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FFXIV Impressions: Beginning

Amazing opening cinematic? Check. Playing for two hours without entering combat once? Check. Playing a Final Fantasy game: confirmed.

FFXIV_Sun

Fantastic skyboxes.

I had bought FFXIV ages ago for $15 in some sale or another, and had ostensibly been waiting for a good time for me and a friend to jump in together. The GTA 5 brouhaha, however, gave me an impetus to clear hard drive space and I didn’t want to redownload FFXIV again. So I channeled my inner Shia LaBeouf and just did it.

The first thing I encountered (after the lovely character generation screen) was the inability to create a character on Hyperion. Apparently when there are a lot of people logged onto a given server, Square Enix just shuts down character generation for a while. There are websites to keep track of this sort of thing, but they are only updated every couple of hours. In digging around, it appears this issue is related to the fact that FFXIV does not boot you for being AFK. Like ever, apparently. Leave the game running for 10 hours while AFK? You keep your spot. Game has been out for three years, right? Don’t know if this is a Japanese thing or what.

[Fake edit:] Apparently they finally added an auto-AFK logout in the recent expansion.

Characters with fully-rendered panties seen through basic armor, though? Definitely a Japanese thing. And technically Korean too, but who’s counting.

FFXIV_Tail

Total accident in character design, I’m sure.

I ended up creating two four characters, as given how every character can be every class, the most important decision you can make is deciding on a look. And, bizarrely, this made character creation almost more difficult for me. If you don’t like playing a Druid in WoW, create a new toon. If you don’t like playing a cat-person in FFXIV though… good luck, as you’d need to do everything all over again.

I’m assuming there is a way to pay money to change it.

In any case, I stuck with human, because as nice as the Miqo’te look, I’m not terribly convinced that the tails won’t look goofy in endgame gear. Or any gear, really. Still kinda gun-shy with tails after sticking with my namesake draenei in WoW for nearly a decade and basically having 100% of all cloaks look dumb. Plus, apparently the Miqo’te are the spiritual Blood Elf equivalent in FFXIV, so there’s that. I almost stuck with Lalafell for the lol’s, but it was actually the running animation that nixed it for me. Playing a gigantic Roegadyn healer briefly crossed my mind as amusing, but my human (or “Hyur”) was already an Arcanist, and that seemed silly.

Further impressions to come.

Metagaming RPGs

It is becoming increasingly apparent that I am ruining RPGs for myself.

In the past two weeks or so, I have been playing Shadowrun Returns and, most recently, Dragon Age 2. In Shadowrun Returns, you can choose one of the six preset classes to play, or mix and match your own. Now, in some games of this type, I am more than fine with choosing something that simply sounds cool to play. For example, in Mass Effect the combo of a teleporting Shepard with a shotgun focus sounded fun. In WoW, I picked paladin because paladins.

With Shadowrun Returns though, none of the classes particularly jumped out at me. I was inclined to pick Decker (aka Matrix hacker) because that is sort of the whole schtick of the game, but it sounded rather boring to play in the case that there wasn’t a Matrix portal to hack into. And that is sort of where everything fell into place. The game clearly would not make hacking required, else they would force your character to be a Decker. And since the rest of your party are basically generic NPCs with no dialog that you pick from a vendor, you can safely cross out any class that is unlikely to get access to the best stuff. So… Mage it is.

And that worked. Perhaps too well. It reminded me a lot of my time with Fallout Tactics – or really any game where you can construct your own party – in that you can relegate certain party members to be experts in a niche specialty that you would never force your main character to do. There is no sense being a Rigger or Shaman, for example, because all that means is that your character’s purpose is to buff the nameless NPCs you take with you. This caused problem when I tried playing the subsequent Dragonfall “expansion” though, as I didn’t feel like playing a Mage again, but every other option felt bad. So I didn’t play it.

I am finding my metagaming even applies to more traditional RPGs though. In Dragon Age 2, your class choice is limited to warrior, mage, or rogue. Being a Bioware title, much of the draw of the game is going to be your interaction with your fellow party members, whom have classes of their own. Not all party members are created equally however, especially in terms of how interesting their dialog is, so you sort of have to tailor your class choice around what the more interesting party members bring to the table. For example, given how the existence of rogues at all signify there will be traps and locked chests, choosing to play as a rogue yourself allows you to replace the two rogue party member options in the event that neither are all that compelling to you. This logic does not apply to mages though, as  A) every class has an AoE spell, and B) healing spells can largely be replaced via potion use. In other words, precisely because there is no replacement for Lockpicking, playing a rogue makes for the optimal choice.

Unless, of course, you end up liking both rogue characters. In which case you are sort of screwed.

To be honest, I am not sure what it would take to defeat this circuitous thinking, beyond blunt force trauma. I suppose in both cases, there is an element of specialty that, if removed, would allow me to make the decision of which party members to bring based on how I liked them. Indeed, that was largely my experience in the Mass Effect trilogy – the special abilities weren’t all that special, and so pick who you like. Or I suppose I could simply forgo whatever goodies might be locked into the various in-game chests and simply lean upon the logic that none of the traps I encounter will one-shot my characters (because otherwise the designers would have forced you to bring a rogue). Hmm.

I don’t remember doing this throughout the Baldur’s Gate series. In fact, I was a monk throughout those games, which was about as close to useless as you can get. But since I loved having the rogue (Imoen), warrior (Minsc), and cleric (Jaheira) in my party all the time anyway, I didn’t feel deficient. Now that I think about it, weren’t those basically the only Good companions you could have anyway?

In any case, I am finding the trend of my agonizing on the character creation screen continuing for the foreseeable future.

Wildstar: the First 4 Hours

Okay, let’s get started.

Auspicious.

Auspicious.

This screen was a bit disconcerting considering I hadn’t even made a character yet. As it turns out, it was defaulting to the beta server which… still exists? Weird.

Here we go.

Here we go.

I have mentioned it before, but I have a huge issue with character creation in any game. Namely, analysis paralysis:

Analysis paralysis or paralysis of analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or “perfect” solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.

Pretty much the only reason I purchased Wildstar and am playing in the Head-Start is because I have some friends who have decided that it was a good idea to get back together. Which is great… but these are largely the same people (with two big exceptions) who quit WoW a few expansions ago, quit GW2 within the first two weeks, and otherwise jump from game to game. In other words, there be issues.

In fact, there were some issues right from the start: one of the friends is gung-ho for PvP servers and already rolled on Warbringer as Dominion, then tagged us all in a Facebook post to let us know. There’s little doubt that if I went with him, most everyone else would follow. So, do I try and keep everyone together? Or do I herd as many friends as possible to a PvE server where the likely 1-month survivors will have more fun? Once that (easy) decision was made, I had to, you know, pick a PvE server. Obviously the Full ones were out, but should I go High or Medium? What is the server known for? And what kind of question is that, on Day 1 of the Head-Start?

Precipice.

Precipice.

Ultimately, I defaulted to Exile on Evindra, simply because I saw a few other bloggers mention it.

While this over-analysis might seem strange, from my perspective few people realize how absurdly critical realm selection is. Had I not picked the Recommended server on Auchindoun-US back in the day, my six-year relationship with these people would have never existed. Hell, I resisted getting a mic for almost all of TBC precisely because I did not want to grow attached to people I would never meet but nevertheless feel an obligation towards. Now? We’re sharing hotel rooms at GenCon.

Maybe I would have met a different set of friends on a different server, and I’d be talking about them. Maybe I would have met no one and quit the game years ago. I’m aware that realm selection was just one step on a sequence of causality leading up to the Scarlet Monastery run that led them to inviting me to Invictus. But, dammit, this right here is where you start collapsing the waveform.

Realm decided, I was immediately presented further dilemmas:

 

How much Dunk in your Bundka?

How much Donk in your Bondka?

Just kidding. That’s an easy decision.

Aww shoot, indeed.

I’d pay someone, like, $5 for that name.

So, as of right now, I’m (steam)rolling around as an Exile Medic named Azuriel. The class is pretty fun thus far, which is quite a relief as it was one I did not have any beta experience with. Mobile and hard-hitting Science? Yes, please.

I’m still interested in Engineer assuming that the DPS/fun issues I had in beta are addressed, and I have yet to try Warrior or Esper. I’m weary about being rooted to the ground for my primary attack with some of these classes, but at the same time you unlock alternate filler attacks later, so… it’s tough.

Two other items of note:

Irony.

Irony.

First, in perhaps the most comical bug fail I’ve ever seen, clicking the Report as Spammer button on any of the numerous gold sellers in chat results in an instant Crash-2-Desktop. The spam cleared up by itself once out of the starter zones, but I’m still laughing at the implicit message being sent.

Next, the opposite scenario of a full designer win:

The devs as indeed listening, apparently.

The devs as indeed listening, apparently.

I am a little hesitant to declare total victory, but preliminary reports indicate Skill Trainers have been consigned to garbage bin of bad game design where they belong.

Checkmate, atheists.

Character Select Screen

It sometimes depresses me to think about how different a game experience can be depending on the singular decision you make at the character select screen.

As you might have seen down in the Now Playing sidebar, I have playing Borderlands 2 (BL2) for the past couple of weeks. While it might be easy to think that the character select problem would be worse in MMOs – by virtue of spending 100+ hours instead of 30-70 hours – I actually think it can be more important in shorter, single-player games given you are less likely to replay them.

Right now, I am level 40 in the New Game+ Mode as Zer0, the assassin character that can basically focus either on sniper rifles or melee attacks. While my power to go invisible while projecting a holographic decoy has been useful (I have literally one-shot a few boss fights with a melee attack), I am finding it significantly less useful when all the enemies seem to have 10x more health this time around. Also, the power is pretty useless against the larger bosses with their instant-kill melee attacks¹.

I could technically respec to a more sniper rifle-focused build to get around this problem, but it occurs to me that BL2 characters sans their special move are basically all the same. In other words, a sniper-built Zer0 that doesn’t use the Deception skill regularly is just a gimped version of a sniper-built Axton/etc. Plus, it really annoys me that Zer0 is the only character without a passive health regen talent, meaning one of my equipment slots is permanently taken up with a health regen relic.

In other words, I have a pretty big case of Other Class Envy at the moment.

Does it really matter all that much? No. But that is kinda the problem, too. I went ahead and created new characters for all the “classes” and leveled them up enough to unlock their special abilities. But the thought of plowing through the entire game on normal again, which I have already started via Zer0 with New Game+, was just too much to bear. The gameplay would be different with a different class, but not that different. Hence the unlikelihood of ever seeing how the other classes play out. The waveform has collapsed, and there is just the one timeline.

Which got me to thinking: does anyone else worry about picking the “wrong” class at the character select screen in a new game? And the followup question: how do you end up picking a character?

For me, I try to do a little research on how a class is supposed to function by the end of the game before I even start, including looking at every talent tree. Then, I usually get over my inevitable decision paralysis by just picking whatever sounds interesting to me at that moment. My first WoW character was a warlock because I heard they were rare but prized members, crushing their enemies under the weight of a thousand DoTs; I abandoned it somewhere in the Hinterlands, and rerolled my namesake paladin on the basis of always liking D&D paladins but chaffing at the Lawful Good requirement. With BL2, I chose Zer0 because Lilith’s special ability in the original Borderlands was handy in escaping otherwise certain death, and Zer0’s sounded the closest to that.

Around 70 hours into BL2, I kinda wish I would have just picked Maya. Or Axton. Or… yeah.

I would settle for being allowed to start new alts out at level 20ish. Gearbox, make it happen.

¹ I am aware that a level 50 Zer0 with a few specialized pieces of equipment can solo the 4-player raid bosses. Unfortunately, that does not particularly help my enthusiasm gap right now.