Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Housing, Chocobos, Gardening and Fluff Done Well

I want to take a moment to talk about fluff in FFXIV.

goldenfleece
No… not that kind of fluff!

When we call something “fluff” in a MMO, it usually refers to content that has no direct effect on a character’s progression. This can be cosmetic, like outfits or mounts, or extra content, such as housing or mini-games. Even though it’s called “fluff,” I’m of a mind that as long as the core game is solid and going in the right direction, fluff is content that a well-rounded MMO can’t do without. Which means, I don’t see it as fluff at all.

I’m not going to get into the long-time argument of how developing fluff takes away from developing the “more important” aspects of a game — such as raids, or whatever. I’m not a raider and I’m honestly not much of a group dungeon runner, so to me, fluff is more relevant than any 20-man raid will ever be. However, I repeat that a well-balanced game can produce both fluff and “real” content side-by-side, pleasing people on both ends.

That’s often what I see happening in Final Fantasy XIV as it develops. Big patches drop full dungeons, raids, primal battles and progression in Coil regularly. Those patches, and the patches inbetween, bring additional content, often in the form of fluffy systems, minigames and cosmetics. It’s the best of both worlds, and I feel it’s done well, overall.

Housing

My Personal Room
My Personal Room

Personal and guild housing is always a big deal when talking about fluff. FFXIV currently provides Free Company (FC) housing (at a premium price), and personal rooms for members of the FC within the house. So if your FC doesn’t have a house, you’re out of luck for now. In the future, full houses will be available for individuals, but I really hate to see how much one is going to cost (one room is 300K gil).

FFXIV indicates that housing is something players must work towards at end game. Your FC must have rank 6 and the gil required to purchase the plot and the house. If you want a personal room, you must be level 50 in at least one class and have max rank in your Grand Company.

Some folks are grouchy that housing is end game, and not something easily achieved at earlier levels. While I do like games that provide housing for everyone easily, I must admit that my FC overall values our house much more considering how much we had to raise together to get the house we wanted. It was a fun group project, and it has paid off. Especially considering the gardening and chocobo raising systems are directly attached to housing.

Gardening

ffxivgarden
A FFXIV Garden

Gardening is open to FCs who have a house. You purchase a gardening plot (you can purchase more than one depending on your house size) and place it in the yard. From there, you just need the seeds (accumulated in different ways – purchase, botany harvesting, etc) and topsoil (obtained through mining) to plant your garden. You can fertilize your garden using fishmeal, which is crafted material. Anyone in your FC can also tend your garden at any time.

The fun of it is in crossbreeding seeds with specific topsoil in hopes of earning rare seeds and plants. I also like how tied to crafting and gathering the system is. It just makes sense.

My FC largely ignored gardening until chocobo raising hit the scene. In order to train and dye chocobos, your FC has to raise specific foods. This was the initiative we needed to find out more about gardening, and put it to use. While we haven’t done any hardcore crossbreeding or anything, we have worked together to grow roots for training and all sorts of fruits to change chocobos to desired colors.

Chocobos

Some people might argue that the whole chocobo system is all fluff. I disagree.

My dyed chocobo with Tidal Barding.
My dyed chocobo with Tidal Barding.

More than just a mount, you can fight along side your chocobo and train them in skills and stats. Being an open world soloist, especially on my main, my chocobo healer keeps me alive through events and fates. I don’t know what I’d do without him — I see him as a permanent member of my party at all times. While he’s not as good as having a real player in the party, he does his job well enough. I’m also patient and enjoy watching him level, as slow as it is.

There is a cosmetic element to chocobos that make them more than just your standard mount. You can earn and purchase barding, which your chocobo wears. Often, barding is a holiday event reward or a veteran loyalty reward for continuing a subscription. Sometimes, barding can be crafted from primal drops, like the Tidal Barding.

You can train your chocobo if your FC owns a house and has purchased chocobo stables for it. This allows you to give them a boost in experience every hour, but requires roots grown from the FC garden.

The newest fluff system introduced is chocobo dyeing. Feeding a stabled chocobo specific garden-grown fruits will change your chocobo’s color. It’s a very intricate process that players have enjoyed figuring out — I don’t think anyone has it down to a science, yet, though!

In the future, it’s been confirmed that we will be able to race our chocobos in the upcoming Gold Saucer. However, we don’t know when this will be released, or any further details about it.

Cosmetics

What would an article on fluff be without talking about cosmetics? FFXIV is a naturally pretty game, and it does a lot to give the player control over how their character looks, even from the base character creation.

Zuri wearing a yukata glamoured onto bard armor.
Zuri wearing a yukata glamoured onto bard armor.

Clothing 

While there is no advanced wardrobe system, FFXIV does provide an armoire where you can stash cosmetic items from past events (as well as your artifact armor). Once you reach level 50, you unlock the glamour system through a quest. This allows you to overwrite the appearance of the armor you are wearing with a different piece of armor’s appearance. Glamour prisms are created by crafters, so there’s always something crafters can make that’s in demand. You can bet prism crafters love holidays and events!

Character

When you reach level 15, you can unlock the aesthetician through a quest. This allows you to change your character’s hair, facial features and other cosmetic features. This does have some limits, but if all you want is to try out one of the new hair styles that you can’t access from character creation, this is where to go.

You get one free ticket to use the aesthetician the moment you finish the quest. It costs 2,000 gil for future changes.

As a first month veteran reward, you also get a free Fantasia. This potion allows you to go back to the character creation screen and change everything about your character, except their name. You can also purchase additional Fantasias at the Mog Station if you need further customization on down the road (though I’ve never seen a need for it).

Mini-Games

The Gold Saucer (name pending) is in the works! We’ve had hints of this over the past year, and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to.

From a recent interview at MMORPG.com:

Q: When will we have the Gold Saucer, and what will it do?

Yoshida: First of all, it will not be in 2.4 patch; it will be sometime during the series, but before 3.0.

The gold saucer, the name itself is still to be confirmed, but let’s call it that for now. I can let you know that a chocobo race will be in there, and Triple Triad, the card game from FFVIII, will be in there as well. With the card game, you’ll also be able to try out with players and NPCs. Also, there will be a lot of minigames, like a basketball-type game as well. We’re also planning to have a dedicated Fate, which will happen in the Gold Saucer area. I want to make sure that there are many exciting things that players will love to stay in this area.

And about the chocobo race: we want to make sure that players can ride their own chocobo, and also race your own – it’s very close to the FFVII chocobo race.

Even before that, we’re already seeing mini-games sliding into FFXIV with the release of the toy chest in our inn room. Completing the anniversary event “The Rising” unlocked the very first mini-game: a number game that pays homage to the secret mini-game found in the original Final Fantasy. 

The new FFXIV mini game.
The new FFXIV mini game. [Image source]
It’s these little things that continues to endear FFXIV to me and confirms that there’s real FF fans working on developing this game and giving us things that are quirky and just plain fun.

The fluff in FFXIV is what gives it character. Without these things, it would still be a good game. But with them, it becomes an excellent game.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming

FFXIV – Celebrating 1 Year in Eorzea

All your friends gather to celebrate your accomplishments.
All your friends gather to celebrate your accomplishments.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of FFXIV: ARR’s launch.

I never played FFXIV 1.0. and I don’t know a whole lot about the original iteration, aside from what information YouTube videos provide. I wasn’t there for the launch of A Realm Reborn, either, as I had no intention of even giving FFXIV a sideways glance at the time.

Come mid September of last year, however, I was feeling burned out by the Living Story in Guild Wars 2. I was restless with what I had been playing, and I kept hearing how surprisingly good FFXIV was. So, between all those feelings, and oldskool nostalgia (which FFXIV knows how to play into well), I picked up the game as soon as the digital download was available for sale again.

I had no idea I’d still be in Eorzea to see the first year anniversary launch. Granted, I’ve had times of lull when I played other things for a while, though I still maintained my sub to FFXIV. There were rocky times of not finding the right Free Company fit, feeling like I’d never see level cap, anxiety over running dungeons, and various other things. The funny thing about it all was that this game encouraged me to overcome, persevere and step out of my gaming social comfort zone. And I did.

ffxivanniversary2
Encouraging bard is encouraging.

It’s a testament to a game that can take a group-shy gamer like me and make me want to work through group content, no matter how nervous it made me. I had some bad pugs, of course, but for the most part, I learned that I was more capable than I thought I was, and that mostly, other players were more forgiving than I gave them credit for. This doesn’t mean I’ve completely overcome all my dungeon-running fears, but I’m far, far more comfortable with it than I was a year ago.

I feel that I’ve grown as my character has grown. I feel like every time the FFXIV story celebrates my character, it also celebrates me and my own accomplishments. It’s like the game is saying, “Yay! Look at all you’ve done! And, you know what? You can handle what’s coming up next, too!”

The Rising is the anniversary event for FFXIV this year, and it did just that. FFXIV took a moment to celebrate the players and all their accomplishments, rather than just celebrate a year of a successful game launch. It reminded the characters of who they are in the world – a celebrated Warrior of Light – and sent rousing encouragement to say that no matter what darkness Eorzea faces, it’s something the light within can overcome.

It wasn’t a long event, but it didn’t need to be. Rewards included a new Huzzah emote, two adorable new minions and lots of fireworks and champagne popping bottles.

I still have soooo much content yet to see in FFXIV. I’m sincerely looking forward to the next year will hold!

 

 

Posted in Gaming, Guild Wars 2, MMORPGs

Guild Wars 2 – A Look Back at 2 Years of Changes

Nipp Holding the Birthday Blaster
Nipp Holding the Birthday Blaster

Characters rolled in Guild Wars 2 two years ago during the game’s head start received their 2nd year birthday gifts yesterday. Almost a ritual now, this stems back to birthday present mini-pets and tonics given to characters every year in the original Guild Wars game. Back then, it was one of a group of randomized minis. GW2 does things a little differently.

GW2 2nd Birthday Gift

This year’s present includes:

Note, the experience scroll levels any character up to level 20. This isn’t the same as adding 20 levels to any character, however — which most people agree would be much more useful. Birthday Boosters are always nice for leveling. The Skill Point Scroll awards 5 skill points to any character.

And the Birthday Blaster is the gun pictured above. It shoots out birthday cakes. These cakes provide the following buffs:

+40 to All Attributes
+10% Karma
+15% Magic Find
+15% Experience from Kills

I suppose we shouldn’t grouch about birthday gifts given out for free. The blaster is pretty cool looking, is fun to play with and better than the throng of Mini Jennahs we got last year (really, what was the thinking, or lack thereof, of that?). I do wish the Experience Scroll was more useful, however. I’d be all over it if it could help push some of my alts, who are stuck in the mid thirties, closer to level 80.

My History With GW2

Zznaf in Living Story Season 2
Zznaf in Living Story Season 2

I decided I wanted to take a look back at the changes in GW2 over the past two years. I’ve always been of the mind that a new MMO doesn’t really come into it’s own until about its second year. This has given it time to fix systems that didn’t work as hoped, clear out bugs, work on balance and add new content.

I was along for the ride with GW2 since the first open beta event. I was there at midnight on pre-launch. I played the heck out of the game daily for about 3 months, loving every moment of it. Over time, GW2 and I grew more distant, however. Some of that had to do with changes that caused guildies to fall out of interest. Some of that had to do with my own lukewarm feelings towards the Living Story and the burn-out pacing of content release.

Though I feel the Living Story Season 2 has improved on the system, I still don’t see GW2 as my “main” MMO anymore. Despite the fact that I’ve written fan works (RP and short stories), drawn fan art, and even launched Tumblrs within the fan community (which is more than I’ve done for any other MMO), I just can’t seem to get re-invested in GW2 overall now days.

A Look Back: Like, Dislike, Mehs

The following is a list of changes that GW2 has undergone over the past 2 years. By my opinion only, I’m categorizing them based on my feelings. Your mileage may vary.

Like

  • Costume Brawl – It’s just fun. 🙂
  • Mad King’s Labyrinth – Still fun and still looking forward to it this year.
  • Guesting – Yay! Could finally meet friends!
  • Daily Achievements – I like the idea of dailies, and tend to do them when I decide to play for an extended time.
  • Laurel Rewards – I like being able to get ascended accessories and other items for daily rewards.
  • Culling Changes – Nice.
  • Super Adventure Box – Still one of my favorites!
  • Zephyr Sanctum – Hope it comes back. 😦
  • Achievement Point Rewards – I love getting gifts as I earn achievement points. I remember back before this was released, we all wondered what that achievement number was good for.
  • Luck System Change – I know it’s probably not worth anything to work up my luck, but I like the idea of the system.
  • Account Wide Wardrobe – I wasn’t sure how the transmutation stones would transition into the wardrobe, but now that we have it, I really like it.
  • Remove Cost to Retrait – Long overdue.
  • Remove Cost to Repair – Thank you.
  • Account Wide Dye System – It was like this in beta. Should have left it this way.
  • Living Story in Journal – I like that they’re using the character journal for Living Story now.
  • Instruments – I can’t play them at all, but I like that they exist.
  • Dry Top – I enjoy the area and most of its mechanics. Just wish it was bigger.
  • New Hair and Facial Styles – I’m really surprised at how much customization has been added since launch.

Meh

  • Southsun Cove & Event– Meh. Karkas.
  • Living Story Season 1 – Meh with a few good moments.
  • Newer jumping puzzles – Mostly too difficult and frustrating to me. I’ve given up on trying them.
  • Fractals – Meh. Played it once. Not interested in this.
  • Tequatl Changes – I guess folks needed a raid. I’ve never seen him beaten since, though.
  • Destruction of Lion’s Arch – The first part of the event was okay. I still don’t like seeing the city in ruins.
  • Fall of Zephyr Sanctum – More destruction of something lovely in the name of the Living Story. Oh, well.
  • Trait System Changes – Not sure how I feel about the changes. I didn’t see them as particularly bad, but I don’t like that we don’t get traits until level 30.
  • Megaserver – I like some aspects of this. I can see issues with it, too.
  • Mad King and Bloody Prince – I was a HUGE fan of King Thorn from GW1 because he was just silly and fun during Halloween events, as he should be. GW2 spends so much time digging into his past and making what was once a fun character into someone really dark, nasty, gruesome and all around hard-to-like. Introducing the Bloody Prince last year wasn’t funny… it was just… making it worse.
  • Edge of the Mists – I’m not going to WvW no matter how much they want to try to nudge me into doing it.
  • Crazy Craftable Backpieces – I guess some people like them. I just don’t bother.
  • Weapon Skin Sets – Locked behind RNG Black Lion chests. It’s okay. Most of them looked pretty meh to me anyhow.
  • Charging for Missed Living Story Episodes – Still not sure how I feel about this.

Dislike 

  •  Waypoint Changes to Dungeons – Pretty much ruined dungeon play for me. Haven’t really touched them since, and when I do, I don’t enjoy it as much as I did before the change.
  • Guild Missions – A breaking point for our little guild. We were looking forward to activities we could do as a whole guild. Didn’t know we’d have to be a much bigger guild to get results. Our guild kinda fizzled out after this disappointment.
  • Crown Pavilion Changes – 😦
  • Possibly No More Super Adventure Box – From the sound of it. 😦
  • Ascended Weapon and Crafting Above 400 Grind – Didn’t even bother with it.
  • Removed Dye Drops – I used to enjoy finding random dyes. There was just something enjoyable about making the choice to open it for the chance of something good… or sell it for a little profit.
  • Black Lion Chest Keys – I refuse to buy these things. I also refuse to farm for keys.
  • Holiday Items in Gem Store – In GW1, you join the celebration and you got a cool hat. In GW2, you’re lucky if you get the hat. The cool things are in the gem store for you to buy. 😦
  • Atherblades – They annoy the crap out of me.

I’m sure there’s something I’ve missed over the past two years. Keep in mind, I don’t PvP or WvW, so I don’t even read that part of the patch notes!

Do you have anything you’d add to the list? 

Posted in Gaming, Sims 4

The Sims 4 Announces Preload Date

TS4_Logo_BannerMy plan for next week includes a 4-day weekend. This includes taking off September 2 for the release of Sims 4. Yeah, I know, the biggest mistake ever is taking a day off of work thinking you’ll actually be able to play a new release. This might turn out different, however.

I chose to order Sims 4 as a digital download from Origin, hoping to have better luck than to run around town looking for a hard copy. This will be the first time I’ve ever tried this with a Sims game — I’m usually a box collector. So, seeing the announcement that The Sims 4 will start preloading this Friday, August 29,  makes me feel like I’ve made the right choice.

Basically, that allows folks who purchased from Origin to download a good chunk of the game all weekend long. So, when the launch time rolls (supposedly midnight EST), all I need to do is finish a tiny download that will enable the game completely. Then, I’m on my way!

I plan on hitting up that download this weekend and seeing how this preload works in action!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

What FFXIV Gives to Softcore Gamers: Hunts

Zuri in her ilvl 90 armor
Zuri in her ilvl 90 armor

Take everything you thought you knew about FFXIV’s end game ilvl 90 armor progress and throw it out the window. We now have daily and weekly Hunts.

What’s Up With Me and FFXIV?

Well, actually, we’ve had these hunts since Patch 2.3 launched last month. I just wasn’t listening at the time, and that was my bad. Actually, I did listen, but what I heard was the players bickering over the A and S level hunts, which apparently cause a zone-wide rush on one boss creature. If you don’t get there to contribute enough, tough luck on you.

That didn’t sound like something I wanted to deal with, and I was already burned out from spending months earning Zuri’s ilvl 90 armor set. Remember how I was so excited about finding Beast Tribe dailies? I was also excited about the change to the amount of Myth earned from Low Level Roulette. Though I said I wasn’t interested in grinding dungeons for Myth, 100 Myth a day was too tempting to pass up. So I started working through all six beast tribe dailies and one Low Level Roulette… and eventually earned all of Zuri’s bard armor in June.

After over two months of doing this almost every single day, my little casual brain was fried. For some people, this doesn’t sound like much, I know. For me? Yeah… it was tough getting over my nerves about running these dungeons daily. But despite that, I found that dungeons weren’t so terrible, and I ended up teaching newcomers how to get through the dungeons and primals from time to time. That was very rewarding.

However, the thought of doing all that over again for my dragoon alt, Tai was too much. I also had no idea how I was going to nudge my duo partner, Syn, into dailies and solo running the Low Level Roulette (since you can’t queue up for it in a party 😦 ).

All we really wanted was to advance to the story beyond the original main story, and maybe work on our relic weapon, but this grind was a block for us. I couldn’t even fathom doing all this over again for another class on Zuri, either, which made my desire to grind another class to 50 nil. So with those sorts of feelings, I set the game aside for a while, checking back in with my FC when the notion got into me, or working on crafting from time to time… which led to me totally missing on the launch of Hunts.

Which are the answer to the end game soloist’s plight.

What Hunts Give to Softcore Gamers

huntboard
The Hunt Board

The requirement for hunts are pretty light. You need to max out your rank in your Grand Company, which means finishing a few ranks of your hunting log and a handful of dungeons, all under level 50. Once that’s done, one quick quest introduces you to the Hunt Billmaster and the hunt board.

All I heard was the bickering about the uber version of the Hunts. What I didn’t know was that smaller daily and weekly versions existed. With patch 2.35, the elite marks became solo-able, which allows you to earn 50 marks and 5k gil a week. The dailies are a mixture of normal creatures and bosses in Fates. While waiting around for Fates to spawn is annoying, you can earn up to 34 marks a day from completing these lesser hunts.

You take these marks back to the Billmaster to exchange for… ilvl 90 armor! The same exact armor that cost hundreds of Myth Tomes… that I grinded to earn, for months, for my first set of armor.

Here they are, costing between 20 – 40 marks each. Do the math. Completing a full set of daily hunts earns you at least an accessory or a lower-cost piece of armor. This means that you can outfit your character in ilvl 90 armor in a matter of days… completely solo. 

When I realized this, everything about FFXIV suddenly changed for me.

I prodded Syn, and we got Zeb and Tai through the final hunt log and dungeon last night. Then I was out clearing my weekly and daily hunts for Tai, which took about a hour to do. That hour scored him two full pieces of ilvl 90 armor, something that would have taken a couple of weeks to finish prior to this.

Finishing Tai’s armor is well within sight. I’m also excited about leveling other classes on Zuri again, now that I know that decent gear is easier to get.

90 is the New 50

Tai Earning His ilvl 90 Dragoon Armor
Tai Earning His ilvl 90 Dragoon Armor

Maybe this sounds bad to some people. After all, this completely destroys the need for running dungeons for ilvl 60 or 70 or 80 stuff. Will Low Level Roulette suffer because people don’t need the Myth for their ilvl 90 armor?

How is it that a year after the game’s launch, the armor that once took months to complete now takes days? Even Syn asked me if it annoyed me that I spent so much time on Zuri’s armor only to see the time sink significantly reduced by Hunts.

I was like, “Heck no! This just gives me a reason to want to multi-class now, because I know I can deck alt classes out in decent armor without all that grind.”

With all the Myth that’s required for the Zodiac Weapon line, I’m sure folks will still have a need for it. In fact, this move encourages multi-classing even more since prior to this, you’d have to decide whether you were spending that Myth on your new level 50’s armor… or if you needed it for books to upgrade your weapon instead. Now you can work on both (the books are enough of a grind if you ask me).

Those who want the challenge of earning ilvl 100 and ilvl 110 armor, it’s there for you. For folks who are new, or just want to hit up the end game story as it continues, this is a crazy-easy way of catching us up to ilvl 90. I’m not complaining one bit.

Posted in Gaming

Gaming Questionnaire

I noticed a number of bloggers providing answers to the gaming questionnaire from Cannot Be Tamed. I spent some time thinking about my answers last night, and decided to join the crowd with answers about my gaming history! Sorry it’s so long!

When did you start playing video games?

I didn’t grow up in a gaming household — my parents were neither gamers nor technologically comfortable. My first exposure to gaming was when I was five years old. (See story in question 2). 

However, I was a gaming fan as young as 4 years old. I remember really loving the quirky old Pac-Man cartoon show for some reason. I think I knew it was a game, and not just a TV show, though I didn’t play the game until later.

I remember drawing my first Pac-Man fan art as a 4-year-old — which included ghosts on the misted-up windows. 🙂 I bet that concerned my parents a little bit.

What is the first game you remember playing?

When I was five years old, my family moved across country. Somehow during that, I inherited some of my cousins’ old toys — I guess they thought it would help keep 5-year-old me occupied on a 10 hour car ride. Among those toys was a handheld Pac-Man arcade game.

pacman

I played it until the batteries were dead (which sadly didn’t take long).

Once I arrived at my new home, living next door to yet another cousin opened up the world of Atari. He had it all!

atari2600

 

When he graduated to the first Nintendo, we inherited his Atari system — good times! Whenever we visited, though, I would play his Nintendo for hours.

nes-classic-edition-box

 

We finally got our own NES for Christmas one year, after saving up half the cost and splitting it with parents. Again, parents weren’t gamers, so they didn’t understand the concept of paying $100 for a gaming system. We were lucky (and happy) kids!

PC or Console? 

I started out as a console player and was primarily console until college, when I got my first computer. I think I started making the shift into PC gaming with MMOs and MUDs. After the PS1, I just wasn’t into consoles as much. Now days, I hardly pay attention to console gaming anymore.

XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

I’ve never owned an XBox. My last PlayStation was the PS2. I own the original Wii, but it doesn’t get as much playtime as it should.

I actually love my Nintendo 3DS, though. I’ve put more time into that little system than my Wii and PS2 combined!

What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 

Depends on what you mean by “best.” I think the game that’s made the most impact on me is obvious to those who know me. 🙂

Final Fantasy IV (originally Final Fantasy II for the SNES) was the start of all my fan works that still exist today. This blog wouldn’t exist without it, as a matter of fact. I’ve made so many friends, including my RL best friend of over 10 years, because of the game.

Despite all the crap Squeenix has done to sully the game lately (Ugh… so many re-translations and The After), it still remains my first real fantasy RPG, and the game that changed my life.

ff2
What’s the worst game you’ve ever played? 

Without a doubt Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance for the NES. I remember being so stoked about picking this up as a kid. I mean, you had a game based off of Dragonlance, including all the iconic characters. What could go wrong?

Everything. It was awful. Just awful. I couldn’t have been more disappointed! It was the one game that we actually returned to WalMart and exchanged for another game (I think Shadowgate).

What’s so awful about this game? Well…

Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

I’ve never been a fan of World of Warcraft. I dunno. I played vanilla shortly after launch and while I don’t hate the game, it never caught me.

I also have a hard time getting into Skyrim for some reason. So many people love it, and I keep telling myself I need to try it again someday.

Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

The new Sim City. I understand why there was so much rage against the game, but I actually enjoyed it — online mode and all. Of course, I waited until it dropped in price before I bought it. 🙂

I also saw a lot of hate towards Diablo III when it first launched, which again, I understand. I enjoyed it despite all that.

What are your favourite game genres?

MMO, RPG, RTS, Horror, and Adventure.

Who is your favourite game protagonist?

Paladin Cecil Harvey from FFIV remains my beloved childhood knight in shining armor. 🙂

Describe your perfect video game.

This is tough.

  • I value simple game play, something that’s easy to get into (but perhaps hard to master).
  • I also value strong story and character development. Actual game mechanics aren’t as important to me as a story that makes me feel.
  • I enjoy a game with a living world — where NPCs have names and character, and you can be just as entertained by talking to them and exploring their world.
  • I like games that offer options — let me customize the difficulty and game settings. Allow other folks to play as they like while I scale it back if I need to.
  • I love games that allow me to be creative. If I can build or customize things using my own creativity skills, I’ll stick around a game for a much longer time.

What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Mmm… no. I can appreciate a good character in game, and am a “fan” of a number of characters, but I’m a little too old for crushing on game characters these days. 🙂

What game has the best music? 

Another hard question — I really can’t pick one.

I’m a big fan of Jeremy Soule as a composer, and like pretty much everything he creates (GW1, GW2). I also love oldskool SNES music, such as the Final Fantasy IV soundtrack. Final Fantasy IX also had a great soundtrack. If you like a little something different, the original Wild Arms for the PS1 had a pretty amazing soundtrack, too!

Most memorable moment in a game:

At the end of FFIV, when the Red Moon leaves the Blue Planet’s orbit, and Golbez says goodbye to his brother, Cecil.

The thought that the two brothers would never be together wrenched my heart so much that I had to write a fan fic about Goblez returning to the Blue Planet. This eventually led to me developing my version of Golbez, Ben, with the story becoming what is now Coming of the Darkstar. 🙂

Scariest moment in a game:

I like to play horror games, but my scariest moment isn’t a normal jump scare.

My friends and I have been heavily into 7 Days to Die since June. This is a zombie survival game with a voxel-based world. This means you can build and destroy anything in the game. The zombies can also destroy things in game… including your houses and bases. This means you’re not safe if zombies detect you in your base — they will full out attack it until they reach you.

We were fairly new at the game, and made our little base at the top of a prefabricated wood building (not knowing zombies mow through wood like nothing). We were safe for a number of nights… until the mega horde came along one night.

At night, zombies run as fast as you can. So when you’re faced with a horde of 30+ running zombies and several zombie dogs, this is a very scary thing indeed! They found our little house and began ripping it up right under us — we were on the second floor. This didn’t save us, as spider zombies could climb our house and proceeded to bust through our upper floor windows!

We did our best to shoot what we could from the second floor, but had no idea the amount of damage the first floor was taking. Somewhere in all that, I ended up falling off the balcony straight into the horde. I did my best to fight them and run, but it wasn’t enough.

As I ran, I heard a terrible sound, and turned around just in time to watch half of the building collapse — since the zombies had destroyed the supports holding it up! It also destroyed our sleeping bags (spawn spots) and killed everyone in the base due to the fall and zombies swarming over them afterwards.

Moments later, a dog ripped me apart and I died, too.

Ever since then, I’ve been very leery of hordes when they approach our base. We’ve learned how to fortify much better now, but I’ll never forget staring into the gaping hole that had once been our house-base!

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All that was left of our base…

Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

The end of Final Fantasy IX… Vivi.

vivisorrow

 

Also, The Walking Dead game has made me cry rivers of tears. Ugh! How can a horror game do that?

walkingdead

What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

I’ve followed MMORPG.com for years. But I’m moving away from the industry sites towards blogs lately. I enjoy keeping up with the posts at the Gaming Blog Nexus more than established sites. I just feel like bloggers are going to be more straight up with their thoughts, and unbiased beyond their own opinions. When I do look for reviews, I look for player thoughts over the “professional” reviews, too.

What’s the last game you finished? 

I don’t play a lot of games with endings. I think the last game I finished was Shelter.

What future releases are you most excited about? 

I know there’s a bit of negativity swirling around, but I’m really excited about Sims 4 launching in a few weeks.

I’m also looking forward to ArcheAge!

Do you identify as a gamer?

I do, actually, and have for a long time. I’m proud of being a gamer, even if I’m a casual! 🙂

It’s easier to claim the label now that gaming is a bit more mainstream. When I was growing up, I didn’t talk about my gaming hobby with too many people. Because, you know, girls don’t game. Right?

Why do you play video games? 

Depends on my mood. Sometimes I play to relax and unwind after work. Sometimes I’m ready for an adventure or looking for a world to inspire and explore. Sometimes I feel creative and want to build something. Sometimes, I enjoy some social aspects of online games, too.

Posted in ArcheAge, Gaming, MMORPGs

ArcheAge Beta: First Impressions

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ArcheAge is the one game that I’ve been keeping an eye on this year. I love sandbox MMOs, and I don’t mind themepark MMOs, so a combination sounded like something that I’d have a good time with. I wasn’t, however, going to plunk down cash for a Founder’s Pack just because… well… there’s no way I’m spending that kind of money on beta access to a handful of events for a game that’ll eventually be free to play.

Luckily, I got an invitation to join Beta 3 for free. All thoughts of Founder’s Pack prices aside, here’s my first experience with ArcheAge.

Starting Out: Character Customization

My ArcheAge Nuian
My ArcheAge Nuian

I played for about 2 and a half hours last night, because technical difficulties left me sitting at the Connecting… screen for about 45 mins before I could get in. Whatever was going on, they fixed it, and I was able to get into character creation.

Folks who prefer uber-realism may dismiss the style as somewhat anime. It does have a Korean feel, but I found the semi-realistic-anime style appealing. This game and the characters are attractive and fluid to me. Your mileage may vary.

You can choose from four different races at character creation. There’s an adequate number of customization options, though some seem subtle to me. At first, I thought I was going to roll a cat-person Firran, but I couldn’t make a character that didn’t look odd to me. The combination of fur on their back and unfurred skin on the face and neck kinda wierded me out… not to mention the females’ heads seem to connect to their necks in an awkward way. They have very cool racial kitty mounts, though!

I eventually just rolled a Nuian, which is what passes as a normal human, I assume.

Once that’s complete, you choose from one of six primary skillsets. I went with Battlerage. I don’t know a lot about how skills work yet, aside from assigning skill points every so often, but there seem to be builds in this game, which is exciting to me — it reminds me very slightly of Guild Wars 1 in that aspect!

archeage skills

Story, Quests and Environment

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Sample ArcheAge Cutscene

Once you’re done with character creation, you’re instantly thrown into an intro movie that tells you a (somewhat muddled) story of your race’s history in the world. These in-game cutscenes remind me of the painted Guild Wars 2 intros — you know, the ones with the static-yet-moving pictures. It seems most of the main storyline uses this kind of cutscene art. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s obviously not as dynamic as full cutscenes. Of course, the main storyline appears to be mostly about telling the story of the past (so far) and how it connects to your character in this new world the people have escaped to.

The main story itself is nothing amazing (yet), though I give the team an E for good effort. I’m interested in the mystery it’s trying to provide, even if it’s not the smoothest tale I’ve ever seen unfold. For a sandbox, it provides more story than some themepark games have, and it attempts to make your character the center of the tale… unlike some other games (*cough*GW2*cough).

In that way, it reminds me a bit of FFXIV — it even has an intro movie that flashes between action and a supposed emotional departure of the people from their previous world. This fully-rendered movie is well animated, but it just lacked… something… It didn’t quite tug at my heartstrings the way FFXI and FFXIV’s intro movies always do. In fact, though it was pretty, it seemed rather confused at the story it was trying to tell. I get the jist of it, but it’s just… muddled.

The localization is well done. Though it’s missing the personality and quirks of GW2 and FFXIV, the translation is strong and clean compared to some of the F2P translation-imports we get. The writing in this beta is miles ahead of something like… Dragon’s Prophet (even after the game’s final “release” in English).

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ArcheAge Quest Interface

Quests are given in the basic “!” over the head style. Talking to NPCs launches a similar interface to games like Neverwinter and ESO — minus the voice overs. I don’t know if voice acting is coming for quests or not, but this method was acceptable to me.

I did like that the quest interface allowed you to just just to grab the quest quickly and not need to click-click-click if you didn’t want to read all the text. Of course, I read it all (like I always do), but it was nice for those who don’t, or those who are just rolling an alt and want to get through quickly. I also like the addition of a “Back” button for dialogue, just in case you missed something or accidentally clicked ahead!

Like GW2 cutscenes, different characters will pop in and out of the quest interaction screen if more than one needs to talk to you. I also liked that you can see other characters running around the quest giver, often blurred in the background. It makes it a bit jumbled, though, if there are people with mounts standing in front of you.

Using Arrows for Quest Indicators
Using Arrows as Quest Indicators

Accepted quests are placed in a quest journal. You also see them marked on your mini map (optional) and little arrows on the ground point the way to your objective (also optional). I really like the arrow style of quest tracking. It doesn’t get as confusing as following a sparkling trail, that sometimes gets lost in routing, etc.

The environments were beautiful and impressive. Everything, including the NPCs and creatures, felt organic. Sometimes, when you walk past NPCs, they have talk-bubble conversations. Though they aren’t voiced-over, they do add to the feeling that NPCs are going about their daily lives.

The music is hit and miss in this game. Some of it sounds perfectly lovely and fitting for the environment. Some of it just makes me wince — way too quirky and anime sounding.

Overall, I really liked the open-world feel to the game, even if the questing was obviously a bit generic and on-rails. This didn’t bother me, though, as I found myself leveling quite quickly — I was level 8 without trying very hard by the end of the night.

I also find myself disappointed at bedtime (work comes early), as I wanted to continue my journies! This isn’t an I’m-totally-addicted feeling, but rather a gentle interest in this world and the mechanics here. I never got that feeling when I tried ESO and WildStar — perhaps they were just trying too hard… or perhaps I’m just too oldskool. 🙂

Combat

Combat is your normal tab-targeting. I only played a melee character, so I can’t talk much about casters and their experience. This wasn’t another one of the action-based combat systems that seem to be so popular lately. I don’t remember ever being rooted to the ground to attack — but most of my skills are instantly launched and close range. I read that magic users are rooted when casting, however — may need to try one out.

It’s all pretty standard. I didn’t see any telegraphs or dodging, and that’s actually fine with me. I think combat is more centered on the classes you choose and the combination of skills you choose. Again, that points back to games like Guild Wars 1, which I can totally get behind.

I won’t be able to test this until I get to level 10 to really unlock the multi-class system. Looking forward to seeing how that works.

Mounts and Boats… Oh My!

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OMG SO CUTE!

ArcheAge knows what  you want and doesn’t wait to give it to you! I got my first mount from a quest at level 6. I was dumbfounded by this. When I logged out last night, at level 8, I’m currently on a quest that gives you your own row boat to use!

Okay. I need to stop for a moment to talk about this mount quest. This was the most adorable mount quest I’ve ever done. Where ArcheAge may not always be brimming with personality, it sure knows how to make me beam with delight.

It started with a quest to take a foal from the quest giver to the stablehand. I agreed, thinking I’d be leading a foal along on a halter or something. Nope! Foal in a barrel on my BACK! Have you ever seen anything so implausable adorable?

So I carry him over to the stablehand where he suggests that maybe I want a foal of my own to raise. At this point, I was going, “I DOOOOOOO!”

I was given the choice of foal colors — there are adult horses nearby so you can see what they look like. Then I was given all the instructions needed to care for my foal, bond with it, and watch it grow.

I was astounded by this. It actually did grow! I fed it, washed it, danced with it. And while this happened over an acceleratedly quick period of time (I assume this is Intros to Mounts 101), I still delighted in every moment of it.

I can’t say enough good things about the horses in this game. I don’t know that I’ve seen a game that does horses better! They are so fluid, life-like and beautiful. I was totally taken in and spent way too much time riding, rearing and enjoying my new mount.

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Look at him! Equine perfection!

Not only can you ride your mount, but your mount can follow along behind you and gain experience as you fight enemies. You can name them, and they have their own health bar and stats. I haven’t explored everything with my mount, but I can tell they can have their own equipment, and possibly an inventory as well.

Overall Thoughts

I haven’t gotten to the real sandbox part yet – I heard those come further on in – but I like the way this game plays and feels. ArcheAge isn’t perfect, but it’s the first beta of 2014 that’s made me look forward to logging in again. I’m almost loathe to keep playing beta, as it’ll only spoil things for me — but I’d love to try out that hanglider!

I just have worries about it being so PVP-centric in the upper levels. I’m a carebear who will really just want to be there to build stuff, craft, raise animals, grow crops and such. I suppose the fact that it’ll be F2P is a big reason that I’ll be checking this out on launch, even if I do worry about the PVP elements.

I’ll update more as I progress through beta!

Posted in Gaming, Sims 4

Hands On the Sims 4 CAS Demo

TS4CAS 2014-08-12 19-21-28-15

The Sims 4 Create-A-Sim (CAS) demo became available for everyone via Origin yesterday. I’ve been a long-time Sims fan (since discovering the original Sims 1 shortly after launch), so I’ve already pre-ordered my copy and requested September 2 off from work. 🙂

I know there’s a lot of fan controversy about design choices in Sims 4.  While I don’t like all of these choices, I remember fan annoyance when we made the jump from Sims 2 to Sims 3. Now, some of these complaints about Sims 4 aren’t quite the same, and a lot of that has to do with the feeling that the Sims series has been moving towards a cash shop model (which I do agree with and dislike). However, I’m still excited to see the features we will be getting in the base game, starting with the Sims 4 CAS.

Sim Creation

Editing Ben's Eyes in CAS
Editing Ben’s Eyes in CAS

The claim to fame for this version of the CAS is the ability to shape your sim by pushing and pulling the sim’s face and body — this reminds me slightly of SPORE. Only, it wasn’t quite as flexible as SPORE in some ways. Gone are the sliders. Instead, you can choose from several pre-made base shapes (face, nose, eyes, etc), then go into detail by stretching, dragging and altering your sim to your liking.

While I really liked the concept of shaping your sim in a more organic way, I found it more difficult to use than the developer videos showed. The devs were just sliding and stretching and it made it look super-easy. I got used to the system quickly, but I still felt that it wasn’t as easy to tell what was changing and stretching as it could have been. I also felt that there were a lot of hard limitations on how far you could stretch and move features, especially the face. I often wanted to make mouths wider or eyebrows different, but ran up against what the CAS would allow. This will probably be patched by the community, so it’s not a huge worry for me.

That being said, I liked the look of the sims I did make, far more than sims of previous sims games. I think the defaults look pretty good overall.

Hair

I’m not a big fan of the default hair in this game. I like how the game allows you to break it down into short, medium and long. However, there’s not enough long hair styles for men. And what they consider long isn’t really that long.

Choosing a coat for Leona
Choosing a coat for Leona

The hair is very… how do you say it… chunky and heavy. Not whispy like hair really is. It reminds me of MMO hair — and I’ve seen better hair options in MMOs lately. For a sim creation system, that’s not a compliment.

I’m also missing the color wheel for hair and eyes quite a bit. Colors are very limited compared to what you could do in Sims 3 without mods. I know the community will work on this, but I’m having flashbacks to days of Sims 2 where you had to download several of the same hair style just to have different colors. *shudders*

Clothes

Clothes suffer from the lack of a color wheel, too, I feel. You click on the style you want, for example, a jacket. Then you click on a color bar in the bottom left corner of the jacket icon to see expanded options for that style. As seems to be normal for Sims, I found the options for women far more expansive than for men.

Like previous games, you select styles for everyday, formal, athletic, sleep and party. Swimwear is conspicuously missing (no pools or swimming in the base game).

Traits

Tai's traits
Tai’s traits

I’m not sure what I think of the new trait system. Whenever I saw videos, I thought that the final lifetime aspiration was something related to the three traits you picked, but it doesn’t seem like it has to be. This lifetime aspiration provides a positive boost to your sim, however. For example, a sim with a family aspiration will become Domestic. This provides a boost to the speed to earning relatioships with family members.

Individual traits have effects on sims, too, just like in previous games. The devs keep promising there will be even more ways to earn traits and personality, but I still feel only three defining traits and one aspiration seems pretty limiting. They keep stressing that emotion and personality are a major part of the gameplay, so maybe they needed to keep the trait system simple not to muddy that too much. I’m not sure.

The Library and Sharing

After you finish building your new sim family, you can save it to your library and upload it online to the community. This community has Origin at its center — much like Sim City did — and will use your Origin account as your username and information.

I have to say this felt a little bit like SPORE with its community sharing. You can share or unshare a family at any time, and I was able to return to a family to edit it and save it again later. I’m going to assume that we can use these saved families in the official game at launch, but I haven’t read anything that confirms this.

Origin Sharing and Library
Origin Sharing and Library

Final impressions. One word that comes to mind with this CAS is streamlined. The team has cut alot of excess and tried to simplify the sim creation process. This works well in some ways, but also feels limiting in other ways. It’s going to be hard to judge how it all fits together until I have the game in hand. I’m looking forward to it!

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs

Trying out Trove

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This past weekend, Trove had a $5 sale on their instant alpha packages. I’ve kinda eyed Trove on and off — wasn’t particularly wowed by the style, but was curious about the gameplay. So I took up the sale and puttered around in the game a bit over the weekend, having no prior knowledge of the game at all.

What is Trove?

It’s a MMO voxel-based building and adventure RPG game. You have the ability to build, similar to Minecraft, fight monsters, gain levels, equip items, explore mini-dungeons, and lots more.

The style is blocky with a heavy dark outline around objects that give it a animation feel. I couldn’t help but think “this feels like a kid’s game” while playing it — and I don’t usually dismiss art styles that way.

Honestly, despite my initial feelings on the style,  it’s a game probably aimed at a general audience. Some of the challenges I faced were tricky, and not crafted for younger players, especially not if they are exploring solo. The crafting system isn’t super difficult, but does take a little thought. So while it’s easy enough for a younger player to pick up, I doubt it’s made to be specifically a “kid’s game.”

My Experience

I’ll note that I didn’t get into building yet, and haven’t used the free club pass I have, so I haven’t yet engaged with the part of the game that may turn out to be most interesting to me. I went through the tutorial, which was easy enough to get me started, dropped into the hub world, and found my way to the class picking table. Not sure why we didn’t pick a class sooner, but I suppose that’s a work in progress.

Naturally, I picked the new class, dracolyte. While I’m not normally a ranged player (that’s been changing lately), I couldn’t resist the cute little pixel dragon companion.

I entered the level 1-3 area and quickly learned how to roast enemies, build up flame for my companion, and roast the enemy even more. I only have one skill right now (not sure if this changes over time), so battle was somewhat redundant over time. I did find new equipment and weapons that helped me along, and changed my avatar over time.

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A desert sunset.

The thing about Trove I ran into quickly is that, like sandbox games, you’re tossed into the world and told “do whatever you want.” I guess there’s a lot to do between exploring, leveling, checking out dungeons and building. But for some reason, I kept feeling myself at a loss to know what I should be doing, even early in game.

Once I got the hang of it, I explored a while, gained some levels, and discovered a free cornerstone in Firefly Party. So I plopped my claim down there, which came with ye-olde standard block house. I didn’t have anything to really build with at that point, so I explored some more, and eventually accidentally warped back to the main hub.

I’m under the impression that each time you jump through the portal to the leveling areas, you can get a randomly generated map. I spent forever trying to find my way back to Firefly Party to find my Cornerstone. Never found it. After a bit of research, I found that you could just plop down an exact copy of your Cornerstone at any open Cornerstone spot on the map.

I’m not sure why, but this somewhat bothered me. If that’s really how it works, then (at this point), there’s no real feeling of consistent place to call home. On the other hand, maybe that’s not at all what they were trying to design for. There are “clubs” that — I think — work as a more permanent area to build. But I haven’t tried to make one yet.

On the second day, I picked up the Sebastian mount. I have to say, for a blocky game, the animations are amazingly smooth. They’re not out of place, but not what you’d expect from the art style (in a good way). Having a mount made it much easier to move around and explore. I tried to complete some dungeons and I made it up to level 4.

Overall Thoughts

This is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. As long as you keep fun in mind, you’ll probably find it fun for a while. I still need to explore other people’s clubs and such, and see what it’s like to build my own, so I know there’s a lot left for me to do.

The game is in alpha, and while I didn’t run into any show stopping bugs, I feel that it has a lot of room to grow still. I’ll be popping back in to see how it changes over time!

Snowy Moonlight
Snowy Moonlight
Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Personal Challenge Update 2

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It’s been over a month since my last overview update of my Steam Personal Challenge. While I have invested a lot of time in GW2 and 7D2D lately, I have also still been working on trying new games from my Steam list. Some I just haven’t written up a review for because I’m not done playing them to a point where I feel I want to stop and write a review.

Here are my newest stats:

* *Worth:* $1298.15 ($433.88 with sales)

* *Games owned:* 92

* *Games not played:* 59 **(64%)**

* *Hours spent:* 397.8h

Note that I’ve added a few games to my account since the last time (up from 88 games). These were mostly free games like Unturned, and a few of the free games that PC Magazine was giving away. Yeah, that raised my numbers, but I can’t turn down free games!

My games not played remain at 59, however, since I own more games, my percentage has gone down from 67% to 64%. I’m making headway! 😀

Games I Played

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See my review.

unturnedbutton

See my review.

batnman

While I’m not a huge comic book fan when it comes to super heroes, I enjoyed what I played of Arkham City far more than I thought I would. I find the story engaging, the playstyle fun, and I want to put some more time towards it before I sit down and write a review. I may aim to finish this game.

stateofdecay

I just started to play State of Decay last night, so I’m still getting used to the style of this game. It’s much different from survival games like 7D2D and Unturned. I like the idea of leading a group of survivors and having multiple characters with different skills. I want to play this game more before I sit down and review it.

I eventually want to get up to date with the newest Walking Dead episode. So that’s on my to-do list soon.

I know tinkering about in four games in the space of a month isn’t a whole lot. I’ve found myself much more dedicated to some games the past few weeks, and with Update 9 for 7D2D coming soon, I see myself putting a lot more time into that.

I’d like to focus on making headway in Arkham City and State of Decay before pulling another random game off the shelf, too. So the next challenge update might be a while. But, hey, that’s what this challenge is for — to discover the games you own, but didn’t realize you really want to play. It’s not just about numbers. It’s about gaming.