Final Fantasy XIV

Crafting and Economics: A Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look, Part 2

Let me say this to start: Crafting for 30 minutes without stopping can wear me out faster than a 14-hour marathon of general gaming. It is either due to the process of repeated crafting being boring or relaxing, but I have trouble telling which one it is when I manage to slump in my seat.

That said, I would like to begin this installment of my Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV by talking about crafting and the economics of the game at present.

Final Fantasy XIV’s system is what I’d call an active crafting system rather than a passive one. In active crafting systems, the crafting process does not assure you of success, so you have to be vigilant during the crafting process so as to maintain success throughout the attempt to make something.

While I won’t go into the specifics of the crafting system here, as I just linked a basic crafting guide for you, it can be said that Final Fantasy XIV crafting is a very involving and time-consuming process, not only because each crafting attempt takes time to complete, but also because finding materials with which to complete usable tools, weapons, and armor can be rather daunting.

In the first case, each crafting attempt, whether it is successful or not, gives you skill points that eventually rank up your skill at the given craft. While the skill leveling process is the same for all character types, it’s only in the gathering and crafting classes that failed attempts to acquire a new product can give you some amount of progress. That said, however, it still takes a lot of crafting to get anywhere in this game, unless you use your local levequest allotment to offset the slow nature of the attempts.

Individual crafters are rarely able to produce items relative to their level. To make a spear, for example, you will not only need abilities in crafting the wooden shaft and the spear head (Carpenty and Blacksmithing, respectively). You will also have to procure items that can only be done by people who’ve surpassed that level in a different craft (such as armorcrafting or alchemy), as a higher level item from a seemingly unrelated profession is usually required in order to make the final product.

This ties in somewhat to the economy of Final Fantasy XIV. Whereas most gamers are probably used to auction house systems, Final Fantasy XIV has a bazaar and personal shop system that allows you to hire a retainer who will sell goods on the market for you in addition to selling items on your own personal bazaar. The game is designed to not be a soloist’s affair, because if you want to make something worth using, being in a linkshell (the equivalent of a guild) or rummaging through the packs of other players and their retainers in the Market Wards of capital cities is part of the game.

Recent developments have made the process easier , though still less convenient than what people are used to. You can now search for specific items available in Market Wards and can track down retainers who sell sell it the cheapest, but you’ll still need to go into individual wards to get the item from the retainer. It’s a bit disjointed, to be honest, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle to playing the game.

The thing I like about all this running about and craft grinding though is that for a goal-oriented person like myself, I can actually see myself progress, and I can pace myself according to my own needs or desires. If the crafting is tiring me out but I am so close to leveling up, I can push myself a little harder. If I’ve used a guild hall’s facilities to get a boost to my crafting success rate, then I feel more inclined towards using that time dedicated to improving  a particular trade.

What this does mean, however, is that I have slow progression for any individual trade. On the other hand, I do have a ton of experience now in trying and mastering the synthesis process for different crafts,  as well as an increasing stock of knowledge acquired from referring to recipes for the various tradeskills. That, and I’m far more savvy now in finding bargains than I used to be seven days ago.

In any event, what I deem to be a relaxing and somewhat fulfilling experience can be seen by others as a bit of a pain, but in my opinion, the struggle to maintain your composure on a difficult synthesis attempt coupled with a rousing success gets the adrenaline pumping and brings a smile to my face.

Check back tomorrow for part three of this Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV!

My Return to Eorzea: A Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look, Part 1

Victor Stillwater of Lindblum

In a couple of hours, I will have spent seven days playing Final Fantasy XIV. They were probably not the best-spent hours of my life, but they were fulfilling, relaxing hours, nevertheless.

I’m going to try writing this return to Final Fantasy XIV with fresh eyes, so I shall not be referencing my previous write-ups much. Needless to say though, I’m happy for one marked difference between my last time playing the game and my current stay in Eorzea: Exclamation Marks pointing to story quest givers and important people that need to be talked to for levequests.

Moving on…

Upon reactivating my account and logging into the game, I realized that playing the game in the manner I used to (mainly carpentering my butt off and doing more crafting than anything else) would not work, so I tried the other approach, which was to create a character that started off as a Disciple of War (in this case, a Lancer) and branched out from there.

This approach worked rather well, primarily because within the first few hours of my stay in the game, I had amassed 100,000 gil for basically talking to someone. As it so happened, I found out that my entry was rather well-timed, as they had just released a patch that introduced a new event for people to enjoy.

This new event, known as Hatching Tide, tasks players with talking to an NPC in one of the capital cities and getting an egg from that NPC every couple of hours (possibly 12). Collect a specific combination of four eggs (Lightning, Earth, Water, and Archon eggs), and turn them in to an NPC beside the egg-giver, and you would be rewarded with a spiffy egg cap that you could use as protective headgear.

I didn’t pay much heed to the quest text because I realized that I could sell the eggs for starter money, and so the first thing I did was put the first egg I got up for sale for (this is a pittance, but enough to purchase starter weapons and tools for every class) for 100,000 Gil.

A few hours later, I had enough starter money to get myself acquainted with all the classes.

Forgetting one of the quirks of the game, I attempted to alt-tab to read up on what I could do with the money and caused the game to forcibly shut down. Alt-Tabbing out of the full-screened version of the game shuts the game down, but using the configuration program to set it to windowed mode resolved that issue, though it’s a minor annoyance that I have to drag the window up a bit every time I want to see the XP values for my skills and physical level.

In any event, my stay in Eorzea included trying out every profession in the game save for the magic schools and the archer class, and I generally found my way without much trouble, since I could alt-tab and research on class skill synergy.

During this seven-day stay of mine, I contacted The Star Onions, a linkshell I was a part of during the pre-release phase, and found they were currently based on the Lindblum server. They let me into the linkshell, and I enjoyed asking questions a newcomer would normally ask, to which they would either answer promptly and politely, or remind me that there’s actually a database now for recipes and other information called Yellow Gremlin.

Combined with Eorzeapedia, a smattering of assorted guides created by players, and a gathering profession spreadsheet that outlined the actual use of notches in Disciple of the Land gathering procedures, I set out to become a strong warrior and a master item crafter.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV.

On “Bad” Games, Pricing Models, and the Feeling of Fun

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing - a "bad" game or simply not fun for a majority?

I was reading Beau Hindman’s latest Free for All column earlier and a thought occurred to me that I wanted to put in writing. In Hindman’s post, he was, in part, discussing how the free-to-play movement can be seen as the latest experiential phenomenon to take hold to the world of MMO gaming.

While free-to-play games have had a long-standing history in the realm of MMO titles available to the world, there’s been this stigma that a free-to-play MMO is is some sort of lesser being in the realm of gaming, that it is relegated to the realm of “inferior” products. We know now, through experiencing various MMO pricing models and hybrids of such models of payment, that high-quality and “less-than-high-quality” MMOs can be found in all points of the pricing spectrum.

Now, you may have noticed that I’ve placed quotation marks on some of the negative modifiers in the previous paragraph, and there’s a good reason for that. It all goes back to my personal belief that I, as an individual, have my own preferences and mindsets in life and I cannot truly say that one thing is absolutely abhorrent for everyone. Even the basic ideas of death and poverty or the basic emotions of joy and sadness are so wildly divergent in what they mean to people (such as in terms of what constitutes certain ideas, or what triggers an emotion).

As such, a corollary to my personal belief would be that the “bad” game does not exist. There are simply games that fewer people enjoy and games that a larger group of people enjoy. The sweeping generalizations that Syp recently talked about regarding gaming have to be taken out if we are to better understand why people can feel similar emotions when faced with completely different and possibly opposing stimuli.

For instance, let us take stock of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV and Trion Worlds’ Rift.

When I first installed Final Fantasy XIV on my computer, I played for four or five hours and pretty much left the game entirely because it did not capture my attention. Information on the game and its various activities was scarce, and if you were the type of gamer who honed his skills on World of Warcraft, the lack of question marks to indicate quest givers would drive you insane.

On the other hand, when I first heard of Rift and played the beta, I was also not thoroughly impressed, until launch grew closer and I realized it was essentially a highly polished and technically proficient game with an intriguing storyline. If you check my Rift articles here on Games and Geekery, you’ll notice I meander between thinking the game is “meh” and thinking the game is awesome for having tanks that can self-heal.

If you fast forward to last week though, you’ll notice I barely posted anything. The simple response to this is that Rift could not hold my attention and I was madly searching for a game to occupy my free time. On Saturday evening, I decided to play Final Fantasy XIV again on a whim. I created a new character, rolled on a new server, and looked for the old guild I was chatting with online about the game. I played FFXIV for, as it happens, 14  hours straight that day (a feat that only happened once previously when I went raiding in vanilla WoW).

This week, I was reading through other blogs, and Elementalistly’s entry on how he feels about Rift kind of got to me. It wasn’t that I was offended by his post. Quite the opposite really.

You see, I was beginning to feel the exact same thing he felt when it came to Rift, only I was experiencing what he was feeling with Final Fantasy XIV, the game Elementalistly and I once both found to be less than stellar.

When I compare the two games on a purely technical level, I find Rift to be a clear leader in terms of customer-centric accessibility and polish. Final Fantasy XIV is not perfect, and still remains free-to-play so long as Square Enix deems the game to be in a state that is below their standard of what a good game should be.

Despite this, however, I know that there are people like myself who currently feel about Final Fantasy XIV the same way that Elementalistly feels about Rift. We’re all having fun in the games our preferences and predilections lead us to, and it shouldn’t matter how much you play, how much you pay, or how off-beat your tastes are.

The important thing is that you are happy with what you’re doing, whether it’s when you’re playing an MMORPG, when you’re writing that fantasy novel masterpiece about the adventurous marmot with nunchaku, or when you’re enjoying Direct TV Specials in the comfort of your home.

Final Fantasy XI, XIV Temporarily Shutting Down Due to Calamities in Japan

Square Enix’s various online game websites recently announced that the company would be temporarily suspending services for Final Fantasy XI and XIV beginning today, March 13, 2011, as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that affected the country recently.  The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has asked its customers to not use power unnecessarily in order to conserve electricity as TEPCO has noted they “expect extremely challenging situation in power supply for a while.”

Square Enix has complied with the request and will be shutting down their game servers to conserve electricity, providing updates as more information becomes available. The company also added that “players will not be billed for any PlayOnline service throughout the April billing cycle,” though that will also be updated as additional information becomes available.

It’s quite unfortunate that this had to happen to Japan and to Square Enix. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan as they go through this trying time.

Following the break is a list of all the affected services of Square Enix’s online division as taken from the FFXIV Lodestone.

Read more

Square Enix is Really Serious About Winning Customers

While more than two months have passed since the official launch of FINAL FANTASY XIV service, we deeply regret that the game has yet to achieve the level of enjoyability that FINAL FANTASY fans have come to expect from the franchise, and for this we offer our sincerest of apologies.

After thorough deliberation on how to meet those expectations, it was decided that the most viable step was to approach improvements under new leadership and with a restructured team.

To realize this vision, and in doing so, provide our customers with a better game experience, we have assembled our company’s top talent and resources. Taking over the role of producer and director is Naoki Yoshida, a passionate individual for whom customer satisfaction has always taken top priority. Not only is he one of our Group’s most accomplished and experienced members, Naoki Yoshida is also a charismatic leader possessing the skill to bring together and effectively helm a team which encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. We also welcome several new leaders handpicked from other projects to work with the existing talent on FINAL FANTASY XIV.

We realize time is of the essence and are fully determined to provide our customers with quality service. It is because of this that we ask our customers to be patient until we are able to confidently present them with a concrete plan outlining FINAL FANTASY XIV’s new direction. The free trial period will be extended until that time.

Damn, they are really serious about establishing good relations with their playerbase.

An essentially indefnite timeline for free trial extensions seems awesome, but also very worrying since heaven knows how much money is drained away by this.

Final Fantasy XIV Extends Trial Period a Second Time

The FFXIV Lodestone has announced that everyone who has made a characted by November 19, including those folks who already had a free month courtesy of the first trial period extension, will be getting an additional extension of thirty days.

The devs write,

This month’s version update, tentatively scheduled for November 25, marks the first step in bringing about significant improvement to FINAL FANTASY XIV, guided in large part by the feedback you, the players, have provided. We are adamant that you should be given the opportunity to experience these changes firsthand before deciding to fully commit to the game.

Honestly, I’m not sure how this is going to pan out. This could be the first step in making FFXIV a more accessible and thus, actually lucrative MMORPG.

Personally, I want FFXIV to succeed. I’m not sure, however, if I will be swayed by a second free month of play, seeing as I barely got five hours in and felt completely let down. I suppose I’ll have to see for myself if their updates will change the face of Eorzea for the better.

Losing Faith in the Fantasy

I’ve been putting this article off for a while now. Due to a recent update on Square Enix’s Lodestone site, however, I suppose now’s as good a time as any to talk about what I think about Final Fantasy XIV.

Square Enix recently implemented a rather innocuous feature on their Lodestone site called History, which essentially allows people to search for characters and then see what they’ve achieved or, through some mild extrapolation, how long they’ve been playing.

This has allowed some users to find out that some folks who have been writing about the game or drawing manga about their “adventures” have played for only about ten minutes (link has NSFW elements).

In my case, I was genuinely excited for the game. I was looking forward to learning all about a new world and whatnot. The thing is, the game felt like work too much, and I reached a rather low Ed Zitron Number of around four hours played in total.

What did I think of Final Fantasy XIV during that time? Well, it was a bit of a beautiful game with a potential for tons of grinding, and not in a way that made you feel like you weren’t working. That was not how I wanted to spend my free time.

As for what I think of Final Fantasy XIV now, it would be honest, though unkind, of me to say that I do not think of it at all. It’s made me lose faith in the pedigree of a Final Fantasy game, especially for one that was so ambitious in scope, and so I’d prefer to move on and forget than to gnash my teeth in annoyance at remembering something that let me down.

Final Fantasy XIV: Initial Impressions (AKA The Either-Or Conundrum)

I spent a good three or four hours last night playing FFXIV on the Besaid server instead of the server I intended to go to, which was Lindblum, because for some reason the game wouldn’t load my Lindblum character due to an issue with either my connection or the place in which I lagged out which was smack in the middle of the damn tutorial instance.

I also turned down just about every setting to get to this point in the game where I could load things adequately. Again, this was either due to my connection issues or the game is just that demanding.

Regardless of these issues, I had fun.

I spent all that time crafting and gathering in leves in order to get enough money to purchase a spear and become a Lancer, and have yet to actually kill anything. That’s an interesting change from most games, as I still feel I progressed as a character despite not killing stuff. Best of all, I set my own goal and completed it outside of normal questing, which is something I always wanted out of a game.

One strange caveat to this game, however, is that the metagame is insanely perplexing. You can’t alt-tab out of the game from full screen (unless you do windowed mode, which allows this fine) or you’ll force a shutdown of the game, so you might actually spend a fair bit of time researching the game and where to go or who to talk to in order to find what you want. This is either annoying or a refreshing change of pace, as you need to really plan accordingly when you want to play if you intend to make something of yourself.

Personally, I want to like the game, but the user-friendliness of World of Warcraft rears its head when I think about it because I’ve been spoiled by the accoutrements that have come with the major MMO beast.

One thing I can say for sure at the moment, however, is that regardless of which game I play, either FFXIV or WoW… both are buggy at the moment, which is annoying for sure.


PS: If you want to find me, I’m Victor Stillwater of Besaid.

FFXIV Suffering From Fallen Earth Connection Experience Syndrome?

The Fallen Earth Connection Experience Syndrome is the term I am using for games whose system requirements I fulfill, but remain unplayable due to connection issues. If you will remember, almost a year ago I wrote about how I spent almost as much time caught up in lag than I did playing the game during the free trial.

Last night, my aunt from the USA came over on her long-awaited trip back to the Philippines, and she brought the only thing I asked from her, which was a copy of FFXIV. I installed it, patched it, and thought everything was set for me to enjoy Eorzea for a few hours.

What I didn’t take into account was the fact that FFXIV probably takes a more powerful connection compared to other games, and that my connection at the moment is in need of some sort of repair.

So, what happened? Well, in a nutshell, I can move around, but sometimes when I load into the game there are no people, or there’s a 10-15 second delay when talking to NPCs. I got to the part where I can begin the first battle in the tutorial, but nothing was happening after the cutscene because my latency or whatever the hell they call it was horrible.

Just to make a comparison, I alt-tabbed, forcibly exiting from FFXIV (because I couldn’t log out normally), and loaded up World of Warcraft. What do you know? 5505 ms of latency or whatever they call it, also in the red.

Logically, this would mean that my connection is at fault, and I have made sure that my ISP sends a repair team to my house to fix this nagging problem that’s been bothering me for nearly three weeks now. On the flipside, however, is the nagging possibility that even if I get my connection back to acceptable levels, it might still not be enough for FFXIV.

I really hope that’s not the case, as I really want to judge FFXIV on its merits and not on its inability to be played.

And yes, I just realized after writing the whole thing that I made an acronym for feces. Horrible, but I can’t change it now.