Archive for September, 2014

Retro Games MEGA FIND trickling to eBay

It’s a story that makes any retro game collector a little jealous.  Multimedia personality Patrick Scott Patterson, through just amazing luck this time, came into possession of over 600 video game boxes that were stored carefully and remain in pristine condition.

Patrick Scott Patterson, or the Original PSP, was contacted by a friend who came across multiple comic book long boxes filled with video game boxes from Atari 2600 and before sitting on the curb for the trash collectors!  The full collection was sent to PSP, who went to “work” (I imagine it was more “went to giddy fun” myself) sorting through them and seeing what all was there.  All in all, 616 boxes were present, with some being rather rare.

Patterson has long been a vocal proponent of video games, video game history, and video game preservation through the years and has often defended attacks on video games from the media critics, appearing on news segments in support of games and calling for rational discussion and realistic debate any time the media tries to scapegoat the hobby for the latest tragedy.  After much deliberation, he decided to put the mega find on eBay piece by piece in hopes that the mint condition boxes will go to collectors who, like him, wish to preserve these gems of gaming history.

From the press release:

“Last thing I want to happen is for these to end up in the hands of resellers who will only treat them as inventory,” he added.  “Given the unique nature of the find I found that opinions on value vary, so it is going to be up to the public to determine them while giving all collectors a shot at what they need to complete their collections.”

You can read more about the story behind this amazing discovery of retro game history from the source itself here and if you want to get a box or two for your own collection, the eBay page can be found right here.

Final Fantasy XIV 2.38: The Great Land Grab

Final Fantasy XIV released Patch 2.38 this week to a bit of an uproar and backlash to some extent.  The big addition to the game was the introduction of personal housing which, to be honest, was not exactly what people were expecting.  To be fair, earlier this year, Yoshida did comment on player housing being much more affordable than Free Company Housing.  This, as it turns out, was not the case.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from personal housing, but I was looking forward to it.  The idea that it would be cheaper than Free Company housing made me think it would lack some of the functional features such as chocobo raising or gardening.  I expected it to primarily be a house you could decorate and have your own place to hang out, possibly with a summoning bell similar to the inn rooms.  But then Square put in the personal quarters in Free Company housing and that had most of the personal housing features I was expecting.  So what would player personal housing be?

As it turns out, Square chose to give players the option of owning their own private house completely identical to what Free Companies could buy and build with all the features and functionality.  Fairly interesting decision, but players were a bit confused that Square only added two new wards, a total of six new wards per server.  The small houses were sold out within hours, if that long, on many servers.  On our server, the most expensive plot in one ward has been purchased by an individual player for near 90 million gil.  The result was many players, and smaller Free Companies, left unable to purchase a house as things were scooped up fast. The combination of limited spaces and the reset to original plot prices resulted in limited accessibility.  A lot of players are unhappy.

Yoshida has already acknowledged the issue and has stated they are facing challenges with ensuring server stability as they continue to add wards, but they are making some strides and plan to double the number of wards with the 2.4 patch.  While the hope of getting a house with this patch may have resulted in dashed dreams, our group has seen it as an opportunity to continue to amass our gil in preparation for the plot we want, not just the plot we can grab.  If that means we spend more in another 15 days or get it at a lower price in 30 or even have to wait until 2.4, then so be it.

It’s actually a feature I’ve come to really like about Final Fantasy XIV: the lack of instant gratification.  It’s disappointing, but if you’re patient and keep working towards a goal, I feel like you will eventually get there.  For now, though, my friends and I continue to put our collective efforts into accumulating gil and making preparations for our future mansion.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – A Year in Review

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is celebrating its 1 year anniversary and it’s a year I’ve enjoyed quite a bit. Before we delve into my review of FF XIV’s first year, a little history on my MMO experience. My MMORPG “career” started in the 90s with EverQuest after a friend showed it to me. It was a mind blowing idea to be able to play a character in a living, breathing world, something I’d never seen in a game before. After a number of years in EverQuest, I finally hung up the armor and stepped away from Norrath, but not before I had pulled two new friends into the adventures. About a year after leaving EverQuest, these two friends, along with a new one, and I logged into Vana’diel together when Final Fantasy XI launched. I didn’t last long with that game. Two friends, who were roommates, were between jobs and leveled a good dozen levels without me. I found my warrior spending more time shouting for a group than actually playing the game. It didn’t take long for me to cancel.

Then came World of Warcraft. It took some time, but eventually the friends who joined me in EverQuest and Final Fantasy XI all started characters in Azeroth. For 9 years I played WoW and for most of that time one of the friends that came in with EverQuest played as well.  We made friends in WoW who we met in person and have become friends out of the game now as well.  This one friend that I pulled into Norrath, grouped with in Vana’diel, and adventured with for years in Azeroth convinced me that Eorzea was our next grand adventure.  I had pulled him into two worlds, EQ & WoW, and he had pulled me into one (FF XI), so I guess it was my turn to follow his lead.  And so on September 30, 2010 we had our Collector’s Edition in hand.

Things were already off to a bad start.  Final Fantasy XIV offered the worst collector’s edition I’ve ever purchased.  The only things it offered were some in-game items, a blank journal, an authenticator, and codes for adventurer’s certificates.  That was it.  No soundtrack, no art book, no mouse pad or physical items.  I’m sure everyone is rather aware of how poorly the game itself was received.  Combat was arguable (some did like it), zones were fairly uninteresting with reused assets and no change in scenery, but the biggest thing that grew so dull for me was the menus.  Menus, menus, and menus.  Final Fantasy XIV: Menu Screens would have been a fitting title.

Two years later and Square Enix knew the game was going to collapse.  It would go down as one of the most colossal failures in MMO history if not for the determination of Square Enix putting a team in place to turn the game around.  They kept things going for a while with FFXIV 1.0, a storyline building to a climax that may be the most epic conclusion to an MMO prior to an expansion.

The friend that convinced me to try XIV had continued to play off and on during the 1.0 wrap up between time in WoW.  He was again speaking highly of the plans for A Realm Reborn.  Considering I didn’t have to even buy the game and would even get some in game rewards simply for having the original Collector’s Edition, I decided to give it a fair shake.

Even if you don’t care for FFXIV: ARR, you have to admit it’s impressive how much Yoshida and his team have turned the game around.  The 16th best selling game of 2013 with over 2 million subscribers is no small feat after relaunching from what was named the worst MMO launch of all time.

When I first tried A Realm Reborn, my summary description was simple: “There’s nothing particularly new here, but it’s like the World of Warcraft of 2013.  It’s taken all the features that work well, polished them, and put them together in an extremely impressive package.”  I still stand by that description myself.  The questing is like WoW (and every WoW imitator), the combat is familiar, dungeons are instanced, there is raiding, progression is gear based.  A Realm Reborn strikes me a lot like the feeling from the Burning Crusade era of WoW with a few nice additions.

From the start, a major thing that stands out for FFXIV now is the crafting game. Where many MMOs treat crafting as a side activity, Square has an entire game built on crafting.  Crafting has its own full hot bars of actions requiring players to choose what’s best to use, and when, in order to improve the quality of their items. There’s a completely separate gear progression, with stat requirements and caps, for the crafting game.  If a player doesn’t care for traditional gameplay with dungeons and raids, one could conceivably focus all their time on gathering and crafting and still have a lot of things to do. Now, just so nobody jumps on me for ignorance, I’m not saying FFXIV is the only game to go in depth with crafting. Plenty of MMOs have done so. I’m just saying FFXIV is another that has done well with it.

Square has also treated the MMO as a traditional RPG. Taking notes from their success with FFXI, there is a main storyline quest chain that drives the overall main story of the game, complete with cut scenes.  Classes also have storyline quests with cut scenes.  All cut scenes are done with the game engine, which are rather impressive with the animations and expressiveness they’ve put into the models. Those same animations are often seen in various emotes as well.  Where other MMOs I’ve played have animations with their emotes, FFXIV has impressive ranges of facial expressions with theirs as well.

Yoshida and his team have also put in a good balance of content for “casual” and more dedicated approaches and have done a fantastic job implementing systems to prevent lower level content going dead as players reach max level.  Similar to WoW, FFXIV has bonuses offered for running dungeons per day, but they are broken down into Extreme (newest dungeons), Hard (high level), Low Level, Trials (single fight 8 man raids), and Main Scenario, which are various raids.  Players get bonuses for doing these, even the low level dungeons at max level, which syncs you down to the appropriate level.  There are 8 man raids in the Binding Coil of Bahamut, which push the difficulty and 24 man random group raids in the Crystal Tower entries, which release in alternating cycles. 

In addition to all this, there is Free Company (guild) housing, chocobo raising, gardening, Beast Tribe daily quests, Bounty Hunting, and the option to level every adventuring, gathering, and crafting classes on a single character.

After a year of playing Final Fantasy XI, it was a welcome change to be able to play solo in World of Warcraft, but as WoW became more and more solo focused and the story became less and less enjoyable, the nice balance of group and solo with a very cohesive and engaging story is a welcome change in Final Fantasy XIV.  WoW kept me engaged for 9 continuous years.  Final Fantasy XIV has kept me engaged for one year.  Here’s looking forward to the soon expected to be announced expansion and many years to enjoy.


Backlog Review: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

It’s been almost a year since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag released and I just recently got around to playing it.  I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who, like me, have a bit of a back log of games to play (My back log is dozens if not 100 games across all systems).  I’m actually happy Dragon Age Inquisition is delayed until November.  It gives me just a little more time to catch up on a few games, not to mention Final Fantasy XIV should be letting me play ninja by then.

That said, I have to say AC IV: Black Flag is pretty fun.  I know there are detractors out there who don’t like the Assassin’s Creed series coming out annually with pretty much the same gameplay with a few additions here and there.  Honestly it doesn’t bother me too much.  The formula works well enough, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel with each game.  Using the same basic formula with a few new bells and whistles here and there is perfectly fine by me if the story is good and the game play is fun.  After all, Mega Man did alright coming out on an annual basis (with an extra year between a couple of them).

The sailing feature from Assassin’s Creed III proved popular so Ubisoft built ACIV around it even more.  I actually enjoyed it in III and it’s still fun in Black Flag.  There’s no shortage of things to do outside of the main story as well.  With treasures spread about the Caribbean, buried treasure to find, a ship to upgrade, equipment to upgrade with crafting, and a home base to upgrade similar to past games, there’s a lot of things to spend your time on.  I haven’t used the Fast Travel option much since it’s fulfilling enough to choose plenty of extra stops on the way to the next main mission.  And of course there are always ships to come across to attack and pillage for loot.  The life of a pirate, yo ho.

Combat hasn’t gotten a real upgrade, mostly the same as we’ve seen before.  I have to say it’s enjoyable to see a dual wielding character this time, though. The new animations are fun to watch that movie-inspired swashbuckling flair.

I’m not too far through the story, but I do like the slight change. Edward Kenway is not an Assassin nor a Templar. He is truly just a pirate, though he’s gotten mixed up in the plot of Templar vs Assassin.  Granted, this does raise the question of how he seems to have all the Assassins’ skill set without any training, but let’s just let that slide for game play sake.  I’ve been told by a friend the story is a bit weaker than the others and seems it could be a bit shorter.  I am a bit unclear on why they decided to call it Assassin’s Creed IV rather than only the subtitle “Black Flag” since it seems like the game is more of a resolution of AC III tying up some plot threads.  The main character is the grandfather of Connor and outside of Edward’s story the Abstergo Entertainment plot seems to be tying up the last of Desmond’s story.  In contrast, we have Assassin’s Creed: Unity coming out this year, not Assassin’s Creed V: Unity.

Overall, if you enjoyed past Assassin’s Creed games, I think you’ll enjoy Black Flag.  If you haven’t played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, Black Flag isn’t a bad one to hop into since there’s not as much intertwined back story from previous games to worry about too much.  Set sails on the open seas and live the life of a pirate.  Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!