondary weapon- a restoration staff, now. For soloing, i’m having two setups now, and for now, they’re both making use of dps and healing abilities.

Nuria_beach

My first choice is the two-handed weapon. I can heal myself just fine with the Templar healing class tree and i’m going with a combination of Aedric Spear and Two-Handed abilities for damage. So one heal, two Aedric Spear and two Two-handed abilities are on my bar for now. The underlying goal of this will be to make her usable in close-quarters combat, not necessarily melee, while starting the attack from range.

Then, there’s the second weapon set- i chose Restoration Staff, to be able to heal our groups through dungeons and whatnot. Right now, i’m using 1 heal from the Templar class healing skill line, one heal from the staff, two attacks from the Dawn’s Wrath skill line and one from Aedric Spear. This is basically a ranged dps/heal hybrid.

What i (theoretically) like about this setup is that it makes use of all three class skill lines- the Templar is the only class where i like all of them- and they all support my will to do different things at times- Aedric Spear is mid-ranged with an option to engage close-quarters, while Dawn’s Wrath is ranged dps and Restoring Light is for healing. The weapon skill lines add melee and further healing ability into that mix.

I hope this way i’ll be flexible enough to react to different scenarios that might come up later: maybe i’ll see that i can’t really make use of the two Stamina-based skills if i use all my attribute points for Magicka. I hope in this case i might react by wearing some medium armor. Maybe i’ll realize i am too squishy- then i might add some heavy armor. In dungeons, i can make use of two separate skill setups- one for damage, one for healing- if i have a dedicated role- or stay a hybrid of sorts. Also, i think in PvP ranged combat might be preferrable when taking part in sieges.

Weight and commitment

Now i don’t know if this is going to happen or if my hybrid builds might work, but what i do like is that i have the option to try it, and it feels like “commiting”. Other games allow you to try, but they make it easy to try again- like Rift or Guild Wars 2, where you can be everything you’d want to be (within your class) in the matter of a few minutes or less if you saved your setup. This is nice, feature-wise, but it doesn’t build on your connection to the character- because she’s replaceable.

ambassador_traitor

I think “commitment” is the keyword for Elder Scrolls Online- every choice i’m making seems to have weight, while still being able to change it later (with a few exceptions). Crafting, for instance. You can try and do all crafts with one character, but it isn’t exactly recommended. So you’ll have to choose. Since inventory size is still an issue (by the way, good tip in keeping your inventories in order: keep everything crafting-related in the bags of characters working in that trade), you’ll have to think about it in one way or the other.

Nuria is the armorer of house Mersault (my character stable that will surely grow), Tailor and Blacksmith. Why? Because that way, only one of my characters needs crafting motifs for armor. I don’t know if the woordworkers have different styles for their bows and staves, but that’s of minor concern for me right now.

Elder Scrolls Online is also really immersive- i love the story and how it plays out- sometimes, you’ll turn a quest in and something will happen afterwards. Like the story of a bard who loved too many women and fell for the wrong one.

Performing for eternity
Performing for eternity

There are chance encounters on the road- i witnessed an outlander being threatened by a guard in Grahtwood for eating a plant – the wood elves really don’t like that. Sometimes, these will grant a buff- with the minimal UI, though (and i refuse to mod heavily), you don’t really know what happened. One time, i saw that my Stamina bar recharged- so lighting that campfire seemed to have an effect on that.

So ESO rewards the player for sticking to it- you’ll be more immersed in the story, because you still know what happened last time you played, get to learn the places and the zones as well as the lore just by playing and paying attention to quest stories (and can dive even deeper with the books and letters found everywhere)- and i’m sure sticking to ESO will have an impact on your ability and experience in trade with other players and others.

So while the business model seems to suggest ESO’s fine with you leaving and returning later, you’ll get more out of it if you stay. I know, this can be said about almost every MMORPG out there, and it is quite difficult to put into words, but this feeling of…weight and the growing bond with my character(s) and immersion really makes me like ESO more and more the longer i’m playing.

I’m stopping to look for guilds…and more

Final Fantasy 14

I finally managed to go back to Final Fantasy 14 – as i mentioned, i wasn’t really in the mood to play this game due to a lack of time. When i returned, i had to find out- yet again- that my inactivity led the Free Company i found earlier to kick me out. Well, both of them did that- the international one and the german one.

FF14 is a game that takes time- usually, i’m totally fine with that, in fact, an MMORPG should take its time to play- but it shouldn’t waste mine. FF14 does just that in many ways and that’s why FF14 is a poor game to start playing in times where you know you won’t be able to put a lot of time in. Now, a lot means different things to different people- for me, that amounts to about 10 hours a week, preferably a little more. If i feel confident in being able to put that time into FF14, it’s a great game- if i’m not, it’s a waste of time to even launch it, since it can happen that things one should do in the leveling process take a while to get rolling.

So i haven’t logged in in quite some time- my new Free Company had big leeway- 6 weeks absence wouldn’t do a thing, but after that, you are going to be kicked out of the FC. Of course i could just raise my hand and tell them i’d like to rejoin, but there’s really no point because i know they’ll kick me again in the future. I don’t think i should need to tell the guild that i won’t be logging in for some time- i’m an adult, there might be times when i simply can’t or won’t play and i think good guilds should factor this in.

I’ve always been of the impression that in-game or out-of-game acquaintances are the best way to form and maintain a guild- forum advertising, applications and somesuch don’t really serve for the community of people i’d be looking for. If you’re short on time, like i am, it seems getting into a guild and forming relationships there doesn’t really work. It’s better to get to know someone and join his or her guild because you already have some roots and a contact there. I think Belghasts superguild works kind of like that- know someone of them and they can make a recommendation/vouch for you and you’ll be able to join the tribe.

Watching the sun set over Limsa Lominsa
Watching the sun set over Limsa Lominsa

There will be a lot of other guilds out there working quite the same way- and if i were to found one again, i’d go with the same process. So now, i decided that i simply stop looking for a guild and instead stumble upon one while playing the game. Or not, we’ll see. Of course, this means i’ll have to put the effort i usually put into forum-digging for a guild into in-game relationships, which again might be a good thing. There used to be a time when friendlists were longer than the guild member list, it’s time to get back to that.

Useful links if you’re playing FF14 for the first time

So when i saw that, i decided i needed to create a new character. I know, i know. This is one of the many flaws in my way of playing MMORPGs- i play a game, maybe take a break and have a hard time getting back into that character i used to play. Normally, it’s the skill bar that confuses me, but that is a thing that’s manageable- one can read descriptions and try them out on mobs. With FF14, it’s more than that- since you have threads everywhere, the question i don’t have an answer to when relogging into an old character is her position- what was she doing, what was she planning to do next, where does she need to go? And so on. This can get out of hand and whenever this happens, i feel that it’s just easier to begin a new character since i’ve not progressed very far into the game anyway. The farthest character had her main adventuring level at 26- this is something that can be achieved pretty quickly.

And so i needed to decide on a server, again. But since Heavensward early access was going on, many of the servers were shut down for new characters. However, this is not a permanent or even daily thing- every 3-4 hours, servers opening and closing for new characters switch around. There’s a way to get help with that, namely worlds.nyxstudios.moe . Not only can you see which servers are available for new characters, but you can also subscribe for e-Mail notifications, so whenever a server changes its status you’ll get an eMail.

I don’t know how many times i looked for “essential quests” for Final Fantasy 14. The most basic gameplay features are unlocked by way of the main storyline, but there are some things- like dyeing your gear, forging materia, access to the Gold Saucer and others that you’ll have to unlock through sidequests. Since you can do all sidequests only once while being able to level all classes with one character, i try to avoid sidequests as much as i can for the first class. But i don’t want to miss out on game features- so in the end i found this useful list of quest- and level-locked content in Final Fantasy 14, and that’s a great help if you’re looking for something like this.

There’s also a basic leveling guide with some general advice to be found. If you’d like to know how to best level crafting, Aywren has put together really great tips for leveling gathering/crafting classes in FF14. She also has some nice postings up with impressions from the Heavensward launch.

If you’re looking for Heavensward impressions, i can recommend these posts:

Aywren – Heavensward Launch day recap (no spoilers)
Aywren – Heavensward day 2 recap (no spoilers)
Belghast – It’s finally here
Belghast – Learning to fly
Belghast – Making story matter
Belghast – Lord of the Hive
Lucek – Heavensward first impressions (possible spoilers)
Nomadic Gamer – Heavensward is here
Nomadic Gamer – Heavensward 1st weekend

Do you remember that NBI talkback challenge? Right now, i really envy all these people playing in the expansion.

Dual Wielding: is SWTOR a universe to live in?

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Review

The last edition of Dual Wielding was all about the “one or many MMOs” topic- as said, it’s a big topic for me as i don’t have much time to play and also divide that time by too many MMOs i play or i’d like to play. I think it was an interesting experiment and i really enjoyed what Ironweakness wrote on the topic at hand. Basically, both of us don’t think there is a “right” or “wrong” answer, but that the key lies in choosing one style or the other. Both come with distinct advantages and caveats.

Based on what we wrote and my own experience, i chose to have a 3 MMO approach- one being my main MMO that hopefully serves as MMO home, two other MMOs with their main focus being on casual and varied gameplay depending on mood. I’ll allow myself to change the two side-MMOs on a monthly basis, the main MMO on a three-monthly basis that, again, hopefully doesn’t come into fruition. The main MMO also needs to become a side MMO for a month after it had its time in the spotline and the new main MMO needs to have been promoted from the side MMOs.

And then i started thinking which MMOs could serve as a main/home MMO and was surprised to not find many candidates. Meanwhile, Ironweakness and i decided on our next Dual Wielding topic- looking at Star Wars: the old republic as possible MMO home.

alderaan-screenshot-001

What makes an MMO sticky?

I hinted at what i’d call an engaging endgame yesterday – basically, it comes down to the use of credits or ingame gold in a broad measure and different ways to gain said gold/credits. This means that there should be as many different systems in place as possible- a bajillion different dungeons and raids don’t serve as engaging endgame for me. There should be credit- but not so many timesinks to accomodate different moods and session lengths. This is not the same; after all, i could make some credits in a very short session by flipping items on the GTN; if, say, one has to finish a main story questline to access game features, the smallest measurable progress in a session would be finishing a step in a quest. Sometimes, that takes a longer time.

Screenshot_2015-04-30_11_41_44_018933

Also, an MMO home can’t be of the “play-to-finish” type- quite a popular style of MMO to be developed in the last years- SWTOR began as one, i’d consider The Secret World, Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online among them, as well. Maybe even Elder Scrolls Online. Play-to-finish MMOs, to me, are games where you are provided very few ways to play once you finished all the zones. They’re still big- the amount of content available in Lotro, for instance, could keep me busy for years. In Guild Wars 2, this is debatable, as well, since you can do world completion, exploring, pvp, wvw among others. And doing dailies is always rewarded. So it’s not an exact science; different people will view different MMORPGs as being of the “play-to-finish” type.

Another thing that’s important is replay value- if done correctly, you could level different characters without having much overlap in content- World of Warcraft is great in this regard. Star Wars: the old republic isn’t, and that’s why they’re going to activate 12XP again on may, 4th.

Anyways, Star Wars: the old republic came a long way since its release and i wouldn’t put it into the “play-to-finish” corner anymore. I’m no expert on the game by any means, so i might be wrong on some points i’m going to make, but it is my impression for now that SWTOR is one of the best MMORPGs to call a home nowadays.

Can you live in a galaxy far, far away?

SWTOR still is a story-heavy MMO that funnels its players through quite linear paths of worlds, quests and- for the expansions- story. Once the story is finished, there are still reasons to continue playing for players like me, though.

Credits matter

With many MMOs and their wildly used different currencies, one has to wonder why they bother to give players ingame gold at all. I know there’s RMT, botting, exploiting and other things to be considered and alternative currencies are an easy way out, but if i don’t have anything to spend ingame gold on, it defeats its purpose.

In SWTOR, there are huge credit sinks in place now. From strongholds, decorations, the outfit designer and/or even buying things offered in the cartel market (the real-money ingame shop) on the GTN, there are many possibilities to spend hard-earned credits. I don’t know how many credits are considered “much” at endgame, but a fully unlocked stronghold costing 6 million credits and craftable decorations with their materials coming in at 100k credits each on the GTN sounds much to me. There are also some threads of players complaining about them on the official forums- in my opinion that’s a great indicator of some mechanism being in place that is actually healthy.

SWTOR: Taris

I know, i know, one shouldn’t talk bad about other players- but let’s face one thing that’s quite obvious when you look at the development of the genre in recent years; players hate it when stuff doesn’t come to them easily and they hate it when their progress is halted by something. For instance, despite open pvp being a thing you can avoid in ArcheAge, its existence was a hindrance to many. In EVE, high-sec life is entirely possible and i, personally, have never been killed, even when moving and mining through low-sec systems- players still don’t like it. Rift’s Rifts used to have a big influence on the zones they happened in- they were nerfed into the ground on the basis of “player feedback”. Rift was also much more difficult in the beta compared to release. Players generally like that things are being gated, but their tolerance ends when they feel they can’t play a game in the way they want and be rewarded in the ways they want anymore. All these things have in common that they are obstacles instead of rewards coming at a certain point.

So i’ll leave some links here that- in my opinion- show that gaining and spending credits is implemented in many different ways in the game.

I don’t know how crafting ties into this- crafting in SWTOR seems to be functional if a bit disconnected from your character- it’s the companions that do the work, after all. But you can get good gear upgrades if you keep it on-level; a thing that will become even more important when 12XP for story missions comes.

So there is an economy

With 12XP, i’d expect many players to start a new character or returning to the game. One major problem these players will encounter will be their gear- sure, you’ll get upgrades from the story missions, but it might not be enough, even when they’ll give out more commendations with the story missions coming may 4th. Some players might use the market to buy gear or crafting materials. So if i were to guess- gathering and crafting now and putting all that stuff on the GTN after may, 4th, will be a good way to make some credits.

Screenshot_2015-04-30_11_41_05_944396

SWTORs economy isn’t a big thing in the game – the GTN is global, so there are no differences in prizes depending on regions. It’s still ok, though- i’ve read multiple times that inflation is being kept in check in this game. And if a game can make me (a casual newbie) think stuff like in the paragraph above, there has to be an economy of some kind. Combine that with the ability to spend earned credits, credit sinks that are far beyond my reach for now and you have what i’d call an endgame.

More than just story

SWTOR offers a great variety of content- if i’d like to relax, i’ll go with questing or stronghold decoration/planning, if i’m in the mood to play with others, there are enough Flashpoints. Then there is the on-rails-space-fighting-minigame for shorter sessions, and pvp both in battlegrounds and space. Not that i’m playing that type of content, but it’s there. You can also do achievements, search for datacrons and/or ways to unlock codex entries for the lore. You can raise the affection of your companions, equip your starship and so on. There’s a lot to do at level 60.

hoth-screenshot-003

It ties very nicely into different moods, session lengths, general involvement and different group sizes – SWTOR was mentioned quite often when Massively Overpowered asked for the best MMO to be played in a duo. The flashpoints are interesting group experiences not only with their content difficulty, but also in story-telling. The conversation options tend to be quite predictable if you play by yourself, but in a group, when rolls decide what kind of story your character experiences, it’s very interesting to see.

Alt-friendliness

Despite the fact that the levelling experience is a pretty linear affair, SWTOR still is one of the most alt-friendly games out there, even more so when 12XP hits, since you can just go for the class storylines without much overlap in content with your other characters. You only have to look at the numbers of characters veteran SWTOR players throw around when they have the opportunity to do so: double-digit numbers aren’t a rare thing, the legacy perks even give some “account progression” system to make it worthwhile and interesting to level more than one character. Roleplaying would be one reason to do so, but it seems alting is quite interesting for longterm SWTOR players.

The legacy sytem

The legacy system is a way to progress your “account” on a server. It’s slow; i’m still level 1 (well, i’m only level 25, after all) with level 2 coming closer. After you levelled up your legacy, you can unlock abilities for convenience, faster progress, faster travelling, unlock new races and so on. There’s a lot of stuff to be unlocked in the legacy system. I think you can unlock almost everything at any time you’d want if you were to spend cartel coins, but you can also progress through the legacy system and spend credits for these perks. There really is so much to explore here; i haven’t grasped the whole thing yet.

Strongholds

SWTORs version of housing puts you in appartements on a few selected planets. You can get decorations in a few different ways; from the ingame shop, by doing quests, certain achievements, crafting and so on. Dulfy has a great overview of decorational items and ways to get them.  I like that you can make your stronghold functional, as well: you can put in crafting resources (i tried it yesterday- you can collect from every node, even if you don’t have the crew skill needed, but there’s some kind of cooldown on the use, which is good), mailboxes, legacy storage and so on. If i’d look for a downside here, i’d say it’s a pity that the decorative objects aren’t really interactive. Sitting in a chair still is a rare sight in SWTOR; i’d like to water my plants, lie on my bed and so on- all of this has no use, but i think it would add a lot to the game.

Outfit designer

The outfit designer is SWTORs way of doing a wardrobe cosmetic gear system. I’m glad they dropped the restrictions on what you’d be able to wear (or is it only because my trooper can wear everything anyway?) for looks. It’s also a big, big credit sink if you’re going to make use of it extensively. Although i found out yesterday that the prize of placement isn’t fixed on 14k per item (it asked me to pay 1k for placing one item into one outfit), it’s still huge if you’re going to open and maintain all 16 slots.

 

What’s interesting is the monetization- SWTOR seems to go its own route in these things- in other games, you’re charged shop currency to unlock another outfit; in SWTOR, it’s optional- you can pay in credits or cartel coins. I think this is valid for pretty much everything since you can buy/sell everything from the cartel market on the GTN.

So, in the long term, the outfit designer is a thing to work on. Unlocking outfits, putting items in slots- it all has a credit cost attached to it.

The business model

It has to be said- SWTOR’s free-to-play model is often criticized for being more of a trial than a real option- i think that SWTOR’s revenue- i think it’s the second most profitable MMO out there- speaks for the game, in fact. After all, earning money is the goal of these games and they have to do so to provide content in a constant pace, quality and quantity. That BW wouldn’t be able to put out 8 class stories was obvious (to me, at least; that was one of the biggest reasons i saw for the game going f2p shortly after release- there was no way they could add storylines for 8 classes quick enough to retain their subscriber count).

CartelCoin_Avatar_03

I think SWTOR is entirely playable for free (up until the expansions, of course). It is slower, much slower, in fact, and there are restrictions in place that make you cringe. But you can unlock it all (except for expansions) with credits and buying from the GTN. I’d go the “preferred player” route, though, by spending a few bucks, and then buy all i’d need to enjoy the game either with credits or cartel coins. What to buy, though, isn’t very obvious; in fact, it’s a pain just to find out what the best unlocks would be.

Fortunately, there is a great overview of account types and a list of suggestions on what to buy from the cartel market on reddit. If you want my opinion, i think SWTOR is pretty much a subscription game. But it is possible to play SWTOR as a non-sub game, as well.

The verdict

I have to say, Star Wars: the old republic is one of the best MMORPGs to call a home these days- the developers seem to make an effort in building up the universe and keeping it healthy, as well. The credit sinks, general prizing both ingame and in the shop, are indicative of this. As are the latest additions to the game from Galactic Strongholds to the outfit designer. Star Wars: the old republic is a great place to be at the moment, with the coming 12XP and whatever the next content updates are going to be possibly adding more story, variety and quality-of-life improvements to the game.

It also speaks for the game that, despite huge credit sinks and not knowing what the endgame really holds, it doesn’t seem very grindy. Sure, after your tenth character levelling alone might feel grindy because of the linear nature, but SWTOR doesn’t gate content (that i know of) behind the main storyline, reputation grind or something of this nature.

This has gotten very long- on a personal note; i plan on having SWTOR in the rotation at least until the end of may, and even then, i’m strongly considering to put it into “main MMO” spot after Final Fantasy XIV in august, maybe, if one of the downsides of FF14 (grind, content gating by MSQ) prove to be too much for me.

So, about that crafting in Final Fantasy XIV

Sometimes you’ll read about the crafting in Final Fantasy XIV, and how it is implemented in a good way- to be honest, i don’t think there’s a much better way to have crafting in your themepark- but maybe it doesn’t click with you. Maybe you write a comment that you’d like to read more about that on a blog and maybe the blogger responds on the spot. So, before i might dive deeper into the crafting in FF14, let’s take a look at the reasons why i think it is special- and also, why i think you should craft if you’re playing Final Fantasy XIV.

It’s integrated into the game

Gathering in Final Fantasy XIV
Gathering in Final Fantasy XIV – you have options!

No trash

It all starts with loot. When you kill a mob, you’ll get items, like in any other game out there. The difference is- i don’t think there’s something like “trash” in Final Fantasy XIV. At least i didn’t encounter it yet. Everything i saw is either craftable, consumable or wearable. The only thing to sell to vendors i saw is a selectable quest reward you choose when you already have the other items.

Levels

As you might know, you can do and be everything with one character in FF14. I read somewhere that this isn’t the optimal solution, that it’s better to have 2 or 3 characters sharing all the available classes and jobs, but i can’t remember why. The gathering and crafting jobs in Final Fantasy 14 have their own level progression- and it’s a progress, alright. Now, i am pretty low-level still, but i can only guess how, for example, the gathering progress evolves in later levels- more dangerous mobs around the nodes, more hidden, rare materials and so on.

Quests

Yes, i know there are crafting quests in many MMOs. Rift has them, for instance. But what they grant is, mostly, adventuring experience. In FF14 you’ll level your crafting class while completing them. As all other classes, the crafting classes also have their “class story” quests- you’ll get one every five levels. When you reached level 10, you’ll be able to do leves, as well. And, of course, the grand company you join will have some tasks for you. Generally, the leves are considered the best way to level your crafting class.

Equipment

Crafters do have their own equipment with corresponding stats- they’ll help you in finding more or better materials while gathering and help with rising quality when crafting items. Raising quality is worth the effort, every time, because even if you don’t get a high quality item, you’ll get more experience the higher your chance for doing so is.

An involved progress

Crafting in FF14 is very involved. It begins with searching for the ingredients- in FF14, it’s not as simple as “in zones from level 1-10 you’ll get bronze, in zones from level 11-20 you’ll get silver” and so on. Sure, if you are, say, a weaver, there’ll be one spot to get your cotton bolls from, but the Botanist (the corresponding gathering class) can gather so much more- stuff for provisioning, alchemy and others, i think. So you’ll have to travel to get the materials for something you want to craft.

While crafting, you’ll use skills, just as you’d do while fighting. There are skills to increase the quality of an item, to raise your chance to find a high quality version of an ingredient and others. While this is relatively simple and something a macro could simplify even more, it still is something that makes you think. At least sometimes, for now, i’m using the same pattern everytime i craft something, but my guess is that this will change later on.

Hunting Doe in Final Fantasy XIV
Hunting Doe for beast sinews

There’ll also be ingredients you’ll really have to look for- yesterday, i needed beast sinews- i knew the guild supplier sells them, but i wanted to look for them, myself. I found out which animals drop them and went out, hunting. Here’s another thing- the crafting feeds the adventuring classes, too, because when i think about it, this hunting would have gone a lot better if i had a dps class ready for the task.

You can also just craft everything that’s in your crafting log- since you get a considerable amount of bonus experience when you craft something for the first time, you’ll get some progress along with the knowledge of how to make something and how/where to gather the materials.

Interdependency

Another thing that makes crafting in FF14 quite unique is the interdependency- you’ll need materials from other crafting classes. The best representation i found is this one. So, if you are a weaver, the Botanist will probably be the best fit gathering-wise. But you’ll also need materials from the leatherworker (who, in turn, need stuff from mobs and mining). Now, thankfully- as i find the “auction house” somewhat tiresome to navigate- you don’t need to buy everything from other players. Guild suppliers have what you need, at least up to my level. This also serves as a price check, i think, because you won’t find basic materials getting very expensive here, as you would in other older themepark MMORPGs.

You could, of course, try and do everything by yourself- if for nothing else, then for not wasting all the stuff you gathered or looted. That’s kind of what i’m doing right now- i put everything i looted on the bank to process it at a later point. But levelling all gathering and crafting classes in addition to the adventuring class? Yeah, talk about time-sink!

An economy

All in all, this leads to a working ingame economy. It’s not perfect, since i still found the dungeons to be the source of the best gear (for now, i didn’t produce anything in HQ, though), but it’s pretty close to what you can do without item decay, local auction houses and so on. I think pricing reflects that. I haven’t looked into the economy very much yet, because i have other things i’d rather do for now, but there are people who play the market in FF XIV.

Why you should do it, too

This is simple- to diversify your play sessions. As i said yesterday, there’s a lot to do and many different goals to accomplish in Final Fantasy XIV; you’ll get distracted a lot and maybe feel overwhelmed at some point. In my book, though, this is great! MMORPGs are not only about progression, they’re also about discovery and diversity- and it’s one of FFXIV’s strengths that there is a lot to do.

Finally, there’s housing in Final Fantasy XIV, and it isn’t cheap. I don’t think adventuring alone is going to net you enough gil to partake in these more expensive activities, so knowing about what sells and what doesn’t might be essential in this regard, as well.

 

Yes, switching weapons and not being able to fight might feel strange, and it is, since gathering and crafting become main activities instead of being something you do as a side activity, but also: you can do something that doesn’t involve fighting and get a sense of progression! If you’re bored of the quest grind the gathering/crafting grind might be a nice distraction- for instance, yesterday i gathered cotton bolls and took screenshots while listening to the first episode of the Massively Overpowered podcast.

So if you take on gathering and crafting, you’ll broaden your gameplay experience- in MMOs, that’s a good thing.

Got my chocobo!

So i finally got my chicken to ride on. As said, it involved a few days/sessions of questing, gathering and crafting, which is ok, i guess, since i gained a few levels in everything. I’ve made it a policy that when i need, say, 10 items of something, i’ll go and collect 1 stack (99) +10 of it. This way, i’m levelling up continuously. Today i got my Botanist up to level 20, which is now quite close to the level of my highest adventuring class.

And here’s what i have got as reward.

My Chocobo
My Chocobo

Well, at least i’m lucky enough to already have spent lots of money for FF14 despite being utterly low-level, so i also have the Behemoth to mount.

My Behemoth
My Behemoth

Now that’s something totally different, isn’t it? Honestly, i don’t like either one of them. One is too cute, the other too badass, but i do like how comfortable my character looks on the Behemoth, so i guess i’ll go with that for now. One thing FF14 does really right: your character just looks great in almost every position and occasion.

Talking about looks

I also finished the barber questline, which took simply travelling to the capitals and talking to some of the crafter guild leaders. Once you unlock the barber, you can summon him by using your bell in your inn room.

Deidra before
Deidra before

This way, you’ll be able to gain access to new hairstyles and -colors which have been added to the portfolio or made usable by all races. I did a quick do-over and when i was ready, Deidra looked like this.

Deidra after
Deidra after

Going on

See, there was something i totally forgot: there are the hunting logs, as well. Hunting logs, to simplify, are lists of different kind of mobs you’ll have to go and fight (it’s not the same as the hunting jobs where you hunt named mobs). They exist for every adventuring class and do give considerable XP.

Also, as i mentioned, i hit level 20 with my Botanist, so there’ll be a new class quest waiting for me in Old Gridania.

Right now, my to-do list in FFXIV looks like this:

  • get and finish the Botanist class quest
  • continue the main storyline until it reaches the same level as my Arcanist is (yeah, still not there)
  • level up the Weaver, so that i can craft stuff that’s level-appropriate for the Arcanist
  • craft some gathering and crafting equipment- i feel my Botanist is underequipped at the moment
  • gain access to Halatali, which is a dungeon, and i learned that you’ll have to do a quest to gain access
  • finish the hunting log for the Arcanist
  • see what other classes have open/available class quest
  • get the quest for putting magic stuff into items (needs level 19 crafting profession)

…and that’s just to continue to “play the game”, it isn’t actually doing something, it’s getting the stars lined up so i can continue to play the game. This game is crazy, but i like it. In fact, the longer i play, the more i like it and the more i want to be somewhat “finished”, as in max-level in one profession and finished with the storyline. I like to play the game somewhat “focussed”, but it just offers such a breadth of activities, already in this early game, that i get distracted and try to progress in many areas at once.

There is so much endgame in sight for me it’s dazzling: crafting, gathering, playing the market, adventuring, getting other classes levelled, exploring dungeons and so on. I really feel “behind the curve” on this one- and it’s not only the level, but it’s also that i can’t seem to even grasp everything that’s in there- in that veign, it is quite similar to Everquest 2 (even more than it resembles WoW, i think).

Busy in Eorzea

So Final Fantasy XIV is a subscription game. By design, the developers want us, the players, to take time achieving our goals. But also, and i like this side of the equation, they want us to have many goals to aim for. I’m really a lowlevel player, bein level 23 with my Arcanist, but i have so much stuff to do. The most annoying part, i have to confess, is travelling back and forth for the different quests. So here’s what i’m doing at the moment.

Get a chocobo

If i had one other problem with FFXIV, it would be the sometimes so very much apparent candy-cuteness, like with the “mounts” they use.

The standard "mount" in Eorzea
The standard “mount” in Eorzea

I guess it’s a matter of tastes, but i don’t really like riding around on a chicken. But there are other mounts available, as well, so i’ll see to that when i have gained access.

As with so many things in Final Fantasy XIV, you’ll have to unlock the ability to ride while doing story missions- after choosing your grand company, one of the first quests they’ll assign to you is to get a chocobo. You’ll need to get 2000 seals, though, to buy some writ from your grand company shop. 2000 seals doesn’t sound much, but it is. Or maybe it’s just because i’m so low level in everything. You can do different things to get these seals- i hear you could just do Fates, but what i’m doing is- i’ll get out to the first grand company levemete (?), get two duties, which are basically just-for-you-quests in the open world, each one good for maybe 250 seals.

Then i look at the crafting and gathering missions that grant seals. Right now, i’m able to accept one for every crafting and gathering job i began with my character, and while the crafting experience these missions grant are very good, i’ll only receive about 200 seals for doing three of these quests. So i’ve been doing that for the last 3 sessions in game.

Crafting

Which leads me to this: so i can take a mission for every crafting and gathering profession i have? Why didn’t i begin all of them in the first place? What i’m doing now is to get into every crafting guild the moment i encounter it. I mean, i’m interested in crafting, anyway, so where’s the harm, right?

Also, since you unlock the crafting professions while doing story missions, you are behind in your first choices. Basically, you’ll be level 12 or 13 when you are able to pick up crafting- and then you’ll have to play catch up. My highest crafting-related profession is the Botanist, and it’s level 19. So there is a slight problem in that i can’t craft very useful stuff for myself, because i lack crafting experience.

As i’m sure i’ll try out different classes at one time (Monk, Archer, Bard, for instance), i want to give the other professions at least a little headway. So i’m going to pick up all crafting-related classes in the next few days, because i’ll be in every capital anyway.

Good times ahead
Good times ahead

The Barber

And that’s because there’s a quest to unlock a barber shop in the game, where you can change pretty much everything appearance-wise, except race/gender, of course. This quest begins in Limsa Lominsa and sends me to all three capitals, and i’m not really sure it’s finished after that.

Storyline

Also, of course, i want to follow the story line to make these quests as high in level as i am- right now, my story quest is still for level 20 characters. I haven’t done any quests besides these, what’s mentioned above and some crafting since “returning” (realizing i still have a sub) to Final Fantasy XIV, but the missions have only gained one level.

There’s just so much

When Final Fantasy XIV re-released, many people were complaining that there are few ways to level your character. Quests can only be taken once, after all, so what i read was that you’d get one profession to maxlevel and the second one would have to do Fates, all the time. Maybe that was true then, but it’s very different now.

I do like when there’s stuff behind quests, when you unlock something, explore something and all that. But it doesn’t really mix with the way i level right now- for instance, i avoid doing quests, because i want to keep them for later classes. But that could mean i miss out on some hidden feature until i discover the related quest.

All in all, it’s a great game and i’m looking forward to the next dungeon, the day my crafting professions catch up and the day i will accept normal quests again.