Battle Bards Episode 47: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

FFXIV_A_Realm_Reborn_OSTWhen Steff’s away, the Bards will play… Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, that is! The current beloved MMO of bloggers and gamers alike, FFXIV’s rebooted soundtrack has made us take notice. With the help of guest host Scott (Ramblings of a MMO Gamer Guy), we tackle the highlights of this impressive score while trying to ignore the smell of chocobo poo.

Episode 47 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Prelude — Rebirth” and “A World Apart”)
  • “Guildleve Theme/Tenacity”
  • “Ramuh Theme/Thunder Rolls”
  • “Defender of the Realm”
  • “La Noscea Field Theme/On Westerly Winds”
  • “Gridania Night Theme/Dance of the Fireflies”
  • “Ultima”
  • “Thanalan Field Theme/To The Sun”
  • What did we like the best?
  • Mail From Zulika Mi-Nam
  • Outro (featuring “A Victory Fanfare Reborn”)

Listen to episode 47 now!

Final Fantasy R.I.P.

ffThe other day we were recording a couple of new episodes of Battle Bards when Syl asked me why I wasn’t playing Final Fantasy XIV.  In addition to the “I’m playing a zillion other games and have NO TIME” excuse, I delivered the truth: “It’s nothing against the game itself, but I’m just not into Final Fantasy any more.”

And while I’ve known that for a while, it made me a little sad to put that out there like that.

Final Fantasy was a big — but not huge — part of my gaming history.  The original Final Fantasy was something I lusted over on the NES but never got to play (I did devour the manual), while VI through IX were major experiences on the PlayStation for me.  But it was around the time of Final Fantasy X when I started to feel as though the series had run its course in my affections.  I was less charmed with the repeating tropes than others seemed to be, and I began to see the stories as being almost vapid exercises with one-dimensional characters.  Plus, there was that dumb waterball game.  Could’ve done without that.

I also think that Final Fantasy featured so strong in my life in the late 90s because I didn’t have the best access to a lot of the latest CRPGs out there — my computer was woefully inadequate until I bought a new one after college.  So console RPGs won by default, but began to seriously lose their luster when I upgraded my computer hardware and discovered MMOs.

Final Fantasy XI was a huge turn-off when I tried it back in the day, from its sneering contempt for computer/US players to its insane difficulty and hatred toward soloers.  What I had liked about Final Fantasy was quickly vanishing and being replaced by a game that gleefully killed me with a sheep.

So that was really the last time that I engaged with FF, other than a very brief, aborted attempt to play Final Fantasy XIV.  I kind of went over the same reasons back then that I did with Syl during our chat, but it boils down to the dissonance between acknowledging that a game is popular, has a solid feature set, and would otherwise be a good fit — and acknowledging that it’s a turn-off because of its genre, aesthetics, and approach.

Sometimes a game can do its very best to deliver and fail for an individual anyway, because it’s both not the fault of the dev or the gamer.  It’s just that it’s not a good match, personality-wise.  And that’s okay.  It happens.  I’ve read and heard dozens of MMO players say the same thing about why they can’t get into a certain title despite it seeming perfect on paper.  Sometimes there’s that intangible mystery category that trumps everything else.

So for me, Final Fantasy is well and dead, but I am certainly glad it’s alive and kicking for those who enjoy it.

Housing for all, all for housing

run-down-house1This Final Fantasy XIV guild housing thing is just a forehead-slapping mess.  The logic, if I’m following it correctly, is that the developers were worried that rich players would snap up all of the open world housing plots for guilds, so they jacked up the prices so much that pretty much nobody could afford one.  And then they said not to worry, that 80% of guilds should be able to afford the smallest-sized plot within three months of this highly anticipated patch feature.

There’s a few stupid gremlins at work here, not the least of which is the feeling that the developers are really out of touch with the purpose of housing.  It shouldn’t be a prohibitively expensive feature that requires gobs of grinding and time to achieve or a massive goldsink; it should be as accessible as possible for everyone so that people have a place in the game to call their own.  It’s in a studio’s best interests to help players develop “roots” in a game, whether that be terrific social tools, housing, or empowering players to be part of the creation content process.

You *want* to give your guilds a place to congregate, socialize, and decorate.  I’m always amazed more games don’t have such places (shifty eyes at Guild Wars 2 and doey eyes at Guild Wars 1).  Ever since I was a kid, the concept of a clubhouse for me and my friends had enormous appeal, and that hasn’t really changed.

Another thing that this FFXIV situation has taught me is that open world housing is hardly ever worth the bother.  I know it’s becoming more en vogue once again with these sandbox up-and-comers, but I’ve never understood the appeal of large swaths of land that are converted into suburban tracts with 3/4ths abandoned dwellings.  Instanced housing is just fine by me, and that way you never run out or have to worry about wealthy players creating a monopoly on plots.

In any case, what should be a day for FFXIV players to celebrate — a major update release day — has become soured by last-minute developments in pricing and the realization that most everyone won’t be enjoying the biggest feature of this patch.  That’s just not how housing should be.

Final Fantasy XIV is not for me — and that’s OK

Final Fantasy 3When your gut and past experience tells you one thing and your friends are all telling you another, it’s sometimes easy to get persuaded to get out of your comfort zone and give a new thing a try.  In this case it’s where so many people seem to be playing, raving about, and enjoying Final Fantasy XIV following its relaunch, to the point where I got persuaded to drop $30 for a copy the other day.

And that’s a $30 I really regret spending.  I has the buyer’s remorse, I do.  But since it was an impulsive purchase, I have only myself to blame.

So yeah, it wasn’t even on my radar because the initial launch was a laughable mess and the relaunch looked to be pretty niche.  But whether it’s people starved for a major release right now in the latter part of 2013 or a tsunami of word-of-mouth raves, it’s been doing quite well for itself.  And it was strange for me to see a really wide range of gamers and bloggers that I know being won over by it.  So what did I have to lose?

$30.  Don’t remind me.  I shall do that myself.

Anyway, I should’ve listened to my gut.  It’s not that FFXIV is a bad game in any way that I can discern.  Downloading it and setting it up was pretty smooth, and I didn’t even have to enter in credit card info.  Hearing the music was a nice high point — the Final Fantasy series always does well there.  But this game was not made for me at all.

For starters, I’ve just soured on the Final Fantasy experience: the aesthetic, the trappings, the overused rehash of elements that some may love as “tradition” and I’ve started to frown at as “unimaginative leftovers.”  I’ve really not been into Final Fantasy since, oh, 10, and even that wasn’t too fun for me.  Final Fantasy XI just turned me off within the first couple days of trying it out way back in 2003 or so, and even retro versions of FF games on mobile devices have lost their luster.

So there wasn’t a lot to like about my first half-hour or so in FFXIV.  I don’t like the look of the characters, chocobos make my eyes roll so dang much, and most of the races just irk me.  I felt really grumpy through the whole thing and that’s probably not fair at all to the game.  Sure, it looked pretty.  But so do a lot of MMOs these days.  It had quests.  It had me running.  It had me clicking through a lot of text bubbles that were dull as carp.  Hey, carp are not the most interesting fish, okay?

And how much combat did I clock in that first hour or so?  None.  It was like the world’s slowest tutorial-slash-hand-holding, and I’m going cross-eyed because what little story I’m seeing is dull and I want to see how the combat handles.  I’m asking myself what others were seeing in this game.

So short story short, I didn’t have the patience to stick it out.  It just wasn’t for me, and that’s OK; not all MMOs will be.  Maybe it’s just about the best game in the world past that opening hour and maybe I’m too antsy.  But considering that I don’t need another subscription right now for a game that — even if I ended up liking it — I won’t be paying for when WildStar hits anyway.  So we’ll part amiably and shan’t mention it again.

Just wish I had that $30 back.

Five MMOs on the endangered list

473I think that City of Heroes’ (and to a lesser extent, Glitch and perhaps Lucent Hearts) shutdown has caused some people to pause and wonder which MMO will be next on the chopping block.  Not to get maudlin or delight in “failure,” but let’s be honest: We all do think about it from time to time.  Whether a game’s shut down because of a lack of players and funding or because there’s a legal issue or a studio closing, it can and will happen.

So what MMOs do I think are most in danger of being sunsetted?  Five titles come to mind:

1. PlanetSide

Honestly, there’s just no reason for SOE to keep this game running.  It’s the only title in the studio’s library that hasn’t been converted to free-to-play, it has a F2P sequel that just launched, and it’s pretty long in the tooth.  Maybe SOE will keep the lights on for the sake of the dedicated few that stick around (and keep coughing up a subscription fee), but I don’t see that happening.

2. Warhammer Online

It pains me to say it, but I really don’t think WAR is long for this world.  Mythic is helming a leaking ship with no apparent hope for its future.  BioWare’s siphoned off several of its devs, DAoC is really old at this point and not going F2P, UO is even older, there aren’t any new titles in the works that we know about, and WAR feels like a game that they’d rather you not notice.

The fact that Mythic has outright said that it’s just not financially realistic to convert the game to F2P speaks volumes about its future.  Then you add on the fact that the studio also said that its MOBA version of the game will probably never leave beta status because of a terribly small playerbase, and I just don’t see WAR pulling out of this tailspin.  It was a great if flawed game in many ways, but there’s no hope left.

3. Guild Wars

NCsoft isn’t known for its bleeding heart, and if it sees that most of the Guild Wars fanbase has made the jump to GW2, their accountants are not going to look at the continued cost of operating GW1 fondly.  Hey, maybe those are very minimal costs and why not.  But GW1 can’t have much of a future making money for the company, and that leaves me with a bad feeling about it.

4. Final Fantasy XI

This one might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out.  Not only is FF11 nearing senior citizen status in MMO years, but the studio is really desperate to make FF14 work.  Could it see FF11’s closing as a way to “encourage” the remaining players to make the switch?

Really, I have no idea what Square-Enix is thinking most of the time, and considering how volatile FF14’s history has been so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio just tried to back out of the online space altogether.

5. Anarchy Online

Gah, it hurts me to even suggest this — especially considering I’ve just put it back on my computer.  But with Funcom’s recent staff layoffs and the rumors that it might be shopping around for a buyer, I have to wonder just how stable AO’s future is.  I mean, it’s not just old but there’s little left to draw new/returning players back in until or unless the team can pull off that graphics update.  And raise your hand if you think that’s honestly going to happen?

I don’t think all of these games are destined to be shut down in the next couple of months, I just think that these are the five titles I’m most concerned about right now.  Put them on the “endangered” list, so to speak.  What do you think?

Where to get MMO soundtracks

Yesterday on Too Long; Didn’t Listen (you know, that podcast you so adore!) Dodge and I were talking about MMO and video game soundtracks, a topic which I quite adore.  I wanted to follow the podcast up with a quick post about some places that I’ve found legal ways to obtain these scores:

Free MMO soundtracks:

Amazon MP3 downloads:

Direct Song:

Blizzard Store/iTunes/misc.:

Let me know if I missed any and I’ll add them to the list (I’m not looking to list/link torrents and CDs, however)!