9 Final Fantasy XIV starter tips I learned by obnoxiously asking questions

Part of the… fun? tradition? experience? of playing a new MMO to you is learning the ins and outs of its systems, particularly what makes it different from the rest of the crowd. My FFXIV guild has been really patient in explaining all of the little quirks that this game throws at you (in some ways, FFXIV is traditional MMO down to its core, but every so often you hit a system or feature that’s downright strange and new).

In the interest of sharing information, here are a few tips that have been helpful to me:

  1. Leave most side quests for alts; the MSQ/fates/leves/dungeons should be enough to level up first job.
  2. Dyemongers in the cities sell some (but not all) dyes for outfits which can be used at lower levels to create uniform-looking wardrobes. That’s the best we can get until the glamour system at level 50.
  3. First time through each guildhest awards a nice chunk of XP per class.
  4. Adjust UI to show all bags at once and target percentage, among other things.
  5. Set your free port to Limsa Lominsa as the ferry offers free trips to the Mist later on.
  6. This guide will help keep you on track, especially with side features/missions that you didn’t know existed.
  7. Type /busy as soon as you log in to avoid gold spam whispers
  8. No, there is no on-screen FPS counter that you can activate. Guess that’s what FRAPS is for.
  9. There really isn’t much personal customization of your build aside from what few cross-class abilities you choose. Everyone pretty much dumps their bonus points in the same main stat for that job/class.

Gender swapping in FFXIV

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I did a strange thing the other night, perhaps a first for me (I cannot recall): I swapped the gender of my main character.

This happened in Final Fantasy XIV, where I used a fantasia potion to redo my character’s physical appearance (including, if desired, gender and race). First of all, major props to FFXIV for even having such an option, because it’s simply not present in most MMOs. I went in an changed Syp Tsunami from a cheeky lass to a taller, more taciturn guy with a close-cropped scalp and beard. Then poof, I went through digital sex change in about five minutes, disappearing from the game as a female and reappearing as a male.

So why? Why did I do this?

Well, one of my ongoing personal challenges is to examine any ruts or routines I fall into out of comfort and tradition and ask myself if maybe it’s time to try something different. For years in MMOs, I’ve almost exclusively played female characters. Oh, I had a somewhat flimsy list of reasons for it — the physical customization options were better, the body frame smaller (and filling up less screen real estate), it’s cool to see heroines kick butt, and so on — but the truth is that I just got into a pattern of doing it and stopped thinking about it after a while.

But lately it’s started to bother me that this is what I always do. I don’t really roleplay, as you well know, so it’s not like I’m trying to live out fantasies of being a 20-something female in a fictional universe. I’m not attracted to my characters or using them as tantalizing eye candy. And I shouldn’t really have a preference one way or the other for in-game gender other than female characters always seem to me to look better than their male counterparts.

I don’t really judge what others play in-game — it’s a game, for pete’s sake, and if you want to be a girl, a guy, an androgynous avatar, a zombie, or an ogre, more power to you. But it’s started to feel weird for me to play women exclusively, as if I’m advertising that this is part of my online personality, because it’s not. Sometimes I wonder if it weirds others out to know me as a real guy first and then see me skipping around the game as a girl.

Maybe it’s that I haven’t hid the fact that I’m a guy in real life that makes it feel a little strange not to match that up with my in-game avatar. Like it’s a small measure of honesty instead of deceit. Maybe I just got into a rut and haven’t even considered guy characters for so many years that I’ve developed a blind spot to it.

I actually deeply regret that I rolled up a female character for my second Secret World character for the playthrough. I already have one and would love a guy character now because of the different costumes available. But that ship has sailed and I’ve invested too many hours in this character to erase her.

So here we are, me with my new FFXIV guy. To address the change in-universe, I’m thinking that maybe he’s a cousin or brother or the original Syp who’s taking over the family business of saving the world. In any case, going forward I’m exploring the game as a guy playing a guy, and that’s both slightly exciting and slightly weird for me.

FFXIV, dragons, and kids

My eldest son has taken a keen interest to FFXIV, begging me to load up the game so that he can sit on my lap and watch me play. He’s super, super into dragons these days (I know, we’ll have the “dragon talk” some day, but right now I blame the How to Train Your Dragon fad for it) and so to see me fight them in dungeons is the coolest thing.

What he’s taken to doing is bringing a dragon action figure to our play sessions and then “helping” me in battles by shouting “fire! fire! fire!” and tilting his toy toward the screen. 200 or so “fire!” screams later, and he’s still not bored with it. We’ve had long discussions about whether or not dragons can run out of fire (he says they can’t) and what makes a good dragon versus a bad.

I just love to see his imagination fueled by all of this and that he incorporates it into his play.

FFXIV: V-Day and artificial love

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Valentine’s Day is quite weird in the MMO realm. You see every title struggling with whether to do something with it or not. Some think it’s too silly and can’t find a good opening in regard to the game’s theme, others are starved for a good real-world holiday a month and a half after Christmas (because why make up a new one? That would take creativity!). From a cursory view, I’d say about a third of the MMOs I know decide to do something with V-Day.

This marks my first time doing holiday stuff in FFXIV, as I was just finding my feet in the game around the Christmas/new year period. I went off to Limsa Lominsa to do the few quests in the courtyard that was being practically smothered by hearts and pink. Now, we all know that FFXIV doesn’t always elect to be subtle, and with this event it’s using every excuse to be as zany and extroverted as possible.

The weird thing was that to do the fortune teller quest, I had to team up with another player and put on the opposite set of earrings (because… I have no idea, call it Final Fantasy reasoning). A cat-girl in the vicinity needed a partner, so after a lot of finagling — she couldn’t figure out how to drop her duty finder, then couldn’t find her earrings — we went around and found that we were quite the perfect match. Naturally, the second the quest was done we dropped group and never spoke again. Love, everyone!

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Gotta say, ever since I got my scholar job, I’ve been absolutely living it up as a healer! It’s not just that I can get into dungeons/guildhests within minutes — or even seconds — of queuing (although that’s nice), but it’s absolutely sating the desire I’ve had over the last half-year or so to get back into healing in MMOs.

It’s a really satisfying role, especially in an MMO where I’m not jumping around like a jackrabbit (TSW/WildStar) but instead can set up shop and heal/shield my team while throwing out DoTs on the side. And boy is that fairy pet great. I know people say I should put her on manual to utilize her the most effectively, but I’m not there yet. The whole fun of having a healing pet is that it’s helping out without my direct input, which takes something off my plate so I can spot heal and shield.

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FFXIV is a very pretty game, I think most of us would agree, but I do have a small quibble with the graphics. Structures, particularly wooden ones, look a little too pristine and perfect, just enough so that it keeps grabbing my attention and making me think of older games (especially console titles). Like there should be a little more texture and dirt and not-quite-perfect angles. The above fishing village looks like a place that was created by a player level designer.

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…says the game ironically right before it sends me off to do a near-endless string of trivial tasks instead of fighting the big threat that is bearing down on civilization. But no, no, I’ll go get your wine and kill your flies. That’s more important.

Also, Y’shtola earned my ire by fleeing with a flimsy excuse right after saying this. She’s apparently too good for trivial tasks.

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This player was perched right above a doorway, and with the lighting and all I thought it made for a marvelous picture.

Progress Day: FFXIV, The Secret World, and Diablo III

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Final Fantasy XIV

It’s been about a month-and-a-half now that I’ve been playing FFXIV as my MMO main and I’m generally pleased with the decision. Sure, there are annoyances and the whole game took some time to get used to, but now I’m in a nice groove and genuinely looking forward to logging in every night. I try to run my roulettes while pushing the main story quest further, and that seems to be working for me.

I hit level 35 or so with my Archer, which now became a Bard thanks to backtracking to do a couple of class quests and unlock my first soul stone. Final Fantasy has a passionate, inexplicable love of both stones and crystals in all their forms. It’s kind of a fetish that I think fans politely ignore. I hadn’t heard great things about the Bard, and after several levels with it and looking ahead to what future skills offered, I decided that this would ultimately be a disappointing track.

So I switched up and went back to my Arcanist. I spent my FFXIV time this weekend mostly leveling that class up from the low 20s to 30 in order to pursue healing with the Scholar. It’s weird that I can’t use the Arcanist to queue as a healer, so I have to wait until 30 to be able to do that with one of the class’ jobs. But I’m pretty happy with the decision to go this route, since pets and DoTs are always a safe bet with me. The only downside that I have to the class is the generally unsightly outfits (variations on wearing giant cones and puffy pants) and having a book as a weapon instead of something cool-looking. Then again, my LOTRO Lore-master used a book a lot and I was on board with that.

Last night I got my Arcanist to 30 and tackled the final class quest, which was a doozy of a fight that took me about seven tries to successfully complete. Nice to know that the game can be challenging in a fair way. Following that, I immediately went to get my Scholar soul stone, which apparently comes with Tinkerbell packaged in. It’s not the first game where I’ve had a fairy pet — thanks, RIFT — and as long as she pulls her weight, I’ll tolerate her presence.

Actually, I loved the switch over to Scholar. I jumped right into a guildhest and then a dungeon to give healing a try. Both popped really fast and the guildhest even gave me a nice bonus to rewards because there was currently a need for healers.

Having the fairy pitch in with healing was pretty awesome (especially since I only have two healing skills myself right now). Depending on how each fight was going, I could still toss out some DoTs to keep the damage going. I think I’m really going to like this job, although I’m a little dismayed that at some point I’m going to need to level the Conjurer to 34 to get the stoneskin cross-class skill.

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The Secret World

I’d been drifting back in the direction of doing a lot more Secret World, but this past week’s announcement of subscriber improvements actually helped to accelerate that process. I kicked my Secret Adventures series back into gear (as you have already seen) and wrapped up Blue Mountain in a couple of sessions. It was a great time and made me go, “Man, I have *missed* this game!”

So with newfound determination to get my playthrough done before the game’s demise some day, I joined a new cabal and decided to splurge on a grandmaster pack. The GM pack is going away this week and was on sale at 25% off, and since I knew that I wanted to sub up, I ran the numbers and realized that if I got more than 10 months of playtime out of TSW from here on out, I’ll be coming out ahead. Sure, it’s one of those long-term gambles that might have me kicking myself, but so far I haven’t had any buyer’s regret. Those new subscriber perks sound great (and will really help flesh out my AP wheel) and I like some of the loyalty rewards that will be heading my way over the next few months.

Now on to Egypt with my playthrough character! I also want to jump back into Yeti’s shoes and do the latest issue, both the 4 regular missions and the 4 side missions. It’s weird having two characters like this, and maybe one day I’ll abandon one completely for the other, but for the time being she’s all the way at the end and I’ve run her through most everything to date. Would be a shame to give that up now.

Diablo III

Diablo III’s been an on-again, off-again gaming experience. It’s definitely been enjoyable but it’s not always clamoring as loudly for my attention as my MMOs. I’m pleased to say that I’ve now progressed further than I ever have in the game, having wrapped up Act II and started Act III. I’m still experimenting with my build, but mostly I’m using strafe for my main attack complimented by a bat pet and three homing rocket-firing sentries.

The desert wasn’t totally my thing, but man I love the art and detail in this game — especially with the enemy mob models. I’m not quite sure at this pace if I’ll have everything in the season done before it officially ends, but I’m having a good ride and I suppose that’s what matters most.

Serial killers and haunted houses in FFXIV

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Even though I’m level 33, I still don’t have my first job yet because I’m lagging behind on the main storyline. Two levels behind, I guess, since last night the game finally sent me to Haukke Manor, a level 28 dungeon that I’d heard about here and there. FFXIV’s notion of a haunted house, or what my guild master labeled, “the first big boy dungeon.”

I’m always down for haunted houses in MMOs, so bring it on, FFXIV.

The lead-up to this dungeon was fairly grim — pretty girls killed, their faces mutilated beyond recognition (not that the game shows it to you… in fact, in some cutscenes you can clearly see that their faces are normal, so this is informed details), and their bodies dumped around the world and left guarded by winged eyeball things. Not quite sure why investigating this was left up to me instead of the local authorities, but sure. I’ll go track down this serial killer. Bet it’s Kevin Spacey.

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It didn’t take long before I discovered a witness who pointed me to Haukke Manor, where a particularly crazy lady who was scarred in the Calamity has been butchering girls in some sort of magic ritual to reclaim her glory.

Yes, it’s a thinly veiled fantasy homage to the real-world Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian serial killer and countess who killed hundreds and hundreds of girls and became somewhat of a folktale for supposedly bathing in their blood to retain her youth.

The description of the Haukke Manor includes the following passage:

“No amount of man-made tinctures, however, could hide the hideous scars she eventually suffered during the Calamity, and soon she was forced to turn to a darker solution, signing away her very soul in a final effort to literally ‘save face.'”

I… don’t think I can forgive the game for the bizarre pun in quotes at the end there. Maybe it was the intern’s day to write the flavor text.

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Anyway, the dungeon itself wasn’t too hard, probably because I was the only fresh-faced newbie on the team. It also wasn’t quite the haunted house that I was expecting. Oh sure, there were a few cobwebs, some bats, and skeletons, but the place was quite well-lit and spacious. Spacious like an aircraft hanger, actually. I could’ve piloted Voltron through those halls and doors with room to spare.

The dungeons down below were kind of neat, but I didn’t have a lot of time to play tourist since I was running behind a Team On The Go. The final fight in the lady’s chambers was pretty atmospheric, although it left me wondering why she would want to stay in this decaying house. Would be pretty depressing day in and day out.

Six gripes I have with FFXIV right now

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It’s always strange when you have a blog about MMOs and you sometimes want to write about complains you have about games that you quite like otherwise. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I feel as though if I criticize, I tarnish whatever current recommendation vibe I might be throwing out by playing a particular title.

I hope that’s not the case, that readers understand that no matter how much you enjoy a game, there are always things that bug you. And writing about experiences, both good and bad, are part of blogging — a yin-yang of honesty.

Last night I felt a little gripey, probably not helped by the onset of sickness, so I started compiling a list of six things that kind of bug me about FFXIV even as I’m having a great time. Don’t mind me as I vent!

(1) No housing for you!

It’s almost like this game is purposefully cruel by making low-level players go on a quest to check out the housing neighborhoods full of mansions that they won’t be able to afford for hundreds more hours. Hey, I’m glad FFXIV has housing at all, but it’s ridiculous how expensive and hard to obtain it is. Coming from WildStar and RIFT, which both make housing a great and affordable part of the early game experience, this feels elitist and poorly planned. And no, I don’t want my own free company room — I want my own little cottage, darn it.

(2) No port to Vesper Bay

As part of the main storyline, you’ll be visiting Vesper Bay and the HQ of the Seven Scions practically every third quest. You know what Vesper Bay doesn’t have? Any really quick way to port there. There’s no crystal shard, so you either have to take a boat over from Limsa Lominsa or port to Horizons and ride over from there. Over and over and over and over again. What were the devs thinking?

(3) Combat chocobos: great idea, half-hearted implementation

I turned 30 a couple of levels ago (finally!) and instantly went to go get the quest so I could turn my mount into a combat partner. I think it’s a really neat idea and it turns everyone into a pet class if so desired. But my excitement was soon tinged by disappointment when I realized that I couldn’t queue up for dungeons with the bird out as a pet (since the pet counts as a party member instead of a, y’know, pet for some stupid reason). Making me choose between queuing for party stuff and being able to level up my pet through combat is terrible design.

(4) Can’t pause levequests

Queuing up for dungeon or guildhest roulettes can take a little while as DPS, so naturally you want to be doing other things in the meanwhile. But FFXIV is particularly unforgiving when it comes to anything interfering with that. If I’m in a long cutscene and my queue comes up and then I run out the clock on that minute without ever seeing it? Tough luck for me; I have to re-queue. And if I’m working on a levequest and the queue pops? Then I have to decide whether I fail the levequest (since it’s timed and can’t pause progress) or kill the queue. I shouldn’t HAVE to decide or be punished for these things, especially when all I’m trying to do is group up in an MMO.

(5) Tonal shifts

The story so far is… adequate. Sometimes good, sometimes bland, but it’s keeping my attention and isn’t confusing. I’m not seeing this amazing narrative that some rave about, but hey, maybe that comes later. What I have seen, however, are some bizarre shifts in tone.

I guess part of the issue I have here is that Final Fantasy is somewhat culturally alien and not written for a western audience. But when it projects cuteness and whimsy and an assortment of world leaders who are either children or supermodels… then casually tosses in things like a disillusioned adventurer carrying around the head of her leader in a bag or mentioning that this girl over here was raped, I find myself doing mental whiplash. I’m not saying these things can’t be part of a story, but FFXIV does such a great job portraying a sunshiny world that I can’t quite buy into the characters telling me about all of the suffering, etc.

(6) Mail

Again, coming from other MMOs that have learned to make in-game mail far more accessible, it’s annoying that FFXIV requires me to hunt down a delivery Moogle if I want to get my Amazon Prime packages. There are a lot of these little “old school” elements in the game that make me wonder sometimes if the devs have played MMOs over the past five years.