A Statement on the Gaming Community, or the Chun Li-Bison Dichotomy

Elementalistly took to writing what I consider to be a spirited discourse on why the MMO community is beginning to disappoint him, and while I understand his sentiments, I cannot say I completely agree with him.

While I won’t try to refute all his points (another writer, Nightwreath of Massively Multiverse, seems to have done that ahead of anyone else), I do wish to point out something I’ve noticed about the gaming community at large.

By some measures, it can be said that there is a significantly larger number of gamers now as compared to during gaming’s infancy. Comparatively speaking, the number of people playing MMORPGs during the Everquest I era were far fewer when placed against the era of World of Warcraft’s dominance. Couple that with the fact that console gaming is a significantly larger enterprise now when compared to gaming on personal computers, and you have the stirrings of a large console gaming base that could potentially spill onto or share commonalities with the fanbase of MMORPG games.

That said, there is one thing that made me think when I read Elementalistly’s post, and that had something to do with what I call the Chun Li -Bison Dichotomy.

During the latter half of Street Fighter: The Movie, we are introduced to Raul Julia’s famous conversation with Ming-na, set as a confrontation between M. Bison and Chun Li:

Chun-Li: It was twenty years ago. You hadn’t promoted yourself to general yet. You were just a petty drug lord. You and your gang of murderers gathered your small ounce of courage to raid across the border for food, weapons, slave labor…my father was the village magistrate. A simple man with a simple code: justice. He gathered the few people that he could to stand against you. You and your bullies were driven back by farmers with pitchforks! My father saved his village at the cost of his own life. You had him shot as you ran away! A hero… at a thousand paces.

M. Bison: I’m sorry… I don’t remember any of it.

Chun-Li: You don’t remember?!

M. Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday.

The Chun Li-Bison dichotomy is the term I use for the situation wherein two entities have a disconnect over the perceived value of a particular event.  The analogy holds firm in the face of two masses of gamers, and this is where the main discussion point begins.
I feel that Elementalistly fails to take into account not only the overlaps between the console and PC gaming communities, but also the inherent perceived value individual players have over what makes a game worthwhile to spend time on.

My awkward reference to a game being “worthwhile to spend time on” is written specifically to avoid confusion and to necessitate a thought process with the reader. One person will find a game is worthwhile to spend time on because of a variety of factors that will potentially differ from the next person. In my personal case, a game is worthwhile to spend time on if it provides me with an experience that I can lose myself in temporarily, regardless of whether I “finish” the game or complete my objective or not. For another person, a game may be worthwhile to spend time on because it allows for decidedly short-term bursts of entertainment or amusement.  For yet another, a game is worthwhile to spend time on because of the achievements and recognition one can get from mastering it.

The MMO community at large has changed from the time of Ultima Online. The Community is no longer a few thousand strong but is, instead, a society of millions connected by different games. To say that the MMO community is disappointing seems to presuppose that everyone places the same value on a game one holds dear when compared to other available games, when most games are, as Elementalistly would put it, damn fine games.

If a game has provided a person with what he needs and values most in his leisure, then that should be enough, and few should remain disappointed if they have enjoyed their time, found their personal tastes to be more attuned towards something else, and moved on. If a person has found a game wanting and moved on, respecting that others may find a game more to their liking than he, then is he not an upstanding member of the gaming community at large for being mature enough to cut ties cleanly without blaming someone for purchasing something that ultimately did not agree with him, regardless of how much or how little time he spent playing the game?

It is only when one sounds the death knell of hostile criticism and negativity upon leaving that I become concerned for the well-being of a community. With that point, I must say, if we took negativity from all comers as a sign of the impending doom of the things we love, then what are we truly left with other than disconcerting emotions and an utterly useless Street Fighter: The Movie analogy?

Delaying Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look Part 3 due to Patch Day

I was supposed to put up a third installment of the Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look today, but it seems Square Enix had other plans for me.

The development team for Final Fantasy XIV finished their scheduled maintenance a few hours ago with the implementation of an incremental patch known as Patch 1.17a.

According to the information posted on the Lodestone, this patch adds new sidequests and a new means of acquiring rewards and skill points for players. Known as the Guild Tasks Board, the system will apparently allow players to perform missions for the guilds of Eorzea. Finding the required items and turning them into the proper NPC will yield rewards and skill points for the active class at the time when the task is completed.

In addition to some bug fixes and system tweaks, the patch also includes a stylistic element, providing a 3-D visual notice when one is in a group with four or more members.

The full patch notes can be found at the link posted above, and I will update the third part of my extended look, namely a feature on the current state of questing in-game, once I’ve investigated the Guild Tasks Board and tried it out for myself.

Nintendo Officially Confirms Successor to the Wii

Kotaku reports that Nintendo sent out a release earlier today which confirmed the rumors that the company would be coming out with a new console.

While the new console has no official name yet, the announcement (which you can see the English version of above) states that the new console will be shown at the E3 expo in Los Angeles in June.

Furthermore, the announcement reads, “Sales of the new system have not been included in the financial forecasts announced today for the fiscal term ending March 2012.” This certainly begs the question, “When will it go on sale?” We’ll probably have to wait for E3 to know more, so until then, sit tight!

Image Source: Kotaku

Crafting and Economics: A Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look, Part 2

Let me say this to start: Crafting for 30 minutes without stopping can wear me out faster than a 14-hour marathon of general gaming. It is either due to the process of repeated crafting being boring or relaxing, but I have trouble telling which one it is when I manage to slump in my seat.

That said, I would like to begin this installment of my Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV by talking about crafting and the economics of the game at present.

Final Fantasy XIV’s system is what I’d call an active crafting system rather than a passive one. In active crafting systems, the crafting process does not assure you of success, so you have to be vigilant during the crafting process so as to maintain success throughout the attempt to make something.

While I won’t go into the specifics of the crafting system here, as I just linked a basic crafting guide for you, it can be said that Final Fantasy XIV crafting is a very involving and time-consuming process, not only because each crafting attempt takes time to complete, but also because finding materials with which to complete usable tools, weapons, and armor can be rather daunting.

In the first case, each crafting attempt, whether it is successful or not, gives you skill points that eventually rank up your skill at the given craft. While the skill leveling process is the same for all character types, it’s only in the gathering and crafting classes that failed attempts to acquire a new product can give you some amount of progress. That said, however, it still takes a lot of crafting to get anywhere in this game, unless you use your local levequest allotment to offset the slow nature of the attempts.

Individual crafters are rarely able to produce items relative to their level. To make a spear, for example, you will not only need abilities in crafting the wooden shaft and the spear head (Carpenty and Blacksmithing, respectively). You will also have to procure items that can only be done by people who’ve surpassed that level in a different craft (such as armorcrafting or alchemy), as a higher level item from a seemingly unrelated profession is usually required in order to make the final product.

This ties in somewhat to the economy of Final Fantasy XIV. Whereas most gamers are probably used to auction house systems, Final Fantasy XIV has a bazaar and personal shop system that allows you to hire a retainer who will sell goods on the market for you in addition to selling items on your own personal bazaar. The game is designed to not be a soloist’s affair, because if you want to make something worth using, being in a linkshell (the equivalent of a guild) or rummaging through the packs of other players and their retainers in the Market Wards of capital cities is part of the game.

Recent developments have made the process easier , though still less convenient than what people are used to. You can now search for specific items available in Market Wards and can track down retainers who sell sell it the cheapest, but you’ll still need to go into individual wards to get the item from the retainer. It’s a bit disjointed, to be honest, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle to playing the game.

The thing I like about all this running about and craft grinding though is that for a goal-oriented person like myself, I can actually see myself progress, and I can pace myself according to my own needs or desires. If the crafting is tiring me out but I am so close to leveling up, I can push myself a little harder. If I’ve used a guild hall’s facilities to get a boost to my crafting success rate, then I feel more inclined towards using that time dedicated to improving  a particular trade.

What this does mean, however, is that I have slow progression for any individual trade. On the other hand, I do have a ton of experience now in trying and mastering the synthesis process for different crafts,  as well as an increasing stock of knowledge acquired from referring to recipes for the various tradeskills. That, and I’m far more savvy now in finding bargains than I used to be seven days ago.

In any event, what I deem to be a relaxing and somewhat fulfilling experience can be seen by others as a bit of a pain, but in my opinion, the struggle to maintain your composure on a difficult synthesis attempt coupled with a rousing success gets the adrenaline pumping and brings a smile to my face.

Check back tomorrow for part three of this Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV!

My Return to Eorzea: A Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look, Part 1

Victor Stillwater of Lindblum

In a couple of hours, I will have spent seven days playing Final Fantasy XIV. They were probably not the best-spent hours of my life, but they were fulfilling, relaxing hours, nevertheless.

I’m going to try writing this return to Final Fantasy XIV with fresh eyes, so I shall not be referencing my previous write-ups much. Needless to say though, I’m happy for one marked difference between my last time playing the game and my current stay in Eorzea: Exclamation Marks pointing to story quest givers and important people that need to be talked to for levequests.

Moving on…

Upon reactivating my account and logging into the game, I realized that playing the game in the manner I used to (mainly carpentering my butt off and doing more crafting than anything else) would not work, so I tried the other approach, which was to create a character that started off as a Disciple of War (in this case, a Lancer) and branched out from there.

This approach worked rather well, primarily because within the first few hours of my stay in the game, I had amassed 100,000 gil for basically talking to someone. As it so happened, I found out that my entry was rather well-timed, as they had just released a patch that introduced a new event for people to enjoy.

This new event, known as Hatching Tide, tasks players with talking to an NPC in one of the capital cities and getting an egg from that NPC every couple of hours (possibly 12). Collect a specific combination of four eggs (Lightning, Earth, Water, and Archon eggs), and turn them in to an NPC beside the egg-giver, and you would be rewarded with a spiffy egg cap that you could use as protective headgear.

I didn’t pay much heed to the quest text because I realized that I could sell the eggs for starter money, and so the first thing I did was put the first egg I got up for sale for (this is a pittance, but enough to purchase starter weapons and tools for every class) for 100,000 Gil.

A few hours later, I had enough starter money to get myself acquainted with all the classes.

Forgetting one of the quirks of the game, I attempted to alt-tab to read up on what I could do with the money and caused the game to forcibly shut down. Alt-Tabbing out of the full-screened version of the game shuts the game down, but using the configuration program to set it to windowed mode resolved that issue, though it’s a minor annoyance that I have to drag the window up a bit every time I want to see the XP values for my skills and physical level.

In any event, my stay in Eorzea included trying out every profession in the game save for the magic schools and the archer class, and I generally found my way without much trouble, since I could alt-tab and research on class skill synergy.

During this seven-day stay of mine, I contacted The Star Onions, a linkshell I was a part of during the pre-release phase, and found they were currently based on the Lindblum server. They let me into the linkshell, and I enjoyed asking questions a newcomer would normally ask, to which they would either answer promptly and politely, or remind me that there’s actually a database now for recipes and other information called Yellow Gremlin.

Combined with Eorzeapedia, a smattering of assorted guides created by players, and a gathering profession spreadsheet that outlined the actual use of notches in Disciple of the Land gathering procedures, I set out to become a strong warrior and a master item crafter.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV.

On “Bad” Games, Pricing Models, and the Feeling of Fun

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing - a "bad" game or simply not fun for a majority?

I was reading Beau Hindman’s latest Free for All column earlier and a thought occurred to me that I wanted to put in writing. In Hindman’s post, he was, in part, discussing how the free-to-play movement can be seen as the latest experiential phenomenon to take hold to the world of MMO gaming.

While free-to-play games have had a long-standing history in the realm of MMO titles available to the world, there’s been this stigma that a free-to-play MMO is is some sort of lesser being in the realm of gaming, that it is relegated to the realm of “inferior” products. We know now, through experiencing various MMO pricing models and hybrids of such models of payment, that high-quality and “less-than-high-quality” MMOs can be found in all points of the pricing spectrum.

Now, you may have noticed that I’ve placed quotation marks on some of the negative modifiers in the previous paragraph, and there’s a good reason for that. It all goes back to my personal belief that I, as an individual, have my own preferences and mindsets in life and I cannot truly say that one thing is absolutely abhorrent for everyone. Even the basic ideas of death and poverty or the basic emotions of joy and sadness are so wildly divergent in what they mean to people (such as in terms of what constitutes certain ideas, or what triggers an emotion).

As such, a corollary to my personal belief would be that the “bad” game does not exist. There are simply games that fewer people enjoy and games that a larger group of people enjoy. The sweeping generalizations that Syp recently talked about regarding gaming have to be taken out if we are to better understand why people can feel similar emotions when faced with completely different and possibly opposing stimuli.

For instance, let us take stock of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV and Trion Worlds’ Rift.

When I first installed Final Fantasy XIV on my computer, I played for four or five hours and pretty much left the game entirely because it did not capture my attention. Information on the game and its various activities was scarce, and if you were the type of gamer who honed his skills on World of Warcraft, the lack of question marks to indicate quest givers would drive you insane.

On the other hand, when I first heard of Rift and played the beta, I was also not thoroughly impressed, until launch grew closer and I realized it was essentially a highly polished and technically proficient game with an intriguing storyline. If you check my Rift articles here on Games and Geekery, you’ll notice I meander between thinking the game is “meh” and thinking the game is awesome for having tanks that can self-heal.

If you fast forward to last week though, you’ll notice I barely posted anything. The simple response to this is that Rift could not hold my attention and I was madly searching for a game to occupy my free time. On Saturday evening, I decided to play Final Fantasy XIV again on a whim. I created a new character, rolled on a new server, and looked for the old guild I was chatting with online about the game. I played FFXIV for, as it happens, 14  hours straight that day (a feat that only happened once previously when I went raiding in vanilla WoW).

This week, I was reading through other blogs, and Elementalistly’s entry on how he feels about Rift kind of got to me. It wasn’t that I was offended by his post. Quite the opposite really.

You see, I was beginning to feel the exact same thing he felt when it came to Rift, only I was experiencing what he was feeling with Final Fantasy XIV, the game Elementalistly and I once both found to be less than stellar.

When I compare the two games on a purely technical level, I find Rift to be a clear leader in terms of customer-centric accessibility and polish. Final Fantasy XIV is not perfect, and still remains free-to-play so long as Square Enix deems the game to be in a state that is below their standard of what a good game should be.

Despite this, however, I know that there are people like myself who currently feel about Final Fantasy XIV the same way that Elementalistly feels about Rift. We’re all having fun in the games our preferences and predilections lead us to, and it shouldn’t matter how much you play, how much you pay, or how off-beat your tastes are.

The important thing is that you are happy with what you’re doing, whether it’s when you’re playing an MMORPG, when you’re writing that fantasy novel masterpiece about the adventurous marmot with nunchaku, or when you’re enjoying Direct TV Specials in the comfort of your home.

Mythos Hits Open Beta, Still has Kinks…

So the Open Beta of Mythos is supposed to be today, and it’s either in Closed Beta or Open Beta right now.

I was looking forward to giving open beta a go, but after downloading and installing the client (a 1GB download, I might add), I found myself unable to play the game.

It seems that some folks, myself included, are unable to run the patcher or the client for the game. Despite reinstalling the game and changing the compatibility settings for it, the game appears to be stuck with nothing more than a horizontal off-white bar to indicate that it started doing something…


Apparently, waiting eight minutes for the patcher to actually load did the trick on my end after setting the compatibility to Windows XP SP3. Not exactly an ideal solution, but I’ll take it for now. Let’s see if we can patch this up and get to testing.

It Feels Like a Horrible Time to be a Writer (or What More Can I Learn?)

One of the great difficulties in having a skill is the idea of being stuck with that skill as a primary means of livelihood in a time when the skill can grow quickly obsolete and require additional skills to shore it up.

That, I feel, is the current issue plaguing writers at the moment, regardless of where they come from or what audience they write for.

I love writing. I love discussing various topics in detail and using my words to bring meaning to others as regards the things I understand, or to ask important questions to things I don’t understand. Recently, while tackling my postgraduate degree in education and growing steadily disconcerted with the nature of my new job, I realized that if there’s something I want to get paid for, then it’s to get paid to write something. Maybe not just anything, but something that I understand and am good at, or at least, something where I feel I can be of help to others.

The problem with this mindset, nice as it is, is that the digital world likes people who can do more than one thing. For instance, if I had photo-editing skills, I could do both and have a better chance at getting a job writing. If I knew how to build websites, I could do both, and yes, I would get a better chance at getting a job writing.

My dilemma is that I don’t think I have any additional skills that would be connected directly to writing that could be marketable in this day and age, unless you count this strange ability I have to be diplomatic (or, in other words, to be able to look at multiple viewpoints) when writing, which I’m guessing isn’t that special.

This counts as horrible timing, basically, because I decided, after two weeks of formally doing calls, that I couldn’t handle the strain, and tendered my resignation (effective on the first week of May). I lack prospects, I lack funds, but I’m not lacking in the ability to learn.

Perhaps my fellow bloggers can help me out in this department. Do you happen to know of any skills I should consider learning to make my writing ability more marketable. Can you suggest sites to visit to learn how to make websites, or an SEO training course, or some other sort of training?

Looking at it from an MMO perspective, I’ve put most of my talent points into writing, so what should I off-spec as to make a dent against that big bad boss known as impending unemployment?

On The Dungeon Siege Bundle of Theoretical Awesomeness

The Dungeon Siege III Bundle on Steam is theoretically awesome.

You get three games for the price of one, and can basically play out the (somewhat meager) story that comes through in the first and second games.

Of course, it’s never really that simple, as you’re playing two rather old games, and it’s been nearly six years since the  second Dungeon Siege game came out.


Here are some factoids on what you will not get if you go purchase the Dungeon Siege III bundle, like I did.

1. You will not get multiplayer. This is stated prior to anyone even thinking of purchasing the game.

2. You will not get the expansion for Dungeon Siege II.

3. You (possibly) will not get to play Dungeon Siege I on your brand spanking new computer, though this appears to have been remedied somewhat, if the Steam forums are any indication.

Personally, I want to see if Dungeon Siege 2  is any fun to play, but that’s just me.