Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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Almost two years after the release of A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV received it’s first official expansion: Heavensward. This expansion focuses on the long talked-about, but never before accessible Kingdom of Ishgard. Ever since the earliest days of 1.x, players had been clamoring to explore and experience this area, only to have their hoped squashed by the failure of the original game.  Well, finally with release of Final Fantasy XIV 3.0 – the gates to Ishgard were thrown open.

With this new city-state was a plethora of new open-world zones to explore. Including one area that was previously accessible in FFXIV 1.x, but not seen in A Realm Reborn. Aside from new areas, there was a whole new slew of dungeons, raids, side quests, and main scenario missions to undertake. The storyline of Heavensward picks up right where main scenarios of 2.x end. In fact, none of the content from this expansion is available to players until they complete all of the 2.x storyline. (with exception of a new playable race –  but more on that later)

This expansion also increased the maximum level cap from 50 to 60 and introduced a new class of flying mounts for players to use in the Heavensward areas.

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As the name suggests, a big focus of Heavensward is the theme of flying and flight. Aside from flying mounts and open-air zones, SE also added the ability for player-owned Free Companies to build their own Airships. Ships can be sent off on exploratory missions, or used to reach a new large-scale battlefield zone known as: The Diadem.

Also, an MMO expansion just wouldn’t be complete without the addition of new playable classes… or more specifically jobs. That’s right, Heavensward introduces three new jobs, but unlike all other jobs in the game so far, these are not directly tied to character class. The new jobs are: Dark Knight (tank class), Astrologian (healer class), and Machinist (ranged-dps class). Also, interestingly enough, these jobs start at level 30 instead of level one. (A move seen in other games such as World of Warcraft)

As mentioned earlier, there is also a new playable race in Heavensward: The Au Ra. This is a race of scaled, horned humanoids, that some believe to share ancestry with dragons. A player who owns the expansion can create an Au Ra character from the beginning, while current players wishing to keep their current progress can use a “Fantasia potion” to change their existing character.

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I have to admit, that I was initially VERY excited for this expansion. I plowed through the 3.0 content in a matter of days. Only to find myself, at the end of it, feeling somewhat shorted. Yes, there was a great amount of new storyline content to be had – but once it was all said and done, it felt like I had hit a brick wall. There was really nothing new to explore at that point. The 3.1 patch that came out a few months later did little to rekindle my excitement. In fact, around December of 2015, I actually found myself canceling my FFXIV subscription for the very first time. It seemed that while Heavensward did deliver on everything it promised, it turned out that it’s promises were not really all that exciting to begin with. At least, that’s how I felt after conquering all of it. The post-expansion lull hit HARD.

At the time of this writing, Heavensward has reached version 3.2. This most recent version update added a new tier to the Heavensward-exclusive raid “Alexander”, as well as some of large quality of life improvements for new players. I resubbed to check out this patch and I’m happy to report that I’ve been more than pleased. I can’t quite put my finger on it… maybe it’s some of the new content or maybe I just needed a break – but coming back I’ve found myself engaged and having a wonderful time. I’m anxiously awaiting the new upcoming PVP content and looking forward to seeing where the game goes from here.

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Now, for the first time ever since I started this blog, I have to decide how I’m going to handle reporting on future updates to FFXIV… You see, up until now, I’ve always been playing catch up. reviewing things after the fact. But with the publication of this overview, I find myself actually current in a living, breathing game world.  Waiting for each new expansion, than playing for six months before reporting on it is not very exciting…

So, after giving this a little thought, I’ve decided that I’ll be making a post for each content patch that the game receives. Then adding a link to these posts to the FFXIV Hub article. That way, I can stay up to date with the game – yet still keep a link to all the information in a single place. So… stay tuned to future updates.

Patch 3.3      Patch 3.4    Patch 3.5

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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 The original version of Final Fantasy XIV was taken offline on November 10, 2012.  Fans would have to wait until August of 2013 to get their hands on the new version of the game. The stakes were high. MMOs had failed before. But never had the company behind the game promised to completely remake and relaunch the title, all while keeping player data intact. To be honest, even I had doubts that SE would be able to pull it off.  They were promising the moon with this new version of Final Fantasy XIV. But as months went by, it slowly began to look like they just might be able to make good on their promise.

Eventually, the beta for Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 (now called A Realm Reborn) was available to play. Legacy players were able to take the first peek…. and it was glorious. From what little we were able to glimpse during the beta test, it seemed like SE was able to achieve their goal.

Upon the general release of A Realm Reborn, the interest in the game had reached an unexpected high. The servers were full of both old veterans and new curious players. The reviews for the game were shining and positive. SE had done the unthinkable. They are saved the sinking ship that was FFXIV and set it out to sail with the very best of the competition.

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This version of the game, starts five years after the events that took place in Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. For legacy players, the story goes like this: During the climax of the final battle against the Empire, just as the terrible dragon Bahamut erupted from inside the red moon of Dalamud, the legacy players were teleported away from the impending destruction. They were sent through time to five years in the future. They find themselves in an Eorzea that has been radically changed, but one that has mostly recovered the Calamity of that day. The threat of the Empire still looms on the horizon, but now there are newer, more mysterious threats as well. This is the world in which both legacy and new players find themselves.

All of the original 1.x races and classes are available in A Realm Reborn. In fact, this time around players could even create female versions of Hyur Highlanders and Roegadyn. Male versions of the popular Miqo’te race are now also playable. Also new in this version is a new starting class: Arcanist. This can later evolve into one of two jobs: Summoner and Scholar.

As a returning player, I got to experience the original 2.0 story just a bit differently than new players. Some of my introductory cutscenes and dialogue were slightly different. I retained my levels, skills, and most of my items from 1.0. So several things that normally needed to be “unlocked” during the course of the main scenario were already available to me. I learned pretty quickly, that I’d be wasting experience points by playing through all the new content with my max level Dragoon. So, I switched to a class I never bothered to level in 1.0 and enjoyed the content from the ground up until I got my feet wet.  I founded a Free Company (guild) with several players that I knew from 1.0. Together, we plowed through the main scenario content together.

A Realm Reborn was a very different beast than the original FFXIV. Everything about the game seemed more polished and refined. Many of the unique features of FFXIV were still intact; the job system, levequests,  behest (now known as guildhests). But there were aspects from other popular MMOs brought in as well. The handling of sidequests was now much more like other MMO games. Instanced dungeons and an endgame raid was added, along with a “dutyfinder” to help reduce wait times while searching for players to team up with. There was a new “FATE” system (dynamic open world battles). The market system was revamped. The list goes on and on.  Personally, I found the new direction of the game to be everything I had hoped for.

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As time went on, SE continued to consider player feedback and adjust/add new features. Each new major patch continued to expand the game greatly. New dungeons and raids were added. New boss battles, quests, storyline, even a new class/job combo was added to the game for free. A PVP system was put in place, player-owned housing was added as was a casino-style game area. In my opinion, SE had gone above and beyond to create a great game that would appeal to players of all types. Of course, among the game community, there’s always a vocal minority of players full of nonconstructive criticism (especially when it comes to the housing feature). But overall, I found most of the players to be satisfied and content with this new version of Final Fantasy XIV.

SE seems to have adopted a three-month content cycle. This means that approximately every three months there is a new patch that includes, along with the usual fixes and adjustments, new game content. All of the added features above (PVP, Casino, Rogue/Ninja, etc) were added during these content patches.

If I have one complaint about the game, it is not with the game itself but with a small chunk of the playerbase. Really, I guess in a small way, I can blame this on SE. But it’s not REALLY their fault.  You see, until the release of A Realm Reborn, both of SE’s MMOs had non-regional servers. US, European, and Asian players all shared the gameworlds. To me, this was a positive experience. I enjoyed playing with people from Japan or Australia. Generally speaking, Japanese gamers tend to play more my style: Slow and a calculated. They are not in a hurry and there is no real “race to the finish”. Whereas, a sizable chunk of US MMO players are often immature and in a rush. For the release of A Realm Reborn, SE decided to make regional servers (for the purpose of performance). Now, there was nothing stopping me from playing on a Japanese server. But since 95% of all English speaking players would choose a US-based server, communication would definitely be an issue. So the point of my contention is this: I was now pretty much forced to play only with other US players. This should not be an issue. Seriously. But I have a really hard time dealing with belligerence. Due to the popularity of the game, a whole new demographic of players had appeared. I began to see traits creeping into FFXIV, from other games that I had always managed to avoid: elitism, stat parsers, immature/mindless public chat. Seeing this in the game that I had come to love was disappointing to me. But, I guess it was a bit of a necessary evil. In truth, these days, you’re going get that kind of thing in any MMO. I make liberal use of the blacklist feature and move on.

Overall, A Realm Reborn managed to deliver on every level, at least for me. It didn’t manage to capture that “magic” that I found with my time in FFXI. But it comes close. If you ask me today, “what’s a good MMO to play?” My first answer will be: Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is available on –  PC,  PS3 and PS4

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FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Final Fantasy XIV: 1.X

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Having been an avid fan of Square Enix’s first MMO; Final Fantasy XI, I remember the excitement that everyone in the community felt when the announcement was made for Final Fantasy XIV. The next generation massive multiplayer Final Fantasy title. Having long been rumored, SE finally confirmed it’s existence and upcoming release. To say I was excited, was an understatement.

Lorewise, the game takes place in a land known as Eorzea. Eorzea is the home to four major nation-states (three of which can be starting areas for new players). On the outskirts of Eorzea lies the Garlemald Empire. In terms of the game’s story, the Empire has slowly been conquering neighboring realms, and fear hangs heavy that they will soon push their invasion into Eorzea itself. This certainly seemed like an interesting set up. It was a world I was excited to learn and explore.

FFXIV was built using the Crystal Tools engine, the game engine that powered Final Fantasy XIII, so graphically it was going to be leaps and bounds above FFXI. Also, the developers promised that XIV would be more casual-friendly and less grindy. Yet, the game would cater to XI players, in that the in-game races available during character creation would favor those previously seen in XI. (This way, a player could “re-create” the look of their old XI character if they chose to do so.) The races of FFXIV, while similar to FFXI, have different names. These are as follows:

Hyur – A human-like race.  (Essentially the Hume of FFXI)

Elezen – A tall, elvish like race  (similar to the Elvaan of FFXI)

Roegadyn – A stout, but hardy race – Playable as male only (similar to the Galka from FFXI)

Miqo’te – A catlike humanoid – Playable as female only (similar to the Mithra of FFXI)

Lalafell – A short, cute humanoid race (Similar to the Taru Taru of FFXI)

The game was slated for release on the PC. A PS3 version would be coming shortly after release. XIV would feature a new system for character progression, a new class system that allows players to change character class on the fly, a new quest system, a new imaginative form of crafting, a seamless world, etc. It seems that SE was finally starting to listen to their fans…. except, not really.

When Final Fantasy XIV was first released, it became obvious very quickly that there was a problem. First of all, at release day, there was a shockingly little amount of content. In the entire game, there was only a handful of main scenario quests and a small number of class-related quests. The new “Levequest” system touted by SE as being one of the cornerstones of the game was clunky and restrictive. With players only able to take on a small number of quests per day. As a result it was largely ignored. Players resorted to the old time-tested method to grinding to gain experience points. Only to find that SE had quietly implemented a experience point throttle to slow down players who were leveling their characters too quickly.

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Other complaints included concerns about the combat system, as well as the overall world design and server stability. Players also complained in droves about lag in the UI and a convoluted/overly-difficult player market system. As the weeks went on, the situation only got worse. It was so bad, that SE actually asked the media to please refrain for posting reviews of the game until they could roll-out the first big post-release patch.  Sadly, this patch did little to address the majority of player concerns.

The playerbase fell dramatically in the weeks immediately following release, with most players not renewing their subscriptions at the end of the free-30 days. I have to admit, even though I love Final Fantasy games with a passion. FFXIV was shaping up to be a total mess. As a concession, Square Enix apologized profusely and suspended charging subscription fees while they worked on addressing play concerns. But as more weeks came and went, no relief was seen.

Eventually, a major announcement was made. SE had essentially fired the original producer and replaced him with a new face, Naoki Yoshida. A man, that the community would come to affectionately call “Yoshi P”. The first thing that Yoshi P did, was take as the players to participate in a number polls and questionnaires. I participated and I remember seeing questions like “Would it be acceptable to radically change the core battle system for the game?”. When you start talking about doing things like replacing entire core-game mechanics, you know things are about to get interesting.

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When it was all said and done, Yoshi P did one of the ballsiest things I have ever seen in the gaming industry. This man, who was hired to FIX a broken game, went before his superiors and told them: “Your game is so broken, it cannot be repaired. If you want me to fix this mess, you will have to provide me with the budget and resources to rebuild it from the ground up.”  This statement, uttered in any American game company would have immediately signaled the death and write off of the title as a whole. But perhaps, due to cultural differences and Japanese pride, SE agreed. Thus began the road to Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.

The announcement was made to the public, that the entire game was going to be scrapped and recreated using a completely new game engine. What normally takes nearly 10 years in research and development would be escalated and delivered within a mere two years. In the meantime, a special team would continue to work on improving the existing game as best they could: fixing what could be fixed and adding content to keep players busy. To fund this, the subscription for the game would be returning. But players willing to pay during this time, would be privy to exclusive once-in-a-lifetime content as well as a perpetual discount on the game’s subscription. It was also announced that the PS3 version of the game would be placed on hold until after the release of Final Fantasy 2.0.

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In the game’s world, this translates to what is known as the Seventh Umbral Era. Essentially, the redesign of the game would be rolled into the lore of the gameworld itself. Starting with the next patch after the announcement, a small red star appeared in the sky. Patch after patch, as time went by this star grew bigger and bigger. Over time it became obvious what was happening: A meteor was coming… and it was going to cause havoc in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.

Some of the biggest changes to occur during this time were core redesigns to the character progression system. The “character rank” leveling system was removed and now character progression would be measured on a per-class basis. The very core mechanics of the battle system were overhauled and drastically improved. A new “job system” was added that brought many of the classic Final Fantasy-themed jobs to the game. Until now, the character classes in FFXIV used obscure, unfamiliar names, and as a result, just seemed very un-Final Fantasy like. Also, a new “Grand Company” system was added to game that both served as a segue into the new lore as well as a portal to launching some of the newer dungeon and boss-battle content. Things were actually starting to come together quite nicely. In fact, I daresay I became quite satisfied with the game during it’s final few months.

Eventually, the time came when the original version of Final Fantasy XIV would need to go offline for several months while the team prepared the release of the now fabled Final Fantasy XIV 2.0.   – Character data would be preserved and would carry over to this new world. So now players only had to wait. Would SE be able to pull off the impossible and revive a game that had largely failed in the eyes of the public? Time would tell.

In the weeks before the servers were turned off. Players were treated to amazing content. Swarms of monsters were invading towns, Imperial airships would be seen patrolling the skies. The weather in the game world changed, bringing constant lightning storms… Then on the final night, players were instructed to journey to a remote area of the gameworld known as Mor Dhona to engage the Imperials in a massive ground battle. Once the clock counted down and Final Fantasy XIV 1.x was taken offline, players were provided with a YouTube link to view the final cutscene for the game. From the bright red star of Dalamud, emerged the legendary dragon Bahamut. Who’s megaflare attacked caused what would later be known as The Calamity.

Despite it’s rocky start and terrible reputation, these events ended up making Final Fantasy XIV 1.x a truly fantastic and memorable experience for me. In someways, I almost miss it from time to time.

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FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Hub Post: Final Fantasy XIV

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Finally, we are brought to the most recent entry in the numbered Final Fantasy series: Final Fantasy XIV. This is the second MMO in the series and one filled with both controversy and success. I’ve been an avid player of this game since it’s release and  I’ve written a little bit about this game before, so for those interested, you can read my initial thoughts here: “A Look Back: Original Release”   –  “A Realm Reborn Beta Test”  – “The Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV” — But, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the game in the posts to come. Just like with my FFXI hub, this post will serve as a Table of Contents for any future posts regarding Final Fantasy XIV and it’s expansions.

FFXIV Hub

** Final Fantasy XIV  (1.x)  –    A Realm Reborn  –    Heavensward   –  Stormblood **

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Rise of the MMOs – Part 2

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So far, I’ve discussed a few of the early MMOs that I have had personal experience with. Of course, for every one I’ve played, there’s many more that I haven’t played. Most the games I’ve mentioned have been successful. But of course, what happens to an online game when it is NOT successful? Think about it for a moment. MMO games are, well, Online. If the game does not do well, there’s a good chance that the company behind it may pull the plug. And if the servers go off, so does the game. What happens to that $50 you spent on the retail box, do you get it back? Of course not. This is the risk of gaming online.

There have been several popular titles that have experienced just this very thing. Some of them like The Matrix Online, Tabula Rasa, and Star Wars: Galaxies did in fact go dark. Usually, when this occurs, the game developers attempt to have some sort of a sunset period that allows some closure for the players both in terms of storyline and player satisfaction. Others developers just pull the plug on a specified date and that’s it. The later is exactly what is happening to players of Sony’s Wizardry Online and Vanguard titles.

The first failed MMO game that I was follower of was the original version of Final Fantasy XIV.

Boss battle for Final Fantasy XIV version 1.0

Square Enix, the company behind the Final Fantasy series nearly destroyed their reputation with the original release of Final Fantasy XIV. Riding off of the success of their first online game, Final Fantasy XI, the company was admittedly lazy with their second online offering.

The game was beautiful, there’s no doubt about that. But upon release there was almost literally nothing to do. The game had very little content. On top of that, poor backend engineering led to server problems and a number of lag and congestion issues. The game featured a flawed combat system and the design of the gameworld was both repetitive and confusing for players. The title was almost universally condemned by both players and critics alike. As a fan of the series, even I stopped playing in those very early days and turned my attention towards other games.

Backed into a corner, it seemed obvious that Square Enix was going to pull the plug on the game. But instead, they replaced the game’s lead producer and made a startling announcement, something that no game developer had dared do before: they were going to scrap the existing code and rebuild the game from the ground up. And they did just that.

While keeping the service active, and attempting to improve the quality of life for current players, the developers were busy behind the scenes creating an entirely new game engine and content for a relaunch. This is something that normally take an average of five years, Square Enix managed to deliver the final product in just two. Upon its re-release, Final Fantasy XIV was a massive success. It is also my current MMO of choice.

A panned out view of combat from Final Fantasy XIV 2.0

During my stint away from those troubled early days of FFXIV, I found myself seduced by a game known as RIFT. This title, in many ways is very much a World of Warcraft clone. I say this in terms of gameplay, not so much in a storytelling and art direction. But really, that’s ok. RIFT had my attention pretty heavily for several months, but once I reached the endgame content, I found myself bored with it. Apparently, I was not alone. As the game’s population dwindled and profits started to sink, there was much concern over the fate of the game. To resolve this, RIFT switched from a subscription based model to a Free-to-Play model. This has appeared to work very well for the game. Although, I do not play RIFT anymore, I’m glad to see that it did not end up being just another game on the list of deactivated MMO titles.

This same scenario occurred for another very popular title, the long awaited Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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From the beginning, Star Wars: The Old Republic looked doomed to fail. The game had been in development for many years and the hype surrounding the title had reached epic proportions. I mean, who does’t love Star Wars? Everyone wanted to play this game. It was supposed to the Warcraft-Killer. I think maybe we expected too much. Signs of concern started even before the game was released. The game came with a premium pricetag both for the standard and the collector’s edition. On top of that, for the first time the Collector’s version of the game seemed to offer more than just a few vanity items. The CE actually featured a whole in-game vendor with a stock of gear only available to those willing to pay the extra money for a special edition of the game. Upon release, the game featured a very rich experience at the beginning, but for players who rushed to reach the endgame content, there was little there. Rather than fail, Star Wars also switched to a Free-to-Play model. However, unlike RIFT, some of the business decisions for SWTOR drew heavy criticism. For example, certain content is locked out for free players. Even some UI elements are unavailable unless you’re willing to pay a little extra. Regardless of these issues, the game does seem to be thriving under its current pricing model. Now… if only I could get that $200 back that I spent on the original Collector’s Edition…

So what’s the next for MMO gaming? As I type this, everyone is keeping a close eye on The Elder Scrolls Online. At this very moment, the game is currently in its Early Access phase. The game goes live for all players on 4/4/14.

The Elder Scrolls is a well respected and loved series of single player RPG games. So its only natural to want to extend that to an online world. Personally, I hope the game is successful. I have purchased the game, and I plan to begin getting my feet wet this evening. But despite my anticipation, the warning signs are already showing…

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I participated in the beta test, and much like the original launch of FFXIV, the beta version of the game felt VERY incomplete. Yes, I realize that a beta test is just that, and early TEST. But trust me, there’s some things that should be fully working. I encountered frequent disconnects, incomplete textures and other strange issues during the test. Also, there’s again concerns with this game’s Collector’s Edition. Whereas SWOTR offered a CE exclusive vendor, TESO is offering a whole playable race that’s only available to CE purchasers.

I’m very curious to see what happens with this game. So instead of being an observer, I’ve decided to do an experiment. I’m going to use this blog to chronicle my thoughts on the game. I’m not a huge fan of The Elder Scrolls. I purchased the series Anthology but I’ve only logged a few hours into the most recent entry; Skyrim. I really like what I’ve seen of the series and I do plan to catch up in the near future. But for the time being, I’m a rookie. So to me, this is going to be a whole new experience.

I’m going to approach the game with an open mind and I’m going to try my best to set aside any expectations and pre-conceived notions I may have. The game comes with a free thirty days. I’m going to take advantage of the time and then make note of my observations. If this interests you, please look forward to the posts.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Thoughts on the Beta Test

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Well, the fourth and final test phase of the new Final Fantasy XIV beta test is now complete. I spent the entire weekend putting the game through it’s paces. Overall, I had a very positive experience. Launching an MMO game is much more difficult than most people realize. It’s certainly more challenging than releasing a single player game. Knowing this, also take time to consider that data had to be imported from the old version. This makes for an even trickier launch.

The beta started out great for most, but by the second day error messages started to crop up for a large number of players preventing them from logging on. After more than twenty-four hours of this issue, SE was finally able to identify the root cause and issue a fix. The beta was extended by a few hours as a result. While I heard about the glitch, I did not experience it myself.

As I said, I really put the game through it’s paces. I completed a good chunk of the main scenario story, a few of the class quests, several levequests and guildhests, I even participated in an instanced raid and founded a Free Company (guild).

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Personally, I feel that game is ready for launch assuming SE has, in fact, sorted out their server issues. I think the test as a whole was an overall success. No launch is without its problems, and considering that this weekend was actually still a phase in the beta test, I am assuming in good faith that SE now has whatever data they need to ensure a successful launch day. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

I enjoyed this game enough to declare without hesitation that FFXIV is certainly going to be my new full time MMO of choice.

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The Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV

In just a few hours the fourth and final beta phase of Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 goes live. This phase is significant because all content and progression will carry over to the actual release of the game. Nerds everywhere are quivering with anticipation. I am no exception. I haven’t talked about it too much on this blog, because I was waiting to discuss Final Fantasy XIV after I had a chance to review the other games in the series. Of course, at the rate my playthroughs are going, that may take a quite a while.

So, allow me to introduce Kijimuna…

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Kiji is my Final Fantasy XIV character. I have not had a chance to spend any quality time with him since the original version of the game went offline back in November. I wrote about this briefly at the time. You can view that original article here:

A Look Back at Final Fantasy XIV 1.0

In a nutshell, the original version of Final Fantasy XIV was poorly received. It suffered from major issues at release. Everything from lack of content to massive server lag cause players to quit the game in droves. Reviews of the title were brutal. Even many hardcore fans, such as myself, had to admit that the game was a complete bomb.

Things got so bad, that most of the original development team was fired or assigned to other projects. A new producer was promoted and after a long hard look at the current game, he declared that the current implementation of the game was simply unfixable. His solution was a complete redesign, starting with the very game engine itself. Never before had such a massive task been proposed. Many players expected Square Enix to simply pull the plug on the title and cut their losses. Luckily, the corporation threw their support behind the idea and now, almost three years later, we are on cusp of the long awaited Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

To usher in the change, the original game continued to be patched and improved on while the new version was being developed. Many of the original issues that plagued the game were fixed but a good number of them, such as server lag and UI complaints remained until the very last day of service. To keep players interested, special storyline content was added to the game. This once-in-a-lifetime content was only available to players who continued to subscribe while the new version was under development. Perks like exclusive titles and equipment were made available during this time. Also, players who subscribed for more than 90 days during the original run also had their game accounts flagged with a special “Legacy” tag. Legacy Accounts are treated to special pricing as well as some in-game perks when the new version is finally released. I’m proud to say I was a supporter through both the good times and bad. I was there for early access, and I was there until the very minute the servers were shut off.

Even though the official release is still just under two weeks away. For many of us, Phase 4 represents the start of 2.0.

I imagine I will post a brief update after a couple weeks, but I’ll save my big review of the game for later. In the meantime, those of you interested are welcome to read my in-character XIV blog located at the address below:

Dear Friends – In-Character FFXIV Blog

A Look Back: Final Fantasy XIV (Original Release)

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I’m going to really shake things up with something straight out of left field. As you might have surmised, I tend to review games in order because I enjoy watching franchises mature, etc. This time, due to an interesting set of circumstances, I’m going to break form and discuss the latest entry in the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy XIV.

Now this is not a review, but more like a discussion. I’m doing this for two reasons. First, FFXIV is an online title. Thus, it is a never-ending game. If I waited until the game was “finished”, under normal circumstances, I’d be waiting forever. However, in this case, the game did end (at least temporarily). Second, since the game has ended, this allows the perfect opportunity to look back on it.

If you’ve been following this blog a while, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE fan of both the Final Fantasy series as a whole, but especially the online games. In fact, the first real MMO that I put any time into was Final Fantasy XI. I spent several years playing that game and I had many wonderful experiences with it. Needless to say, when Final Fantasy XIV was announced, I was more than excited.

XIV holds an interesting place in the world of online games. It was one of the biggest failures in MMO history. The game was released way before it was ready and its reputation suffered greatly as a result. The game was plagued by everything from lack of content, to a laggy and unresponsive user interface. In fact, the game was so poorly received, that Square Enix suspended the monthly billing for the game for close to a year.

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During that time, most of the original development team was fired and a new producer took over the helm. Upon completing his assessment, he deemed that in order to make the game successful, it would need to be completely re-designed from the ground up. At which time, SE began the unheard of task of both fixing and supporting the current game, while rewriting a entirely new version.

I’m happy to say that over time, the game did improve. Vastly so. In fact, I found it to be quite enjoyable for the last year or so. To keep players hooked and to help preserve the storyline, SE announced an special in-game event for this transition period. A live story that would carry players over from version 1 to version 2.

Everything finally came to a dramatic conclusion on 11/11 with a giant meteor descending from heaven and a great cataclysm. As I write this, FFXIV is currently offline and testing for the alpha version of 2.0 is underway. Expected to be released sometime next year, loyal followers such as myself eagerly await to see what is in store for us…

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As I mentioned on this site before, I have kept an in-character blog of my time in FFXIV. For those reader interested in what they may have missed during the original release, I urge to check it out:

 

What I’m Playing : Spring 2012

Flash forward from my last post. I’m now thirty-three, married, and a father of two. I’m still a gamer but a lot has changed since my Atari and NES years. Games are now high definition, online, and with advent of the 3DS and VR, even three-dimensional.  In the coming posts, I plan to wax nostalgic a bit more, but first I want to take a moment to detail what I’m playing now.

At any given moment, I break my gaming down into three categories: Console, PC, and MMO. I am the proud owner of all three current gen consoles, and despite it’s lack of power, I often find myself drawn to the Wii. Nintendo has a way dishing out some of the most strangely-appealing titles. This is true of their first-party offerings as well as their third-party releases. My most recent Wii purchase, and the console title I’m currently playing is the infamous Xenoblade Chroniclesxenobladechronicles_NAbox-5B1-5D

Xenoblade is a title that almost didn’t see a release in North America. It’s a Japanese-style RPG that Nintendo of America felt would have hard time finding a market with western audiences. I find this a bit amusing. To me, it seems Japanese pop-culture is huge with the age 8-30 demographic these days. When Nintendo announced the title would not be coming the US, the backlash was much louder than expected. An online movement known as Operation Rainfall was launched in attempt to bring Xenoblade and two other nixed titles to the US. Needless to say, as far as Xenoblade was concerned, Op Rainfall was a success. As a direct result of demand, Xenoblade Chronicles was released in the US as a Gamestop exclusive title in April of 2012.

I’ll do a complete write-up of the game once I have completed it. For now, I’ll say that I am thoroughly impressed. I am a big fan of JRPGs and this one does not disappoint.

On the PC front, I’m currently riding the Diablo III bandwagon.

The original Diablo was on of the first PC game titles that I purchased with my own money back in the day. It is a classic dungeon crawl (which I LOVE) with an overhead view. A combo that’s rarely done right. Diablo III has been twelve years in the making and I must say it was worth the wait. I purchased it solely for the single player content, but like many others, found myself sucked in to playing online with friends.

My only complaint is that the game is dependant on connectivity with Blizzard’s servers, even in single player mode. Which, since launch, have been up and down. This has been less than convenient for me. Luckily, over the last few days, things seem to have stabilized quite a bit.

Finally, in the MMO world, my currently subscription is the infamous Final Fantasy XIV.

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Let me preface this by saying I am a die hard Final Fantasy fan. This is a fact that I’m sure will come to light as this blog continues to develop. Perhaps that explains why I’ve stuck with this game through thick and thin. Anyone familiar with the title will no doubt be aware of it’s tumultuous history. Upon release, the game was a total flop. It was rushed to market, plagued with UI and server problems, and little to no in-game content.  Not long after it’s release, the development team was sacked and replaced. The new executive producer conducted a massive evaluation and deemed the current game largely un-fixable. The solution, rebuild the game from scratch.

It has been almost two years since the title’s release, and the long awaited version 2.0 is just around the corner. I must admit, even my faith in the title was shaken in the early days. But many fixes and refinements have been put in place and today the game has made a complete 180. I’m excited to see what the future holds with the 2.0 release.

On a side note, I’ve kept and “in-character” blog since the games release which can be found here:

http://ffxivkijimuna.blogspot.com

In closing, as this blog continues to develop it will be host to both nostalgic memories of my retro gaming years, as well my experiences with the latest and greatest titles. As my sons get older and begin diving into gaming, it is my intention to use that interest as a way to bond and spend time with them. That is truly the main purpose of this blog.