Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | September 3, 2010

Distractions – Final Fantasy XIV

Yes, yes….this is a Warhammer Online blog, but at the forefront, we as a whole are MMO players. Having had the sheer luck to have gotten one of the beta keys for Final Fantasy XIV, I have decided to put some time into it.

What does the game offer?

Well, lets look at the MMO genre as a whole first. This style of gameplay has progressed from the old days where the mechanics were harsh and demanding on the player. Time and a need to learn everything from scratch (including finding hidden commands and ways to progress) meant a lot of trial and error. Ultima Online and Everquest are two games that come to mind. As the genre moved on, these games became templates. They were updated and advanced to help the player learn what to do and avoid the old school ways of persistence equals advancement. Games progressed enough to allow a casual market to be born. A motto of  “easy to pickup, hard to master” became the norm for most MMO’s. World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 both are such titles. Learning from their predecessors and fixing issues that were apparent in these older titles. Finally a next generation was born, where games added features that stepped beyond the standards. Warhammer Online and the RvR focus and Age of Conan with a more “action” style of combat, including combos. Not always successful…but it WAS progress.

Then we now have Final Fantasy XIV.

An advancement of sorts for it’s own predecessor, Final Fantasy XI. The original MMO in the Final Fantasy (FF) universe was already different than most MMO’s to begin with. But, it mixed some harsh realities like forced groups and unfamiliar controls into the genre. What it offered was a way for many to experience the FF universe, a mostly single player Japanese RPG style of game, together.

Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) starts off with this familiarity. Complete with a “software” based mouse pointer that looks like all FF games before it, including the single player titles. Lilting music familiar to FF fanatics, plays as the patcher does it’s work. And that work must be hard work. I will assume this is strictly Square Enix getting to grips with the number of players who wish to try the game. The patcher is slow, cumbersome and just is a major annoyance.

Once the game had been patched though, I was thrown into the character creator. Now, I need to note that the visuals for the characters look great, but the selection is not very up to date. With games, like Aion, offering kitchen sinks, toilets and refrigerators within the world of character creativity and the ability to design a unique YOU for their world, the system in FFXIV leaves a lot to be desired. I think you will see a lot of YOU’s wandering this version of the FF universe.

Now, I could go into details about all aspects of the game. I am sure there will be many a review to tell you what the scoop is. I would prefer to look at it first from the FF fanatic in me (I LOVED Final Fantasy since #7 on, but never liked XI), then as an MMO player.

Once you enter, you are greeted with what has become familiar to FF followers. You have a cut scene which gives some background, which is really not ANY background…because you will not understand the meaning for a while. Beautiful character animations and some fun, mixed with a bit of combat to get you started. The combat is slightly confusing, but I will get to that.

One thing of note is there is next to NO hand holding. You are basically told NOTHING. YOU must figure out how to target a mob, enter combat mode and do your attacks. The music though, that has become the mainstay of the FF players thoughts each night they go to bed, is ever present (I actually have a loop from the patcher, running through my head right now as I write this. ARGH). So, combat music has kicked in, I am clicking around, trying to tab target, pressing number keys, hitting gamepad buttons…until I finally kill what has attacked me. I get some more cutscene, and am thrown into a small region where a ton of players are standing around. I can tell the difference thanks to the fact players have both first and last names, and the NPC’s are Green and are on a first name only basis.

Thus ends my Final Fantasy love affair, and I enter the MMO side of me, and the frustration kicks in.

One thing our MMO’s have learned is that you need to get the player motivated and moving. Guild Wars, Warhammer, Age of Conan, EQ2, you name it, most modern games have some way to lead you into goal searching. FFXIV throws us into the “talk to everyone” and figure it out mode.

The first thing I did is enter configuration and headed to keyboard commands. You better read them and learn them, because you are NOT allowed to change them. M does open a map, but L or J does not open journals or logs. Inventory is accessed through a cumbersome menu. Now, don’t get me wrong. The interface is minimalistic and streamlined, which I enjoyed, but most ways to access stuff kinda sucked.

Now, I did end up talking to someone and getting a quest. Ok. Here we go. She shows me on a map where to go. I look at it, and just don’t understand where it is at. I look at my map, then head back to the quest log and look again. No clue. There seem to be differences between these maps. I could not see any markers leading me (which I am sure, the hardcore will love), so I decided to get moving. I run and run and run. I enter an open area which happens to be blocked at the sides with high hills. Very claustrophobic. This may have been the zone I chose (the forested area), so I am ok with that. Reminds me of the old starter area in EQ2.

I then see a creature on a hill. I run over and attempt to attack. Note, “attempt”. Multiple times I had issues getting to grips with how to enter combat. I could tab target, then hit 1 or F, then select my skill to use. I then had to hit enter to cast a spell. The skill on the 1 key at least shot off with no help. (I will also state, I am playing a caster). After his death, I turned to climb off the hill, and could not. It seems if there is a ledge, you must walk around it Guild Wars style to get off the ledge. No jumping of course, also like GW.

I then thought…wait… I forgot to loot that critter. So I head back. I note I cannot click on it. Bad lessons from MMO’s. Seems in FFXIV it auto loots your stuff, and says this in the chat window. Oh, and whats this? I see what everyone else around me is looting as well…./sigh. Why do I want THAT filling up my window?

Well, lets move on. Look at my map; Ugh, I have no clue where I am. Hey, theres a mushroom, lets kill it…hehe. Whats this? I’m dead? WTF??? Now, I need to enter the menu, select Return (the only way I could figure out how to revive), and end up back in town. A harsh penalty is applied, where I lost over 40+ hit points, stamina regen is cut in half, and spells will cast slower. Thanks Squeenix!

Overall, movement, gameplay and combat is a sluggish affair. This MMO is on ludes. I try to attack a critter again. I hit “active” mode. I stand there, almost 5 seconds, then I pull out my wand. I target, hit skill….builds up…then I stand there again…5 seconds. Skill goes off. I kill the critter and enter passive mode. PAUSE. Ok, back to normal.

I keep trying to see where the “Next Generation” of MMO, as Squeenix has called Final Fantasy XIV, is at. If anything, from all MMO’s now out, FFXIV is truly a step backwards. Slow and cumbersome combat, odd controls, harsh death penalties at level 2 no less, no direction. If FFXIV is a sandbox, then it has accomplished this. Of course, you WILL have to fill it with your own sand, as they forgot to add a few grains in.

Now, maybe this is me, and I have become jaded by the standards of MMO’s. I applaud Squeenix if this was their goal; to make the game obtuse, difficult and slow. My next test will be my wife. What will be her opinion, as she is also a FF lover. Does the game offer something for her?

For now FFXIV is a distraction. Nothing more for this MMO player.

Ranking…out

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | September 2, 2010

The Old World – PvE takes a dive

The PvE group has progressed into Chapter 17 now and an area known as West Praag. You can take a look at the map here…WEST PRAAG

West Praag

This is one nasty and boring area. I think this is the first time I have been sort of blah about a zone. I think it has to do with how you must move through the zone. The trails through the hills don’t offer an easy way to get to the PQ’s we want. Thus, we are stuck doing the EASY PQ, which is located at the bottom. This makes the influence bar for the chapter CRAWL with 3 of us. The quests in this zone are also quite minimal, so we are not in the area for very long, which adds to issues of gaining XP while trying to finish our chapter influence. Usually we have a ton to do in a zone, and doing PQ’s while running quests keeps progression running smoothly. This “West” area seems like an addon.

The fact that most of the PvE will be ignored now thanks to the new RvR focus of Mythic, areas like this will become bare and empty. They will also become a nuisance, unless we can level by it. But, for those “completionists” like our group who wants ALL chapters done…this will truly be a wasteland of boredom.

Now that we have come this far, we are noticing a trend in quests also. We have a ton of tasks in the main area of Praag, which happens to be a large RvR zone mixed with PvE. Most of those tasks require us to step into the RvR lake. This could hinder our plans to avoid as much PvP as possible. Note, we have not been 100% successful with this. We were doing a recon of a lake when a zone flipped once, and of course we were rewarded renown. We actually jumped to level 4 in RR due to this. Another time we were in the Land of the Dead, minding our own business…and then we were ganked by Destro. The wife, who is a non-PvPer took him out while myself and my son lay dead. She of course racked up a ton of renown on that. So, RvR is hard to avoid. We were ok with this though.

Now, with the focus moving away from PvE, our last 4 ranks (we are almost 40 BTW) could be more difficult. We luckily do have the scroll you can use to gain one level…so, we only have to get to 39, and then flip it. We are discussing one of the dungeons, and also more Land of the Dead time to help alleviate leveling as a whole. But, those darn chapters…we want those for completions sake. Plus, the wife loves objectives, and quests are key to her enjoyment.

For now, we will muddle through. Chapter 17 is almost done, and we are about ready to head to the Chaos Wastes which look cool. Time will tell.

Ranking…out

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | September 1, 2010

And Thats How The Grind Goes…

As I logged in this morning, I decided to see just how fast I was progressing gear wise. I currently run a Rank 40 RR43 Warrior Priest. I have been strictly focused on doing ORvR to get my Officer Medallions. I noted this morning I had 67 medallions. When I logged off after 2 hours of ORvR which included a Keep take, 3 BO’s, a Zone Flip and a final keep take…

I had 79 medallions.

This included conversions of higher crests as well.

This is ugly for a casual player. I have been trying my best to think of how I could advance this quicker, but there is no option. I do play in the evenings here and there, and have been on several City Sieges which drop a lot of goodies…but, I will most definitely advance with not enough for my current gear I need…Conquerors. Even worse, I will move into the next tier of gear with not enough goodies to upgrade there as well.

How do people do it? I know there use to be a better conversion rate on crests…if I read the forums correctly. For myself, this has proven to be a nightmare. Especially when the gear matters so much at my level. No amount of skill will save me when I get whacked by 3 hits of a DPS class.

An option to me at this point is to run some dungeon gear. I need to investigate this more. I have been looking at several websites that have armor lists, and I will have to see if a particular dungeon set is worth it. But, is there a grind there? AND will anyone even want to run a dungeon?

Anyways, it does look like I am not alone. A new thread is rolling on the forums and even Mythic has been discussing ways to trade gear or have faster advancement. Basically, something needs to be done. I am not sure how much longer my entertainment value will last just doing the same thing every day.

Time will tell.

Ranking…out

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | August 31, 2010

And so it ends???

Sorry for my long hiatus.

I have this to say. When a game makes me very happy, I seem to post less. Period. I truly have been a fanatic in WAR. I have RvR’d, I have sieged, I have PvE’d….I have done a lot. But, does it end?

When do you get to a point that you may have played all you can play, and move on?

As a whole, MMO’s are a repetitive lot. They offer a central game, an offshoot of the game (say PvE with added PvP, Housing, Crafting, etc.) and an endgame. Warhammer Online has offered my family a full leveling experience, myself (and my son, who has recently started) a PvP experience that blows away all other games PvP, and a fun crafting game. We have been leveling a guild we own, and experienced the complete chapters of the Empire setting campaign in PvE. We have even set foot into various dungeons and grouped for brief encounters.

So, what is left? A gear grind?

For my wife, who is strictly a PvE player…this does not compute. Her fun is in the adventure and not being at the end, but the overall journey. She has tried Scenarios, ORvR, and other aspects of the game. So, where does this leave her? Starting over?

We had a conversation yesterday about the other offerings out or coming…and not much entices us now. Guild Wars 2 is our next game…there is no doubt of that. But, until then, what could we play as a group? Reading about Final Fantasy XIV really leaves a lot to be desired. The grind sounds pretty horrid, and the company making the decision to control HOW you play the game is a turn off.

We have played EQ2, Guild Wars, LOTRO, Aion, Lineage 2, Vanguard, Age of Conan…and many others I cannot remember.

Do we finally say goodbye to MMO’s for a while?

More on this as decisions are made.

Ranking…out

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | August 18, 2010

Minor changes are good

Before…

After…

Yes, with one simple patch, a stupid annoyance becomes a visual treat.

I always hated that my character would do a really cool move on the login screen, and as he did this, my book floated around and then disappeared under my robe. Silly, I know. Aesthetic’s are really important to me though.

So, not just did this fix my “book” for my Warrior Priest, I also had updates to how my visuals for some items looked. Dyes seemed brighter and clothing fits well. Again…not much, but some looks are really cool. I enjoy the fact I can wear what I want and not be blocked by ugly armor. Thanks appearance slots.

The recent patch 1.3.6 for Warhammer Online has introduced a LOT of changes that should make how the game works…especially in RvR…for the better. From advanced XP and renown for small skirmish groups to new havens of rat infested pyres in the RvR lakes for Tiers 2 and 3. Also, locking off Land of the Dead, a favorite power level spot for lowbies and a neat way to bypass a majority of the game and not learn mechanics (like repairing rams), equals a more rounded experience. As an added bonus, anyone not in their proper Tier will also be punished by not getting advanced XP rewards. So…stay in your Tier, learn your class. Thank you.

This morning as an example, Order had fielded a full warband in Tier 4, yet we kept being harrased by several Destro trying to quickly take out a few of us (a Witch Elf for example, hiding by the Heroes in the Battle Objectives and trying to slice up some healers…), and proved to be a fun experience. We never knew where they would be next.

Last night, Tier 3 had a massive keep defense for Order under way that had been going for over an hour…and all the while, teams were out taking down Rat pyres and trying to find the champion to gain massive amounts of XP. So, someone always had some PvP to do.

Good stuff.

Now, of course, still waiting on todays news of what is in store for the future of WAR. For now, I am quite pleased with the adjustments, and I can RvR now through all tiers and do PvE to find some cool stuff to wear.

Ranking…out.

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | August 12, 2010

Launch Hater – New Kinda Lover

I figured it was time to get this off my chest.

Knockdown

My first boot up and login for WAR was one of sorrow and hate. Warhammer Online’s launch left me dry and feeling less than pleased with the aesthetic. Here was a game I really wanted to love, as I was a former WHFRP (Fantasy Roleplayer for Warhammer) back in the day. I played WH40k miniatures, as well as used WH minis for other games (D&D, I.C.E, etc). I loved the art, the Germanic renaissance style settings and the flair of the “Horror” like backing of their history mixed with the Fantasy.

But, WAR basically looked and played like…World of Warcraft. Yes, it had it’s differences…but, having left WoW not that long ago and needing a change, the similarities hurt more than helped.

WAR left my brain, my PC and was forever relegated to the ether (I thought…)

After having played out so many MMO’s, and then finally taking a break…I was ready to investigate what was out there. For example I tried Lord of the Rings Online, and just felt it was bland and trite. It offered me nothing beyond the standardized questing and some cool cutscenes. I also did not enjoy the way the models or the UI looked. EQ2 was loaded and then unloaded. Slow and bloated, it just felt weighted down by a really bad games engine.

Seeing the trial for WAR advertised, I thought to myself…maybe I need to give this another shot. But, I am a PvE player…what would it offer me?

A lot.

Feel like somebodies watching me...

When entering the PvP (RvR) and trying my hand at something I have shunned from days of old (being ganked in Lineage 2, Guild Wars PvP being difficult to grasp and Age of Conan offering a /ragequit fest, I had left PvP behind me), I was amazed at how fun this could be. The multitudes of people fighting each other like in a WAR was incredible. But, not just that. The game was smoother, visuals had been enhanced, and the models reminded me of the miniatures of old. I also was able to convince my family…also PvE’ers that this game had something for them. Though they may not enjoy the PvP aspect, we found together a world we like to inhabit and live in. Our work contributes to the whole. But, I also get my new PvP fix and can have fun when they do not play.

Prepare to DIE!!!

So, I was, and still am, hooked. And I think others should be as well.

So, why am I writing this? Well, it is just not about WAR. Make it for ANY game you have tried in the past and felt the game did not click. Make sure a decent amount of time has passed (unlike me who kept trying LOTRO after each book update, and hating the game even more…), and that you go in with an open mind. Try to forget what happened and what the game did that you hated. Look at it as if it is a new game.

You may find a new love you never knew could be.

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | August 10, 2010

The Debate – Collision Detection

Coming (most likely) in patch 1.3.6 is a change to how Collision is detected in Warhammer Online. Basically, friendlies will be able to walk right through each other.  This of course brings up a lot of questions and concerns.

I am torn. The big fix out of this is the fact that performance makes a huge jump. And we love performance. But, questions of how placement can affect bomb groups (very popular on EU servers) killing more players and an overall change to RvR is the outcome.

I will side with the fact that I think it is a GOOD change. Hear me out.

Something WAR needs right now is new blood. The old regime may or may not stick around…but one thing is for sure; boredom has killed the game for many players who have been here a while. Changes that are being made in new patches are for one sole purpose.

New players.

I for one enjoy the realism of collision detection, even though it does cause havoc with some terrain, etc. The fact is it adds a bit of strategy to placement and how to tackle players…etc. But, lets get real. The game needs to bring in new blood. The best way to do this is when a player arrives, they have smooth gameplay. Look at the changes to Tier 2 and Tier 3 RvR as another example of making sure they are catering to newer players. Not just this though…when the new player arrives, they will be learning this new way of doing RvR as well.

And here is the part everyone will hate.

The game will be almost as smooth as WoW both in PvE and PvP.

This game, moreso than any other game, reminds old WoW players of WoW…but, the smooth gameplay. ANY type of lag equals ragequit for the WoW player who is use to calculator based PC style performance.

Any player who has been in WAR since launch or longer than a year may not be the #1 concern…though a lot of fixes lean towards that. But, overall…there has not been any new content, and the playerbase who have been stalwarts have to know that for this game to survive, it needs a reboot of sorts.

More mirrored like classes, fixes to lower tiers, collision detection removal…all for a new player base.

But, be heartened. Patch 1.4 will be for the oldies, and will offer what they need to come back. Just be happy that when you return, the player base will have expanded thanks to making WAR run the best it can, and play the best it can in ALL tiers.

Ranking….out

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | August 3, 2010

The Old World: The story thus far,,,

So, I wanted to take a bit and talk about how I am feeling so far in my progress in the PvE sector of Warhammer Online.

The group I play with has been pretty persistent in going forward on this route and seeing what WAR has to offer us. There is no doubt that the games main focus is PvP/RvR, and PvE was in addition to this. But, I truly see that the team who developed the PvE had their hearts in the right place.

Some of the major points we have found has been: Tome Unlocks, Public Questing and Crafting.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

Tome Unlocks – The single most fun is finding these little rewards. Especially when you least expect it, and it appears. Titles you can give to your character, special attributes and a multitude of items like little “pocket” pieces or trophies to wear. We have made a concerted effort to search all of our surroundings and even going to places off the beaten path. Some of the unlocks would pretty much be non-existent if someone else had not done it first (there are quite the persistent lot of people out there who play). One particular unlock was shown by someone in video where he enters a small camp and finds a glowing barrel. The barrel is called a “perfume”. He then proceeds to kill a Champion (Boss) further in the zone, and this unlocks an attribute bonus piece in the bestiary. How they figured this out…I do not know. But, this is just one of many. And this is why they are truly the gem of the lot.

I PQ U

Public Quests – Besides hoping you get a good drop (quite rare actually), the best way to gain gear is by the PQ system. Some are really quite simple, with you killing an alloted number of critters. But, some require certain mechanics and teamwork to complete, and this has been what intrigues us most. I have even suggested leveling strictly by PQ through all the pairings (the various zones like Elves, Dwarves, etc…). This is how fun they are. Certain PQ’s get wild with streams of mobs ala Diablo style coming at you, and you just killing…truly awesome. One particular PQ has you fighting a truly difficult mob who can heal themselves at regular intervals unless you destroy the mob or object they are being healed by. The fact that people can randomly enter and leave these can lead to large crowds of players all fighting for that singular cause, and it just gets insane. Insanity = FUN! here.

Cultivating

Crafting – Though not without it’s drawbacks and usually not well fleshed out…crafting by and large has a few pieces that are stand outs when it comes to the art of craft in MMO’s. The first fun piece is Cultivation. The capability to grow your own materials from seeds (one of the few interesting things in Lord of the Rings Online) becomes very addictive. And as well…costly. But, the reward for potions and dyes is cool. Potions is also fun, as you learn how to combine the multitudes of ingredients and their levels to get better potions, proves to be an OCD players dream. Finally, Talisman Making, and getting the right parts to make the best pieces, and the fact it is one of the few pieces worth selling, add up to a good part of the game. I wish it was more though. Armor, Weapons, Jewelry all scream to be made as well. Hopefully expansion?

The group has really enjoyed this endeavor. We have done many different adventures and traveled to far away places. We recently completed our first “instance” based playthrough of an area called Hunters Vale (and many more will be coming, including the sewers and fighting Skaven underneath Altdorf).

We seem to have found a game that keeps us entertained for hours and leaves us wanting more. There is no doubt that the main reason to love WAR is for the PvP/RvR, but we see that PvE offers something for those timid players who need to get the feel of a game first. The adventure helps us enjoy the journey more so than the need to level.

Anyways, more soon. For now; Ranking…OUT!

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | July 30, 2010

The Old World: Explorer’s Reward

Lets get this out of the way. I am EASK on the Bartle system…Explorer indeed. So, it is with great pride that I can announce…Warhammer Online fits my EASK to a T (uh…T doesn’t mean anything…I think).

Using the great Tome of Knowledge really got my blood pumping. As I would see another unlock hit the top of my screen, I needed more. I gotta have my FIX. So, for this report, I set down to looking at what WAR had to offer for those who go out of their way.

First, I started with some research. I had adamantly sworn off any addon to lead me to the places I needed to be, but I had no concern checking out websites or reading descriptions of items I could get. As I did this look-see, I saw some really great hidden goodies that normally just anyone doing “quests” would not get. Let me show you the one I really am excited about, thanks to the new patch 1.3.6 and “Appearance Slots”.

Headed to the Far West in Ostland

This is truly off the beaten path (Destro I believe has this region though), but myself and the team took a detour into this region. Down into a valley we went. Deep within, we found a cabin.

Cabin in the Woods...SCARY

Near the cabin was hiding a Dryad. Took her out (she started it though…).

All Dryad Up

When she has been defeated, you get this little goodie.

Ding, Ding!

Goodies ensue...

So, head to Altdorf (can’t help you Destro…Nyah, Nyah) and look at what the Librarian gives ya!!

That is one awesome cloak!!

What cool and awesome things have YOU found? Let me know…

Like I said…once Patch 1.3.6 hits…all of my characters will be wearing this until we get Guild Heraldry. Anyways…I have some more unlocks to show in due time. Stay tuned.

Ranking…out

Posted by: Rank-n-Vile | July 28, 2010

Ramble – Change is Good

So, why all the griping?

Seems that Warhammer Online has an influx of those who are just not happy about anything. What do we place this at the foot of?

NO CHANGE…

Seems a long time since anything major has been done in WAR. Updates have added some major bits and pieces…but, when you compare to another game that has been out about as long (Age of Conan and their expansion bringing more people in), it just seems like not enough. Now that the forums have been folded into Biowares Social Network (New Forums are UP!!), there seems to be a rumble. But, guess what…complaint after complaint is pretty much all that can be read when entering the forums. And what about where WAR stands? Does this mean that eventually WAR will be lost in the shuffle of new MMO’s (SW:ToR getting the largest spotlight here)…if you read the new forums, you would believe that as well.

Where is Mythic (hrm** sorry…Bioware/Mythic) headed in all this? Is the upcoming Gamescon in August the MAKE or BREAK date? Will something happen? Will this be the announcement we all want? Werit thinks so (August is for WAR). Do you believe it? And, what if it is NOT what you want (expansion? new races to play? major content additions?)…where will you stand?

I like change. Change is good, and we need it. I think patch 1.3.6 and the adjustments will bring an influx of players, and will be some “change” we need. But, August and patch 1.4’s big announcement has to blow me away. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE this game…but, if it is NOT a big announcement, I will not love an empty game.

Ranking…out

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