After days of planning and character tuning, I finally logged into FFXIV today. Well, after waiting for the 13 player queue to clear I did. That was a novelty – a logon queue! Haven’t seen one of them in a long time – even Warcraft expansion launches don’t have queues these days. A healthy sign for popularity.
My immediate thought was that the engine looks very much like that of GW2 – very high fidelity graphics, with beautiful colours and landscapes. Very different to Warcraft and SWtOR with their cartoony style and simpler palettes, both of which I enjoy despite the detractors.
Interestingly it starts like more of an RPG, like the Witcher or Skyrim, setting the tone via cut scenes and slow story telling. We start in a wagon, moving across a desert landscape, being given gentle world cues by an elderly trader. The journey is interrupted by some brutish border guards, who in turn are attacked by our first sight of world mobs, before eventually we arrive in the starting city of Ul’dah.
Again reminiscent of GW2 in scale and grandeur, though the city itself is rather empty when I arrive – even the NPCs seem scarce. I wonder if the intro is phased? I was quickly beckoned by my first true NPC, someone decidedly different to your regular fantasy stereotype.
I decided I’d ignore him for the moment and go exploring, but the game refused to allow me to do that – I hit some kind of invisible wall within a few metres and was forced to turn back to my sunglassed friend. That was unexpected. My new friend advised that I needed to be registered with the Adventurer’s Guild in order to… adventure. Makes a kind of sense. My freedom of movement grew slightly larger, but I still couldn’t wander to my heart’s content, so I went with the flow – I guess it’s a tutorial of sorts, which seems sensible.
More cut scenes followed, complete with facial talking animations but no actual voices. It is kind of jolting not hearing what is being said while being forced to watch (SWtOR spoils us there), but it also allows quicker progress through the conversations. I was witness to a gambler being beaten by local heavies, and strangely wasn’t called upon to do anything about it. Welcome to Ul’dah indeed.
And with that I was free! Suddenly other players appeared, and quests, and the world was waiting. Time to explore.
Thanks to some invaluable tips from Nogamara from Battle Stance, I’m having to rethink how to start out in FFXIV. This post is basically a liveblog of me figuring out how this all works.
It turns out that your starting Class does in fact impact what roles you can play as you advance through the game – or at least the first role you play. By choosing Gladiator, I was choosing to be a tank, and a tanking Paladin at level 30. That was surprising given the text describing the Gladiator certainly makes it sound like it could quite easily be a dual-wielding DPS type:
Gladiators specialize in the handling of all manner of one-handed blades, from daggers to longswords, be they single- or double-edged, straight or curved. Tracing their roots to the Coliseum, where the roar of the crowd reigns supreme, these melee combatants have learned to seamlessly flow between attack and defense in a dance that delights the eye. Making use of their skill with the shield, gladiators can also draw the attention and attacks of an enemy upon themselves, thereby protecting their comrades from harm.
Closer reading does reveal that you have a shield, which I thought must be optional but I guess is required, and does point toward tanking. Nogamara pointed me to this excellent wiki which proves the point, and lays out what can be expected of you based on your initial Class choice.
All of which means you can’t be quite as casual about picking your first Class as I had thought. For example I probably don’t want to be tanking on my first sight of dungeons at level 16 without first getting to know the game.
Some of the Jobs don’t require base Classes but aren’t available until level 30+, so I can rule them out immediately. I don’t like magic roles, so that narrows it down further – to a ‘Disciple of War’ (instead of Magic)1 in FFXIV terms. And if I don’t want to tank – and being a new player it’s definitely advisable not to, despite how much I enjoy the role – then it’s down to the melee and ranged physical DPS roles: Lancer/Dragoon, Pugilist/Monk, Rogue/Ninja, and Archer/Bard.
Hm but wait a moment. Nogamara also levelled a “Bard + Marauder + Conjurer at the same time“. Now two of those are base Classes (the Marauder and Conjurer), which means you must be able to swap Classes as well as Jobs as you level?
According to Wikipedia, players can ‘change their class at will by changing weapons’. That sounds too easy. But apparently it’s (almost) correct. While I can’t find an official reference, Reddit and various forums seem to say that once you complete your core Class quest at level 10, you can go to other Class trainers and ask to be trained. Then you can switch Class entirely just by equipping that Class’s weapon.
That’s kind of amazing. In Warcraft you’re locked in to your Class at Level 1, though you do have some flexibility later with swapping Specialisations within that Class. Even worse is SWtOR where your Specialisation, or Advanced Class in SWtOR-speak, is also locked – I’ve stopped entire characters when paralysed by that choice. FFXIV on the other hands lets a single character do everything. Something the Class wiki entry confirms: “Important: You can level all classes and jobs on one character.”
The full implications of this are kind of staggering, and the inventory management must be a real challenge! I love alts, but having one character who can do literally anything, including all the non-combat professions is certainly tempting. I’ve often wanted to be able to have multiple crafting and gathering professions on a Warcraft character, or to be able to play both Paladin and Warrior tanks on the same character. I do wonder how you’d manage to keep it all in your head, and keep track of who exactly you are in role-play terms. In fact role-play or head-canon is probably the main reason to maintain alts in most games.
In any case, all of this makes it sound like I can comfortably start off on my Gladiator to get a feel for the game – and I assume being a tank it means they have good survivability early game. Then, when the time comes, I can branch out and start looking at the DPS Classes in order to explore group dungeons. Nogamara also pointed out that there is a buff called an Armoury Bonus that means you get “+100% additional experience for secondary classes that are lower level than your highest level class”. So levelling the second Class will be faster – very nice.
It’s strange to be on day four of this endeavour and still not actually playing. But one of the interesting things about MMOs, above all over games, is that the out-of-game research component is often just as valuable as the in-game. The prime example of that in my experience is probably Secret World Legends, which more-or-less required extensive internet research in things as like as Latin translations and obscure geek-lore in order to progress the game.
This FFXIV research is different to that – it’s learning how the mechanics work and ensuring you’re not starting off on the wrong path. I enjoy it, and am kind of glad to have the excuse to delve into the intricacies of Classes and Jobs before setting foot in game.
Oh oh, there also appear to be two profession Disciplines – of the Land (gathering), and of the Hand (crafting). Can of worms officially opened – but not until Level 10 thankfully. ↩
I logged into FFXIV ready for the challenge of character creation, but first had to decide on a few things. The first was choosing a Data Centre aka regional server. The choices were US, EU, and JP. While Japan makes the most sense geographically – and hence maybe a better ping – I chose US mainly for the (assumed) language barrier the JP servers might present.
Next I had to choose a Server, which seemed random. They were bunched into subzones, so I chose Primal, then Hyperion (Legacy). A quick lookup told me that the servers tagged Legacy were from the original launch, so I figured they might have a bit more player history to them. As it turned out I ended up on another legacy server (Excalibur – some kind of genre crime happening there maybe?) as Hyperion was full, which made it strange that it was ever presented as an option.
I do wonder at the wisdom of MMOs making this kind of choice before anything else, as you really don’t know what to choose or why. I guess if you have friends you’re joining it’s easy, but if not they may be better served just assigning you to an appropriately populated world. The ‘onboarding’ isn’t as smooth as you might wish for, but we’re all used to it I guess. And the era of a single virtual server for all players can’t be far off.
After choosing the server, I finally arrived at the character creation. There were eight races on offer, and it was mildly disappointing to find that they followed the SWtOR model: basically humans. Human humans, tall humans, (very) short humans, cat humans, ogre humans, and dragon humans.
The final two races – Hrothgar and Viera – were locked down to Shadowbringers expansion owners. Which was unfortunate as a web search revealed that the Hrothgar were the only non-human race by the looks, being male-only lionlike felines. Strange how the first definitely non-human race in SWtOR (the Cathar) were also feline – what is it about cats?
The Viera on the other hand: ick. Basically nearly naked female-only rabbit eared humans? It’s a little unforgivable that they are only women (even if it’s lore-sound), that they are pretty much undressed, and that it sure seems to be pandering to a particular fan. Maybe it’s just the screenshots – I couldn’t see the real thing in game. I’ll give Square-Enix the benefit of the doubt, barely.
For the other races, there are both sexes, and at least the men are as handsome as the women, albeit in far stronger poses for the most part. The Au Ra male at least was nicely fey (something Warcraft tried and abandoned with the Blood Elf males, from memory).
I settled on an Au Ra female, as they seemed at least a little non-human (part dragon, if the myths are to be believed). And then came the options. The many, many, many options.
If you’re like me, creating the right look for a character is very important to feeling a kinship with them. I’ve deleted countless character builds in SWtOR, Warcraft, and GW2 due to a slight miscalculation at creation – wrong horns, skin tone not right, tattoo misplaced – which only shows up once you see the character in motion, so I have to admit to a slight panic when faced with the FFXIV setup.
Then I remembered that this is a one month project, and if I decided I liked the game enough to pay for a sub after that, I could spend as long as I needed to get the character just right. Though I suspect I will bond with my first character pretty fast.
Buoyed by this plan, I worked my way through the options until I had something satisfactory. I even quite liked her by the end of the process, so I either got lucky or the options are clever enough to make most things look good.
Amazingly there was still more to come. I had to choose a birth month from an astral calendar, then a deity (who unfortunately you couldn’t see a visual of), and finally my class.
Class is normally a fundamental choice you face at the start of any game. It informs everything that comes after, and can have a huge impact on whether you enjoy the game or not. Accordingly I’d normally heavily research this choice before starting a game.
Whilst I haven’t played or researched FFXIV in any depth, I had read many blog posts from people like Aywren and Blessing of Kings, and updates on the more general gaming news sites, and from those I think I gleaned that in FFXIV you can basically play all of the classes (or is it ‘jobs’?) on a single character, swapping between them freely. I’m not sure if that’s quite accurate, but it’s enough to make the initial choice far less weighty.
So I chose a Gladiator, because nice armour and shining outlandishly-sized swords are usually a fun place to start. It was either that or a ranged Archer type (pets are usually good company for a solo player), but I’ll start with swift slaying and reckless attack and see how that plays.
Interestingly the class choice, rather than race, seemed to determine starting city, so I’m off to the desert city of Ul’Dah to start my adventuring.
Despite having ‘installed’ FFXIV and having an icon all ready to click, it turns out that I was still a long way from playing once I actually did click it. Best laid plans etc.
The first challenge was to logon to my Square-Enix account. Sounds simple enough. I looked in my password database and found the details I’d used to buy the game, plugged in my email address and… ran out of characters about half way. Hm. Well maybe it’s asking for my nickname, that would make sense. But using that along with my password gave an ‘incorrect user or password’. Huh.
I tried various combinations, double checked everything, and eventually thought about changing the password – but abandoned that after I managed to successfully logon to the website using it.
Stumped, I turned to the internet hive mind, and found a lot of people had a similar experience. While I couldn’t find a definitive or official answer, eventually I determined that there seem to be two different Square-Enix account types – one for the shop, and one for the game. Ugh.
I ended up on a site that looked pretty dodgy, with fake looking Norton ticks and clumsy fonts, but turned out to be legit.
Armed with my new account details, I tried again: success!
The launcher screen that greeted me was a wonderful eyesore, all colours and fonts and busyness, quite a change from the austerity of the Blizzard launcher. It promised much, from MogStation (not sure what that is yet) to theme songs on iTunes to Ceremonies of Eternal Bonding (will this month make me ready for that kind of commitment?).
Compare that to the Blizzard equivalent which rather more tamely highlighted some transmog shop items and an upcoming outage.
My plan was to settle in to character creation next, but of course being the era of always-on, there was a massive 40GB of downloading to be done. So there won’t be any playing just yet – but it won’t be long.
In other news, Classic month is ramping up in Blizzardworld1, with the news today that a universal stress test will be held on August 8 at 1100 PDT – aka 0400 August 9 for Australians.
I won’t be waking up for it, but it will be interesting to see how Blizzard’s scaling tech handles what I’m sure will be pretty much every current subscriber logging on for a poke around. And all in one zone trying to kill this guy too I suspect.
It seems clear that Blizzard are going to try to get Classic to suck up all the MMO oxygen for August. Tough month for the competition. Lucky the Blaugust crew will be keeping Blizzard honest! ↩
Blaugust has once again arrived in the gaming corner of the blogosphere, thanks to the great efforts of Belghast.
Like last year, I’m participating, and I thought that maybe I’d try my hand at a brand new game and blog my reactions and experiences – inspired partly by the highly entertaining diary Bhagpuss kept of his Star Wars: The Old Republic escapades. But not quite on the scale of UltrViolet at Endgame Viable who is planning to play no less than 31 games from his Steam backlog – one per day during Blaugust – and video the sessions to boot. Madness, but brilliant!
I’ve chosen Final Fantasy XIV Online (hereafter FFXIV), the hot-mmo-du-jour, as the victim, an icon that’s sat on my desktop untouched since buying it cheaply late 2018.
I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game of any stripe, despite owning many PlayStations – I think I even have a copy of the PS1 version of FFVII squirrelled away somewhere. So I’ll be coming into the game completely fresh, blind to the lore, and with no real idea how to play it.
There’s been plenty of chatter about the game recently, with the Shadowbringers expansion being very well received, and FFXIV apparently challenging WoW (a very cogent analysis from Kaylriene) for the MMO popularity crown. I love that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the Shadowbringers trailer, other than it all looks epic and everyone is very handsome.
Of course (late) August also bring the release of Warcraft Classic, something I’m surprisingly excited about (along with at least one of my regular Warcraft crew) and will certainly blog about. Maybe it’s not that surprising – having started in Burning Crusade, I’m thrilled to be given the chance to see the original game, janky models and all. As my fellow guildie says, it will be novel to have to really earn things again in Warcraft, instead of having loot drop like rain. Even the idea of name reservations is exciting – we live in strange times!