28 November, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Play Diary #1 - Reminiscence

   Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn..What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said befo—IT’S BRILLIANT, AMAZING, AWESOME, EPIC, EXTRAORDINARY, BEAUTIFUL!

…and I’m unable to play it at the time being. Recurrent connection issues keep me from my beautiful Eorzea and I am left with anguish and a case of severe withdrawals, which I choose to combat by incessantly talking about the game. As such, the following is a symptom of said withdrawals.

<Previous Experience>

   I have played FFXIV back when it was first released with my wife, It was a GREAT MMORPG; there were so many things to do, the script was brilliantly eloquent, the characters themselves were well-rounded, the graphics gorgeous, the ease of changing classes and the ease of using macros served to extend the game’s shelf life by a tenfold, but –and there always must be "buts" since we’re human beings, the imperfect species who looove to perfect themselves-- The game was a bit...slow for my taste. The latency in between clicking a command and having the character actually execute it was ridiculous, it took ages to confirm a mining action and after 6 seconds the character equips the pickaxe, another 3 seconds’ go at the little "mini game", and another 4 seconds to actually acquire the items mined. Rinse and repeat a couple times over and you'd grow sick of it and would just want to battle for a change of pace, at which time you'll encounter yet another testing set of tediousness while fighting monsters...and to top it all, our beloved country has a love for insufferably high latency (the ping hits 1000 quite commonly) so it was basically a living hell of lag. Nonetheless, I really loved the game. It was intended for average connections and higher, so half the lag was on my part, not Square’s. The other half, however, was definitely Square’s.

   I haven't played the game that deeply, only reached level 22 with two classes, so there might have been more issues along the way. Anyway, fans of the game have explicitly expressed their displeasure with what Square-Enix have offered in FFXIV, which I was slightly against. You see, no MMORPG in the world starts off perfectly, there has to be a lack of content at first, and along the way or out of reports and complaints, the game expands. But what happened happened, all we can do is roll with it and bear through the whining.

My character Cheese Kun the cutest thing ever!!!

<A Realm Reborn>

   The game's servers were shut down around 2012. Square-Enix ended the journey of great beauty and fantasy with a heartbreaking movie that only leaves you bawling in the corner and gouging your eyes out from exposure to too much epicness and sadness at the same time. ONLY great minds can come up with something as…divine as that. The cinematics, the music, the lyrics, the graphics and what was told through the whole movie were too great to put into words. Each note, each line, each word and each action conveyed so much, which left me and my lovely wife at great despair and regret not having gotten far enough into the game, especially with her being a great Final Fantasy fan for quite a long time.

   Few weeks later, they released the same movie with an extended ending, a rather positive one: a glimpse of the new journey that will take place upon the lands of Eorzea. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was then born, donning its beauty, greatness and divinity. With the many commercials and little teasers here and there, Square-Enix managed to show us a glimpse of what's been changed and added and it was utterly beautiful.

<beta testing>

 The Closed Beta testing divided into four phases, two phases for the PC, a third for the PS3, then a fourth for both the PC and PS3 (The game will be released on the PS4 in 2014 later on).

   When the third phase started for the PS3, I was lucky enough to get into it by simply wishing it after seeing the screenshots of people testing it. I thanked the lord, nature or whatever great force holds us all together in this lovely barbaric yet beautiful universe, downloaded the game and once it was done downloading my great wife flashed me a beautiful smile as she heard the title screen music rolling ever so gently into our ears. We sat together for the Beta Testing of our favorite MMORPG.

   I started the game and was formally inducted by my beloved Cheese-kun (My character) greeting me with a happy wave with his chubby little Lalafell arms-- HE'S SO CUTE!!! (Even cuter how Word corrects Lalafell as Falafel...) 

Anyway, I wanted to try the character creation, specifically the male Miqo’te, since I’d most likely start fresh with a Miqo’te. It was not for the ears or fluffy tail, mind you! They just look awesome with their high jumps and little tattoos under their eyes and, now that I've been playing for a while and have tried all races, they turned out to have the best standing/running posture by far. Anyway, I was rather content with the character creation, but not completely satisfied. I was hoping to see even more, although with moderate customizing you'll still be able to pull off a unique look. But having tried Phantasy Star Online 2's character creation, I have to say Sega set the highest bar in character creation. Nevertheless, it was great and more than enough. For Zell fans, for instance, it was nice to have a smaller version of his tattoo and choose either side of the face to have it on.

   Eventually I decided to forego the creation process and revert back to little Cheese-kun because of what I read about your levels and items not being transferred to the full version when it came out, so started my testing with him.

   The opening sequence was lovely. I started at Ul'dah, the extravagant Arabian capitol of gold and ore! While a soft country-like version of “Answers” was playing in the background ever-tingling, I went into the city where I first tried the controls and movement mechanics.

   I was surprised at how light the characters have become, you didn't feel any…any kind of force trying to move the character, as if it was made out of massless paper, which wasn't a negative thing per se, but personally I love to feel like I'm one with the character, something like the Monster Hunter movement mechanics.

   Then, I pressed the triangle button which showed me an overload of cuteness as my little Lalafell jumped as high as he could, so i kept jumping and noticed that the jump button is not pressure-sensitive like in most games.  Whether you tapped or held it, the character would jump the same height, which was also...not negative nor was it positive, but as a matter of preference, I didn't like the weightlessness of it. Still, it didn't hinder anything.

  So, we then had to go meet Momodi, one of our favorite characters back then, with her sassy remarks and endearing Aussie accent. We were a little bit disappointed to find the dialogue was more dumbed-down than the usually lauded Final Fantasy eloquence and deep characterization. You might feel a slight negative vibe from me, but the fact is it was a beta test and we were required to point out the kinks for the game to improve.

   So after learning about quests and such, I rushed outside to gawk at the spectacle that is Eorzea and test the battle system. So there I was in the field, holding my sword and shield, looking at the huge sky and hills far away and I was in awe. It was just so beautiful.

   So I roamed a bit and faced my first "ant". The fight lasted only 4 seconds-- FOUR SECONDS! That’s the time it used to take me to just issue a command in FFXIV 1.0. The battle system was beyond epic. It was fast-pace and colorful with great effects and sounds, with all the limitless things you could do, it was a HUGE improvement. I couldn't help but applaud the Sqeenix team specifically for the new battle system, seeing as it had been my biggest issue in FFXIV 1.0 and it was completely fixed, with no room for errors. There is always room for improvement though, that's the art in gaming and life.

   So then I just continued ahead, meeting all the beta testers along with the new NPCs. It was beautiful beyond words.

   I did have some issues with the PS3 UI as I wasn't used to playing an MMORPG with a controller. It was a rather tricky yet exciting new experience for me. Again, it was neither negative nor positive, just a matter of getting used to something new.

   I can't put all of my experience into words; I did what I could do. There was so much more to the game, but I didn't go beyond the main city, trying not to get too deep and spoil the story for myself, so my whole impression was just of roaming around the breathtaking landscapes of Thanalan. I'm sure some beta testers have gone way further ahead.

   The ease and beauty Square-Enix put into the game is remarkable. Now that I've played and explored a fair amount of the full game I will be blogging about it regularly. Excellent work, Square-Enix. You did great! Otsukaresama!

26 November, 2013

Blog Opening - Videogames

   Here’s the thing about videogaming: It has come a long way from ye ole joystick in a box that got you through boring school day afternoons. It is no more the mental sedative that lulls you into your ever-welcoming couch, having your cognition slowly drained from you and rendering you in a zombie-like state of existence. Video games have evolved into a fairly comprehensive spectrum of the human experience. They now engage your senses and mental facilities alike and you’re introduced to a wikipedia of broad emotional and intellectual experiences. It’s a very beautiful thing.

   I can barely, however, say the same about the recent gaming scene, particularly most targeted ages. In this sad generation, gaming is all about petty, pride-generated competition, morally degraded fanservice and basically just food for basic animal instinct (coughlollipopchainsawcough). Personally, I think this form of competition, no matter the intricate tactics or skillfully-executed combos involved, does very little to actually help the mind grow and gain life experience (somehow, in that aspect, I think Japanese games a liiittle ways ahead). True, games like Call of Duty and Battlefield may serve to teach you about teamwork and the importance of working together as one platoon in pursuit of one goal…in theory. Unfortunately, I can accurately summarize my multiplayer experience in said games with such endearing words as “lawl noob”, “GTFO”, “Fuck you, you ain't no player” and the like.

   That being said, there is one game I’ll mention that actually manages to serve that purpose quite well: Monster Hunter, the game that teaches you to instinctively jump in front of your partner to save them, to constantly buff each other and a great sense of tactics founded on teamwork. From my many years of experience with Monster Hunter, I've noticed this gaping contrast to common western multiplayer games. I realized, although jumping into a new party for the first time might feel awkward at first, just five to ten minutes into the game you’d feel that beautiful lost sentiment that is harmony. You’d feel you’re a true team and naturally aim to help your partners, protect them or just want to quickly kill off the monster to get it off their backs. Whether for selfish reasons like obtaining bonus money at the end of the quest or just being nice, the action remains the same-- you tried to engage with the other person in order to beat the quest you’d agreed to take on (Plus, the fucking soundtrack...). Panning back to our non-Japanese first person shooters, rather than choosing your own missions as a team, you’d normally be thrown into a random mission, teaming up with random players who would in turn curse at you and your supposed incompetence and/or flex their ginormous epeens at you. For the record, this is coming from a long-term Halo and Call of Duty player. You may also be less than thrilled about me comparing two different gameplay styles together but the main criterion still applies and it’s about chemistry and understanding, which don’t seem to exist in this generation anymore.

   Let me further illustrate my point with another example. Take Phantasy Star Universe and Phantasy Star Online 2, open games to two regions at the same time. In these games, you can easily jump from one block to another within the same server. So, while the game kind of has a Star Ocean theme and probably doesn’t cater as well to our American gamers (most of whom prefer M16’s and grenades to good teamwork), there were quite a few non-Japanese gamers and they formed a large community spanning two or more blocks (a block holds nearly 1000 players). When I first came into the US blocks—let’s say non-Japanese blocks. It’s more respectful that way—all I saw was just total chaos and an utter lack of order and common decency, save a small number of players you could have a good time with. All you’d see was shouts everywhere and overbearing profanity, much in contrast to the Japanese blocks on the same game, where it’s fun, quiet and, most of the time, your requests for help are actually answered by nice players who are more than willing to play with you and have a good time and a few laughs, you know, like they were people playing video games. That is, of course, assuming you’re familiar with the Japanese language, but if not you’ll still enjoy a nice, peaceful, swear-free time.

   But I digress….The main point is that gaming now is about the consoles, not the games—the business, not the fun—marketing wars, console wars and all of that competing over what? “Mine’s bigger” or “I've been a fan of this game for way longer therefore I’m a way more loyal fan”, “loyal” here being a chocolate-coated stand-in for obnoxious elitism. The way this word has devolved is pathetic. Being loyal to a certain company is just you preventing yourself, under the notion of being a true video gamer, from actually being a true video gamer. You’re supposed to be a video gamer, not a consoler, not a fanboy/girl, not a Team [insert console/title/company]er or whatever other prejudicial terms you want to mash up! With the degree of ‘dickmeasurism’ among gamers nowadays, they may as well be comparing cars or their latest gadgets as it no longer revolves around gaming but rather hardware. They should get into PC gaming—that’s where the hardware war lies. Not that I support software contention either, but saying for instance that Sonic is better than Mario is more understandable to me than saying the PS3 is better than the Xbox360. The former is simply a matter of preference that everyone is entitled to whereas the latter is a matter of spec-comparison you can only hash over for so long before it turns petty. Same principle applies to religious debates, it seems. :p

   So, for those “Xbox One is shit” and “PS4 is shit” people, pardon my Anglo-Saxon but you are shit. The consoles weren’t even out yet before the war began. If you want to talk specs, the Xbox360 was inferior to the PS3 but it revolutionized the gaming industry. The Wii was also exceedingly inferior yet has seen far more memorable, fun times and quality entertainment than the Xbox360 or PS3. SO! Now that the new consoles are out, particularly the games, you can choose your ‘preferred’ console that maybe has a more comfortable controller grip for your hands, has more of the type of games you prefer or you enjoy your time playing and move along.

   Personally, rather than going “I have an Xbox One mwahaha” or “I’ll buy a PS4, it’s way better!”, I’ll try to buy both consoles. Why? Because I’m a video gamer, not a consoler. That’s the main point. Play video games, don’t market them, because not everyone is a good spokesperson and most are bad at it, so please live up to the title that you chose and play video games. There’s far too much hate in this world to begin with without you fuelling it further. Xbox fanboys, grow up. Playstation fanboys, SERIOUSLY, grow up. Nintendo fanboys…I don’t know what to say to you, you’re always so quiet…so…rock on!


PS: I’m not an Xbox, PS or Nintendo fan in particular, I just play video games, enjoy them and learn from them and if I offended anyone I apologize but I was simply calling it like I see it. If anything, my rants come from a good place, a positive point, never a negative one. Thank you for taking the time and attention to read thus far. :)