Archive for February, 2015

It felt lately like FF 14 was picking up steam. Lots of people seem to be playing it, there’s queues sometimes to log in, character creation restriction at certain hours and many other signs of an MMO that’s doing well. Just myself I’ve been spending more and more time in-game lately to the point where I’ve considered things like skipping work to get in a few more hours of game-time (I have resisted thus far…). Not since Vanilla WoW had this happened to me.

Well now we know how well the game is doing and the magic number is 4 million players, an increase of 1.5 million on year according to some sources. Of course, of these 4 million we don’t know exactly how many are active players, free trials and so forth but an increase is an increase and my in-game experiences do fit with a game that is growing. To celebrate, Square Enix is offering a free weekend to everyone who wants to try the game.

As to the why it’s always hard to explain but I think the game is reaching a nice maturity and the frequent updates featuring lots of content helps keep people occupied and playing the game. Most of its constant is accessible if you’re willing to put in some time and I think that plays a big part in the game success, people don’t feel locked out of doing what they want. Even raiding is pretty accessible thanks to tools like Duty finder and Party finder.

Congratulations to the FF 14 team and may Heavensward send these numbers even higher.

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I swear I don’t make these things happen on purpose but it seems the topic of the hour is game development and game critiquing (is that even a word?), both being topics that are near and dear to my heart so I feel compelled to write. I’ll get back to my resolution to be more positive soon I swear.

Before delving into today’s post I want to take a moment to lay out precisely where my critic lies today. My issue is not with the people (dev, QA, artists, etc…) actually making videogames who are doing an extremely hard job in incredibly stressful environments.  When I read stories about how developers worked 70hrs weeks for months on end and poured all their heart into a game only to see it butchered by some producer crazy demands my heart break for them.

My critic today targets a particular defense I’ve heard too often used, the “you don’t know! Cut us some slack!” defense. There’s many reasons why I hate this particular line of defense in an argument, it’s dismissive, it insults the intelligence of the person making the critic, it doesn’t solve anything… but more than anything it warps the relationship between a customer and the company selling the product.

So before continuing on, I suggest you go read this article on Kotaku.

I might not know you but I know myself

I too have to deal with harsh critics, big budgets, limited time and though customers in my line of work. One of the things that was drilled into me and that served me really well was the following:

“The client isn’t always right! But he always know that he is.”

What this phrase illustrates is that ultimately, whether the client is right or not is irrelevant. What will decide whether or not he buys you product is his perception of the product and people do know what they think.

How does this play out? Let’s say I play a game and as I play the second level I really hate my experience. I have no fun and I end up quitting the game altogether and uninstalling it. Then if I have to give my opinion on the game I’ll say that level 2 was so awful it caused me to quit and if asked for more details I’ll say the I felt the level felt badly designed and that the controls were poor causing me to struggle unnecessarily.

Now, that is an opinion. It’s my perception of the level and by extension the game. There could be really good reasons for why the level turned out the way it did and why it felt like it was badly designed. Do any of these reasons really matter to me?

No! If I paid 40$ for that game I will feel like it was a bad investment. I didn’t enjoy the experience and that’s it. The why and how doesn’t matter, I didn’t like it.

Let’s keep going with our example. I didn’t enjoy the game and I make it known to the developer. I tell him why I didn’t like the game (bad controls, poor second level) in the hope that they either fix things or at the very least acknowledge me and work on these issues for the next game.

Instead I get this answer “Well, we had limited budget, lead dev left to run naked in Africa  and we ran out of money.” Okay…. That sucks but how does this addresses my problem? It doesn’t make the controls better, it doesn’t fix level 2. You’re kinda saying that you agree there’s issues but according to that answer I should be understanding and be grateful for my bad game experience? Really?

Let’s go forward a few years when they release Game, the second chapter, how likely is it that I’ll buy it or recommend it? Last time I had a bad experience and the dev didn’t really acknowledge my issue and didn’t fix it either. Chances are pretty high that I’ll be way more suspicious, that I won’t spend my money and that I’ll tell people to stay away… sounds logical no?

Don’t give me excuses, give me solutions

So this is what it boils down to. When people make critics of games or elements of games, acknowledge the issue and explain to us how you plan on fixing it or why you don’t agree with us. If you think the feature is well done then explain to me why you think it is and then it becomes a matter of opinion.

But don’t give me excuses. Don’t tell me that it’s hard to make games or that you had issues during development. It doesn’t do anything for me and it doesn’t change how I felt when I played your game.

And if like the article author was saying you had to make tough choices to publish on time then be ready to suffer for these though decisions. You cut the ending quality to launch? Then chances are that the ending is going to be critiqued no? A though choice does explain why the ending sucks, but it doesn’t justify it.

In closing

I want to close on a more positive note though by agreeing with, and repeat one of the major points of the Kotaku article. No matter what, please try to be respectful of the people working in the games industry. Calling someone an idiot because a game doesn’t live up to your standards isn’t helping anyone. Lay out your issues, explain why you feel X or Y isn’t working and leave it at that.

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The information in this post reflects the state of the Kickstarter at the moment of publication.

Edit: Information has been added to the KS page in the FAQ section about some of the concerns expressed in this post. 

So there’s been a lot of talk around lately about Crowd-funding, about accountability, about hard-nosed interviews and games development. There’s a group of people, myself included who see game crowd funding with a suspicious eye and on the other side there’s people defending the model and saying we should not judge based on a few bad apples and that overall, game devs are doing their best.

I won’t hide that the discourse about how game devs are doing their best and that we should not pass judgment based on incomplete information or a lack of understanding of the game development process is bothering me. When I’m being asked to fund a project, I do have to make a decision on whether or not it is a good investment and I believe it is the responsibility of the developers to give me that information if they want me to fund them. Something that is often lacking.

I’m not going to make friends in the game industry today with this post but I feel I need to illustrate my reasoning as to why I will not fund a game. And in today’s example, we will be talking about Crowfall, a new MMO project who just arrived on Kickstarter.

The information given

So, let’s see what Artcraft, the developers tell us about Crowfall. Well, there’s a very long description of what the game will be about which is awesome since it would be a bit silly to fund a game I wouldn’t want to play in the first place. On that regard, I give A+ to Artcraft. I feel reading their description I have a good idea of what the game is about.

They also do a good job of presenting the team and their past work. So A+ again there, I know who I am dealing with.

Funding wise, they want to get 800 000$ dollars and the video tells us that they have some personal money invested already. I would have liked to have seen this written in the description and also how much do they have invested already. How much of the total does 800k represent? Do they have other funding that they did not talk about? I would also like to know the total budget of game. On that aspect I will give a D- to Artcraft. Not a complete failure but there’s too much info missing.

Tying in the previous point, we have no idea of how far along exactly development is. If alpha is late summer we can deduce work has been done and the videos would suggest it but really, no solid information is given so we have no idea. The videos could be either gameplay or just video and we have no way of telling.

Timetables are also lacking. They write they plan to be in Alpha by late summer 2015 but beyond that… no real info.  I’m giving F here, I would have liked to know when to expect the game to be out. Right now I have no idea of their planned timetables beyond an alpha date.

Lastly, risks are also a bit generic. They tell us it’s going to be very difficult and risky, they tell us that times are subject to change and then they jump into commitments. I wanted to know the risks they foresaw in more specific terms. Right now all I have is making games is hard and times can change… generic stuff that doesn’t tell me anything. F again.

Info recap:

-Game info: A+
-People behind the game:  A+
-Funding Info: D-
-Schedule and advancement: F
-Risks: F


If you look up investment guides (and we are investing in a game) they recommend you do your own research about the product and individuals behind it before making a decision and since I find that the information given is lacking in a few key areas, let’s do our due diligence and investigate.

The game itself is well explained I feel and won’t need much research. They do admit that there’s a high risk since they’re creating something new not attempted before so it’s something to keep in mind in regards to what this entails. I think delays are to be expected as some things are ironed out and in worst case it could lead to the game not seeing release or seeing release with significant changes meaning a key feature we like won’t be present.

The people behind the game now. This is the leap of faith part I feel. Both producers and the whole team have experience on big titles and quite a few releases so we’re not dealing with inexperienced people which is good. On the flipside, quite a few of the titles named , Shadowbane, Star Wars galaxies, Warhammer Online (team), Dark Millenium (team) and the Sims Online to give examples have had troubled histories when not outright cancelled or reinvented. So it’s something to keep in mind that the people behind Crowfall don’t have perfect records up to this point. That said, they might not have been individually responsible and people can and do learn from past mistakes. This is why I say it’s a leap of faith. It could could well, it could go wrong but it’s not a sure shot by any means.

Funding is where it gets suspicious. They have shown a team of 17 which, according to the average indie salary for 2014, would cost 850k to fund for a year.  Alpha is 5 to 6 months away and based on past game it will be likely a year between alpha and release at least. So right there they are short on funding which is a big alarm for me. Yes they said they had private funding but we have no idea how much of that is left so it could be that they need the KS money to keep going. We don’t know and that for me is a huge problem. They’re asking me to fund a game that if I’m to trust the info I have, is already lacking funds to complete.

The last three items, schedule, advancement and risk tie into the funding problem. I have no real idea of the advancement of the project so far and launch date. For all I know there could be years away.. no way of knowing and the only risk that is listed is that delays are likely. Not good news when the project is already under funded.

So based on my research, the risks of this project are extremely high. A new concept that seems underfunded with no clear delivery date.

But you don’t know!

I know that some people will want to counter this post by saying I haven’t done enough research, that I don’t understand the realities of game development, that I don’t understand the goal of Kickstarter.

You know what? That is exactly the problem!

The fact that the Crowfall Kickstarter doesn’t tell me enough forces me to do research and estimate by myself if I think it’s a wise investment or not. I shouldn’t have to do that. The Crowfall team should have done everything in their power to prove to me how reliable and serious they are, how they were going to make the game and make sure it would launch in a timely manner and with enough funding to see it through.

What I got instead was : “We got a cool game and you should give us money. Trust us! We’re cool!”

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FFXIV Monday: Now with more Animus!

These past few weeks I’ve been writing about what happening in my corner of the world in FFXIV and in the tradition of the old Lotro Wednesday I used to make I’ll try to make this a recurring thing. Quite a few things happened since last Monday so let’s get to it with first, the bucket list.

  • Black mage to 50: I made some progress this week! One whole level which brings my Black mage to 31. I need to set time aside for this.
  • Coils of Bahamut: No progress this week as I was mostly focused on my zodiac weapon and farming World of Darkness.
  • Extreme primals: Ramuh is down!!!! That took a while but I finally managed to get a group that knew how not to fall apart. Ramuh is a pretty technical fight and gear won’t help you if it’s not well executed which explains in part why it took me a while to find the right group. Now only Shiva EX remains and I’m hoping that since she’s current content it will be a bit easier to find groups.
  • Zodiac weapon chain: I’m now done with the Atma step!!! I spent a lot of time last week grinding out the last three books and now I’m on the Animus step since yesterday. I had enough Soldiery tomes to jump ahead to the melding step and I did manage to get one meld done. Only 74 more to go.

Gear wise I’m also coming to the end of my catchup. I need to replace my pants and that will be done through Poetics tomes. I don’t feel like farming WoD for a single drop and besides, since I’ll now be running Ex roulette daily I should have the required tomes in a week. I’ll also have full augmented accessories this week once I complete the weekly quest for Carbontwine.  The only real piece missing will then be getting my weapon to iLvl 110 and that will be done once I complete the Animus step of the Zodiac weapon.  Long story short, I’m nearly done with gear catchup.

This week I’d like to get one or two levels done on the black mage at least and I figure a lot of time will be spent on hunting Alexandrite so I can do melds for my weapon. Still, I’ll try to give Shiva a look but with the Gold Saucer coming out Tuesday, I don’t know where I’ll find the time to do everything.

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From WoW to FF14

Recently I discovered the wonderful Miss Mojo and her blog. I feel a bit ashamed that I haven’t done so sooner but it is what it is and if you are not already following her I suggest that you do. Earlier this week she posted about MMO wanderlust and settling on a MMO home which has sent me on a bit of soul-searching. For the better part of ten years I considered my home MMO home to be WoW with often a game or two on the sides. Since last year however that changed to FF14 being my home and while I know that I changed, Miss Mojo’s post got me to ask why. This is going to be a train of thought sort of post so fairly warned be ye.

If I try to be objective and compare both games, WoW and FF14 are very similar and I’d even say that WoW is the more refined and polished of the two. WoW has become so polished that there’s this sense that everything flows together and you just have to follow along to get to wherever you want to go. Everything is laid out so that it’s easy to know what to do and how to do it to achieve whatever you want to achieve. The raids, the music, the quality of life improvements, everything is there to help you out. I truly think that overall WoW is the better designed game out of the two.

Then there’s FF14: A realm reborn which is more or less Vanilla WoW with a dungeon finder added on top and a few others quality of life improvement that have shown up in MMOs over time. It’s slower paced, there’s grinding, gating, less content, you’re often sent back over and over to the same old zones. On paper, it’s an old style MMO which I guess I should not be playing since we’ve evolved since then… And it’s not a case of graphics since both game have their own styles or lore or nostalgia since both WoW and FF14 are based on series of game I’ve been playing since I was a kid.  It’s not the “new game” factor either since I’ve been at end game in Final for over a year now.

So why the hell am I sticking with FF14 when there’s a similar, but better made game right next to it? Why did I grind out World of Darkness for 6 hours this week just to get a stupid drop when I have yet to even step in Blackrock foundry?? I’m writing this and I can’t figure out why… it makes no sense.

So what does FF14 does that WoW isn’t? The first thing that comes to my mind is challenge. FF14 is harder than WoW is and that helps keep my involved in the game when I’m playing it. It’s not always super hard mind you and by now I can do the first three dungeons half-asleep but still, it’s harder. The 3 raids making up Crystal tower, the catch-up raid for newer players is still a proper raid with mechanics that if completely ignored will cause wipes. I can’t say the same of  LFR. Gear also has less of an impact than class skill and being able to execute strategies. In WoW there’s often that point where if you gear up enough you can just ignore an encounter mechanics. That rarely happens in FF14. The game will even lower your level and gear when you enter lower level content just to make sure that you have to pay a minimum of attention.

The second strong point of the game for me is the effort put into keeping the world alive through the clever engineering that goes on to keep sending players out into the world and interacting with each other no matter the level. There’s a lot of incentive given to players at endgame to run low level content, complete public quests (Fates) and just go back out into the various zones and explore. This means that for the low-level player coming up there will be interaction and help from the higher levels. It makes the world feels more alive and it reminds everyone that endgame is not just about sitting in a city waiting for the raid queue to pop.

I know that both points are subjective, that someone raiding Mythic difficulty in WoW will find lots of challenge to the game and that it’s possible for someone to go out in the world in WoW and interact with others. I just feel FF14 handles it better.

The end result for me is that when I play FF14 I get more of a sense of accomplishment that is gone from WoW. In WoW I’m ticking off boxes of things to do. Garrison, done, LFR, done, quests, done, pet battles, done, and so forth. In FF14 by contrast I’m beating a mighty primal and I’m proud of it. I’m rocking my Demon healing set and while I didn’t enjoy all those runs to get it I feel a sense of accomplishment now that I have it. Same for the Zodiac weapon grind that I’m doing at the moment. This is used to exist in WoW and now I don’t feel it anymore.

When I get sent back to do Copperbell mines and notice someone with a green leaf over their head (new player), I’m happy and excited to be there as they experience the dungeon for the first time. It may be super easy for me now but I know that I’ll have to explain the second boss that wiped us the first time when I had no idea of how to do it because even if I over gear the place, we’ll still have to no kill the bombs if we want to succeed. It may sound stupid but I enjoy that we have to cooperate and that I get to show the ropes to someone new.

This is running long so I’ll end by saying that ultimately, FF14 asks of me to cooperate with others if I want to succeed. WoW has me mostly complete a list of tasks. I know this is subjective but it’s how I feel and ultimately it’s what made me change my home from WoW to FF14.

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