FFXIV 2 Months In

I am now entering my 3rd month with Final Fantasy XIV and I thought I’d stop and talk about it some. For reference, I have leveled both a White Mage and Astrologer to level 60, I’ve been at 60 for a few weeks with both actually and am starting to get fair gear for my level. I have also leveled the 3 gathering classes to level 46, and the about 8 crafting classes to almost level 40. I have not completed all of the Main Story line quests as of yet, but I feel I am probably pretty close to being done with them.

I first want to discuss the quests…. I did try to pay attention to the quests early on, but I got bored fairly quick and got tired of reading the insane amounts of text for what didn’t seem all that interesting of a story early on. I hear it picks up, but when I have this sense of “catching up” in terms of actual game since I didn’t play the first 3 or 4 years of the game, reading a ridiculous amount of text that don’t actually have much to do with the game play, well it’s easy to let it go. I don’t believe any of the story is interactive at all at any rate so I don’t feel like I am missing out. By interactive, I mean no choice I make or any player or group of player changes the story. We can’t as a server decide that we don’t care about X going on so that thing is going to not happen. As a matter of fact, you pretty much have to defeat whatever bosses you have to defeat because the only way to get content unlocked is by unlocking content which requires beating bosses. So if I decided to actually not defeat a boss because I don’t believe in his cause, well not only am I not unlocking that raid or dungeon or trial, but I am also not unlocking everything that gets unlocked AFTER it in the storyline, which is just awful. You may as well not play at that point. So there really is no story choice at all and there is no player that ever affects the game world at all in any meaningful way and because of this, I just don’t care about the story, even though I’ve heard it’s decent.

Now the reason that I came to FFXIV in the first place is because I heard that the raiding scene was pretty good. I am just starting to get into the raiding. I am not in a guild that has a regular group that raids, so I generally go in duty finder and just get auto added to the random raids. So I admit that I have a limited experience here. Still,  I have gone through most of the most recent line of raids. I have had a difficult time getting through the level 50 raids as there are fewer people who go through them which makes sense. My overall reaction is…. what raids? Which is only slightly unfair. Group content in this game is divied up into a number of different categories… It’s all instance and level synced so even at 60 you can play the level 17 dungeon and it is easier for a 60 than a straight 17 but still can be challenging.

  • Dungeons – are what you’d think, it’s usually 2 smaller bosses, one more challenging boss, and a bunch of trash. Usually it is a decent sized run that takes about a half hour and I find the Dungeons fairly satisfying, though they don’t drop any gear worth wearing for the most part. Most dungeons have a normal and a hard variety. I like this, as it reuses the assets from the original dungeon and keeps it relevant and variety later in the game.
  • Trials – These are essentially one off boss fights. The boss is usually fairly challenging, especially at extreme. The fight does have 3 difficulties: Normal, Hard, and Extreme. I kind of hope and expect for a forth difficulty with the upcoming expansion. Really, this is a non-loot event which is odd to me, the Extreme version does have super rare mount loots that people farm them for. They tend to have a decent tome drop compared to dungeons and they are super quick, like 10 or 15 minutes, there are a couple longer trials but they are rare. Honestly, I don’t entirely understand why people do the Trials but I find myself doing them more than other content because I find them fulfilling and when I only have a few minutes, they fill up time well.
  • GuildHests – Really these are kind of mini-trials. Most of them are a single fight and not overly difficult. The last Guildhest is level 40 so I have a feeling they won’t be continued longterm. Again no loot or anything, you do get some grand company $$ but not much.
  • Raids – Ok I am going to actually split this up into two:
    • Mini-Dungeons – This is actually a more accurate way to describe most of the raids in this game. Take 8 players and put them through a series of bosses, sometimes with trash mobs between. This is where most good loot is dolled out. They are generally quicker than actual dungeons because they have less trash to go through, but the mechanics of the bosses are far more complex and the boss fights take a bit more time. This is not at all what I would call a raid however because there isn’t a time investment or strategy investment really. They are like 2 or 3 trials put together, generally take 20-30 minutes. Honestly I’d rather do these more than Dungeons because there’s actually loot here. But because there isn’t a daily roulette, there aren’t as many groups doing it for some reason.
    • Raids – There are, I think, 3 Raids per 10 level tier. Seriously, only 3. And they aren’t overly popular to do. Probably because they actually require time and effort to do. But they also don’t seem to have as good of gear as the mini-dungeons either so there’s less reason to do them.

So here’s the thing. The best loot in the game is dropped in the mini-dungeons so everyone tends to focus on that. This makes sense. The second tier of loot can be received from doing ANY of the rest of the content (outside of guildhests). Because you receive tomes from doing them, you turn in tomes for 2nd and 3rd tier gear. YAY hazzah. Some methods you get more tomes than others, but generally you get tomes from doing near anything in the game. So in the end I feel very unfulfilled by what I’m seeing with the raiding tier. I don’t visualize small dungeons as raids, I really don’t. Raids are a massive undertaking…. to me it’s generally 20+ (though I would take 15+) people getting together and coordinating for a greater goal. And that was the draw I was looking for. 8 people running through large scale content, while fun is the stuff that fills the middle between the big thing. The dynamics within these are great! They totally remind me of the instanced dungeons in EQ2 that we would use to gear up to do the raids. But here they are the end result. It’s weird. The whole gear system is f’d up.

So Blech. I’m still playing FFXIV but I feel the writing is on the wall. I do really like their crafting system, being able to switch jobs is pretty nice too. I feel the game as a whole follows WoW’s “let’s make the game really easy so that casual players can play and hardcore players feel left out.” But that’s becoming standard, anything meant for a hardocre player is viewed as “not with the times.” I may go back to giving EQ2 another play, but honestly don’t have high hopes, it seems like the servers are pretty dead now.

Return to the land of MMORPGs

It was during Christmas Vacation, amidst working during my time off, that I was contemplating my current state of loneliness in life. And I was trying to think back to a time where I was feeling less lonely and more fulfilled by interactions with others, and I realized that this came largely due to friends made during online games rather than in real life.

I’ve always had a select few really good offline friends, but this was always supplemented by online friends made in games. It was in this way I always felt very fulfilled with my relationships in life despite having a case of social anxiety.

Well as it turns out, 5 or 6 years ago, I was playing Travian fairly hardcore and also in a hardcore EQ2 raiding guild when I had some fights with my roommate that led to me deciding that I needed to make my priorities a little more real life and a little less online. This was also helped by the fact that my raiding guild had broken up and though I joined a new one, I didn’t find it as fulfilling and didn’t really like the latest expansion from EQ2 so it felt like a natural time to end online games.

Now years later, no roommate and my kid is nearly 18, I find myself having less real world responsibilities again and I notice myself becoming more lonely. I realized that it was this absence of online games which had a big part of it so here I am, returning to the scene of the MMO.

I first thought, well EQ2 is still kicking but upon looking at the game as a whole I must say that it isn’t kicking all that much. I’m a little disappointed that EQ Next was axed as I think that one may have been a good home. So I started looking at what games made a good Raiding experience. I feel that, though I tend to prefer sand boxy games, this raiding cromradery is what I miss from my online life. Relaly guild cromradery, but I think raiding hardcore really speeds up frienships so that’s what I’m at for now.

With EQ pretty much out, there really isn’t a ton of games with a good raid experience. I kept on searching and finding people pointing at 3 games… World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, and Wildstar. Well, I kind of don’t want to go to WoW…. I have always been against how they have dumbed down the genre and made it easier, and though they do have a raiding experience, in my EQ2 days, EQ2 was largely thought as the better experience. It’s totally possible WoW has since gotten better, but meh I just don’t want to play that game really. I also have discovererd that Wildstar, though newer than the other two, has lost most of its subscribers and is a fairly lonely game so I felt that kind of took it out of contention for me. This left me with Final Fantasy XIV.

And so, I began my journey into the world of Eorzea. So far, so good I guess. The first 50 levels went by pretty quickly but it did slow down quite a bit at 50, largely because the quests stopped giving experience at that level. I have picked up playing White Mage because in my raiding days, I primarily played a healer… though now that I’ve been playing, I have heard that Scholar and Astrologean are more desired in the raiding tier. I will probably switch to Ast once I attain level 60 but for now I’m sticking with the white mage. I think this makes sense because you gain an xp bonus on future jobs once you hit the cap.

I do like that you can switch jobs at will whenever you like with no penalty. And really each class is separate. You get attribute points for leveling, but the points you get are kept only within the job that you leveled. If I switch from White Mage to Warrior, those points I put into Mind, go away entirely and once I level I can put points into Strength without a second thought. I really like the system, it makes me wonder why they gave everyone 8 characters to play. 8 Characters per datacenter at that, so you can build 16 on American servers alone. Seems like a good way to make mule characters. Another nice feature is that you can have up to 10 hot bars, but you can mark certain hotbars as unshared. What this means is that if you do switch jobs, the unshared hotbars will switch as to the new job as well. Very nice touch. Theoretically you can have a completely new set of 10 hotbars per job which really gives you a lot of room to play around with.

So far, it does largely follow the easiness of WoW. I am currently level 42, and the only time I have needed other players is when I have needed to do a dungeon to complete a quest. You can’t do a dungeon solo, there isn’t even the option as far as I can tell, you have to do it with a group. So group I must. I have also grouped and done dungeons just as a change of pace from walking back and forth from the dull quests. But overall it’s a mostly soloable game which I don’t like because it is an multiplayer game after all. Also, I play a healer, which to me by definition should be asking for someone to heal but whatever. There is also no real death penalty as far as I can tell. I know items degrade over time, but they degrade for pretty much any reason. Using a spell in combat degrades boots for some reason, as does enemies hitting you and once to 0% I think the item no longer provides its bonuses anymore but I don’t ever notice a big enough drop off in my production so I tend to just keep going with a few items broken. Oh well. And I don’t notice a significant hit to those items durability from death so again I don’t really notice a death penalty. Really FFXIV seems like a WoW 2.0. But I feel that is where most MMOs are going these days so I guess I gotta live with it if I want to continue with the genre.

I also dislike that FFXIV requires you to unlock everything via quest. And I do mean everything. I don’t think I could have grouped until I unlocked that via quest. You have to unlock jobs via quest (which I think is good), every dungeon, trial, every version of dungeon (Hard, extreme, savage), everything has to be unlocked via quest. To some degree I kind of like it, it gives an extra sense of progression. But on the other side, some features I feel should just be available. Like really? I have to unlock the email service during a quest? It also makes me think I can’t do certain things until I find the quest to unlock it so that when  you run across one of the few things you don’t need the quest to unlock, you still aren’t using it because you still feel you need a quest. (I ran into this with their guilds, thinking there must be a quest to unlock them as there was a greyed out option in my bar and i figured I needed to unlock that to search for guilds, but no, you just can’t search for guilds in the game apparently). I am currently in the midst of a bit where I have tons of unlock quests from the time that 50 was the highest level, so there are all these level 50 dungeons I need to unlock and hard versions and extreme versions and whatever. It gets old, and none of them seem to give xp because 50 was max cap even though it isn’t anymore.

Be that as it may, I am trudging through. I have found a guild and continue on with progression. I have yet to find myself in a raid because I still haven’t hit 60. But I hope to be full on raiding shortly. Here’s to hoping at least.

Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch

I’ve been waiting to post about the Nintendo Switch. Waiting for more and solid info, not just the rumors that have been going around. I’ve been waiting for my initial considerations to settle and get a more complex view of the system. And I finally feel that it’s time to sit down and write about what I think of Nintendo’s upcoming system.

First, let me say that I am excited. I currently have two preorders for the system sitting at Gamestop. One online with a couple bundled games, one from the store with just the system. I’m currently contemplating whether to cancel one or to scalp it. Not sure. But I am a Nintendo Fanboy and I get that my excitement is me being excited to see what Nintendo has next.

I looked at the previews for the various games coming out and personally I thought how different the games look. The last couple of consoles, we have been treated with gimmicky and kiddy games, and while that is still there, I felt that Nintendo has a line-up of RPGs which is fairly strong. In 2017 alone you have: Disgaea 5, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Skyrim, Zelda: Breath of the Wild (I hate calling this game an RPG, but this release seems more RPGy than most), I am Setsuna, Dragon Quest XI, and Dragon Quest Heroes 1 & 2. And that’s just what has been announced for 2016’s RPGs. On top of those, we have Project Octopath, Dragon Quest X, Shin Megami Tensei, and Tales of being announced as Switch games, if not this year then in the future. And then we have rumored games of Pokemon Stars, Mother 3, and that Ubisoft Mario/Rabbids crossover RPG. This is such a huge RPG lineup and I don’t think people fully comprehend this. RPGs have been where Nintendo  has struggled most since the SNES, which may very well be the best RPG console ever. Since the SNES days, Nintendo consoles may have 6 to 9 total RPGs in the entire lifespan of the console. Now, Nintendo may cross that mark in their first year with this console.

This shows Nintendo has definitely changed their tune for getting third parties involved. Obviously they are missing the mark on getting the prime 3rd party support that everyone wants. No Madden announced, no Red Dead Redemption 2, not even GTA V. But it feels like Nintendo is picking a niche that generally does well with a  certain segment of adults and trying to add it to it’s repertoire.  Let’s consider something else here when talking RPGs… Xbox One has , to my knowledge 4 RPGs after 2.5 years of console life… Final Fantasy XV, Skyrim, Fallout 4, and Dark Souls 3. Unfortunately for Nintendo, these are all considered AAA titles and it doesn’t look like Nintendo will score 3 of them, though there is a fairly large chance for Dark Souls 3 to enter into Switch’s lineup at a later date.

Outside their strong RPG lineup, I am slightly dismayed at what I saw from Nintendo. Again, no big sports games outside of FIFA and NBA 2K18, I usually get one Madden per generation and that won’t be on a Nintendo console yet again. Nintendo themselves have a good threesome of Splatoon 2, Mario and Zelda. Though Zelda is just a port from the Wii U and Splatoon 2 looks a lot like Splatoon 1. Mario looks great, but I don’t feel Mario holds the same sway that it once did, I could be wrong on that… Galaxy 1 & 2 were well thought of and those weren’t that long ago. I don’t think that 1, 2 Switch or ARMS were strong showings and outside that there really isn’t a ton out there. But I love the RPG support. It makes me feel so much better about the Switch than  the Wii  U.

I feel the best games for Switch outside of the RPG & Mario is Snipperclips (which I may not get because I don’t think I’d have anyone to play with) and Bomberman R. Neither of which is getting much mainstream press. I’m not interested in a lot of the other stuff, I feel Arms might be great, just not targeted towards me. I could be wrong. I looked at it and was like why isn’t this a Punch Out game? But I do think it goes places Punch Out doesn’t and probably is a more deep game than Punch Out even.

I also didn’t feel like any of the games they showed, really pushed the system past what the Wii U could do which really gave me pause of what the Switch could do. I felt like though it wouldn’t hit PS4 and Xbox One levels, it would outdo what the WU could do by far, but after watching their presentation, I question that. I have no doubt it is better… but it doesn’t feel like it is much better. I wish Nintendo had something that really made me feel like OMG this thing is so much more powerful than the Wii U AND I can take it anywhere. But really I feel like it is the Wii U, just portable. Which is cool, but disappointing at the same time.

Which kind of brings me to what is the biggest disappointment of the Switch. Their marketing. You would think that they would have learned from how the Wii U failed to NOT fail the same way, but I feel they are doing the exact same thing they did before and I think it might bite them. From watching everything they do, you would think that the Switch is a console that you can take anywhere. But the problem with that marketing is it puts it up against the Xbox One and PS4. Which if the Switch was slightly weaker than those two but portable, people would be OK with it. But it isn’t. It is drastically weaker than those two and so the comparisons to those two systems are really going to hurt the Switch I fear. They should be marketing as a portable that you can play on your TV. The reason this is an important distinction is that this puts the Switch into the realm of competing with the 3DS and Vita and maybe tablets to a lessor extent. In this comparison, the Switch does much better. It is hands above those systems in nearly every aspect. When someone complains to me about the graphics capabilities of the Switch vs PS4 I reply back.. yeah but the PS4’s battery life is crappy and it’s hard to play in the car while someone else is driving. My point obviously being that really the Switch is a portable. The problem Nintendo  has is that the 3DS still has steam and they are really scared of replacing the 3DS and the Wii U with the switch because while the Wii U has done poorly, the 3DS has done OK for itself. This past Christmas saw a huge seller in Pokemon Sun & Moon, so huge, it was hard to buy a 3DS from retail because they wanted to get one to play the new game. It puts Nintendo in an awkward place with this system, but they really need to sell it as a replacement to both, I think sales and 3rd party support would do better if they did.

At the end of the day, while companies were not supporting the Wii later years, and the Wii U…. support for the 3DS never really failed. And now with reports of the Vita being discontinued in American territories… the big place I feel Switch is picking support up is those Vita developers, hence the huge RPG support they seem to be getting. I think we may see a number of games which will be PS4 and Switch only, not because the Switch is the second most powerful, but because people are choosing #1 console and #1 portable. But if Nintendo continues to insist that it is not a  portable because they are afraid of galvanizing the 3DS market, they may find that instead the 3DS is galvanizing the Switch market and dooming the Switch. Nintendo needs to pick their poison at this point in time… and it is hard for them to change. They don’t want to admit that they are leaving the console market. But the Switch’s best hope is that they have.

An Ode to the Wii U

With the Switch being officially announced, and only one real game left on the Wii U, and one that will also be launched on the Switch at that. I think we can safely say that the Nintendo Wii U is dead in the water.  With that, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the good and the bad of the console as there was definitely both.

First the name. It’s funny, the Wii took a lot of criticism for the name as well, but I think we all got kind of used to it. But by naming this console the Wii U instead of say the Wii 2, people didn’t fully understand it was a sequel to the Wii instead of an Update to the WIi. I personally don’t entirely understand the confusion with people thinking the Wii U was just a tablet add on for the Wii but there it is, people did. From the similar name, to the similar look of the console, to the similar graphics, people just thought it was the same console, so why buy? It’s been a much talked about issue and it was one of the larger ones that held the console back.

And that tablet addon? Well that never really functioned I think the way that Nintendo was hoping. They were hoping for divergent gameplay but really outside of Nintendoland and a couple other outside games, no one, even Nintendo, ever really used the gamepad. Instead it became a way to play your Wii U games without using the Television screen… a precursor in concept to the Nintendo Switch.

The menu… I have a love hate relationship with. I absolutely love the idea of the Miiverse and think Nintendo did a fair job of incorporating it. But I really never liked how they used the television to show recent things people are talking about in the mii community. I always wanted the menu on the TV. I feel like they could have done something else to bring the miiverse into the menu but I don’t know what. The menu itself was an evolution of what they had started in the Wii. You have tiles, you can arrange tiles. But it took designs from the 3DS as well. You could now change the number of rows on a screen and, more importantly, you could add folders which really helped keep the menus clean and organized. I will say, for whatever reason I like the simplicity of the Wii Shop menu a little more than what we got on the Wii U menu, but I think game developers liked the Wii U better as it did a better job showcasing various games that were out and on sale.

But really it’s all about the games. And to be honest, I really loved the games of the Wii U and feel like they have gone very under appreciated. Could there have been more? Hell yes! But I felt like where the WIi concentrated on casual games more, as evidenced by all the mario sports games, mario party games, and games like Wii Fit and Wii Music… the Wii U took a step back to the core gamer. Sure it had the updated version of Wii Fit and Wii Sports. But gone was the bevy of Mario Sports and other casual games. We never really got a stand alone Zelda or Mario, but I feel like that was largely due to the short lifespan of the system itself.  We did get a Pikmin, a Bayonetta, what I think is the best version of New Super Mario, to date, a new Yoshi game, and another new Xenoblade,  We also saw the creation of some great new IPs that I hope to see again some day in Wonderful 101 and Splatoon, as well as new takes o n old games like NES Remix and Super Mario Maker. And lastly we saw what has become a plague of remasters with the Zelda remasters. I will say I was kind of disappointed in the overall Virtual Console for the Wii U, it never really hit its stride as much as it did on the Wii… fewer games were released on it and many I still have to page back to the Wii in order to play, but it is sufficient. I was also disappointed that they never did start releasing Gamecube VC games, instead opting to release Wii VC games which I still find somewhat odd and puzzling. We did get Earthbound and Earthbound beginnings launched on the system’s VC though so I really can’t complain (sure I can!)

Overall, I feel like the Wii U has been a bittersweet system. Full of new and original ideas that Nintendo had never made before, but with launch dates that never really picked up the way that they did on the DS and the 3DS (both of which had a difficult time pumping out software early in their cycles). All in all, I think I ended up liking what I got from the Wii U slightly more than what I got from the WIi. I feel like had it gotten a couple more years and a bit more in the sales department people would have been more behind this system than what it ended up to be. I still rate N64 as my favorite all time console, but the Wii U has somehow squeaked into my top 5 I think. But then, I always have appreciated systems where there was a low level of shovelware.

Changes… They be a Coming!

I don’t know why, but over the last few weeks  I have wanted to dedicate myself to becoming more focused on what I am doing. This isn’t too mean I have lost my ADD that so richly enhances my life. No No No! I still slide between projects like no tomorrow! But I for one want to start finishing projects I start more often, and even more so, on content producing projects I want to be more focused on what exactly I am doing.

This can be seen in my recent posts about JRPGs where I am talking about how I want to focus my game playing time more on this genre, and by effect, focus my YouTubing to JRPGs as well. And this also means that I want to re-focus this blog to be more game centered than it has gotten over the last few years.

This blog did originally focus on games. The name of my blog was originally The Life & Times of Kazar, as my online name used to be Kazar. And focused on my journeys through Asheron’s Call while I was still playing that game. This was something like 15 years ago at this point, probably more! Then I stopped playing that and as I started playing MMOs that were more and more generic in quests, I found a more and more difficult time figuring out what to talk about in their regards. And then I gave up on the MMO genre almost entirely. As all that happened, I started going back to school.  I started getting a job. And so forth and so this blog has headed in two directions. 1) More random/life related entries. 2) Less entries in general. These are both related as, while i do want to share the goings on in my life and various thoughts on random topics, I do limit exactly WHAT I am willing to share online.

So yeah, this site is going to get refocused. I am hoping to have more frequent discussions of what I am doing in gaming, be it my JRPG Quest, my Minecraft play stories, News on Games (E3 is coming!) opinions, and so forth. I will likely also still have a random life event and youtube talks coming into the topics from time to time, but that is no longer going to be a focus. With that… just as a warning. When it comes to my tales of gameplay EXPECT SPOILERS!

With these changes, I decided I also want to change the general layout of the blog as well. I really like the layout I have currently. But I wan to add more gamey related functions and navigation features. For instance, I recently found the website backloggery.com which I intend to use for tracking my collection and progress on games, and want to incorporate some of it into this site as well somehow. Changes will certainly not be overnight, but if you notice some changes coming up here and there, you will understand why!

Thanks to all for continuing to watch and support  this site and my YouTube channel. I appreciate all the support. =)

What JRPGs to play?

In my last post, I talked about what makes a JRPG different than a WRPG due to a personal conquest of mine to take on all JRPGs ever made. But this leads me to the next query of what JRPGs I actually will be playing for this quest. Obviously i cannot actually play them all for a number of different reasons so I figured I’d spell out what those reasons are and where I will be going with the project.

The first issue at hand is availability. JRPGs get made on every console and while emulation is great, I would like to play a real version if I can. Part of the reason for this is that I am a game collector and I think the practice will help me enlarge my collection. But also because there is something nice about sitting down, controller in hand, and playing a game that you just don’t get as much sitting at your computer. Keep in mind, while there are many JRPGs on PC (MANY), the genre largely was popularized on the console so most of the games were made with the console in mind.

Being a collector, I do have a good number of consoles. As of this writing the consoles i own are as follows:

  • Atari 2600
  • NES
  • Genesis
  • SNES
  • Playstation
  • N64
  • Dreamcast
  • Playstation 2
  • Gamecube
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox One
  • Wii
  • Wii U
  • Retron 5
  • Game Boy
  • Game Boy Color
  • Game Gear
  • Game Boy Advance
  • DS
  • PSP
  • Playstation Vita
  • 3DS
  • New 3DS
  • And of course… the PC.

As you can tell, I have A  LOT of systems to choose from. But I have some obvious gaps in coverage and many of these gaps are strong in the JRPG genre. My collection of consoles is going to grow as time goes on but to begin with, my selection of games will be limited by what I can play. For fun’s sake, the consoles that are currently highest priority for me to purchase going forward are as follows in no particular order:

  • Playstation 3
  • Playstation 4
  • Sega Saturn
  • Neo Geo AVS
  • Virtual Boy

Availability of what systems I have isn’t the only issue. Many JRPGs were made in Japan and were never brought over to the United States. And while I have limited knowledge of Japanese, it is that of probably a 5 year old if that lol. I do have a Rertron 5 so this keeps the door open for me to be able to import Japanese games and play them, and not only that patch them with an English translation. It is quite wonderful. But I am sure there will be more than one game where there is no English translation and/or the game is just too rare to be able to find.

The next issue we have revolves around which version do we play? Meaning, many JRPGs in particular tend to find themselves with re-releases and remakes. Final Fantasy is a good series to point to to see this happening. But you see it with Pokemon as well and many other games. I am obviously not going to play the same game 5 times just because it gets re-released.  For this, it’s going to largely be a judgement call. I will need to look at each version and see what it offers. My general feeling is to stick with the original version for Square games whenever possible because they like to change game mechanics in a bad way. For instance in FF1 newer versions take out the strategy of guessing how much health a monster has so that you don’t double up on one foe, and they also add in true random creature generation. Both of these features that they “fix” I feel make the game worse, Square is known for this sort of thing. Pokemon however gets updated well. For instance they add in breeding into FireRed since it wasn’t available in original Red, this coupled with graphics update and new dungeons enhances the experience instead of detracting from it.

Speaking of Pokemon, we may also have games like it where there are several of the same game with minor differences. For instance, Pokemon Red, Green, Blue and Yellow are all essentially the same game. For these types of games I will choose just one per generation unless the differences in the games provide a completely new experience. (For instance, what we see from the different versions of the latest Fire Emblem.) For Pokemon, I would likely pick the “3rd version” as Nintendo usually adds additional features for it and that version is generally considered the best. However, again, it depends on what is available.

There are a few unknowns to me right now on whether I will play it or not…. Strategy/Tactic JRPGs… such as Fire Emblem. Do I count it a JRPG or a tactic RPG?  Essentially do I play these games or not? I don’t know right now. They definitely hold strong themes along with RPGs and usually are games I enjoy playing, but I don’t know if I want to go for the tried and true RPG or include tactic games. Decision to come later.

Similarly, RPG Maker games. These are a toughy because there are virtually unlimited amounts of games made by amateur designers. Many of them are crap, a few are good and worth pla

Defining the JRPG Genre

Over the last few days I have been considering undergoing a personal project. To play every JRPG that has ever come out. There are a number of reasons for this… I have always wanted to have a specific niche on my youtube channel… largely Minecraft, RPGs and Strategy, and I have strayed from that. Moreover, I haven’t been playing many RPGs over the last few years and RPG really is my favorite genre. And while I do enjoy a number of older WRPGs (Older Bioware games,  Gold Box, Might & Magic, Ultima, etc), JRPG has a very special place in my heart and I do love the genre slightly more than WRPGs.

This train of thought has got me considering what exactly is a JRPG? If I am going to play all of them, I feel like this needs to be defined straight up. I have looked up a lot of info on what makes a JRPG and there actually is a fair amount of confusion on the genre. Many think it simply means that it is just an RPG made in Japan and that is the only requirement, but this definition just doesn’t seem quite right. JRPGs and WRPGs FEEL different. Sit down and play Final Fantasy 6 and then play Skyrim and tell me how the two are similar outside of there being magic and levels. Same with FF6 and Dark Souls… yet you can actually sit down and compare Dark Souls and Skyrim and these two games hold within them many similarities. Dark Souls, though it was made in Japan, has more in common with Western RPGs than JRPGs.

There are certainly a number of similarities between JRPGs that I don’t entirely feel define the genre, but are certainly common features.

  • Turn-Based – The average JRPG is turn-based, but this isn’t always true. Like many genres, once games started coming into the world of 3D, action JRPGs started becoming more of a thing. Though to this day, many JRPGs remain Turn-based, this isn’t a requirement for the genre.
  • Cute Art – Since the inception of JRPG, art has been on the cute/overemphasized eyes. The art direction generally has a lot in common with the art style of anime and manga in Japanese culture. I don’t know if this is a requirement or not for JRPGs to be honest. I can’t think of any examples of a non-cute nature, but I feel like there is no reason that a JRPG could not have a realistic art style instead.
  • Random Encounters – This I consider a more newish feature. As old games all had random encounter regardless of if it was WRPG or JRPG.  At some point, WRPGs went away from the random encounter (and subsequent grinding) whereas the JRPG has largely embraced it. I actually feel like at this point in time I could consider this a rule to be a JRPG, however I think moving forward many JRPGs are going to try to experiment with non-random encounters a little more often and I don’t see why they can’t so I don’t want to make this a rule.

So with those non-requirements but regular features out of the way,  I wanted to go into some things that I think make a JRPG. For this, I wanted to look at really what is different almost universally between the JRPG and the WRPG.

  1. Focus on Linear Plotlines – All RPGs have a plot, and to some extent, all RPGs have a linear plot. After all, there is a general beginning and ending to the story which the designer wants to tell whether it is a WRPG or a JRPG. A JRPG differs in that their story is usually much more linear, oftentimes being almost completely on rails. You go from point a, to point b to point c, etc. Until you reach the end. WRPGs generally will give you a starting point, and then let you go on your merry way, choosing how you want to get to the end. The focus on a WRPG is much more exploration based. A JRPG may have a few forks in the road, but the path is pretty well ordained, the designer has a story to tell and they want you to see it.
  2. You Control a Character – This seems odd to say, after all this is common amongst all RPGs really. But what I mean is that you are controlling a character that the designers created in a JRPG. They created the name, personality, background, class, skills and stats. You play that character in order to tell their story, you are experiencing someone else. In WRPG, they leave everything open to a blank slate and essentially let you create who you want, be it yourself or some character concept you enjoy.
  3. Group Oriented – JRPGs tend to be group based, not solo efforts (this isn’t always true but I feel it is true enough to warrant a rule for it). There may not always be a group in an RPG, but there are almost always more than one character.
    3.1 – Exception – Dungeon Crawlers are WRPGs and almost always contain a group. Outside of this subgenre, WRPGs tend to focus more on the solo protagonist.
  4. Focus on Relationships – In addition to being group based, JRPGs focus on relationships between protagonists, between protagonists and NPCs, and between protagonists and antagonists. WRPGs have relationships but that isn’t the focus. The focus is more on your interactions with the world, the setting and your equipment and stats.
  5. Luck-Based – WRPGs are very much stat-based games. You create your character, give it stats, put weapons and armor on that have many stats each, enemies have stats, what you can do is often based off skill stats, how much damage is based off stats… etc… JRPGs however rely more on the die roll. There may be stats that enhance the die roll, but by and large stats are minimal and/or hidden from the player. They are considered more to detract from the immersion of the player into the world and so are largely ignroed by the player.
  6. Elements of an RPG – This is true for both but obviously needs to be there to be considered a JRPG, otherwise you end up with Super Mario 64 being a JRPG or something. So as an RPG, a JRPG does in fact need to have levels, items used for something other than quests, quests, foes, experience, NPCs, Stores,  a campaign setting, etc that one would come to expect with an RPG.

I think that using the above 6 elements, whilst keeping the “not necessary but likely” elements in mind, we can get a good idea of what constitutes a JRPG when making a list of what games to play.

As an example, I was actually considering Final Fantasy 1 while writing up these requirements and came to the realization that Final Fantasy 1 may actually be a western RPG which seems really odd. There is a potential that games before 1995 had different requirements than games after 1995, but I kind of want to have a single ruleset for all. So Let’s look at it…

In Final Fantasy 1, I kind of want to say the story is linear, but it really isn’t for the time. You start outside the village and you can move on to the first boss without going and seeing the king first. It is  a fairly open world game and late in the game once you unlock all the ocean parts, you really can take whatever dungeons you want to take and don’t really even have to go to all. If you want to go straight to Chaos, you certainly could. You did have a group of adventurers but they were generic,  you could give them whatever names and classes you wanted,, much like an WRPG, and they didn’t interact with each other, or really anyone that much. I will say that the game was more luck based than stat based, but 2.5 out of 6 is not gonna cut it for the JRPG genre.

That realization seems odd to me, because you would think that Final Fantasy would in fact be a JRPG. At the time I would say that it probably did have more to do with region to be a JRPG… Final Fantasy 1 did a lot of things that we might see now as stepping stones to the genre. It used the WRPG as an influence and then the JRPG evolved from there, but because of its earliness, it really wasn’t what we come to think of as a JRPG now.

Re-thinking the Pain Scale

This week I was at the doctor’s office and inevitably the question came up…. On a scale of 0 to 10, how would I rate my pain that day. Like every other time I am asked this inane question, I struggled. The problem? The philosophical question of what is pain? You see doctors came up with this idea of the pain scale to judge whether someone was seeing a lot of pain or not. The problem is each person’s idea of what pain is, is wildly different.

0 seems like the easiest number to understand… Absence of pain… this has nothing to do with me. I talked to another doctor on the phone today and said it bluntly. The only way for me to achieve this is to be on Oxycodone and to be fairly lucky with my issues. That number is non-existant…

The rest? What do they mean exactly. I can assure most readers that a 1 to me is NOT a 1 to you. Very little pain is still likely a 5 or a 6 to you. If I’m at 4, you are most likely at 8. A 9 or 10 to me is something most people don’t experience more than a couple times in a lifetime and I experience it probably once a month if not more.  This creates an issue for me. Do I tell a doctor that I am at a 1 or 2 when I am experiencing a small amount of pain relative to me? It’s supposed to be according to where I am normally at that I experience pain. But if I say 1 or 2, my doctor will think that my pain is small, not much, unimportant and not worth thinking about which is completely NOT true.

Let’s take this a different way. Let’s say you have someone on a Monday chop off a toe. You might rate that pain of the be-toeing to be a 10. Tuesday, another toe… it may still be a 10, and might still be a 10 on day 3 when you lose the third toe. But on day 4 or 5, you might start adjusting to that pain and might start saying 9 instead of 10. You go through this practice daily and you might eventually find yourself used to it and might lower the pain associated with it to a 4 or 5 just because it is what you know. Does this make the pain any less important? NO! YOU ARE STILL LOSING TOES! That you as a human get used to pain, doesn’t change that there is something underlying that is causing the pain even if you find it more tolerable.

I came to the conclusion this week.. I will never again use 1 through 4. EVER EVER EVER. Doing so trivializes my pain. There is NO such thing as a 3 in reality, there is just normality and my normal is way fucking higher than that and shame on the doctor who doesn’t understand that. Which yes is all of them. I am even hesitant to say that I should ever use 5, and that my scale should start at 6 and we should just accept that I am in pain and start with that.

I am in pain, and a lot of it. I live with it, it is part of my life. To a degree, i identify with it and at this point, it might be weird for me for it to be completely gone. That’s weird to say but it’s true. I’m so used to the pain that I live with on a daily basis, I am not quite sure what life would be without it.

Still… I am tired of the pain… it is draining both physically and mentally to put up with it. As I write this… I am sitting at an 8 probably, with the knowledge that it will be a 9 by the end of the night when I go to sleep. If I can sleep at all. Not much I can do about it. I am without any sort of pain meds.

On Blogging Life

In the past month, I have gotten into a place where I am contemplating a lot of things in my life. I will be honest, I have not been in a good place. In this reflection I have been asking who am I, what am  I doing, am I doing what I love, am I around those I love, how am I using my time, and many more really core questions about how am I living my life. I am not really going to talk about the personal life reflections as much in this post. Instead,  I want to discuss the reflections I have had in regards to this blog, to my youtube channel, and to a few other things that seems somehow related. Of note… this post was originally intended as a single post. I have since decided to split it into three to be released on subsequent days just because I got all wordy.

First the blog… Somehow every 12 to 18 months, I need to remind myself that this thing is here. I always like the idea of the blog, but I often forget about it. And I do recognize that this blog is not well traveled, I am fine with that for most part. I think the height of readership of this blog was when it was far more focused because I was dedicated into one MMO and I was always talking about travels in that MMO. And it makes sense that people would read along to a single topic like that. Since my leaving the MMO scene, the blog too has sort of devolved into a what’s going on in my life and that has both made it uneven for reading and uneven for writing (as I don’t always have stuff to talk publicly about).  Theoretically, I could possibly return to a more themed blog to go along with my youtube channel, and honestly this may be worth a thought if I play a lot of Minecraft for instance, I usually have a lot of thoughts happening on Minecraft, and while a lot of that translates into the videos, there are some thoughts that I don’t express in youtube largely because there isn’t enough time to have more deep thoughts there. Still, I do like that this blog encapsulates more than one minor part of my life. I like that I can come on one day and put up some random piece of poetry that I wrote, or thoughts on Nintendo (which I will NEVER do a Nintendo youtube series unfortunately given how they deal with monetization).

I can’t help but feel like I am definitely failing in not talking about stuff that does correlate to my Youtube life however. For one, there is  a lot of stuff that I think about and even talk about in YouTube videos that probably shouldn’t be talked about there. For instance, more detailed explanations as to why episodes haven’t been happening, technical issues, thoughts I have on the videos going forward and so forth. I like being open and honest about such things but I do think that they sometimes detract from videos. This blog offers a nice outlet for these thoughts without dragging down a video in doing so.

So for this site going forward, I think I want to set a goal for myself, and I want to be careful with goals because I won’t always be successful. But I want to get at least 1 post a month on this site where I talk about whatever. And I want to have at least 1 post every 3 months that somehow pertains to my youtube channel. Whether it is talking about some random fun shit that happened off camera, talking about the decision to LP a game, or some technical issues. I feel like these goals are extremely low and thus, attainable.