Chainmail appears (FF XIV)

One of the fun (for me anyway) things about getting in at the start of an MMO with a player-based economy is watching the economy advance.

For the first week or so of FF XIV everyone was wearing their starter gear (which can serve you well for quite some time). Then as the crafters got better at their, uh, crafts, that started to change. First you saw bandanas and various hats and masks. Then you saw an influx of cowls, giving FF XIV an Assassin’s Creed vibe for a while.

The other day I noticed fighting-types had begun to wear plate helms with their leather or cloth armor.

And last night I noticed chainmail for the first time. Now I missed a couple days of play due to being busy, so I probably missed the gradual adoption of it, but, particularly with those hulking Roegadyn, the sparkle and shimmer of a coat of chainmail was hard not to notice.

So far, at least, gear in FF XIV isn’t fantastical like it is in some MMOs. But the game looks so good that even something as ‘basic’ as a suit of chainmail just seems magical the first time you see it. There’s so much detail to the world…it’s just jaw dropping at times.

Of course, dumbass me forgot to take any screenshots!!! LOL

I bought Crysta (FF XIV)

Well, yesterday I took the plunge and used PayPal to buy 2000 Crysta to pay for my FF XIV account with. For those playing along at home, that’s $20 worth. It still bugs me that if I cancel after that month I’ll have left-over credit, but it doesn’t bug me enough that I’m not going to play, and I’m more comfortable with buying Crysta via PayPal then I am with signing up my credit card to that ClickandBuy system. Plus this way if I get distracted and stop playing I won’t auto-renew since I won’t have enough Crysta.

The expected hate has arrived in spades and I’m trying my best to avoid it. A lot of it is coming for common garden variety trolls, but even thoughtful people seem unable to parse the idea that there are people who are genuinely enjoying FF XIV. People whose opinions I usually respect, like Justin Olivetti (you may know him as Sypster) are jumping on the anti-FFXIV bandwagon, saying I’m getting the feeling people are defending a really bad game in FF14 because it’s Final Fantasy — would they put up with this elsewhere? (via Twitter).

People said the same thing about LOTRO when it launched: that only reason people liked it was because they were Tolkien fans.

So these people (the trolls I mean) who don’t like the game take every opportunity they can to mock it or trash it, of course. It’s as if the existence of a game they don’t like offends them in some way.

Maybe FF XIV is a really bad game for Justin. That doesn’t mean it’s a really bad game for everyone. I’m having fun and it doesn’t have anything to do with it being Final Fantasy. I’ve finished exactly 1 FF game in my life (X) and I didn’t like FF XI much at all. What I do like about it is the freedom it gives you. You can be any class, and you can (slowly) respec at will; so far the only real limits have had to do with inventory capacity.

Does it have some horribly broken parts? Absolutely. Virtually every MMO launches with something broken. FF XIV maybe more than most games; if you’re looking for polish then give it some time before trying it. Actually I strongly urge almost everyone to wait until there’s a free trial to give it a shot anyway. Most modern MMO players aren’t going to like it because it is very different in a lot of ways.

But it also has something that’s pretty rare these days: a rich crafting system and player-driven economy. If you love your monsters to be loot piatas you’re going to be *miserable* in FF XIV. Virtually everything is player-crafted. Seriously. So if you want to made a grey leather item (a leathercrafter skill), you need grey leather, right? To make grey leather you combine a sheepskin (combat drop), some willow chips (carpentry, comes from a willow log obtained by a botanist) for tanning, and grey leather dye. To get grey leather dye (alchemy) you combine linseed oil with some slate-grey bugs (yech) that you may find while mining. You get the linseed oil by harvesting flax (botany).

If that process sounds appealing to you, then you might be a FF XIV candidate. This kind of stuff tickles the hell out of me. It’ll drive most casual MMO players batshit crazy. You can do all of those steps yourself if you want to level all the jobs, or you can trade/buy sub-components from other players. Some sub-components can be purchased from NPCs, but most of them can only be obtained via player-crafting. Sadly one of the horribly broken systems is buying and selling, so a lot of dealing is done the old fashioned way…by talking to other players *gasp!* There’s a first pass at a revamp of the bazaar system coming soon but I suspect they’re going to need more than one before they’re done.

If you aren’t interested in crafting, then again, this is probably not your game. There’s such a heavy emphasis on crafting that you’d be missing more than half the game if you didn’t partake.

Y’know what else is funny? Remember everyone screaming bloody hell about the fatigue system? No one who is playing is complaining about that now, because it’s almost impossible to hit the limits. Ditto insta-travel. The teleport system uses “anima” which regenerates over time, another fact people were freaked about before launch. Well it turns out you start with 100 anima and short ‘ports use 4, so you could do 25 short-distance teleports in a row before running out. I don’t know why you’d want to do that.

I don’t know if longer teleports cost more; I assume they do but I’m not sure how much. No one seems to be complaining that they’re running out of anima, though.

I’ve been playing with a controller lately, which is a godsend given that Minecraft borked my shoulder (I have an on-again, off-again problem with my left shoulder…maybe bursitis or something). It’s a very comfortable game to play.

Anyway, I played last night until about 2 am and was up at 8 am to play more; I can’t remember the last time an MMO hooked me like that. Today I finally did the big road trip to the other starting cities to tag the stones there so I can teleport around. There’s a ferry ride along the way that was just stunning (though I’m sure I’ll never take it again since it did take about 5 minutes). I don’t know if it’s always like this, but when I took it night had fallen and there was wild thunder and lightning storm; some of the best weather I’ve ever seen in a game. When Limsa Lominsa finally loomed out of the darkness looking like some ancient broken volcano, lightning forking down around it, it literally gave me chills.

So yeah, I love this game. I might hit a road block and lose interest next month, this afternoon or in two years. Who knows? But for now I’m enjoying myself and am contemplating a second account for two-boxing. I’m really looking forward to seeing what improvements and additions Square-Enix adds over the coming months and years.

Oh, one last thing…for all the hate, the game seems to be plenty populated. At least the Besaid server is. So I’m not the only one enjoying myself.


If…you become naked (FF XIV)

There’s a Beatles reference that’ll fly over most of your heads, but anyway…

So all my armor and clothing are “broken” but I’m too damned stubborn to go to an NPC for repairs! I’ve stripped down as far as I’m comfortable doing, but in terms of actual protection I’m totally naked even if I still have on an undershirt and pants.

So this weekend I’ve focused my time on Botany (to harvest fibers) and Weaving & Leathercrafting. My short term goal is to be able to repair my starter gear.

That’s turning out much easier with my cloth-based gear. “Hempen cloth” comes, ultimately, from Moko Grass which I’ve found plenty of. I just only now realized it was the base ingredient for hempen yarn.

So tonight my goal is to repair my hempen undershirt which has a durability of 1 (out of something like 10,000!!) right now.

I did make my first bit of gear: A straw hat!

Leatherworking is turning out to be more difficult. I have a bunch of sheep skins (quest rewards from local levequests) but to turn them into sheep leather I need willow chips. So far I haven’t logged any willow. I’m not yet sure if I’m chopping the wrong trees or if I just need to level up botany some more. I also found those bizarre little mushroom men sometimes drop willow logs so I’ve been attacking them as I run back and forth, but so far no joy.

So that’s how things stand now. Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Inventory is now a big problem… while in theory you can play every class with one character I’m finding inventory spaces could limit that. You have 80 slots, plus you can get a retainer for another 80, but tools count towards inventory when you aren’t using them. So when I grab my sword to fight, my 14 (so far) tools are considered inventory items. Then you start collecting things and you get a moko grass and a moko grass+1 and a moko grass+2 etc etc.

Anyway I’m maxed out on inventory and need to head back to Gridania to contact my retainer and offload some of this junk onto her. And I haven’t touched any combat class but Gladiator, nor Culinarian or Alchemist.

And when I start wearing meaningful armor and need different sets for different classes? Sheesh, I wonder if I can get a 2nd retainer to hold my stuff!?

Another day in… FFXIV: Levequest tips

Hmm, I was going to title this post “Another Day in [the name of the world FF XIV takes place in] but y’know, I can’t remember what it is. That’s probably a bad sign, right? I just seem to have a block when it comes to the names in this title.

And yet I still enjoy myself. Last night I spent the last of my gil on a tool to start leathercrafting, then grabbed a bunch of Local levequests. I ended up completing 3 and failing 1.

A few (maybe obvious) things I learned:

1) When you accept a levequest and are asked if you want to Activate it, say yes. Saying no just cancels the transaction. Activate is basically a confirmation dialog.

2) You can gather the materials for several levequests at once. The materials don’t show up in your inventory but you can see that you have them by looking at the levequest in your journal. So grab a bunch of stuff and find someplace quiet to do your crafting. Make the stuff for several levequests then run around and deliver them.

3) The item you have to make for a local levequest is a valid recipe, so make a note of it. I’ve started a spreadsheet to track recipes (which is geeky fun to me) but I’m sure soon enough all recipes will be on one of the many database websites out there. So if you get a levequest to make a square maple shield, by examining the materials that pop up in the crafting panel you’ll see what the recipe for a square maple shield is.

4) As a reward for completing a Local levequest you’ll get another recipe followed by “First Item: ####, Second Item, ####” etc, where ### is the name of a component. This is just describing the recipe you got… you’re not getting these items as loot. All the actual loot items you get are listed before the recipe.

5) You get enough materials to make more items than you need to complete the levequest. Make them all; you’ll still get exp and skill points from making the extra items. I’m hoping in my heart that when it comes time to turn in the materials the game takes your best results into account.

6) Speaking of which, take the time to make good quality items. I’ve seen some places say to just spam the Rapid Synthesis because quality doesn’t matter, but it seems to me I got better rewards when I turned in better quality items.

7) Which leads to my final bit of advice which is to stick to easier levequests for a while, at least if your goal is to earn gil. I think that making good quality items on a Skill level 1 levequest will reward you better than making shoddy items on a Skill level 5 levequest.

Um, take that last bit with a grain of salt though. In fact take this whole post with a grain of salt as I’m still figuring things out.

There was a patch yesterday and my Raptr client didn’t track my play session last night. I fear those two facts are connected, which is going to make tracking FF XIV a pain.

I actually drew my sword last night, for the first time in days… I think this weekend I might focus on combat jobs for a bit.

Here’s my character. He’s (at the time of this writing…this sig file is supposed to update automagically) physical level 9 and he is level 6 Botanist (harvesting plant materials, including lumber jacking), level 5 carpenter, level 4 blacksmith, level 4 Miner (harvesting rocks and minerals), level 3 gladiator, level 3leathercrafter. Not shown is level 3 fisherman.. I haven’t worked on that since day 1 so maybe the sig maker only lists the 6 most recent updates?

Bracing for impact (FF XIV)

Final Fantasy XIV continues to grow on me. In fact it was a bit later in the day that I wrote my last post that I kinda fell in love with it, warts and all. Part of the ‘challenge’ to enjoying the game was letting go and playing the game Square Enix’s way rather than trying to play it like it was a Western MMO. Shocking to imagine, but the blank notebook that comes with the Collector’s Edition is actually an essential game tool. You need to take notes while playing this game. And then compare those notes with others in order to find patterns.

Anyway, so I accepted FF XIV for what it is, which means I slowed down, stopped worrying about levels and experience and started thinking about how I’d make myself some new gear. I’ve been studying Carpentry and Blacksmithing, and harvesting everything I see as I run back and forth delivering the goods I’ve made. This takes a long time but.. y’know, it takes as long as it takes. Last night I logged in about 10 pm and between then and midnight I managed to do one single levequest. I had to deliver the goods to a camp I’d never visited before and the run out there was interrupted frequently by sparkling nodes that needed harvesting.

So I’ve made my peace and am ready to buy some Crysta soon. I’ll play for at least another month.

The one thing I’m concerned about is the launch on Thursday. The hate is bad enough among CE buyers (who, one would suspect, are people that researched the game before buying). When stacks of boxes show up on retail shelves tempting impulse buyers looking for a break from WoW while they wait for Cataclysm…things are going to get UGLY.

The community is going to be vile for a month or so after launch. I’m half-tempted to put the game aside for a few months, but the last time I did that the game folded before I had a chance to play much. The other alternative is just to stick my head in the sand and ignore everyone else, but we, The Community, are deep in the ‘figuring out how this game works’ phase and so I really *need* fellow players at this point.

I guess I’ll just have to thicken my skin and persevere.

If you’re thinking about trying FF XIV, I urge you not to. Instead, wait for a free trial or something. I think most people who try it are going to hate it, and the rest are going to LOVE it. In particular if you’re a theory-crafter who needs to min-max characters, stay far, far away. There are a lot of systems here that are not explained by SE and might never be; it’s up to the players to figure out how the world works. On the other hand, if you’re someone who loves tinkering and figuring out how things work then this might be the perfect game for you.

Am I liking Final Fantasy XIV?

The Collector’s Edition of Final Fantasy XIV arrived last Wednesday and I’ve been dabbling in it since. I’ve had a few people ask me what I thought of it. Figured it was time to dust off the blog to talk about it.

Caveats first. I played Closed and Open Beta, but in both cases very lightly. In the case of Closed I got in via winning a Fileplanet key on the last weekend Closed Beta was running, but I didn’t realize it was the last weekend so I didn’t play as heavily as I might have. By the time Open Beta arrived, launch was close enough that I didn’t want to be bored with early game content from having to re-roll, so again I didn’t play it much.

Second, FF XIV arrived the same week that Civ 5 did, and just a few days after the Sony Move, so my interests have certainly been divided lately.

So am I liking FF XIV? Yes, but conditionally. When I talked about the beta I said that it was like playing a single player RPG in a lot of ways. I no longer feel that way, really. This is more a sandbox game with some really engaging newbie quests, or so it seems. Maybe I’ll find more rich story-telling later but for now I’m in a sandbox game, for sure.

The only quests on my plate right now are the levequests, which you may as well read as leveling quests, in my limited experience. They kind of focus your sandboxing. Imagine if some said “Make a castle like this one!” and showed you a model (while you were playing in your sandbox). That’s what a levequest is. It has you doing the same things you were already doing, only with a specific goal.

I like this sandbox feel of “Go out and do whatever you feel like doing” but you have to make your own goals a lot of the time. I like that my one character can change to any class by changing tools. I like the look of the world. The graphics are beautiful to me, but that’s certainly subjective. I like that the game is so different that, for the first time in a while, I feel like I’m learning a new game, not a riff on all the games that came before it. There’s a lot of trial and error and/or web research. For me, as a change of pace, this is fun. I do wish the game had come with a thick manual though.

Sitting at the top of the list of things I don’t like: the payment system. First, the pricing. You pay $9.99 just to have an account, and then you pay $3/month per character, and that includes your first character. So an account with 1 character is $12.99/month. If you want two characters, it’s $15.99/month and so on. You can save if you sign up for 3 or 6 months at a time. Of course the good news is that you don’t really need more than 1 character and if you stick to just one then FF XIV is cheaper than most sub-based MMOs.

Worse is how you pay for your sub. You can’t just give them a credit card. Nope, you can either sign up for some third party service called ClickandBuy, register you credit card with them, and then use that account to pay, or you can buy Crysta, which are basically FF XIV points. These you can buy via PayPal or “Ultimate Gamer Cards” that you can pick up at Wal-Marts or certain drugstores or Gamestop. 1 Crysta = 1 cent. So a 1 month sub can be paid for with 1,299 Crysta. But guess what? You can purchase Crysta 500, 1000 or 2000 at a time. You can’t buy 1,299 Crysta so you’re going to have to have left-overs.

Remember Chronicles of Spellborn? We saw how well janky payment options worked for them.

Anyway enough ranting about the payment system. Let’s talk UI & controls. A lot of people hate the controls and the UI. They aren’t that much of an issue for me but if you expect to translate your WoW or Warhammer or EQ2 controls to FF XIV you’re going to be very disappointed. The good news is that they’ve improved the mouse cursor response rate in the launch version, but I still tend to jump from Gamepad to all-keyboard and don’t use the mouse much at all.

FFXIV supports macros and lots of / commands and you’re going to want to use both of these at certain times.

I guess this is long enough for now. If you jumped over the tl;dr stuff I’ll recap. I like the game, but I tend to play it for an hour here, an hour there. I don’t get sucked in and play it for hours straight. It’s a very casual game for me. I’m still dinking around with low-level jobs, seeing what they all feel like and getting a sense for what I’m going to want to do.

It has a player-driven economy from what I’ve seen, but sadly no housing. Somehow to me a sandbox game needs housing to feel complete. Housing gives crafters a lot of stuff to build, after all.

My guess is that I’ll keep playing for a month or two and then probably let it go and give it another try when it hits the PS3. It feels like a game that’ll be perfect to play when stretched out on a couch with a controller in my hand. The generally slow pace of the game just whispers “relax” in your ear every time you sit down to play. This is a game that’s going to drive power-leveling types mad since the pacing is so mellow in everything.

If you have specific questions feel free to ask them but keep in mind I’m playing at my own pace and Civ V keeps sucking up entire evenings of my playtime. 🙂

Update: Werit asks for more examples of how FF XIV is sandboxy. Hmm, maybe this is a definition thing. To me a game being a sandbox indicates more a lack of features than anything. There isn’t a lot of structure here. You can be whatever you want to be (well, once you buy the level 1 tool for that class) and from what I’ve read most of the good gear comes from crafters, so there’s a good amount of buying and selling raw materials and finished goods (though no central Auction House, which is a problem). At the moment I have 0 quests in my quest log. I don’t have NPC’s telling me where to go or what to do. I just have the ability to practice at any of the available jobs to get good enough to do whatever I feel like doing.

Hopefully that makes sense?

Update #2: One important point that I realized I left out of this post. While I’m liking FF XIV I wouldn’t recommend it in general terms to MMO players. I think some players will really love it but even more will really hate it, so I suggest doing a lot of research before buying.

A few more quick FF XIV tips

Server just crashed on me, figured I’d share a couple more things I’ve learned.

In case you missed it, there’s a separate configuration tool you can use to tweak graphics settings, gamepad bindings and so forth. Find it at something like “C:\Program Files (x86)\SquareEnix\FINAL FANTASY XIV Beta Version\ffxivconfig.exe”

It should be in your Start Menu too, under SQUARE ENIX -> Final Fantasy XIV Beta

I was able to set the game to full screen. Petter said he wasn’t given that choice. I’m not sure why one of us could and one couldn’t. I’ve had crash problems when Alt-Tabbing so went for a Windowed res anyway.

My Wired Xbox 360 controller wasn’t recognized by default. I hear a lot of people prefer playing with a controller. If you have one, that config tool should allow you to enable it, but you’ll have to bind commands yourself. I’m still futzing with that to get a good layout.

The IJKL keys move the camera. You can try using WSJL to move (W & S for forward & back, and J & L for turning). That can be a challenge but some folks swear by it.

Turns out you can pan the maps with IJKL too. That’ll make navigating much easier!

The following two images are copyright Square Enix… hopefully I won’t get thrown in jail for sharing them. My Open Beta account doesn’t seem to have access to the beta test site where these came from, and they can be pretty helpful:

Getting started in FF XIV

I thought I might share a few tips about Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV, now that it’s in Open Beta. I am NOT an expert on the game but I’ve played enough to figure out some of the frustrations newbies have.

First let’s talk about pacing. FF XIV is 1 part MMO, 1 part adventure game. The pace of it is pretty slow, there’s lots of text to read, lots of in-engine cut scenes to set the mood. Lots of conversations with NPCs, plenty of story to uncover. If you’re looking for a fast-paced game, FF XIV probably isn’t right for you. On the other hand, if you love single player Final Fantasy games, FF XIV will be right up your alley.

Second, interface. Hot topic. FF XIV uses its own interface. If you’re used to mouse-driven MMO’s you’ll hate the interface here. You will use the mouse, but the primary control device is the keyboard. Tab will select a target and Enter will interact with that target. (You can click on a target if you prefer.) To progress a conversation, hit Enter again. F toggles between fighting and passive stances. 1 on the numeric keypad toggles between walking and running. R toggles auto-run. – on the numeric keypad opens the main menu. Spacebar opens the chat input window. Basically it’s worth having a look at the keyboard bindings in the configuration menu.

The mouse is mostly used for camera control. At least, that’s how I’ve been playing.

[The following assumes you’ve started as an adventurer class, not a craftsperson.]

OK so you finally start the game, create a character, enter a city… the first bit you’ll go through is like a prolog that sets up how you’ve arrived at this new city. This is an instance and no other players are in it. It’ll end with a battle. Once you finish that you’ll zone out of the instance. There’ll be some NPCs nearby (green names). Talk to them. No, they won’t have ! over their heads. One will offer to escort you to the adventurer’s guild (I’ve done 2 of the 3 [?] starter cities and am assuming they all start the same.) Accept and a cut-scene will show you arriving at the destination.

Once you get to the Adventurer’s Guild, talk to the nearest NPC. He/she ought to give you the option of “Small Talk” (back story, basically) or a quest name. You can always open the main menu and check your Journal to find out who you need to talk to. Once you engage this person (and yeah, you might need to talk to a couple NPCs before you find the right one) s/he’ll chat you up and then send you out to a camp in the wilderness. This is the start of a chain of quests that teaches you the game.

Finding your way might not be easy. There’re two maps you can check. Hit M to see a generic map of the area, and check your quest journal to show a map localized on your destination. Step 1 is getting out of the city. I’ve been in two starting cities. The one that’s a port town was a bitch to get out of. The desert town was much easier. Anyway, finding your way around the city is part of the game; there’s not a lot of hand-holding here. Once you get outside it should be relatively easy to find the camp you’ve been directed to. Look at the Quest Journal’s map and compare the landmarks with your ‘big’ [M] map. Off you go.

When you get to the camp you’ll find a big crystal in the middle of it. When you get near it you’ll notice (or not) an icon floating near the top of your window. What I do at this point is open the main menu (- on the numpad, or click the icon) and at the top of the list you’ll see Aetheryte or whatever this crystal is called. At about the same time you contact from the Adventurer’s Guild will be talking to you via text chat.

Bottom line is, you’ll get a bunch of options off this crystal. First pick the Tome one…that’s a quickie user manual. Take the time to read it. Yeah I know, you want to kill. Read it anyway. Once that’s done, initiate the levequest from the crystal. You should be offered a buff. Accept that too. You’ll be prompted for a difficulty level. Pick Solo. The levequest will be to kill a few mobs…and now you’ll see a glowie arrow on the edge of your minimap. Follow that to the area where the mobs are. You’ll see them as pulsing orange circles on the mini map when you get near.

Time to fight! Target the mob, then hit F to go into Attack Mode. Right now you have 1 attack, bound to the 1 key. So hit it and you’ll attack the mob. Hit it again and again. You’ll see there’s a stamina meter that goes down but I’m not sure it’s possible to run out of stamina at this point. There is no auto-attack; you have to spam that 1 key. Position counts and if you really want the practice you can try to circle-strafe behind the baddie but it probably won’t be necessary.

Between fights if you need to heal, hit F to go out of attack mode.

If the mob drops loot it’ll go into your inventory. Don’t bother trying to click on the corpse. As far as I can tell that does nothing (maybe later you might be able to harvest from it?).

Once you’ve killed your requisite # of mobs a glowy spire will appear next to you. Interact with that (Main Menu, top choice) to reap the rewards of the levequest and teleport you back to camp.

OK you’re done here, time to run back to the city, to the adventurer’s guild. Your contact will tell you about actions. Yup, you weren’t paying attention but you earned some new skills.

Setting up skills is obtuse as hell.

1) Open the main menu, then Actions & Traits
2) On the right panel you’ll see an empty dropdown menu. Drop it down to reveal Sword, or Axe, or Bow, or whatever your weapon is.
3) Choose that weapon and you’ll see you’ve got 2 or 3 new skills that aren’t slotted
4) On the left side, click on the box next to your default skill. We’re going to bind a skill to the 2 key, that’s the second box
5) Now click the skill you want to bind over on the right side.
6) A pop-up window appeared, outside of the Actions & Traits panel. Awkward! Click “Equip in Main Hand” to bind the skill to the 2 key

Well, unless you have a shield skill or something, then I guess you’d equip it in your off hand.

Now talk to your Adventurer’s Guild contact, and s/he start you on a series of quests to explore the city.

I guess that’s enough for today. Hope this helps you get started and helps you avoid some of the frustrations that you might encounter.

Note: Final Fantasy XIV is not going to be for everybody. In fact, it isn’t going to be for most people. If you tried it and hated it, that’s fine, but don’t post a comment here. I’ll remove it if you do. There’re plenty of places on the web to bitch about how much FF XIV sucks.

I’m trying to put together a place where people (like me) who are enjoying the game, or are willing to give something different a try, can come and get a bit of help and/or ask questions. I don’t mean to come across as an ass but, well, I just want this to stay on topic, and the topic is helping other fans of the game learn to play.