Posts Tagged ‘ Video Games ’

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.

 

Batman Revealed, X-Box One Price Drop, and No More Gold Required

Wowzer, today is just full of news and exciting stuff, huh?

First off, and in my opinion most geek-tastic, Zach Snyder gave the world its first look at Ben Affleck in the Batman suit for 2016’s Batman/Superman film.

You can read about that and see the released photo over at Forbes.

But for here, let’s take a look at the lightened version from Comingsoon.net instead!

Best Batman Suit Ever?

The costume definitely has the shorter ears as suggested by earlier rumor that there would be a Batman:Noel influence as well as looking like there’s some influence from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns (which has some influence on the film itself, supposedly).

I’m really digging the texture of the suit having a bit of a kevlar armor look and actually looking more like a fabric than some molded rubber or armor plating.  Honestly, I see some influence from another Batman source in there myself.

Arkham city

We also get a look at the new Batmobile there, which looks a bit like a mix of the Nolan-verse tumbler and the more classic Batmobile designs from the years, bit of the Burton/Animated Series influence perhaps.

Now, the Snyder/Affleck suit isn’t 100% perfect in every way. I’d like to be able to tell there’s some darker black to the bat symbol on top of the gray suit and I’m hoping there’s some yellow on the belt like the Arkham design above, but this is a black and white image, so we just have to wait for now to see the fully unveiled color shot of the suit.

Your feelings on Affleck as Batman aside, you have to admit, this is a pretty sweet Batman costume and definitely not something we’ve seen on film before (just like Kevin Smith said).

Now, switching gears to gaming news…

X-BOX ONE WITHOUT KINECT

They said it was impossible! They said it couldn’t be done! They said it was integral and necessary to the entire experience and you would be a raving lunatic to go without it!

And then, just about 6-7 months afterwards, Microsoft is reversing that decision, just like almost everything else they said about X-Box One last year.  That’s right, come this summer, you’ll be able to snag an X-Box One for $100 less than early adopters by forgoing the inclusion of a Kinect if you don’t want it.  Titanfall wasn’t quite enough to help Microsoft catch up to Sony as the PS4 is still about 3 million units ahead of X-Box One in sales, so this price drop is a definite way for them to try and get back into the race for some stronger competition.

Microsoft also announced a change to their X-Box Gold subscription, in that it will no longer be required to access applications for streaming services (because all these years, it totally made sense to require a subscription to access your subscription over the Internet, which you basically pay a subscription for…).

It’s good timing for Microsoft to announce this before E3, putting on-the-fence gamers in a mindset to keep an eye on X-Box reveals and news at the conference with a lower console price point to tackle.  However, you can bet Sony will be planning some big reveals to follow up on the massively successful PS4 launch last year.  Personally, this is all Microsoft playing catch up.  I’m more interested in seeing exactly what Sony and Playstation 4 have in store for Project Morpheus.

TMNT IV: Turtles in Time

Here it is, the TMNT game that sets the bar for all TMNT games, in my opinion even to this day.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time for the Super Nintendo.

‘Nuff said

 

The game still incorporates the basic graphical look of the TMNT Arcade game (Turtles in Time was also an arcade game itself), but this was the first time those graphics translated accurately to a home console game.  The graphics hold up pretty well today and the animations are smooth.  The hit detection is spot on and the different abilities are just fun.

Totally tubular, dude.

You have essentially two buttons – jump & attack – but you can do a diving jump kick, a jumping kick that takes you across the screen, an upwards kick, a special attack, running shoulder block, or a running somersault into a sliding kick.  You can also stun the enemies and slam them back and forth on the floor or throw them at the screen.  When enemies are in front of you, you attack like normal but if they’re behind you, you can attack with a rear attack as well.

This is one of the most interesting fights in the game

The turtles aren’t too terribly different so you can really choose who you want, but there’s a bit of difference between them. Donatello has the longest reach, of course while Raph has the shortest but Raph certainly attacks fastest.  Mike has a good speed, though his first attack is slow. Leo is the, of course, the most rounded as he tends to be made for the games.  I had difficulty managing with Michelangelo’s play style when I revisited the game and I liked Raph a lot, though I felt his animations had some weirdness to them (his head looks really big sometimes).  Leo was the one I managed best with.  The game is much easier, or at least more approachable, than previous entries largely because you’ve got unlimited continues.  To balance that a bit, you do have to beat the game on the hard difficulty to get the actual ending.

The game is honestly a lot of fun and being able to keep at the levels that beat you make it fun enough to stick with it and keep trying. At the same time, the enemies can get positioned around you to make it tough to get away, though taking out a number of enemies left and right does give you a real “bad ass ninja” feel as you fight your way through them with your favorite ninja turtle.

TMNT: Turtles in Time proved popular enough that it warranted a re-vamped release on the PS3 and X-Box 360, called “Re-Shelled.”  The graphics were updated to a new style and though the game had luke-warm reception, the face that it was remade at all is proof of the popularity of the game over the years.

Turtles-Reshelled-Alleycat-Blues

While I will admit, I’ve never had the opportunity to play TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist on Sega Genesis, as it currently stands I have to give Turtles in Time the reigning championship as the best turtles game on consoles to date.  It only takes about 30 minutes to beat on normal, though again, you need to go for hard if you want the real ending!

Retro Finds in Florida

Just after my 33rd birthday, I found myself on a business trip to the Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida.  Over seven days, I worked 96 hours, which didn’t leave much time to do anything outside of work and pass out.  However, after a bit of research one night, the next day, I went to a Consignment Resale shop, Owl’s Treasures, Inc. after seeing some games that interested me on their website.  When I went in, they had all the games I was interested in and then some.

First up, they had Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 complete in the box for $8.  The box isn’t in the best condition, but I was really excited to find the game complete.  On top of the box, game, and manual, it still had the Activision Video Game Cartridge Limited One Year Warranty card (I think it’s probably a bit too late to make use of that!) and a few bonuses.  Instruction manuals for River Raid, Donkey Kong, Bowling, and Warlords were in the Pac Man box!

So, do you know the game’s story? There’s more detail in the manual than you’d guess.  The goal of the game is to keep Pac-Man happy and healthy in his home of Mazeland.  The little dots that Pac-Man eats? Those are video wafers, and of course everyone knows the power pills, but there are also vitamins that appear briefly for 100 points if you manage to snag them.  Video wafers are apparently what Pac-Man eats for nutrition.

Pac-Man was already a hit in the arcade before it came to the “privacy of your own home” which, according to the instructions, would let you practice so you could show off next time you were at the arcade.  The instructions detail the basic notion of the power pills and being able to eat the ghosts, but the manual never mentions the ghosts by name.  So while the arcade identified Chaser, Ambusher, Fickle, and Stupid, or Shadow, Speedy, Bashful, and Pokey in the US still BETTER known as Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, the Atari manual gave no names whatsoever. They were simply ghosts.

The Atari cartridge did have a number of options. You could play game A or B based on the switch setting on your console and there were eight additional differences available that altered the speed at which Pac-Man and/or the ghosts moved, making the difficulty easier or harder depending on the settings.

The box isn’t in the greatest condition and if I come across one in better condition, I’ll probably jump on it and sell this one, but having all the documentation in the box for the first video game I remember playing on a console, and one of the most influential games in history, was awesome for me.

Pac-Man for Atari 2600 picked up in Florida

That isn’t a light reflected on the table…it’s a power pill.

Pac-Man, or Puckman, was lukewarm in Japan, but was the most popular game upon release in the US and exploded into the most popular thing in the video game industry to that point.  Arcade cabinets of Pac-Man sold at retail for $2400 and can now be a bit harder to find with the collapse of the video game industry in the early 80s leading to a lot of arcade cabinets being thrown out, but the ones that were on eBay at the time of this writing was under $1,000 (Ms. Pac-Man is much easier to find, though).  Someday I will own a Pac-Man arcade cabinet in my home.

Twin Galaxies has estimated the game is the highest grossing game of all time, it’s been voted and is considered one of the greatest video games of all time, and is one of the most influential games of all time as well.  It was one of the first games to open up to draw in the female demographic, has influenced other games by being the first with power ups and is credited as being the first foundations of the stealth game, and even inspired notable game designers later.  Google even redesigned their page to honor Pac-Man for the 30th anniversary, which you can still play.

I’m looking forward to the year 2030, when Pac-Man will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

I found other games in Florida at Owl’s Consignment and Resale Shop.  Chopper Command, Pigs in Space, Riddle of the Sphinx, and Yars’ Command for the 2600, all in the box with manuals as well as Super Pitfall and Star Tropics complete for NES.  I also got Yo Noid! for NES loose, Xenogears (though the manual is missing) for Playstation, and Dark Cloud 2 for Playstation 2 as well!  All in all, I spent about $150 on what came out to around $200 worth of games.  The family that runs Owl’s Consignment Shop are really nice and price fairly, using Pricecharting as their guideline for games, but they have plenty of things for the non-gamer as well.  If you’re in the Ft. Lauderdale area, I certainly recommend stopping by or just check the website. They do ship, and they might have something you’re looking for!

Introduction to Ninja Fox Games & More

I thought about jumping right into this blog with a first article, but decided introductions were in order first, for both the blog and the author.

I was born in January 1981 and when I was little, a good friend of mine had an Atari 2600.  The first games I remember playing are Pac Man, Chopper Command, and Joust.  From that point on, I’ve been a gamer my entire life.  In elementary school, I worked with my parents’ help to sell raffle tickets for a fund raiser and won the first place prize for selling the most tickets. I won $100 and used that money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System.  My dad and I would play Super Mario Bros. together to see who could beat it first.  My dad rescued Princess Toadstool before I did, but I beat the game with the fire flower’s power first.

That first taste of video game victory was so sweet.

A few years later during a trip to visit a relative in Houston, TX, I bought the Super Nintendo Entertainment system which still has some of my favorite games of all time.

Oh Squaresoft, I miss you…

I later purchased a Sega Genesis and Sega Game Gear, a Game Boy Pocket, and a GameBoy Color.  I never bought a Sega Saturn, but I rented it from the local Blockbuster and remember playing Panzer Dragoon.  I was primarily a Nintendo guy with my Sega experience mostly contained to Sonic the Hedgehog and a few other titles, but like so many other RPG fans, I jumped ship when Final Fantasy VII came out on the Playstation.

Because this was mind blowing cutting edge polygons right here.  And because we fell in love (lust?) with Tifa Lockheart.
Coincidentally, this was my standard team!

I didn’t completely abandon Nintendo considering I came back to the N64 two years later.  I continued with the GameCube as well as the PS2 and later the PS3 and I’ve recently gotten a Nintendo Wii and got a release Playstation 4.

By 2013, I had sold a lot of my games, but had kept all my consoles and I discovered there are a lot of people out there who, like me, still love the old games as much as new ones and there are groups out there focused on collecting retro games.  I decided that I wanted to gather up some of the old games and start to dig more into the history of video games over the years and decided I’d go back and get every system I’ve ever played in addition to the ones I’ve owned through the years and plan to build a “Top 100” library for each console.

My library now includes:
Atari 2600
Nintendo Entertainment System
Game Boy
Sega Genesis with Sega CD & Sega 32X
Game Gear
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Saturn
Sega Dreamcast
N64
GameCube
Playstation
Playstation 2
Playstation 3
Playstation Vita
Nintendo Wii
Playstation 4

Fair warning now, I’ve never been an X-Box fan and have never played X-Box, X-Box 360, nor do I have any interest in the X-Box One.

I’ve also got a fairly well rooted history with MMORPGs as well!  I played EverQuest for about 4 years, Final Fantasy XI for 1 year, World of Warcraft for 9 continuous, uninterrupted years, dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Final Fantasy XIV before finally moving currently into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

So there you have my background in Video Games, but what’s up with the title of this blog saying “& More” huh?  Well, I’m not just a gaming geek, I’m a well rounded geek/nerd!

At age 10, I picked up X-Men #1
https://i2.wp.com/static1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20091219024361/marveldatabase/images/c/c3/X-Men_Vol_2_1_Variant_C.jpg
So now I’ve been collecting comic books for 23 years.  I’ve focused on X-Men, but I’ve collected quite a few Uncanny X-Men, a full run of Wolverine, and full run of Amazing Spider-Man from its first relaunch/renumbering (later dropped for the standard numbering) along with a decent mix of other titles from Marvel, an occasional run in Batman, and some other publishers as well.  Currently, Superior Spider-Man (soon to again be Amazing Spider-Man) and IDW’s TMNT are my favorite monthly books and I’ve lost so much interest since Marvel Now!, my ongoing subscription to Wolverine and any X-Titles is really in question.

I also am a bit of an otaku, having started with Sci-Fi Channel airing what was then Saturday Anime, but often called Japanimation at the time with Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Project A-Ko, and one of my favorites to this day, Record of Lodoss War.

1673159-lodoss
Kind of surprising how well D&D works as an anime.

Over the years, I’ve continued to watch anime and have attended A-Kon in Dallas, TX for the last nine years with 2014 being my 10 year anniversary in attendance.  If I get any readers to this blog who love anime, don’t hesitate to e-mail suggestions to watch!  This anime interest has extended into a few series of manga, though I don’t tend to pick those up anymore simply due to the sheer volume of a series and the cost in keeping up with it.

My interest in anime has also led me to a financially semi-unhealthy interest in statues and figures, which weren’t so bad contained to anime, but got a bit insane expanding to the statue maquettes from Sideshow Collectibles of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Fellowship of the Ring (where’s Merry and Pippin, Sideshow?!)

I also enjoy a lot of different movies, TV series, animated series, and web series such as the Jace Hall Show and Felicia Day’s The Guild!

So that explains the “Games & More” so we’re all done!

Wait, what’s up with the whole “Ninja Fox” thing?  Well, to put it simply, I like foxes and I like ninja.  A friend of mine and I were developing a web comic that I’m now planning to move to a novel format and one of the main characters is based off Japanese kitsune myths and is admittedly one of my favorite characters in the series.  The character’s name is “Swift” (yes, that just might be a slight homage to this guy) and he’s a ninja and has fox ears and a tail.  On various forums and online games I’ll use NinjaFox, or SwiftNinjaFox as a handle.

So there you have it. A potentially unnecessarily long introduction to this blog.  I look forward to writing and sharing more thoughts, opinions, and perhaps a small helping of nonsense.

-Jeff “SwiftNinjaFox”