Of Game Servers

The Server Dilemma

This week there has been a bit of a war waging in the ArcheAge community between two factions.  The first faction wants them to open new servers so that they can play the game and not have to wait in 10+ hour long queues.  The second faction doesn’t want new servers to be opened at any cost, because it serves to dilute the community, and in a game where land ownership is a crucial part of the experience there is no real way to merge the servers.  I feel like this is one of those arguments when both sides have equal merit.  Generally speaking when a company spins up new servers to help cover the launch weekend users, they also end up having a bunch of completely dead servers months later that have to be merged.

The ultimate problem with new servers, is that we want to play with our friends.  By nature an MMO is a social experience, and at this point most of us bring with us a large group of friends and acquaintances that we want to be in close proximity to.  As such lots of players will roll on another server only to get the feeling of actually playing the game they crave, but ultimately later on re-roll once the opening weekend crush is over to be in the same place as their friend.  So I feel like new servers by nature are a damned solution to the opening weekend problem.  Any servers that spin up are by nature less valuable to established players than the original servers.  They will have less of an economy, and less resources to run any group content.  Having done this multiple times, there is a certain pride in playing on a “day one” server.

Abolishing the Server

For a long time I thought the solution to this problem was to simply do away with the server infrastructure entirely.  Elder Scrolls Online launched with a Mega Server infrastructure, where instead of pool resources into smaller named and classified clusters of servers… they just dumped all of them together in one of two larger data centers US and EU.  This allowed them to simply add more nodes to the cluster to gently smooth out the server load without actually interrupting the users experience.  I have to say after the what has to be hundreds of game launches I have experienced…  this concept made for one of the absolute smoothest I have seen.  We were able to get in and play without needing to fuss about what server our guild was going to be on.  It solved so many issues and let us get in and play with our pool of players.

The problem there however is that as the population dwindled and our regularly nomadic guild did what they were good at… and moved on to the next big thing, we were left without much of a community.  The only intimacy we had in that game was that which we brought with us.  Coming back to Final Fantasy XIV it has refreshed my understanding of just how important that server community is to the overall feel of a game.  The night we bought player housing, we had various folks from different guilds popping by our house and welcoming us to the neighborhood.  Our housing district has not one but two dedicated linkshells for communicating with “neighbors” and after months of doing hunts and fates we’ve joined other really social linkshells that flesh out the rich community feel that I had been craving.  So while the Mega Server answers one question, I feel like it comes up lacking in the social aspect greatly.

A Transitional Population

The Rift launch looked like pretty much every other game launch in memory.  I compared a game launch to a natural disaster the other day, because really it is very similar.  There is this crashing wave of users that hit the servers, and that which they don’t break they flood to the point of bursting.  After the storm clouds cleared they were left with the same problem as always.  Some servers had massive queue times, whereas the others where relatively dead.  World of Warcraft tried to solve this problem by allowing players free character moves between overpopulated servers to very specific under populated ones… and as a result a bunch of thriving communities were born out of the leftovers of higher populated ones.  We would not have the Scryers or Wyrmrest Accord servers were it not for this process, so it feels like it mostly worked well.

Rift however went a step beyond this in allowing any character to transfer to another server for free.  There were some restrictions initially about transferring from PVE to PVP, but over time these went away as they patched in the “Faction as Fiction” concept.  This allowed players to self sort, and overall it seems to have worked.  I’ve moved around quite a bit during the time since this went live in that I started on Shadefallen a server that was whisked away in a great depopulation of servers.  From there I moved to Faeblight, and then to Deepwood to hang out with Liore and the Machiavelli’s Cats…  and then back to Faeblight again because I missed being on a Role-Playing server.

This solved the problem of being fettered to a server and having your friends disappear on you.  You could freely transfer elsewhere to play with a different pool of players.  One of the big problems I have with World of Warcraft right now is that my friends are so splintered across so many different servers.  While you can do cross server grouping to an extent, it just isn’t quite the same as being on the same server and in the same guild.  At $25 a pop it would simply be cost prohibitive to move my army around to another location, even though Argent Dawn where we are currently has seen it’s better days.  With the Rift situation it becomes relatively easy to move your guild to a new location and set up shop again on more favorable shores.  The big thing that Rift is missing however is an equivalent to the BattleTag system that gives you a simply way to connect all of your friends with one single ID.

The Hybrid Approach

I feel like maybe there is a hybrid to these options out there that we just haven’t seen yet.  I really like the concept of the mega server in that it removes the work of even having to discuss what server everyone will be located on.  It also opens things up.. so if you meet someone that plays the same game as you…  there is never that moments later heartbreak when you realize you are on different factions or different servers.  What I think we are missing is the concept that Elder Scrolls Online talked about when they were launching, that never quite panned out.  Originally the idea was that while everyone would be on a mega server, we would be able to self sort into pools of players with like interests.  This would apply an almost dating website series of questions to identify what types of goals you are focused on when you play an MMO.  Then through these questions you would be sorted into the cohesive community that best represents your interests.

So when you are wandering around the Capital city, you are seeing the players that represent your tastes in MMOs.  If you like being around role-players and crafters, you would end up being shuffled into a very collaborative environment.  If you like competing with other players and doing battle to determine who has the most skills… then you would be shuffled into a very competitive focused environment.  I feel like a scenario like this would give me some of the permanence from the community that I found I craved when I came back to Final Fantasy XIV.  I like being involved with the community just outside of my guild.  Guild is a comfortable home for me, but it isn’t the end of my universe, and I crave interaction of new ideas and new players.  I feel like this self sorting mechanic would allow for both seamlessly.    You could have different types of players in the same guild, but self sorting into their own little “perfect community”.

The Solution

Essentially I have seen a lot of solutions for the same problem, and each of them has fallen short.  That doesn’t mean that we should just declare that there is no right answer to the problem and fall back to the old tried and true server structure.  I feel like traditional servers are going to be a thing of the past, but we need to find ways of carrying the best aspects of that intimate server community forward with us.  I am interested in seeing how people solve the problem moving forward.  Games like Landmark and eventually Everquest Next will be tasked to solve it, and with Landmark they are already moving in what feels like the right direction.  The ability to move between servers freely gives you the ability to play with anyone also playing the game.  The permanence of an individual island however gives you a localized community feel.  Do I think it is perfect?  No, but I think it is a step in the right direction, and I hope more games try doing something new instead of falling back on the pitfalls of the server.

Booking Dungeons

Final Fantasy Roadtrip

This week the Tokyo Game show is happening and we are starting to get a trickle of goodies out like the long awaited updated Final Fantasy XV trailer.  After watching it, I have to say this looks like it might be a Final Fantasy quite unlike the others.  My friend Kodra mentioned how unusual it was to see an automobile in the Final Fantasy setting, and I had not really thought about it until then but he is right.  It has almost been as though they have denied the existence of Automobiles in pretty much every setting other than Final Fantasy VII.  Even in the super futuristic VIII they had the requisite flying airships in the form of giant aircraft…  but they still lacked anything even resembling an automobile.  Let alone a crazy sedan with suicide doors like they are touring the countryside in for this game.

From the video this seems like the game is going to be more like Final Fantasy XII was in the form of a more “Action Combat” approach to the JRPG.  This has its fans and its critics, but I have to say one of my favorite Final Fantasy “cousins” was Vagrant Story that featured a very action combat game play style.  I even liked Final Fantasy XII for what I played of it, at some point I want to go back and finish the game.   What intrigues me the most about the game is the way it feels like the monsters are almost part disaster movie, like they are taking a road trip to survey the countryside like some sort of awkward rubberneckers.  I just hope I can control which ever character I choose, because man I am all about the big dude with the beard and the knock-off buster sword.

Castlevania Dark Souls Edition

Another game I have been looking forward to on the PS4 since this years E3 is the game Bloodborne.  At TGS they released a new trailer with some more tasty bits about the gameplay featuring what looks to be multiple classes for the player to choose from.  I’ve somehow almost entirely missed the Dark Souls madness, but I am looking forward to this game as it feels more firmly in my wheelhouse.  I love Castlevania, and I love  the dire battle against the things that go bump in the night feeling that this game has.  I just hope that the gameplay is every bit as fun as it looks like in the trailer.  For a game like this to work for me, the moment to moment gameplay has to feel amazing… and from what I have played of Dark Souls my problem tends too be the wonky feeling control scheme.

This is probably going to to be a title that I end up trying before actually picking it up.  I am sure this is blasphemy here but I actually thought Dragon’s Dogma felt much better than Dark Souls as far as moment to moment gameplay.  As such I am really hoping that the control scheme is more similar to Dogma.  In any case it is a grim dark game about slaughtering the undead and such, and that along makes me a happy camper.  We need more games where we roam the country side slaughtering baddies for fun and profit.  The only negative that I can see from the trailer is that like Order 1886 it looks a little bit “on rails” for my tastes.  In any case I am watching both of those titles closely.

Booking Dungeons

ffxiv 2014-09-19 06-45-54-737 Wednesday night we had tried to run Pharo Sirius for my friend Waren to complete this first Animus book and wound up failing miserably.  In my infinite wisdom I attempted to bring along two of our lowest geared players, one of which was the healer… and quite simply he didn’t have the mana to heal the place at just barely ilevel 48 the bare minimum.  Last night however we changed up the mix and brought in a very seasoned healer and cleared the dungeon with minimal effort.  That really became the theme of the night, cleaning up dungeons both myself and Warenwolf needed for our Animus books.  So in total we ran Pharo Sirius, Lost City of Amdapor, Tam-Tara Deepcroft and Stone Vigil.  For the last of these we managed to grab one of our up and coming healers that still needed experience and got her roughly a level in doing the place.

Essentially what we learned through the failure that was Wednesday, and the success that was Thursday is that pretty much you can only afford to have a single player in the mix that is significantly undergeared for the content.  There were other issues Wednesday night, like the fact that the player had not completed the level 50 quest and was missing both the piece of armor from it and more importantly the critical ability you get that for white mages is your full heal.  I cannot impress upon new players enough that the moment you ding 50…  go complete your last Job quest.  It always gives your class something that you will desperately need from that point onwards.  The game assumes you have these abilities, and will throw things at you that often times require them.

As far as leveling goes I managed to get my Paladin to 39, which let me equip a sweet new Grand Company weapon.  Since I got Zantetsuken waiting on me in the bank, I thought I would take this opportunity to glamour my weapon to look like the Blazefire Saber.  This might literally be the only time I get to use my spiffy gunblade from the Lightning Returns event…  since seriously there is no weapon in the game nearly as cool as Zantetsuken.  Additionally I have been banking the Hunt Seals needed to buy my Paladin a full set of gear the moment I ding 50.  I am not sure what exactly happened, but at this point I have definitely changed focus from leveling the White Mage to pushing up the Paladin.  I think more than anything it was my realization that I lacked a class to easily grind additional Atma bits on, now that I screwed up and got my Warrior Atma weapon first.  Atma grinding does two useful things for me…  firstly I get the chance at atma bits, but more importantly the steady flow of company seals keeps my ventures running.  Hopefully at some point this weekend I will have a brand new paladin ready to go.

#FFXIV #FFXV #Bloodborne

Outside Looking In

Game Launches

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 11-36-43-71 This is going to end up sounding like a strange topic for me to talk about, especially since I have raged at length on this blog before about bad game launches.  However that said, it seems odd to be on the outside looking in at a game launch going horribly awry.  For the first little bit I could fall back on the statement of “have these people never seen a game launch before?” but at some point we crossed the threshold into silly territory.  There was a report on twitter that I read earlier about someone waiting in a 10 hour non-subscriber queue and waking up this morning to find they were still 115 in line.  Then when the queue finally ticked down to 1 person remaining, they got disconnected.  Similarly I have heard all sorts of nightmares about the amount of Patron time for a game showing at one moment that they have a full year of paid time, and then the next moment showing that they have 30-60 days.

Of course this is all anecdotal evidence since I am not playing the actual game.  I feel like this launch however has a whole host of issues that may or may not be entirely Trion’s fault.  The thing that folks need to keep in the back of their head is that ArcheAge is not their game.  They might be promoting it, and bringing a localized version to America…  but they didn’t build the game and there are lots of things that are quite simply out of their control.  I feel like there is a bit of a massive cultural disconnect between Trion and XL Games that likely only exacerbates any issues that might be happening.  Similarly there seems to be this new trend of Denial of Service attacks against companies servers when they launch a new game.  It happened with Wildstar to some extent, and over the last few months has been happening regularly to various game providers.  Reports have Trion fighting off a DDoS while trying to launch this new game… and quite frankly as someone who has experienced one of these… there is often times little that can be done other than hoping the perpetrator gets bored and moves on.

Outside Looking In

archeage 2014-05-08 23-11-34-600 The strangest experience is watching this all unfold as a spectator.  Generally speaking I am almost always on the front lines as a new game launches.  I’ve got my limited edition collectors deluxe vip section seat ready to go and have already explored the world during the head start.  So generally speaking I view these launches through the eyes of someone having to deal with the issues, and getting frustrated with the folks parroting “just play something else for a bit”.  Now I feel like I am on the verge of being one of those folks to spread the same wisdom.  After a weeks time, the servers will stabilize either through a obsessive interest or because Trion has added a good bit of resources.  In either case life will return to a normal pattern in relatively short time.

As a gamer I would always fall back on the argument that a game company had “sold access” to the game, so they should know just how many people would be playing.  That is like me saying that I know a Tornado is coming, so my house should be prepared to brace for impact when it actually hits.  Game launches are this industry’s version of natural disasters.  Players are this insane wave that comes crashing down on the servers hard and fast and with relentless and obsessive repetition.  When Final Fantasy XIV launched we resorted to making hardware macros to try and log into the game, and as a programmer I KNEW that I was essentially adding to the weight of the problem by constantly spamming the servers…  but as a gamer I didn’t give a shit, I just wanted to play my shiny new toy that I rightfully purchased.

Were I interested in ArcheAge I would likely be right there with all of you gnashing my teeth and rattling my sabers about the bullshit situation we were having to endure.  As an outsider, the whole ballet feels very predictable.  All of this said I am not trying to be apologetic for Trion, because at some point a company needs to learn from the mistakes of their peers.  That said when a game launches blissfully smoothly like The Elder Scrolls Online, we tend to not even notice.  We only seem to care when we are inconvenienced from playing the game.  While a bad launch might signal doom for a game, if it goes beyond a certain threshold… a good launch doesn’t actually really predict long term success.  As such it likely doesn’t really benefit a company to over prepare for a launch, when they can just ride out the first few days and the relatively short attention span of the internet zeitgeist will have forgotten about the rough spots.

Hoping for Better

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 19-14-56-71 I have lots of friends playing this game, as I always seem to have lots of friends playing every new game.  For their sake I hope things improve by the weekend so that they can enjoy some relaxing game time.  I played quite a bit of this game in Alpha and later Beta and it has so many interesting ideas.  The problem for me more than anything else was the toxic community, and the griefer culture that seemed to evolve around various aspects of the game.  Go afk in a relatively safe town, and when you walk back to the screen you might end up dead on the battlefield somewhere because a player thought it was funny to push you out of town with a tractor.  That sort of game play is not compelling to me other than the fact that I find it interesting that someone, somewhere thought that was a good idea.

At my heart I am a Care Bear and at its heart ArcheAge is a serious open world player versus player game.  So while it was interest to experience, just like with Eve Online… I don’t feel like this game was really designed for me.  Had Trion created a Co-Operative server I would have been there with the rest of you on day one being frustrated by the events.  However from my understanding it was XL Games that was completely against the concept of a non-pvp realm.  The game has a lot to offer for those willing to put up with the other players, and put up with these issues at launch.  It has one of the most interesting and detailed crafting systems I have experienced in any game.  The biggest strike against the game for me personally however is its almost complete and total lack of proper beards.  Thankfully I was able to get around this problem in Destiny by playing an awesome looking robot, ArcheAge sadly has no robots.

#ArcheAge

Minecraft and Microsoft

Of Minecraft and Microsoft

minecraft-xbox-one Monday the news broke that Microsoft would be buying Mojang, the company behind Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then I’ve seen a lot of varied reactions on this, but I had not quite formulated my own thoughts yesterday morning so I didn’t mention it.  I admit I am a bit scared for Minecraft as a game to be in the often ham fisted hands of Microsoft.  The thing is this is my own personal biases showing through.  While I make my living supporting Microsoft products, in truth I have not been a huge fan of the company since Bill Gates ejected himself from the picture.  I’ve felt that they’ve made a significant number of missteps on a many fronts, more importantly to the topic of this conversation on the gaming front.  In a way I feel like this makes Microsoft look like they are making a desperate grab at relevance by purchasing the juggernaut that “all the kids are playing”.

From the standpoint of Notch I completely understand why he did this, and I support his decision.  Notch has always been one of those figures for which the spotlight has burned a little too much.  He blew up his own blog Notch.net when he posted this statement, so it made its way over to Paste Bin.  In the statement he explains how he feels like he had become this symbol, and not a person and for those of you who haven’t not watched the This is Phil Fish video Notch mentions you should really check it out.  It talks about the weird relationship we have to developers, especially in the indie world.  I honestly feel like Notch has always wanted to be this guy who worked on interesting projects, and just had the fortune or misfortune depending on your point of view of one of those projects going viral behind his wildest fevered imaginings.

So we have this odd marriage.  Microsoft desperately needs to claw its way to relevance, and Notch needs a company with the infrastructure to support his creation.  The Minecraft community can be extremely awesome, but they can also turn on a dime into an unruly mob as they did over supposed terms of service changes.  I highly suggest you check out Notch’s “Literally Worse than EA” post to see the point at which I think he decided he was getting out.  As an avid player of Minecraft since the early days of beta, my only hope in all of this is that Microsoft can keep from fucking it up.  They have this golden opportunity to prove to the world that they are not these clumsy and confused overlords.  Do right by this game and you might have just won yourself a lifetime of supporters.  Do wrong by this game and you likely caused the next few generations to hate you.  Ultimately this is not about me or my generation, but the children growing up with Minecraft as their generations Lego.

The Story Barrier

ffxiv 2014-09-16 21-43-56-381 Last night we had the intention to go do the next few parts of the Coil of Bahamut raid.  We did not however have the necessary well geared bodies to pull this off, so instead we opted to do the two instances that come at the end of the main story of the game.  Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium are both 8 man dungeons that are extremely story and cut scene heavy.  They often act as the bottle neck for players who have just finished leveling to 50, since so much of the end game content cannot be completed until you have finished this step in the main story quest.  This is one of my biggest complaints about the flow of the game, is that you have this massive gulf to cross when you think you are nearing the end.  You can of course queue for these two through the Duty system, but there is a significant problem with that.

Folks have figured out tricks to run these dungeons extremely quickly, and if you do so they are worth are lot of Tomestones of Mythology for limited work.  As such folks tend to power pull these dungeons and anyone who stops to watch the story gets lost in the mix, often times missing entire boss fights because they are locked in a cut scene.  This is extremely frustrating since so much of the final act of the story gets played out in these two dungeons.  As such we try and wait until we have several 50s that need these before running them, since to run the two dungeons while watching waiting on cut scenes is around a two hour long Endeavour.  Last night we had a block of time when we had a bunch of individuals online at the same time so we knocked them out for Thalen.

It had been a long while since I had watched all of the cut scenes and I have to say I am still impressed with the events at the end of this game.  I don’t want to go into spoilers but the conclusion of the main story sequence is so satisfyingly “Final Fantasy”.  It has all of the elements that make a game like this feel epic.  Big boss fights, orchestral music with the requisite choral requirement, huge spell effects and large scale devastation.  You cannot come out of The Praetorium without feeling like the big effing hero of the day.  This is the way the ending of every video game should feel.  The awesome thing here is that the story just keeps going, and in fact I feel like we are building to just as big and exciting of a conclusion somewhere down the line.  I find myself actually waiting with baited breath on the next segment of the storyline coming with 2.4.

Recruitment and Games

I had a situation happen last night when two of my friends officially declared that Final Fantasy XIV was the worse.  In truth I think they were referring to the hassle that is the Square Enix account management process, and in that I absolute agree with them.  Square seriously needs to rethink the number of hoops you have to jump through to be able to play their game.  Someone has to be pretty damned committed to giving them money to suffer through that bullshit.  That said it did bring up a slightly different point, that I thought I would talk a bit this morning.  I get super excited about video games, and in my enthusiasm I feel like I need to share that experience with others.  As such through a series of posts on my blog I gush about various features of a game, and some of my friends have taken to calling me the “games pusher”.  At its core, I want to share the enjoyment I am having with my friends… because I want them to feel awesome about things too.

The thing is this doesn’t always work, and that is completely okay if it doesn’t.  People enjoy games differently, and as such the things that might be perfect for me are not going to be perfect for everyone.  So if you see me gushing about a game, it does not mean that I expect you to like it just as much as I do.  Hell I find it awesome that people have even tried to play whatever it is that I am playing.  Of the folks who have taken the “FFXIV challenge”, a few of them have tried and decided they loved it.  Still others have decided this game is not for them at all and walked away from it.  I still love both camps equally, and for the folks who fought through the struggle that is account management to try it…  I am especially appreciative that they push so much effort into it.  Ultimately not every game has to be just right for everyone.  We can play different games and still be awesome friends.  That said I don’t think I will ever stop trying to get folks playing the game I am playing and on the same server I am playing.  That is just too deeply ingrained in my nature.

#FFXIV #Minecraft

Hopelessness of Odin

Impending Patch

Last night was an odd evening for a handful of reasons.  For starters when I first got home I attempted not to get into anything terribly involved.  As such I did a random low level duty roulette and managed to get Haukke Manor.  I think overall it went really smoothly, especially considering we had a brand new White Mage that had never healed it before.  I attempted to explain all of the fights, and was shocked and amazed that my party requested a full clear instead of the normal abbreviated rush.  Everything went pretty smoothly all things considered as I took the time to explain the final fight and what I was expecting from each of the party members.  I’ve found that often times on fights with very specific mechanics, no one wants to admit to not knowing what to do.  If I simply give an abbreviated explanation, overall it tends to go considerably smoother.

When my wife got home we walked to dinner and hung out for a bit.  By this time I was absolutely starving, but to be fair she warned me exactly when she would be getting home.  I should have eaten a snack when I first got home or something, because by the time we hit the Mexican restaurant I was absolutely famished.  When we left the house it looked like it might open up on us, and originally we were headed to a BBQ place, but while walking it started sprinkling a little bit.  Thankfully by the time we got out of the restaurant any signs of sprinkles had disappeared and we walked home on an extremely gorgeous evening.  I love being within walking distance of several restaurants, because there is just something cool about being able to walk to dinner in an otherwise traditional car culture.

Hopelessness of Odin

ffxiv 2014-09-15 21-33-25-687 With the patch downtime quickly approaching, but the time I got back from dinner I had roughly an hour and a half of play time left before the servers went down.  I tanked another low level random, and then opted to start working on my Paladin Hunt log.  For various reasons I have shifted my focus from working on my White Mage to pushing up the Paladin.  As I said yesterday I went from 28 to 35 Sunday and managed to get 36 and almost 37 last night.  I was essentially minding my business and porting from zone to zone cleaning up sections of my hunt log.  When I zoned into South Shroud I thought the place looked really odd.  One of the cool things about FFXIV is that you can check the current weather conditions by mousing over a little icon on the minimap.  When I did that I started to get excited… the conditions were “Hopelessness” which is a unique weather condition when the Odin event has spawned.  I shifted to my warrior job and shouted into zone “WAR LFG” and within seconds I got an invite.

It seems that Warriors are the kings of cheesing out FATE contribution, so they are apparently highly sought after for fights like Odin.  It seemed like everyone was coalescing on Urth’s Gift, so I headed that way.  I had never actually managed to catch Odin in progress before, and by the time I got there someone had just pulled him.  I was not quite ready for the sight in front of me, which seemed to be roughly 200 players working away feverishly to get him down.  The above shot is from the battle, and pretty much represents what the experience feels like.  The entire area is a wash in spell effects, which makes his attacks extremely hard to see.  During the battle he periodically casts these massive AOE fields that you realistically need to run out of.  I avoided most of them, and with less than 3% of his bar left I finally ended up dying.  I rode out the battle before releasing and managed to get gold contribution, which means I earned 5 Odin Mantles.

jIKMXpjzantetsuken What is awesome about getting gold contribution is the fact that you actually get enough of the tokens to be able to purchase something right then.  Both Odin and Behemoth have a number of really cool items you can pick up for mostly cosmetic purposes.  You can get barding that makes your chocobo look like Odin’s mount, or you can get a helmet and chest graphic that makes your gear look just like his.  The item however that I was interested is the one that any Final Fantasy fan will immediately recognize…  Zantetsuken his insane sword.  While the stats on the blade are no longer that great, thanks to the wonders of the glamour system I can make any blade look like this.  My good friend Ashgar has had one for some time now, but I had to scrounge around this morning to find a picture of someone wielding it.  As soon as I get my paladin up to 50 I too will be rocking the blade of Odin…  which to be truthful is probably longer than my Lalafell is tall.

Winding Down

Sagacyte After the excitement of Odin I was wandering around, and popped over to Uldah to purchase more Ventures when I ran into the ever amazing Sagacyte Luxaloix.  It is always awesome to bump into twitter folk while wandering about the server, and it seems like last night was a night for doing so.  Earlier in the evening Sagacyte had bumped into the very amazing Spiral Sun and posted about it as well.  Thankfully the meetings were commemorated in picture, so I could totally use them…  as in my rush I absolutely forgot to take one.  I love bumping into folks I know while wandering about the server.  When doing Odin there were a bunch of folks from the Howling Moon free company in the thick of the battle as well.  I was pumped to find out that Ayla Noye also managed to get gold contribution from the event, so we will all be rocking Odin goodies in the housing zone.

On top of all of this it appears that the 2.38 patch that went in this morning has a ton of quality of life modifications to existing systems.  It seems they are focusing on making some tweaks to make 2.4 go more smoothly, including some visual changes to Limsa Lominsa… which makes me wonder if the new Thief and Ninja NPCs will be located in that city.  The biggest news for me personally from the patch is the new command to copy an existing hotbar.  One of the big frustrations is that when you switch jobs, most of your hotbars change with you.  That means when you switch from Gladiator to Paladin for example you have to reconfigure your hotbar, as it defaults to giving you ones filled with the abilities in the order in which you received them.  This command will let you copy one current hotbar to a new hotbar slot in a different profile.

Another big one for me which is kinda silly is I am pumped that they added a /hug emote.  In every MMO this has kinda been my default interaction with a player that I happened to meet out in the world.  Apparently the Japanese are not big huggers, because after a year of the game they still had yet to put that emote in.  As a result my default had been /joy which is what happens to be pictured above.  So I will be happy to be able to do drive by huggings in game soon.  Another awesome change is the ability to scale back the spell effects.  Maybe I would have actually been able to see what Odin looked like were this system in place last night.  In any case, the patch looks to be a great one and I look forward to delving into all the things they added like Personal Player housing.

#FFXIV

Dance of my People

Enter the Jigglehats

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-22-567 Yesterday the Breaking Brick Mountains event started in FFXIV which is a repeat of an earlier event used to commemorate the launch of DragonQuest X.  For those not terribly familiar with the Dragon Warrior/DragonQuest franchise, it has a rather distinctive art style.  So seeing that art style appear in Final Fantasy XIV is extremely entertaining.  The quests have this great Dragon Quest stylized “Quest Accepted” and FATE related text that just makes me happy to see in game.  The quest itself is rather simple.  You talk to Havak Alvak near the Central Thanalan gate in Uldah, which sends you to talk to the Beefy Businessman down by the Thaumaturge guild.  From there you have to find a specific fate called “Brick by Brick”.  This will lead into one of two other FATEs either called “Brick by Stone Brick” or “Brick by Gold Brick”, both granting you quest completion.

One of the things I love about Final Fantasy XIV seasonal and special events is that they are super easy to complete.  I used to hate how frustratingly grindy other games events were, in that if you did not participate every single day of a holiday you could not get all the prizes.  Even with the Lightning Returns event, and trying to collect all of the weapons… it essentially meant I had to farm 5 different FATEs and then was completely done.  This event in total took maybe 30 minutes, and most of that was travel time.  Completing the quest nets you a Thug’s Mug cosmetic helm and a Wind-up Brickman cosmetic pet.  Next to the Beefy Businessman there is a Toughie Peddler NPC that sells the amazing “Jigglehat” or more properly known as the King Slime Crown.

It has become common place for our guild and the members of Howling Moon free company to mingle around while waiting on things to happen.  The events of last night are pretty common, in that we each tend to hang around the market board just down from our house, which can be seen in the background of the above image.  It all started when Joren Noye started up with this amazing outfit that he had built around his Jigglehat, that was mostly comprised of a dyed to match vanya robe.  What happens when to amazing Lalafell meet?  Well we dance of course, and within moments the ever adorable Jade Taiga showed up as well.  Well it was not long before Ayla Noye joined in as well, and we had an impromptu jigglehat party.  You have to love any game that supports this sort of random dancing in silly hats.  My friend Tam is convinced that the entire point of this game is to collect ever more amazing hats.

Paladin Soul

ffxiv 2014-09-14 09-52-39-215 I spent most of yesterday working away quietly on my Gladiator turned Paladin.  I completed the final level 30 Gladiator quest, and went through the opening quest for becoming a Paladin.  So far the 30 and 35 quests that I have completed are significantly easier than most of the job quests that I have done on other characters.  I am guessing that at some point in the near future they will drop the floor out from under me with a quest that is significantly more difficult than the others.  I personally thought the final level 30 Gladiator quest was rather challenging, in that I seemed to fail it the first time for no apparent reason.  I was doing everything they had told me to do and then all of the sudden I got duty failed.  Upon trying it again this morning I apparently did all of the things that I was supposed to and then some because I passed, but still have no idea what I did the first time versus what I did the second time.

I started the day at level 28 and finished the evening about halfway to 36.  I have yet to really sit foot in a dungeon yet, and have been mostly doing the FATE grind.  First in Costa Del Sol and now I am out in Coerthas.  In part I guess I like FATE grinding because it is mindless and something I can do over and over.  Additionally I have really become addicted to the whole Quick Ventures system, and I view FATEs as a way to feed Venture tokens to my Retainers.  For those that are unaware you can buy 5 venture tokens for 1000 grand company seals at your grand company quartermaster.  So far I am digging playing the Paladin again, but in truth I am mostly leveling this so that I once again have a good class for grinding FATEs to get Atma parts.  I maybe made a mistake in going for the Atma weapon on my warrior first.  That is pretty much the ideal fate grinding class, and in order for me to get another one up with that sort of survival… I am going to have to play my paladin.

Moonwalker

Destiny_20140913141700 Other than playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV, I spent the bulk of the rest of my weekend playing some Destiny.  At this point my Titan is level 10 and I am spending most of my time in the Moon Patrol zone.  While I was waiting for FATEs on Saturday to spawn for my Animus book, I was hanging out on the PS4 wandering around either the Cosmodrome or Moon Patrol areas.  This is pretty much the ideal play style for me.  I like wandering about doing mini quests and killing lots of Fallen and Hive aliens.  However if you listen to our podcast you can tell that several of our cast have a real issue with the fact that the game has very little tangible story.  The story that does exist is questionably written and even more questionably acted.  For me, it is enough story to keep me entertained, but we have already agreed that I need and more importantly want significantly less story than most folks.  Wandering around and killing things is totally enough motivation to keep me enthralled, especially when the controls feel so damned good.

Destiny_20140910225853 The weird thing for me is I tend to lose motivation to do the various missions whenever I actually unlock the patrol zone.  It is as though the mission only serve as a vehicle to unlock patrol and once I have done that I have no real interest in progressing further.  At some point soon however I should really finish clearing out the moon, but in the mean time I am wandering around the surface looking for interesting stuff.  I love it when I find a chest or a new place that I had overlooked previously.  I love exploring this game, but find it more than marginally frustrating when I encounter the “turn back now” wall around the outskirts of the areas.  At least with the Cosmodrome you have understandable boundaries that limit you to just being on this one island.  On the moon you can see forever, so it makes no sense why I cannot wander out in the open, as there are no logical obstructions.  In any case, I am still really enjoying the game and look forward to playing more of it.

#FFXIV #Destiny

Of Animus Books

Destiny of Poppy

Last night we recorded the latest episode of AggroChat.  This week we were joined once again by Tam and the regular cast of AggroChat…  Asghar, Rae and Kodra.  I went into the night thinking we would end up gushing about Destiny quite a bit, but in truth it turns out we all have a some very valid complaints about the game.  We do in fact talk about the good points, but also we talk about the weaknesses of the story.  Moreso we talk about the fact that there really isn’t much of a story at all.

Apparently this week some craziness happened in League of Legends with the team Unicorns of Love.  It seems as though they broke one of the taboos of the game and played Poppy in competitive play  More so than that they seemed to dominate a match with her.  We talk about the ramifications of this and get into an offshoot discussion about what happens when something is toxic for a game.  When a game changes the class or mechanic that you love, what do you as the player do?  I know a good part of why I wont be playing Warlords of Draenor, at least not at launch is the fact that Blood Deathknights “feel wrong” in ways I cannot quite quantify.

Of Tidal Bardings

ffxiv 2014-09-14 10-05-52-018 Since the last three days have been spent working on my Easing Into Eorzea guide series, I have not really posted much that was actually about me or my endeavors.  In fact this morning it feels more than a little weird to not be working on the next segment of that guide.  I guess in part I wanted to get some of the most basic information out there especially since I have a good number of friends either just starting the game or considering starting it.  One of the problems with Final Fantasy and just how content dense it is, is that it has so many different systems that it just expects you to know how to use.  I remember when we first started playing, it took me weeks to figure out what everything did and even to this day I am still finding systems that I knew nothing about.  So my goal was to try and flatten this learning curve by discussing things from the perspective of a player who is used to playing traditional western MMOs.

However this does not mean that I stopped doing things while writing these guides.  One of the most exciting things from the past week is that I managed to get Tidal Barding.  The entire reason why I was going for Turquoise color with my chocobo, was that it would match the Leviathan bardings perfectly as seen in the picture above.  Leviathan has been my favorite summon since Final Fantasy IV and as a result I knew when I saw this that I would have to get it for my chocobo.  The problem is that it involves getting a rare drop from Extreme Mode Leviathan, when I have not done any of the Extreme primals leading up to that.  The other issue is that it is a three star armorcrafting pattern, meaning it takes an extremely well geared crafter.

This is the point at which my good friend and awesome cosplayer Spiral Sun rides in to the rescue.  It turns out her Free Company leader could make the barding, so I shopped around on the market and managed to piece together all the bits needed.  All told I think I spent around 150,000 gil to gather up the bits, which is a significant discount over what the completed barding had been going for on the market boards.  Last night I checked it was still floating around the 500,000 mark.  So thanks to Spiral I am now sporting my spiffy barding, and with the Turquoise color it works almost perfectly.  The barding and bird kinda meld together perfectly and it feels like I am in fact riding around on a tiny Leviathan.

Of Animus Books

ffxiv 2014-09-14 10-23-09-943 The other thing I have been working on in Final Fantasy XIV is my Animus Weapon.  Late last Sunday I managed to wrap up my Atma grind and I was able to convert my Bravura Zenith into a Bravura Atma.  The problem is the Atma step is basically a “half step”.  While the weapon is in fact ilevel 100 instead of ilevel 90…  the stats of it remain the same.  You power up the Atma weapon by completing a series of books, each one giving your weapon a stat boost.  To complete the weapon you have to do this 9 times.  Each book costs 1500 tomestones of mythology and requires you to kill 100 mobs (10 each of 10 types), run 3 specific dungeons, complete 3 specific fates, and complete 3 specific guild and company leves.  Throughout the day yesterday I knocked out all of the steps for my current book other than the three dungeons.

So today at some point I plan on running the three dungeons which are…  Tam-Tara Deepcroft Normal, Stone Vigil Normal and Lost City of Amdapor.  I figure I will ask in guild to see if anyone needs these dungeons before running them, because I would far rather complete them with a guild group.  After turning in the book I will get +2 strength to my current Atma weapon and it will put me one step closer to the finished Animus.  Then it begins the process all over again of grinding up 1500 tomestones of mythology for the next book.  My guild thinks I am mostly insane for this, but at least Cylladora and Warenwolf are doing it with me as well.  I believe Cav is maybe on the same step also.  Essentially the fastest way to get the mythstones is to grind hunts, and as of yesterday Waren is now in the most popular of the hunt groups, so hopefully that will help things out a bit.

Easing Into Eorzea: Advanced Leveling

Advanced Leveling

Yesterday I covered a whole bunch of options you have while leveling, but I left out one of the more interesting but unusual systems.  Today I am going to delve into the “Log” system as well as provide some guidance for dungeons from the lowest levels all the way through the current content and how to unlock them.  Once again it is my goal to make this information far easier to find for new players.  Each of us has spent quite a bit of time crawling various sites to gather information about this game, and my hope is to lay things out plainly with the western MMO player in mind.

Logs

There are several very similar systems in Final Fantasy XIV that are collectively grouped in the logs menu.  Each of them involve you somehow exploring the world and performing the tasks mentioned in the logs.  In all cases they are worth significant amounts of experience and often times gil as well.  Similarly completely them can often times have other rewards as well which I will go into in a bit.

Hunting Logs

EIE_HuntLog When you talk to your class guild master and accept the introduction quest, you will gain something called a hunt log.  The hunt log can be seen on the right hand side of the page, and is a collection of various mobs out in the world that you need to kill along with a number that you need to kill to get full credit.  Each time you accomplish a step you are rewarded with a boost of experience.  When you complete the entire log for a given level range you get an even larger experience reward.  As you move through the game you will get a new set of logs for each 10 levels and you only get the next 10 when you have both leveled into that next range and completed the previous one.

When you join your Grand Company of choice you will get an additional log.  These however are less level range based and more based on your rank within the Grand Company.  Hunt logs in general only require you to fight encounters in the open world.  The Grand Company logs however often times include encounters in dungeons.  When you have gained enough rank with your Grand Company and are eligible for a promotion, you will often have to have completed a specific log step before being able to promote to the next rank.  As far as hunting logs go, when you have completed all of the hunts for a given class you are rewarded with an ilevel 70 class specific ring.  While you are going to upgrade out of it pretty quickly, it definitely helps in getting your ilevel up for later content.

Challenge Logs

EIE_ChallengeLog In the 2.2 patch they added a whole new log system into the game, and for the most part many of us missed it for awhile upon returning.  It was not until a guild member talked about waiting for the challenges to reset, that we really grasped what he was talking about.  Upon completion of your level 14 main scenario quest, you can go to the docks of Limsa Lominsa and get the quest called Rising to the Challenge.  This unlocks the challenge log system which provides a series of relatively simple challenges that reward a significant amount of gil and experience for completion.  The challenges are good for a week, and reset each Tuesday morning at 1 am PST.  Generally speaking I manage to get a few of the steps completed each week, but it has not been something I have really gone out of my way to accomplish.  The Companion steps however are extremely beneficial for leveling purposes.  These involve fighting mobs of your level range while having your companion out… which is something you are likely going to be doing anyways.  When you complete a step both you and your companion get a much needed experience boost.  Since I mostly level through running dungeons, you can see that my dungeon challenges have already been completed, and I am getting very close to reaching my beast tribe dailies.

Sightseeing Logs

EIE_SightseeingLog Another interesting system that arrived while we were not playing the game is the Sightseeing Logs.  This system is unlocked by completing the level 20 quest A Sight to Behold.  While technically not a “leveling” system it is one of the log systems so I thought I would go ahead and mention it.  Essentially you are given a block of text as seen above and from there you have to figure out WHERE in the world that location is, as well as what time of day and weather conditions you need to be in.  When you find one of these locations you are prompted to use a /slash command generally /lookout but various ones will require various commands.  When you perform the action you get credit in your log.   There are 80 entries in total, and when you have completed them all you unlock the Fledgling Apkallu pet as well as bragging rights for having completed it.  Even if you are using some sort of a guide, getting all 80 locations is a labor of love given they are time and weather specific.

Beast Tribe Dailies

As you move through the world you will encounter various beast tribes that hold fealty to one of the primal forces.  Generally speaking these are bad people, that you want to shoot first and ask questions later.  However within in each of the races there is a rival faction that is friendly to players.  After completing an introduction quest you unlock the ability to do daily quests for them allowing you to gain favor with their tribe.  There are many reasons why you would want to do this, but the most obvious are that they unlock interesting pets, mounts and cosmetic gear.  Each player can only complete six daily quests per day, and these reset around 11 am CST from my experience.  At the lowest rank with each tribe you can only complete 3 quests per day, but upon unlocking the next rank you start receiving the full compliment of 6 quests.  Currently I am working on the Sylph tribal quests myself for the ability to get my own Goobue to ride upon.  Here is a quick rundown of the various tribes, and the location and start of the quest chain.

As I mentioned as a footnote above on the Ixali quests, they are almost entirely crafting level dependant.  I believe you need to have a combat class around 40 to gather some of the materials needed for the quests, but for the most part they are going to require you to craft various things.  In any case the beast tribe dailies are an excellent way to boost your leveling post 41 by completing some quests worth a decent chunk of experience.

Dungeons: In Depth

As I have said a few times, my personal favorite way to level is through dungeons.  For me at least it is the dungeon content where this game really shines.  The encounters are interesting and difficult, and at the same time highly rewarding in both gear and experience.  The vast majority of the dungeons are gated through the main quest line, however there are a number of dungeons that are considered “optional” and unlocked through other means.  My hope is with this list to compile in one place how to get into each of the dungeons and what their level range is.

Leveling Dungeons

  • Sastasha Seagrot (15-18) – main scenario
  • Tam-Tara Deepcroft (16-19) – main scenario
  • Copperbell Mines (17-20) – main scenario
  • The Bowl of Embers (20) – main scenario
  • Halatali (20-23) – Hallo Halatali in Vesper Bay
  • Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak (24-27) – main scenario
  • Haukke Manor (28-31) – main scenario
  • Brayflox’s Longstop (32-34) – main scenario
  • The Navel (34) – main scenario
  • The Sunken Temple of Qarn (35-37) – Braving New Depths in Vesper Bay
  • Cutter’s Cry (38-40) – Dishonor Before Death in Uldah
  • Stone Vigil (41-43) – main scenario
  • The Howling Eye (44) – main scenario
  • Dzemael Darkhold (44-46) – Fort of Fear in Coerthas
  • The Aurum Vale (47-49) – Going for Gold in Vesper Bay

Max Level Dungeons (Level 50)

  • Wanderer’s Palace (50) – Trauma Queen in Vesper Bay
  • Castrum Meridianum (50) (8 player) – main scenario
  • The Praetorium (50) (8 player) – main scenario
  • Amdapor Keep (50) – Ghosts of Amdapor in Vesper Bay (must complete main scenario)

Hard Mode Dungeons (Level 50+)

Wrapping Up

Hopefully that gives you an idea of some more leveling options.  In a later post I will get into raiding and how the various gearing systems work for end game content.  For the time being I am going to close off this post for the day.  I am hoping you are finding them useful, and please let me know if there are other things you would like to see.  Tomorrow will be a normal Aggronaut post and I will likely be taking a break from this guide series until later in the week.  Thanks for reading!

Easing Into Eorzea: Early Leveling

Leveling Your Class

As stated yesterday Easing Into Eorzea is my attempt to explain some of the unique concepts in Final Fantasy XIV from the perspective of a traditional western MMO gamer.  There are a number of concepts that come up in Final Fantasy XIV that are not immediately relatable based on past experience.  It is my hope that I can act as a bridge to help players get adjusted to these changes.  In yesterdays post I went over the various base classes of the game, and today I will be going over the various leveling options.  There is no one correct path to 50 on each class but there are a few things you should definitely be aware of.

When you first start a character you will be plunked down in the middle of one of the capitol cities depending on which class you chose.  The amount of quests presented before you will feel extremely staggering.  The first misconception is that you have to do all of the quests.  In fact the game is not intending you to do them all, at least not on your first class.  Most quests are not repeatable and are not limited to your specific class combination.  The ones you find in the starter city are generally designed to teach you the layout of that city and where to find important amenities.  This can end up being an extremely frustrating experience as you spend the next couple of hours running around town delivering parcels.  Generally speaking I rush out into the country side and get my first few levels by killing stuff outside the gates, but I will get into that as we go forward.

Main Scenario

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-06-24-005 The first and most important leveling option you have is your Main Scenario quest line.  This is essentially the story of your character and how it relates to the game world around you.  If you have played a game like Star Wars the Old Republic, this will make sense to you as you have one overarching narrative that guides you through the game.  The main scenario quests appear with a golden icon in the shape of the comet Dalmund that served to destroy the world between FFXIV 1.0 and 2.0.  You will start the game with one of these quests in your log, and each time you turn one in, the quest will continue from either the same NPC or one standing near by.

If you ever lose the quest chain, return to the last place you turned in and there should be another NPC featuring the same comet icon to continue it.  There may be times where you do not meet the requirements for the next step in the chain.  If this is the case the icon will appear Red and when you talk to the NPC it should give you an indication of what you need to do to continue the storyline.   Generally speaking these are level based hurdles and simply leveling up will take you to the next quest in the sequence.  The main storyline is extremely important in that the game gates a large amount of the content based on your progress.  It will unlock your access to a mount, access to grand companies, and access to most of the dungeons in the game.  As such it is extremely important that you stay up to date on the story quests.  The positive is that story quests are generally worth a good chunk of experience.

One of the awesome things about Final Fantasy XIV is that unlike many other games the story keeps evolving.  Each major patch that gets released adds new quests to the main scenario, taking you past the resolution of the initial conflict.  This gives the world a very “living” feel as you continue to get to learn more information about the characters involved in it.  Additionally the game uses these later quests to introduce you to the casual raid content.  Generally speaking when talking to a friend just starting the game I suggest that they make completion of the story content their number one priority.

Class Quests

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-07-38-827 Similar to the main scenario quests, there will be quests that you get from your class trainers.  The quests appear at level 1 and then every level divisible by 5.  These will often introduce you to concepts for playing your class as well as provide you some decent gear as you level up, often offering a new class weapon each time.  These will always start in your class guild but can easily be identified by the icon which represents your current class icon.

When you reach level 30, the quests stop in your class guild, but will continue on with what ultimately ends up being your Job trainer.  At this point the quests become extremely important, because each Job quest grants you a new ability.  These abilities are often needed to complete the content.  For example at level 35 the White Mage quest grants you the Regen ability, which is a heal over time and greatly smooths out some of the issues that White Mages have with healing on the go.  While there are a few Job abilities that are “nice to have”, the vast majority are massive quality of life improvements.  As such I suggest you always do Class and Job quests as soon as you can, to make sure you are caught up in the chain.

Side Quests

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-06-38-341 As I mentioned before, this game will seemingly flood you with quests when you start.  The ones in the starter cities tend to be mostly “fedex” style quests, whereas once you move into the countryside they will start offering you more traditional hunting style quests.  In the early days of the game, players avoided doing Side Quests like the plague, because they feared they might need the experience later to level additional classes.  This honestly was a problem as there were very few ways to get good progress without the much needed quests.  The game however has added in a bunch of options and rebalanced the ones that we currently have to smooth out the leveling path considerably.  As such I think Side Quests are something you should make your own choice about.

They often provide much needed gear, and sometimes interesting things like pets but as the name would apply they are entirely optional content.  They are marked by the traditional Q icon over the NPCs heads and will involve all sorts of things in the near vicinity.  I personally try and complete all of the quests I come across, because later patches will introduce new quests in areas.  By completing the quests I can more easily see if new content has been added.  Doing ALL of the quests will likely cause you to out level your class and main scenario quests, but it really is a matter of personal preference.

FATEs

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-09-48-061 FATEs or Full Active Time Events are little events that pop up in the zones you will be leveling in.  They are marked on the map to the side with the pink and gold icons.  For those who have played Rift, these function much like Rifts spawning do.  A series of mobs that will be marked with a pink icon over their head will appear and as you ride into the area of the fate some objectives will appear in the quest list.  If you are too high for a given FATE there will be an option in the quest list to synchronize your level down to the maximum for that given fate.  Completing the event will reward a good deal of experience relative to your level, some much needed Gil and once you have joined a Grand Company some of their currency in the form of Grand Company seals.  You are graded in the FATE based on participation and there are Bronze, Silver and Gold ranks.

Some FATEs might give you special items, usually cosmetic pets if you get gold rank contribution.  However it is generally best to shoot for gold regardless as it will reward more experience and gil in any case.  There are a number of ways to “cheese” a fate and that could be a discussion in its own right.  The basic theory is you are rewarded based on the threat that you generate.  Healing and Tank abilities generate lots of threat, so they will almost always have high contribution.  For DPS they are in a bit of a pickle since generally speaking their job is to NOT generate threat.  There are a number of super threat happy abilities like Blood for Blood that you can hit during the fate to try and cause as much damage as possible.  Since launch however they have relaxed the guidelines for contribution a bit more to make it far easier for someone to show up a bit late and still get gold rank.  FATEs are almost always worth your time, and in the past a completely valid method of leveling a class was to do nothing but them.

Guildleves

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-23-29-035 Once you reach the first major city outside of your starter city there should be a vendor there called a Levemete.  They give you a special kind of repeatable quest called a Leve or Levequest.  The quests are timed and once started involve completely various objectives.  You are rewarded based on how fast you can complete the quest, and this is often a decent way to get gear either as a reward for the quest or from treasure coffers that can randomly spawn out in the field while completing them.  It feels like they have gotten a bit stingy with the coffers in later patches, but at one point this was a really good source of “pink” gear which in their confusing itemization coloring system is a step above white gear but below green.

The catch is you only have so many leves per day, but these accumulate over time until you have 100 “leve allowances”.  You will accumulate 3 leve allowances every 12 hours.  These are not the absolute most ideal way to level, however if you are close to a level and just need a bit more experience they are not a horrible way to get it.  Recently I leveled Arcanist to 15 doing pretty much nothing but these, and while it was a bit proding it worked out just fine in the end.  They are also a pretty good source of Ventures… which I will get in much later in these guides, but I am just mentioning it now so you will have it in the back of your head.

Guildhests

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-57-57-400 When you reach level 10 the Duty system opens up for you, and you can access it by hitting the default hotkey which is U.  Duties allow you to queue for content and the first type that becomes available are Guildhests.  These are somewhat confusing beasts, but the closet simulacrum to them is the World of Warcraft Scenario system.  They are like a dungeon, but not really a dungeon at the same time either.  Generally speaking they focus on teaching players a specific grouping skill that they will need later.  They are not really chain grinding, but they are definitely worth completing the first time as there is a massive experience bonus.  From level 10 onwards you will get two new guildhests you can complete every 5 levels.

If you do pay attention to the objective they end up explaining concepts that you will be guaranteed to see once you start running dungeons.  The frustration is that at least for the first couple, until players have gotten the message… folks will immediately try and dps down everything regardless of what the objective is telling them.  This often leads to the hest taking more than twice as long as is actually needed.  Similarly while it requires a tank and a healer…  I have too often found that neither of these roles actually does what they are intended to be doing in hests.  As a healer I usually end up tanking everything, as the tank is either unable to hold aggro or is willfully avoiding doing so.  That said… frustrations aside they are well worth the initial experience boost.

Duty Roulette

ffxiv 2014-09-12 06-57-47-550 At level 16 you unlock the Duty Roulette system.  While at 15 you can queue for Sastasha the first of the dungeons, the Duty Roulette system seems to be a bit more charming.  The idea is it works the same as the various other dungeon finder tools, but in my experience players in FFXIV are actually welcoming to new players.  The reason behind this is that they have tied some fairly significant rewards to the player commendation system.  Each player gets exactly one commendation that they can award at the end of the dungeon run.  You are prohibited from giving these rewards to members of your own Free Company (guild).  As such players tend to be on their best behavior in the hopes of doing something, either through their actions or just by being friendly… to earn a player commendation.  The joke is that only the healers and tanks get them, but I racked up enough to get my first few rewards while doing dragoon dps.

Duty Roulette is a really enjoyable if aptly named tool.  You can have the smoothest run you have ever experienced, or you can have an exceedingly rough one.  When leveling I am generally always queuing for a dungeon.  As DPS I tend to queue directly for the highest level one I can run, and as a Healer or Tank I just do random chance, as there are almost no options that are not worth my time.  The problem you run into as a DPS is when you get one of the primal encounters.  I will go into what those are later, but essentially it is a single boss fight that is worth next to no experience and is part of the main storyline.  There was an evening where I waded through 3 30 minute long queues only to end up with a primal each time.  Since I was queuing for experience gain, this mean I basically had wasted my time.  As such when working on DPS I find it best to simply queue for whatever the highest level dungeon is you are capable of completing.

To Be Continued

I am going to close this post off for now, but this covers some of the most basic ways of leveling.  As you get higher level more options unlock, and I will cover those in a subsequent post.  At this point I would like to open the floor for discussion.  Are there certain points of Final Fantasy XIV that you find confusing?  I am looking for more direction in what areas you would like to see me cover.  Ultimately I am trying to take the concepts and explain them as plainly as I can, and I have already gotten some ideas from guild members.  I plan on doing a few of these posts a week, at least until I run out of topics to post about.  I am trying to get some of the basic information out there before I start delving into more nuanced discussions.   You might watch Rae’s blog, as I know she plans on doing some posts about the various healing styles as well.

#FFXIV #EasingIntoEorzea

Easing Into Eorzea: Classes

A New Guide Series

With so many new people coming back to Final Fantasy XIV, some of which my doing… I thought it might be useful to start a new guide series to explain some of the concepts of the game that do not quite map up to the western MMO traditions.  Simply put there are some ideas in this game that just are not obvious at first glance.  My goal with this new series is to help a player “ease into” the game by presenting the concepts as simply as I can.  Today I will be addressing the first real decision, which generally speaking is what class to play.  If you are familiar with Final Fantasy 3, 5 or Tactics… you will have a basic understanding of the Class and Job system at its most rudimentary level.  Today I will delve into some of the ideas and try to iron out the rough spots.

What is a Class?

The class is the most basic unit of the Final Fantasy XIV job system.  These are the things you start the game as and represent the building blocks for larger concepts.  Each class and therefore job is represented by a single weapon type.  When you equip that weapon you become that job, additionally the user interface provides a simple way to swap between weapon profiles and these can even be hot keyed.  Every player can ultimate learn every class, but each time they start with a fresh class they go back to level one.  This means you should probably hold onto your starter gear, as each time you reset  back to level one you will need it to equip.  The classes are loosely grouped into larger entities known as the Disciples of War and the Disciples of Magic.  Similarly the crafting professions are grouped into Disciples of Hand and Disciples of Land… but I will get into crafting at a much later discussion.  You will often see large blocks of these classes referred to in game by the abbreviations of DoW or DoM.  When you see this, it means all classes within that larger family can use the item.

Starting Cities

One quick note is that the various Classes are scattered around in three different starter cities.  At around level 15 in your main storyline quest you will unlock the ability to travel between the starter cities through Airship.  Additionally if you are stubborn and determined enough they can be travelled between over land routes, however at very low levels this becomes a dangerous proposition.  For sake of giving an idea of the layout of the classes here are the starting cities and which classes begin there.

Gridania
  • Archer
  • Conjurer
  • Lancer
Limsa Lominsa
  • Arcanist
  • Marauder
Uldah
  • Gladiator
  • Pugilist
  • Thaumaturge

What is a Job?

Jobs can be thought of as the evolved state of a class.  At level 30 each of the classes evolves into a larger role, gaining new abilities every 5 levels.  As you level your base class continues to level with you, but through the equipping of a Job Soul you also inherit new abilities.  This is somewhat of a double edged sword as these new abilities give you much more power to fill a role your class was designed to accomplish, however at the same time it greatly limits the ability to use cross class abilities.  Each Job is a made up of a recipe of two classes, for example Warrior is a combination of 30 Marauder and 15 Lancer.  In order to quality for the quest to unlock warrior you need to have leveled both jobs to the required level before the new jobs master will speak with you.

Disciples of War

Gladiator

The Gladiator is your traditional sword and shield tank.  They focus on mitigating large amounts of damage, but tend to have significantly lower hit points to compensate.  They can be one of the more challenging classes to level in that they get most of their really class defining abilities significantly late in the game.  While most classes have a complete combo chain by the time they begin dungeoning around level 16, the Gladiator does not complete theirs until 26.  However for those who master it, it becomes an extremely formidable class.

Class Weapon:  Sword and Shield

Starting City:  Uldah

Primary Stats:  Vitality, Strength

Natural Exit Job:  Paladin (30 Gladiator, 15 Conjurer)

Cross Class Abilities:  Conjurer, Marauder

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Warrior (30 Marauder, 15 Gladiator)

Marauder

The Marauder is the two handed wielding tank.  They focus on having a massive hitpoint pool coupled with some ability to regenerate that health to tank.  They however have significantly fewer ways of stopping incoming damage to compensate.  They are one of the easier classes to level due to the fact that at low levels they have both extremely solid damage dealing ability and high survival.  Additionally when they evolve into a Warrior the get a threat generation and health increasing buff that as well as a rage generation mechanic allowing them access to special abilities at the cost of 5 rage.  From 30 until the Paladin gets their tank buff at 40 they become the strongest tank, and then that evens out during the 40-50 level climb.

Class Weapon:  Two Handed Axe

Starting City:  Limsa Lominsa

Primary Stats:  Strength, Vitality

Natural Exit Job:  Warrior (30 Warrior, 15 Gladiator)

Cross Class Abilities:  Gladiator, Puglist

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Dragoon (30 Lancer, 15 Marauder)

Puglist

The puglist is your traditional hand to hand combat fighter.  While they technical use a weapon, these are an assortment of often wicked looking fist weapons.  They are likely one of the more difficult classes to play in the game, in that they use a complex combo system that takes some ramp up time to reach its crescendo.  Additionally several steps in the combo have a positional requirement of either being to the side of the encounter or behind it.  As a result it takes serious dedication to be able to play the puglist and later the monk with proficiency.  However to those devoted to the class they can do amazing things with it.

Class Weapon:  Fist Weapon

Starting City:  Uldah

Primary Stats:  Strength, Critical

Natural Exit Job:  Monk (30 Puglist, 15 Lancer)

Cross Class Abilities:  Lancer, Marauder

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Bard (30 Archer, 15 Puglist)

Lancer

The dragoon is relatively heavy armored spear wielding combatant, that has been represented in many Final Fantasy games through the Dragoon.  They are known for intense single target burst and sustained damage through a combination of dots and combo attacks.  Similar to the monk however they have a number of these attacks that require either a side or back facing component.  However unlike the monk they are not as tied to this mechanic and can alter their rotation to fit moments when they simply cannot be behind or to the side of a target.  The weakness of the class is they get relatively little AOE damage until very late in the  game, and even then they come with some constraints.  Most players take the Lancer class in order to evolve into the Dragoon, with their iconic jump attacks.

Class Weapon:  Spear

Starting City:  Gridania

Primary Stats:  Strength, Critical

Natural Exit Job:  Dragoon (30 Lancer, 15 Marauder)

Cross Class Abilities:  Marauder, Pugilist

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Monk (30 Puglist, 15 Lancer)

Archer

The archer is your traditional bow wielding hunter or ranger type class.  They have a series of dots and bow strikes that whittle down the target.  The true strength of the class is they have the ability to move and cast at the same time.  This means that even though a large number of the archer attacks have a cast time they can do so while moving, making them the ideal class for kiting or the ability to move while dpsing.  The weakness however is that they are relatively light geared and the Achilles Heel of the class is that they lack a DPS limit break like the Puglist and Monk have.  Once they become a Bard however they more than make up for this issue with the ability to play songs that regenerate Mana or TP depending on which your party make up needs worse.

Class Weapon:  Bow

Starting City:  Gridania

Primary Stats:  Dexterity, Critical

Natural Exit Job:  Bard (30 Archer, 15 Puglist)

Cross Class Abilities:  Lancer, Pugilist

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Black Mage (30 Thaumaturge, 15 Archer)

Disciples of Mind

Arcanist

The Arcanist is an odd bag of tricks at the beginning of the game, and I easily consider it the most difficult of the classes I have personally tried to start.  That said they become immensely powerful and have the benefit of being the only class with two natrual exit jobs currently in the game.  The slow start comes from the fact that this is a pet class, and the pet that you receive early on is not your tank pet.  This is a similar dilemma to starting a Warlock in World of Warcraft, and much the same you end up “tanking” for your pet early on.  However once the Arcanist does get a tank pet they have the ability to fight multiple targets at the same time with ease.  At its core this is primarily a damage over time class with a large bag of tricks that allow them to wear both the hats of a healer and a dps for a good amount of their playtime.  It is personally not a class for me, but those who love it do so immensely.

Class Weapon:  Book

Starting City:  Limsa Lominsa

Primary Stats:  Intellect, Piety

Natural Exit Job:  Scholar (30 Arcanist, 15 Conjurer), Summoner (30 Arcanist, 15 Thaumaturge)

Cross Class Abilities:  Scholar (Thaumaturge, Conjurer), Summoner (Thaumaturge, Archer)

Secondary Exit Jobs:  White Mage (30 Conjurer, 15 Arcanist)

Conjurer

The Conjurer is your traditional full time healer class.  At low levels it is the only class that can actually queue as a healer, and it offers the strongest brute force healing throughput of all of the classes.  This comes at a few costs however.  Firstly the class has very limited offensive capabilities until late in the game when they get one of the better AOE attacks in the form of Holy.  Secondly they will suffer with issues regarding mana efficiency and while they can brute force heal through most anything, they can only keep it up for a short period of time.  This means to heal as a Conjurer means you need to heal strategically without actually spamming needless heals.  Being the “full time” healer class means they have a pretty broad palette of abilities to help them mitigate incoming damage.

Class Weapon:  Staff

Starting City:  Gridiania

Primary Stats:  Mind, Piety

Natural Exit Job:  White Mage (30 Conjurer, 15 Arcanist)

Cross Class Abilities:  Thaumaturge, Arcanist

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Scholar (30 Arcanist, 15 Conjurer), Paladin (30 Gladiator, 15 Conjurer)

Thaumaturge

The Thaumaturge is your traditional MMO glass cannon.  They have amazing damage throughput at the cost of having little to no defense.  One of the issues with playing most offensive spellcasters is the problem with mana.  This class gets around it with a unique fire/frost system allowing them to switch elements to frost to regenerate their mana quickly before going back to fire for quick damage output.  They offer some of the best and most reliable AOE damage in the game, and early on they were the kings of FATE grinding with the early access to Blizzard II.  If you like to live on the edge in a “burn the target before it hits you” style, then this is the class for you.  Additionally they get a lot of nice abilities like Quick cast that let them turn a lengthy cast time into an instant.

Class Weapon:  Rod

Starting City:  Uldah

Primary Stats:  Intellect, Piety

Natural Exit Job:  Black Mage (30 Thaumaturge, 15 Archer)

Cross Class Abilities:  Arcanist, Archer

Secondary Exit Jobs:  Summoner (30 Arcanist, 15 Thaumaturge)

Summary

Hopefully this little guide will have helped you figure out which class you want to play.  The important thing to remember is that in Final Fantasy XIV you are deeply benefitted by having lots of different classes.  Personally I have a high level Warrior, Dragoon, Bard and am working on getting up a White Mage so that I can do pretty much every role that might be called upon me.  This is one of the great freedoms of the game, the ability to switch things up and try out new things.  Like I said once you get to the point at which you unlock airship travel, you can move around freely between the three capital cities and try all of them out.  If you have any direct questions, let me know and I will try and cover the topics loosely in future guides.

Additionally if you have always wanted to give Final Fantasy XIV a shot, there is a free 14 day trial that should allow you to test the waters.  Of note my characters are in the Aether Data Center and on the Cactuar server.  Feel free to drop Belghast Sternblade a line and say hello if you make it into game.