Tag final fantasy xi

Back in the sandbox

I’ve been praising sandbox MMOs before and it slowly dawned on me that I should put my money where my mouth is and resub to Ryzom. I always knew I would, so why not now? I activated my account, patched the client to 1.5 and logged in. And there my character stood, in the same place as I left her. Wearing her focus gear, pick in hand, with the two mektoub packers who spawned with her filled to the brim with gear and materials. No one in my guild was online, so I ran around Dyron for a bit, gathering some stray materials while trying to remember how I had configured my skills and stanzas. Then I logged out, since I mostly felt confused and didn’t have a proper reason to play.

Instead I turned back to Final Fantasy XI, since I’ve been meaning to play it for what seems like ages. I wasn’t sure when the free play time that came with the box ran out, but it turned out I still had a few days to go before billing kicks in, so I patched it up and got comfy in the sofa, 360 controller in hand. And just like my character in Ryzom, my tarutaru was still where I left him – near the fishers’ guild in Windurst, where I had logged out after doing a bit of fishing. I took a stroll down to the Auction House, cleared out old sales that ran out several weeks ago, then I sat down near the gate to the East Sarutabaruta plains. I was confused, alone and had no idea what I had been doing when I stopped playing. So I logged out.

I am not a huge fan of quest based MMOs, I prefer a sandbox to play around in. But quests are not always a bad thing, they only become bad when it is the only real activity the game actually offers. It’s not all clear cut, it’s not black and white. A perfect mix between a wide open world, such as Ryzom’s dangerous wilderness, and some form of quest driven play, is probably what I would have needed today. If I knew that I could do what I felt like, including hitting up a quest hub for a quick infusion of cash or a sense of direction for a few hours, I would have spent the whole evening in Atys or in Vana’diel. Now I spent it in Blood Bowl instead, pitting my Skaven team against a friend’s Orcs. The ball needs to go in the end zone to score a point. The team with the most points at the end of the match wins. Easy and clear.

I am glad that my Ryzom account is active again, absolutely. Seeing Windurst gave me a sense of happy nostalgia, just like returning to Dyron Oasis felt like coming home. I look forward to digging around in those two sandboxes. But if I don’t figure out exactly what to do, where to go, or what project to immerse myself in, I have a feeling that the MMO burnout will come much faster than I’d want it to.

September brings both Fallen Earth and Aion. Two completely different games, but both have peaked my interest. Let’s see if the sandboxes of old can stand up against the roller coasters of the near future.

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Partying it up in the Valkurm Dunes

Since some people actually seemed to like reading about my starting adventures in Final Fantasy XI, I shall once again update you with what’s been going on since last time. To be honest, I do both enjoy writing about it and giving DFTM a bit of a focus. Previously I’ve been all over the place, but I’ll try to keep a bit calmer from now on. It is my personal blog, no one tells me what to write or when to write it, but lately I’ve started to realise that there’s actually people out there who reads what I write here. With them in mind I will try not to let my mind run totally wild and all over the place.

First of all, and this was a major breakthrough from me – a fishing pole dropped from a goblin fisher outside Windurst. Great happiness! I guess I could have bought one, but the few gil I have I want to reserve for scrolls and the odd piece of armor. I also managed to fish up my first piece of furniture for my mog house, a rusty bucket I caught while waiting for the boat in Selbina. Even greater happiness! I haven’t seen what it looks like yet, but I guess it looks pretty much like a rusty bucket.

Annoyingly enough, Square Enix has set a very small limit for the amount of fishes you can catch when you are below level 20, probably as an anti-gil farmer measure. I have enjoyed the odd fishing I’ve done so far, so I am looking forward to being able to fish properly. I went back to the Valkurm Dunes, once again bored with East and West Sarutabaruta, and decided to stick with it and find groups to help me level instead of going at it solo.

Either I’ve been lucky or groups are plentiful in the Dunes, but I had much less trouble finding people to party up with than I thought I would. Level sync works wonders and no one seemed to complain to level sync down to my level (12 when we started). But grouping in the Dunes, even though effective for gaining quick experience, has so far been pretty underwhelming.

Here’s the thing. First you need to find party members, hopefully including a white mage for healing or a so-called “PL” (power leveler, a character outside the party that heals everyone while they fight). This can take ages, since the party members you actually find quickly has a nasty tendency to suddenly go AFK, or remember they have to eat, or pick their noses or whatever they have to do. Then you find a spot, a “camp”, that’s hopefully not already taken by another group. Then you have to decide who will go “fishing” for monsters, which is the same as pulling. This particular player will probably remember that he or she has forgotten to bring arrows. This will take a few minutes to sort out, with a new “fisher” being chosen. We are now nearing 30 – 60 minutes and not a single mob has been killed by your party.

Then it’s time to choose a tank. That’s not easy, it seems, even though you have two viable characters in your party. The merits of the warrior must be measured against the merits of the ninja. No one listens to anyone else. The black mage in the background, i.e. yours truly, is already boiling but he keeps his mouth shut because he doesn’t want to be kicked from the group. This goes on for a while until the fisher, who just like everyone else hasn’t listened to a word anyone else has said, decides to pull a mob to the camp. There are a few seconds of chaos, then the ninja will grab aggro and thus settling the discussion about who is going to be the tank.

The mob is then, hopefully, killed. The fisher grabs another mob. Repeat this until someone suddenly goes AFK again. The only one noticing is the black mage, because after a pull or two, the tank will ask why one of the party members isn’t doing anything. The black mage points out why, the tank answers “kk” and the fisher goes to pull another mob. Kill the mob. Repeat. Someone insults someone else in the party. The insulted member will become angry. That is sorted out miraculously, since no one is actually paying any attention to what the other players are saying. Another mob is fetched, the tank remembers that his nose is unpicked, the white mage has to eat (since he couldn’t plan that ahead of time) and the group disbands. The black mage wants to crush his 360 controller with his face, but still keeps his mouth shut since he wants the other members of the group to invite him next time. And, after all, it wasn’t all that bad. Killing mobs together was kinda fun and the XP was good.

Today I logged in and took the boat back to Mhaura. I have to see if I can gain the four levels I have left until I hit level 20 on my own, with some help from Fields of Valor. I need a break from grouping. I could also need a good linkshell (kinda like a guild/chat channel) before I try it again in any serious way. I’ve had PuGs in World of Warcraft that’s been much worse than these, but since you are more or less forced to group in Final Fantasy XI to attain more or less anything, it becomes so much more annoying when you keep running into asshats.

(Note to self – figure out a good tag for these posts.)

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Further adventures in Final Fantasy XI, featuring a boat

I reached level 10 in Final Fantasy XI yesterday, which felt like a pretty major feat on my part. I was quite sure that I was going to quit before I reached that magical mark, that I once again would leave the game hanging somewhere around Windurst. Taking my advice from Sera, I decided to leave the area I had been in from the start – East Sarutabaruta, just outside Windurst – and trek to Mhaura, where I grabbed the boat to Selbina and the Valkurm Dunes.

During the time I’ve played MMOs I’ve managed to identify certain key moments when my character grows from just being a character I play to a character I can identify with. One of those moments is when I leave the starting areas. If you play a new MMO it is easy to judge it from the first area you are in, if you’re not entertained it is easy to think the rest of the game is similar (the opposite is also true, which is something that most designers these days have realised to the point that we even have a term for it, the “Tortage effect“). So stepping out of that first, probably rather safe, zone is incredibly important. It always feels like a pretty major event.

Windurst and East Sarutabaruta (silliest area name ever?) were starting to feel incredibly boring. I was killing more or less the same mobs over and over. The environment felt dull. None of the crystals I was gathering sold at the Auction House. I had nothing to put in my mog house. I was unable to find a fishing pole, which felt increasingly frustrating. In short, I was bored and had no idea what to do. And then I dinged level 10.

First of all, I got a couple of new spells, both from the shop and as drops. Finally I wasn’t just throwing Stone, Water and Poison on my enemies – now I had Blind, Aero and Dia to play around with as well. I realised that I could solo most of the mobs in the area, making me feel at least a bit powerful. And, as mentioned above, I could leave and see other parts of the world. So I left for Mhaura, dodging nasty goblins along the way.

I’ve heard people use the word “immersive” a lot when it comes to describing Final Fantasy XI, but up until I reached Mhaura and got on the boat I hadn’t felt it. It might sound silly, but the boat ride changed everything. First of all, there’s the process of actually getting on the correct boat – you’re not allowed to go near it without first paying the 100 gil fee, which lets you pass the guard. Then you have to wait for the proper boat to arrive and when it finally sets sail it zones you into a boat area. The boat ride between Mhaura and Selbina takes about 15 minutes, which you can spend fishing (if you have a fishing rod), shopping or killing monsters that get on the deck. I spent my first boat ride talking to a guy named after a Nick Cave-song, idling away next to the captain of the ship. When the 15 minutes were over, I was zoned into Selbina and had to go through immigration before being able to explore the town.

I had to stop myself from tweeting “You can’t stop me because I’m on a motherf*cking boat!” during the whole boat ride…

Anyway, I do realise that the whole travel thing can get pretty old if you want to get from one place to another quickly. I’m pretty used to slow traveling from Ryzom (I tend to forget to buy new teleportation pacts), but I’m sure the boat ride isn’t as cool the umpteenth you have to take it. On the other hand, it’s a good time to take a break or level your fishing. As I continue to play, I will do my best to view it as that instead of as an annoying evil.

I feel a certain love for Final Fantasy XI grow as I play more. I still have no idea what I am doing or where I’m going. I currently plan to head back to Windurst instead of looking for a group in the Dunes, since I haven’t found one yet and I’d rather try to level a bit on my own than standing around waiting for things to happen. I’ll keep playing until my 30 days are up, then I shall review how I feel about it and see if I’ll stick around longer. I’ll probably keep blogging about it. There is still a lot to see and do, which will make or break my future stay in Vana’Diel.

Until then, I will just enjoy that giddy feeling I get from travelling on a motherf*cking boat.

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Coming to terms with Final Fantasy XI

As expected, I ended up buying Final Fantasy XI for the 360 to give it another go. Last time I tried it out I played it on the PC, which wasn’t a very impressive experience to say the least – the controls were in no way well adapted to a keyboard. So with a steady controller in hand, I created a tarutaru black mage, rolled it on the Siren server and…

…got confused. I’ve played most FF-games. I’ve also been playing a lot of MMOs over the last couple of years. But I’ve never seen a game more confusing for a new player than Final Fantasy XI, not even EVE Online is this rough. You’re dumped in a world you quickly understand is huge, you need to choose between three nations to start in (a choice that actually has an effect on your character, but the game never bothers to inform you of that), you’re given a “quest”-line which involves a guard giving you directions and then sending you off to a certain doom since there’s no way you can kill those mobs on your own… Confusing only begins to describe it.

Add rather funky controls, a majorly clumsy battle menu system (Final Fantasy-style menus in real time combat is a recipe for newbie-disaster), a death penalty (starting at level 4) which might make you lose levels if you die too often, a rather slow leveling, story-line missions that again will send you into certain death unless you do a lot of grinding before trying to finish them on your own…yeah, you get my point.

At the same time, Final Fantasy XI intrigues me. It’s a blast from the past, it won’t even pretend it’s holding your hand, it’s unforgiving and hard, yet…I’m intrigued by it. I understand what people see in it, why some players would get stuck in it and never leave (not even for food- or bio breaks). The confusion annoys me. I want to understand, I want to learn, and I certainly want to see more of what seems to be a fascinating world. It’s not like any other MMO-world out there, that’s for sure. I just need to figure out how to get there, how to get away from the rather monotonous grinding that I’m stuck in right now. I’m stuck in a grind and I don’t know if I’m supposed to do it or not.

Sera’s columns over at Massively is helping, absolutely, and anyone that even considers giving Final Fantasy XI a shot should check them out. Without them I would be completely lost, compared to now when I’m only relatively lost.

My first projects for Final Fantasy XI are getting a chocobo (every nerd’s dream-mount), starting out with gardening (need something to put in my mog house) and picking up fishing. I’ve already hunted goblin fishers for their fishing rods, with the help of another player, but no luck so far. I also want to get out of Windurst and see some new and fresh parts of the world. No idea how to do that without the airship pass (available at rank 5 with your nation, I’m rank 0.33 so it will be a while until I can pick that up), but I’m sure that answer is to be found in Sera’s articles.

Confusion in a new MMO can be a good thing. It sparks my interest. But too much can be a bad thing and I’m still not sure when it will finally break my back. I got 30 days, then we’ll see what happens. As it stands now, it will be nothing more than an experiment and knowing myself I’ll probably won’t keep my sub up. Unless I finally come to terms with it and join the hordes of FFXI-players that can’t get enough of the beating and the pain.

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Dear Final Fantasy XI, how I adore thee…from a distance

Trying to find a place in the mmo-blogosphere isn’t all that easy. First of all, it’s a matter of finding the time to write. That’s always tricky. Then there’s the whole inferiority complex-thing that can get in the way, considering all the amazing blogs out there. I won’t link to any in particular, but did you know that Syp of Bio Break can write 250 blogposts every day or that Tipa uses lucid dreaming to post her Daily Blogrolls in her sleep? True story. And more and more mmoblogs keep popping up and I keep adding them to my Google Reader, which means there are at least 100 posts waiting for me every night. Add all the interesting stuff that goes on at Twitter and you got the recipe for a serious brain meltdown.

There’s always a lot of material to discuss as well. I guess I should comment on the whole Bioware/Mythic/Jacobs/EA-issue, but I won’t. I can’t be bothered and if you are following my blog you are probably already aware that it’s happened. This is not a news blog, I’d recommend Massively for that. No, instead I’ll just blog about what pops up in my head. It’s what this blog was for anyway, even though I’d love to be able to just blink my eyes and find a new amazing blog post here filled with the most profound insights into area design or the philosophy of raid loot. I’ll get to those sooner or later, I hope.

So what’s in my head today? Actually…Final Fantasy XI. A lot of people are fascinated by EVE Online without ever playing it, probably because of all the mainstream media attention that particular game can get following whatever strange political or economic incident that’s taken place in it this week. I play EVE Online, so I don’t really feel the same way about it. People want to play it, they just never get around to or find it too slow (which it can be, granted), so reading about it is the next best thing. For me, that game is Final Fantasy XI.

Here’s the thing – I really want to like Final Fantasy XI. I’ve tried to play it but couldn’t stand it for more than 10 minutes. I got my apartment, then logged out and uninstalled it. I couldn’t stand the UI, I couldn’t stand the graphics or the zoning and I couldn’t stand…well, anything. I didn’t even get into a fight, I never left the city I started out in. I’m not sure I even got a proper quest, to be honest. I sure as hell didn’t finish it.

I know that Final Fantasy XI is supposed to be quite “hard”, that it’s unforgiving to new players, but if you just hang in there it’s supposed to be a marvelous game. I’ve had friends who were hooked on it, I keep reading about people who love it. I keep seeing amazing screens, which annoys me even more since I know the game doesn’t look that good. Perhaps I could fiddle around with my graphics card outside the client, it made Warhammer Online look a whole lot better, but still…FFXI is old now, after all.

But it annoys me that I can’t enjoy it. The character design is great. You get to ride chocobos. There seems to be a whole bunch of cool locations and expansion packs. I just didn’t get into it and I can’t really see myself resubbing to it. But what annoys me even more is the knowledge that this is exactly the same way that some people treat EVE Online. “I did get a trial but it was really slow”, “it was too complicated” or “fighting in EVE seems really boring” are statements most of us EVEers have heard before. They are also all statements I could use about Final Fantasy XI. And somewhere deep inside I resent myself for that.

So I either wait until someone convinces me why I should give it another shot (hint! hint!) or I just wait to be saved by Final Fantasy XIV next year. Or I just stop caring and go back to playing EVE Online properly again. Or Ryzom. Or WAR. Or Vanguard. Wow, I really should give all this MMO-hopping a break and just settle down somewhere. Probably not in Vana’diel though. Too…many…games…

In other news, Prototype is a lot of fun. So is Peggle. Good night.

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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