I Love This Game… Why Am I Not Playing It?

My gaming for the last month and a half is a tale of pre and post vacation (with vacation itself being limited to only Clash of Clans on my iPad). The main victim has been FFXIV. But… why?

Pre-Vacation: All FFXIV

Before I left on vacation, I was playing tons of FFXIV. I was questing out in the expansion areas on Black Mage, working on a Paladin, gearing up to start levelling my White Mage, and so on. Everything was great. I was having fun and was accomplishing what I wanted. No complaints at all.

Post-Vacation: All Diablo 3, no FFXIV

Since I got back, I’ve logged into FFXIV twice. That’s twice, in over three weeks. What happened?

Well, season 4 started in Diablo with a new set and possible build i wanted to try. So I did that a lot. But even when I wasn’t doing that, I still didn’t play FFXIV. Like last night, I finished up in Diablo and instead of playing FFXIV, I went to do the dishes.

Yes, the dishes. Now, the dishes did need doing, but it was prime game time for me and I chose to do the dishes instead. After the dishes, we watched some Sailor Moon Crystal instead of playing FFXIV.

I Have No Idea Why

The kicker is that I don’t really understand what happened. FFXIV didn’t suddenly start to suck in those two weeks. I still really like it. I still on a rational level want to play it. Somehow, that doesn’t translate into actually playing it when I sit down at game time. It’s like while I was on vacation, something just switched into a mode where there’s nothing left I can get out of the game, which is usually a death sentence for me playing it.

That happens with games that feature lots of grinding, like Disgaea. I like the Disgaea series, during the story part. Inevitably the post game gets to a point where you unlock the grinding map in Cave of Ordeals (or something similar depending on the game), and run it ten thousand times to get your characters up to stupid high levels. That part? Once I unlock the ability to do it… I’m done. Actually doing the grinding is repulsive to me, because there’s no challenge. There’s nothing new to learn, no skill to master, no thought required. It’s mindless repetition, which as I’ve mentioned before (in why I don’t get the appeal of Marvel Heroes) is the kind of thing that my day job exists to automate out of existence. It’s also why I’m reaching the end of my Diablo 3 time for this season, as I’ve reached that point where it’s now run Tormet 8-10 repetitively to get better versions of gear, to make the numbers bigger. The fun part is done, and so I’m largely done too.

But that doesn’t apply to FFXIV. I was nowhere near the end game, let alone being grinded out on it. I have lots of story left, and I find the story interesting. I’m seriously puzzled by what happened to my desire to play it.

Pet Based Healing Terrifies Me

One of my goals for FFXIV was to get Arcanist to 30, which gives me all the Disciples of Magic classes >= 30. That means I can ditch all the sub-30 DoM gear from my bags, which frees up all kinds of space. I just did that yesterday. I then went ahead and unlocked Summoner and Scholar, because why not?

Summoner I understand. It’s a pet/DoT DPS class. Scholar? Scholar terrifies me.


Scholar. That pet fairy? More healing spells than I have.
Scholar. That pet fairy? More healing spells than I have.

Scholar is a pet based healer. That is, the two pets you can summon now become faeries, and they have healing/support abilities. In fact, at level 30, my healing fairy has more healing power than I do. I only have two healing spells: a single target heal, and a single target heal that puts up a shield. My pet has more abilities. I’m sure this will flesh out later, but it sent me into a fit of terror.

Healing, to me, is all about triage and decision making. I only have so much MP and can only output so much healing at once. Figuring out where and how to direct it is the heart of what you’re doing. I really don’t trust a pet AI enough to offload some of that to it, nor do I want the extra work of babysitting a pet (both in terms of healing targets and in positioning to avoid bad things). There’s more than enough going on already without that extra work.

Fear And Confusion

As anybody in free company chat last night can attest, I didn’t know how to react to this. I started asking all kinds of questions. The idea of actually trying to use this to heal terrified me, especially when I have the warm, fuzzy blanket of White Mage to fall back to. That’s a healing class I understand. The idea of a pet based healing class is so far out of my comfort zone that I recoiled in abject fear from it.

Fairy healing spell bar
Fairy healing spell bar
Scholar healing level 30 spell bar
Scholar healing level 30 spell bar

Is that fear justified? Probably not. I’ve been healed by lots of Scholars (and their pets) in my time as a Black Mage, and aside from noticing some mechanical differences, they always got the job done. But, understanding that at the rational level doesn’t make the fear go away. It’s still there today, when I think “maybe I should try that Scholar”, my immediate reaction is “maybe I should start leveling a tank instead”.

I understand the root of where this is coming from. I really cut my teeth at MMO healing in WoW, doing progression raiding. For quite a while I was a raid guild’s healing leader. I had a huge toolbox and all the freedom and control to deploy it however I wanted. Thus, success and failure (or for the group, life and death) was on me. Losing some of that control of the outcome to a pet AI sets off all kinds of negative reactions.


This really comes down to control, which is why pet classes in other contexts don’t bother me. I’ve often summoned a Unicorn in D&D and used it as a healing pet, but due to how D&D works, I’m still functionally in control of it. DPS pets are okay, because they don’t need the same kind of babysitting to do damage (target changes are less frequent and it’s less likely to kill someone if I let the AI handle it).

Taking healing control away from me and giving it to a pet just… ugh, no. I can’t even form a coherent thought because of how much it rubs me the wrong way.

Maybe one day I’ll work up the ability to overcome this and give the class a fair try. For now though…

White Mage Robes are like a warm fuzzy blanket
White Mage Robes are like a warm fuzzy blanket.

A Realm Revisited – Dipping My Toe in Final Fantasy XIV Again

I know a lot of people who have lots of nice things to say about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Lots of people. It’s almost certainly the MMO that gets the most positive buzz from people I know, with WoW coming in second (and Wildstar third, largely because Rhiss loves it to death and I like a lot about it too). That kind of feedback was pushing against the forces keeping me from playing it, including time, Rhiss’ willingness to try it out, my money already being in another MMO… and my previous experience with Final Fantasy XIV.

Yes, I played the first version, in that farce of an open beta they had where they were actively not inviting feedback (so not really a beta at all). That game had without doubt the worst UI of any MMO I’d played, and was full of mistakes that were either amateur hour level, or showed a total disregard for anything the industry had done since WoW came into existence. It was also crash prone, the patcher didn’t work properly, performance sucked, etc, etc…

Nevertheless, eventually the positive feedback on the new release won out, and since I’m not in Wildstar right now, I figured I’d try the free trial. This blog post is on that.

My character talking to an NPC
A few years? Four, by my count

The Return – Shades Of The Original

I didn’t start off impressed.

First of all, I couldn’t get the free trial on my real email address because I had played that open beta for the previous release, back in 2010. I mean, seriously? Alright, I’ll use another email on a fake account. Installation went fine. First launch, I changed data centers to the one Rhiss had also created an experimental character on, and the game crashed.

Second time worked. So I started making a character. I got stuff like this:

ffxiv starting attributes

If it’s telling me the starting attributes for my race selection, I assume they matter in some way. Unfortunately, the game isn’t telling me what those things are. I can decipher four of them easily because they’re fairly standard ones that any tabletop RPG player would know (not that it’s good UX design to assume that knowledge), but what in the world are MND and PIE? One of those is food.

They could have just spelled these things out, and it would have been clearer, but alright. It’s a trial character, these things probably don’t matter a lot.

Then I got to pick a deity. Neat! That came with this:

ffxiv elemental attributes

Did they not learn anything from the UI problems last time around? What in the world are symbols, and what do those numbers do? I have absolutely no idea, to the point that I’m not sure why they are even showing them to me. Is this something for experienced players creating a second character? There’s nothing available on screen to tell me what I’m looking at. Sigh. Oh well, again, it probably doesn’t matter on a trial character.

Final step is picking a world. Rhiss made a test one on Diabolis yesterday, so I tried to do that, and this happened:

ffxiv realm select

I can’t make one on that server because it’s not allowed right now. It was allowed yesterday. So we already can’t play together and we’re just starting. This is really not the start I had in mind. Oh well, I’ll sort that out tomorrow, so I go in…

Damn, This Is Gorgeous!

When I get in, there’s an intro sequence. It’s longer than I’d like before I can do anything, but the dialog and interactions are doing a good job of making me feel like a person in the world and not the chosen one, so I approve. I do a couple of initial tutorial quests, then other people appear, and I see this:

ffxiv nice dress

Wow. Even on my three year old computer, this game is awesome looking. Performance is really good for me. It somehow both has much higher detail than Wildstar AND better framerates. The town looks great, the people looks great, the world looks great… Running around town trying to find things was a joy because everything is so easy on the eyes. That’ll probably fade in time, but wow.

I ran around doing some town fetch quests, then got sent outside to do some stuff. Most of the in game UI annoyances from the original release are gone, and I’m having a relatively painless time figuring out how to do things.  Out for some early combat I noticed that the pacing feels slow and deliberate, especially compared to the chaotic frenzy that Wildstar can turn into. I didn’t mind it, because it feels kind of like WoW and I enjoyed that for years. Plus I’m playing a Conjuror, so I can run around healing other people in the area for fun. One of them was fighting two things at once and I think I helped them out, they threw me a bow afterwards. It’s the little things.

The sound was also pretty good, with little touches like when combat kicked off and such. I ran into a FATE and that played like a rift from Rift. Cool, I liked that system a lot.

It’s Early, So We’ll See

These are pretty early impressions, considering I’m level four and haven’t really done anything. Overall I enjoyed it more than Rhiss did, especially when I was enjoying the world and not dealing with wonky stuff like the character creation issues. It sucks that we can’t group right now, and that it’d take a while to fix that once we find a server we can both get on because of how long the intro area is, but still.

I hope to be able to put more time into it and see how some other things work before the trial runs out. Given that I want to play again, so far the trial did it’s job of selling the game. What a vast improvement from the first time.