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With Wildstar coming out, I know that I’ll be leaving FF14: A realm reborn for a while. Unlike so many other times, I’m not leaving because the game is bad or because I have a list of changes that need to happen. I’m leaving because at this moment, a new MMO to discover is more fun than grinding at endgame in a game I’ve done most of the content for, including the majority of Extreme modes and raid bosses.

While not a perfect game, there are a few things I’m taking out of my time in A Realm Reborn that I wish to see in other games. So here’s in no particular order, my list of features I wish MMO developers will steal.

Difficulty is not related to accessibility.

That’s probably one my biggest discoveries. For years, Blizzard has explained to us that the inclusion of story/normal mode and the lowering of difficulty in instances were to make the entire game accessible to everyone. In a sense, they were right that lowering difficulty does allow for more people to see it and I won’t debate here whether easier or harder makes for a better game experience.

FF14 content is harder than most current MMOs out there. In fact, it’s pretty similar to Burning Crusade in terms of difficulty and even the leveling is not as forgiving as WoW currently is. Does it change how many people see the content? Not as far as we can tell. Did I hear or see anyone complain how difficult content prevented them from seeing what the game has to offer? Never…

What I did hear though when people complained was the age old complains about grinds and finding groups. Difficulty? Never.

So dear developers, don’t equate difficulty with accessibility. Sure extremes can hurt but it doesn’t mean you have to nerf everything for the sake of accessibility. Harder content will still be seen by players if the path to get to it is logical.

Less to no trash can be a good thing in end-game

Realm Reborn endgame is quick… There’s very little trash, sometimes none and bosses can be accessed pretty rapidly. If you know what you’re doing you’re done under an hour, pretty great for farming. If you’re learning the boss, you don’t have to navigate an entire dungeon to get there and everyone is back up and ready pretty fast.

I can hear the Devs talking about story set-up and building atmosphere. You can still do it. The primals themselves are single fights in FF14 but they get set-up for a long time by the main storyline that you have to complete to get to them. So when you do get to them you’re already familiar with the why and how and the atmosphere. And this set-up work even better for the hard and extreme modes because at this point you already know the story and just want the fight so getting to it directly without being subjected to trash and other time sinks you don’t need.

Make us visit and revisit your world!

This is something that WoW did great at the beginning but lost somewhere along the way. MMOs offer the unique opportunity to create living, breathing worlds. When we level, you need to make us travel through it by foot, boat, horse and other crazy contraptions. Don’t allow us to skip part of the world just because it takes time. At least not in the beginning. If I have to go to a lost village in the forbidden woods, I should have to actually travel through those woods and feel like it’s dangerous.

Don’t stop at the leveling part either. By endgame send us back to the zones and make us travel a bit from time to time. Final Fantasy was great at this, every so often I had to go back to an old city or village to meet NPCs, go back to a low-level zone to explore a desert in order to track down a fugitive or what have you. It made the game feel so much more like world and reminded me that there was something out there other than that city hub where I would wait for my group finder.

I’m not saying to drop all manners of travel, especially at endgame. I’m saying to send us out there from time to time.

So here it is, three things I wish developers will steal and that will be included in more MMOs. A Realm Reborn has a reputation for being old school but when you look at this list I realize that what I’d like has nothing to do with being old school, just good ideas.

So I’ll be playing Wildstar soon! A few more days… can’t wait. And I have to say I’m pretty happy that one of my biggest hurdles when it comes to new MMOs won’t be that bad this time.

I’m talking about finding a new guild.

One of the downside of being a long term MMO player who has gone through a number of guilds and play styles, from hardcore to casual, from simple member to guild and raid leader is that you’ve gone through the motions… multiple times. One of the things that annoy me the most now is that initial time in any guild, where you don’t know anyone and have to “prove” yourself, that you’re not an ass or a pervert or a noob or a whatever-else it is this guild doesn’t want.

Worst, since we have experience on what works and doesn’t work in a guild we tend to try to join well-established guilds or new guilds made by groups of experienced players that we know will try to keep the drama to a minimum. The issue though is that said groups want to keep the good thing going and are generally wary of newcomers. So we’re back to the age-old issue of “proving oneself”.

In the last year alone this has caused me to jump game twice. Both times it wasn’t really anyone fault that it didn’t work out in the sense that they didn’t know me and I didn’t really know them. Between gear grinds and having to prove to everyone you actually know what you’re doing it actually killed my interest in the game. I wasn’t playing a game anymore; it felt more like a never-ending job interview. I already have a job, it’s stressful enough as is and I don’t want to have to do interviews to play games.

But on the other side of the spectrum I’ve been in the raid leader shoes and you have to evaluate new people wanting in, whether they’re from outside the guild or a social member wanting to make the switch. The damage if you don’t can be pretty nasty. It’s even worse when it’s a social member because then you expose yourself to a whole slew of new problems and drama. There’s a whole discussion about social membership to be had in there for another time.

So… long detour to say that luckily with Wildstar that shouldn’t be too bad of a problem. The good folks at Chili and Cornbread will allow my rotten husk to hang around with them and I know a lot of these people from over the years all the way back to Eff the Ineffable. Plus there’s some Effers on the Dominion side so I’m covered.

By joining up at game start, I won’t have a gear difference to overcome and we’ll have time to get to know each other as we level. I really want to find that magic again we’ve had back with Eff the Ineffable and I’m hopeful I’ll find it with Chili and Cornbread. Big thanks to them during beta and we’ll be seeing each other in game.

People who have raided with me know that I have very limited patience for bugs in raiding settings. I still have special hatred for some of Swtor raid bugs and now I’m having to deal with a particular one in FF14. My new nemesis is a simple bug related to position updates. Long story short, the game doesn’t update my position fast enough or fails to do so due to some animation and it means I get hit by AoE I’ve already dodged. Up until now this wasn’t a problem because the cast times were long enough or getting hit wasn’t an auto-wipe but Titan Extreme is another beast and I cannot afford to get hit. Luckily I found an explanation for this particular issue and now I’m spreading the knowledge hoping it will help others.

titan aoe

What’s happening

The issue of getting hit by abilities while outside the graphics is simply a disconnect between your position on you PC and the information sent to the server. So, you might have moved on your end but the server is unaware of that, registers a hit and you’re dead.

What’s causing it?

First of all you have to know there’s a delay of 0.3 secs on position updates meaning that the server is most of the time 0.3 secs late in regard to your position. If you suffer from high latency that time can go up and complicate things.

Second, there’s a phenomenom know as animation or ability lock playing against you. This affects casters most of all but everyone is affected by this. Anytime you cast a spell or use an ability there’s a corresponding animation going with it. Until that animation is finished the server won’t update your position. However, you can actualy move when the cast bar finishes, before the animation does meaning that you’ll see casters move at the end of an animation. This can help to get away faster but until the animation is actually over, you are still considered to be at your old position. Why it works like that is unclear but best guess is that this was done to lower server updates loads.

Lastly, movement seems to play a role in this. Many people have reported that they get hit by abilities late after leaving the ability zone, way more than the 0.3 secs update rule. The one common thread to this is that these players kept moving even after leaving the AoE area. While it’s speculation at this point, many people think that the server updates less frequently when characters are on the move. I have personally observed this and I believe it to be true.

How to avoid it?

Try to get the rhythm of the fight so you’re not casting at the beginning of boss abilities to avoid animation locks. Trying to get that one last ability off might result in your death. Don’t cut it too close thinking you’ll have time to get out.

Stop moving as soon as you clear the area. This has been the most reliable way to avoid bad stuff. As far as we know, every time you stop moving you send a signal to the server for an  immediate position update. Since I’ started doing this I have simply stopped getting hit by Weight of the Land which was my bane before.

Patch 2.2 fix?

While I’m not convinced that patch 2.2 will fix this issue completly, there’s an item to reduce the wait time to 0.1 secs on certain fights so that player position is more accurate. This will surely help but it remains to be seen if this will solve the issue.

Hope this helps some people out there!

Good King Moggle Mog

I finished yesterday the main storyline of patch 2.1 in preparation for 2.2 next week and one of the last fights King Moggle Mog. The fight in itself is fun but not too hard if you have a group that has a grasp of basic concepts like kill orders, picking up adds and staying out of bad. What really stood out however was the music of the fight, something very Nightmare before Christmas-esque.

I’ll let you judge for yourself!

Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
Lord of all the land (Kupo!)
Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
Rules with iron hand
Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
Leads the brave and true!
Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
Now come along and meet his trusty crew!
Kupo!
Kupta Kapa will clip your tuft
Split your hairs and ruffle your fluff
Kupti Koop will throw you for a loop
Brave a wall of whiskers to find his troupe
Kupli Kipp is sly yet sweet
He’ll tickle your nose then tickle your feet
Jolly Kogi’s eye for fun is clear
He’ll put an arrow straight in your rear!
Pukla Puki plays with fire
Poms a-burning on her pyre
Puksi Piko likes her buddies big
To sing a little song and dance a little jig
Pukna Pako shivers and shakes
She’ll stick you in the gut and give you bellyaches
And who’s behind them, standing tall?
Why, the biggest moogle of them all!
(Who!? Who!? Whoever could it be!?)
Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
Kind and noble lord (hear, hear!)
Nod your noggle nog
And mind your gob
Or he’ll put you to the sword!
Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
His judgment you will dread
Good King Moggle Mog
Good King Mog
What do you decree?
What do you decree?
What do you decree?
Off with their heads!
Titan_extreme1

I have nightmares about this

 

My FF14 career as a master butt healer continues thanks to a very patient Free Company (guild) and some personal pride that demands that I beat the snot out of everything that’s over 8 feet tall. To put things simply, it’s fun as hell but also some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever done in an MMO. The picture from above is from Titan Extreme, a fight that was hard enough to get through on normal mode, extreme on hard mode and now on the actual Extreme mode it’s veering into Dark Souls boss difficulty territory. Without going into details this is a fight where there’s buttloads of damage incoming that’s unavoidable which is a challenge to heal when combined with the tank damage but to make sure it’s really super fun you have to dodge ten thousand things at once. And yes, if you mess up once it usually means a wipe.

I’m not complaining mind you. I love a good challenge and I’m very lucky in that my Free Company understands that healing this stuff is hard and that there’s bound to be learning wipes. I can read and watch videos all I want but it doesn’t replace actual fight experience and learning the rhythm of a fight or the importance of standing 2 inches more to the right. Still I can’t wait to be over the learning part.It’s also a bit of an ego boost to be able to do the hardest content in the game in a role that most everyone agrees have it the hardest in those fight.

So that’s where I am right now. Three fights short of having completed all the current content in the game including the extreme modes and everything in Coils of Bahamut until the patch wich hits next week. I still have extreme Titan and Ifrit to clear and now need to clear Turn 5 in Coils which is another real hard fight. To put things in WoW context I’m very much at the tail end of having completed hard mode content. For me that’s quite an achievement now that I have more limited time to play and I don’t think I can say I’ve this advanced in current content since Vanilla WoW and parts of Wotlk.

In other news, some people have been tempting me some with Wildstar, a game that until very recently I had zero interest in but if the old Effers bunch end up playing it I might end up giving it a look.

Funny how things line up sometimes as if you tell you “You have to talk about this!!”. What caused me to slow way down on WoW was my wanting to raid but not being able to because I did not have the required gear to make it happen. Sure I could have gotten lucky over time and with OpenRaid but it was just downright painful and my guild made it clear that for the moment I was mostly on my own to get my ass geared.

Then I got back to FF14 and quickly got back into the endgame part. While FF14 is more forgiving in how to ramp up your gear in endgame it’s also more grindy and having a guild helps a lot. I did find a guild to help me and it’s been going great and I think I’m getting over the gear hump but here too, a similar problem is creeping up where the old faithfuls are getting tired of running the same stuff over and over just to gear new people while they have nothing to gain from it.

And then Navimie put up this post which gives a great perspective of the dilemma those in leadership positions face and the pains raid groups go through. How do you get to gear new people and give them experience while getting kills and not burning out everyone. How do you manage everyone’s feelings in those circumstances. Having been there myself, it’s a pretty crazy stress on guilds. And even then, some fights just need to be learned the hard way and even if you bring someone geared, they will need  a few tries to get it right. Which means that a one shot boss becomes a learning event every time someone new joins.

lionking

Lion king to break the wall of text

 

The circle of guild life

Unless you are one of the few remaining super elite hardcore guilds left in the world who gets daily applications from hardcore raiders your guild probably looks like this if you’re doing any kind of endgame. You have a core group, usually friends either real life or old raiding buddies along with the initial people you picked up creating the guild. Then you have the regular members who contribute to the raids and are decent players but never quite get in with the core group. Then you add social members, the non-raiders due talent or other reasons and finally the new guys with various levels of gear and experience.

If we are blunt, your guild will live as long as your core group does. The core group is the one making the raids be succesful, it’s responsible for guild life and is generaly the group having the most fun. But nothing is eternal and gradually, every core tends to shrink. Real life will happen and people will get tired of the game, will start families, change jobs and a ton of other reasons. This is inevitable and how long your guild lives is directly related to how good it is at adding people to the core group.

How easy that is depends on your type of guild. If you have a super close-knit group of friends and don’t really include new members into the inner circle chances are that as soon as that group of friends lose interest the guild dies. If raiding ability is the criteria for inclusion then you need to be either really good at recruiting quality players or have a way to train your members.

Let’s be blunt again. You and I both know that most of the time the core group ends up being most of the raid group. So if you want your guild to survive you have to replace people who quit with new members that are roughly at the point in their raiding progression. Since most raiding guilds are usually more progressed that what LFR or easily puggable content offers it means that new players are often behind on gear and/or raid experience.

All of this leads us to the age-old problem of guild life. People are going to leave, you need new people to replace them. However new people are most often less advanced than what you need so you have to gear them. But gearing them is boring for already geared people who may cause them to leave and then the circle begins anew.

Gear up or die

I took a long while to explain all of the above because I wanted to make it clear that there’s no real choice here. If you take the approach of not gearing up new members and only recruiting people who fit your exact specifications you are bound to die sooner or later. In all the guilds I’ve been, hardcore or casual, the influx of new members at the appropriate level was always less than the number of core members who stopped playing or slowed down too much. The potential for less geared and advanced players is always there however, especially if you’re making progress. There’s no shortage of talented players who are not yet burned out of the game and who could make great additions if only you take the time to gear them and give them fight experience.

Do you risk burning the old player base? Yes, you can and some guilds do. What makes a good core group is not only gear or skill dependant and some guilds still fail to add to that critical group even if they gear new players. Hell, if you keep gearing new players but never make progress chances are you’ll have trouble there too. You can’t ask older players to always be helping and never have anything in return for them.

Is it tricky? Of course it is! MMO endgame is littered with the bodies of guilds who failed at finding the right balance. Is it bad design that it’s real hard for advanced guilds to recruit players at the right level of progression? I believe it is. It’s also bad design that newer/late players have to face such an uphill battle to catch the main curve of progression of the player base. Making the jump from LFR to Flex to Regular raids in WoW by yourself right now is nothing short of a nightmare. If you have no guild to help you are at the mercy of strangers willing to help you and RNG giving you drops on those rare runs you do get in.

All of this boils down to the issues related to vertical progression in MMOs endgame that many bloggers have talked about. This will also segue nicely into my next series of posts that I hope to publish by the end of this week.

Well hello there, long time no see. I’m writing today because I want to start getting back into the habit of blogging some about MMOs. I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head that I’d like to get to at some point but for today I’ll keep it simple and just ramble away.

First, WoW. My on and off love affair with WoW has reached a stable point now I think. For better or for worst I’m quite comfortable now playing it in a casual detached way. I did attempt recently to get back into raiding seriously but a mix of guild politics and trying to catch up in gear with LFR and tools like Open Raid killed it for me. WoW has never been super friendly to players trying to catch up in gear toward the end of an expansion but I feel that it is now worst than it has ever been. The jump from LFR to Flex is simply brutal and I don’t want to have to start to mess about with multiple guilds just to catch up. So for the moment, I log in once in a while to do a few achieves, quests while I wait for Warlords of Draneor to come out.

Then there’s FF14, A Realm Reborn. Last fall I had stop playing because of a bad timing of ugly guild politics and me wanting to play with people I actually knew which led me back to WoW. I loved the game by itself but at the moment I wanted to get away from yet another guild where you’re expected to have no life and thus headed back to the calm waters of WoW. Now I started playing again a little more than a week ago and I feel like I’ve fallen in love again with the game. I’m playing tons, doing dungeons, Primals and even raided a few times since coming back and its been a blast. I even found a nice guild that is helping me this time around instead of leaving me alone to fend for myself and it’s a pretty wonderful thing to see your guildies drop what they were doing just to run you through an old Titan hardmode, so you can finally get your relic weapon.

But more than anything is the challenge that keeps me coming back. Despite the grindy endgame and the low drops and a lot of old mechanics that should turn me away, I love that I have to pay attention to succeed in a dungeon, even the easier one. I love that success is not guaranteed and that even though my progress is a lot slower than say WoW, at least the process of getting said improvements is a lot more interesting.

So that’s it for my ramble for today. I’ll try to be more active again here and I hope to see you around.

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