• MMOs

    Late to the Party: FFXIV

    It’s no secret that a lot of MMO players aren’t happy with Warcraft at the moment, and it’s also no secret that there aren’t a lot of traditional MMOs on the horizon to look forward to: too expensive to create and maintain, to balance, to create new content for. It’s much cheaper and easier to roll out survival sandboxes (“You ARE the story! Create your own content!”) and yet another battle royale than to create an AAA MMO.

    Being very strongly an MMO player at heart, this disappoints me. Being a huge FFXIV fan, though, it’s nice to see a big influx of new players. As long as the famously friendly community doesn’t change, of course – the Warcraft community having a well-deserved reputation for elitism and toxicity. FFXIV is the only game that I pug in – I simply won’t do it anywhere else.

    In any event, this is a TL;DR version of getting around in FFXIV. There’s a lot to do and it isn’t always obvious where you should go and do it. So this is going to be dead basic, for people who are new to the game. It also doesn’t address boosted characters, as I’ve never boosted one and I don’t know how much the game hands you when you do.

    Aetherytes: Getting Around

    The big, blue crystals that you see in cities and towns are the fast travel system. As you explore more areas you unlock more of them. You’ll be able to set three favourite destinations (less expensive to travel to), one free one, and your home point. Generally I set my free one to my main city and the home one to wherever I’m currently questing. Once I’m at max I’ll set my home to the new main city, so (for instance) I currently have Limsa as my free one and Kugane as my home.

    Grand Companies

    At a certain level (I think it’s level 20) you’ll be able to choose a Free Company. There are three of them, and aside from PvP there really isn’t much of a difference between them. Choose one that you like the colours of, I suppose, because you can buy gear for each.

    Hall of the Novice

    At level 15 you can do the Hall of the Novice (various locations, but you’ll find them in the inns of the major cities). This is like a new-to-MMO type of tutorial which is worth doing because you get a set of gear for doing it, nice for the level, plus a ring that gives you extra XP as you level.

    Quest Icons: Skip to the Good Stuff

    There are a lot of quests in this game, I mean a lot. The main story is amazing, some of the other quests are amusing, and there is a metric buttload of running around to run errands for people. Here’s how to tell them apart: look at the icons.

    Levelling: So Much Stuff to Do

    Aside from things such as Palace of the Dead that you’ll do when you level up additional jobs (each character can be every class, no need for alts), there are several things that you should do while levelling a new character:

    1. Quests (of course)
    2. Fates: look for the blue circles on the map
    3. Hunting Log: extra XP for killing the things you’re already killing for quests! Bonus!
    4. Instances
    5. Guildhests

    Combat Markers: How Not To Stand In the Fire

    I’m going to link to this thread here on Reddit, because it’s explained very well. One thing about AOE markers: get out of the marked area, but you can go back in when it disappears even though the target might still be casting.

    End of Part One

    I think that’s the end of the first TL;DR for new players. Next one will be on instances.

  • MMOs

    Ascent: Infinite Realm

    Oooh, this looks interesting: a steampunk/fantasy setting, absolutely gorgeous ships and vehicles, and…well, typical combat from the video. It will probably come with all the baggage that the typical Asian MMO comes with in terms of open-world PvP, cash shop naughtiness and so on, but how pretty!

    Kakao (publisher of Black Desert) will be publishing the game in the West, and I’ve always liked Black Desert. Great game with a minimum of cash shop shenanigans. The developer is evidently Bluehole, which I know of only from Tera. In all fairness, even though I disliked the little-girl white-panty characters enough to refuse to play it, Tera was supposed to be a decent game.

    So fingers crossed and waiting with manageable excitement. :)


  • MMOs

    Final Fantasy XIV for New or Returning Players

    I’ve spent some time working on a FFXIV guide for beginner players or returning players, which is located here: Getting Started in FFXIV. You all know I love the game, but there is a lot to it which can be confusing or daunting to players who haven’t tried the game – there is depth and complexity to the game, which I love, but there is a reason all of the “What I wish I knew when I first played” lists exist!

    This won’t help you to min/max a character, or master any of the dungeons or instances, as there are many guides out there written by much more competent players than I. This is more of a dummies guide to things which make the game easier and more accessible.

    Join us…you know you want to. :)


  • MMOs

    Preparing for Stormblood

    Between workload and some of the recent singleplayer/multiplayer games that I’ve been playing, I’ve fallen out of touch a bit with FFXIV – and that’s a shame. My Summoner is level 60, but hasn’t finished the main story quests and instances, and my Bard (recently transferred to the States in hopes of a bit of RP action) is only 50. I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things and complete the quests, but damn if the required instances don’t make that difficult.

    I’ve never understood Square Enix’ insistence on doing instances as part of the storyline, and locking new expansions and new classes behind that roadblock. Especially since some of those required encounters are a bit more difficult than the more casual level of difficulty that I think should be required. Seriously…Sohr Khai? As a crafter or a casual player who just likes to quest? Ugh. So, anyway, I’m trying to remember how to play her and work out a viable rotation to hold my own in a dungeon.

    I do love this game, though. It gives you an immensity of things to do, a wonderful crafting system, and some of the best designed instances I’ve ever experienced. I would love to see a bit of the depth of (for example) Black Desert’s graphics, but even lacking that it is a wonderful MMO. And I adore the sense of humour that pops up every now and then. It’s probably my all-time favourite…even if I have to re-learn everything each time I go back!

  • MMOs

    State of the Game


    I’ve been an MMO serial monogamist for years. I get passionate about a game, either brand-new or one that I have played off and on for years, play the hell out of it, and then sneak off for the stereotypical pack of cigarettes in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. It’s probably a character flaw.

    Legion was one of the best Warcraft expansions that I’ve ever seen, and everything was a huge amount of fun. I reached cap on my hunter and then…just kind of gradually petered out. I suppose it’s my usual performance for Warcraft xpacs, mainly due to the fact that I don’t raid (which makes it all seem a bit pointless). Raiding definitely falls into that second-job territory, and although I’m a bit ambivalent about committing to raiding at all in any game due to the time suck factor, if I did it would be in FFXIV as I think the content is more interesting.

    Playing at all with the ongoing problems in my hands, wrists and lower arms has been tough. I’ve done a lot of fishing in FFXIV as a result – it’s the only thing that I can do with minimum stress on tendons. Boo suck.

    Recently I started playing Overwatch, which I haven’t played since beta. I suck, but I’m having a lot of fun. At my age, my reflexes will never be able to compete with teen FPS players. Should I be playing on teams that I won’t be able to give my best to? I must be a bad person because I am, and I enjoy it. I keep voice chat off as I’ve no desire to be cursed at by eleven-year-olds of course…they can all kiss my ass. Yeah, I’m a bad person. :)

    Halloween is coming up and in October I plan to dive back in to The Secret World, longtime love and the absolute queen of horror games. I used to be religious about buying and loving all new issues, but as content got less and less forgiving for solo-only players it got tougher to justify. It’s a shame. Tokyo was such a slog as a solo player that I haven’t played much since.

    That’s pretty much it. I’m a lonely MMO vagrant, just looking for companions along the way.

  • MMOs

    Legion…Pretty Damn Fine

    Well, again it’s been a month since my last post (my bad) but finally I’m starting to see my way clear to the end of the year. Note to self: never, ever, ever take on more work than you can actually handle. Not a good experience either for me or for the people that I work with. That was definitely a life experience. :/

    In other news I’ve been bouncing back and forth between work and trying to spend some time playing with friends in Legion, and I have to say that all is forgiven. This was a really well done expansion, and I’m having a lot of fun. The zones are gorgeous, the class halls are helpful without being the overdone timesink that garrisons were. Professions are back (having been basically killed off in the last expac) and have their own quests which you do as you level – wonderful. I do skinning and leatherworking on my hunter, so of course I’m loving the Nesingwary quests which basically amount to “Welcome to this lovely land, and our bountiful animals. Now go forth and kill them all.”

    Blizzard has taken a tip from FFXIV in that they have worked instances into the actual storyline for each zone (although not to the extent that FFXIV does). Although I’m almost 108 I’ve only done one, and I have to say that that one was really trash heavy. I notice this specifically because, as a Marksman hunter, my AOE can hit things in the far distance. Other tightly packed group of mobs, animals, even birds and dragons from the sky. In their current state hunters are designed to give tanks and healers a nervous breakdown…and I love it. *evil grin*

    Well, back to work. I’ll have to post some screenies later on after I figure out how to keep Bitdefender from preventing Warcraft from saving them. I think it’s something in ransomware protection. Sigh…

  • MMOs

    Getting Started With FFXIV

    Recently within the space of a day or so I talked to a very lovely author whom I’d worked with who said that she and her husband were starting FFXIV (unfortunately from the US, boo!) and a good friend also decided to give it another try. And yeah…by another try I mean that he finally gave in to my near-constant badgering just to shut me up. :) I know that a lot of people bought it for the first time when it was on sale during the Steam sale as well, and I thought it might be a good time for a beginner’s guide post.

    First of all, excellent choice. I honestly think this is the best MMO out there at this time; it’s certainly the closest game to provide that “old MMO feeling” that many of us are so nostalgic for. You know, that golden time (probably during Vanilla WoW or EQ2) when you first really got into MMOs, when you lived and breathed them and it was glorious. The community is awesome, for the most part, and players are helpful. Instances are the best I’ve ever seen in terms of mechanics, story, and sheer gorgeousness.

    Starting Out

    This is how I start characters. I’ve rerolled a million times, and also started quite a few on my home server before Heavensward was released and Squenix made it very, very clear that they wanted you to do everything on one character rather than having alts by gating the new content to completion of the storyline.

    I like running around and getting all of the initial city quests done first. You’ll get xp, a bit of cash, all of the aetherytes unlocked, and so on before you start running out to do quests. SE likes you to do a lot of running around, oh my yes…get used to it. If you pass an aetheryte and it’s not sparkling, click on it to unlock it. You can choose a number of favoured destinations (which will be cheaper to travel to) and one free one. Set your free one for your home city, and the two favoured ones for the other two cities. Then you can move your return point to a quest hub as needed.

    Put things like autorun, your armoury chest, the hunting log, and the emote button on your bars. Lots of quests require emotes, so it’s easier. Rearrange your UI as the default setup sucks.

    Kill things in groups if possible, do every fate you stumble across, and do your hunting log as you go. Hunting log gives great xp, as do fates.

    That’s it, basically…just enjoy, it’s a lovely world. Don’t skip the storylines or cutscenes, as there are stories here to make you giggle and also break your heart and make you cry. The first time you run a dungeon just tell everyone that you’re new and won’t be skipping the cutscenes – they’ll deal with it. :)

    FFXIV Dorks

    Beginners Guides

    Fate Locations

    Hunting Log Locations

    Progression and Level Locked Content

  • MMOs

    Horse Breeding Blues (Pinks, Greens), Part II

    Quick recap of my horse breeding success in Black Desert…or decided lack thereof. My hands are still preventing me from doing any gaming despite the splints and pills, so I’m auto-levelling horses as I work on covers.

    Tah-dum, tah-dum, tah-dum.

    After getting my super-fugly red-white-blue horse and the Greenbean, I acquired an even fuglier one with a short tail in bright blue. My latest results, and my highest-level horses to date given my almost total lack of mares, are a pink-and-purple Clydesdale type thing and an even uglier yellow and orange streaked one. Yaay.

    I used to think that RNG in games meant that sometimes you got lucky, sometimes you didn’t, luck of the draw. I now understand that it actually means that some other bastard gets lucky while there are players out there who are designated soakers of bad luck. The short stick brigade. I hate RNG with the power of a thousand suns.

    I’m going to start my Fugly Horse Ranch (“Ugliest Horses on the Planet! See ‘Em to Believe ‘Em!) and hope that perverse fate decides to go the other way for once. Hey, it’s all I have left. :D


    Black Desert Horse Colors

  • MMOs

    Horse Breeding Blues

    I haven’t been playing much lately due to a massive amount of work and also some odd problems with my hands. It may be carpal tunnel (what gamer doesn’t have a touch of carpal?), but it came on very suddenly a couple of weeks ago. Initially it felt like I’d sprained the ring and little fingers on each hand -possibly from the damned cover or vault action in The Division- but now I feel as though I have a pair of broken lumps for hands. Not great for an artist or a gamer.

    The Division has been irking me a bit because of the massive amount of cheaters and hackers in the Dark Zone. Seriously, what fun is that, either for the poor saps playing the game honestly, or the guy on God Mode who is teleporting and untouchable by anyone? Bah, no point until they address that.

    As a result I’ve been levelling horses in Black Desert. I’ve always wanted an MMO that allowed you to tame wild horses, train them, breed them and train and sell the foals…a bit like a grownup version of a horse game. I adore this. The RNG is horrific, as you kind of expect in an Asian MMO, and some of the colours are…well, see for yourself:

    Black Desert Horses

    My first attempt resulted in a blueberry mare with pink mane and white tail. My second attempt resulted in Greenbean, my green hulk horse. Meh. Phil (ever the lucky bastard in every game we play) bred his horses once and got a stunning golden palomino mare with white mane and tail and white feathers on the legs.

    Levelling horses for breeding actually takes a lot of work, albeit afk work as the horses autoloop for hours and days. I am working right now with the soporific sound of galloping hoofbeats in the background, tah-dum, tah-dum, tah-dum. I’ve learned to never just leave it running while I go elsewhere, as the horse will automagically die for some reason, even if on a loop that has been working safely for hours.

    So, I am currently playing a game by proxy by letting it afk loop. This is what we have come to. :)

  • MMOs

    Black Desert Closed Beta 1

    Black Desert

    I’ve been waiting for this MMO for a long time, even after the mess that ArcheAge eventually turned into. The graphics are stunning, the character creation is amazing (all the way down to tweaking individual sections of hair!) and it has horse taming. I’ve been waiting for a game to do this for ages…being able to tame horses from the wild, then breed them and train them. Awesome. :)

    So, in terms of feedback, I’ve broken it into 1) things that I like, 2) things that I don’t like that will not change, and 3) things that I think need to be fixed. I’m coming at this mainly from the perspective of a longtime MMO player and a UI/UX designer, so usability will be key.

    Things that I love:

    So pretty. As stated, the game is beautiful. Environment and lighting is gorgeous, characters are beautiful and the character creation tool is wonderful, one of the best that I’ve seen.

    Pets: the models are nice, they do things like loot for you, and they’ll interact with you. Cats and hawks will jump onto your shoulder when you are standing at rest. The cat will rub his face against yours, and sometimes your character will break into a smile. Lovely. :)

    Story and lore: Nothing groundbreaking here, but not bad. Some of the small stories were quite nice, along with a lot of “kill ten rats” quests, as you would expect.

    Server stability: From the moment that the servers opened, then game was stable for me. I have everything whacked up to ultra/high, and the game is running smoothly. I haven’t experienced any lag, although I’ve heard people in chat saying that they have. Overall a very good experience.

    Things that I hate that won’t change:

    Gender locked characters. I really, really hate games that do this. If you want to lock something to a certain race because of lore (similar to druids in Warcraft), then fine. But having all Warriors be male and all Sorcerers be female…really? In this day and age? Shame.

    Grind. To a point, I don’t mind grind. Sometimes after a hard day I just feel like aimlessly grinding mobs as I explore. But reaching those long stretches where you don’t have any quests left and all you can do is grind mobs? Not so fun.

    Lack of visual differences in equipment. In the starting areas you’ll hear people complaining about equipping new items and it not being reflected on their characters…it is, but the problem is that there are very few clothing models for each class. It’s a bit boring, but not a deal breaker, and you can dye them.

    Asian-style combat effects (BIFF! BANG! POW! SWOOSH!) Thank god there’s a slider upon creating a character that brings the silly fight animation effects, eyeblinding magic effects and vibration down. I’ve hated that in every gameplay video that I’ve seen.

    List of things that should be fixed:

    As I said, I’m coming at this from the perspective of a UI/UX designer, and I don’t believe in making the UI a challenge for the player. Everything should be intuitive, and where it isn’t you need good error messages and helpful tooltips.

    Loading screen: There needs to be a way to skip through the initial loading screen logos…Pearl Abyss sits there FOREVER.

    Common features that I expect in an MMO: There are a lot of best-practice features that just aren’t implemented, which is odd – the basics aren’t exactly rocket science. I totally didn’t realise that I had a mailbox full of mail and perks until I hit ESC and just tried the mail icon. Chat and whispers need to come up in the actual chat window. If you’re talking with friends, you need to press “N” to bring up a social window and then you can see an icon indicating that they’ve said something to you. Just put it in the main chat window in a different colour, like every other game. If you leave the social or chat window open so you can see new messages you end up going “wwwwwwwwwwwww” during combat or movement rather than what you indended. :D

    Extra steps: A lot of things seem to require extra steps – like looting, where you need to press R twice. Small things, but they could benefit from streamlining.

    Lack of explanation and tooltips: The dye system is a good example of this. In this beta we got a ton of dyes in the mail, which was great. They came in unopened packs, which you had to click multiple times to open, and which opened into undiscovered dyes (extra step). Each of these had to be clicked multiple times to discover them, and then they were still in your inventory. I couldn’t figure out how to dye anything, but Phil figured out that if you click the word “Pallet” [sic] at the bottom, then right-click each one, you can learn the dyes. There were no tooltips or anything to tell you that. The GW2 dye system is similar but much more streamlined and easy to understand…again, it’s desirable to study best practice in other games and implement anything that works well in yours. It’s like this throughout the game. I never actually saw any horses in the wild to tame, but I understand that the same problem applies there – needlessly hard, and no helpful tips when you start.

    Starting area tutorials: There is a bit of a tutorial in one of your first quests that went through keys for combat. What we could have really used instead was a short sequence of quests which acted as a quick introduction to various systems in the game, similar to what FFXIV does. Have new characters run around and find various characters in the first town such as profession trainers, send me to talk to a guy who says something about logging or skinning or whatever and then has me buy a tool from the merchant next to him. Don’t let me run around for ages (level 15 for my character) getting messages about not being able to loot wolves because I don’t have the right tool. I still haven’t stumbled across the right merchant for that tool. Grrr. Explain about the knowledge system and why certain people won’t talk to you yet, or give you quests. It’s infuriating in places. Phil came close to quitting over that one, as we didn’t know why I could talk to people and pick up quests and he couldn’t.

    Social features: As far as we could see, you can’t party up with anyone without meeting them face-to-face (which makes it difficult to actually find them). Block features work well, which is good. I started a clan, but again could only invite someone that I was standing next to. Normally you can do all of this at a distance in games, and it’s something that I expect.

    Finally, concerns:

    PvP and the karma system. I think that open world pvp is always a concern for a lot of people. Done right, I think that the majority of MMO players will enjoy at least a bit of pvp for a change, and some will do a lot of it. What they hate is being ganked. It’s not fun to not be able to fight back against a much higher-level character, or a zerg. If you log in to do a bit of farming or questing after a long and stressful day at work, the last thing you want is to be teabagged repeatedly by an adolescent douchebag. The karma system, as I understand it, can prevent that by having the aggressor incur a large karma penalty if they attack someone who isn’t flagged who doesn’t fight back.

    Of course, the vocal hardcore PvP minority are screaming about this on the forums, and many game devs will listen to these people…and in the end, you end up turning away the PvE crowd. I hate this, and so hopefully they’ll try to keep a proper balance in place where you can still have openworld pvp but being a real dick has a downside, making it less fun for PKers.

    Aside from these issues, it really is a beautiful game and I’m looking forward to launch.