FFXIV: grand companies and chocobos

My last few sessions of Final Fantasy 14 have been mostly focused around helping my husband’s character with leveling. I’m slightly stuck between wanting to get my own character’s main class to level 50 but also wanting his character caught up so we can do the 30-50 journey together.

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The game has a lot of variety for content that you can do with friends, but the main scenario quests are often solo only. That’s a shame, as he commented, Star Wars The Old Republic lets you help friends in their class story missions.

Running quests in the East Shroud area for him I’ve been impressed by the amount of activity on our server (Balmung) – both new characters (with the tell-tale green leaf icon) and level 50s doing content that brings them to the old zones.

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I didn’t follow this formation of raiders to find out why they were charging through the zone, but it was impressive to see a large force of heroes en route like this. There was a fair deal of in character banter occurring in the ‘shout’ channel so I guess it was a roleplay group on maneuvers. Even if I’m not a part of such activities, I love to see it happening out in the world – some of my fondest memories in SWTOR were the early days when roleplayers were heavily and visibly active on my server in that game.

Another level 50 activity that I often see out and about in zones of all levels is the Hunt for (relatively) rare monsters.

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This time and once before I’ve joined in to such a fight, at extreme range, just for the fun of it. I plinged away with my lowly level 24 abilities and mostly missed but managed to get enough hits in to get a few Allaghan Tomestones of Soldiery. I suspect I’d be killed by a single hit from such a creature if I was careless but at least as Archer I can stay well back.

Otherwise we’ve been doing some of the many side or regional quests that I’ve skipped and a good number of FATEs beside to get some company seals.Upon reaching the moment of decision over which company to join he chose Maelstrom over Immortal Flame based on the flavour and look of the company and city (Limsa). Although I’ve read that Grand Company gear is biased towards a certain trinity role I think in the end we’re more likely to get gear from dungeons and other group content than from our Grand Company vendor.

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I really like the chocobo mount and combat companion system; it’s deep enough to offer some interesting options and the chocobos and their attacks are very nicely animated. I haven’t got much history with the Final Fantasy franchise as a gamer but since getting into the revamped version of this game I’ve really become a fan of riding a battle bird around Eorzea!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 3 Comments

Guest Post: Garrosh’s Adventures in Outlands – Part 1

[Hi! Meznir here – Telwyn’s hubby. Today I’m doing a guest post about WoW. Telwyn quit the game a few years ago as he hated the direction the game was going, but I’ve been carrying on without him. We had the idea of me occasionally posting about WoW so that the blog still covers that game.]

So I was doing my daily read of Blizzard Watch this morning, in particular Anne Stickney‘s post Know Your Lore: Why Grommash Hellscream shouldn’t die, when I did a double take on this sentence:

But there was a wrench in the works that was quietly thrown in during Burning Crusade, and his name was Garrosh Hellscream.

Burning Crusade?!? My first memory of Garrosh was meeting him in Borean Tundra, during Wrath – so where was he in BC? I did some googling and found this video. I thoroughly recommend watching it as it explains the lore of a huge chunk of WoW and a lot of the background to Warlords (ignore the last bit of Mists speculation at the end of the vid):

Continue reading

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 1 Comment

FFXIV: benchmarks

I decided to download and run the Heavensward benchmark (EU/NA download) to see just how badly my aging gaming laptop (a 2011 vintage Alienware M14x) would do. Before running the new I remembered I still had the old original v1.0 FFXIV benchmark lying around and ran that first just for the fun of it.

ouch

ouch

According to old forums that’s not good although I didn’t find an official ‘scale’ or rating. Of course the first time I ran it performance was terrible – a score of ~640. Very choppy and lots of lost frames. Then I remembered I have to force unknown software to use the 3D graphics card using the nVidia control panel despite having the 3D card set as default in the same place (worst software design ever!). The score of 2162 was with perfectly smooth video at least to my eye. Of course the original v1.0 trailer is probably badly optimised so that score isn’t so very relevant today. I don’t have the A Realm Reborn v2.0 benchmark downloaded so didn’t run that for a more accurate comparison.

So with that slightly worrying prelude I moved on to the actual Heavensward benchmark. This makes use of the current games same graphics options and settings – it auto recognised that my machine fits the High (Laptop) profile.

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Running the benchmark shows you the same promotional trailer that’s on websites and Youtube for the expansion.

Cue triumphant music!

Cue triumphant music!

This time the benchmark ended to NPCs from the video applauding my system politely – a very nice touch! I have to  say I’m pleasantly surprised that my aging rig can run it so well. Clearly this benchmark is better optimised (it even uses DirectX 11). I have no idea how good that score is but the video was smooth as silk running throughout, even the more spell effect intensive boss fights, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to run the expansion without needing to upgrade.

MMORPGs are ever evolving and growing, but so are their system requirements. It’s an inevitable part of PC gaming that you have to upgrade or replace your computer every so often. I’m very happy with the longevity of this gaming laptop, it’s never had stellar performance (talking frames per second) but it does medium performance very, very solidly regardless of what you throw at it. I remember the painful early days of playing Cataclysm era World of Warcraft on an old Apple laptop – Cataclysm upgraded WoW’s minimum system requirements by quite a lot and suddenly the game was unplayable.

Bring on the expansion, my computer is ready!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, WoW | 2 Comments

EQ2: Daybreak’s website, bonus XP and CEO interview

I logged into Everquest 2 for the first time in some weeks, the longest break I’ve had from this game since September of last year. I had a good run in the game up until recently but the old-school slow pace of leveling really got to me, something that FFXIV as a more ‘modern MMO’ does not suffer from.

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But I logged back in this week to find that there was a bonus XP event on, why hadn’t I heard about this!? Probably because I don’t follow Daybreak Games online, they’re celebrating the launch of the new website, new company logo etc. Since the great cull of the official EQ2 forums last month, I haven’t been following the game as much offline – even when I wasn’t actively playing I liked to keep an eye out for interesting player-guided events but the natural home of that was wiped out along with so many other sub-forums.

Daybreak’s CEO came out this week to say that the days of the “WoW-style MMO” are gone (see Bhagpuss’ post on this). That’s pretty insulting to the current EQ2 player base I would have thought, I have no percentages to go on but if you watch global chat in the game it’s dominated by people looking for characters of this or that classes or role for a dungeon/raid group. Beyond that has Mr Smedley seen how many players World of Warcraft or even Final Fantasy 14 has? Yeah, no one wants instanced group content anymore…

The jarring nature of these comments go deeper than just insulting a segment of the player base though as to me they undervalue EQ2 as a game. There’s no equal to its combination of traditional dungeon/raid content with some of the broadest and deepest alternative MMORPG gaming I’ve seen to date. It still has an amazingly rich housing system and crafting in the game is strongly supported not just as something worth doing but as an alternative focus of non-combat gameplay with its own quest lines and dailies.

So I find myself in the same situation again where I like the game, even love certain aspects of it in fact, but the company running it leaves me less than inspired to keep playing it…

Posted in EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, WoW | 2 Comments

TSW: random puzzle is random

We duo’ed an investigation mission in our latest session of The Secret World. Overall the puzzle-oriented investigation missions are our favourite aspect to this game, they’re comparatively rare compared to action (i.e. combat) missions but they stand out as memorable and engaging in a way that combat isn’t always.

This post if full of spoilers for a specific mission so don’t read it if you’re not well into the second Transylvania zone in the game. I didn’t take many screenshots unfortunately so I’ll have to rely on written descriptions… Continue reading

Posted in Gaming, TSW

MMORPG sequels: what happens to the elder game?

I recently had the chance to run part of the adventure from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Starter Set. It was well put together and the rules are a mix of familiarity and some new ideas but it’s not different or striking enough for me to want to go out and buy it in a hurry, that’s a long-standing problem for RPG developers, their products do not go obsolete just because they say they are. RPG groups can happily continue to use thirty-five year old 1st Edition AD&D rulebooks if they so desire.

What about editions of MMORPGs or sequels? It’s easier for gaming companies to control the playerbase, the bluntest instrument would be to shut down the old game forcing players to move to the new although risking they’d abandon the franchise entirely. From the MMORPGs I’ve played I can see two very different approaches to this topic.

Everquest
I’ve never played the original Everquest or any other game in the franchise except Everquest 2. Having come to the world of Norrath from EQ2 I’ve not felt tempted to venture into the nostalgia-rich first game since the graphics do look dated and they have that old-school (but suddenly back in vogue) idea of a strictly limited active skillbar. If I want to play a “small set of abilities” game I can just login to Secret World.

From what I’ve read on different blog posts and forums Everquest 1 benefitted most from the need to group and the culture of grouping (monster spawn camping). That’s something that I guess was lost due to EQ2’s incremental support for solo play since the second game these days seems very poor for grouping outside of guilds.

Lonely land

Lonely land

Guild Wars
I have played both of the Guild Wars games, unlike Everquest 1 & 2 however the flexibility of building and playing a character went down from original to sequel and it seems will be simplified even further in a future patch. Guild Wars 1 had the same limited skillbar as the second game albeit one that was more freeform – the only restriction was one equipped elite skill. This allowed for a lot freer build creation and with the option of adding skills from a second class into the mix there was a massive, if somewhat bewildering, array of choices.

Freedom to roam

Freedom to roam

The graphics certainly improved in Guild Wars 2 and of course we gained the ability to jump, never let that be underestimated. The freedom of movement compared to the excessive pathing in the first game was a real boon to the sequel.

Hillsides, the greatest enemy adventurers can face...

Hillsides, the greatest enemy adventurers can face…

Jumping does bring a downside though as the devs at ArenaNet have gotten rather carried away with adding platformer jumping puzzles into the content.

Don't look down (the extended remix)

Don’t look down (the extended remix)

In the case of both pairs of games the gameplay of the first and second game is different enough for fans of one or the other to happily stay in their preferred version. But the developer may not want to commit the effort and resources to keeping both games updated and supplying new content. Here we see a big difference in approach.

In the case of the Everquests, Daybreak have recently announced no more expansions for both games in favour of downloadable content (DLC) patches. That’s a balanced approach to how the two games are treated compared to ArenaNet decision to sunset (i.e. stopping new content production) Guild Wars 1 shortly after the sequel’s launch.

Although I have no direct experience of another multi-MMORPG franchise, Lineage, I’ve read that the first game enjoys much greater popularity than the sequel (see the second chart in this post about NCSoft Earnings Call). We never see official figures from Daybreak (or SoE as was) but I would suspect that the same is true for Everquest over its sequel.

With Guild Wars 2 the current game has enjoyed a good measure of success so far (with an expansion coming to boost profits back up) whereas the first game is now mostly deserted, a playable trip down memory lane. I’ve logged in on my characters to collect their birthday presents and it’s currently the anniversary festival but I didn’t see more than a couple of player characters in any of the main zones.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Guild Wars | 3 Comments

FFXIV: dungeon finder’s pretty good

I’ve played now all the leveling dungeons up to Brayflox’s Longstop several times each, mostly as caster DPS (Arcanist/Summoner) but also occasionally as healer (lately Scholar). So far of the 20 or so dungeon runs I’ve been on I’ve only had one mildly negative experience, annoyingly that happened to be the first run for my husband’s new character of Satasha.

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There was some banter at the start after an overpull and wipe but after that was sorted out the rest of the run was smooth enough. Most runs are actually pretty friendly also in my limited experience – people say hello at the start and thanks at the end. There might be the odd tactics discussion also. It’s nothing like the horror of completely silent runs in World of Warcraft’s dungeon finder when it was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King.

My most recent dungeon runs have been absolute pleasures, with courteous, helpful players and people eager to learn their (new) class and the mechanics. I really enjoyed running Halatali for the first time, which also gave me the necessary kills to finish my Grand Company hunt log.

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I’ve read on forums that it’s a different ball game in raiding since that’s more high pressured with tougher mechanics and greater rewards to lose out on. Regardless the group content in the game that I’ve seen so far is good fun and there’s plenty of it. Fates are also an ever-present distraction if you choose to do them, just like the titular rifts in the Rift MMO.

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I think Square Enix has a nice balance in the game at present of group content of different difficulties. There really is something for everyone: formal dungeons and raids for the traditionalist and public quests (Fates) and Hunts  for those who embrace modern casual grouping.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 1 Comment