Posts Tagged ‘Miqote’

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Beta FFXIV: A Look at Ul’dah

September 3, 2010

Yesterday we took a look at the second city of Eorzea with our trek around Gridania’s lush forest setting.  Today we are taking a step into the Savannah type desert setting that attempts to bring the city of Ul’dah alive.

If Gridania is “Windurst in a forest” then Ul’dah is most definitely “Bastok in a desert”.  The more I thought about how to compare each city to its FFXI predecessors, the more it actually began to crystalize in my mind eye of what the development team actually did with the three Eorzean cities.  In FFXI, Windurst is a very green and water filled city but it located in a very desolate type place.  Sarutabaruta is a Savannah type desert location with Tahrongi, Buburimu, Meriphataud and Sauromonge most definitely full on dirt ground deserts.  Where San’doria is a very lush and green set of regions.  With three separate forest zones and a prominent waterway connecting them.  Then Bastok is a very rocky, seaside cliff area moving into greener areas as you move towards the Highlands.

In FFXIV we see three very similar starting area climates but the nature of the cities that make those climates their home has been shifted by one.  Gridania is Windurst in a forest, just as much as Limsa Lominsa is San d’Oria amonst the rocky cliffs.  Leaving Ul’dah as Bastok in the Savannah.  The beauty of the design is that each city feels incredibly familar and yet is different enough to not be the same old thing with a new coat of paint.

The Think, Feel… theme is here once again in the opening cutscenes of the city.  Which while has less “action” than the other two cities, focuses the action much better.  Your focus is a runaway goobue and the actual character interaction between multiple characters.  This is a huge step forward from Limsa Lominsa’s opener where the two characters introduced in its scene are really uninteresting and completely underdeveloped.  You actually get a feel of who these characters are, and there are 6 of them in this opener compared to a mere two in Limsa’s.

City Layout –

A Concentric Circle

Ul’dah’s concentric circle based layout radiates from the Adventurer’s Guild (AG) very near its center.  Making the city the most well thought out of the three city-states.  We start our adventure in the AG which allows us easy access to the city in its entirety.

Both of the shopping districts are conveniently located within seconds of the AG as well is the elevator to the upper level where you are treated to a beautiful view of the multilevel fountain/planter system that is the centerpiece for the city.  Once on this level you may also choose to visit the Alchemists’ Guild for your concoction needs.

The desert city is home to a number of other guilds as well.  Within the city walls an Adventurer may find the Gladiator and Pugilist Guilds as well as the Thaumaturge guild is located nearby in the western quadrant of the fortress.  The Gladiator’s guild itself is a sightseeing destination as you can see combatants fighting to the “death” in the Coliseum.  All the while being safe from randomly thrown weaponry or spells by remaining well above the fray.

The several Discipline of the Land and Hand guilds that make Ul’dah their home can be found quite close together in the southern area of the city.  The only downside of the guilds’ location is that they are a bit far from the Market Wards.  Yet even with their lack of proximity, they are still much closer than the majority of guilds in the other two starter locales.

Isn't that always the answer?

Ul’dah does have a bit of a flare compared to Limsa Lominsa and Gridania as it is the home of the game’s version of a casino.  While this is currently not functional in the beta, many players are looking forward to seeing what sort of traditional Final Fantasy mini-game fun will be had within the Platinum Mirage’s walls.

Conclusion –

Each city has its own specific look and feel that goes along with it.  Ul’dah definitely has a wonderfully familiar vibe to it that makes you feel right at home when you first start running around its tall earthen walls.  The concentric design allows for easy travel and more importantly, easy to memorize guild, elevator and Market Ward locations.  Match that with two easy to access gates to the outside world and an Aetheryte crystal that is close to the outside world as well as Market Wards and the AG you are bound to be a happy camper starting in this desert city.

When combined with the fact that the Platinum Mirage is here and will no doubt be some place that the developers intend as a hub for player activity outside the guildleve and grinding that the rest of the game has to offer, this city will more than likely become the “Jeuno” of Final Fantasy XIV.  The only thing the city is missing at this moment is easy access to an airship dock.  As a matter of fact out of all three cities, only Gridania has an Airship Dock within in the city walls.  This could be a make or break for some players when starting out.  However, if there is an “Airship Pass” questline like in FFXI, it will fast become a moot point.

I am torn right now as to whether I want to start in Ul’dah or Gridania.  Only a little more time will tell.

As always, after the break is a number screenshots from around town for you to look at your leisure. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Beta FFXIV: Phase 3 Initial Impressions

August 12, 2010

Or, How SE made the Final Fantasy Fanfare into the most annoying sound ever…

I have been lucky enough to have access to this particular game test since about the 4th Alpha Test.  (That god for friends.)  The game has gone through quite a bit of changes since that first test and I will go into more detail about the changes and specifics of Phase 3 later on.  For now, these are just a few simple impressions on how far the game has come and what changes have immediately caught my eye between Phase 2 and Phase 3.

1) Level Up Fanfare –
The addition of an audio and visual cue of gaining a level or class rank was something that just about every tester gave feedback on from the Alpha through Phase 2.  Finally, the traditional victory fanfare is here.  Its just unfortunate that its not just here, but its everywhere.  Due to the unconventional Rank/Level system that FFXIV uses, you will see, but mostly hear the fanfare over and over and over again in the course of an hour of gameplay.

If any of you were around in World of Warcraft when Lil’XT was first implemented, you will know how annoying his screaming and wailing were to everyone in town.  Now crank up that level of annoyance a level or two and drop in some less than flashy animation and you got the new XIV level up fanfare.

2) Leveling Up –
The developers are trying their hardest to remove the grind from their MMO.  Which is a good thing and a bad thing.  Grinding is a part of every MMO, both good and bad.  Their answer to the grind is a daily quest derivative called a Guildleve.  Right now Guildleves (or just leves for short) are the most efficient manner of leveling/ranking up in the game.

These Guildleves have a cooldown timer and a cap per cooldown on how many of each different type that you may endeavor to complete.  The cooldown timer works like a raid timer does in WoW for no other better way of describing it.  It comes off cooldown on every 3rd morning at Midnight Japanese time.  You make obtain and complete (or fail) a maximum of 8 guildleves per cooldown period.

With Beta 3 comes ramped up skill points and experience while “Bound by Duty”.  Which is the fancy way Square-Enix uses to convey you are under a quest invoked time restraint.  Right now, this pretty much means, 1 Guildleve = 1 Class Rank.  If you sit like a Hobo with your “Will Guildleve for Food” sign at your closest Aetheryte you can level from 1-10 in a matter of an hour or two.  A huge change from XI (the games predecessor) and a fair change from the Guildleve plus monster grinding for 4-6 hours to reach level 10.

This will obviously need to be toned down as the rate of skill point gain during guild levels does not seem to diminish as you raise your level higher.  It actually remains fairly constant from 1-12 at least.

Guildleves biggest problem right now is that they are 1 time only Pass or Fail quests.  If you disconnect, crash, or just outright can’t find the monsters in question, the guild leve is a failure.  The latter of which is common on some cave dwelling level targets.  What happens when you fail a leve?  To put it simply, it over and done with.  Well, not quite that simple as if you are lucky, and if you can find someone with the same guildleve that will let you share it, you may complete it.  If you are not lucky or prefer to solo, you must accept your fate and wait til the lockout is over to get another chance.

3) Interface Lag –
The biggest problem with the game since Alpha has been interface lag.  If you ever played Final Fantasy XI you will know about interface lag.  Well, its back in XIV and its worse than ever.  In the previous game it was understandable.  The game was made for a different generation of console.  Just about everything required a call to the server.  Its unfortunate that Square-Enix has followed that pattern once again.  Everything from changing gear to adding abilities to your actionbar is lagged.  Its not make or break at this phase of the game testing, but if its not fixed soon, it will break the game at launch.

4) Crashes –
I know, I know, its a Beta test.   Crashes and bugs are an expected part of the game.  However, the problem is that these are the same “random” crashes that have been occurring since the beginning of Beta 1.  Some of them were fixed, but a good number of them are still there and running rampant on the population.

5) New Animations –
They’ve added a lot of new and more interesting animations.  Everything from the Gladiator classes basic damage skill to new monster skill have been added since Beta 2.  I can definitely say that these additions are not just meant for aesthetics.  The new combat animations help to enhance the pace and feel of combat.

New monster abilities such as the Mole’s burrow and return is quite fun to watch and it shows that the developers are thinking outside of the normal box when it comes to programming monster AI.  We can only hope that interesting monster abilities appear on other monsters.

These are just the first few things that hit me while taking a step into this phase of the Beta test.  While some are negative, the game itself is making tremendous progress towards its release in 5 weeks time.  There won’t be much sleep in the Square-Enix facilities in Japan during the next few weeks, but we can hope that they continue to push patches and improve the game for launch.