One to X: Finishing What I Have Started

While brainstorming ideas for this blog, one that came to mind was a regular series tracking my progress through several MMOs as I work toward max level. Ever since I began wandering through multiple games I never really made it past the opening levels, generally stopping in the teens and twenties before moving on, always rerolling when returning to previously visited landscapes. That process has left me with quite a few unfinished characters across several MMOs but no opportunity for end game activities in any of them.

One to X is a chance for me to go back through and try to complete what I have started. I won’t be doing this for every MMO I have tried in the past, only for those I enjoyed. And while I may comment from time to time on my progress as I level, I’m mostly interested in writing down a few thoughts about each MMO as I complete the trek to level cap. To begin this series I want to talk about two games in which I recently finished leveling, Final Fantasy XIV and Marvel Heroes 2015.

My journey through Eorzea began back in August or September of last year. When I first purchased the game I created one character—a Thaumaturge—and leveled into the thirties in one go with one detour to earn the fifteen levels needed as an Archer to unlock the Black Mage job. Generally when I start a game I play into the teens on my first class, then try another, and so on. Playing one class into the thirties lead me to think that perhaps I would stick with it to the end for once. Unfortunately, that was not the case and after a couple of months my interest waned.

Since then I’ve returned a couple of times and every time I have started up a new class rather than completing a previously leveled one. The same can be said for this most recent return, however this time I made it all the way to 50 on the Ninja job. One of the reasons I often lose momentum in a game is due to the process of deciding on a class. Final Fantasy does this better than by allowing you to play all classes on one character meaning you do keep some of your progression even when you make a switch. However the initial run of levequests, dungeons, hunting logs, and guildleves needed to power level up to wherever you left off in the story can be grindy.

Nevertheless I pushed through and was able to pick up the main storyline where I had left off. Ultimately I still out-leveled the story and thus while I am technically at max level, I’m not really able to participate in the end game content because I am behind on the story. This is one of my biggest complaints with Final Fantasy XIV—content, systems, and progress in general is gated behind the story. It is clear that Square Enix still considers Final Fantasy XIV a traditional RPG first and an MMO second, and for some veteran players gating every branch of the game behind the storyline progression may be off-putting. At times it has been for me.

This brings up a good question as far as my goals in One to X; am I looking to simply reach max level or do I have a specific progression goal in mind? With Final Fantasy XIV I have decided that for now being level 50 is enough and going forward I will make that decision on a game by game basis. Perhaps once I have a few more characters at max across several MMOs, I’ll circle back through and work on progressing those characters into whatever the end game has to offer.

Which brings me to my other recently achieved max level character, X-23 in Marvel Heroes. I couldn’t tell you when I started playing Marvel Heroes, but I do know my first character was the Human Torch. At first I enjoyed both the game and the hero but quickly I grew tired of both. When X-23 was announced she looked interesting to me and when I discovered she was only going to cost 200 eternity splinters I quickly made the purchase and started anew. It was the best hero purchase I have made (and I’ve made too many).

I have been playing this game off and on in short bursts, but bit by bit I have made progress with X-23 and just this weekend I decided to make the push to 60. The thing I love about Marvel Heroes is that you can really level in several different ways. I’m sure someone somewhere has figured out the optimal way to level, but as for me once I had completed the storyline on normal mode I continued my leveling via legendary quests and grinding in Midtown. Both allow you to get right into the action, and with the amount of story and cutscenes in some of the other games I’m playing, I welcome the shoot first and never ask questions later approach of Marvel Heroes.

Once I reached level 60 I realized how little I knew about this OARPG. There are so many currencies you earn along the way, so many different types of gear (and ways to earn it) that I really wasn’t sure where to begin. After some research this morning I purchased a legendary weapon and began running some of the terminal quests on a higher difficulty level. I know there are raids as well but I’m not sure if that interests me. For now when I play X-23 I’m going to focus on a complete set of level 60 unique gear and leveling my legendary weapon.

But then again, why worry about end game at all? Instead of pursuing the best gear and maxing out every other form of progression as a level 60 hero you can start over with a new one. Another feature I love about Marvel Heroes is that it is possible to treat leveling alts as a kind of end game, and it is supported through several bonuses granted for having multiple high level characters. For me I think this “end game” path is the one I will focus on. Sure, I’ll do a little work on X-23 here and there, but for the most part I plan on leveling a second hero to 60.

Now that I’ve finished leveling in these two games (which were admittedly low hanging fruit) where to next? Well, currently I am playing SW:TOR and this game is an excellent example of one in which I have returned many times and started many classes and characters but never made it further than the teens on any of them. Therefore I think either Iron’weakness, my Jedi Sentinel or Lone’weakness, my soon to be healing Scoundrel will be the next contestant in this One to X project.

State of the Rez: Ninja Me This

It’s official, I’m a Ninja. As of Saturday night this past weekend I managed to bring my first class in Final Fantasy XIV to level 50. Levels 46-49 seemed to be a bit of a slog but the last level went surprisingly fast. For those currently leveling in this game looking for a little boost, be sure to complete as many of the challenge logs as possible on the class you are leveling. The bonuses are remarkable. Completing three of these logs quickly brought me through the last leg of leveling and into the end game. ffxiv_04052015_005046 Except I can’t really participate in end game yet, I still have quite a bit of the main storyline to complete. Currently the quest I am on is for level 46 players and I will also have all of the patch content to play through once I catch up to the level 50 ones. There appears to be plenty of time between now and the launch of Heavensward so as long as I do not get distracted I should have no problem being prepared for the expansion. However “distraction” should be my middle name when it comes to MMOs and chances are good I’ll putter around on a few other classes instead of focusing on the finish line. Legitimately, I will need to work on the Dragoon and Monk in order to get the cross class abilities I’ll need to be a better Ninja, so that distraction should still count as “focused.” “A focused distraction,” I like that. It makes my waffling on everything sound intentional. I did complete the Ninja quest line and now have a complete set of gear that has me actually looking like a stealth assassin rather than a pirate or a Swiss mountain climber who forgot to wear slacks. The story was pretty cliché but I enjoyed getting to know the two NPCs, Oboro and Tsubame, and hope to see more of them if Square Enix adds additional class quest content for Heavensward. The final boss was exactly who I expected it to be, but thankfully the fight itself was simple. Personally I don’t like these solo scenarios, and I want to get through them as quickly as possible so if I don’t have to play through it more than once, I’m a happy gamer. ffxiv_03182015_002610 It’s not that I mind a little challenge but lengthy solo instances with a learning curve in any MMO frustrate me. In FFXIV for example a few of the quests for the Ninja class have had very specific mechanics you have to be aware of that do not appear until fifteen minutes into the scenario. If you don’t recognize what needs to be done quickly you wind up dead and have to slog through several rounds of trash for another fifteen minutes before giving it another go. Usually there are hints as to what you should be doing but they appear in the chat log and I am too focused on my rotation and what’s in front of me to notice the verbal queues in green text in the bottom left corner of my screen. At the very least I would like these scenarios to start me at the boss if that’s where I die rather than sending me back to the beginning and having me go through all the trash again. Nevertheless I am incredibly content with the class itself. The Ninja in Final Fantasy is quite possibly the best class mechanically that I have played in any MMO. The rotation is the right amount of predictability, complexity, and choice. There is a set pattern (albeit a complex and layered one) and if I spend enough time playing I’m sure I’ll be able to complete it in my sleep but it is one easily interrupted or changed based on circumstances which means you have to know how to respond to changes in the encounter as well as what to prioritize when the standard rotation is interrupted. ffxiv_04052015_004921 The best way I can describe it is that you are juggling two priority systems at once. You have the abilities that come standard with the base class of Rogue in which you combo different dagger slashes for damage buffs, dots, and pure dps. Then you have a second set of skills learned as a Ninja based on three Mudra or hand gestures. These three abilities can be used in a number of combinations to produce different effects. These abilities used singly, in pairs, and in threes provide attack speed buffs, enable the use of stealth abilities while unstealthed and in combat, and provide additional single target and aoe damage. It sounds very complicated (and it is) but you are taught one Mudra at a time giving you opportunity to learn at a reasonable pace. That said, going from two mudra to three hurt my brain and left me wearing a lot of rabbit hats for a couple of days. Now I’m feeling confident in my Ninja abilities and look forward to getting involved with more difficult content as I progress through the end game. I think I’m finally settling into Final Fantasy and plan on maintaining it as a home game while I continue to play characters in other MMOs to max level on the side. As much as I enjoy multi-gaming and getting a taste of all the great games in the MMO landscape, I’d like to establish roots once more and I think FFXIV and the Ninja might offer me exactly that.

State of the Rez: Evaluation and Objectives

As of Tuesday I’ve written twenty posts on “Waiting for Rez” and by this time next week I’ll have been blogging for two months. This is a milestone for me because when I started this blog I wasn’t sure if it would stick. I have a tendency to initiate projects and never finish them but for two months now I have averaged two posts a week and that’s a pretty solid start. So this week I thought would be a good time to look at what I’ve been writing and to adjust some of my initial goals accordingly. I’m also going to discuss my current gaming plans because they have changed a little since last week.

With my introductory post for “Waiting For Rez” I set a goal to write one post a week, but have in fact averaged two to three. Topically, I set out to write on MMOs and on Christian themes like personal reflections on scripture or spiritual poems. While I have stayed within this framework my religious posts have been far more personal than I had originally intended but I plan on continuing that trend because it has been beneficial for me and I think others as well. My gaming posts have been rather diverse (which they will continue to be) and for continuity I’ve enjoyed a regular “State of the Rez” where I write a weekly wrap up of what I’ve been doing in the games I’m currently playing.

As for the poetry, I had intended it to be a regular feature but that has not been the case. This may change at a later time, but right now I want to focus on guides, first impressions, opinion pieces, and personal reflections. The main problem is free time. I only have so much of it I can devote to writing in a week (and still have time to play MMOs) and during these first two months it has taken me three or more hours to write a 1500 word post and eight lines of poetry were taking just as long if not longer. I enjoy it, but I’m going to set it aside as a goal for now and focus on writing regular posts better, faster, and more concise, then revisit the addition of poetry at a later time.

Having written for a while now I have a better idea of what my goals are in the months to come. I have decided I will aim for three posts a week instead of one, and for the sake of consistency I will be posting on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Bio Break was the first blog I read consistently and I’ve always appreciated Syp’s reliability in posting Monday through Friday. I can’t write every day like that but I can maintain a specific schedule. As a general rule Sundays will be a personal spiritual reflection, Tuesdays will be an MMO topic, and Thursdays will be a “State of the Rez” post like this one. I’ll try this set up for the next two months and reevaluate at that time what’s working and what isn’t.

As far as gameplay goes I have some new goals as well. Last week I wrote a roundup of all my main characters across several games and my intended in game objectives. I was hoping to continue playing three to four MMOs at a time and focus on raising at least one character in each one to level cap. After a few weeks of playing three, then four, then five games over the course of a week I’ve decided that approach doesn’t work for me. Two seems to be the sweet spot, and that’s where I’m going to try and settle. With a single game I tend to obsess and burn out but playing two at once has helped keep me focused yet balanced. That’s a good place to be. The plan is to have one core game that I will play during the week and one causal game I will play on the weekends still with the intention of reaching level cap in several games.

Since I did end up picking up the Shadow of Revan deal that Bioware was offering for Star Wars: The Old Republic and I am still subscribed to Final Fantasy XIV for another three weeks those are the two games I will be playing. Because the leveling in SWTOR is so much slower when you aren’t a subscriber I’m going to focus on it to try and level as much as I can before the 60 day subscription included in the purchase is up. On the weekends I will play FFXIV until my game time ends and then I need to evaluate whether I want to continue for another month or take a break and play The Elder Scrolls Online instead. At the very least I want to reach level 50 on my Ninja and hopefully get to level 15 on the Conjurer class so I can try healing in a dungeon before my time is up. If in three weeks I’m still really engaged with FFXIV I’ll continue for another month. As with my writing schedule, I’ll give this plan a try for a couple of months and see if it works for me.

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog, encouraging me to continue, and generally welcoming me to the blogosphere. This has been a great community to be a part of and I look forward to interacting with you all more in the months ahead.