[FF14] First Impressions

There has been a noticeable trend in this Guild Wars 2 pre-xpac downtime where I am seeing a lot of fans and devs mucking around in Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn (FF14). To be honest, I didn’t bat an eye when the first iteration of Final Fantasy 14 first dropped. I did follow their rebirth story a bit because it was an interesting tale where money and time (and brand power, let’s not forget) can truly turn things around.

Last week, I finally picked it up through Steam, which says a lot right there. I can almost guarantee that if it were were not for Gaben’s paradiso I would not have tried it out. (Really surprised Guild Wars 2 still isn’t there, but I guess they feel more profitable without Gaben’s cut.) Actually I got the demo first, installed it, and didn’t touch it. Guess I needed that $20 worth of worth incentive to actually play it.

Before I cut this post, I will say it is a hyper polished experience of a calm distillation of last decade’s MMOs (for better and worse). There you go, tl;dr.

Continue reading [FF14] First Impressions

Shopping By Customers

I recently read An Economist Gets Lunch by Tyler Cowen. Much of the book is advice on finding quality ethnic food (and barbecue) at reasonable prices, whether in the US or in their home countries. Don’t eat in the tourist district, do eat where there are several restaurants of the same type in the neighborhood (until I visited DC, it never occurred to me that you could have a half-dozen Ethiopian restaurants on one block). Being an economist, his insights focus on where the restaurants have the right incentives and efficiencies. A place with great atmosphere is selling that, rather than the food; the tourist district does not worry about repeat customers; American shipping systems are great but really fresh seafood and produce is only available close to the source.

Yes, this is one of those extended metaphor posts that takes an example from another setting and applies it to gaming.

The simplest guide is to look at the customers. If the restaurant has the right people eating there, the food is probably good. Who are the right people? The ones with interests aligned with yours. Continue reading Shopping By Customers

2012 Predictions

I will now get the highest score of any MMO pundit making predictions. Ready? “It will not go live in 2012.” Whatever we’re talking about, I’m predicting that it will slip into 2013, or later, or just never ship. The game, the expansion, whatever: not in 2012. I’m going to lose a few points, since something will ship in 2012, but I don’t see how anyone can beat my accuracy rate here.

: Zubon


Commenter Naqaj asked me to check out a thread on experience point functions. I did not get very far before mentally classifying it as “discussing preferred ways to grind.” Right now, I am so over grinding. My reaction of the moment is that the genre has so thoroughly glutted itself on advancement that it has spilled over and infected nearby genres. Long-time readers will have repeatedly heard my rantings about “RPG elements” (read: character/ability leveling) in almost every game out there because people will play for longer and our meat-based brains will actually respond positively to unnecessary grinds as long as there are numeric and/or visual rewards attached. Video games really are better than real life at stimulating important parts of our brains, and now we are taking to improving how games stimulate us rather than improving real life.

I just don’t think I’m emotionally up to reading all 175 comments in that thread. I look at the grind in the genre and just shake my head. This is really what we have come to.

: Zubon

Horrible Introductions

I picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY on the holiday Steam sale. Before you even start, the business side of this game makes it clear that it hates you and any of the game developers who want you to like the game. It incorporates at least four kinds of security, required me to sign up for a new account that I needed to verify twice, and returns the same error message when any of the seven-plus steps to start the game did not work. Sign in, update Steam, update the game, sign in, download profile, update your Live account, I think I missed a step or three, and there are definitely at least six loading screens worth of companies who thought this would be a good time to advertise themselves. Because while you are putting hurdles in your players’ paths, putting your corporate logo on those hurdles is the way to make friends. Oh, and Windows Live helpfully mentions that it may reboot your computer. And it does not update to the latest version in one attempt, so you repeatedly go through the multiple log-ins and multiple loading screens until it is happy. The reboot warning was actually helpful; Windows Live needed to reboot to finish updating, and didn’t, and didn’t mention it, so the lack of reboot was the only indication (?) of a problem.

It may make more sense to buy a legitimate copy then just download a pirated version without all the BS. Pirates actually care if the game is playable. As I type this, my irritation is strong enough to rub off on FF XIV and DCUO because related companies are advertising themselves as involved. Oh, and Steam? Having the same button for “exit to the Steam community” and “close this pop-up window”? You’re being idiots too.

The game itself is excellent, and I will likely have comments on it to come.

: Zubon

MMO Overload in 2011

With the announcement that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be released sometime after April 2011…I’m thinking, “Ut oh.  Here we go again!”  Instead of a somewhat steady stream of major titles being released the last couple years, it looks like they’ll all be released within months of each other in 2011.  You might have your favorites and be able to pick one.  But for me, it’s going to be overwhelming and expensive.  And I’m looking forward to it…

Continue reading MMO Overload in 2011

Works For Me

Every game, no matter how well designed and implemented, will have detractors. Almost every game, no matter how poorly conceived or coded, will have people who enjoy it. It is a matter of taste. If you do not like MMOs or FPSes or RTSes, the best example of its kind might rise to “decent” in your eyes. If you do like them, you might play a dozen games in the genre and appreciate their respective merits. If they play to your preferences, a marginal game could be your treasured classic.

There is some game out there for which you are exactly the target audience. It favors your tastes precisely. You enjoy its theme, its gameplay focus is exactly what you enjoy doing, and you do not really care about the areas where the developers skimped.

Not minding negatives may be more important to idiosyncratic preferences than enjoying positives. Almost every game has good aspects, and we get angriest when something stands between us and that nugget of joy. You would enjoy the game except that it is ruined by this subsystem, that color scheme, and those loading times. Meanwhile, Bob never cared about the subsystem, is colorblind, and is glad to have snippets of time for a book he really wants to read. My deal-breakers are your trivial inconveniences or positives.

While Game By Night inspired this post, I feel that Bhagpuss deserves special mention here.

: Zubon