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.

Advertisements

Back into FFXIV, backwards

This weekend i decided to get back to Final Fantasy XIV “early”- i planned to re-enter the game in may, so that would have been next week. Although the plan is to have it as “side MMO” this week, i have some things to do already.

The backward project

When i re-entered, i had four options on how to do it:

  • the reasonable way: continue my character, stay in the FC and the server i was in
  • the american way pt.1: continue the level 6 archer on cactuar, try and join Belghast’s FC
  • the american way pt.2: create a new character on Faerie, join quite a well known social FC over there
  • the backward way: find an FC first, join their server with a new character

As you can guess by the title, i went in backwards. The thing is, a good player community is essential to my enjoyment of an MMO. The old server was Shiva, which is what the german community chose to be the “unofficial german server”, which isn’t so much of a problem if there was an FC that really stuck out. There wasn’t. On Faerie, there is the FC “Orange Pekoe” i was interested in joining, but in the end i was simply afraid to join an FC and a server that operates outside of my timezone.

In the end, i found a nice-sounding FC on Phoenix, coincidentally the biggest EU server population-wise, created a character, applied to the FC, was accepted, joined up and received a very warm welcome. One of the reasons i joined that FC was the tone of conversation which seemed nice, open but also pretty direct and the fact that they don’t use voice chat. It turned out that they recently have set up a voice chat server, but i think it won’t be much of a problem because the FC’s culture is already established without one. I liked what i saw so far.

New plans

Of course, that means starting at level 1 and pretty much give up on being ready for the expansion content-wise when it hits. There were a few mistakes i made on my last character that i’d like to avoid this time. Concentrating on one class/job to get it as far as possible isn’t my play style, so gathering and crafting will be included in this round as it has always been.

Elezen in Gridania

For now, i’m picking the main story quest line first in everything i do- i’m level 9 now and have done maybe 3 or 4 quests that weren’t storyline quests. There are two reasons for me to go at it this way: first, i don’t want to outlevel the storyline quests as much as i did last time- it was a pain to get the story from level 20 to level 24. The second reason, of course, is that FF14 gates content behind the story; the faster i progress there, the earlier i can pick up a gathering and crafting class, get a retainer, a chocobo and so on.

While it is somewhat…hm, stupid to do all that again i feel that if the new FC turns out as good as i hope it to be it’s worth it. Also, it’s still almost two months until the expansion hits, so there is hope i’ll be able to level to 30, at least.

Another painful experience was to get the gathering/crafting jobs up to par with my adventuring level- i think part of the reasons why my excitement for the game went down was that i basically played catch-up from all directions. So this time, i want that gap to be smaller. So i’ll pick up the botanist class as soon as possible and directly join the level of the adventuring class. I’ll do the same for weaver as soon as i have access to the airships. So my goal this time around is to have class quest, story quest, adventuring level, gathering class and crafting class at about the same level all the time. If it turns out to be hard to do, i’ll immediately get a second adventuring class up to the level of the storyline.

Overall, i have to say i had a great time- again- in Final Fantasy 14. It’s fun, the community is nice, Phoenix is packed with players and feels very much alive, the FC is fun and even though i do the same stuff i already did at least twice it feels good.

MMO setup for this week and may

So, in line with my plans to have one main MMO and two side MMOs, this week will still see SWTOR in the top spot, with FF14 and ESO as additions to play when i’m not in the mood for SWTOR. In may, the focus will shift to FF14, SWTOR will become a side MMO and will be accompanied by Elder Scrolls Online, again. The last one is tough, since GW2 was also close to getting a “side MMO” spot, but right now i’m betting that the expansion won’t hit in may and that i’ll have ample opportunity to put it in the rotation before it is released.

Right now i’m very confident in this way of doing things- choosing one main MMO and two side MMOs for distraction and different moods will work out just fine for me. Of course, there is a ruleset: i’ll allow myself to change side MMOs on a monthly basis. The main MMO is allowed to switch, as well, but it would move from main to side MMO before dropping out of the rotation. And it should also be fixed in its position for a longer time (3 months?). This way, i can experience one MMO in as deep a way as possible for me while still having a way of picking other MMOs to play and having somewhat of a focus there, as well.

It also occured to me that in search of an MMO home, there aren’t many possibilities really. An MMO home has to offer so much, but in the end, even for me, it’s the “endgame” that counts- but not in the usual sense of dungeons and raiding. On the contrary, if it’s just that, it’s not enough.

The Secret World: it had to be done

The Secret World just released its new player experience, which is a patch/update containing lots of quality-of-life improvements for players. Of special note are the ability to travel from anima node to anima node, reducing mob spawns and cutting on the time-to-kill of mobs. The latter causes some trouble for longtime players- you know, the usual “catering to the casuals” stuff. I kind of understand the problem; one of the things i liked about TSW was how it encourages group play instead of forcing it by simply making it a lot more convenient to do quest content in small groups instead of solo. So it seems this isn’t very valid anymore, but we’ll have to see about that.

But i think it is wrong to talk about “difficulty” here- the mobs in TSW weren’t difficult, they were annoying. How many comments are there in TSW-related articles on MMO websites that basically state “good game, great story and atmosphere. Couldn’t stand the combat”? I think it’ll go into hundreds if not thousands of individual players- but i don’t think the combat is necessarily the issue here. Yes, it is a simple “builder builder builder consumer” combat that makes you press one attack again and again and again sometimes, but honestly, combat in most MMORPGs isn’t great- generally, i’d say if you (can) use a macro, the combat is tedious, because either it should offer strategy and adaption (for non-action combat) or movement, positioning and ability (action combat). I haven’t seen an MMO that fit the bill, with the exception of perhaps Wildstar and/or Firefall. On the strategy side, there are a few- EQ2, Tera, Guild Wars 2, FF14 among others. TSW fits this bill, as well- the ability wheel is there to provide some strategical depth while the combat itself is somewhat action-oriented.

On my way to Tokyo- kind of.
On my way to Tokyo- kind of.

I think the main problem was the time-to-kill. Everytime i tried to get back into the game, mainly for story and atmosphere, as so many others, i rolled my eyes every time i pulled one of the more sophisticated mobs- it wasn’t dangerous; it was tedious.

So here we are, with the new player experience, and by the looks of it, many players (who didn’t play the game regularly last week) like what they see. I’ve not been able to take a look myself, although a new character was born yesterday late in the evening- i brought her to the sheriff’s office in Kingsmouth and logged out there.

If Funcom is able to get some players back into the game, more power to them. They have to do it, we know financials aren’t looking stellar, and personally, i think it’s a pity- here’s a small developer who cares for their players and tries its best to provide unique experiences (say what you want, but AoC isn’t exactly a WoW clone, Anarchy Online is its own beast and TSW is three steps away from what usually gets released), aren’t easily shutting down games and do have some interesting business models without exploiting them.

Onward to Kingsmouth
Onward to Kingsmouth

The Secret World’s business model aims to sell content to players- which, in my opinion, is one of the fairest business model out there- because the “hardcore” player who powerlevels through the game pays the same as someone who takes his or her time to play. Sure, there are cosmetics and other stuff in the store, but i don’t think this makes the monetization worse. But once all your current players bought every DLC, you won’t be selling much, so getting back those former players who might then buy DLC is a good idea- not only for Funcom, but also for all who like TSW for what it is- after all, it’s the money that’ll get new content made.

AoC takes a different approach- you can play just fine as f2p player, until you go into expansion territory, then you’ll have to sub up. This might not be as fair, but at least it monetizes the dedicated players and not- like all those PLEX, CREDD, REX, WoW token games those who aren’t loyal customers.

So i’d like to see Funcom succeed, in my eyes, they deserve it. I know there have been some troubled launches and player experience hickups (Tortage vs. the rest of AoC), but this is a truly independent MMO dev.

Hanging out in NY
Hanging out in NY

I think TSW is one of the handful of great “second MMOs” out there- for me, it would lack something to play it regularly and often, but it has its very, very strong points, as well- story and atmosphere are about the best you can get in MMO land. And it is somewhat of a “play-to-finish” MMO, you don’t need to devote everything you have into TSW to “achieve” something. One quest is good enough.

The game caters to roleplayers in a way MMOs rarely do. First of all, your role isn’t exactly the super-hero that saves the world all by him-/herself, the setting allows to roleplay in a way that you have lesser things to work around (like whispering, death and so on), you can take the RP out into the real world, as well (to Twitter, for example) or take the real world into the game world. It’s quite “easy to do” in TSW, so i might take this angle (without the twitter stuff, i don’t have time for that), but i haven’t decided yet.

What i can say is, that at least for the zombies you fight early on, they’re taking me more time to kill with my current (blood focus and assault rifle) than with my usual weapons (sword & assault rifle), but i wanted to do something different this time around and so i’ll probably go and try some kind of leeching build.