Wither World of Warcraft?

[Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft] So I actually spent some time playing World of Warcraft over the weekend. I play a human mage, starting a frost/arcane spec. I have gotten to level 16 so far. The question I keep asking myself, is why should I go any further.

I actually want to get to 20. 20 is the lowest acceptable level that I can do the Dead Mines instance. Instances are what really drew me to this game in the first place. In Final Fantasy XI, there are very few instances and they involve just one combat scenario. But the idea of an extended dungeon with goals that must be completed to accomplish the mission has so much intrigue for me. The problem that I am having is actually getting there.

I can’t comment on any more than what I have experienced so far, but so far I just don’t see the overall appeal of the questing system. The quests are generic, and when I say generic I mean, they are all one of three kinds. Thats it. In FFXI, let alone most other games, quest systems are far more advanced than this. The newness of WoW is also no excuse because many other new games have had far more engaging quests from the very beginning. I mean the quests get to the point of being so simple (but not easy) and dull that, at some point, I figure that the NPC’s will just walk me over to the mob that I need to kill and sit there with an “I’m waiting” expression on their face.

I love the idea of experience rewards for quests, because this is more along the line of the original pen and paper RPG’s of yore. You are also not left wanting for equipment or money. This is a good thing, for now, at least. We will see how the economy changes. I just don’t feel compelled to sit down and start playing. I did feel compelled the first few days that I played. It was interesting, learning the battle system, doing (at the time) interesting quests, and exploring new areas. Now that I have done the introduction to the game, I am having trouble finding out when the game is supposed to become intriguing.

I think there is one major thing that WoW is missing, and that is one of the things that is keeping me engaged in FFXI. There is a complete lack of cutscenes in WoW (besides the opening one, but I mean if that is the only cutscene for the entirity of the game, that is pathetic). There is a story to be found if you read the quest givers notes, but there is nothing to make me feel like I am the one that is doing this quest for a specific reason. With cutscenes, your character is inserted into the storyline supposedly as the story is taking place. This is engagement, this is intrigue, this is not “Kill Ten Rats.”

And so I genero-quest onward to 20 so I can try an instance. I have built up instances in WoW to a great level in my own mind, lets hope WoW doesn’t let me down.

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The beauty and woe of multi-jobbing.

[Final Fantasy XI] In Final Fantasy XI players are afforded the opportunity to play as multiple jobs on the same character. The idea behind this is a great one, as players can play as any and all jobs that are available to them (some must be unlocked through quests after a certain level has been attained with one of the basic jobs). Players can become attached to one character, instead of playing a job for the life of the character, as is the case with almost all other currently available MMO’s. Another added benefit is that it prevents the game from getting “old.” Meaning that there will always be players that are leveling low level jobs, and since FFXI is almost exclusively based upon partying after level 10 (out of 75) there will always be players that can party in low level areas (well at least for a very long time).

There is a deep beauty in this formula. If one becomes disinterested in the job they are currently playing, they would only need to return to their Mog house and select a new job. This combined with the sub-job system allows players to create combinations that are useful for leveling, farming, soloing, etc. Many people start off playing MMO’s as a job/class because of the external appeal of the job and are unable to switch when they find that they don’t actually enjoy playing that particular job. Instead of the forced choice of pursuing a profession they don’t enjoy or creating a disconnect by having to produce a new character from the beginning, this system creates a level of immersion in the world that they play and creates the attachment that is necessary to keep players within the MMO.

But with the beauty also comes the woe. I currently play a character who’s main job is Dragoon. This is a job that many people are proud to play because it has one of the deepest storylines in the quest to open it. It is a popular class but it also has some weaknesses as the game progresses to the higher levels. This is not a problem for most people that play it, and there is no real deficit in those that play as Dragoons. But for me, the problem of envy arose. I wished to play a job that was much needed and always wanted. This came in two forms, Ranger and Ninja. Respectively, these are the highest damaging job and most sort after (well, equally with Paladin) tanks in the game. The problem with these jobs is that they cost gil. Lots and lots of gil. Playing these two jobs costs twice the lots and lots of gil. I enjoy them both so I have to pay through the nose to maintain them. This is not a problem, per se, with a system that allows players to have multiple jobs, but it does illustrate the harder work that is necessary to maintain them.

I believe that more and more MMO’s will pursue this multi-job tract. The attachment I feel to my FFXI character is definitely deeper than the attachment I have to my World of Warcraft characters. I suppose this may also be because of the “casual gamer” friendliness of WoW, but others have discussed the potential lack of sustainability of “casual gamer” friendly MMO’s. Attachment to MMO’s come from, I believe, attachment to the player’s role in the game. The friends they make, the level of there character, etc. The ability to sustain the same character while not being locked into the same job helps to cement the commitment of players to a particular MMO.

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Matrix Online coming soon.

I have received my registration code to play a free week of the Matrix Online. This will begin next week and I plan on having a daily update here for anyone that is interested.

This is all predicated on the fact that my poor laptop will be able to run the game with its meager memory allotment. A memory upgrade is on my personal shopping list, but not until after the free week. Hopefully the game will still run.

By the way, if anyone has a suggestion on a place to purchase a gig stick of memory, I am all ears.

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FFXI goes 360.

[Final Fantasy XI] E3 is a well-spring of information of just about anything related to gaming. Final Fantasy XI is just as lucky as any other. After the annoucement of Xbox 360, you would expect the floodgates to open for all the developers to announce their games. The interesting one for FFXI players is that FFXI will be ported over to Xbox 360. This news item was profound enough for Forbes to pick up the Microsft/Square Enix annoucement. Words like “key victory” were even used. I don’t really see how this can be touted as a “key victory” when Microsoft is including a four-year-old MMO on a console that isn’t exactly percieved as RPG/MMO-friendly, but when you’re Microsoft (and engaged in a console war with gaming powerhouse Sony), you take your victories however you can get them

What does this mean for FFXI? More players, first and foremost. The lifeblood of any MMO, especially one the size of FFXI, is players. The more the better. This will mean that FFXI will be the only MMO that operates across three different platforms (PC, PS2, now Xbox 360). This allows SE to continue to develop content knowing that they will not be losing subscribers anytime soon. Second, this makes one wonder if the PS3 version of the game is far off. SE has plainly stated that they are a multi-platform company and Sony has supported SE greatly in their endeavor to bring FFXI to their console. I would be shocked to hear that there wasn’t going to be a PS3 version.

Conjecture around the Xbox 360 version is rampant, but most of the speculated improvements are likely to be overblown. SE has said they have no intentions of locking players out of graphical upgrades and as the PS2 is the limiting factor here, we are likely to see resolutional upgrades for Xbox 360 but not much else. Play Online (SE’s proprietary network) will likely still be the portal to reach FFXI, and if the rumors about how the next generation Xbox Live pricing structure will work are true, then it will not cost new players anything more than the normal cost of the content ID’s to play.

The other likely outcome from this will be a new expansion. Although, a new expansion was likely to emerge soon anyway, this annoucement will likely set a firm date for when it will be available. There is precedence for an expansion to be made available when this MMO hits a new platform, as the Rise of the Zilart was made available when the PS2 version of FFXI was released in the US.

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That was MY childhood, damn it!

Last night, I decided to take part in an activity that I have not participated in since my childhood. I believe that great shame comes from the masses to the individuals that participate in said activities. This activity is something so profoundly shameful that I can not even mention its true name here. Lets just say it involved a large number of multi-sided dice, a stack of esoteric rule books, and sheets on which we recorded pertinent statistical information about recently created fictional characters. If you can understand what I was doing from this discription then it means that there are more sad creatures out there like me. If you are unable to decipher it, then you were probably the guy that stole my lunch money in elementary school.

Anyway…

While rolling up my new Dungeons and Dragons character last night, I began to reflect upon the next generation of MMO’s coming soon to a store near you. In the past, MMO’s have been based upon newly created fantasy settings. Worlds that had been created by the team that had designed the game. This started with EverQuest, Ultima Online, then Final Fantasy XI, and extends all the way up through World of Warcraft. These worlds only existed because the game desginers created the world. Sure, there may have been some history to the world, as with Ultima, Final Fantasy and Warcraft, but these worlds were still the intellectual property of the people that were making the game. This is now changing.

Three, soon to be released, games have plundered my childhood for their respective world settings: The Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, and the one that I am most worried about, Dungeons and Dragons.

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar; well Peter Jackson has already done a great job of raping my inner child on this one, so I suppose I am least concerned over this. Yes, I know the movies were critically aclaimed and such, but I just found that the PBS cartoons that were made in the late-70’s did a much greater job of capturing my imagination than the movies did (and I watched them in the 80’s so I am not THAT old). Not much is available on this game as it is still a year off, but it looks to be well done so far. Tolkien created a world so rich and deep that I would think it would be pretty hard to screw it up. Turbine did create Asheron’s Call of which I have heard little but what I have heard has been good, so here’s hoping that it will turn out well.

The game next mostly likely to scar the memories of my childhood is the Conan MMO. Age of Conan: Hyberion Adventures is from the creators of the infamous Anarchy Online. This could be a bad thing, or a very bad thing. Anarchy Online was the game that best defined the term “failed launch.” Funcom seems to be taking a different approach (maybe to alieviate the fears of another failed launch, or maybe because they know they can’t get a launch right) with this game, and are putting a “single-player, massive online game” spin on it. The Ministry of Love is calling, they want you to pay royalties on any titles that are complete contradictions in terms. The game is supposed to follow closely from the books of Howard, which, from what I hear, is also a very deep story, but one has to question what level of quality the actual gameplay will have.

The final game that seeks to stab to at the spleen of my younger years is Dungeons and Dragons Online (What? No incredibly long and forboding subtitle? For shame!). Turbine is also working on this title, with Atari as the publisher. They are actually going to follow the Wizards of the Coast-created 3.5 ruleset (for better or worse) which is interesting because this system was designed for the real pencil-and-paper version of the game. As a 12 year-old I dreamed of this becoming a reality, being about to play the game that I so loved in real time with many different players. I am actually surprised that it took this long for someone to take the most well-known role-playing game ever made and turn it into a MMO. I still have great reservations though, as the game is using the newly developed campaign setting of Eberron. I find this a little distrubing because the most widely used campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons is the Forgotten Realms. The Forgotten Realms has been the staple campaign setting for nearly 20 years, and has had endless excellent authors craft many distinct stories about all areas of the world of Faerun. Elminster would have been an excellent central character to attract all of the elder nerds to Turbine’s MMO. Waterdeep would have just been amazing. Well, for what its worth, I am definitely waiting to see how this one turns out. (I have already applied for the beta, hint, hint!)

So in the next year and a half I will either see my childhood dreams come to life in vibrant colors and great expansive lands, or see evil corporate fat cats tear out my still-beating 12 year-old heart and piss all over it with their black puss-filled urine just to make a quick buck.

/cry

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FFXI Burnout: {You can have this.}

[Final Fantasy XI] Being the new guy, I was eager this morning to sit down at my computer (the one I get paid to sit in front of and pretend that I am working at) and see if there were any comments. Lo and belhold, there were! I was prepared to soak up the love and adoration of my fan base, and embrace the kudo’s they were raining down upon me.

Then I woke up.

It appeared from the comments that the general problem with Final Fantasy XI is the grind. When one feels that the time input does not equal reward output in-game (there is probably some kind of scientific equation to be found here, if I understood equations or science). I hate to say this about my favorite game, but this is the state of nature in Vana’diel. FFXI is a grind. More grind than most MMO’s. The problem for me is that I love the grind, but this removes me from the perspective of other gamers (you know, like “normal people”) that don’t. We just can’t connect on the same level. So I engaged in some self-reflective thinking on the issue and even if I can’t justify the level of grind I was hoping to put some perspective for others as to why the grind exists.

The first thing to come to mind is that FFXI, unlike almost all other MMO’s currently available, has a truely international playerbase. More specifically, it is an MMO that was not designed with the American teenager in mind (can’t really think of a reason that is a bad thing). It was designed with the ravenously obsessed Japanese player in mind. I have heard that there may, in fact, be some cultural differences between Americans and the Japanese. There are somethings here that wouldn’t fly in Japan, and there are somethings there that, well, defy definition by American standards (although I have heard that Poki is yummy). The Japanese players enjoy a level of tedium in their games. Japanese games are generally longer, harder, and, by American standards, boring. That being said there are quite a few Americans that engage in, and thoroughly enjoy, these kinds of games. OCD has become a term of art in America, and these people would be the poster children. FFXI provides an opportunity to delve into a world of obsessive/compulsive behavior derived from a thousand years of neurotic and repressive Japanese social hierarchy.

FFXI definitely was not designed with the casual gamer in mind. The problem for me though is this: should an online game be designed for the casual gamer? At the current time, the game most designed with the casual gamer in mind is taking the world by storm. The latest I have heard is that Blizzard has enough people playing World of Warcraft to establish themselves as an independent nation-state and receive recognition by the United Nations. The problem with this is sustainability. The casual gamer not only plays less frequently than the normal MMO gamer, but is also more likely to permanently leave an MMO. I am not trying to doomcast WoW, more explaining the staying power of FFXI. FFXI continues to expand, but this is not observed by those that don’t cover the game or have left the game. FFXI can not capture all the gamers in the world, but for the ones they do catch, SquareEnix has sunk their hooks deep.

But I suppose this is all metacommentary at best, a useless waxing of my superior obsession. I mean, how can you not enjoy repetitively slaughtering the same innocent Couerls for hours on end? Wait, don’t answer that question.

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Welcome… to me?

I am a new MMO blogger person here at Kill Ten Rats. This is one of those introductory posts that you have to write when you first start just about anywhere. Its generic and obtuse, where you find out something about me but it won’t be meaningful to our relationship.

Anyway, I would like to give you my qualifications (my curriculum blogae if you will) in a way to justify my inane rambling about MMO’s. I am an intense and avid player of Final Fantasy XI. A game which some have (and rightfully and divinely so) called the “Best Game in the Universe” and “OMFG, Game Most Likely to Suck Your Will to Live!” I haved enjoyed this game for many hours a day, many days a week, for several months now. I fancy myself as a “hardcore” on-line gamer, as I even enjoy the time sinks that are built into FFXI. I also have just started playing the “uber-hotness” game of the year, World of Warcraft. This game intrigues me and I am ready to dive into more of its content. Finally, I also hope to start playing the Matrix Online in the free week test period that is coming up, and I may pick up that game if I enjoy it enough.

Now that I have blandly presented my experience with MMO’s, I would like to move on to my purpose here. As I see it, many MMO blogs have moved past FFXI as being part of the old age to MMO’s. The evidence is to the contrary though, if SirBruce is to be believed, as the game still holds more players than all except for the juggernaut that is WoW (excluding, of course, certain Korean NetCafe gank-fests). Most blogs dont even have commentaries on the most recent expansion for FFXI. I am here to fill that void in your MMO blog experience! I am your contact with all things Vana’diel. And no you can’t touch my Moogle.

That being said, I don’t think of myself as a fanboi. Playing a four-year-old MMO doesn’t make you an addict. Right?

I may have a fatal flaw as a MMO blogger. I am an optimist at heart, and though I enjoy delving the depths of pure cynicism as much as the next guy, I find myself incapable of staying there. I am not much of a doomcaster, and I don’t take life sustenance in ripping to shreds any persons life work. My goal is to be as balanced in my criticisms as possible and try to place reviews of games within the context of the industry as a whole.

Well, that is me. I will likely spend some time comparing and contrasting other games to FFXI. I also would like to document the expansion of WoW as it grows over the years, as I believe that much can be learned about MMO’s by watching their development and maturation. But mostly I will spend my time ranting and raving, exploring strange and wonderful tangents, and babbling about whatever MMO related thought process shoots through my head.

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