Tag Archives: Square Enix
Two pieces I wrote came up this week for people read on MMORPG.com. One was a discussion on progression via levels and skills for Devil’s Advocate, and the other was my explanation for why Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn might very well be a defining moment in MMO history.
On the one hand, commenters on my Devil’s Advocate Post mentioned Asheron’s Call as a game that sort of fulfills the melding of Levels and Skills, and due to my never having played it, I completely skipped it as a talking point.
I felt embarassed. At the same time, I was thankful. Someone had pointed out an issue with my article and it had given me an idea to sort of compare Asheron’s Call and Project Gorgon. It was a good angle to take, and one that I’ll explore for the next Devil’s Advocate.
On the other hand, I also received a comment on the FFXIV post that reads:
You sure did gush a lot for a non biased column.
How much does one of these columns cost a company?
For me, I can read this as trolling, but after the Eurogamer issue that occurred recently, it touched a nerve. As I’m also starting a job at Rappler, a social news site in the Philippines, on November 1, it made me anxious to have my ethics as a writer put into question. Basically, it really stung.
I responded thus,
Just so you know, this isn’t the Devil’s Advocate for this week, and as far as I can remember when I wrote it, I did not mention that I was unbiased.
I like the Final Fantasy brand. At the same time, I will admit that I was disappointed by FFXIII and FFXIV. The information given so far for the game gives me hope, and the potential of a game like this to be a defining moment in MMO history makes me pause, because it can cost tons of jobs and change lives if it fails.
I am enthusiastic for the game based on its potential, but at the same time, I’ve played enough games to know that the potential for something to be good does not make it good unless I try it and make that distinction for myself, based on my personal opinion and my understanding of the situation.
The idea that I am some sort of paid shill is a hurtful insinutation on your part, and while I would defend your ability to say it on this forum if push came to shove, I will not stand by and accept your accusation. Frankly, as a fellow person on this planet, I am hurt by your words, and I honestly hope that you would actually consider the gravity of what you’re saying to me or to anyone else in the future.
In any case, this is just sharing on my part. I take great pains to make sure my pieces are well-written and meaningful, but there are really a ton of variables I can’t account for. I know I should let it pass, but it really soured an otherwise happy day.
As with any game, there are wonderful and not-so-wonderful things to think about when you’re playing it. The following are some of my issues with Final Fantasy XIV in its current state, as well as the plan the Square Enix Development Team has with that particular aspect of the game moving forward.
1. The same tilesets for the world you’re traversing, all jigsawed up.
Simply put, I dislike how the world was created using a handful of tilesets to represent an entire living, breathing continent of a world.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD. BWAHAHAHAHA. Then rebuild using more tilesets, presumably.
2. Levequests are your bread and butter means of gaining experience.
Levequests are essentially repeatable quests people can do to gain experience for their various fighting, gathering, or crafting classes.You gain back 4 levequest allowances every 12 hours, and can stack these allowances to 99 to power through levels as needed.
The game has quests, but those are few and level dependent, and while you can sometimes get a hefty stack of gil from them, as well as some gear, the levequests are the bread and butter means of gaining experience.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: From what I’ve heard, the plan moving forward is to give people more quests and make levequesting a more optional experience for everyone. Options are good, and being able to do quests more for great stories appeals to me immensely.
3. The usable, but annoying-to-use User Interface
To leave your party in the game, you need to open up your menu, click on “Party,” go to “Party Details,” then click on “Leave.” It works if you’re using a controller, but as a keyboard + mouse guy, it’s a bit annoying to have to go through the same hoops.
Now, that same bit of logic runs through some other actions, like changing your gear. It is usable, but it’s not fun.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD, then make a newer UI that works with modern sensibilities but doesn’t sacrifice accessibility for console/PC controller gamers.
Right now, I’m playing Final Fantasy XIV and having quite a bit of fun. The old annoyances I had with the game that made me leave before have been mitigated significantly, and Square Enix’s team for the game is really working hard to show people that the Final Fantasy MMO is a force to be reckoned with.
Things I personally love about this game in its current state:
1. Structured Freeform Progression: This is the term I use to refer to how Final Fantasy’s leveling system allows you to be the kind of fighter, harvester, or crafter you want to be.
Changing the tool in my hands changes my class, and there’s a certain satisfaction in leveling up new crafting classes just to see LEVEL UP flash on the screen. Basically, it melds the structured leveling progression of most MMOs with the freedom to not be pegged as a particular class if you feel like switching.
2. Simplified Crafting
Originally, FFXIV’s crafting system damn near forced you to multilevel crafting classes if you wanted to be self-sufficient. To make something of a low level in a certain crafting field, you had to be a high level in a different field (or know who to talk to) to get his stuff you needed to make your own stuff.
Recipes have been streamlined to require fewer components from other fields or at least need specific items from a different, equally or lesser leveled tradeskill. Old recipes still exist though, and those recipes have a “dated” prefix to refer to them being part of the old echelon. You can still try and make those items for XP if you wanted, actually.
3. There’s finally an explanation for seemingly random shit.
There are two resources that seem to be very useful now, and they are http://ffxiv.mozk-tabetai.com/ and http://mooglebox.com. One is a great item, loot, and recipe compendium, and the other has a gathering tool that explains what you have to do in the gathering minigames to net specific items from gathering more readily.
4. The Future and its Story
The game is gearing up for a reboot called A Realm Reborn. They will pretty much wipe the whole damned planet out and literally shut down the servers prior to launch to move all the characters onto new servers for the reboot.
The best thing about this for me is that they have a freaking story explanation for the entire event, where (if memory serves) someone teleports every person on the planet to the end of time and then throws them back into the future of the world after a meteor crashes onto the world. Something like that. Basically… you get a cool lore entry about the sundering of Eorzea as a private reward for sticking by the game.
Anyway, if you feel like playing the game before the reboot, sign up and join my character Victor Stillwater on the Masamune Server. Cheers!
Due to how my computer, monitors, and PlayStation 3 are set up, I can actually type this while looking at the television screen showing the PS3 interface. I’ve decided to try liveblogging the first few hours of FFXIII-2 to see if I like playing the game in this manner, and to gauge my personal interest in dividing my attention in this particular fashion in an attempt to try something new and blog more.
How it’ll work: most liveblogs use some kind of software that I have no idea where to get in order to liveblog quickly and efficiently. While I won’t be using that software, I can use their format of updating in tweet-like fashion, with the entries going chronologically upwards from the beginning (the bottom-most entry) to the most recent entry (directly below this paragraph) using military time to denote hours in the GMT+8 timezone.
I’ll begin in approximately 30 minutes from this post, at 19:30, after I grab dinner.
See you folks in a bit.
————– LIVEBLOG BELOW ————–
22:15 Standing in front of the First Time Gate. Will continue some other time.
22:13 It seems there’s also a map percentage aspect to the game. Can’t seem to trigger 100% on the first map though. Strange.
21:57 There appear to be sidequests for Artefacts and other items. Hmm… not sure what to think about fetch quests.
21:38 Got an artefact… Why not spell it Artifact? Is there a big difference?
21:27 So Snow actually left Serah to find Lightning for his fiance. That’s nice.
21:18 So the moogle is some kind of a treasure hunting device and a weapon. How multifunctional!
21:04 Oh man. I can save anywhere and it saves to the same file I made at the start of the game. That’s cool.
20:57 Crystarium has been altered somewhat. Not sure how to explain it, but basically, each crystal allows you to choose your path of development.
20:48 Staring at a meteorite. Amazed it crashed without making a bigger crater.
20:43 LOL. First non-tutorial boss is called Gogmagog.
20:35 The game uses random encounters that require you to encounter the enemy in a time limit. That’s a nice implementation of two existing battle type tropes.
20:26 Hmm… early enemies dropping Accessories.
20:19 So… they give a brief overview of the ending of FFXIII through dialogue in the first hour. Not bad.
20:17 And the kupos of the moogle are weird. Some kind of dialogue weirdness.
20:07 LOL. Jumping mechanics included in the game now.
20:05 Live Trigger… Branching Dialog options, it seems.
20:01 Magical Changing Clothes. Go Squeenix go!
19:59 Noel Kreiss…. jumps into a time gate.
19:54 First Tutorial battle of the game completed, Multi-stage, very forgiving, extremely epic.
19:50 I guess they use gameplay footage to allow for cinematic actions. I got to choose how to engage my enemy in the cinema.
19:44 Apparently, the enemy is a fricking Bahamut of Chaos.
19:42 Cutscenes become actual gameplay footage now. Tutorial stage played as Lightning Riding Odin.
19:40 Caius and Lightning fight. Beasties galore in battle.
19:38 Opening Cinematic of the game. Lightning looks over the sea.
19:36 Game gives a bonus reward if you have FFXIII save data, and asks you to create a data file upon starting game. Autosave and manual save is available.
19:34 Game loaded, Opening Sequence playing. Pretty Cool.
19:30 Turning on PS3.
I have written this piece with no particular logic in mind, so the thoughts here are mostly emotional responses to the games I’ve played. Apologies to anyone who feels slighted by any poor word choices I have made here.
In August, I played a total of four MMORPGs. There was Rift, Xsyon: Prelude, Everquest 2, and Final Fantasy XIV. Each MMO I picked during that month seemed to have one thing in common that wasn’t actually particularly common: they were all in a weird state of upheaval.
To my knowledge, my playtime with Rift was spent more on July during the Waves of Madness world event, a prelude to the arrival of patch 1.4 during the first week of August. When 1.4 came around though, I spent a few days and felt the change did nothing to keep me enthused: slightly revamped soul trees, PVP additions, and the addition of stuff for high leveled players to do, while definitely useful for keeping the 50s entertained, did nothing for me as a level 30+ player who wanted something he could own.
On a whim, I then bought and subbed to Xsyon for a month, hoping that then lure of terraforming and nearly limitless crafting would make me want to stay. This game is in a state of upheaval, even within its playerbase, because aside from crafting and killing four creature types (that’s what I was told) and dodgy PVP, the game was about barren of things to do as, well, a post-apocalyptic Lake Tahoe would probably be. Two days later, the unsubscribe button was promptly pushed.
I played Just Cause 2 for two weeks afterwards… that was a fun distraction. but a completely different thing to discuss.
Following some documented troubles with subbing to Everquest 2, I managed to get in a subscription and play before Game Update 61 became available. While the changes to the game as a result of the update did not greatly impact me (I even completed the Beastlord prelude quest that came with the update), it troubled me how everyone else felt bad because of how this game update was handled, prior to and during its introduction into the game. This was a state of upheaval that affected me because it hurt a playerbase that loved the game more dearly than I did, so I opted to temporarily try something else this past week so that the developers could remedy the situation accordingly.
To that end, I chose Final Fantasy XIV to occupy my time. So far, I am finding that not much has changed since I last played, but from my experience, what has changed has been important and it’s revitalized that love I’ve always had for the potential Final Fantasy XIV had to please people.
There are two things that have consistently gnawed at me during my time playing FFXIV. The first thing that tore at my imagination is the fatigue system of ability gain, and what it would be like to have that abolished: would it make me want to play more of the game, less of it, or the same amount as a result? The second issue that ate up my brain was the panic of playing a combat class: simply put, the system they had in place when I last played made me feel like a sitting duck because I was always waiting for Stamina to recharge to perform an action.
Patch 1.18 removed fatigue from the game’s leveling system, allowing casual players like myself to enjoy leveling up while not penalizing those who wanted to spend more time developing their characters further. It also ushered in the beginning of sweeping changes to the entirety of the battle system, beginning with the revamping or outright removal of specific skills and the abolition of the Stamina system, as well as adding something most MMOs take for granted these days: auto attack.
I see four upheavals at work here in these four games. There is an “upheaval” which is more of a small quake that did nothing but agitate the PVP playerbase and ruffle a few feathers (Rift). There is an “upheaval” that is more like terraforming, in that it is deliberate and slow to progress and, ultimately, rather like watching grass grow (Xsyon). There is an “upheaval” that wounds the playerbase severely because it came hastily, and with repeated, significant aftershocks as the world attempts to right itself (EQ2). Then there is the positive “upheaval,” in which certain foundations are taken down, and the ground is broken again to usher in a determined rebuilding and restructuring of faulty foundations (FFXIV).
The change happening in FFXIV is astounding, because the plans are being laid out in developer letters in a way that informs everyone of a concrete, long-term plan for rebuilding. I know other developers are open with their plans for a game, but for me, seeing someone literally explain how the foundations for a new “home” are being built, (specifically the plans for patch 1.19 that were written on August 15, and for 1.20 and 1.21 that were written a few hours ago today) with a projected timeline and explanations as to the reasoning behind specific actions, is a very positive way of introducing change to a community that has already suffered from the pain of a nearly a year’s worth of disappointment.
They’re revamping the battle, experience, and mob claiming system, adding new modes of transportation, introducing further tutorial quests, creating additional, unlockable job classes through questing, and making crafting more accessible and more fun (THANK GOD) to a wider range of players by simplifying certain crafting processes. They literally have a monthly plan that they are working hard to follow, and they have an excellent team that translates these producer letters so that they come out on the same day they’re made worldwide (at least, that’s the impression I’m getting). These guys have waaaaaay more discipline than I could ever imagine from myself.
The funny thing is, they know this upheaval and rebuilding is going to hurt. In a post made yesterday regarding the revamps coming to claiming and engaging enemies, producer Naoki Yoshida wrote (translated into English, obviously),
I want to make it clear now that I believe there is no way to settle this argument in a way that everybody will be 100% satisfied with.
In this one sentence, I feel the burden of being a producer, as this translation would imply that he concedes that the changes the current team is making will not please everyone and potentially please no one. He even goes on to explain what he thinks various portions of the playerbase are thinking:
This is an extreme example, but even for non-online, stand alone games, there are players who enjoy completing the game even if they use cheats to obtain all items or max out their levels. However, other players feel that this is a waste of time and that it defeats the purpose of buying the game. As such, this is a difficult issue to address.
In MMOs, there are players who would like help with leveling, because they want to play with other players as soon as possible. There are also players who would like to help new players level up, so that they can play with them. These players don’t want strong restrictions on power leveling, nor to be confined to parties with major level differences.
In contrast, there are players who believe that, “Players grow together with their characters,” “If other players are power leveling, leveling up becomes meaningless,” “Power leveling will become a necessary part of the game,” and “Power leveling will disrupt areas for proper party play.”
Even without considering RMT and people who level up other players’ characters for profit, this issue is the cause of a lot of friction. For online games, RMT and people who level up other players’ characters for profit will both certainly exist, so they must be considered. This is a good point of discussion, but opinions will vary based on perspective, so it is difficult to reach a definite conclusion.
He then explains their current battle plan for this particular system, acknowledging that not everyone will be pleased, but also explaining that the team is doing something for people with a particular mindset and explaining that mindset to everyone:
…as a current generation MMORPG we would like to do something about,
“new players who would like some help, because they want to play with their friends as soon as possible, as well as players who are willing to sacrifice their own time to help out new players get involved in the game quicker.”
To return to my metaphor, the upheaval is painful, but the reasoning behind the rebuillding process is there, and he hopes everyone will accept the mindset they have in order to make the game fun for more people.
To a gamer with my mindset, this certainly reads in a tone that I’d want every developer to adopt when they know they’re not going come into opposition from the fanbase (which is to say, “every developer out there”). As a result, I’m excited to see their development plan come to fruition, which is a lot more than I can say for the way EQ2’s most recent upheaval came to be seen.
I was supposed to put up a third installment of the Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look today, but it seems Square Enix had other plans for me.
The development team for Final Fantasy XIV finished their scheduled maintenance a few hours ago with the implementation of an incremental patch known as Patch 1.17a.
According to the information posted on the Lodestone, this patch adds new sidequests and a new means of acquiring rewards and skill points for players. Known as the Guild Tasks Board, the system will apparently allow players to perform missions for the guilds of Eorzea. Finding the required items and turning them into the proper NPC will yield rewards and skill points for the active class at the time when the task is completed.
In addition to some bug fixes and system tweaks, the patch also includes a stylistic element, providing a 3-D visual notice when one is in a group with four or more members.
The full patch notes can be found at the link posted above, and I will update the third part of my extended look, namely a feature on the current state of questing in-game, once I’ve investigated the Guild Tasks Board and tried it out for myself.
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.
You get three games for the price of one, and can basically play out the (somewhat meager) story that comes through in the first and second games.
Of course, it’s never really that simple, as you’re playing two rather old games, and it’s been nearly six years since the second Dungeon Siege game came out.
Here are some factoids on what you will not get if you go purchase the Dungeon Siege III bundle, like I did.
1. You will not get multiplayer. This is stated prior to anyone even thinking of purchasing the game.
2. You will not get the expansion for Dungeon Siege II.
3. You (possibly) will not get to play Dungeon Siege I on your brand spanking new computer, though this appears to have been remedied somewhat, if the Steam forums are any indication.
Personally, I want to see if Dungeon Siege 2 is any fun to play, but that’s just me.
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.