Monday, April 13, 2015

[WoW] Speculation Station - The Legendary Ring Proc

[Update: This is the old version, not the new one the devs released via Twitter]

So the 6.2 PTR dropped and with it came a plethora of goodies. One of which was the datamined versions of the Legendary Ring. As with all things datamined, take with horse-sized grain of salt. It's fun to speculate, though.

The rings come with extremely interesting procs, ones which at first blush I thought were screwing over small groups. But after more though, I think they're interesting and don't necessarily completely hose smaller groups.


The DPS Rings
The DPS rings (and healer ring) have a fascinating Equip effect:
The Arcane powers of the ring empowers one <Strength|Agility|Intellect|Spirit> Band wearer in your group, transferring to a new wearer every 12 sec. When empowered, you gain 10% increase <Stuff> per <Strength|Agility|Intellect|Spirit> Band in your group.
So, questions already:
  • Does this have 100% uptime? By the text it doesn't seem like a proc, just an effect that bounces forever.
  • Will it cycle through all members once and restart at random? Or does it only not repeat back-to-back bounces (ie: can't bounce to yourself)?
  • If it has 100% uptime, can it bounce to yourself if nobody else is around (ie: you have a constant 12 second buff)?
  • If it isn't 100% uptime, how is the proc determined?
  • It mentions <Strength|Agility|Intellect|Spirit> Band. Does that mean people wearing the non-Legendary versions of this get the effect still, meaning you only need 1 ring of each type in your raid? Or does it really mean Legendary only?
  • Text says "Group". For raids, is it raid-wide, or really only your group?
Another interesting piece of the puzzle is the buff goes up the more rings you have in your group. At first blush this sounds like it's hosing small raids. I mean, 3 Strength Band users, 30% buff. 6 Strength Band users, 60% buff. But since the buff jumps to a new person every 12 seconds and only 1 such buff exists across the group, it's in effect a 10% buff to your total DPS (assuming no repeats).

1 Player = 10% buff for 12 seconds.
2 Players = 20% buff for 12 seconds each, so +20% for 12s, +0% for 12s. 10% overall.
3 Players = 30% buff for 12 seconds each, so +30% for 12s, +0% for 24s. 10% overall.
...
8 Players = 80% buff for 12 seconds each, so +80% for 12s, +0% for 84s. 10% overall.

The trick, however, is that the bigger your 12 second buff, the more you can game it with cooldowns. But if you're not the first person picked for the buff, do you wait? The longer you wait, the less often you use your cooldowns. If you only have a couple people in the raid, you might as well wait. 12 seconds isn't that long a time. Heroism/Bloodlust will still be up. You might want that last 20 seconds of lust to line up though, so if you don't get it second, it might be better to damn the torpedoes and blow everything. But if you're the first or second player to get an 80% buff? Daaaaamn, your numbers are gonna look good.

The overlap with Heroism/Bloodlust might be sufficient to edge this proc in the favour of larger groups still, as you only have a limited Window, and the 10% overall estimate is dependent on a long period of time. Buffs in general tend to have a multiplicative effect; hence why it's so lucrative to blow them all at once in-line with Heroism, barring burst phase requirements.

However, this is going to screw up parsers so badly that comparisons across the tier is going to be difficult if/once these start proliferating. Which might be an added benefit to Blizzard. If parses are hosed, then people can't really complain, because they just don't know.


Of course, initial PTR and all that jazz. Is this the final form of the ring? Almost definitely not. As Watcher says, avoid reading too much into it. But it's fun to speculate. It'll be interesting to see how this evolves! #WoW, #Theorycraft, #Legendary

[IndieDev] Eon Altar Developer Video Blogs: Muran the Battlemage


Over the past couple weeks my coworkers have put together some video blogs on how one of our player characters, Muran, went from concept to bad-ass battlemage. The videos will give some insights as to the processes behind designing a player character in our game, and show off a number of different aspects of game creation. I highly recommend taking a look!



Concept Art


Combat Design


3D Art & Game Writing


UI & VFX


Audio & QA


Sadly I'm not in any of them. As a developer rather than an artist or designer I'm not really involved in the minutia of characters. Oh, sure, the underlying systems that allow the artists and designers to create these characters in our game, but nothing specific to Muran herself. Still, it's exciting to see the stuff our team's been doing!
#IndieDev, #EonAltar, #GameDesign

Thursday, April 9, 2015

[WoW] Making Gold From Nothing - Theorycrafting the WoW Token

One of the things that Blizzard did to try and prevent speculation of the WoW Token market was make the Token non-transferable. You can only use it, or sell it on the AH. That way you can't buy a bunch of them with gold at a low point, and re-sell them at a high point. But if you're planning on being subscribed regardless, you can basically treat your subscription time as a sort of holding tank for game time.


The WoW Token nailed a low of 20.3k, and I said to myself, "Screw it, close enough to 20k, let's buy me some time." I dropped 121.8k gold and boom, now have 6 months of game time applied to my account. Not too shabby. And totally lucked out. A friend of mine tried to get some when I told him the cost was rising again, and they were sold out. Makes me wonder if a lot of people said the same thing as I did and cleared the AH.

However, I started thinking about it. Subscription time is ~$15 a month. What if I bought $90 worth of tokens and sold them at a higher gold value? If the gold value was high enough, I'd actually make gold that way. I mean, if I'm going to be subscribed for sure regardless, I'm not losing any money. If the price doesn't go up, I nabbed time for gold, and I win. If the price does go up, I can buy that subscription time worth of Tokens and get that gold back and more.

Basically, using my subscription time as the purchase value for stock in gold. Granted, I probably don't want to do this too much. Doesn't make me a thing if I decide I don't want to play anymore and I'm stuck with Tokens. But that's the trick, right? Purchasing Tokens with gold when they're low, I can just sit them in my inventory and not use them, and they've significantly increased the number of tokens you can purchase with gold. When I'm ready to play again, I can use them! As far as I can tell, they don't have an expiry. And I don't pay out actual cash money until I'm ready to convert it back to gold. Win-win to me.

So for the 6 months I bought at 20.3k a piece, how much does it need to be to break even? I spent 121.8k gold, and 4.5 Tokens is worth $90 (more on that in a moment), so to break even the value needs to be 27.07k. Granted, I can't buy half a token, so really I'd just buy 4 and save myself $10, or buy 5, spend $10, and get more gold.

But if I wait for the Token to be say, 40k? 5 Tokens would net me 200k, so I'd have gained 80k gold. If I wait and the price goes up to 60k per Token, I'll have netted a profit of 180k gold. All for the low, low price of $10 (and I'll be locked in on my subscription time for that 6 months, basically). Hell, I can use this as a server transfer for cash just by purchasing the WoW Token for cash money on a different server/faction and selling it there.

It's not a quick strategy for gold, for sure. This is a waiting game. It may never even pay out if the Token sits around 25k - 30k. It really has to jump to make it worthwhile. And because Blizzard's algorithm seems to prevent the cost from rising more than 1%ish every few hours, there's no real way to flip this in short order. We're talking the order of days, maybe weeks. It's hard to tell. But I do say I got really lucky with nabbing 6 Tokens for the lowest possible price. And hey, like I said earlier, at worst I have 6 months of game time for 120k gold. That's just fine by me. #WoW, #WoWToken

[FFXIV] Theorycrafting Vitality and Hit Points

So given I haven't done much theorycrafting in FFXIV yet, I wanted to start with something pretty simple: What's the relationship between HP and Vitality? I found pretty well only a single thread about it on Reddit, and it seemed easy enough to verify. Heck, that thread didn't go quite as far as I wanted, which is to say get base values for classes/jobs, races, etc.

First, a caveat: technically I've only done this work for PLD (as it's the only class I have at 50). I asked some friends and FC-mates to get naked with a sword to help shore up my findings with more numbers, which is always an interesting question. "Hi there, I'd like you to get naked. For Science."

Actually, it was pretty amusing to sit in the Ul'dah markets and take my clothes off, then put them back on one piece at a time, then take them off again, and so on. I had a few folks stop and stare at me for a bit, before moving on. I guess they assumed I was being hacked?

But doing some basic Health<->VIT ratio calculations showed that it wasn't precisely a X:Y ratio. It might've been linear, but there's a base value hidden. Taking off some gear, calculating my HP/VIT would give me a different answer than with all my gear. I needed to derive that base value and where it was coming fro, and that required knowledge of every variable.

Bonus Vitality

My first order of business was to figure out how Bonus Vitality worked. Given that's a pretty big question for tanks in what exactly are you trading by taking less VIT and putting it into STR? If I wanted to answer one question and one question alone, that's a pretty big one. And I can get at least half the answer.

So I got naked, with no gear at all, and no PLD soul (so I was a level 50 GLA), and took samples. I'd mark my health, give a bonus VIT, and repeat. Here's the raw data:



Looks like 14.5 per point of VIT to me. And that held when I put my PLD soul back on. Nothing too difficult here.

Vitality from Gear

Next was to check how much health we get from gear VIT. Is it the same as Bonus VIT, or not? One might assume it would be, but I didn't want to make assumptions. I wanted to know for sure. So I bought some started gear, and figured out the early stuff, then I just slapped on end-game gear and interpolated from there:



So 14.5 HP per VIT again. Good! That makes things nice and easy. And confirms the Reddit thread.

Vitality from Race

This is where things got a little naked. I gathered data for Sea Wolf Roegadyn, Highlander Hyur, and Seeker of the Sun Mi'Qote:



From the data, if we assume that the racial VIT is 14.5 HP, since everything else has been, ideally then once we subtract it all, they should have the same base values. And indeed they do.

The rounding "error" you see is for the Roegadyn, 23 VIT means an extra 0.5 that would be missing from the display, bringing it to 1754 base HP. For the Mi'Qote, the bonus VIT adds a hidden 0.5 because it's odd, also bringing it to 1754 base HP.

So not only can we conclude that Racial VIT is likely also 14.5, but we can also conclude that GLA has a base of 1754 HP at 50. But what's the base VIT? Subtracting my racial starting amount puts my Roegadyn at 194 base VIT for GLA. No bonus, no racial, no gear. For my Mi'Qote friend, same deal, 241 VIT - 27 bonus VIT - 20 Racial VIT = 194 VIT.

But how does 194 VIT relate to 1754 HP? That's certainly not 14.5 HP per VIT. It's closer to 9.04. Well, for now let's move on. We'll come back to this question in a bit.

Vitality from Soul

Slap that PLD soul back on, time to see what it gives us! Going from GLA to PLD with no gear on, and with my bonus VIT, I gained 20 VIT, but my health jumped 460 points, from 2522 to 2982. That 20 VIT should account for a jump of 290 if we work under the assumption that 1 VIT = 14.5 HP. Where was the extra 170 HP coming from?

Same deal for a Hyur Highlander, with +30 Bonus VIT, went from 2508 to 2968. 460 HP. And Seeker of the Sun Mi'Qote, with +27 Bonus VIT, went from 2348 to 2808. 460 HP.

Clearly the soul was modifying our base HP value, and not just our VIT.

Base HP Value

Everything so far supports that 1 VIT is 14.5 HP, regardless of source, despite what some commenters were saying in the thread linked above. The only things we haven't been able to suss out are the base HP values with respect to base VIT. But maybe that doesn't matter. We know the base HP value is the same regardless of race, but it likely differs by class/job, thanks to the data we have from the PLD soul.

So perhaps we should just define 1 VIT as 14.5 HP, and come up with base values for our classes:

GLA -> 194 VIT * 14.5 = 2813 - x = 1754; x = 1059
PLD -> 214 VIT * 14.5 = 3103 - y = 2214; y = 889
Noting that the PLD soul always gives +20 VIT and +460 HP.

Which matches up with one of the commenters on the Reddit thread linked originally.

Putting it All Together

So for my Roegadyn PLD and all of his gear, his VIT is 531 and his health is 6810. If our calculations are correct, then I'd expect this to match up: 531 * 14.5 - 889 = 6810.5. Boom! Clearly FFXIV truncates, since my displayed health is 6810, but it seems like we're good to go.

The next question is does this hold for all classes? ie: Do all classes get 14.5 HP/VIT, and what are their base values?

But if you want to know if you should throw your bonus points into VIT or STR, you can now say how much HP precisely you're trading off. 435 health for a newly 50 PLD is pretty substantial (nearly a 10% boost), so don't sneeze at it.
#FFXIV, #Theorycrafting

Monday, April 6, 2015

FFXIV's Answer to WoW's LFR

This weekend I managed to get a few hard mode dungeons done in FFXIV and got my ilvl up to 71, via dungeon drops, my relic weapon (FFXIV's version of a Legendary, but upgradeable), and Soldiery (FFXIV's version of Justice/Valor points). That meant The Binding Coil of Bahamut Turns 1 and 3--turns being effectively wings of the raid--were available for me to try.

However, when the opportunity came up in our Free Company (guild), I was turned down twice. Despite having sufficient ilvl to queue for it in the Duty Finder and get thrown into a random group, my ilvl was deemed insufficient to raid with the Free Company. I was honestly a little incensed. I could queue for a random group, but my own Free Company wouldn't bring me? Heck, I had more health than the strategy video showed for tanks in the fight.

However, what nobody explained to me, rather, I went and researched for myself a fair bit later, is that Binding Coil of Bahamut is effectively FFXIV's heroic/mythic level raid. ilvl isn't necessarily sufficient. It requires significant coordination, and one should probably at least try for their accuracy cap--hit/expertise all over again, except no reforging and outside of super-expensive crafted gear, no materia (gems) either. I suppose I could've been petulant and tell them I do have literally nearly 7 years of raid leading, let alone raiding, under my belt (not to mention 20 years of MMOs in general), so it's not like they'd be bringing a newb, but I decided to cool off and go do something else for a bit. Like improve my ilvl and accuracy levels.

The big boon to my ilvl has been unlocking the Crystal Tower and the 24-person raids within. The Crystal Tower is, for all intents and purposes, FFXIV's version of WoW's Looking For Raid tool. The exception being that The Crystal Tower has only a single difficulty.

To understand how The Crystal Tower fits into FFXIV's raiding model means to understand how the raids have been released. As mentioned, Binding Coil of Bahamut is the heroic/mythic raid. The Crystal Tower is the LFR/normal raid. They've been released over time leap-frog style:

Raid Patch ilvl dropped
Binding Coil Turns 1 - 5 2.0 90
Crystal Tower: Labyrinth of the Ancients 2.1 80
Binding Coil Turns 6 - 9 2.2 110
Crystal Tower: Syrcus Tower 2.3 100
Binding Coil Turns 10 - 13 2.4 130
Crystal Tower: World of Darkness 2.5 120

Interesting aside, Coil is 8 players (2 tanks, 2 healers, 4 DPS), whereas Crystal Tower is 24 players (3 tanks, 6 healers, 15 DPS). I find it fascinating that in FFXIV, the harder content is for fewer players. The other interesting bit is Labyrinth bucked the trend, having 6 tanks, 6 healers, and 12 DPS. A trash pull and a boss actually required that many tanks, but most did not. It was kinda silly.

Even patches would drop the next heroic-level raid, and odd patches the LFR/normal-level raid. However, the more difficult raids always drop gear that's the highest ilvl. Even the LFR-style raids that come out after the associated Heroic/Mythic raids are short 10 ilvls of current content. Not really much different from WoW's model, other than each is unique content, and the difficulties aren't released simultaneously.

Anyhow, I ripped through Labyrinth quickly with some help from a friend giving me the strats as we went along, then I jumped into Syrcus Tower.

Inside the Syrcus Tower Duty Finder

One thing I definitely noticed going into the raids as opposed to the dungeons is the raids definitely have more character than the dungeons do. Their scale is massive, and quite pretty too.

This is the intro to Labyrinth of the Ancients. I was in awe my first time due to the sheer scope.
Like other dungeons, you get a little vignette introduction when you enter, and FFXIV does this so well. You even get to see yourself leading everybody else in the raid. A very nice touch to be honest.



And then we were off! Most of the dungeon was a single trash pull, then a boss. Trash pull, then boss. So on and so forth. Each raid has four bosses, and you've a 2 hour limit before the Duty Finder just boots you all. I haven't seen a run go past 40 minutes yet, even with a couple wipes.

An interesting note is how the raid is automatically split up into 3 Alliances of 8, each with their own tank, two healers, and four DPS. Each Alliance is automatically labeled as A, B, or C. Each fight in Syrcus Tower had three points of interest where you'd end up setting each Alliance at equidistant spots around the boss room. Often adds would spawn, or you'd have a point you'd need to run back to. The unspoken etiquette that everyone followed was interesting as well, because Alliance A would generally go left, Alliance C would go right, and Alliance B would stay at the front of the room.

An example of this in action is the final fight of the tower, Xande. You can see in the linked video at points adds spawn that we need to (quickly) DPS down. With the Alliances having predetermined groups, and folks ensuring each Alliance had a default spot, it made for easy work as everyone knew where to split up to. Very little confusion about who was DPSing what.



Once I got the hang of that etiquette, everything fell into place. I knew which adds I should be picking up, where to gather for big AoEs, and where my dedicated healers were so I shouldn't run off to the other side of the room if I could avoid it. Sometimes, however, I couldn't. With one of the three tanks main tanking the boss in the middle generally, sometimes I'd have to run to pick up an extra add elsewhere.

Mechanically, Xande isn't a terribly difficult fight. Since I'm not as geared as most other tanks right now, I can sit in my DPS stance (Sword Oath) for the whole thing since I won't be main tanking it. Slight aside that all tank classes have a DPS and a tanking stance, which is awesome for leveling or if you don't need your off-tanks. Overall, the fight is about as complex as your average LFR fight in WoW today:
  • Stay out of Knuckle Press (Melee)
  • Stay out of Burning Rave
  • Stay out of Aura Cannon
  • Have 1 person in each golden circle for Aetherochemical Explosion. Raid takes ~500 damage per orb not dealt with
  • DPS race the Stonefall and Starfall Circles before the meteor hits or you wipe
  • Split damage evenly with the black orbs, then stand in the zones left behind to avoid Ancient Quaga
You need to have more than one or two people know what they're doing, however, or the raid will wipe. Probably sufficient to have 8 or 10, though.

A more interesting example of the chaos that these raid fights can be is the first boss of Syrcus Tower: Scylla.



Scylla is absolute chaos incarnate. Feels a bit like Ko'ragh did, except even crazier.

The fight is split into two phases, with an intermission that can wipe your raid quite easily, as it's effectively a pass/fail mechanic.
  • Phase 1
    • 3 types of Elemental Balls will target random raid members. Each must be dealt with differently. After about 15 seconds, the ball will detonate on you no matter what.
      • Lightning: Drag the ball to one of 6 towers to give the tower a charge. Each tower holds 3 charges. See Intermission for why. Will explode for raid wide damage if not taken to a tower.
      • Ice: Cannot be avoided, but will freeze you in place for 30 seconds. Try to get frozen somewhere you won't take a ton of damage. Do not get hit in a puddle or you'll freeze everyone in that puddle.
      • Fire: Drag into someone who's frozen to thaw them. This will leave a puddle on the ground that increases fire resistance.
    • Stay out of Topple (Melee)
    • Stay out of torus and strip attacks from floating staves
    • Scylla constantly casts a raid-wide AoE called Unholy. Must be healed through.
  • Intermission
    • Scylla begins to cast Daybreak
      • All raiders must stand on their designated shield zone. If not enough members stand on that zone (unsure as to the exact amount), the shield fails.
      • If the 2 Lightning pillars around your shield zone are not charged enough, the shield fails.
    • If the shield fails, your entire Alliance is petrified. This will probably lead to a wipe.
    • If the shield succeeds, Scylla is petrified for a few seconds.
  • Phase 2
    • Adds spawn, handle them.
    • Fire and Ice orbs continue to spawn. Lightning no longer do.
    • Scylla will cast Ancient Flare, a highly damaging Fire attack. Stand in puddles to reduce that damage by 90% (this will outright kill a newly geared raider if not done correctly).
    • Staves continue to AoE.
    • Stay out of Topple (Melee)
That fight is significantly more complex than many fights even for Normal mode raiding. You pretty much need a good 75% of your raid to know what they're doing or you're going to be in trouble. Granted, this boils down to dealing with the orbs correctly and staying out of the bad, and jumping into specific things at specific times. Still, as you can see in the video above, it is chaos. And fun!

Conclusion

There are a couple more fights that I'm not going to cover in detail, but you can read up on the strategies here. I have to admit, the theorycrafting and strategy community in FFXIV is still relatively nascent compared to WoW, so it's kind of neat picking up on some of this stuff now. Granted, FFXIV isn't anywhere near as transparent as WoW is in terms of nitty-gritty mechanics.

Something else I've picked up on is that the average FFXIV player in their version of LFR is a much better player than in WoW. Mind you, the playerbase is a lot smaller, and it's possible that less skilled players don't make it as far as raiding (though there were definitely some numbskulls that kept dying to the same mechanics over and over again), but honestly I feel like Scylla would probably cause the LFR crowd to rage quit. And The Crystal Towers don't have the Determination buff (called the Echo in FFXIV), so if you wipe, you don't get any boosts.

On the other hand, a lot of folks outgear this content, so that's definitely making it easier. Also, Syrcus Tower has been out for quite some time. On the other other hand, the number of folks who died to Durumu's maze or falling down Elegon's pit, even 6 months after the fact? Who knows. We'll see how I feel when I run the most recent Crystal Tower raid, World of Darkness. #WoW, #FFXIV, #Raiding

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Epic Blog Battles of Gaming: FFXIV vs. WoW

Last week I hit max level in an MMO other than WoW for the first time. My Paladin in FFXIV is now ready for post-leveling content, and I've being doing some of that when I'm not busy making my own video game.

All my pretty paladin gear <3
It's not that I haven't played other MMOs, it's just except for WoW, none of them ever held my attention that long. I've played The Realm Online, Everquest, Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, Final Fantasy XI, Ragnarok Online, EVE Online, City of Heroes, WoW, Guild Wars, RF Online, LOTRO, Star Trek Online, TERA, RIFT, Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, and FFXIV. That's a lot of MMOs.

I'm hoping to get into organized raiding in FFXIV soon, so I can compare it to my experiences in WoW. The Free Company I'm in, Greysky Armada, is pretty active. I got roped in by The Bel Effect, of course, like many others, but I've stayed because the game has an immense amount of content that's quite polished. And the subscriber base is nothing to sneeze about, measuring at roughly half a million outside China by any searches I try. When compared to the behemoth that is WoW, 500k isn't very much, but compared to pretty well every other MMO? Easily in profitable territory.

So how do the games stack up? They're both Themepark MMOs, with your standard action bars, classes, real-time cooldown-based combat, small and large group-based content, and an expansive world. When your mechanics aren't terribly unique due to genre, what you have left to differentiate is the aesthetics of the game. Things like graphics, story, sound, and so on. So here's a few comparisons.

Graphics/Visuals

FFXIV has the benefit of a much newer engine compared to WoW. A friend of mine once commented that WoW's graphics looked like mud, and while I still disagree with him, FFXIV's graphics certainly shine in comparison. They're much sharper, a lot more details overall, and more vibrant. While WoW's stylized graphics have allowed it to stand the test of time a lot better than other games that go for semi-realistic, I have to admit, FFXIV's are pretty damn good.

WoW on the left, FFXIV on the right. Not quite a fair comparison: Shadowmoon Valley on the left is perpetually night, but you can see the sheer lack of polygons in WoW's graphics.
Granted, WoW's graphics allow it to run on machines much less beefy than are require for FFXIV, which probably helps WoW's popularity long term, but for me, eh, I'm a cutting edge kinda gamer, so I don't mind cranking my graphics settings to max.

However, the interesting thing here is that in content such as dungeons, I'd actually say WoW has the better visuals. I'll touch on this later, but many of FFXIV's dungeons are pretty boring visually. Perhaps it allows them to shove content out faster, but compared to the details you see in WoW's dungeons, it's just not as interesting.

WoW on the left, FFXIV on the right.
That's not to say they aren't pretty, but WoW's dungeons have a vibrant story being told in all the little details, like scrolls strewn about in a library, or cargo in a train depot. FFXIV's dungeons feel like corridors with a few repeated doodads here or there. So while the graphics engine makes FFXIV's graphics "prettier" and sharper, WoW wins hand's down in terms of feel.

That being said, the spell effects? FFXIV wins, absolutely beautiful.

Music

I'm not a huge fan of the whole "ambient" thing Western RPGs seem to have going. I prefer my music to have strong musical themes and an actual melody. Warlords of Draenor brings some of that, and it truly has some great music, but FFXIV's music is fantastic. I'll admit to being totally biased in favour of the JRPG style of music, and FFXIV does not disappoint.



One thing that FFXIV does so well that WoW does not is music based on context. When in combat, you get different music. When in a dungeon, you have different music for the zone, vs. battles, vs. the bosses. Major bosses throughout the game even get their own themes, whereas WoW you only get music for the zone as far as I've ever been able to tell. Some of the zone music is quite good, but the variation and context I get with FFXIV's means I don't just turn it off in favour of my own music.

Not only that, but again music provides context. In a video later I'll show off myself doing Titan Hard Mode, and you'll notice the music changes depending on what phase of the fight you're in. During the DPS race to kill his heart in the middle of the battle, the music changes to something more harried, frantic, before going back to the heavy guitar of the rest of the fight if you succeed. It's an amazing touch.

Seriously, the music in FFXIV overall is just better in my opinion.

Story

Interestingly, FFXIV ties a lot of content to the main story. You unlock things like dungeons,  airships, mounts, and so on through the main story. Anytime you're not sure about when a specific mechanic will become available? Just keep going through the story.

And what a story. Very Final Fantasy in nature, with crystals, big summoned bads, some politics, and an evil empire. I've completed the initial main story up to level 50 and it was really quite good with a satisfying ending. However, that's apparently only about half the content available story-line wise.

One of the big things that differentiates WoW and FFXIV is who is the main character of the story. In FFXIV, it's unequivocally you. You're the star, the hero. In WoW, it's mostly about the NPCs and you're just there to clean up messes (friggin' kill-stealer Thrall, most of all). Heck, early kills that players made like Onyxia got ret-conned to be prominent NPCs. You're not important, you're just another pawn in the grand scheme. FFXIV, however, you're the lynchpin of most heroic deeds.

That's not to say there aren't memorable NPCs in FFXIV. There are quite a few, from the heads of state to the members of your merry band of heroes. Also, the name Hildebrand will conjure up both eyerolls and giggles from the FFXIV player populace.

There's also a number of cutscenes (oh man, are there ever a lot of cutscenes!), both in dungeons and in questing. A lot of showing, some telling, and a lot of cases where both are occurring. But there's rarely any plain old quest text that isn't explained in either a discussion with the NPC directly, or via cutscene. The quest text is supplemental to that to remind you of what you discussed, but you can get away with not reading it at all because all the information was handed to you already otherwise. A much more engaging way of questing than WoW's method of throwing a wall of text at you.

Honestly, I think WoW's story has a lot more potential than FFXIV's right now. There's so much more world in World of Warcraft. However, Blizzard's largely squandered it, because they don't really care. I cannot for the life of me find the quote, but it's been said by Blizzard that they're not Bioware, that story isn't the focus of their game. And that's okay, but if you want story, FFXIV right now is the stronger bet in my mind.

And More...

There's so much more to talk about--like the community and the tools that FFXIV uses to enforce/encourage better community interactions; or the content and how it rises in a pretty smooth difficulty curve; or how some of the end-game content compares to WoW's; or how FFXIV has more content each patch than WoW does, and patches come faster; or how gathering/crafting differs significantly from WoW; or just the sheer amount of content in general. So on and so forth.

The basics between the two games are pretty well equal: we are talking your bog-standard MMORPG. But so far it feels FFXIV is out-Blizzarding Blizzard in terms of polish and evolving the genre. And that's a good thing! Perhaps FFXIV will start eating WoW's lunch and Blizzard will light a fire under their butts. There's definitely more blog posts coming on my experiences, but here's a video of me in Titan (Hard Mode) to give you an idea of how some of the end-game content looks. #WoW, #FFXIV


Thursday, March 26, 2015

[WoW] Reconciling Casual Raid Progress Over Absolute vs. Relative Time

So our raid finally got back together after a couple weeks off. We had only planned on one week off, since two of our 3 potential tanks were on vacation, but between losing a tank and a healer, leaving us with one short of each role at the last second, we had to take two instead.

It was a good run. The ilvl boost helped, but frankly, folks were executing quite well despite the time off. We downed 4 bosses in record time for us, and managed to two-shot Flamebender despite wiping to her 7 or 8 times 3 weeks prior, which brings us to 5/10N progression. In a few pulls we got Kromog down to 13%, so next week I'm confident we'll nail him to the floor, too.

Only 5/10N, and the raid's been open for 7 weeks. Feels kind of slow. Except if you consider we only raid 3 hours a week, and we didn't actually start in on BRF until we downed Imperator, which means we've been raiding a total of about 10 hours (3 full sessions, one one-hour session). So less time than many guilds play in a single week, and we've dealt with 3 resets. When viewed under that lens, I think we're actually doing pretty damn well.

Steve Chick of UNconstant and I had a small chat on Twitter about this very subject, how in a game like WoW progress is often measured in real time passed rather than relative time. Probably a lot to do with how it's difficult to measure how long a person or set of people spent on a single boss. You could measure by number of wipes, I suppose, and some folks do. But actual time from the server first opening with that content is the easiest to measure and only verifiable metric.

But it does behoove me to remind myself that absolute time is a terrible way to measure progression when you aren't gunning for world firsts. And sure, as long as you're having fun, that's the important part. However, as Murf put it, sometimes entertainment is more than just "fun". There's a satisfaction in nailing these bosses as a group, and that's, well, satisfying. I fully expect we'll continue to make progress apace and we'll get Blackhand down before the next patch hits and makes the content less relevant.
#WoW, #Raiding