Tag mmo

The End Times: Immersing in the Apocalypse

Immersion. Ah, that magical word. It’s the Holy Grail of MMO design, or at least it should be. In theory, it is what every company that decides to give the genre a try should aim for.

I say “in theory”, because sometimes I feel that the word doesn’t carry as much weight as it should, at least according to my – clearly biased – standards. Building immersion in a virtual world, at its core, should be to create a world or a setting that somehow makes sense. An immersing game should have as few “breaks”, moments when you remember that you’re only playing a game, as possible – it should be self-contained and follow its own natural laws and rules. It needs to be as consistent as possible.

Time... running out... cant fly...

Timer... running out...

Aion is a good example of a game that sacrifices immersion for the sake of gameplay – giving you the ability to fly, yet restricting it by artificial means like a timer or taking away the ability completely in certain areas. I’ve talked about it before and it is one of the major axes I have to grind with that particular game. Instead of working gameplay around the ability to fly from the start, NCsoft have instead worked the ability to fly around gameplay, not intending to fully deliver until much later in the game. Why else are you not be able to fly in Pandaemonium or Sanctum, even though they both host hundreds of Daevas, or find yourself stuck on the ground as soon as you venture into Moslan Forest?

Blizzard did a similar thing with Wrath of the Lich King, where they took away your mount’s ability to fly in Northrend until you hit level 77 – it made sense from a gameplay perspective, but instead of building the gameplay around Northrend, Northrend had to change to accommodate Blizzards’ desire to tell a story. As immersing as that story could be, a certain rendezvous with a Lich springs to mind, the world itself had been sacrificed and with it, immersion took a blow.

I know I can be extremely picky when it comes to my personal “breaks”, which include too much zoning (EverQuest II, Age of Conan) or instancing of open zones (Champions Online, Age of Conan, Aion). I guess Fallen Earth is, in many ways, the perfect MMO for me. Just like EVE Online, where the “zoning” makes perfect sense (jumping from star system to star system) and the gameplay is actually supported by the lore, Fallen Earth delivers a world that makes sense. It feels, up to a point, real.

Its a goldmine!

It's a goldmine!

What Fallen Earth manages to convey is a sense of desperation in a post-apocalyptic world. The small makeshift towns are surrounded by bandits and wild animals, the people that are trying to rebuild society are all trying to do it in their own image, dividing the human race into factions in the process. You don’t only mine copper or gather herbs, as you do in most MMOs, you also scavenge through refuse and garbage bags to find materials you can use to build your weapons and armor. One of the most priced resource nodes is a burned out car, as they can yield a whole bunch of scrap fasteners if you’re lucky.

The sense of desperation also affects the interaction with other players. Even though Fallen Earth isn’t a free-for-all PvP game, there are PvP areas where anyone is fair game (as far as I’ve understood it, since I haven’t been to one yet). That means the player that is helping me today, or is accepting help from me, can be the same guy that puts a bullet in the back of my head while I’m scavenging from a valuable node in a PvP zone. I also know that I might be the one that’s bashing his skull in with a lead pipe. After all, resources are scarce and it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Fact of life in post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon.

It’s been a long time since I saw a new MMO take immersion this seriously – as the genre goes forward, that trait becomes increasingly rare. Fallen Earth has many flaws, which I will return to at a later point, but it’s hard for me to shrug off the thought that this might be what I’ve been asking for so many times in the past. Will we have to look to the indie games for fascinating game worlds while the major MMOs lock themselves into the typical questing and level treadmill without offering any form of immersion in return?

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Welcome to the apocalypse

When I left World of Warcraft, my main character was decked out in raiding epics. In Aion, despite not being very high level, I’m wearing a whole bunch of neat magical artifacts and weapons. In Ryzom, at least when I’m out hunting, I wear a full set of heavy armor and carry a two handed axe (that looks like someone turned a butterfly into a lollipop and sharpened the edges). In EVE Online, I love to fly my Myrmidon or the shiny Brutix, which allows me to deal hails of deadly blaster fire on my enemies.

In Fallen Earth, I carry a wooden board as weapon, wear a pair of ugly nu metal shorts I scavenged from some survivalist outside of South Burb and a pair of moccasins. They are not magic at all, just a normal pair of brown moccasins. I also wear a head wrap and a terribly ugly jacket that I never seem to be able to replace. I tend to eat cooked tainted eggs and drink stale beer.

Welcome to the apocalypse, indeed.

I’m not going to go on record and say that Fallen Earth is the most awesome MMO ever made, but it should be noted that it is a breath of fresh air in a sometimes rather stale genre. Where gear can often be the bells and whistles of a MMO, in Fallen Earth I feel that I actually need new and better gear to survive in the harsh environment that is post-apocalyptic Grand Canyon. I better learn to craft myself new improvised weapons from pieces of scrap metal, since the mutants and wild animals that inhabit the wilderness all seem very dedicated to have me and my fellow human beings for dinner. I need to know how to turn the tainted meat I scavenge from dead coyotes into a (non-poisonous) meal, since there’s no supermarket or burger joint left in the world.

Fallen Earth confuses me a bit, I’m not sure what to make of it just yet – is it a sandbox or is it quest based? There are missions everywhere and doing them nets me quite a bit of cash and crafting manuals, but at the same time I do feel inclined to just leave the beaten path and go exploring and finding my own place in the Grand Canyon. I hear tales of hidden places filled with nice resource nodes, far away from the tattered remains of civilization.

It’s that exploring that really grabs me with Fallen Earth. I love the confusion, I love how vast the world feels. I want to experience it, I want to see what is over the next hill – even though it’s probably more desolate wasteland. I don’t mind though, not every MMO needs to offer the same magical environments. The biggest problem Fallen Earth faces is its client, which is cumbersome, demanding and prone to bugs. Icarus Studios seem to be working hard at it, patching almost daily, but they have lot of work cut out for them. Here’s hoping they make quick improvements, since another niche MMO that can stand on its own two feet for a long time is always a welcome addition to the genre!

I guess I will write up a review for it, probably in Swedish, sooner or later. Since I bought Fallen Earth myself and didn’t get a review copy, I am letting this one simmer and I will try to stay away from any nasty deadlines. I have only the finishing touches left on my Aion review, by the way – it should be up on our site either later tonight or on Monday. It’s disclaimer bonanza! I guess I can run it through Google Translate and post a link here, if people are interested. Either way, I am not done blogging about it, same goes for Fallen Earth.

In other news, my sister gave me another t-shirt from Whipping Floyd‘s Push the Button collection today, as a late birthday present. I love their stuff, if I had to choose one brand to sponsor me, it would be them. You hear that, Floyd-people? Want a game journalist to wear your stuff at various press events and conventions around the world? I’m your man. It doesn’t count as bribes when you don’t cover the same industry as the bribes come from, right? Right?

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You’re testing my patience, Aion dearest

At first, I didn’t mind the queues to Aion that much. They were annoying and I saw no reason for me to sit through them, then when I finally did decide to give them a chance my client started to crash at some point when I was playing Batman: Arkham Asulym while waiting for them to finish. I am very testy today, since I did not end up on a flight to Iceland today (long story, including chattering ladies, being made an example of in security and having a crisis land in my lap), so I guess giving Aion a go tonight wasn’t such a great idea, but right now I’m furious with having to queue to play a MMO that was released (I count head-start as release, especially with that many pre-orders) more than a week ago.

I still haven’t paid NCsoft a penny for Aion, but I have a job to do here. The screens I’ve grabbed so far were too dark for print, which means I need to take new ones. Since I found out that they didn’t work today, my original plan was to capture them on coming back next Monday, barely making it before deadline and when the finished magazine has to be sent off to the printers. But with this sudden increase in available time, I figured I might as well grab them now – giving myself a larger margin of error and making my editor-in-chief breathe easier. But no.

Despite three new European servers (one English, one French and one German), there is still a queue of over one hour to get into the game. There’s no point in me sitting it out since I know the client will give up and become unresponsive anyway. I can do it tomorrow instead, or I could just log in to the new server and hope that there’s still room for a character on it and no queue. At the same time, do I really want to send a screenshot of the first area to the magazine? Not really, even though I will if I have to.

There’s no way that I’ve been able to play enough, either. I’ve had so many nights earmarked for Aion, but most of the time I haven’t even been able to connect and when I finally got in, I was rubber-banding back and forth like crazy. Tip of the day – Dash Attack and rubber-band lag = a great gaming experience. Any player that rolled a warrior in the early days of World of Warcraft will know what I am talking about…

Again, this will not lower my final score. But I have a print deadline to catch and readers on our site screaming for a review of Aion, which means that I will have to add all manners of disclaimers about not having been able to play enough. Which means that the review will not be able to offer everything that I think NCsoft would like it too, or cover all the stuff that I’d like to cover. But what can I do when I can’t play? Please, tell me, because I’m drawing a blank here. Do I actually have to break my own principle of not reviewing anything labeled as “beta” in the future?

The sad part is that I still really enjoy Aion, despite it being completely unoriginal. A lot, actually. I’ll grab the screens tomorrow, hopefully the server won’t be full during the day. It’s not like I have that much work to do, since I shouldn’t even be home right now…gah, now I’m getting angry again.

I’m downloading Fallen Earth, hopefully that can kill some time while I wait for the kids that are currently up playing Aion to go to bed. Not that it’s helped against the lag before, but at least I can log in. It’s either that or playing more Dirt 2, but racing games tend to give me headache – worse headaches than the one I already have, that is.

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Why the Aion community is scaring me away

Or “Why quest helper, not World of Warcraft, ruined MMOs”

Let’s get the positive stuff out of the way first – I am really starting to enjoy Aion. Yes, it’s so far nothing more than a typical quest grind for XP, the quests are terribly unoriginal and getting into a fight with more than one mob (God forbid three) is a pain. But I’m having fun, I love the alien design, the flavor texts and the storyline. I’ve started to craft a bit, which I also like despite the system for doing it is traditional (do I dare call it “archaic”?) and I like to fly (even though I think the flight timer system is silly in a game so built on flight). PvP, at the arena, is intense and gives me a taste for more – I still wish there was a way to level through PvP alone. If you develop a game so focused on PvP as Aion is at higher levels, you really ought to offer that as an alternative to the typical PvE grind.

With that said, I do have problems with the game. And one of the major ones is how the community feels right now. It’s still early in the game, a lot of people probably won’t play after their first 30 days are up, but at this point it’s almost scary. The general chat is filled with utter nonsense most of the time, the names taken from World of Warcraft are in abundance and the name calling and insulting is constant. Today I was called a “rtard” (people actually use words like that?) by a player called Ladysylvanas (I called that name “unoriginal”, another player called it “gay” – you choose…) and it’s almost becoming a sport between me and Terr to spot names like “Kiljaeden”, “Jaina” or “Azeroth” while we play and point them out over Twitter. Got to love that real time updated social web, no?

I managed to find myself a pretty nice Legion to at least chat with, they seem like a good bunch, but the community is a constant noise in the back of my head. Sure, I can block them, and I keep my Legion chat tab up most of the time to not see General (I don’t want to leave it just yet, since the game is so new there might be a few hidden gems in it), but just knowing that they are out there makes my skin crawl. I guess it’s a problem with most MMOs, but I can’t remember it being this bad in Warhammer Online or Age of Conan when they launched. There were idiots, absolutely, but the community in Aion reminds me more of the one on my server in Runes of Magic than in any other game I’ve played so far.

The impact on actual gameplay is of course none, Aion is still fun. But it better pick up as I level, since I don’t really want to waste away hours on end on a game filled with people that get on my nerves. I want to enjoy Aion without the constant reminder that the good people are few and far between. If you don’t believe me, do take a look at the official forums and tell me that I’m overreacting.

Also, and this is one of the things that gets me the most, everyone seem to be terribly lazy. Despite Aion having clickable links in the quest journal that often can show you exactly where to go, a lot of players don’t seem to even bother to do that, instead asking in General chat about the most fundamental things (“where is X, where do I get Y, I can’t find N, etc”). I can’t help blaming this a bit on Quest Helper, which truly turned World of Warcraft into a game for drones. I’m guilty as well, I installed Quest Helper just like everyone else, but that does not mean I feel handicapped the second I end up in a game that doesn’t have similar tools. Read the freaking quest journal, for crying out loud. It’s all right there! Some even ask for directions to things that’s been shown in cut scenes, which always makes me wanna shove my head through my screen.

There are two things that might get me when it comes to Aion – the grind or the community. As soon as I’ve played enough to deliver my review (which will never, truly be enough of course), I’m going to make a decision. Either I press on, or I ditch Aion for the time being. The community in games like Ryzom is so nice that I don’t see why I should have to live through this crap to enjoy myself. I am also considering picking up Fallen Earth to see how it is and feels, with an extra careful eye towards its budding community. No more, I say. No more.

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Aion is go! Perhaps. At least I think it is. Is it?

First impression: Can’t create an Asmodian on my server of choice. Fair enough, the limit will be lifted anyway, so I’ll wait.

Second impression: Can’t connect to server since it’s full, sorry. Try again in a while.

Third impression: You are number 3200 in the queue, just hang around for almost 5 hours and you’ll get to play.

I have been stuck on that third impression since yesterday. There is no way I’m waiting 5 hours in a queue to play a MMO, I don’t think anyone should have to. Dear NCsoft, you had hard numbers on the amount of people that would try to log in during the head start days and couldn’t fix this well in advance? You guys just managed to hit a brand new MMO-low in a time when we’ve slowly come to expect launch day catastrophes to be a thing of the past.

My plan yesterday was to write a proper first impression blog entry about Aion, complete with a screenshot of my new fancy character. That is obviously not going to happen – I wasn’t able to log in during the off-peak hours earlier today and I am certainly not able to log in now. I have no idea what the server guys are doing, but I’d recommend NCsoft to shove a lot of extra cash their way so they can get everything up to speed well in advance of the official launch in a few days. The game launches in the US tomorrow and if you guys are having the same issues as we Europeans do, you are truly screwed.

Now, I haven’t paid a penny for my copy of Aion, so perhaps I shouldn’t be complaining that much. If I had actually paid good money for the collectors edition and getting into the head start program that way, I would be furious by now. But since I’m supposed to be reviewing the game, I am under a certain deadline stress. My editor in chief knows how MMOs work, that they take time to review, but at the same time you can’t wait forever for these things. If things aren’t sorted soon, how am I supposed to have the time to do a proper and informed review?

Funnily enough, NCsoft seems to understand the problems with reviewers being stressed and pumping out MMO reviews way too quickly (perhaps they don’t want to see one of their games be the center of another Zitrongate), so they added a note to the e-mail which included the review code. They asked us gaming journos to “…keep in mind that the full experience of Aion grows with the game and an accurate view of the Abyss PvPvE zone won’t become apparent without a reasonable amount of active high level characters and player organization on you [sic] server”.

When the e-mail arrived a few days ago I found it cute and quite daring – they could have hoped for a Tortage effect instead – but now I just find it laughable. How will my experience of Aion be able to grow with the game and how do you expect me to be able to reach level 25 and take part in the Abyss fighting if I can’t even get into the game?

When it comes to my future review of Aion, I will of course not give the game a lower score because of these problems – I will take the time to play and experience what the game has to offer before I pass judgement on it. But the problems we are seeing now will be mentioned. I have a bad feeling that quite a few reviewers, especially the ones that don’t care very much about the genre, will be a lot quicker in judging the game.

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Screenshot love: Play dead, doggie! Please? For me?

Ryzom celebrated its 5th anniversary this week, which the devs celebrated by spawning this guy/gal and his/her three guards and trying to kill us all. We were victorious though, still running on the fumes from the mini-mek race we had enjoyed earlier.

I have a lot of frapsed video from the anniversary event which I’m trying to edit together, but Windows Movie Maker (which is the only editing software I have on this machine) refuses to play nice and keeps blanking out certain clips without giving a good reason for doing so. It annoys me to no end. Anyway, happy birthday Ryzom! Here’s for another five years!

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Champions on the line

See what I did there? I’m very proud of myself.

I guess I am becoming increasingly grumpy, but I am really trying to enjoy my time with Champions Online and failing. Everyone else seem to enjoy it, to a degree, but the more I play it the more I realise that I am not having fun. My character looks really cool, wearing a short skirt, a bowler hat and touting two large guns, and I guess that the hover board she’s flying around on is kinda neat, but…it’s not enough. The more I play, the worse it gets.

Let’s get the regular disclaimer out of the way – I am not far into Champions Online. I just dinged level 10, I’m stuck in the dull wilderness of Canada, and still have a long way to go before I can start exploring the world proper and craft my own Nemesis. This is a MMO, I have barely scratched the surface. But the fact remains that I have no real incentive to keep playing. I know I’ll get to Millennium City sooner or later, but do I really want to? If I’m not enjoying the game now, what is there to say that I will in a few levels time?

So, what’s my problem? First of all, the game feels slow. Not frame-rate dropping slow, just slow paced. I am sure the action gets better when you got more powers to play around with and the enemies become trickier, but so far combat is dull. Travelling is also slow and doesn’t flow the way I was hoping for and the graphics leave a lot to wish for even on near-maximum settings. Questing is boring as well, the same old MMO quest grind that we’ve seen thousands of times before – innovation is not Champs Online’s strongest point. Perhaps it’s my power set and chosen travel power that are not fun enough, but if I want to try something completely different I’ll either have to retcon (i.e respecc) my character completely, which I can’t afford, or play through the tutorial area again, which I don’t ever want to do again. Also, I like guns.

I did enjoy PvP for a bit, until I noticed how certain power sets and travel powers made it more or less unplayable for my chosen type of hero. Munitions against crowd control-heavy characters that use teleports? Boom, splat, gone. I know Munitions do have a CC-power, which I’ll try to pick up and see if I can even the odds a bit. I did consider rerolling just for the PvP, but since you don’t get experience points for PvPing (oh, how I miss that from WAR in every game I play these days) it would still force me to play through regular PvE. And creating a new character only for teleports and CC, knowing that the PvP-side of the game probably will fare victim to the usual nerf-fest that Blizzard perfected in the Arena, seems utterly pointless. I will just try to enjoy the PvP as much as I can without that edge, comforted by the thought that no particular power set will stay on top forever.

Yet, I am not sure if I will make it that far. I try to log in and play for longer periods of time, but I keep finding myself bored and log out after a few missions. There’s nothing in the lore that interests me, the world isn’t exciting and the crafting feels like a complete waste of time (that’s what you get after playing too much Vanguard, Ryzom or Everquest II – you get spoiled by interesting crafting systems).

Maybe it’s the setting that puts me off? Perhaps super heroes are not cool enough, or not the type of characters that I want to play when I play MMOs. Perhaps, since no matter how cool my char’s bowler hat is, I don’t feel connected to her at all. With both Fallen Earth and Aion releasing this month (Fallen Earth on my birthday, no less – nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Icarus Studios), I am not sure for how long Champions Online will be able to keep up my already low interest.

I will keep playing, perhaps things will change. I just need to get out of Canada, since that zone is starting to drive me crazy.

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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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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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