FFXIV: update and the new player perspective

My odyssey in Final Fantasy 14 continues albeit with a shake-up in the nature of my  play sessions due to my husband recently starting the game. On my main job, currently summoner, I’ve just dinged level 34 and am still working on the main scenario quests. The latest barrier to progress, purely because I lacked the time for a longer gaming session, was the Brayflox Longstop dungeon. I’ve now finally given that a go and happily can carry on with the story.

Very smooth Brayflox pug group

Very smooth Brayflox pug group

The second aspect to my FFXIV gaming is introducing a totally new player to the game, which by chance has absorbed more of my gaming time than normal this last week. Although I remain a ‘newbie’ myself compared to my guild mates who spend most of their time in hard mode dungeons, raids or on hunts (all level 50 activities), it’s nothing compared to the experience of someone who’s really new to the game.

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Why (almost) no voice?

So my husband has asked me why there’s no voice in any cut scenes. It’d not really occured to me and it should have given that I’ve played so much The Secret World recently but most of the copious cut scenes used in the Main Scenario quest series lack voice-over. In fact one of the few instances recently where a quest was voiced I found jarring due to the sudden appearance of unfamiliar voice acting. I guess it’s a cost/translation issue more than a technical one but I do appreciate the fact that our character will seem to answer NPCs back on occasion. We don’t see or hear what our character says and it’s usually done in a context of not needing to know (we’re usually telling an NPC what we’ve been up to). I prefer that to the “mute brooding stranger” role that The Secret World has our character play in every cut scene.

Slightly ‘old school’ quest design

Yes, FFXIV does occasionally send you back and forth between quest-giver and quest location, sometimes it’ll do that more than twice. I’ve written about this in Rift and other games – it’s never a good idea to design quests with so much repetitive travel. At least in FFXIV with the ever-available return or teleport actions you can avoid the ultimate quest design faux-pas of making you fight all the way past a horde of rapidly respawning monsters to a quest objective and then all the way back out again!

Back to Drest ... again ...

Back to Drest … again …

Why can’t you repeat quests?

I don’t really have a good answer for this other than it would make the game too solo-oriented? I’ve chosen to level archer alongside his arcanist but I’ve done most of the quests so far so I have to use hunt logs and FATEs to keep up with his character. Weirdly I seem to gain more experience from some activities than his character does, is it because I’m grouped with a ‘new adventurer’?

His character is marked with the green shoots icon for a new character (see dictionary of FFXIV icons under Player Icons section). I guess it makes sense to not be able to repeat the Main Scenario quests, and we do have guildleves and FATEs as repeatable content so it’s not that big a deal. So far it’s worked ok without repeating quests but keeping a pair of classes (/jobs) in step is important for me so I’m hoping I can keep up with his character until he’s high enough for me to swap back to my main job!

Random pretty screenshot to finish!

Random pretty screenshot to finish!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 9 Comments

Neverwinter: invocation changes

An unexpected part of Module 6 was a significant revamp of the invocation system in Neverwinter. Daily invokes and crafting task allocation have been my only acivity in the game for some months now, so was surprised to see a new user interface for invocation when I logged in post patch last week. The details quoted from the patch notes:

Invocation rewards have been updated to better reward players who log in every day, while removing the sting for those who accidentally miss a day or two.
Here is a quick highlight of the changes to Invocation:

  • Celestial Coins no longer disappear if their bearer does not Invoke!
  • The first few Invocations per day can be performed more frequently, and Invocations grow more powerful the more times they’re performed in a given day.
    • After the first Invoke, the player may invoke again after 15 minutes, then 30, and so on.
    • Experience and Astral Diamond rewards increase with each Invocation in the same day.
    • After the final blessing, players are no longer prompted to Invoke until the next day.
  • A new Invocation window shows the player’s current progress in the day’s Invocation path, as well as a preview of the rewards eachtier will provide.
    • The Invocation day resets when daily quests reset, allowing players to begin Invoking anew.
  • The final tier of Invocation allows players to gain a second Celestial Coin in a single day!

As stated in the quote they want players to play for longer in a given session. This makes invocation more of a background activity to longer play sessions than a “once a day” routine for free stuff. The user interface is more complex and the action requires two key presses or a key press and mouse click; even that slight change could get annoying if you’re logging multiple alts in to invoke every day.

What the quote does not explicitly state is that the XP and material rewards are now spread over multiple invokes in order to receive the same net benefits as what used to be the first invoke of the day.

nw_invokenewThe fact that the Celestial coin count doesn’t reset if you miss an invoke is a real plus. Also if you play for hours a day it seems likely you’ll get more rewards overall (four hours I think to get everything in the list above including a second Celestial coin). It might well be good changes overall for active players but for someone like me, who keeps an eye on the game but doesn’t play at the moment, it has lessened the benefits from logging in for that first invoke of the day.

I’ll continue to invoke on my Control Wizard when time permits until he has his purple angel but beyond that I think the game is properly on the shelf until I’ve finished bingeing on Final Fantasy 14.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter | 3 Comments

Sunk costs in MMORPGs

As part of my academic studies I’ve been reading about sunk costs recently (wikipedia definition) relating to whether prior investments in something affects your rational decisions made about the future. This concept got me thinking about a player’s “investment” in an MMO and how this might impact their willingness to try another or to get as invested in another.

For example World of Warcraft, despite years of speculation over “WoW-killers”, it remains the runaway behemoth of the genre. How much may this be down to the sunk cost for so many players, the years they have spent developing their characters and social groups in that game?

From my own personal experience I’ve not really settled into another game as deeply as I did for 5+ years in WoW. The depth to my gameplay experience for those years was due to a combination of immersion, familiarity, social ties and affection for my characters. Thinking about all the other MMORPGs that I’ve played since I haven’t had all four of those factors to the same level in another game yet. I may feel immersed in a game (TSW), have a good guild (DDO), a strong sense of familiarity in another (LOTRO) or strong affection for a character (e.g. my Asuran Mesmer in GW2) but not all four.

So the more we play a game the easier it is, in many ways, to go back. I’ve read in the last week several “I’m back” posts by other bloggers and these issues come up in their descriptions of fitting back into the game. Do the sunk costs of our gaming time and memories act as a barrier to joining and enjoying other, rival games to the same extent?

Posted in DDO, FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars, LotRO, WoW | 1 Comment

Spontaneity and MMORPGs

In some ways MMORPGs are the enemy of spontaneity. I often feel like playing one game or another on a whim after a day of work. Planning my gaming like a military campaign isn’t my idea of a hobby. Unfortunately the genre, with its frequent patches, enormous downloads and regular periods of downtime isn’t that friendly to spontaneous gaming. Sure if you have a sufficient breadth of interest in multiple games your generally ok for something, but there’s no guarantee a certain game will be available when you want to play it unless you watch for patches and maintenance windows and the like. I’m not even touching in this post the issues around scheduled play and endgame, that’s another topic entirely.

Even inviting friends to play a new MMO can be affected by this as Final Fantasy 14 showed me this week. I knew of course that the download, installation and patching would be more than an evening worth of watching progress bars creep across a screen. I knew also that I would need to help with the positively hostile sign-up process (the worst ever sign up system I’ve come across alongside that of FFXI). So we planned in advance and installed it during the daytime (UK) to get the game installed and patched ready for the evening. Then, surprise! There are new character creation restrictions on busy servers during the evening (there are many forum threads like this about the problem it seems). So that put a delay on playing until the following evening, he was thankfully able to create his character the next morning so we did finally get on but the anticipation of playing a new game together – it being a birthday gift as well was really tarnished by the ‘pre-gameplay’ experience.

This example is nothing new or one restricted to a single game. I remember countless times where my spontaneous decision to try a new game has been thwarted by these issues. I bought DDO many years ago but the patching server was so slow I had to wait till the next evening to try it. More recently I’ve repeated the same mistake with Tera, it was so frustrating to see the patcher progress so slowly. The patching issue isn’t just  a problem with trying a new game of course, it’s also a major pain to try to spontaneously return to an old favourite as you’re likely to have several gigabytes of data to download and install or worse, find that the patcher software has changed so radically that you have to re-download the whole game (hard stare at Allods!).

Server queues are another woe to the spontaneous gamer. If you happen to want to play at peak times you can be in for a rough experience if you’re playing a popular or new title. With Final Fantasy 14 I often have to wait a minute or two to login as I’m on a popular server (Balmung) but so far at least it hasn’t been so bad. I never tried Archage but the story of multi-hour queues to login are familiar to anyone who has followed MMORPG launches over the years. Technology can in part reduce these issues – streaming patchers are a godsend for reducing time sat out of game. Guild Wars 2’s idea of overflow/guest servers at launch meant you could get into a version of the world to play even if it wasn’t your home server’s version.

Posted in DDO, FFXIV, Gaming, LotRO, Tera | 2 Comments

Neverwinter: Elemental Evil launch day

Neverwinter launched Module 6: Elemental Evil on the 7th April, but as is so often the case with MMORPG patches something seemed to have gone wrong initially (27 pages of forum posts documented the issues).

Computer says no

Computer says no

This screenshot was taken at 22:00 GMT+1, approximately four hours after the maintenance period was due to finish. The server came up only ten minutes later but that’s already too late for me to do much before bed.

Given the choice of either a) logging on a level 60 character and trying to work out what has changed (many characters seem to have had partial resets) or b) create a new level 1 Paladin, clearly I went with the easy option…

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I managed to get through the tutorial and go to Protector’s Enclave before logging so I could grab some of the free goodies I get on each character as part of having bought the Guardian of Neverwinter pack. The Greycloak’s Legacy weapon chest didn’t seem to be working for my Paladin – I got an error I already had one of those items yet no mace appeared in my inventory.

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Raise shields!

 

Ability-wise almost immediately I found that there’s no dodge – pressing shift makes you go into a defensive hunch-like stance. You can walk slowly while in this stance. It wasn’t until I left the tutorial that the graphics for this wasn’t displaying properly – out in Protector’s Enclave it summons a blue protective circle around my character. I’ve not played Guardian Fighter in the game, which is the other class lacking a dodge ability – so this is going to an interesting contrast. I wonder what it’ll be like for Paladin healers to have to ‘hunker down’ instead of dodging the red area attacks in boss fights?

My first encounter power - Burning Light

My first encounter power – Burning Light

The basic at-will and encounter powers are all area attacks so this class will probably be a dream to level up – killing groups of monsters will be fun. The second at-will you get is a short-range charge, that’ll help a little against archers and spellcasters I suppose but it will mean a lot of running around after monsters.

He died quicker than I could press PrtScn...

He died quicker than I could press PrtScn…

At the end of the tutorial I was surprised to find that my new daily power Divine Judgement one-shotted the boss monster. That’s never happened before on the five other characters I have so either the rebalancing of power progression for the extra ten levels has broken something at lower levels or Paladin abilities may need some fine tuning still!

I’m not sure when I’ll find time to play Neverwinter at present but the odd session leveling a Paladin will be a nice contrast with FFXIV. There’s also the new module content to play through on one of my level 60s but I think that can wait at least a few weeks as the new zones will likely be a zerg-fest at present.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter | 6 Comments

FFXIV: classes, jobs and the new jobs in the expansion

In the current version of Final Fantasy 14 classes and jobs (a k a advanced classes) are linked as part of character progression. You start as an initial class and level that to 10 thereafter unlocking class switching. If you level two classes in a specific combination (see this chart) you can unlock a job.

The new jobs being introduced in the Heavensward expansion (the Astrologian, the Dark Knight and the Machinist) however will not follow this normal pattern. When they will unlock hasn’t yet be detailed – forums speculation seems to favour the standard level 30 for other jobs. But unlike other jobs these new jobs won’t be tied to a base class and won’t require a set combination of levels in two classes to unlock.

It’s easy to assume that thematically the new jobs didn’t fit with any specific class well enough – jobs continue to use the abilities of their base class and secondary classes. This means the three new classes will bring a whole set of new abilities to the game – for example the Astrologian will not be using Cure or Physik (the Conjurer and Arcanist base heals respectively) as the existing jobs of White Mage and Scholar do.

As a thought experiment I had a quick think what classes the new jobs could have been based on below. There might be deeper reasons why these new jobs do not follow the classes -> job system from before but in a sense it’s a move away from a rather elegant system. Since release the only new job added to the game has been the Ninja, which also meant the base class of Rogue was also added in patch 2.4. So the decision to break with tradition stems I guess from the desire of the devs to accelerate the pace of job addition without multiplying up the effort by having to create entirely new base classes to thematically support the new jobs.

Job Base class Secondary class Tertiary class
Astrologian Conjurer Arcanist Archer
Dark Knight Gladiator Thaumaturge Arcanist
Machinist Archer Arcanist Rogue

Some thoughts on my reasoning for the above choices follow. The classes are in alphabetical order but also, by chance, in order of the obviousness of class matches to the new jobs. To repeat from earlier this is purely a thought exercise, Yoshi P has stated the new jobs work differently so this will not be how they actually work.

For Astrologian I see the Conjurer as the base class since it has only one job tied to it as a primary class. For secondary class I can see Arcanist as the secondary as the class involves ‘summoning’ cards to conjure various beneficial effects. The Tertiary class only provides a few cross-class skills to most jobs so it’s of minor thematic importance. I’ve selected Archer because the Astrologian has a support element, and the Archer as a base class for the support-heavy Bard job also has this theme.

The Dark Knight is based on a Gladiator, this looks to be a (great)sword wielding character not a axe-fighter like the Marauder. The ‘darkest’ thematically of the available classes is probably the Thaumaturge, in some RPG games ‘darkness’ is actually considered one of an expanded set of elements so I’d say of all the caster class themes Thaumaturge is the closest to bring the magic aspect to this tank-fighter. Another job isn’t ever used as one of the classes in the current system, so I’ve chosen Arcanist as the tertiary to link Dark Knight to the ‘shield healing’ mechanism of the Scholar class (Adloquium), which is based on the Arcanist.

The Machinist is the hardest to squeeze into the existing primary classes, at a stretch I imagine here it would be based on archer (it’s a gun-wielding ranged dps class) and that Arcanist is the secondary. I’d suggest Arcanist here because the class ‘summons’ turrets as part of its mechanics and summoning support pets is an Arcanist/Summoner mechanic even if thematically it’s more technology than magic in this case. I suppose in reality they would have had to add a new tech-themed primary class for Machinist, maybe Engineer?

Would you have chosen any other combination of base classes for the three new jobs?

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 1 Comment

FFXIV: patch 2.55 and story progress

The latest patch has been released for Final Fantasy XIV, 2.55, titled Before the Fall.

This patch adds more quests to the ‘main scenario’ storyline for A Realm Reborn but brings this same storyline to its pre-expansion conclusion. I’m not near experiencing this level 50 content at the moment, my highest job is Summoner 33. Thankfully I’ve got until June to try to make it to 50 and to finish the storyline. There’s not much in the patch for players who are still leveling.

In other news I’ve played a few sessions of pure main scenario questing. Since I’d become stuck behind the mandatory dungeon runs to progress this I’d out-levelled the level 24 “Into the Beast’s Maw” quest by seven levels. So my first task was to use the Duty Finder to run the Thousand Maws of Toto-rak dungeon.

Toto-rak

Toto-rak

Thereafter I ran a couple of dozen conversation-heavy quests across various zones, I suspect it’s much better to do the main scenario quests as you level rather than in catchup-mode. My last session started with me at the next dungeon quest, Haukke Manor.

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I was very glad I’d watched the video guide for both dungeons (e.g. Mr Happy’s Youtube channel), in particular the end fights as there are mechanics to be aware of. Both groups were friendly but efficient in their approach to the dungeons – better to be prepared and accept the spoilers than cause unnecessary wipes. I ended the session in the build-up to a new ‘trial‘ (Ifrit was the first and last one), via a windy series of quests in La Noscea’s Costa del Sol area.

I’m planning on using the main scenario quests, plus the odd FATE, daily-duty and dungeon run to level Summoner to 50. That will also automatically allow me to play Scholar at the same level since the primary class for both these, Arcanist, is leveled in the background with the current job. After that I’ll need to focus on the main scenario to progress through all the post launch content up to the patch 2.55 denouement. Here’s hoping I can manage all that before Heavensward launches!

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