Don't Get Me Wrong: I Like FFXIV

September 18th, 2010

I've been getting some flak from readers about my one-sided and seemingly entirely negative view of Final Fantasy XIV. So I'm going to take a moment and flip to the other side of the coin, and talk about all the things I DO like in FFXIV. There's plenty of it, it just hasn't been getting all that much attention with all the negative press flying around; a trap into which I myself fell.

First up: graphics. The game is gorgeous. Way more than gorgeous. It's the most incredibly detailed and beautiful MMORPG in existence. It may not have some of the flash and dazzle, but it has a sensible simplicity to it that makes the world come alive and feel all that much more real. But the way the world looks isn't all that important, to be honest. You don't play an MMORPG to stare at the ground or a building or a tree. You play it to look at and interact with other players, and that's where FFXIV really stands out of the crowd.

I'm not talking about character creation. It's nice and all that but, lets be honest, with less than a dozen hair styles to chose from, every eighth Mithra Miqo'te you come across will look just like you do. Well, not just like, there's plenty of difference thanks to the numerous hair colors available this time around. But it's not the way the characters look that has me so excited. It's how the behave.

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Posted by: Soulrift

All's Fair with First Impressions

September 16th, 2010

Being the huge Final Fantasy Fan that I am, of course I was excited about Final Fantasy XIV, and of course I was excited about the open beta. So it might seem like I was a bit harsh in my prior blog entry about my first impressions with the game. But negative first impressions abound with the FFXIV open beta. The game's fallen off the front page listing of top anticipated MMOs at Comments on their forums, as well as on other sites, are indicative of a great deal of frustration and disappointment. To be honest, I think a lot of it is justified.

The thing is, an open beta is more like a demo or trial than the "full game." Square Enix has acknowledged this, but only in so far as limiting the game (eg: level cap at 30 instead of 50; storyline quests removed; etc.) for the duration of the beta. Demos are supposed to give players a limited taste of the game, but they're also supposed to leave players hanging with anticipation. The open beta does just the opposite: it dumps players into a big, open, and relatively boring world, and says: "don't you want to pay for more of this?" Of course players are going to say no.

FFXIV, just like its predecessor FFXI, is inherently a grind-based game. The problem is that people don't want to waste "grind-time" by grinding and having their game reset. Who wants to spend a hundred hours grinding in open beta, only to be reset when the full version comes out? Well, the hardcore fans maybe, but they're shoe-ins anyways. The point is that the people on the fence, the people who aren't sure about the game, they aren't going to want to grind. Hey, lets face it, even I don't want to grind. I haven't had any interest in going back to the FFXIV open beta since I finished two and a half town tutorials: I can't see any more content in the open beta without some egerious grinding time.

I think what Squeenix should have done was declare the open beta to be a much smaller experience. Cap players at level 10 instead of 30. Boost xp gains. Cut out re-use timer limits. Basically, allow players to churn content as fast as they can play it, then hit that "you gotta wait for the full game!" barrier that makes player run to the store for a pre-order. A demo that's too short is far, far better than a demo that's long enough for players to get bored with a game.

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Posted by: Soulrift

Sooo, now what?

September 9th, 2010

My huge excitement about getting into the FFXIV beta was initially dampened by days of not getting into the beta. But hammering the application site eventually paid out and I got my account flagged. I'm just so glad I used that initial beta download option that they later took down; I didn't have too much trouble patching and getting in. Anyhow, I'm in and playing and have some initial comments to share.

First up, graphics are great, though I did have to upgrade from my old nVidia 8800GTS (320) to a newer ATI Radeon HD 5770 in order to play the game. The game was technically playable and not too poor performance on the 8800, except for the horrible graphical flickering and other artifacts. Oh well, that old graphics card was holding the rest of my PC back anyhow! Now I can crank up the settings and really enjoy FFXIV, and there's plenty of eye-candy to enjoy. Gorgeous character models with a lot of articulation and detail. I really like all the emotes they've got now!

In terms of gameplay, Squeenix have added introductory / tutorial quests for new players, taking them through the basics and giving them some cutscenes to get them into the game. Its quite a big difference from opening up FFXIV and my friend saying "ok, now go kill stuff until you're 10 and we'll team up". The introductory quest is completely different for each of the three starting cities, though they all have the same basic elements: you start by fighting some easy monsters in the early intro part to get a feel for combat, then some early exploration to the nearest outpost, and an escort quest at some point. The starting quests also provide players with some 30,000 gil to get them going, which is a great boost for buying starting gear.

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Posted by: Soulrift

Will the archaic English please surcease

August 29th, 2010

Surcease? Really? Somehow an archaic term last seen in the works of Shakespeare and Poe turned up in the new Final Fantasy XIV trailer. I know fantasy role playing often goes for the "thees" and "thous" and whatnot of archaic English, but this is really way out of place. The exact line in the trailer is: "War rages unchecked, with no sign of surcease." It looks like something I saw every day when doing English localization work of Asian software, a word that slipped through an auto-translation dictionary and ended up totally out of place (hint: don't refer to a sewer entrance as a cloaca if you want to be taken seriously).

OK, but I'm way off topic, nit-picking some obscure word in an otherwise cool trailer. The new FFXIV trailer features all sorts of FMV, possibly from the game's cutscenes (if it's anything like FFXI), and it would have me all excited if I wasn't completely excited already. We see more bits of that black dragon and airship of which we previously had tiny glimpses in the prior teaser trailer. Unfortunately, what little bits of actual gameplay footage are very short and don't reveal anything new for me to dissect.

Hopefully there'll be something to actually dissect soon though, as open beta is supposed to start at the end of the month! I wonder if I'll get a chance to finally see the game. Did I mention how excited I was? Then again, last I saw minimum requirements had a more powerful video card than the one I currently have, so I might need to plunk some cash down for an upgrade before I can dive into the world of Eorzea.

Posted by: Soulrift

Feedback Success! Questions Answered!

June 30th, 2010

Well my article on Final Fantasy XIV finally sparked some interest in my site, though perhaps cross-linking at Gamasutra helped, as did getting cross-cross linked to FFXIV Base. Hi Brandon! Anyhow, also successful was my integration of the feedback form into the main window. I got lots more feedback entries there, though the majority were... blank :(

I did get one interesting bit of feedback though, a question from Drew, asking about how potions and healing spells will work in FFXIV. I did state that health would not "regenerate" during combat; however, I should clarify that it doesn't automatically regenerate while you fight. I'm sure you can regain health with healing spells, potions, and the like, just like FFXI. I think the more shocking difference between FFXI (and presumably FFXIV) to other MMORPGs is that your mana doesn't regenerate during combat (aside from spells or potions that boost it), meaning that you can't just spam spells endlessly.

On a completely unrelated note, the release date for FFXIV has been announced at either Sept 22nd, Sept 30th, or something else thereabouts, depending on which site you check. I emailed the PR company for confirmation, but no response as yet. Once I find out for sure, I'll post an update.

Posted by: Soulrift

FFXIV: Alpha and Beta comparison

June 25th, 2010

A very pleasant discovery in my mailbox: a video comparing the Alpha and Beta versions of Final Fantasy XIV. I'm uploading it to for you to download, should you wish to see it for yourself. Just click here to download. The graphical differences between the two are notable, and quite nice, but overall just little bits of improvement here and there. Of far, FAR greater interest to me was the clip of combat at the end of the video, which revealed a number of very interesting details about combat in FFXIV.

click for full size

So, where do I begin? Number one is the new stamina bar system. This is like the ultimate evolution of the Active Time Battle gauge that has slowly been growing in Final Fantasy games for over 10 years. The ATB gauge in Final Fantasy games up to 12 have acted as a "turn" system: when the bar fills up, your character can take one of any kind of action. In FFXIII, characters have 3-5 ATB gauge "blocks" that slowly fill up, allowing your character to take one or more actions that fill up those blocks. EG: 4 blocks means 4 1-block skills, 2 2-block skills, 1 3-block and 1 1-block, etc.

But Final Fantasy XIV has gotten rid of arbitrary action sized and now presents an ATB Gauge where actions of any size can use up a "chunk" of stamina. The video only shows two skills so far, and while it's possible that the designers are intentionally limiting their skills to certain fixed sizes of stamina bar usage, there's no strict reason why they'd have to. They could make skills that use any amount of stamina in that bar, meaning that skill timers are visibly represented by the usage bar size rather than a set of numbers. Effects like haste and slow can now work in two ways: by causing the bar to fill up faster or slower (like traditional haste/slow effects in prior FF games) but can now be applied to specific skills (FFXI's merit points anyone?) by causing the block of used stamina to grow or shrink. I think this is simply fantastic. No more of that garbage global cooldown from WoW!

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Posted by: Soulrift

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