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Forza Horizon 2 didn’t make a great first impression on me. I think I just got too caught up in the hype and the product delivered felt a little…trivial maybe. Mostly it was the off-road stuff that bugged me; I felt like it made it too easy to just cut across a corner instead of following pavement. I also didn’t like that you got a really good car early on and I saw no need to switch, at least at first. And then there was the in-game radio stations, which I didn’t care for.

In fact my first impression was that Forza Horizon 2 was that it was a bit of a train car wreck.

But I kept playing and the more I played, the more I enjoyed it. I unlocked the classical music station (I’d still prefer a classic rock station but oh well). I was prompted to buy new cars so I could compete in different kinds of events. I was introduced to systems like “Barn Finds” (where you have to search out an abandoned barn that has some old car inside that you’ll get for free) and collecting photos of different cars. I joined a Club (the one that AGE runs) and started competing against both club members and friends to see who could bust the most billboards or discover the most roads.

All the while the racing grew on me. I embraced cutting across corners (or even across fields) and just ignored the fact that most of these cars would have no chance of transversing a plowed field, given their clearance. I’d choose to drive a VW Microbus instead of a Ferrari just for the silly joy of driving an old classic. Basically I re-learned how to play a game for fun instead of playing in the most expedientway in order to finish as quickly as possible.

And now I love Forza Horizon 2. I think my turning point came when I got a chance to race a train.

But there’s more to the story and it has to do with the Xbox One itself, and how it enabled me to come to love FH2 (and how the system is starting to really grow on me). In order to explain I have to tell you a little bit about my routine.

Every day after work I take the dog for a walk and then come home and have a variable amount of ‘down time’ before dinner. Angela is the cook in this house and this is my lazy time when I crack open a beer and flop down on the couch. I never know if I’m going to have 5 minutes or 50, so in the pre-Xbox One days I’d just watch TV because it wasn’t worth firing up a game if I was going to have to quit before I really got started.

But now I turn on the Xbox One and start playing a game. The amount of time I have doesn’t really matter because of the XB1’s suspend feature. When dinner is ready it’s a matter of saying “Xbox watch TV” and the game I’m playing suspends and TV starts playing (yes we’re bad people who eat dinner in front of the TV). So we’ll eat and watch something on the DVR. After dinner Angela usually grabs her iPad to check Twitter or Pinterest or whatever, and I grab the controller and switch back to my suspended game and pick up right where I left off. When I’ve had my fill (or if I have more work to do) I put the whole Xbox into standby mode. The next day I can wake it up and again pick up that game right where I left off.

This sounds minor but in fact it is making the XB1 my go-to console since I don’t have to load up a game, then load up a save, and then start playing. I just say “Xbox On,” grab a controller and start playing the game I had been playing the previous evening.

Overall I still prefer the Playstation ecosystem and when I know I have a couple hours to play it’s the PS3 or PS4 that gets turned on. But on busy days when I just have a few minutes to sneak in some gaming before or after dinner, the Xbox One can provide that fix quickly and effortlessly. And Forza Horizon 2 is the kind of game that rewards playing for 10 minutes; maybe I can get a photo of a rare car, or maybe I’ll go in search of signs to drive through for bonus points. The game offers a plethora of both short and long term goals and makes even the shortest gaming sessions feel really fun.

I’ve been enjoying the heck out of ArcheAge and found myself looking at all the goodies in the Starter Pages and finding myself tempted to buy one, which is crazy since I already spent stupid money on a Founders Pack. Still the itch was there.

Today I decided to do some math and figure out if they’re actually a good value. And guess what? They’re fair but not a deal.

First step was to determine how much a credit costs. At the smallest denomination $5 gets you 750 credits. So a credit is worth .6667 cents. (Technically .666666666… on and on but I figured 4 digits was enough.)

Using that number, here’re the values I came up with:
$149.99 Archeum Starter Pack = $188.41
$99.99 Gold Starter Pack = $122.27
$49.99 Silver Starter Pack = $52.80

This looks good but there’s a catch, but before I go into that there are some caveats.

The Archeum Starter Pack includes “Purestar Ball Attire” which isn’t available in the store and I didn’t factor it into the cost at all since I had no idea what the value would be. It also includes the Mirage Elk, which again isn’t available in the store but I valued it at 600 credits since that’s the cost of the highest price mounts in the store. It also includes 6 Skybound Housewarming Gifts. Again, not available in the store, but you can buy Clawbound Housewarming Gifts for 420 credits so I used that figure.

The Gold Pack & Silver Packs have 3 & 1 Skybound Housewarming gifts, respectively and there again I used that 420 credit figure.

So if you really want these unique items then buying a Starter Pack is the way to go.

Now let’s talk about that catch. A credit is worth .6667 cents only if you buy at the lowest available denomination. If you buy more than the minimum you get bonus credits.

If you buy $100 worth of credits you get 15,000+3,500 bonus, for a total of 18,500 credits. Now you’re paying .5405 cents for a credit.

If we plug that figure into our spreadsheet then the Starter Packs are pretty much break-even:

$149.99 Archeum Starter Pack = $152.75
$99.99 Gold Starter Pack = $99.13
$49.99 Silver Starter Pack = $42.81

Now for the sake of completeness it’s weird to figure the value of a $50 starter pack based on spending $100 on credits.
If you buy $50 of credits you get 7,500 + 1,000 bonus for a total of 8,500 credits. At this level a credit is worth .5882

The figures then become:

$149.99 Archeum Starter Pack = $166.23
$99.99 Gold Starter Pack = $107.88
$49.99 Silver Starter Pack = $46.59

And there’s one more thing to factor in. Are you going to actually use everything in these Starter Packs? For instance Vocation Tonics let you level up extra trade skills temporarily buff up your trade skills. If you’re not big into crafting you may never use those, or by the time you need them you may be awash in in-game gold that you can use to buy Apex to turn into credits to buy a Vocation Tonic. Personally I haven’t felt the need for XP Tonics; experience rolls in pretty quickly naturally. And I don’t even know what a Crest Brainstorm Reagant is for, do you?

So my advice, unless you really want the Elk, Ball Attire or Skybound Housewarming Gifts, is to instead just purchase credits in bulk so you get the bonus amount, and then spend them on the items you actually need. In my opinion that’s a smarter way to go.

Here’s a link to the Google Spreadsheet I created to figure all this out:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cKLMKg9r_CHKCZWxOlhtYBt6lrwjy6An9O9f7JFL0rQ/edit?usp=sharing

PS If you think I’ve made any errors in these calculations (I transcribed all the items by hand) please let me know and I’ll update.

rowboarIt seems like the ArcheAge anger is dying down in the blogosphere (or I’ve started tuning it out) as either the queues fade or people just give up and go away mad. Personally I’ve had good luck since re-rolling on one of the first ‘expansion servers.’ As a Patron my queue has never been more than a few minutes and often I get in almost instantly. In-game the initial crush has died down and there’s not as much fighting over mobs.

Not that I fight much. Let’s face it, there are a metric butt-ton (that’s a scientific measurement) of games chock-full of kill 10 rats quests and if you’re struggling to play ArcheAge to do those I can only wonder why. But hey, as long as you’re having fun. I’m playing ArcheAge for the sandbox yumminess, and that means I spend a lot of time growing stuff, crafting items, and exploring the world. I do accept every quest I come across and one of these days I’ll have to think about finishing them.

questsThe last time I wrote I talked about my first Tradepack quest and it took until last night for me to get around to doing it. This is a quest that will drive the impatient away in droves, but I enjoyed it. First you have to make the trade pack and that took me a few days of farming (in-game farming, as in growing crops…not farming as in “killing the same mob over in over hoping for drops”) then you have to carry it from one place to another, which took me… I dunno… 15 minutes of walking? Many will dismiss this as ‘busy work’ and it is, but it was also a neat opportunity to slow down and really look at the world. I made note of some housing areas that had lots of open room, plus I gathered some wild herbs and did some mining along the way. It’s not something I’d want to do every day but there are ways to mitigate your travel time. Mounts and ‘mass transit’ and things of that nature.

My way of enjoying ArcheAge is to really treat it like a virtual world rather than a game, I guess. Sadly my fellow players don’t see it the same way and my attempts to banter with passersby have so far been met with stony silence. Killjoys.

ArcheAge isn’t my new home. I don’t really do ‘new homes’ in MMOs. I flit from one to the other. The real-time aspects will eventually go from fun to annoying (I log in every morning before work to tend my garden) but for right now, I’m finding it all charming and addictive. I actually find myself looking forward to more players drifting away and leaving me with an emptier world, which I know isn’t something that Trion is looking forward to, but I think we all can agree will happen. Packed farming land and housing areas look dumb but the ones I saw in my walk last night actually are quite pretty and make me want to ‘live’ there for a while. Plus competition for mining nodes is fierce right now; everyone is looking for stone.

I’m really glad I rolled on the new server rather than fight the queue and the crowds on Naima. I have plenty of Patron time on my account (since I was a Founder) but if I didn’t, I’d definitely be throwing down my $15 to subscribe, at least for now. ArcheAge is a great game if you’re looking for a sandbox experience, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. There’s lots of down and ‘quiet’ time unless you’re just trying to play it like a themepark, and if you’re doing that I think there are better alternatives out there.

airship

So ArcheAge is the new Flavor of the Month. Months ago curiosity got the better of me and I bought a Founders Pack which came with some Patron time, so when the game launched I figured I better jump in since I essentially had pre-paid for time. Of course by now you’ve heard the horror stories of 14 hour queues and such. I don’t have time for that nonsense. But late last week they added a couple more servers and I tried again and these new servers have Patron queues that have so far been manageable, so I’ve been playing finally.

I got to where I could buy a farm and that’s been pretty much full-stop on adventuring. The PvE questing/fighting in ArcheAge is fine but it isn’t anything really special. What I find interesting (and I can not explain WHY I find it interesting) is raising chickens and stuff. So my little farm right now has 5 chickens, an aspen tree for lumber, a couple of grape vines, a few stalks of barley (grain to feed the chickens) some thistle, azaleas and iris (all treated as herbs) and maybe some other odds and ends. I’m going to make…something.

Well, I have a crafting quest to make a specialty tradepack and I need meat (sorry, chickens) and grapes to do that. The rest is just stuff that seemed like it’d be useful to have and I didn’t want farmland laying fallow. And while I wait for my crops to grow I’ve been riding around harvesting trees and ore out in the wild.

This morning the servers are down and it struck me that the one thing I don’t like about ArcheAge so far is that it’s an MMO. The world is PACKED right now and there’s a LOT of idiocy being shouted back and forth. My blacklist probably has 100 people on it already. Now in theory I need these people so the game has an economy, but can’t an economy be simulated?

All this led me to decide I want to play a game like ArcheAge, but one that is single player (or local co-op or anything that’s not an MMO). It seems like a niche that should be filled but I can’t think of anything. Something like Banished but on a smaller scale. Or something like The Long Dark but with more building and cultivating. Or like 7 Days to Die but without zombies tearing down everything you build. Or like Don’t Starve with a little bit less weird to it. (Don’t Starve is probably the closest thing I can come up with.)

I’m looking for a game where I can farm, craft things, build a home (and eventually a fortress), and also go out and fight mobs. And maybe there’re NPC townfolk who need corn to get through the winter, or warm blankets or something. So I could do some bartering as well. And the building should feel like building not just, y’know, you buy a house from a vendor. More like you put down plans and then have to add components to build your house.

This feels like a game that should exist. Anyone have any suggestions?

A packed housing area in ArcheAge.

A packed housing area in ArcheAge.

Blitzkrieg3_03Wargamers, take heed!

Nival has announced Blitzkrieg 3 is coming to the rest of the world (it was previously only announced for Russia). Press release info below, but before we get to that, to celebrate they’re having a sale on their earlier games on Steam.

Blitzkrieg Anthology is $4.99

Blitzkrieg 2 Anthology is also $4.99

These are both pretty old, released in 2003 and 2005 respectively and, disclaimer, I haven’t played them yet.

In days of yore there was always a new wargame right around the corner but these days they’re so rare that a new one feels like cause for celebration.

Anyway here comes the PR stuff:


September 18 – St. Petersburg – A decade ago, Nival cemented itself as a leader in strategy gaming with the launch of its now-classic Blitzkrieg series, which has won more than forty awards, including numerous Game of the Year and Editor’s Choice accolades. Today, Nival unveils Blitzkrieg 3, the next title in the acclaimed series, coming to PC and Mac in early 2015. Blitzkrieg 3 paints a realistic picture of World War II – away from the realm of politics or ideology, focused on the battles that ultimately shaped the world we live in today.

Players will become commanders of the era as they experience an interactive story of the second World War, blending single-player and innovative multiplayer gameplay. Classic single-player campaigns will be available for each party involved in the conflict – the USSR, the Axis and the Allies. Multiplayer is asynchronous, allowing players to make their way through the enemy defenses without needing to be online for hours on end.

“Since its establishment 17 years ago, Nival has been focused on the strategy genre – often mixing it with other elements to create new game experiences,” says Sergey Orlovskiy, CEO of Nival. “We feel that today’s rather rapid pace of life has caused the RTS genre to fall by the wayside. Blitzkrieg 3 is designed to re-invent RTS for modern gamers, using all of our experience to deliver something new and exciting.”

More information about Blitzkrieg 3 will be released in the coming months, but for now prospective strategists can take a look at the official website www.blitzkrieg.com, complete with gameplay footage, developer insight, screenshots and more.

About Blitzkrieg 3
Blitzkrieg 3 is an innovative real-time strategy game, blending single-player and multiplayer modes to breathe new life into the RTS genre. It continues the successful Blitzkrieg series, which has won over forty awards, including numerous “Game of the Year” and “Editor’s Choice” accolades. Blitzkrieg 3 presents a true picture of World War II beyond politics, and enables players to feel like commanders of the era. Blitzkrieg 3 is being developed by Nival, which has created top strategy games for seventeen years. More information is available at www.blitzkrieg.com

:: END ::

Release date is listed as “Early 2015″ and it’s coming to PC & Mac.

Blitzkrieg3_02

As a cranky old man, I’ve often ranted at length about the Internet’s inevitable move towards video. When I’m researching a problem and Google spits up a link to an answer and I see it’s a link to YouTube, I groan. I don’t want to watch 7 minutes of pre-amble before I get my answer. I want text that I can quickly skim through to find the bit I need. Reading is fast, watching video is not.

So when I saw the headline What happens to literacy when the internet turns into a giant TV station? it made me happy because I thought I’d found a kindred spirit in the author.

Well, turns out that’s not the case; it’s actually a much more balanced piece, though I still like MIT social scientist Sherry Turkle quote “A life of visual memes is not enough.”

I found it to be an interesting read and you might too, if you’re at all interested in how ubiquitous Internet access is potentially changing our culture.

Or if you hate reading maybe they’ll make a video for you to watch.

This started as a comment on Belghast’s post… I apologize for how rough it is. I need to get to work so I’m just copying and pasting from his comment form!

Here’s what I wrote in response to him:


You might be interested in this post at Gamasutra:
Opinion: Let’s retire the word ‘gamer’

or this one:
‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over.

I find it interesting that this is suddenly a hot topic. Both of those articles talk about the negative connotations of the term.

Honestly I think the whole issue is kind of absurd (no offense intended..as I say I’m the lunatic fringe here and many people ARE discussing it). Do people who knit sit around pondering whether or not they should refer to themselves as knitters? Do runners? Gardeners? “I have a garden but it’s just a couple of tomato plants… should I really call myself a gardener?”

You should call yourself whatever you want to call yourself. Gamer is just a word that is a shorthand way to communicate that one of the many things that holds interest for you is playing games.

And your post even adds nuance.. hardcore gamer vs casual gamer vs tabletop gamer. So you can sub-categorize if you feel the need to.

Tam can identify as Game Designer sure, but that has nothing to do with whether or not Tam is a gamer. It’s like my referring to myself as a Brewer. Sure I brew beer but it’s entirely possible that i might brew the stuff but not drink it, so saying I’m a brewer has no relevance to whether or not I’m a beer drinker. Am I a beer drinker? I do enjoy a beer once in a while but I don’t drink a 6-pack of Bud every night, and Bud is the most popular brand (it’s the Call of Duty of American beer), so maybe I shouldn’t call myself a beer drinker.

But if someone asked me if I was a beer drinker and I said “No” I’d feel like I was being dishonest since I do drink beer. Same with games… I play games, therefor I am a gamer, among many, many other things.

LOL sorry for the tirade… those two Gamasutra articles really got me spun up yesterday and the effects are still lingering… I probably should post this to my own blog since it’s so long….

A lot of my friends are super-excited about Dragon Age:Inquisition coming out this fall. When my friends get excited, I get excited, or at least try to. What’s better than being in a social bubble with other folks enjoying the same game you are?

But I’d never finished Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age 2, and I’m trying to stick to a policy of not buying sequels until I’ve played through the earlier games in a series. So I’m in the midst of taking another stab at Dragon Age: Origins.

And whew, what a grind it is. I’m something like 33 hours in and I think a little over half-way through the main storyline (based on the fact that you have to get 4 factions to sign on with you and I’ve gotten 2 so far). So I’m predicting something like 60 hours to finish this game, and that’s skipping a ton of side quests and things added as DLC after the fact. Then I have Dragon Age 2 to get through, and only then can I consider Dragon Age 3.

And suddenly it all feels too much like work, particularly when I read posts like Dragon Age Inquisition Will Literally Have Tons of Gameplay Hours, Borderline Impossible To Tell How Many.

There was a time when I loved hearing that an upcoming game was going to be epic in length, but that was long ago. Back then I had lots of time and not a lot of money so I wanted to squeeze as much gameplay out of each title that I could. These days I have plenty of money (in terms of buying games anyway) but not very much time. And there are SO MANY GAMES to play, both upcoming and in my huge pile of shame.

The problem is that I’m intensely curious about games. I want to experience them all, which clearly isn’t possible. But when I find a game that’s 60 hours long and I figure if I play for an average of an hour every night (which feels about right…some nights I play a few hours, some nights not at all), that’s two months spent with one game, and over the course of those two months about 6 new games will come out that I want to play! Plus these days I tend to play (single player) games for their narrative and not many games have a story good enough to keep your interest for 2 months.

But what really makes me weird about all of this is that I love MMOs and of course 60 hours in an MMO is nothing, right? I guess the fact that MMOs don’t have a “finish line” makes me play them in a more free-form way, if that makes sense. I’m not striving towards this The End goal, I’m just playing to have fun.

Anyway the point is after reading that DA3 is so big that it’s impossible to say how long it is, I’m much LESS interested in playing it than I was before. It just sounds too intimidating! I wonder if anyone else feels the same way?

For the past week or two I’ve been surprising both myself and my friends by being a social gamer. I’ve been doing dungeons in PUGs in Final Fantasy XIV, joined a Free Company (Guild) and have actually been interacting with other members, joined a link shell, added some random folks I’ve met to my friends list. On the console side I’ve been playing Diablo 3 with friends.

I will begrudgingly admit that hell isn’t always other people. Sometimes other people are really fun to hang around with, and playing in groups is a very different experience than playing solo.

But I’m still an introvert in the most technical sense of the word. Let me explain. The best definition of an introvert that I’ve found is that an introvert ‘recharges’ by being alone; s/he expends energy being around other people and gains it from solitude. An extrovert is the exact opposite. They get energized by being around other people and if they spend too much time alone their batteries start to run down.

Yesterday I was really tired. I have a lot of trouble sleeping and it’s often the case that by the end of the work week I feel like I’m running on fumes. After dinner I fired up the PS4 and was going to jump into Diablo 3. I checked my friends list to see who was playing and some friends were. And suddenly I found myself shutting the console off again. I went looking for friends to play with but when I found some I felt this weight settle around my shoulders and it seemed like playing with them would just be exhausting.

Then I went upstairs and logged into Final Fantasy XIV and for the first time, didn’t say hello to my Free Company. Nor did I queue for anything. I just quietly did some solo questing until it was time for bed. I ran into a few friends in the world but sorta pretended I didn’t notice them, which was pretty harsh, I’ll admit.

I felt pretty crappy about this when I was pondering my day waiting for sleep to come. I felt like I’d back-slid into my old ways.

But today I feel better about it. I am who I am and if I need alone time sometimes, well, that’s just the way it is. I think…. no, I KNOW my real friends will understand. I have this bad way of looking at everything in terms of black and white and the fact is I’m sure everyone is some shade of grey. I bet even the most extroverted people have times when they just feel like being alone, and as an introvert there’s just no way I’ll be happy if I put myself ‘out there’ all the time.

I just need to make sure I find a comfortable shade of grey where I am social some times and solo other. To make sure I don’t completely give up on being social and making (and keeping!) friends; it’s far too easy for me to completely tune out the rest of humanity. I work from home so I can easily go a week or more not speaking to anyone but Angela and the dog, and as much as I adore them both, that’s just not healthy. I do ‘talk’ to a lot of folks on social networks but that’s not real time and so it seems to stimulate a different part of my brain or something… The point being this is kind of ‘bigger’ than just games. Right now games are my primary vector for socializing, so I damned well better use them for that!

kittenSo as mentioned in my last post, I went back to playing Final Fantasy XIV. I kind of resist admitting to “Flavor of the Month” temptations since it feels like there’s a negative connotation to that phrase, plus it gets thrown around a lot. I hear my friends referring to FFXIV as “FOTM” that everyone is going back to, but at the same time most of the chatter I see on Twitter is about going back to WoW to get ready for the next expansion and from my perspective that’s the game that “everyone” is going back to.

Not that any of this matters. What matters is having fun. If you find it fun to change MMOs twice a week then go for it, flavor-of-the-month or flavor-of-the-week accusations be damned! Anyway I’ve always been fond of FF XIV. Fond enough that I’ve been subscribed since launch even though months went by without me playing it. It was always something I intended to play ‘any minute now’ and so when I saw Dusty talking about the game it finally got me to log in. He was playing on Diabolos, I think, so I decided to roll a new character there. I got my dude just the way I liked him but oops, Diabolos was locked for new characters. So I randomly picked Marlboro.

At the same time Scarybooster was playing and he was determined to get to level 20. Only he was on Cactuar. Meanwhile Dusty went on vacation. So after a couple days on Marlboro I re-rolled AGAIN on Cactuar to lend moral support to Scary. That was Monday the 11th.

When I played FFXIV last Fall I got to about level 18 before running out of steam. My issue with FFXIV is that dungeons are mandatory. Let me explain that. Features of the game unlock as you play through the main story quest, and to do that you have to complete quests that require you to do dungeons. I had originally rolled a Gladiator not realizing it was a Tank (ie high stress) class so I really balked at doing the dungeons. I’m a determined solo-ist and I’m fine with skipping dungeons in most MMOs, but FFXIV pushed me out of that comfort zone.

Last Monday I rolled a Thaumaturge and quickly ran him up to 16 or 17 but I wasn’t really feeling it. I never play casters but I was just trying something new. So I switched jobs to Pugilist and he is now 22 and has done the first three mandatory dungeons. I did them with PUGs and they were all pretty fun once I got in them and got going.

I find that my anti-social anxiety actually peaks while waiting for the Duty Finder to pull together a group. I almost canceled my first dungeon queue several times, but once I got in there the group was asshat-free and it was a good time.

The second one was less so but I found that as a DPS as long as you’re not stupid people at worst don’t notice you. Not stupid, at these low levels, basically means don’t run ahead of the tank and activate dormant mobs, really. I can do that. I got a Player Commendation doing that dungeon so I must’ve either done something right or someone took pity on the new kid (when you roll a character in FFXIV there’s a little sapling icon next to your name so people know you’re new).

But what has really surprised me is that in a week I’ve leveled one job to 17 and a second to 22 and I’ve pushed the main storyline well past where I had it last fall at launch, even though I played for much longer at launch.

I don’t know if Square-Enix has reduced the leveling curve or if it’s because I’m playing differently than I did back then, but I wanted to share my playstyle with others because I seem to level faster than my friends newly come to the game (one evening I was playing at the same time as a friend was and in the time it took him to gain 1 level I gained 4).

My new system boils down to: Don’t be a completionist when it comes to Quests. Follow the main storyline quests and do just enough other quests to keep you at a good level for the main storyline. If you’re level 15 and you’re doing level 10-12 side-quests you’re both wasting your time and you’re ‘using up’ quests you might want if you decide to switch to another class later.

You can get a lot of experience doing Fates and completing your Hunting Log, as well as doing Guildleves the 1st time (you get bonus exp the first time you do them ) and doing them via the Duty Roulette (again, bonus exp for doing them that way). Eventually you’ll unlock the Challenge Log and that’s another good source of exp.

For your gear, keep it upgraded by buying gear from NPC vendors. It’s cheap and you’ll outgrow it really quickly. If there’s a level-appropriate quest that gives you gear you need, by all means do it, but it seems to me quests give you the same gear that vendors sell, at these low levels.

Once you start doing the dungeons you’re likely to get gear from them that is better than solo quest and NPC sold stuff, and you get tons of exp doing those things. So you might want to re-run them (again, using Duty Roulette for bonus exp).

In addition to gaining levels there’s a bunch of stuff you can unlock as you go. I found this great list at GamerEscape that tells you when and how to unlock stuff. Via that link I was prompted to go unlock the silly dances, the wolf and coerl (cat) minions (non-combat pets) and the oh-so-flamboyant Aesthetician (Barber). Not only are these unlocks pretty easy and a fun diversion, they also give you experience.

Basically it feels like everything you do in FFXIV is giving you experience and quests are only one of many ways to earn it. So don’t bother doing quests that are lower level than you unless they unlock something specific you need, and you’ll level up like the wind!