FFXIV: Housing blues

FFXIV honestly surprised me the other night when I saw a cozy fireplace and thought about taking a picture next to it. I used the /sit command, and instead of my character plopping down in some sort of default sitting animation, she actually took a seat on the couch. This made me blink hard. Not many MMOs yank you into a seat when you go to sit, oddly enough. So good for this game.

I had a slightly unusual weekend, now that I’m into the realm of Heavensward. I didn’t really follow that expansion closely when it first came out, so I don’t think it ever registered that this was a snowy realm that we’d be adventuring through (which is a good thing, at least in my book). All I remembered was “dragons something elves something Catholic church substitute something.

I jumped over to join Aywren’s guild, because they certainly seemed like a lively and engaged group of players. And sure enough, they were quite welcoming and helped buoy my spirits in the game. A quiet or non-existent guild hampers my play experience in ways that are kind of difficult to articulate. Conversely, a great guild can make logging in a joy and add deeper dimension to the game.

I met her! I’m in the presence of internet fame! I think her plumage was happy to see me too.

With a free company established, my thoughts turned to exploring one feature of the game that has yet escaped me, which was player housing. Let me say that first off, I’m glad that FFXIV saw that housing was important enough to include, and it does seem like the community gets into it. I’m always a housing nut in MMOs that allow for it, so it felt like my play experience was incomplete in FFXIV until I got to check this out.

But that was really easier thought than done. Unlike some other MMOs I could name — RIFT, WildStar come quickly to mind — FFXIV puts as many obstacles between you and owning your own slice of space as possible. Again, props that the game has housing, but it doesn’t excuse it for being, quite frankly, a prohibitive and restrictive system.

Buying a real house was far outside of my budget. I had about 650K gil, whereas houses (if you could even find ones available to purchase) were in the millions. The most economical option was a 300K single-room apartment in the free company house, which I felt was fine. I wouldn’t have a yard or outside decorations, but oh well. It was something, it was a one-time fee, and I could afford it.

But I couldn’t access it, not yet, not even with the money in my pocket. Oh no. That would be too EASY. The game informed me that I also, for some reason, had to be second lieutenant in my grand company, which was a game feature that I had stopped paying attention to a long time ago.

Sigh, fine. So I plodded over there, saw that I had a lot of seals for the promotion, but that there were additional hoops through which to jump. Company hunting logs to complete! Two fun dungeon trials to run! It took the better part of an evening to get all of this sorted out and meet the requirements, but eventually I was allowed the privilege of sinking half of my wallet into this system.

People informed me that most furnishings either came from the marketboard or by making them, so I did a little shopping to spend a large chunk of my remaining funds on various fixtures. I would have appreciated a preview picture for these items, but such is life.

The whole “functional but not necessarily user friendly” theme continued as I went to my room for the first time and then felt like a fool trying to figure out how to actually decorate it. Apparently you have to access housing options from one of the little sub-menus to open up that interface, which I can’t recall the game every informing me about. Thank you, internet.

And while I was able to cobble together a room without too much difficulty, in truth, I was pretty underwhelmed. The interface to move items is incredibly clunky (a casualty of console controls?) and I couldn’t figure out how to rotate items and then make them stay rotated without resetting. I’ve seen much, much better systems in other games, but this is only the start of my working on this, so here’s hoping that there’s more going on here.

I did like the guild house and what they did there. It was pretty cute ‘n’ cozy, although we’re reportedly moving to bigger digs in the near future.

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Did FFXIV’s story finally get good for me?

So there’s like this… adage, this maxim that you often hear from FFXIV players that goes like, “Just stick with the game, the story gets good! It gets amazing! It’s just a little slow at first.”

And as I learned, this was akin to saying to ice age dwellers, “Stick with humanity, it gets really good. Internet and vaccines and everything, just hang in there.” Life doesn’t move fast in the FFXIV world is what I’m saying.

When I first played the game last year, I spent four months wondering when this story was going to get good. To be fair, there were moments of interest, charming bits of character studies or some fascinating developments. But by and large, it was… average at best. Lots of backtracking, nods employed in bulk, and characters breaking every two minutes for another cutscene of people talking about world events in an office. By the time I quit, I was about 80% through the 2.5.5 content and had my fill of all of this “good” story.

In what might be a slight stroke of irony, it turns out that I quit right before the story actually did get good. The other night I was a little excited to be plowing through the last few quests prior to Heavensward — the official end of A Realm Reborn — and was hit with one of those notices that you only ever see in FFXIV. Only in this game are you served with a warning that the next 30 to 45 minutes of your life will be spent doing nothing but watching a long, long string of cutscenes. And THEY ARE NOT KIDDING.

I don’t mind these, as long as they’re entertaining, and this one actually was. In fact, the longer it went, the more my eyebrows lifted and my heart raced with excitement. What it felt like was the end of a TV season when the writers have gotten a little sick and tired of their convoluted plotlines and characters… and they just decide to employ a tactical bomb and reset the playfield. Blow things up, wipe out pieces, and reset the story (or at least throw it on a totally different track).

In the space of about 20 minutes, everything I had known about the MSQ changed. Characters died, killed, were framed, fled, sacrificed, got limbs chopped off, betrayed, and performed spectacular fight moves reserved for top-level Final Fantasy summons. I wasn’t dismayed that everything was changing but rejoiced that something was finally happening. Something awesome. Something that felt vastly different than what we had gotten up to this point.

And I got to see Yda’s eyes! Well, one eye, but still, it’s something I always wanted to see. I actually liked most of the Seven Scions, save for Midriff Barbie, and sure, it was a little dismaying that disaster had unfairly come upon them. But sometimes you need that Long Dark Night of the Soul for stories to get interesting. Being a world-saving hero isn’t so gripping if you’re always surrounded by a team of super-skilled fighters and a personal army. Time to get rid of that and head into the expansion to see what lays in wait there.

I hope this isn’t a fluke. I sincerely hope this isn’t the only good story beat I’m going to get for the next 200 hours. It’s a good start, at least.

Oh, here’s something small to brag about: I used all of my tomestones that I had accumulated to buy a full healer’s outfit. Not only does it boost my healing ability in group, but it’s easily the best I’ve looked in this game to date. The white/black/grey design pops.

Here’s another look of me and my fairy off the shores of Costa del Sol. I guess it’s waterproof, too!

As a total aside, can I say that I’m starting to soften up on my contempt for the Lalafel? Tataru is totally winning me over with her little escapades. And that hat! The flower! Maybe I should change my character to one of these little guys…

FFXIV: Homecoming

Amazing how fast it all comes back

When I get an idea in my head for a project or pursuit, I don’t tend to sit on it very long before taking action. And so I went from mulling over a possible return to FFXIV to making it happen within about a span of a day. I felt like I could justify this, cost-wise, with the elimination of my World of Warcraft subscription, and besides, $13 isn’t that much these days.

For having been gone well over a year, it’s amazing how fast all of this came back to me. The MMO is installed on a new machine, so I had to tweak the keybindings again. A memory cascade flowed down over me and my reentry learning curve wasn’t as steep as I originally anticipated. Plus, there were all of those little pleasant surprises of the kind that one gets when returning to a game after a long absence and rediscovering neat features — the music! the thunderstorms! the class flexibility! — that were once taken for granted.

I spent the first two nights back gradually sorting out everything. There have been some changes to the game since I last played; for instance, I don’t remember seeing the featured quest icons before, so I was running around and snapping those up to unlock various features that I had missed. I took inventory on what I had, reordered my hotbar setup, refamiliarized myself with rotations, picked up my mail, and jumped into a Belghast’s guild.

Full steam munchkin

Of course, one of my big reasons for returning was that I was missing playing as a dungeon healer, so that’s pretty much most of what I’ve been doing for my play sessions (I also needed these runs to clear out some featured quests in my logs). I was a little nervous during the first run, but soon my confidence — and the relatively simple rotation — returned, and we were off like a rocket.

The only dungeon that I had problems with was the Ultima trial. Our group just could not overcome this boss, and after five full wipes, we called it. It probably didn’t help that all of my gear was shattered by about the second wipe, which taught me to make sure I repair before queuing up.

I’ve been reading up on the wiki and news, absorbing a lot of information about the game systems and all of the changes that are in store for the expansion. As of right now, I think I’ll attempt to straddle two jobs: Arcanist and Bard. Good to hear that Bards are getting insta-cast spells and some reworks, because that’s a class I always wanted to play more of. I need to look through my bank and make sure I carry two full sets of gear, probably have to level up the Bard too (my Arcanist is at 53 at the moment).

The long road ahead

Resisting the urge to reroll upon return was definitely the best move in my case. My character is just nearly to the end of 2.5 content, which means that I’ll have all of the new-ish stuff ahead — and a lot of it. I don’t think I’ll be in want of main story quests for a while to come, so I’m settling in and not rushing myself. No way I’m going to catch up with the crowd for an expansion launch in one month anyway, and why would I want to?

Instead, I’m making a list of things that I want to accomplish: get through the MSQ, level up Arcanist to the cap, think about a secondary job, maybe look into a gathering profession for money, and save up to buy an apartment and furnishings.

All in all, I feel like this is a very good decision where I’m at with MMOs. With LOTRO, GW2, and Secret World Legends in my rotation, I’ll definitely be keeping busy this summer.

ESO and FFXIV: The siren call of summer expansions

Does anyone else hear it?

Can anyone else feel it?

Summer… it’s here. And carried on the wind is the smell of sunshine, pool parties, and MMORPG expansions.

June is shaping up to be an especially busy month for the MMO industry. Elder Scrolls Online is releasing its first expansion, Morrowind; FFXIV is coming out with its second expansion, Stormblood; Black Desert Online is launching on Steam; Elite Dangerous is coming out on PS4; RuneScape’s got an expansion; and Secret World Legends is happening. Oh, and there’s also E3 and any possible announcements contained therein.

Of course, standard disclaimer, I’ve got plenty to do in my games as it stands, but I cannot deny that I am weak-willed when it comes to an expansion launch — even if I’m not playing the game. And I am feeling tugged toward both ESO and FFXIV, a situation that I did not predict but could very well be fueled by all of the coverage and hype going on.

Morrowind is especially appealing because that was the only Elder Scrolls game to date that I actually liked and played for any length of time. Plus, it’s a perfect start point for new characters, there’s that housing system to check out, and a pet-based class? It’s like they’re checking off my wish list. ESO also remains one of the big MMOs that I still have yet to give a fair shakedown, as I’m just not sure I can get past the combat, console-esque UI, and generally blah armor models.

FFXIV? I’ve been mulling over a return for a couple of months now. My character was on the cusp of Heavensward, and that’s when everyone said the story gets good. I genuinely miss the community and the dungeon runs (especially as a healer). Red Mage looks pretty sweet too, even though it lacks bears. BEARS. On the minus side, there’s the general hodge-podge of FFXIV annoyances I’d have to overlook and a subscription fee to contend with.

So what’s the plan? Do neither? Do both? Pick one? It’s a big summer ahead, and I wouldn’t mind a change-up of my MMO stable, especially since my other anticipated releases — Project Gorgon, Sea of Thieves, LOTRO’s Mordor expansion, GW2’s second expansion — are coming no earlier than fall at best. It seems like a perfect time to try on ESO for real or to give FFXIV another go.

I’m at a loss, really. I could see myself enjoying either of these, but I could also just be jealous with that time and keep investing it into LOTRO, GW2, and to a lesser extent, SWTOR. Anyone else hearing this siren’s call, or have you already made up your mind?

Will I ever go back to SWTOR, Guild Wars 2, WildStar, or FFXIV?

While I seem to have cultivated the impression that I play a thousand MMOs at once with my unlimited playtime, that’s all smoke and mirrors for the fact that I’ve been absolutely crunched for time this spring and have seen my play time cut down overall. Plus, I’ve been mostly focused on World of Warcraft and LOTRO, due to just being into these games right now and excited for the major upcoming patches.

There isn’t anything super-big on the immediate horizon (unfortunately) that has my excitement stirring. I keep tossing around Project Gorgon, Shroud of the Avatar, and Sea of Thieves as my next online adventures, but I’m still waiting on the first two to get to a more finished state, and who knows when SoT will come out.

So there is every chance in the world that some time this spring, my whims will turn back to old favorite MMOs, especially if I get into a content lull with one or both of my main games right now. The question that has been loosely bouncing around in my mind is, which game will I go back to? I’m quite disillusioned with RIFT right now, and there are several other fainter prospects (like DDO and Fallen Earth) that probably don’t stand a chance. Still, I think there are four titles that could be contenders as 2017 continues for a grand Syp return.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

While I did play a couple of sessions as of late, I still haven’t gotten back on board with this former favorite MMO. I would like to get through the story, to be sure, but it’s disheartening to hear about the current state of the endgame and game design as a whole, and if I’m going back to a game, I at least want the illusion that it’s going to be for a good long while instead of just to the end of a story and that’s it. I’d also have to pay for one month of subscription to unlock all of the expansions, which is a very minor concern.

Guild Wars 2

It’s been a long, long time since I played Guild Wars 2, and that might be a signal in and of itself that potential interest has been rejuvenated and I could enjoy the game once more “fresh.” There’s certainly a lot to do, although I think that if I went back, I really would want to reroll and bring up a new character from scratch to properly get into it. The announcement of a new expansion that sounds a lot more interesting than Heart of Thorns would go a long way to wooing me.

WildStar

Argh, you have no idea how much it hurts me that I’ve wandered away from this game. I still contend that it is an underrated piece of fine entertainment with so many good elements… but I cannot deny that I’m worried about the game’s future and hesitant to get back on board without seeing at least some minor sign of a renaissance. I do miss the housing, the races, the music, the visuals, and the design, so I could always find myself back on Nexus one day. Plus, I never did get to level that Esper!

Final Fantasy XIV

I’m iffy on this one. I definitely enjoyed my time with it for a few months a year ago, but it’s been a while and even back then I felt like I was playing the world’s longest game of catch-up. Good community. Some very annoying features and design (and the nodding, oh the nodding). There’s an expansion, and that’s always an event that draws attention… and that Red Mage looks pretty sweet. I’d have to really commit if I did return, subscribing up and giving it some of my time. I’m not saying no, I’m not saying yes, I’m just saying… check in with me in a month or so.

Looking back at the 6 MMOs I played the most in 2016

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Seeing as how this will be my final MMO-related post of this year, I thought it only fitting to look back over 2016 and recall my exploits in MMORPGs. While I did dabble here and there in various titles, such as Firefall, ESO, and Trove, for the most part my year was dominated by six titles — none of them surprising, but all fun and influential in my gaming career.

One of the best things that happened for me in terms of playing MMOs was getting a new computer that could actually run them well. That’s been such a boon.

(1) Final Fantasy XIV

At the beginning of the year, I had made a resolution to find a “home MMO” and settle my butt down to mostly focus on one title. Initially, that became FFXIV, as it was fairly new to me,, had a lot of positive word-of-mouth, and offered a lot of content.

I had a good run in that MMO, I think, although around April I decided that I had run out of steam and was losing the will to play it. That was unfortunate, because I was finally nearing Heavensword content and had found a really great guild, but alas. In retrospect, there was a lot I ended up respecting and liking about the game as well as a lot of irritating issues. I think my biggest gripe is that it never quite clicked with me even though people kept urging me to stick it out because, I quote, “It gets really good later on!” I shouldn’t have to wait more than four months for a game to get really good, and my patience wore out. Maybe I’ll go back some day. I’d like to think so. That Red Mage looks pretty cool…

(2) World of Warcraft

WoW got its hooks back in me early and kept them there, pulling me right back into this old favorite. The first half of the year was spent plowing through Warlords of Draenor, building up my expansion, and prepping my roster of characters for the new expansion. The second half was all Legion, all the time, and it’s been a really good ride so far. Found a terrific guild, got a pair of legendaries, built up my Death Knight to a great place, and still have a good amount of content on which to chew.

(3) RIFT

The announcement of Starfall Prophecy got me back into RIFT, and it’s been a reliably second-tier MMO interest since then. Again, discovering a wonderful guild — perhaps the best I’ve been a part of in MMOs — was a major factor to my stickiness, but having an expansion’s worth of content and a new house to build certainly kept me busy. I have just so much left to do here and no real desire to leave.

(4) The Secret World

Back in February I seriously splurged and bought a Grand Master membership, which I really don’t regret doing. The constant buffs to currency/AP are wonderful, the extra cosmetics and mounts nice, and having a monthly allowance of points is terrific. I did take a long break in the middle of the year due to my disinterest in City of the Sun God, but I finally rallied to complete that and move on to Transylvania. I’m hugely excited to see what might come for this game in 2017!

(5) Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has been an on-again, off-again journey. I get really excited about it for two or three weeks, then let it go for a month. I did come back for some fun adventures, although getting bogged down in Delta Rising was death to my interest. Recently I’ve jumped past that and gotten excited to go through the more recent episode arcs.

(6) Lord of the Rings Online

Early in the year I spent some time getting through the Battle of Pelennor Fields, after which I took a very long break until just recently. However, over the past month I’ve been logging in every day or two to advance my Captain through Update 19 in anticipation of the Mordor expansion next year. It’s great to be back and I hope I won’t leave any time soon.

Stay tuned next Monday as I post my hopes and aspirations for the new month — and the new year! In the meantime, let me know in the comments what were the most important and influential MMOs to you in 2016!