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2

FFXIV’s Palace of the Dead

Surprise! Some of you were thinking, "Keen mentioned playing FFXIV but then never followed up with a post so he must not be playing..." Happily -- this time -- I can say you're wrong.

I am indeed playing FFXIV.

Right now I'm somewhere close (I hope?) To Heavensward. While the story remains a real drag for the time begin, I was able to experience a neat zone called Palace of the Dead.

PotD Overview

Palace of the Dead is.... let me just quote the official website.

The Palace of the Dead is an ever-changing dungeon whose architecture is never quite the same each time players enter to explore its depths. All players will begin at level one, and only by fighting the enemies within will they be able to gain the strength and experience needed to explore its shadowy depths.
Players who choose to leave and return later can continue playing from where they last saved. We challenge all who enter to make it to the last floor!

As the description says, you enter Palace of the Dead and begin at level one. As you fight monsters, you RAPIDLY level up. I'm talking like every minute you gain a new level here for at least the first 20 levels. Character progression proceeds as normal.

You can group in PotD with any combination of classes up to four players: All dps, all tanks, all heals... the choice is yours. We went in with a tank and 2 dps.

Every ten levels you will encounter a boss fight. If you successfully defeat the boss then you can save your progress and begin next time at the next set of ten -- or if you fail halfway through fall back to that point. My understanding is a little rocky here, but I think there comes a point where if you fail you'll fall back several tiers. Like failing at 99 can drop you to 50 or something.

While progressing through levels the goal is to reach a portal that takes you to the next. This is done by unlocking the portal.

Treasures

Throughout the levels there are three types of treasure coffers and a special hoard.

Gold - Give Pomanders which are items that can be used to grant temporary buffs or remove effects or traps (more on this in a sec)

Silver - Contain Aetherpool upgrades which give your weapons in Palace of the Dead an upgrade (up to +99 to each armor and weapon)

Bronze - Potions, special items

Accursed Hoard - Hidden throughout the levels these treasure chests give

palace of the dead chests
FFXIV Palace of the Dead Pomander

Pomander

Pomander are like baubles you pick up that give a buff, reveal the map or invisible chests, transform enemies, etc. These can be extremely useful as levels become much harder or full of traps.

You can hold up to 3 of each Pomander and I believe they are stored in a shared inventory across all members of the group.​

Traps and Floor Effects

Some floors (I've been calling them levels but just realized "floors" is a more apt name) have traps or status effects. A floor might at random determine that you can not use items.

Some floors are full of traps that you can't see. Stepping on a trap might root you or disable your spells or even drop your HP to practically zero.

Some floors even have stronger enemies with a 'Gloom' mechanic.

The Map

The levels I've played so far (Up to 50) have all had a really straight-forward map. As a member of the party explores a new room it is revealed on the map for the group. Each room might have chests or mobs needed to kill to unlock the portal to the next floor.

It's a simple map concept, but it works. It feels old school.​

Palace of the Dead Map

Grouping in Palace of the Dead

You can enter PotD with up to four players. My group did the place with only 3 people. I think it scales to your party.

As I mentioned earlier, the group can comprise any class combinations​. You can enter this as a pre-formed group or use a group finder.

Fixed Party - This is when you form with friends and form a group to enter. Future trips into Palace of the Dead must be done with this party and composition meaning that it has to be the same people playing the same jobs.

Matched Party​ - This is a system where you can use the group finder. You'll be put into a party of four players. When you want to resume your progress, you'll be matched with players who reached the same floor checkpoint.

The "Deep Dungeon" System Used for Palace of the Dead

I think the system of this endless challenge dungeon is called "Deep Dungeon." There might even be a couple of them in the game, or will be soon?

I really like and support this system of PvE. I think it adds a flare to the typical mundane dungeon running and promotes group play.

I'd love to see a system like this come to future MMOs. 

4

I’m a Hero in FFXIV. I Put Perfume on Chocobos.

I haven’t had the best schedule for leveling lately, but I was able to put in some decent time working on my FFXIV MSQ’s (main story quests) a bit.

The overwhelming consensus seems to be that the original content in A Realm Reborn was full if filler quests for a few reasons:

  1. They needed filler content in quests to buy time and delay until the expansion
  2. They really din’t know what they wanted to do with the story

I totally believe it.

I had a quest last night where I was helping prep a caravan of refugees for travel. An entire quest involved one of the caravaners not liking the smell of chocobos. So I had to go get perfume, come back and apply it to the chocobos. Then I had to sniff the chocobo. Then I’m pretty sure I had to get some kind of scarf to cover his face because he still couldn’t stand the smell of chocobos. I kid you not, this is a main story quest.

Another quest was right before fighting a big primal named Leviathan. I had just witnessed an awesome cutscene, and the city of Limsa Lominsa was preparing for war. Everyone had their responsibilities… including me. A report came in that someone in a nearby town had previously fought Leviathan. That could have only been someone who was part of the original group of hero people or something, so they sent me to check it out. Turns out it was a local hillbilly who lied. I get that it’s a little funny, but really that was a main story quest to send me all the way there? Right before fighting Leviathan? Whew…

There are definitely moment when the story is better. Pretty much anything that’s voiced over feels legit and interesting. The back-and-forth ‘talk to this guy’ stuff is definitely not.

Many of you have said that the game really picks up around 2.4/2.5. I guess that’s when they start to decide what they’re doing with Heavensword?

I’m making decent progress, I think. I just beat Leviathan. I remember from a few years ago that the Primals were always my favorite part. Anyone know about how much longer I have until I reach the content that really takes off? No major spoilers, though, please!

16

My Return of Sorts to FFXIV

Between all of the games I'm playing, I had an itch to pick up FFXIV again and see how the game has evolved.

I last played back in patch... I think it was 2.1? It was basically right before the King Moggle stuff came out. I played at launch for about 3-4 months. I did the first raid. I was in that stage of grinding for gear. The game sorta sucked in terms of content. It was rather a dull grind of the game long and rather boring dungeons.

Fast forward just under 4 years and here I am back in Eorzia.

First things first, I decided to play one of the newest jobs: Red Mage.

Red Mage are typically pretty interesting to me because they mix melee and casting. Having played for a few hour already, I can tell these RDM are far more caster. I'll write up some thoughts on the class in a future poast.

What I want to focus on today is the return experience.

I'm completely lost.

I logged in and had absolutely no friggin idea what I was doing. I had no idea where to go. I had no idea how to unlock RDM. I didn't know what any of my abilities did (on my 50 White Mage).

Returning to a game like FFXIV isn't easy, but neither is returning to any MMO 4 years later.​

With the help of some friends, I was able to figure out the very, very basics. I found out where I left off in the story, and I'm pretty much just questing through those main story quests (MSQ's) as I learn the ropes again.

I was able to get a Duty group for the Good King Moggle event.​ That was sorta fun to just jump right in and kill him.

According to the FFXIV Wiki, I'm a really... really... long way from the  Heavensward and Stormblood expansions.​ I'm on the Still Waters quest. That means I am exactly EIGHTY (80) quests away from the Heavensward expansion. 

The story is incredibly confusing. I'm not the best reader to begin with, and having so much unvoiced dialog is a little tedious. Add in the lore (which I don't understand) and the names (I don't remember and can't pronounce) and it's all a little overwhelming.

Do any of you play FFXIV? Can I skip the next 80 quests? Should I? I'm worried that I won't have the stomach to push through them. I don't want the game to feel like a quest grind where I'm running from one point to the next ad nauseam.

I'm feeling a little defeated knowing that I'm still hundreds of main story quests away from even the most recent expansion.​

What I really like:

  • Sense of story in the world (despite having a hard time figuring it out)
  • The quality of life changes like pushing a button to equip your best gear
  • Hardest content in-game is done with 8 people​
  • Novice Network (channel to help returning/new players) is really helpful. Reminds me of old school MMO people being helpful.

What I wish I knew more about:

  • How to get a house - is that even something to worry about at level 50?
  • Grouping for content - is it just queueing up in the duty finder? What should I be doing if anything?
  • Best way to tackle these MSQ's and level up (so far exp at 50 isn't moving at all on these ​7th Astral Era (Patch 2.1) quests that I'm doing.

I know this post was all over the place. Sorta matches how I feel about the game right now. I welcome our insight and help as I try and make my way through these expansions.

I'm quite intrigued by what I see so far, the Red Mage class, and have hopes that at max level the end-game content has improved since launch.

11

FFXIV Progress – Finally!

I think I’m getting my second wind in FFXIV.  I actually made progress for the first time in two months by completing Titan HM which is the last step I needed for my Relic.  It took so long to obtain that I already have the Tomes of Mythology needed to Zenith (+1) my staff.

My plan now is to tackle Crystal Tower — the new “raid” added for players to gear up in prior to moving on to Coil (the original, harder raid).  Apparently CT is very doable in a PUG via the raid finder.  I tried last night to no avail for 30 minutes.  Maybe I was queueing at a bad time.  I plan to queue up tonight with guildies, and hopefully see even more progress by the end of the week.

I’ve mentioned this several times in the last few months, but I’m completely over the idea of raiding.  That’s why it took me so long to get Titan HM down.  Even in a perfectly good group with people who will carry me the whole way, I sit back and watch how they treat each other.  Everyone is uptight, rude, and easy to read as a self-interested / self-serving / self-righteous (wanna-be) elitist.  I was totally there myself a few years ago.  Gotta get that gear!  Gotta be the best!  Gotta move to the next step!  Gotta keep moving and making progress, go go go!  Sheesh.  If you really want to have a good laugh, watch the videos of the “best” raiding guilds in WoW and hear how they scream at each other.

I joined a PUG group the other day and sat there for one wipe.  As soon as we died, the bickering started.  It took maybe three whole seconds for me to log out and go do something else.  I didn’t even have to think about it.  That’s how I know I’m ready for a change.  That’s why I haven’t gone back to WoW with some of my friends.  That’s why I would rather play single-player games I got during the Steam sale.

Back to FFXIV.  I think I’ll be able to do Crystal Tower and see the mid-tier content because of how easy it is, and maybe even casually gear up some mythology stuff with tomes, but I think that’s about as far as I’ll ever get in PvE.  I’ll probably move on when EQN Landmark alpha starts.  I’d rather dig holes, chop wood, hoard supplies, and build a city.  That sounds relaxing and fun.

6

MMORPGs of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close I want to reflect back on the MMOs I played this year.  It was a weird one for MMOs, and I think this restrospective is quite telling.

Ultima Online Forever

KGC Haven First House UOF

KGC First House UOF

I began the year playing UO Forever, a player-run shard.  Practically the entire Keen and Graev Community played together, and we met a dozen new friends.  I was reminded of how glorious it is to be able to focus on nothing but gathering materials and crafting.  In its prime, UO was able to provide such a fulfilling experience to so many different playstyles.  I was one of the top crafters on the entire server, placed the very first house, and became one of the richest players with the largest merchandise selection.  The highs of building a player city, and the lows of being ganked repeatedly by other players, were a great way to start the year.  This year’s adventure in UO lasted about 3 months.

Defiance Shadow War Objectives

Defiance was a flop for us.

Defiance

Graev and I were originally uninterested in Defiance.  Then, out of nowhere, we must have been bored enough to pay attention and get interested in playing.  We played the beta for a bit, and slightly after launch, and quickly realized it wasn’t for us.  We couldn’t get past how generic the game felt, and ultimately decided not to play longer than a few weeks.  I’m pretty sure this is the way most people felt.  Neat idea, pairing with a TV series and all, but overall “meh.”

 

Project 1999

KGC in Crushbone camping the Orc Trainer.

EverQuest Project 1999

My next stop this year was yet another player-driven MMO server: EQ Project 1999. I think I played twice this year… I’m still trying to remember.  I’m positive I played back in April, but I think I went back sometime during the Summer as well.  I played as a Dwarf paladin and a Gnome Enchanter, and rekindled my love for Norrath.

Together with members of KGC, we camped Crushbone Orcs, Crocs in Oasis, Aviaks in SK, all sorts of stuff in Kunark, the bowels of Guk, Sol A, and more.  I remembered why I love games that require players to group, and why it’s so awesome to have a massive world all about PvE.

FFXIV Christmas

Keen during FFXIV’s Christmas Event

Final Fantasy XIV

FFXIV launched in August, and for the last four months has been the MMO of choice for me and the community.  FFXIV started really strong, albeit more themepark than I had hoped.  The leveling content is solid, and perhaps one of the more polished MMO experiences outside of a Blizzard product.  The class system truly embraces the themepark model by allowing one character to essentially be everything.

Where FFXIV has fallen short for me and a lot of the members in our community is the the end-game.  FFXIV focuses on raiding the same bosses over and over, and for a while had a huge leap in difficulty between the grind and hardest encounters people wanted to see.

Thankfully patch 2.1 finally came out this month which added PvP and Housing. I confess myself disappointed by the incredibly high prices for housing and dumbed-down and unbalanced PvP.  Overall, I don’t know how much longer I am going to last in FFXIV if they don’t do more to make the game about Final Fantasy instead of about being a theempark.

As you can see, 2013 was… an off year for MMOs.  It makes sense if you think about it.   This year has been entirely about waiting for the next big thing.  EverQuest Next Landmark, WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online all officially launch in 2014.

The best things to come out of MMOs for me in 2013 were the friends I’ve made.  I’ve made at least a dozen new friends — most now a big part of our gaming community — and hope to continue playing with them for many years to come.  That’s why I play MMOs, and even in a year like 2013 it’s nice to know that people still make these games worth playing.

I’m curious to hear your impressions of 2013’s MMOs.  What did you play?

7

FFXIV Patch 2.1

FFXIV Patch 2.1 launches tomorrow.  Tonight the game is offline in preparation, and our community (KGC) is preparing to go in and enjoy ourselves.  We were a bit shocked this week to learn that housing prices are… a tad out of our range.  We have been preparing for the last few months diligently to raise the funds necessary to buy the biggest guild house.  We figured something like 20-30 million would be realistic.  Turns out, the housing we want costs 100,000,000+ Gil.   To say we are disappointed is an understatement.

Most of us have stuck it out in FFXIV for housing and the hope that one day there will be neat Final Fantasy themed content.  If we’re unable to get the house we want, we’ll have to settle for a smaller house, PvP arenas, and some of the small-group dungeons.

Some of the neat features I think are worth noting:

Level 50s doing low level dungeons will be able to make as much gil as when doing high level dungeons.

Bottom line, I love when themepark games make things more accessible and thempark’y.  I wish every dungeon in the game gave max-level players the loot they want.  Why not?  Why not scale dungeon difficulty and drop tokens? If I want to go to Disneyland and ride Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain all day long, that’s my prerogative.  Disney doesn’t tell me I can only ride it twice, or at the beginning or end of my day.  I know it’s an awful example, and the themepark metaphor can only be carried so far, but that’s my MMO themepark philosophy.

Holy was nerfed because speedrunners placed a lot of pressure on White Mages to DPS. Healers are healers, not DPSers.

This one’s pretty funny.  I’m a White Mage, and rarely did speed runs, but I still felt pressured to holy spam.  I say remove it altogether.  I love well-defined class roles.

Tomorrow I’m going to try out the PvP and give you my impressions along with housing (if we get one) and other changes.  Stay tuned!

11

Update on Final Fantasy XIV

It’s been a while since I gave you guys an update on where I’m at in Final Fantasy XIV.  I think the last time I wrote I was in the middle of what is still considered the be the “end-game.”  I’m sad to say I haven’t made much progress. Over the last month I really lost the drive to do any end-game activities like push to progress into an overly difficult raid tear, or repeat the same dungeons ad nauseam.

FFXIV’s biggest failing in my eyes has been its attempt to  try and fit a mold.  Players have been conditioned for so many years to look for certain things like raiding and gear treadmills.  When those things aren’t present, the players think that a game without them can’t possibly exist.  By creating a game that appeals to that demographic, they closed the door on a demographic that I belong to: The people who simply don’t give a […] and just want to log in and have fun doing something that’s simple to jump in and jump out with friends.  That’s why I play themepark MMOs.

A big question I’ve been kicking around in my head is whether or not FFXIV is a 3 monther.  There are MMOs created with massive design flaws and are destined to be 3 monthers.  Then there are games like FFXIV that didn’t have to be 3 monthers, but fell into that category due to a lack of things to do at the end-game.  So yes, FFXIV is technically a 3 monther.  The development of new content has been really slow coming.  I think it’s been a month of sitting around wishing they would add something I want to do.

That’s an important distinction to make.  There are some 3 monthers where I simply lose all desire to play the game.  In FFXIV’s case, I definitely want to keep playing but I want to do things that sound fun to me.  I came up with a bunch of ideas like Gold Saucer, Chocobo Races, and content like FF Tactics.  I’ve even talked about wanting to fly around in an airship and control it with friends.  While those things may eventually come, they aren’t coming quick enough.

FFXIV-Housing

Thankfully housing comes in like 2 weeks.  That will bring a much needed change of pace for me.  Instead of logging in each day to simply craft and make money, I can log in and decorate my guild’s house and have ways other than combat and dungeons to interact with my friends.

I’m hoping for more activities that feel like Final Fantasy, and less that feel like they are designed simply to keep the raiders playing.  FFXIV isn’t a very good raiding game, I think it should stop trying to be one.  Despite any current success it may enjoy, going down this path for too much longer will lock them into a short-term strategy from which they can’t recover.

My fingers are crossed that the upcoming major patch changes things up enough that I want to play alts, work on a house, and feel like I’m playing Final Fantasy.  I want a Final Fantasy world where players want to simply ‘exist’ instead of ‘play-through’ everything.

11

How to bring more Final Fantasy into FFXIV Content

FFXIV dungeons and content in general are very mechanic based.  Move out of fire, avoid cone attacks, remove a debuff, and DPS before insta-kill move triggers are prevalent.  Although very much a themepark MMO, one of the attributes blatantly missing from FFXIV dungeons is the use of the Final Fantasy theme.

There are tons of great Final Fantasy themed events and dungeons I have rolling around in my head.  Instead of just being about killing trash monsters to get to the next boss, the ‘dungeon’ could be an ‘experience’ to play through. Heck, who’s to say they even have to be like dungeons at all?

FF1 iOSTurn-based Combat
A dungeon, a boss, or simply an event could be played out entirely in turn-based combat just like the traditional Final Fantasy style.  The enemies would be on the left and your party could be staggered on the right.  Each player would take a turn to using abilities.

Random Encounters
Another throwback idea is randomly being jumped by a group of monsters as you make your way through a dungeon.  Maybe mix in the overworld monsters making contact to start battles.  This mechanic can be implemented somehow to be a lot of fun in a upcoming dungeon.

FF TacticsFinal Fantasy Tactics
Tactics uses a movement grid.  Characters take turns moving on the grid and receive bonuses based on where they are positioned (terrain, position, etc).  It’s like traditional FF combat with movement on a grid.

Active Time Battle System
In a ATB system everyone has a gauge and once the gauge fills up.  Once full, it’s your turn.  This could take into affect skill speed and let players strategically have to use their bar. This adds a depth to the turn-based system and could also be a lot of fun.

ff7 chocobo raceChocobo Battle Race
Not every dungeon has to be about traditional combat.  Here’s an idea going outside of the box a bit more.  What if the entire ‘dungeon’ was a race on the back of chocobos.  Players could obtain powerups to fire off at each other and simply have a lot of fun racing at high speeds.  I see it being really similar to Mario Kart.  The winner could get some tokens or something.

Arena Fight
In Final Fantasy 7’s Golden Saucer there’s an arena that players can enter to battle monsters..  Square could always add specific mechanics to the fights like “don’t do X” or “only do Y” to spice things up and make the battles not just normal combat in a confined space. Introduce new mobs every week or month and adding different battle mechanics is a great way to keep simple content like this interesting.  Playing through the different arena battles could give all sorts of prizes ranging for vanity items to tomes.  We know they’re working on adding the Golden Saucer anyway so this is a perfect opportunity.

This is the type of content I would add to FFXIV if I was in charge. Out of the box ideas meant to excite and get players eager to do more than run through dungeons repeatedly.  More ‘Final Fantasy’ and less ‘MMO mechanics’.  Thoughts? Ideas of your own you think would make for great content in FFXIV?

4

FFXIV End-game Update

Keen in Darklight ArmorI’ve been doing the “end-game”, or what is currently available in the end-game of FFXIV, for a couple of weeks now.

The common sentiment is that Square may have rushed things a bit.  To get ready for doing true end-game activities one must run the same two dungeons over and over.  One of those dungeons is a story dungeon, which causes a rift between those who want to speed run and those who want to watch cutscenes.

Grinding CM and AK  (the two dungeons) yields tokens which can be redeemed for gear.  The gear is really only needed to complete part of the Relic Weapon quest, then advance into the only “raid” currently available: Coil of Bahamut.

Right now I’m still in the “taking it slow” phase. I run 2-3 AK’s a day (30 min each) and collect tokens to redeem for gear I’ll need to comfortably slay Titan and Garuda Hardmode.

Can it improve? Yes.  I wrote only a few days ago that a variety of dungeons wouldn’t hurt.  Adding two or three more would be a great start.  Speeding up the Duty Finder would also go a long way.

What I’m not suggesting is enhancing the gear grind.  Some people are recommending a faster vertical climb.  Me?  I think a nice horizontal progression would be much better.  More dungeon options, lots of gear in the same tier, and a long, long time before I have to worry about replacing the gear I just worked hard to earn.

Long story short, it’s not bad.  Having played on a few hours a night, I’m only a couple of weeks away from being able to do the hardest content.  That’s very reasonable.

Update: Patch 2.05 is bringing a great deal of change.  A lot of what has been bugging me and others about the end-game is being addressed.  All the details. Continue reading

19

Improving Themepark MMO Dungeons

utgarde keep themepark MMO dungeonsI’ve done thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of dungeon runs in themepark MMOs, and they all seem to suffer from some of the same issues.

  • Repeating the same dungeon over and over
  • Too many trash pulls and not enough bosses
  • Encounter variety and mechanics are always the same

In themepark MMOs the gearing or experience systems inevitably involve running the same dungeon(s) many, many times.  Right now In FFXIV I am running Ampador Keep repeatedly over nad over because it is the only dungeon to offer me both Philosophy and Mythology Tomestones (tokens to buy gear) at a reasonable rate.  It takes ~35 minutes to complete, and then I go back through.  World of Warcraft is the same way.  In WotLK I think I ran Utgarde Keep 750+ times.

Knowing that this system of repeating dungeons isn’t going to change, one solution would be to increase the number of dungeons available.  I want 10 or more dungeon options, each providing a different atmosphere just so that I don’t have to stare at the same walls every time.

Dungeons are inundated with trash mobs.  Sometimes they are difficult, but for the most part they act as a time sink or busy work to limit the number of times a boss can be killed.  First, I would remove 50-75% of the trash mobs.  The remaining pulls I would want to be entirely unique.  I hate having to pull 5 groups of mobs and have that group be the same each pull.

I would love a bit of randomness thrown into the mix.  I think that’s the best part about sandbox or open-world dungeons.  Although I’m sitting in the same dungeon, in the same room, day in and day out, at least there’s a chance of something unique happening if a train goes by or something completely random and out of my control occurs.  Maybe have bosses utilize random mechanics, or have the trash mob composition change.  Anything to change it up so that I’m not always standing to the side of a mob or avoiding his breath every time I fight him.

One of the biggest changes I would love to see in Themepark dungeon design would be to add way more bosses.  I think a dungeon full of nothing but boss fights would be fantastic.  Other variables can be adjusted to make up for it.

Themepark design may be here to stay, and it may be the easy route for developers to go, but there’s still a great deal of ways to improve the execution and delivery.

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