Sunday, August 18, 2013

Signs Point To Yes : FFXIV:ARR

The Open Beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a bit of an odd duck in itself but my own participation or lack thereof is odder yet. I'm finding the whole thing immensely confusing so far. Not the game itself, which is elegantly old-school and entirely comprehensible. No, it's the getting to play it part that's puzzling me.

I started to detail the problems I've had so far pre-ordering, registering and accessing the game but by the time I'd done five paragraphs on the delights of just changing an email address it was apparent I'd be talking to an audience of one and even I was bored.

Suffice it to say that Square Enix's reputation for gnomic inaccessibility is very far from an urban myth. Having exhausted the options available through the SE Knowledge Base and my own patience I'm now waiting on a reply to a Customer Service ticket in the hope of at least getting the details of my account correct before I can move to the next stage of trying to get the pre-order code so I can play the damn game on the 24th.

None of this stops me logging in and playing right now, of course. That would be far too logical. My beta login works just fine. I made a character last night just so I could get a look at the Housing test area, which as I read the SE runes is only there for open beta not launch.

Just making the character brought its own problems and not because of the wealth of options on offer. The uncertainty over my account details made me wary of starting a character that I wanted to play. Progress in Open Beta carries over to Launch but I can't be certain the account I'm using for beta will do the same. The "one character per server" issue, about which I was very concerned despite the "all classes on one character" design, makes character creation seem like a much bigger deal than usual too.

Fortunately it turns out I'd misread that part. It's not, as I'd thought, one character per server plus a separate monthly fee for each character thereafter, which I think was how it worked in FFXI. In fact the basic $12.99 subscription offers one character per server up to a maximum of eight but for a very small increase to $14.99 the limit jumps to eight characters per server up to a maximum of 40. That's a vastly better deal and If I play beyond the free month (which also allows eight characters per server) then I'll be more than happy to pay that extra $2.00.

Then we come to the servers themselves. There are a lot of them and they're nearly all full.

Wait! No they aren't!

Wait ! Yes they are!

For Open Beta there's some kind of real-time throttling. Once you've made your character you pick the server you want (and you can play anywhere, there's no region-locking) and check if it's taking new starters. If it's greyed-out it's full but don't despair: wait three minutes, hit the Refresh List button and if enough people logged out you can slip into someone's still-warm slot.

The relaunch of FFXIV hasn't been getting the degree of attention of, say , the GW2 launch this time last year or the recent EQNext reveal but there really is an enormous amount of interest. The servers (and as I said there are a lot of them) were packed in all the closed betas and now Open Beta is here they are just heaving like anthills.

I'd tried four or five times for the server I wanted without any luck and it was getting late. Given my concerns over permanency I decided to send the character anywhere that would have her just so I could get in and have a look around so I opted for the only place that would have me, an EU server the name of which I've already forgotten.

And I still couldn't get in. There were so many would-be Lalafells and Mi`Qotes hammering on Square's battleship-plate doors that the rivets were popping. I got a log-in bug that looked unnervingly like it might relate to the account issues I'd been having until a reassuring Google suggested lots of people were getting the same. The recommended fix was a simple client restart, which was just as well because mine had frozen.

And stap me if when I logged back in the very server I'd wanted in the first place hadn't thrown its doors wide open. Serendipity, silver linings etc.

So here I am with a character made and named in haste in the expectation she'd either never make it to Live at all or if she did it would be on a European server where I'd never see her again, only to find that now she's on the server where I plan to make my home.

Sod's law says she'll probably not only make it through to Live after all but end up being the character I play the most.


  1. Since last night's server meltdown a lot of people (including me) are stuck in limbo as being told we're already logged in so we can't log in. :(

    Other than that, it's been a great time. For some reason this game just hits all the right notes for me. There will be a lot of derision from the 'action combat and INNOVATION or bust' crowd, though.

    1. I didn't know about the meltdown but today the server I'm on (Goblin) isn't accepting new characters, which is a problem because Mrs Bhagpuss didn't get round to making a character until this evening. Even worse her friend who's playing is on Goblin too. It is insanely busy. I'm not sure anyone was expecting this. If it turns out to be a big success that will put the cat among the pigeons because it sure is an old-fashioned MMO of the kind no-one likes any more...

      I'm leaving it until Head Start now anyway, always assuming they send me a code which they haven't yet. Back to GW2 and EQ2 until then.

    2. I think a lot of people will try it, but there will also be a large number of people saying the game is 'slow' and 'same-old'... I will predict it'll be a 50/50 division in people who tried it an loved and vs otherwise. Watching the 3 month mark (when most MMO tourists skip town) will be interesting.

      I don't mind at all if the game ends up being niche; I have a feeling that purely out of pride SE won't pull the plug on it if they can help it, no matter how it performs. It's a matter of pride at this point, for them.

      Eorzea Reborn (the blog/site) made a post a while back about how there is a growing population of older MMO players that may just be feeling enough alienation from the current world-lite twitch-combat fad MMORPGs are headed toward that they might embrace FFXIV as a viable alternative, which is an interesting speculation:

    3. I think I am a minority for not liking this game.

      On paper this has most of my likes; big world, both the world and the characters looks nice, distinct jrpg feeling...

      I like making alts and do not like this lengthy opening/character creation segments but I can deal with that. I do not like being forced to a specific starting area if I want to start with a certain class, but I can deal with that too.

      But when I saw that there was no quest sharing, then learned that this was a feature and not something because it was on beta phase; it was kinda the end for me.

      To play with my friends I need to hunt fates and dungeons.. Only other way to play together with people is to make sure we are on the same step of the same quest or just grind mobs...
      This just doesn't work for me. If I want to play a nice single player jrpg I can always power up my ps2 or download an emulator or something.

      for being an mmo, it doesn't have much (if any) mmo-focused soul.

    4. That's interesting. I soloed the whole time in the betas, apart from doing FATEs, so that never came up, but with three of us probably starting together at launch that could be an issue. On the other hand, quest sharing is a relatively recent addition to MMOs and we got along fine without it for years. I quite like the idea of having to travel back and "introduce" my group-mate to the NPC who gave me the quest in the first place.

      On the positive side, as far as I could tell you do get quest credit for kill and item-drop quests when you jump in and help someone else, even if you aren't grouped. That's arguably a feature more conducive to co-operative play than quest-sharing.

    5. You can share Leve quests; both people need the one you're starting in their log but if you coordinate you can knock out a bunch together and get great xp as well.

    6. @Pai: That is not sharing. That is having the same quests in your log.
      Yes you can both kill mobs and pick up items and sort of complete quests together. That was not what I meant.

      When bunch of people go to a new area for the first time this will not be an issue.
      But consider ALL (the ones I've seen) the quests are chains in this game. Granted this is very good for immersion and storytelling; but at the moment there is no way of tracking which step of which quest line you are making.

      @Bhagpuss: Unless you keep immaculate records of your quests (where I got, what follow ups were given by who etc..) you will not be able go back and "introduce" your contacts. Chances are; you will be forced to go back and pick ALL the starting quests and help your friend(s) thru all the quests until they arrive at your step. That's what we had to do...

      Now if all the quests were singular or at least chain quests were marked and rare/uncommon, this wouldn't be such an issue. Or maybe if grinding was a viable option again this would be less important.
      But as it stands; unless you and your friends start at the same area (which means for levels some of you risk having to play a class s/he not intended to) and start coordinating from get go, you have to spend at least 10 levels apart (as class quests are location specific) and then you both have to move to a different area to start together or you join your friends and one of you does everything again until everyone is at the same step of quests.

  2. Nice reading. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    You know gamers can pre-order the cheap ffxiv gil for ARR at now.


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