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Archive for September, 2013

FF14 endgame chart

End game information can sometimes be hard to pinpoint especially with newer MMOs. Jano Terrena did the community a great service by putting out this fantastic chart for everyone!

Go check it out!

http://intothemists.com/ffxiv/chart_for_end_game/

 

It might scare some people off but personnaly, it’s getting pumped for endgame. I missed an old school endgame.

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Before I start I want you to ponder a moment on a maxim I’ve heard a thousand times. It has been said by game designers, studio leads, guild leaders, exasperated raid leaders, common players and just about anyone who has ever played an MMO at end game.

The leveling game should teach players the skills they will need at endgame.

Now, you being smart, already know that I plan to tell you gating is the solution but please follow my reasoning. Even better, FF14 is currently giving us a masterclass on how this works.

A warning, this is a very long rant and it will probably piss off a lot of people… funny how liberating it can be when you don’t care about blog statistics.

Community, accessibility vs endgame

No-Way-Out

The big debate started in WoW, first in Vanilla and then continued in Burning Crusade. The caveat was this, players loved the game but when they reached endgame a disconnect happened. More casual player suddenly found themselves without anything to do and felt locked out of great content because of very real obligations like time-constraints.

Blizzard agreed for the most part and worked to make the game accessible for everyone. This happened in a number of ways but one of those was making the endgame content easier so people with less time could complete it. There’s logic here, someone with less playtime should normally be less skilled if you believe that more practice equals more skills. As a long time raid leader I can tell you it’s far from an absolute truth but generally speaking, the more you play and the more challenging encounters you do, the better you become.

This touched other aspects of the game too. With a more top-heavy game, it became a necessity to get players at endgame and barriers were removed or made easier to make sure the max-level population stayed at a healthy level. And you need more players for a bigger community.

Most important were the financial reasons. If more people are playing the game, you make more money and it would stand to reason that more people will play your game if they are feeling less frustrated. To resume, bigger happier community = more players = more money.

It then all becomes a number game. Every decision you make will create a number of happy players vs a number of unhappy players. Evaluate which costs you more and you end up with the decision you should make. Since Blizzard has stated a few times that the most important factor was to make new players stay from a revenue perspective, it stands to reason that most decisions are made to cater to a more casual crowd with less experience in the game.

The famed “dumbing down” of WoW is not a dumbing down, it’s simply the game slowly changing its target audience.

The state of WoW

banniere.jpg

So WoW got up to 11.5 millions people, which is insane money.  Now, let’s go back to the original statement, The leveling game should teach players the skills they will need at endgame.

Well , Wow and some other games like it don’t. In the name of being accessible and friendly to new players, it’s now possible to get to max level without ever talking to anyone or setting foot in any kind of group content. Since all frustrations and difficulties have been removed from the leveling experience in order to speed it up and make it more fun (open for debate), it’s not uncommon to find players with very basic skills at endgame. And why should it be different? At no point did the game require more from them.

What happens? These people reach endgame, start doing LFR, LFD and are generally very bad at it. Again, frustrations! So they make the content easier and figure that the more dedicated players will find guilds and set the difficulty level at what they want. That’s all fine and dandy as long as the old guard remains but over time there’s less and less of these old players remaining and not a lot of replacement coming up.

And why would there be? For the new player coming up, he doesn’t need to step up his game to see the content. He can access all of the story with minimum effort. Why join a guild with schedules and more demanding skill requirements when you can have everything you want with a lot less effort and at the time you want? So unless you find a player who really wants to challenge himself and has a lot more time available, you won’t see him make the switch and the more classic types guild are slowly all becoming ghost-towns.

But that’s not the only effect. By slowly killing off the guilds and established communities, you’re reducing the game overall community. By making your entire game accessible without the need to ever get involved in its community, you are in effect destroying said community. Remember when I said better community = more players = more money. Well, you’re working against that and I believe WoW numbers to be showing that right now.

One last thing before moving on, how long do you think it will take for a player to quit the game at endgame once he’s done the raid if he’s not part of any group?

Sacrifice players along the way, build a better communitymaya

I’ve said it often, what is the main difference between an MMOrpg and a classic single player rpg? The fact that you can play it with others.

What is the main condition for an evening dungeon or raid to be fun? agreeable people with a hint of progress.

How do you get progress and people to remain agreeable? By not having a bad player ruin it for everyone else.

Again, I’ve been raid leading for years and the quickest way to destroy a raid and the guild along with it is to have a few bad players prevent all kind of progressions. It might be fun for a week or two but sooner or later the constant failures will sour everyone attitude, especially when the main point of failure is so obvious to everyone. The solution?

The leveling game should teach players the skills they will need at endgame.

It’s not a perfect solution mind you but it would go a very long way. If the leveling game teaches you how to play your class, how to play with other people and how it’s necessary to participate in its community to succeed, then you dramatically reduces the number of bad players at the end. Why?

Because those players will have either quit or they will have stepped their game up.

It sounds callous in 2013 to say such a thing but here we are. I believe WoW to be proof of what happens if you don’t. Endgame is a mess right now, guilds are dying left and right and it won’t be long before WoW becomes simply an RPG that happens to be playable with others when you feel like it.

And if you think that it would be a bad move then take a moment to think back to how WoW became the giant it is now. There was a time when WoW servers were full every night, when I would wait over an hour in the queue to play and when it threatened to turn into a full-blown addiction. That time also happens to be when WoW was at its less friendly, when there was no LFD, LFR and when certain quests and milestones required you to actually talk to other people.  WoW did not begin its ascent to 11.5 millions people during Pandaria, it did so in Vanilla.

Proof that losing some players due to difficulty might be wort it.

Gating and FF14:ARR example

spider-eyes

The recent FF14 is doing really well at the moment and is close to breaking 1 million players if it’s not already done. There’s queues most nights and people are having a blast. I find myself playing for long hours when I didn’t mean to and that’s something that has not happened since Vanilla WoW. I’m not alone in this and I think its proof that FF14 is onto something here.

And that one thing that jumps to my mind is that it uses gating. FF14 has a main storyline that you need to progress through to reach endgame. It’s not an absolute necessity and someone dedicated enough can grind to max level but he will be missing a lot of features. He won’t have access to the dungeons and raids that make up endgame. He can’t cheat either by overleving the dungeon content since dungeons will scale down your level to the appropriate one.

There’s the first gate. In order to reach endgame you have to do the main storyline and surprise, the main storyline features mandatory dungeons, a few of them in fact. Please bear in mind that you can’t overlevel this content, so what level of skill is needed is decided by the game.

And there comes the second gate, the skill one. FF14 can roughly be split into tiers with corresponding required skills.

  • 1-15: being able to play your own class. WoW skill level
  • 15-20: being able to play your class in a group setting. Dungeons with minimal mechanics. About one per boss. About WoW standard level
  • 20: Ifrit trial. Single boss, involves more complex mechanics (staying out of bad, target priority). In WoW this would be in line with heroics bosses and some raid bosses.
  • 20-35: Advanced class mechanics. Resource management, changing battle conditions, being able to know when to take a hit and when to avoid. Being aware of surronding. Dungeons difficulty is around WoW heroics
  • 35: Titan trial. Raid difficulty encounter. Multiple phases, abilities, tests all roles.
  • 35 and onward: Increasing difficulty and we’re not even to max level!

If this sounds good for you right there, then you might want to look into getting FF14. But let’s continue first. What do you think happens when a bad player stumble upon something he can’t overcome? In this example, Titan is a particular roadblock for many players right now. Well, the bad players has two choices. Either he quits, or he find a way to step up his game.

How does he step up his game? Maybe he’ll go read about the game, improving his game and mechanics knowledge. Maybe he’ll join a guild to find “better” players to play with. Maybe those same players will teach the bad player to be better… it could happen no? And finally, maybe teaching a new player who’s leveling is not the same experience as teaching someone who’s making an entire raid wipe. In either case, the player will get involved some in the community which is ultimately better for the game because it’s that same community that will keep him playing at endgame.

He could even tell other people about the game and how great it is and maybe these people will join… sheer insanity… oh wait it’s not. It’s exactly how WoW got to 11.5 millions people.

I’m not saying that improvements like LFD, pet battles or a slew of others things Blizzard did are bad. I’m saying that not forcing player to play together and work together is the wrong way to go in an MMO.

Let not confuse topics here

layton

Before anyone start saying that gating creates entitlement, that it excludes players, that your 15$ is worth as much as mine and that you’re life doesn’t allow you to commit to long sessions, etc… etc… well you’re right. I often defended that time should not be the deciding factor in your access to a game. That you should not have to be a super skilled player to see the content  a game has to offer. I still stand by that.

But I’m going to change my stance a bit here. There’s a limit to how low the skill level needs to go. There’s also a limit to how short meaningful sessions can be. If I only have 15 minutes to give to a game, I shouldn’t expect to make much progress in dungeons. Also, not every game is for everyone and that’s okay. Dark Souls is a very difficult game that’s not for everyone. Most people accept this and the game is stronger for it. Why couldn’t it be the same for MMOs? Why are we having so much trouble accepting that maybe an MMO could cater to a more hardcore audience?

Again, MMOs and group content are, or should be, inseparable. Not all of it all the time but they should be aimed at providing engaging for groups firsts. Or at the very least involve you in a living world and community. If not you’re better off with single players RPGs.

How do you provide great group content, which should be the main aim of an MMO?

Confused with all the hype?

Again, my raid leading experience is speaking here but the times I had the most fun in groups were when I was playing with groups of the appropriate skill level for the content we were attempting.

Again, to obtain that you need to train your players.

This means that if someone refuses to improve, then he should not have access to whatever I am attempting to do. Either he will improve and participate in the game, or he won’t and leave.

But if the game doesn’t do anything for that player, not only will he end up at the same spot later, faced with leaving or engaging the community but he might ruin my experience too and end up making two players leave.

So I hope you enjoyed this and thank you for your attention.

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A realm reborn quick FAQ for new players

I’ve noticed a few questions come back often when talking with newer players or curious people about the game. I thought do this answer those I can think of in FAQ form. Hope it helps!

Character creation; How much does my race/god choices impact my class choice? Will I gimp myself by choosing a bad combo?

It matters little to be honest but I can’t say it has no impact at all. Every race has a sub-race oriented toward physical combat and another toward magic. Also some race will be geared more toward one of the other. The god choice impacts mostly resistances but for the ultimate optimizer there are choices more geared toward one role or the other. When all is said and done, the Elitist Jerks of FF14 have decreed the difference to be around 0,5% between extremes. So if you make a character optimized for magic and go for a melee class, you’ll be .5% less efficient than someone who optimized his choices.

Gear, enchants(materia) and stats choices when leveling will make the biggest differences.

Character creation; What are these classes? Where are the classic Final Fantasy classes like Black Mage, Dragoon and Summoner?

Don’t worry, all the classic classes are there. ARR uses a Class/Job system where Classes make up the core of more advanced classes called Jobs. For example, Black mage is a Job derived of Thaumaturge and Archer. To gain access to a Job, you have to level a primary class to level 30 and a secondary to 15. Finaly, Jobs are not separate from their primary class. You have access to both Job and Class abilities and when you level your Job you also level your class along with it. For example, a Black Mage going from 31 to 32 would also be a level 32 Thaumaturge.

Here’s a quick guide:

Warrior: Marauder 30 / Gladiator 15
Paladin: Gladiator 30 / Conjurer 15
Monk: Pugilist 30 / Lancer 15
Dragoon: Lancer 30 / Marauder 15
Bard: Archer 30 / Pugilist 15
White Mage: Conjurer 30 / Arcanist 15
Black Mage: Thaumaturge 30 / Archer 15
Summoner: Arcanist 30 / Thaumaturge 15
Scholar: Arcanist 30 / Conjurer 15

How do I get into Satasha/Tam Tara/Copper bell mines? The first instances?

To access these dungeons you’ll need to complete the main storylines up the point where you gain airship access and have visited all three cities which should be around level 15. After that, the main story will have you do each of the dungeons in succession. Required levels for each are Satasha 15, Tam Tara 16, Copper bell mines 17.

When/How do I get a mount?

Again, just follow the main storylines until you get to join a grand company which should be around level 20, after defeating Ifrit. Once you have joined a grand company, an NPC in the company hall will have a quest that will get you your chocobo after you farm an additional 2000 company marks. Thankfully, no additional costs are required.

How do I unlock (Insert job) in-game?

First you’ll have to level both classes needed for your job at their required levels. Also, you will need to have completed all the class quests offered by the class master of the primary class of the job you’re aiming for.  The class master is the NPC giving away the quests in your class guild building. If all of this is completed, a new quest will be offered that you can complete to unlock the chosen Job.

Once done, just equip the Job crystal and you’re now a full-fledged (Insert Job).

What’s with all the fate groups I’m seeing all the time?

Fates (public quests) are one of the main ways to gain company marks as well as experience once you are leveling a secondary class. After all, once a quest is done is remains done for all your classes since it’s the same character so alternative ways of leveling must be sought. Even on your first play through it’s a good idea to do a few Fates to buff up your XP once you get past level 30.

The reason for doing these in dedicated groups is that the amount of experience and marks received is based on your contribution to the fate. If in a group, the damage done by other groups members is added to your own and helps everyone in the group get a higher bonus at the end.

So leveling a second class is all grinding and no fun?

I won’t lie, leveling a second class is way more grindy than the first time around. That said, you do gain a bonus to XP based on the difference between your current class and your highest leveled class.  Also, you keep all unlocked features like access to a mount which can speed up the whole process a lot. Finaly, duties and dungeons are an excellent source of XP between Fates.

What the hell does spiritbound means?

When you equip an item and gain experience with it equipped it will eventually become spiritbound to you. What it means is that the item can now be broken down into materia which is ARR equivalent of an enchant. In order to attach materia and enchant your gear you need to find a crafter of the appropriate profession with the right level. For example attaching a high level materia on a cloth robe might require a high level tailor.

Crafting; Wait… there’s crafting classes???

Indeed there is. Crafting classes work just like regular classes except you will gain experience through crafting items and completing crafting Leves (dailies). It may sound complicated but in the end it plays out similar to the crafting we’re used to see in other games.

So that’s it for now! Feel free to add questions and I’ll add them to this post.

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ARR: Falling in love again

What? Where? How did this… I don’t even?!

This sums up pretty much my feelings when I try to explain how it is that I seem to be falling in love with an MMO all over again. A few weeks ago my hours of MMO playing were at a stellar zero and I was starting to think that maybe I was done with MMOs for good. I thought that sure I’d dip in once in a while to see new sights or for a bit of nostalgia but on the whole, playing an MMO for long hours, raiding, grinding and the like were now part of my past.

And now I find myself proven wrong. The original FF14 managed to hold my interest for 3 days before I declared it the worst MMO in history and now A Realm Reborn has me forgetting notion of time. It’s been 10 days now and I’ve indulged in a few FF binges since then, something that had not happened to me since Vanilla WoW.  Dishes are not done as fast as they used to, there’s a bit more dust than I’d like and my series are not getting watched. That right there is the highest praise I can give to any game. Making me forget time and obligations.

I couldn’t even explain to you why things are so great right now. The game itself has nothing truly ground breaking or revolutionary. If anything, it’s a throwback to old mechanics with a few modern touches sprinkled in. The game does tap in my Final Fantasy nostalgia but that by itself wouldn’t be enough. I think what is happening is that ARR does a lot of small things very well and that is enough to keep me logged in. The fabled polish of WoW seems to be possible for Square Enix as well when they put their mind to it.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll probably be blogging soon about more stuff that is game specific and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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I was doing well lately, all warm and cozy sleeping under a rock, not caring much about the world of blogging at large and discovering the simple joys of playing FF14, A realm reborn whenever I managed to beat the dreaded login issues. For those not in the know, the servers have been screaming uncle since day 1.

So me being me, I did the rounds of blogs and forums to see if anyone had a magical solution or simply share in other people experiences and what I found was… disturbing. Lots of angry screaming kids calling themselves critics or pro players shouting at the top of their lungs to decry the evil of A realm reborn.

But don’t worry friends, I grabbed my trusty chainsaw (saw Evil Dead yesterday), slew a few of the offenders and now it’s my turn on the soap box.

Something old and something new

I’m not going to launch in a long rant of A realm reborn itself because I believe that if you’re reading this you’re a smart person and you can deduce information. Realm Reborn is an old school MMO wrapped in shiny new clothes, incredibly pretty new clothes in fact. Think Burning crusade WoW but with new graphics and a dungeon finder.

For those who were not around during Burning crusade let me try to put things into perspective. Burning crusade was the meeting point between old school Everquest like MMO and the new breed of MMOs we have now. It was slower paced, grindy, put more emphasis on the RPG elements and was less accomodating to the players. Living in the world was often more important than giving players quality of life improvements. In short, if it made more sense in the world to make you run 15 minutes in mob infested forests then that’s what would happen and that was it.

On the other hand, there were some new elements present to make players lives a bit easier that reflected common sense. Players needed something else to do at endgame other than raiding, they needed ways to advance their characters, dungeons duration were more manageable (no more 4 hours BRD) and endgame didn’t need to be a full-time job.

A Realm Reborn is exactly that. It’s an old school MMO that put emphasis on world building and storyline with a few  modern sensibilities and personally I love it.

Whiners…

These past few months I’ve had a lot of time to meditate on my disinterest from MMOs and what I wanted out of an MMO. What I came back to most of the time is that I felt we had lost somewhere that feeling of being part of a living world. If I want to run dungeons endlessly, do pvp or play an RPG I have other games out there which will give me those experiences faster and without subscriptions models.  The one thing an MMO has going for it that can’t be replicated elsewhere is that feeling of being part of a community, living in whatever fantasy world is offered.

And I believe that in order to achieve that blissful state of community and belonging, some suffering must be endured. The path to the golden land of a living MMO is not made of game mechanics, it’s made of people sharing experiences, wether together or separately in the same world.  That run from Darnassus to Ironforge did more for WoW popularity than the dungeon finder ever did.

So to all the critics out there who are having the time of their lives blasting A Realm reborn a new one while simultaneously praising the games of old I have this message for you: please shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!!

Either you like old school MMOs, with all good and the bad that comes with or you don’t. You can not like Realm Reborn because you don’t like the story, the world, the combat or any number of reasons but not because it’s dated…

Newsflash people, it’s not dated, it’s world-centric. What you call dated mechanics are a way of doing things that focus on the story and the world first. It’s ok to not like that particular way of doing things but if that’s the case please have the honesty of saying it’s not your cup of tea. Also, say what you will, but WoW reached its peak on those mechanics… maybe there’s something to them that’s worth going back to.

I’ll finish by saying that A Realm Reborn is the first MMO in a very long time to shake me out of my MMO disinterest and I’m not the only one. In fact there’s so many of us that the servers are full to capacity every night since launch. So much so that Square Enix will have to add servers. Maybe the game will turn out to be a disappointment later on but right now, I feel like we have something special going on.

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