Vana’diel Nights

Not harvesting.
Not harvesting.

I figured out that I should do harvesting and/or crafting for awhile in FFXI, gain some levels. My armor craft is 52 or so, and my mining 51, but none of my other Disciple of Land/Hand jobs is anywhere near high enough to do me any good in Heavensward. Gathering is the exact sort of brainless, mechanical sort of thing I could do while watching Hulu.

Having been informed that hard mode dungeons now gave experience, I almost took the plunge… but… there’s a new event going on! The Maiden’s Rhapsody. A mysterious traveler from a distant world has come to Eorzea to rediscover her mission, and her memories.

The world being Vana’diel, the game world of Final Fantasy XI. I played that for awhile. I’m sure I must have taken screen shots when I played back in 2004/2005 during one of my many breaks from EverQuest. I can’t find them, though. I don’t think I have loved and hated a single game so much. I finally quit to preserve my sanity. I can’t really explain it, but every FFXI player I’ve ever talked to knows what I mean by that. The game punished you so very much for every little thing. And then something would actually go right, and it was like the sun breaking through the clouds and warmth returning to the world. And then it would be three days trying to get a group for a BCNM. Or trying to solo the stuff needed for a level cap quest. Being begged to teleport people to groups, give them all three stealth spells (sight, sound, scent) to make it safely, but not being invited into that group. Etc etc etc.

Wow. The scars still seem fresh.

Ninja'd!
Ninja’d!

Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV have different game settings, but nonetheless have a lot of similarities. The races all have analogues in both games — storyline NPC Tataru seems to have given her name to the Vana’diel variety of Lalafell, the Tarutaru. The FFXIV Miqo’te lose most of their males and become the Mithra and… Yeah, the quest more or less revealed that Eorzea is a past version of Vana’diel, separated by several centuries and a few cataclysms.

Iroha, a samurai, the story goes, was sent back in time in order to find heroes to come forward in time to save Vana’diel. She made that backward hop, but she went further than intended. Not all the way to Eorzea, though. The trip to Eorzea, she did in her sleep. OR DID SHE? Since she can’t “wake up”. I just ran through the video I took of the quest (how do I always get the perfect screenshot? I record all the cut scenes). It is never firmly established that the worlds of FFXI and FFXIV are directly related, though they share some lore. I will just go forward insisting they are directly connected by way of something more substantial than Iroha’s dream quest for the power of Amatsu Kyori.

Since Iroha is stuck in our world, she decided to do some exploration until such time as her goddess allows her to return to Vana’diel. But, we know that Vana’diel is doomed. We can only hope that more NPCs make their way to Eorzea before the end of the month.

I wouldn’t mind if Iroha started teaching the lore of the Samurai. As long as some other teacher comes around the teach me the lore of the Red Mage :)

Picture is of my private room. Still decorated with all the Halloween stuff. The outfit is pretty nice. I’ll have to beg Kasul for some glamour prisms so I can wear this look for awhile :) I have ilevel 135 crafted armor, but it looks so dull.

The West Karana Friday Offer Wall!

Unlike other offer walls, this one probably won’t infect your computer with anything TOO harmful.

Like watching pretty alien spaceships blow up in all sorts of interesting ways? I do! I bought Gratuitous Space Battles the day it came out and every now and then, I build some fleets and watch them get crazy on the devious (but not as devious as me) enemy. Positech Games sent me a 25% off code for the game, good for seven days only, and two of those days have already passed, so if you’ve been wanting the game, be the first to use up this discount code when ordering: BNXP00099.

From now until Monday morning, Cryptic is having a 25%-off sale in its cash shop. If you’ve been wanting to get that new starship in Star Trek Online or more of whatever you need from Champions Online, now’s your chance. Now if this were Blizzard, your new sparkly must-have mount would be only $19!

It’s not, though.

Runes of Magic is also getting with the discount cash store program. From now until Sunday midnight GMT, prices for diamonds, their in-game cash store currency, are half off. If they were Blizzard, that would mean your sparkly must-have mount would be only $12.50!

Oddly compelling iPad/iPhone MMO Pocket Legends has some new items in its cash shop, too. Throwing weapons for the archer, shields for the enchantress, new two handed blades for the warriors. Unlike other games, you can buy anything in the cash shop with either in-game gold or money via iTunes, unlike sparkly mounts from Blizzard, which no amount of in-game gold will purchase.

To celebrate the release of the newest compilation of orchestral Final Fantasy music, Distant Worlds, Square Enix and Arnie Roth are traveling the world, partnering with local world-class orchestras and the occasional visit by compose Nobuo Uematsu himself, to bring an evening of Final Fantasy music to you. I can’t think of much I’d rather do than attend, but none of the dates are anywhere near. Still, maybe you’ll be luckier!

Did looking at this page infect your computer? Are you sitting on a sparkly horse RIGHT NOW? Do you wish the sparkly horse had come in pink instead of blue? Let me know!

IP-based MMOs Part 2 (of 5)

While developing a game to an established IP may bring the potential of thousands of players eager to live in the world they have come to know, the property may also be a straight-jacket. Clever developers have found ways around these problems, though.

Game: Dragon Oath IP: “Tian Long Ba Bu” by Jin Yong

In 1963, Jin Yong began serializing his epic novel Tian Long Ba Bu, or “The Heavenly Dragon and the Eight Sections”, in newspapers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Four years later, he finished. Over 230 characters make their way through TLBB’s grand plot of warring sects, intrigue, love, betrayal, blinding, death, demigods and dragons. He was the Robert Jordan of his day — if Robert Jordan had written a chapter of his books every day for four years. TLBB has spawned four films and five movies. After reading about TLBB on Wikipedia, I don’t understand why we haven’t seen a Western adaptation yet. A whole fake CITY was built in order to film one of the series (and is now a tourist destination).

At least we have the MMO version, called Dragon Oath here in the states. Dragon Oath boasts 75 million players worldwide. Yes, 75 MILLION. Publisher ChangYou.com claims it is the #1 martial arts MMO in the world. The player chooses from nine schools of Kung Fu, can apparently eventually command armies, ride dragons and command showy magics. Judging by the quality of graphics, the game, which is in open beta here, should likely run on most anything.

 
Game: Dungeons & Dragons Online IP: Wizard of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons

First published in 1974 by long-time wargamers Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, early editions of Dungeons & Dragons had a dead-easy character generation technique: roll three six-sided dice and add them up and assign those values in turn to STR, INT, WIS, DEX, CON and CHA — the six characteristics that told the story of every character in the D&D world. If you had a high strength, you might opt to become a fighter. A goodly intelligence would mark you as a mage, and so on. The games were moderated by a (hopefully) impartial Dungeon Master (DM) who would lead the party on adventures appropriate to their classes and numbers. Later editions of the game introduced more rules and many ways of tuning a character just exactly right, but the game itself is still instantly familiar. The character sheet, the iconic 20-sided die, and the DM behind his or her screen cackling evilly as the players blunder into some insidious trap — all would be instantly familiar to a D&D player of any age.

It’s no big surprise that D&D was made into an MMO; the only mystery is why it took so long. Then again, with almost every RPG of the 70s through the 00s explicitly modeling itself on D&D, perhaps there was just too much duplication going on. EverQuest came about as close to an implementation of D&D in MMO form as one possibly could without severely trampling on D&D’s copyright. With a largely faithful implementation of D&D 3.5’s rules and its Eberron setting, the d20 spinning on the screen and the occasional voice of an unseen Dungeon Master, DDO tries its best to pay homage to its pen and paper roots.

At launch, DDO did fairly well, but players did not take well to the heavy instancing and requirements to run dungeon modules time and time again in order to gain the most points and experience with which to level. Since DDO became free to play, player counts, subscribers and income have increased five-fold.

 
Game: Final Fantasy XI Online and Final Fantasy XIV Online IP: Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy series

Aside from the occasional reuse of character names, general plots and Nobuo Uematsu’s haunting scores, about all that unites the various titles in the Final Fantasy catalog is the name “Final Fantasy”. You can’t get much purer than that in an IP. The earlier games in the FF series tended toward more universal character classes and abilities before 1997’s Final Fantasy VII moved the series toward more individualistic characters with iconic weapons and fighting moves. Since then, creators Square-Enix have outdone themselves in finding new, unique combat methods, weapons and power-ups, aside from a single return to their roots in 2000’s Final Fantasy IX. The Final Fantasy series has been credited with bringing Japanese-style RPGs to the rest of the world, and has spawned two movies, at least one anime, manga and a host of tangentially-related spinoff games.

Final Fantasy XI Online and the in-development Final Fantasy XIV Online take their inspiration largely from the earlier games in the series; players have jobs (classes) with various set skills, and they can train for and change their jobs with little effort, once they have unlocked them. Ridable Chocobos (pony-sized birds almost certainly based on the mounts in Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind) and monstrous Summons make their appearance, and the infamous BCNMs — Burning Circle Notorious Monsters — provide mini-boss battles that could be earned or bought at will. Innovative game mechanics, a strong plot, gorgeous scenery, the famous Uematsu music and an “automatic” English/Japanese translating chat system made FFXI a favorite the world over. It didn’t hurt that it was the first MMO available for Sony’s Playstation 2, predating Sony’s own EverQuest Online Adventures by a year. FFXI Online is, eight years in, still going strong. FFXIV looks to take the best parts of FFXI and improve on the rough bits, and should easily match the popularity of its predecessor.

 
Game: FusionFall IP: Cartoon Network

Since Cartoon Network started broadcasting in 1992, its blend of classic and original cartoons has made it the discerning teenager’s outlet for original animation when the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon have lost their luster. Their late-night “Adult Swim” block shows experimental animation aimed at older teenagers and young adults. Cartoon Network broadcasts to kids from Ireland to Pakistan. The generally high quality of its cartoons make secret watchers of plenty of adults as well.

FusionFall launched last year to good critical buzz. With kid-friendly systems in place similar to those used by other kid-focused games such as Disney’s Toontown and KingsIsle’s Wizard101 and gameplay based on classic platform running and jumping, combined with ease of play (runs in a browser) and NPCs drawn from most of Cartoon Network’s most popular shows, the game is apparently doing quite well. Launched as a subscription game, FusionFall will go entirely free to play Monday, April 19th.

 
Game: Hello Kitty Online IP: Sanrio’s Hello Kitty

Originally developed as a simple, semi-abstract decoration for a coin purse in Japan in 1974, within two years Hello Kitty had spread around the world. Now, Hello Kitty and her legion of friends can be found on merchandise of all descriptions available wherever children may be found, including Sanrio-themed stores selling every kind of Hello Kitty branded merch you could think of… except maybe that Hello Kitty AK-47. From her humble beginnings as a coin purse, Hello Kitty has gone on to reign over a media empire that includes two animated series and a dozen video games.

Hello Kitty Online lets players go on an epic quest to find all of Hello Kitty’s lost friends who have scattered across the world. Along the way, you’ll find and raise pets, tend farms, battle villainous creatures, craft clothing and weapons, and unlock and play various minigames such as fishing and water-skiing. The game tends to be grindy (as is usual for Asian imports) but the social tools are second to none. I suspect Hello Kitty Online appeals more to kids moms than the kids themselves, though. Also, your screen will almost certainly run out of pink almost immediately.

Tune in tomorrow for part 3, where we’ll be looking at lords, pirates and little plastic bricks.

Daily Blogroll 7/16 — Lost in Bree edition

I guess I just don't like sleeping with someone who has such hairy toes, okay?

What makes The Prancing Pony such a “must see” when you’re in Bree? Butterbur just stands in that same spot all day and all night, perpetually on the edge of remembering what it is he needed to do while buying sticks and pebbles from snickering children.

If you go, though, to the cloakroom on the second floor, you might find Melmoth of Killed in a Smiling Accident hiding from insanely super-powered wolves as he struggles with Lord of the Rings Online’s gated content — where overpowered common animals with a long history of being dead block lower level adventurers from peeking around the next curve. (Wolfshead also has a tankard of tears, by the way, for the poor, bereft children of J.R.R., whose money beds require additional stuffing).

Naamah of Aionic Thoughts heard that Aion’s latest patch (1.5) would be adding a cool dozen new instances, and he had a sudden thought: Instancing is killing WoW. Do we really want Aion to go down that same road?

Stropp doesn’t like people much. At least, not human-type people. At least, not in MMOs. EQ2 has rats, cats, frogs and lizards, but most of them are evil, and all of them are just more or less re-skinned people. Why not more exotic races? (Well, Horizons did have PC Dragons).

Mixmeister and Diapermancer Thomas, the Friendly Necromancer, has done another amazing remix of Wizard 101’s music, this time, the foresty, beastly themes of the Viking world of Grizzleheim. He once remixed a rather boring four-part Renaissance dance I recorded into something really special. He truly is a genius :)

There’s a lot of things you can do in today’s MMOs, but which one activity is the MOST fun? For Keen, it’s leveling. I dunno. I tend to think of leveling as a chore, where I pay $15/month (or whatever) for the privilege of doing boring, repetitive tasks. I only enjoy leveling when I am having fun with the game, and levels come when they come, but there’s no urgency to move on from where I am.

Petter finds more danger in Nosepickers and Unannounced AFKers in Final Fantasy XI Online’s Valkurm Dunes than he does with the more mundane Goblins and Star Bats. But aren’t these mobs found in pickup groups in every MMO?

And finally, via Wandering Goblin, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: