Posts Tagged ‘ Final Fantasy XIV ’

10/4/14 Saturday Anime – Log Horizon

The first episode of the new season of Log Horizon aired today. Huzzah!  I’ve probably watched the first season of this show half a dozen times now and have been greatly looking forward to the new season to start.  I have a rather fond affection for the fantasy genre in books, film, and anime, which sadly is somewhat lacking in the last category in my opinion.  I was introduced to anime by the Sci-Fi channel when it was still known as Japanimation by us silly Americans, one of those titles being Record of Lodoss War.

I spent all day today watching the first season for that sixth(ish) time and watched the new episode twice to make sure I caught everything.  I learned there’s a lot I’m still catching for the first time in the first season, though I will say here I haven’t read the light novels (yet!).  I had missed the comment that the song played at the ball with Eastal was the title screen theme of the Elder Tales game.  I realized one time through that the Man With a Mission band members appear in the crowd when Rayneshia (Lenessia) is giving her speech.  Speaking of that speech, I still get goosebumps after she speaks and that silence is broken by the adventurers pounding their weapons and a group blows their war horns.  The speech itself and that scene is masterfully crafted.

Log Horizon is a fantastic entry into the growing “trapped in an MMO” genre.  I’m not going to delve into the comparisons many make with another current anime, nor with older ones (admittedly, I’ve not watched those older ones), but at the moment, Log Horizon is my favorite of them, primarily because of the detail that’s been put into building the world of the MMO Elder Tale rather than just the world of the anime once the game becomes reality.  Tying in game mechanics into lore is a nice touch – one that most actual MMOs don’t do.  The explanations of how the monster tribes came to be, where adventurers came from, how resurrection works as a concept rather than game mechanic, and even where enemies get gold from are nice touches.  On top of that, there’s the well details interdependence of classes that’s rather well designed (if perhaps not perfectly balanced for actual gameplay…we’ll leave that to game designers).

The next aspect Log Horizon explored that really drew me into this world was then the exploration of it as a new reality.  Gender swapping and player bodies feeling odd due to differences from normal bodies were touched on in the first season, though I think enough men play females in MMOs that there’s a lot that could be explored there for a series at some point.  The fact that players resorted to PKing not out of sadistic tendencies or malice so much as just boredom was a nice touch as well, as “just something to do” is a real driving motivation for many players in MMOs. They just find things to do “for the lulz” after all.  The discovery of how to make food that tastes good (though I have a hard time believing nobody else would have figured that out in all of Akihabara’s territory, but I let it slide), the use of game mechanics in a new world to establish a method of enforcing law and order, and the use of telepathic conferencing were nice touches.  The big thing I liked about the development of the new world they’re living in was that they actually did approach economy as a driving factor to everything.  Shiro needed money to enact his plan to enforce law, supply and demand drove higher costs of the Crescent Moon Refreshment Stand, new discoveries that weren’t in the game led to new demand, which led to demand for supplies, which led to work for adventurers.  It was nicely put together, I thought.

Finally, what I particularly appreciate is that Shiro, nor the others, are truly perfect characters that can handle everything alone.  Each supporting cast member has their own strengths and while Shiro is the main character and sometimes given a lot of lip service from others, in action all of the players have been shown to be quite strong in their own right.  I give a lot of respect Mamare Touno for making a support class character the main protagonist and I have really enjoyed seeing the story from the perspective of the strategist.  I find it quite fitting that a strategist would be nicknamed “villain in glasses” considering the strategist’s job will often require some choices that seem cruel, but are done to move pieces into a better position for the endgame.  While Shiro excels in planning and putting together the grand schemes, and has some convenient items at his disposal such as the gryphon whistle and appearance changing potion (to be fair, I’d have one to offer if this happened to me with FFXIV…I haven’t used mine), it’s believable things that a multi-year veteran of the MMO would have.

While Shiro is the protagonist and strategist, though, I think it’s safe to say he wouldn’t succeed without Naotsugu and Akatasuki.  For that matter, they may not have saved Serara without Nyanta’s presence, and they certainly wouldn’t have succeeded in saving the low level players, including Tohya and Minori, without the Crescent Moon guild’s work allying with Radio Market, Marine Agency, and Shopping Street 8.  And even still, Crusty is named as one of a handful of players who has commanded 100 players simultaneously, a feat that Shiro likely couldn’t do even if he could plan a strategy for the battle.  Plus, for all the praise Shiro is given, a level 20-ish Minori is already following in his footsteps as a strategist.

The first episode of the new season starts off with a quick glimpse at some characters in new armor, probably a look at fights we’ll catch up to later similar to how season 1 started.  We first see the leader of Silver Sword who we haven’t seen since he pulled out of the Round Table council.  We also see a few characters we don’t know, one of which is Kanami, former leader of the Debauchery Tea Party, who I’ve read was a swashbuckler in the flash backs we saw in season 1 though she dressed as a monk. With a new character on the new server after moving in real life, she’s not actually playing a monk. Despite me being a total boob guy (Naotsugu would be proud of me being an open pervert, right?), her appearance here was really over the top.  She’s bigger than her flash back appearances from season 1 and I’m hoping they tone her down a bit.  I’m also a bit grumpy she seems a lot like my own character for the comic/book I’ve been working on.  Dang world stealing my ideas…I really do need a tinfoil hat!

After that prologue scene, we get the new opening animation.  I’ve seen comments on Crunchy Roll and have to agree with them; it was the right call to keep Database as the opening theme.  The new animation, though?  Wow, that’s a lot of new characters.  I counted over 25 new faces I didn’t recognize (though I’ve read enough to recognize Kanami, as mentioned, and her TMNT-inspired companion Leonardo).

The first episode, and thus the new season, starts off fairly appropriately with a conflict to overcome that revolves solely around money and economy.  The Round Table has purchased not only the Guild Building in season one, but since added the Cathedral and the Trade Building as well as “several other facilities.”  Well, it actually starts off with a post-Halloween festival (good timing there on the release) and appropriately enough for this time of year…PUMPKINS PUMPKINS PUMPKINS! Gourds aside, though, we catch up with our established characters, many of whom are wearing different clothes.  Normally I don’t care for changes in character design, but I like that the changes and additions appear to be warmer clothing, fitting with the fact that it’s Autumn and October in the world.

But back to the main conflict.  Some spoilers ahead from this point onward.  You have been warned.

Seriously, heed the warning if you don’t like spoilers.  😛

The Round Table needs 10 million gold per month to keep up with everything they own now.  They’ve tried reaching out to the clan that runs the world’s banking system, but it’s revealed there’s no loan system in the world and no subclass for it either.  Shiroe has a plan, though, and leaves Akihabara with Naotsugu to meet with a representative of the Kunie Clan, the one that runs the banking system, in a cabin in the snowy mountains near their village, which he determined with the help of Regan, the Sage of Mirror Lake.  Shiro’s plan is to access a fountain of gold that lore claims is how gold is distributed to souls upon their reincarnation (in other words, the lore-explanation for why respawned monsters drop gold for players).  They’re told they’ll need a large group of companions to meet and the Kunie Clan’s decision to help will depend on how they meet the challenge ahead.  Rather cryptic just what exactly said Clan will offer and what exactly the representatives words mean.

All in all, the episode wasn’t action packed, but definitely set the stage to get things moving.  Log Horizon’s strengths is its ebb and tide with the story.  It builds up to a crescendo, then comes back down to prepare for another build up, so I’m not worried about a boring season by any means. The intro and what we’ve gleaned of Shiro’s plan, though, does raise questions for me.  If they were to succeed and get the 80 trillion gold they need (I’m guessing Shiro is calculating to have enough to cover the Round Table expenses for a length of time), what impact would that have on the world?  If they plunder the device that puts gold on monsters, will the device still function, and if it doesn’t, won’t that mean greater economic strife for all adventurers, and even all regions of the Japan, if not the world?  Could the master strategist’s plan actually do more harm than good this time?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and watch the next 23 (probably less for this first conflict to be resolved) episodes to find out. Or we could start reading the light novels.  I should get on that, but I still need about 6 million gil for our FC House in Final Fantasy XIV.

So until next week, I guess I’m living in the database….

Just say “whoa whoa whoa whoa.”

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.


E3 Live Letter from the Producer – Final Fantasy XIV

Q: will there be a /hug emote?

Yoshida wants /slap.  He’d like a /hug, but there might be some difficulty with the height differences between races, etc.
Q: consider relic tools for DoH/DoL?
Y: Desynthesis will open the door for new opportunities, maybe relics down the road.  Talked about player interest in shining tools, like glowing saws. Maybe flames coming from the skillet for culinarian.

Q: Status for remainder of Coerthas?
Y: We will be opening up new area. Cardinal Plains will open in 2.3 (front lines related).  They definitely said maybe we’ll explore Coerthas soon (expected to be the location for much of the expansion. They mostly sidestepped it)

Q: Thoughts on ultra extreme battle for hard core?
Y: Specific speaking, talking about brutal mode for Binding Coil.  The original Binding Coil was brutally difficult, extremely hard and they toned it down from there. They like the idea of releasing the original version and are even unsure if players will be able to beat it. They aren’t sure they can complete it internally at this point.  The weekly flag will be the same and rewards will be the same. It’s purely for bragging rights.  All players will have to have completed all prior versions. Those who complete it will get a special title, though.  Planned for 2.3

Q: Asking about something big, an E3 worthy jobs announcement.
Y: It’s been a year since last E3 and beta.  Second E3, they want to show a video and they will explain.

Before E3, people expected a new class/job release reveal for expansion.  Expansion is still somewhat far off. Fan fest is in October.  Patch 2.4 will bring Rogue/Ninja.  Dual wielding class, like a thief.  Classes fit with a story so storywise, the rogue were once thieves and over the years have established their own guild as a rogue guild. Something that fits better than a thieves’ guild, though they still have that history.

For Rogue: Movement speed will be a bit faster than other classes. Fall damage will be cut.  Poison use will be part of their actions.  There will be different kinds of poisons the rogue can use for different situations.  Stealth type class, so there will be stealth actions.  Knives and daggers, similar to the monk weapons.
For Ninja Job: The ninja job will not only incorporate dual wield and poisons, but also add ninjutsu and mudra (hand gestures like Naruto).  Different types of mudra used in combinations the players choose. If correct, turns into type of ninjutsu and can fail.  Battle wise, it won’t be as stressful as monk, but using hte right combination of poisons and mudras.  They will be DPS.


Q: Will we see more Fates like Behemoth or Odin?
Y: Starting in 2.3 they have “The Hunt” planned with different types of monsters.  As for Fates, they aren’t ruling it out and will think about it, but focus is on The Hunt for right now.


Q: Can we get a Minstrel’s Ballad Trial pitting against the Garleans from the end of MSQ?
Y: All depends on the wandering minstrel. Creating special content for Fan Fest, one being a battle fighting all four generals, but since then a better idea has come up.  However, this is still a good idea and there’s interest, so it’s quite possible.


Q: What’s the Personal housing status?
Y: Still on the list, has been okay’d.  Instead, 2.3 will have the private chambers in the Free Company estate. Private housing hopefully in 2.38 at the latest.


Q: Video was released that believed to have Shiva at the end. Confirmation?
Y: It’s not a motorcycle or Shiva bike.  PR team decided marketing Ramuh wouldn’t be that great for E3.  Shiva has a long and complicated story that will start in 2.3 and build in 2.4 for her appearance and then build from there. Likely an expansion fight.  The summons always include Shiva, Ifrit, and Ramuh, so they’re happy to finally bring her in.


Q: Any thought about 8 man dungeons?  Similar to the MSQ runs.

Y: They realize a lot of different needs for different communities and each has different styles of gameplay.  A lot of comments asking for more light parties, some want less 8 man, some want to go solo in dungeons.  They want to provide all three, but can only do one at a time.  Prioritize which is better and realize it’s sometimes harder to get 8 players together so they’re focusing on light party content first, then possibly solo dungeons runs, then look at 8 person content.  Difficult to create 8 person content.  Want to be sure there’s enough interest to spend the development time.


Q: People in huge Free Companies, there’s not a lot they can do as a mass group.  Any plans for content around these large companies?

Y: There are many different types of Free Companies with 200 hundred members to just 6ish.  So how do they design content for 200 and exclude all the small ones. So not currently planning that type of content.  However, they realize players want more activities for FCs.  Thinking of creating something with a list of quests or goals and the company decides what they want to do. Work together to do something big.


Q: Will we see a return of unique stats and enhancements from 1.0?

Y:  These lead to a requirement by the player base, but something that they can look into. Balance is key.


Q: What happened to FC building airships?

Y: Discussed having a workshop in FC housing to build an airship.  They are currently working on it.  Has concept art of a basement in the estate with something being created in the middle.  They want players to make an airship, but how does that fit in a basement?  They will be using magic to miniaturize the airship but once released outside, it grows to full size.


Q: Marriage?
Y: Open regardless of race/creed/gender in pledge of eternal bonding ceremony.  Special mounts for those who take the ceremony.


Q: Duels being considered?
Y: Yoshida seems hesitant as he answers: Not sure if they can make it a system that’s all that fun system-wise, but they know players want to try it out for various reasons.


Q: Future of Zodiac weapons – special visual to stand out (different sound, animations, skills)

Y: After Novus, the next step will change the appearance some.  Even after that installment, they have a plan to someday have a final version, the Excalibur type of weapon that the Zodiac Braves actually used and will stand out for those players who have put that time and effort into it.


Q: Players have talked about after getting extreme weapons and beating EX Primals, is there a plan for the tokens that are then no longer useful?
Y: They may have new use in the future, it’s a ways off, but if you really need the space and know you can take down the Primals again, you can probably get rid of them for now.


Q: Is there any update using your personal chocobo while queued for a duty?

Y: They know players really want it, but system wise, it’s a difficult challenge since it dies into the new content added with Duty Finder. They’re trying different options to find a way to do it, but they might have to stop new content in order to fix this.  They realize it’s important and they need to fix it, but finding a way to do it without affecting other parts of the game is a challenge. Can’t say when it will happen.  They designed the system so the chocobo was a party member, so in duty finder going from party mount it impacts Duty Finder. There are benefits to having the chocobo as a party member, so they don’t want to remove that. So it’s about finding the right way to do it.


Q: Are there any possibility of having different HUD settings (tank HUD different than healer HUD, etc)

Y: System wise, it’s possible and on the UI team’s task list. Difficult to implement, but something they want to get in.


Fan Festival is coming in October.  That should be around time for 2.3 and they might be releasing a special website for the Fan Fest website soon. People should get in quickly and there might be special in-game items for attendees.  Live Letter from the Producer part 15 will have more additional info and reveals on Thursday!