Final Fantasy XIV – Open Beta Phase 4 Screenshots

I’m not going to go into a big article dissecting the game yet, but I will say Final Fantasy XIV is a beautiful MMO and it runs flawlessly on my system.  Nice work, SquareEnix.

Fully Funded, Little Witch Academia 2 Kickstarter

Just a blurb here, but the Little Witch Academia 2 kickstarter has now passed its stretch goals with over $500,000.  Good job folks!  Go donate if you haven’t already!

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It will be interesting to see what impact the success of Trigger’s crowd funding will have on the anime industry, which typically doesn’t have much input from western audiences.

Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn

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Final Fantasy XIV – now here’s a game that I haven’t played since the original beta, which was so bad it completely put me off of buying the game.  I didn’t miss much.  For those who didn’t follow the original launch of Final Fantasy XIV way back in 2010 it was probably the most badly botched launch of any ‘AAA’ MMO ever created.  There was virtually no end-game content, no story content, the game’s menu system was borderline unplayable, and it had very high system requirements on PC at the time.  It was so bad that SquareEnix immediately (or almost immediately) extended the 30-day free game time that came with the game.  SquareEnix did not start billing people to play the game until 2012, over a  year after the initial release of the game and had already announced intentions to re-launch the game as Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn.  During this time the original producer,  Hiromichi Tanaka, wrote numerous letters to the community rambling about the state of the game as well as his dedication to fixing FFXIV and his shame at the apparent faults of the game until he was finally replaced in 2010 by Naoki Yoshida.  So for those of us who didn’t buy into the original release it was a fun train wreck to follow.

In fact the game was so bad that Naoki Yoshida could only think of one way to fix it – he literally blew up the game world.

Seriously.

Bahamut summons a meteor and destroys the world.

So what changes take place as we rise from the ashes?  The major ones (stolen from wikipedia) are:

  • The implementation of a completely new server system.
  • A new graphics engine.
  • A redesigning of all field maps into 40 zones (compared to the original version’s 8 zones).
  • Fully renewed user interface.
  • Female Hyur Highlanders, female Roegadyn, and male Miqo’te will be playable.
  • A worldless content finder.
  • Reworking current jobs and adding new ones (Arcanist and Summoner)
  • 1v1 and large scale player versus player content.
  • Introduction of the FATE (Full Active Time Event) system. FATE will allow for spontaneous field events such as hamlet defense.

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After playing for a bit in Phase 3 of the more recent beta for A Realm Reborn (of which I unfortunately took almost no screenshots), this MMO doesn’t feel bad anymore – it’s actually a lot of fun.  The game runs smooth and looks great with great modeling and animation, the interface for keyboard/mouse is intuitive with the genre-standard hotkey setup and a fully customizable UI, the map, journal, and quest objectives are clearly visible and understandable, and the combat system is in-line with what you’d expect from a modern MMO in the vein of World of Warcraft or Rift.   The FATE system makes leveling in lower-level zones feel a lot more exciting.  They’re basically just Rift events, but there’s nothing wrong with that as those were my favorite part of Rift as well.  I also really enjoyed the music in the Phase 3 beta – I was very happy to be listening to works by Nobuo Uematsu again.

Phase 4 of the beta is going to start sometime after August 8, probably a week to 10 days prior to the August 27 launch.  Character progression from the Phase 4 beta will carry over to the final game.  Those who have pre-purchased will also get an early access code that will probably go out 3-4 days before launch.  Until then, you can run the  character creation benchmark if you’d like to see what a great looking game it is and get your character ready for launch.

I’m not sure if this is a game that is worth a subscription yet, but I think it’s worth a look just to work my way up to level 50.

Oh, and catgirls… err… Miqo’te.

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Flex Raids – World of Warcraft’s new content for serious casuals

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The final raid tier for Mists of Pandaria, 5.4 – The Siege of Orgrimmar – is getting closer and with it will come a new raiding tier – Flex Raids.  Personally, as someone who is too time constrained/antisocial to raid in a guild any longer this new system will add a lot of value compared to the slog that is LFR.  So what are Flex raids and who are they aimed at?

Flex Raids will provide a higher level of challenge than LFR, but less challenge than normal modes.  They’ve been likened to the difficulty of Wrath of the Lich King 10 man raids, which I enjoyed back in the day.  They will require you to form a raid so they won’t have the anonymous feeling of LFR groups and will hopefully maintain a higher quality and encourage civil interaction among the participants.  You can form them with cross realm groups so I would expect them to become a big deal on OpenRaid – that’s how I’m planning to get into them.

The really neat part of Flex Raids is that they can be anything from 10-25 players.  Boss health and damage will be scaled directly to the number of players you have in your group.  So if you have 13 friends who want to go raiding together you can do it and not have to force anyone to sit out.  Loot will be done the same way as LFR with per-player loot dropping and bonus rolls with whatever token is introduced in 5.4.

Considering the way that LFR degrades as progression players stop doing it for fill-in items you often find at the end of a raid tier LFR is nearly impossible to do without witnessing huge amounts of name calling, griefing, or players not fulfilling the role they queued for.  Hopefully Flex Raiding, which will have to be managed through Forum groups or a 3rd party service like OpenRaid, will attract a higher level of competence and decorum while giving casual players a good challenge and better rewards.