FFXIV: Stormblood Early Access Stream

jzhgamingSB

June 16, 2017

Beginning Approximately 7:00am Eastern

Commentary will be on and off, but chat will be available
Cut scenes will be skipped to avoid as many spoilers as possible

Game play will be on Playstation 4

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I will be playing on my dragoon, moving through the main story quests and the dragoon job quests as they come up. Commentary will be on and off depending on my streaming environment (I have kids.. and there is no school 🙂 )

The stream will be on the JZH Gaming YouTube Channel, and chat will be available regardless of whether or not commentary is on.

 

FFXIV: Stormblood Preview

The Non-Disclosure Agreement got lifted today, so a lot of twitch, YouTube and Reddit users who have gotten first hand experience of the changes coming to FFXIV with Stormblood are releasing information. Here are some links:

Official Reddit Thread – Stormblood Hands-On Preview

Official /r/ffxiv YouTube Channel

Mr. Happy’s YouTube Channel (my personal favorite resource)

There are some exciting changes coming with Stormblood – both to existing classes/jobs plus the addition of Red Mage and Samurai. Along with this, new main story quests and a new raid is on the horizon.  Early Access begins on June 16, just over two weeks away.

My plan is to have streams going all day, both with and without commentary through Discord. These streams will be spoiler heavy – though I haven’t decided if I will skip cut scenes or not (for those who don’t know, you can go back and view all of the cut scenes you have already scene/skipped). I will be streaming through YouTube as usual.

My plan on Stormblood progression, without knowing too much of what is going to happen upon its release, but basing it off of Heavensward’s release from two years ago, is to get through the MSQ as quickly as possible on my Dragoon, then decide if I want to level Red Mage or Samurai – leaning towards Red Mage.

If you haven’t already, feel free to subscribe to the YouTube Channel – JZH Gaming.

Final Fantasy XIV – My Return

I’ve been back into Final Fantasy XIV – what I have previously called the best MMO out there right now – for about a month. I began with a new character, but once I had the hang of playing the game back, I went back to my older character to get a “head start” for the upcoming expansion. Note, “Stormblood,” the next expansion in the series, comes out June 20, with early access for pre-orders beginning five days before release (I will be there).

I quite playing FFXIV almost two years ago. I went on “vacation” for a month back in June of 2015 – right when the “Heavensward” expansion came out, got back into town, and Elder Scrolls Online had released for Playstation 4. I didn’t look back – dropped some gil (in game currency) of to my Free Company (guild) at the time so they could do their airship thing, and jumped ship to ESO. I didn’t regret it, and looking back now, I still might do it over again – I have met some great people since then and it would not have been likely if I had stuck with FFXIV. I comforted myself by saying ESO didn’t have a monthly subscription, though my wife will assure you that I had a monthly sub for ESO.

After some good and bad – mostly weird, experiences with some free to play MMOs, I’m back with FFXIV. I feel like I’ve come home. I will touch on my opinions of F2P versus sub models in another article, but I will say this to all who would rather dish out money to F2P versus a sub model – the excuse that “I will not pay to play,” typically doesn’t jive in the end. But i digress, so here we go.

Coming back into FFXIV – which is one of the deepest MMO games you can play, I had two goals. First, relearn how to play. This was not just my DPS rotation as a Dragoon or the mechanics of dungeons and raids, but everything – from the menus to the UI to how to sell stuff on the market board. I had literally been away for 22 months, playing and learning other MMOs out there, and I was extremely rusty to say the least. My second goal was to be ready for the new expansion the moment that it dropped. To do this, I had to accomplish my first goal, but i also had to complete the Heavensward expansion quests. Unlike World of Warcraft where you can jumo to the new content right away, Square Enix wants you to complete everything – in order – to get to the next area/expansion. This would mean if I did everything solely on a new character I would have to finish the base game main story quests (A Realm Reborn) then Heavensward and on top of that, gear my character out to a respectable item level for when Stormblood dropped – I figured ilvl 250 would suffice. Needless to say, I completed both of my goals, and here is how I did it.

  1. Created a new character on the server I have played on – Brynhildr – leveling him up enough to get to my job skills (Dragoon – Maurader to lvl 15, Lancer to lvl 30), relearned the basics of my rotation, learned the basic mechanics of dungeons, etc, essentially relearned the game.
  2. Got back onto my old character and set him up – skills, etc. Began Heavensward Main Story Quests (MSQ).
  3. Leveled to 60 on Dragoon, finished MSQ
  4. At level 60, constantly geared – first to ilvl 200, then to 230, then to 250 – which is where I felt I needed to be for Stormblood’s release. I did this through dungeons, hunts and finally raids and daily roulette. I will confess I also bought some gear from the market boards to help alleviate the grind. I had a lot of help in running some stuff, as well as answering my questions from my current free company along the way.
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Dragoon – Level 60 / ilvl 250

As you can see, I did it. took me playing around three weeks on my old character to go from level 50 to level 60 as well as raising my gear level once I was at 60. This was with an average of about 3 hours a day over that three week period (maybe a little higher if you count weekends).

It’s not perfect – I can still get better gear. My plan is to continue to do my daily routine – Expert Roulette, Level 60 Roulette, Trials Roulette and Vath Beast Tribe Quests – this will enable me to have enough Tomestones of Scripture to finish upgrading the rest of my gear, minus my weapon, to achieve an ilvl of around 257 before Stormblood releases. Beyond that, I am simply working on leveling other classes, currently working toward a Paladin (tank job) and Black Mage (ranged DPS).

State of Things – JZH Gaming (4/25/17)

Hello all!

Another week of gaming is under our belt since last weeks “State of Things” post, and I’d like to share where everything is at with the website here as well as the YouTube channel.

Altlesjo and I are both playing Final Fantasy XIV  – currently in it’s Heavenward expansion with the Stormblood expansion coming in the 3rd week of June. Altlesjo has just started and I have finally reached level 60 and currently working on raising my ilvl and finishing up the main story quests involved with Heavensward so I can be ready for Stormblood at launch (hopefully pre-launch with the pre-order). I have shared some content already, and I will continue to have random streams and video uploads of FFXIV game play, but nothing set in stone at the moment. My plan moving forward is to stick with FFXIV, and offset down time with that with other games, such as Star Trek Online and eventually Elite Dangerous. I cannot speak too much towards altlesjo’s intentions, except I can say with confidence that neither one of us will play a F2P MMO ever again.

If you are interested in FFXIV and would like to be able to play with either one of us – doesn’t matter if you are new or not, we play in the North American (Primal) Data Center on the Brynhildr Server. The great thing about this game is that no matter if you are on PC or PS4, as long as we are on the same server, we can all play together. On top of that, for raids there is cross-server capability.

Streaming Schedule (Current Plan)

  • Mondays – 10pm Eastern – The J&J Show (note: we will be starting it up again soon, we let everyone know when.
  • Tuesday – Thursday – 8pm Eastern – FFXIV – Random streams, will not happen every night most likely
  • Friday – 7pm Eastern – Star Trek Online – Elite Queue runs, Battlezones, etc
  • Friday – 8:30/9pm Eastern – FFXIV
  • Saturday – 7pm Eastern – Mass Effect: Andromeda Multiplayer – Dependent on participation, if no one available, I will stream FFXIV
  • Saturday – 8:30/9pm Eastern – Final Fantasy XIV Game Play
  • Sunday – No Streams Planned

So, main nights for streaming will be Friday and Saturday – beginning with STO and ME:A respectively, then switching gears to FFXIV. The main drive, currently, for making videos other then streams will be FFXIV, followed by builds, etc for STO.

This week, I plan on making a page of links for FFXIV. This will contain YouTube channels I have been following as well as links to guides and discussions that I have found helpful – for all classes and jobs. The Star Trek Online page will also have some updates with YouTube channels and specifically important videos moving forward.

Lastly, thanks to all! If there is anything you would like to see in the games/streams listed above, let me know and I will see if I can make it happen.

LLAP,
jzhnutz

State of Things – JZH Gaming

Hello all, happy Monday – to all who celebrate Easter, I hope you had a wonderful one, and to those who don’t, I hope your weekend was wonderful as well.

As everyone who follows myself and those involved with JZH Gaming, our original focus was Star Trek Online. While the game has had its ups and downs, the STO has provided steady entertainment for a lot of people. I want to preface this site update by saying i am not leaving STO behind, though the trickle of new stuff will remain until we get the space balance update when Season 13 comes to consoles – Season 12 comes in tomorrow. That being said, I plan on having content from STO on Friday nights – which may not show up until Saturday morning – but there will be content hear and there. I am not going to write in this post what I feel the state of STO is on Playstation 4 – I will leave that for another post, but because of where I am at personally on my characters, until the space balance update – beyond making sure I have everything I need when it hits – there simply isn’t enough content in the game, even with the Season 12 update hitting tomorrow, to have me playing everyday. Saying that, I will continue to pass on news, updates and anything I come up with when it happens, so stay tuned. I will also continue to tweet out videos from PC players – i.e. Oden Knight, Snipey, SOB, etc, as they produce content that is always helpful for console and PC players alike.

I have resolved to not get into a free to play MMO ever again (note: this is not the first time I have said this), and beyond STO, in that regard, I feel i am best served playing an MMO that is either just buy up front, or buy up front and subscribe. In that vein, myself and others are eagerly awaiting the release of Elite Dangerous on PS4, and I have recently got back into playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Once I get back to the point in FFXIV, I will be sharing more content – at the moment it is mostly leveling and unlocking the dungeons, trials, etc on the way – but soon I will be having content on the channel for everyone to see. Once Elite Dangerous hits, there will be regular coontent from there as well. My plan is to play FFXIV on a regular basis, while doing what needs to be done with E:D when it comes out and as needed. For those who have known me for awhile, or for those who have played with me or asked me about MMOs in general, you will know I holed FFXIV in high regard – which I only stopped playing once Elder Scrolls Online came to PS4.

I know it appears I will be jumping around a lot – and though it seems that way, that is not the plan. STO has a very conflicted place in my heart – but it is there, and I will continue to play it until Cryptic ruins the game entirely or until it ends server wise. However, I will not be spending any money on the game – everything, from now on, will come from resources I can get in game. With that, I have spent a lot of money already, and my in game resources are decent, so from a content perspective, nothing should be lacking – except maybe playtime. Concerning Elite Dangerous – we still do not have a release date, and because of how it is set up, I do not feel like I will have to grind constantly to “keep up,” since most of the stuff is on your own and building yourself to where and what you want to be. With Final Fantasy 14, because I already have experience in the game, I am not spending a lot of time learning anything new, just essentially relearning what I already know – and therefore I feel like I can be at a place soon to provide good and constant content, which I am really looking forward to. Lastly – the plan with other games, such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, is still to have content related to multiplayer, etc on a normal, weekly basis. This, and any other single player games I play, will have content as it comes.

For now, the J&J Show is on a short hiatus – mainly because we do not have anything new to really talk about. Yes, STO has an update tomorrow, but with that, all of the information has been released already, either by Cryptic or by PC players. Obviously, if there are issues, we will make sure to pass those on to you, as well as test them out, but beyond that, there isn’t too much to say. Hopefully, once we get the space balance, there will be more to talk about. In the mean time, once Elite Dangerous gets released, we will have a show or multiple shows on that to give you our thoughts and our visions for what we want to accomplish in game. I am also thinking about doing something similar with FFXIV, but I do not have a plan at this time. For streaming schedules, Friday nights between 7-9pm Eastern will be STO (this week will have the new queues and the battlezone) and Saturday nights between 7-9pm Eastern we will have Mass Effect mulitplayer – both of these nights will be contingent on participation from other players. Beginning either later this week or next week, I plan on streaming some FFXIV – time will be around 7pm Eastern, and last for how long it lasts. I will post something on twitter once I have a better idea when and what.

For everyone who has subscribed to the Youtube channel, and for everyone who follows me here, I appreciate everyone of you.

LLAP,
jzhnutz

 

Star Trek Online Getting Patch – J&J Show (Ep. 6)

So, it appears STO is on PS4 and Xbox One is getting patched today, along with getting The Breach Event later on this week.

Couple of highlights:

  • Temporal Transponder will be fixed… really interested to see this!
  • Turn rate will be fixed (finally… again)
  • Bio-Neural Warhead will actually function properly
  • Get ability to turn off ship visuals (thank the space barbie gods!)
  • Temporary Hit Point meter has been added… curious about this
  • Swapping uniforms from command window added… let’s see if tailor has been fixed in anyways as well
  • Delphic Antiproton Weapons have been fixed concerning Beam Overload… wait… what?!?!?
  • Fixed Invincibility Trait to work with Continuity from Temporal Spec… wait… what again?!?!?!

Delphic AP weapons and Invincibility are not in game… Delphic AP comes from the Sphere Builder lock box and the Invincibility trait comes from the Lobi ship the Zahl… so does this mean, like the Temporal Transponder that these two things were broke BEFORE they were added to the game and this patch is going to fix that BECAUSE they are coming to the game? We don’t know, we can only speculate, however, it would not surprise me at all.

The Sphere Builder lock box includes some interesting things – particularly traits and the Denuos Dreadnought Carrier – which looks interesting (especially since I have been working on a Turret Build, Video 2). Of course the Zahl has one of the best traits for DPS when used properly. Obviously it is all speculation at this point, but I do find it interesting that these two things are being fixed in this patch and they are not even in the game yet.

We also go over Horizon Zero Dawn. My review can be found here, along with some videos of game play.

 

Horizon Zero Dawn – Review

It took me a total of 51 hours, 47 minutes and 22 seconds – but I got 100% completion in game. I got Platinum (all trophies / achievements) at just over 50 hours, and still lacked one side quest and one errand to do, which I found in Free Hope. Let me say this first, i enjoyed every second I played this game, and in the end, it has become one of my favorite games of all time – rivaling games such as The Witcher 3, but saying that, it doesn’t surpass TW3 in my book.

The first thing you notice as you begin playing is that the graphics and soundtrack are superb.

Graphically it beats games like The Witcher 3 simply because the FPS doesn’t drop and I found hardly any glitches whatsoever – except the occasional machine dino break dancing after death. The soundtrack only adds to the wonderful ambience, adding an element that both delights and terrifies as you trudge through the beautiful post-post apocalyptic landscape. This is simply the most beautiful game I have ever played, visually striking with a wonderful attention to detail.

Mechanically, the game borrows heavily from games such as TW3, Assassins Creed, Far Cry Primal and Tomb Raider – there is also elements of other games as well. What it does borrow it borrows really well. Everything, from climbing to shooting a bow feels natural. In fact, using the bow feels so natural that when switching to another weapon, it feels unnatural using it – but no less enjoyable. In combat, the game gives you many options – including just going all out, no stealth and blasting enemies, or the more subtle approach of setting traps and blast wires and leading machines and humans alike into a symphony of destruction as you whistle to get them to cone closer to you. Combat in this game FEELS natural – meaning it isn’t clunky or over complicated. At the same time, even being level 50 with the games end game power armor equipped, you can still easily die if you are not paying attention and dodging attacks on a regular basis.

The game is challenging enough on Normal that it provides a good experience. I have not tried it on any harder difficulty – Normal was good enough for me, providing a good balance between paying attention to the story and being challenging enough to not feel like I was rolling through enemies too fast.

Story wise, Horizon Zero Dawn tells the story of a civilization ultimately created by humanity to survive a man-made apocalypse. I’ll leave that there as the only true story spoiler – but I will say that the story was well thought out and very well told. Every element, every bit of information is important, and even though there are several side quests through out your journey, none feel like they are taking away from the main story, but in fact adding to its mystery. I will be honest, though I had an idea of how it was going to play out, the story did ultimately surprise me – and that is a good thing, with me not being able to guess all of the intricate details in the end.

Beyond the main story, we see a true human element in the side quests and little adventures that the game brings up – from finding people who are lost, helping people get revenge, clearing bandit camps and clearing dungeon like cauldrons – everything in this game feels right and again, ultimately adds to the end result, which is a well thought out and described story that brings us to the salvation of human kind.

My only complaint is that even though the game is open world, and a large one at that, I did not feel the need to actually explore. Ultimately, if you buy the “special maps,” all of the collectibles will be placed on your map. Yes, it is a general location, and I confess, Google helped me a couple of times, but the need to actually run off in a general direction simply wasn’t there. Instead, I would run off towards a particular map icon – be it a metal flower, and ancient vessel or a long neck to get my prize or open up even more of the map. This made the discovery of collectibles more like another fetch quest versus something that i actually found during the journey throughout the world. That being said, I have not discovered all of the date points, but since those do not count towards the completion percentage or the achievements, I wasn’t too concerned.

In the end, I got platinum before I got 100% completion –

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Platinum Trophy – 50 Hours In

And getting 100% completion was as simple as me finding the one location I had not yet gone to to get my last side quest and errand –

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100% at 52 Hours In

Ultimately, the game felt a little short to me – though left open ended enough for DLC or a sequel, I felt like it could have been a little more there. Essentially, knowing what I know now, I feel like I could have done everything in about 45 hours or less – and with a guide, which isn’t out until tomorrow, probably even quicker. However, I did really like that for the most part, the trophies/achievements were gained for typically though normal operations – except for the 23 training dummies – and i really appreciated that.

Over all I give it a 9/10 – Excellent game play coupled with an amazing story topped off with amazing graphics and soundtrack that only felt a little short to me. I would have loved another 10-20 hours with Aloy in her machine infested world.

JZH Gaming – State of Nutz

Good day to everyone!

I wanted to run down what JZH Gaming has been up to and where everything is headed so far. If you follow me on YouTube, you will know that I and those who I play with have been heavily focused on Star Trek Online for PS4. This will still be the case moving forward, but with a few caveats.

First – STO is the “primary” focus, however, I will not be putting in the grind like I have been over the past 5-6 months. I will still be posting builds, still be running Hive Onslaught on Elite, and others as well, but I, and others like me, have gotten to the point where we essentially have everything we need and can get to compete at the highest levels in STO on PS4. our 6 minute Hive Space Elite run is proof of that, as well as subsequent runs of 7 minutes and 6 1/2 minutes respectively with different groups of people. I have been honored to be apart of a great group of people both on PS4 with our fleets – Stargaryen Federation (Fed Fleet) and the Stargaryen Empire (KDF fleet), as well as people on the PC side of things – and those people are linked on my YouTube channel. I look forward to continued interactions with these people moving forward. However, like most people, I am not a one game type of person – I love role-playing games, and have been slowly going through Final Fantasy 15 with my children. I am also looking forward to some games coming out, but more on that in a minute.

The main reason for slowing down on STO – beyond the obvious plateau in ways – is that Cryptic has yet to fix some of the fundamental issues plaguing the game – some – like the tailor and getting stuck while cloaked bugs have been there since the beginning. Others, like the turn rate bug, have been off again-on again issues that for whatever reason, Cryptic cannot seem to get a grip on. I understand the game is F2P, at the same time, myself, and a lot of other people, have sunk a lot of time, money and effort into this game – and lets face it, even if the Temporal Transponder was working, Agents of Yesterday, from a content perspective, was a severe joke – almost as if it was April 1st already. I get it, it’s what PC got, and yes, the new content is great, but it feels lacking. On top of that, the other content that we are all looking forward to – ships – has seemingly been designed to have the “must haves” released in such a way where it feels like every week we are having to buy a new ship to a) master for a trait and b) change our build up once again. One reason I have stuck with the Kelvin Intel Dreadnought for so long is because it works, and it works well – but to answer the question, yes, I have bought the other ship packs across the board except maybe a couple. I get it – Cryptic needs to make money to justify putting resources on the table when it comes to STO, problem is, this problem is not just on PS4 – but goes across the board on all platforms. I will say that with the Badlands introduced with AoY, the grind for marks will not be as bad as it was for Iconian, but that is really the only bright spot besides Temporal Spec coming in – because besides Crystalline Catastrophe, the PvE additions are all a joke, or worse, not worth the time and effort in running them.

I don’t see Cryptic fixing their shit any time soon – and that’s fine – I don’t see myself spending any more money any time soon either. To update – I have all of the ships I have wanted since before STO came out except two lobi ships which are not available yet. I have enough lobi to cover those and also tachyokinetic convertors once those are released. So, from that perspective, I am good.

Now that the bad is out of the way – I am still working on builds, working on the new reputations, working on getting our Hive Space Elite down even quicker – STO just does not have my undivided gaming attention anymore. For what will be sharing my attention, here we go…

Final Fantasy 15 – still taking it slow, partly because I try to play it with my kids around because the like it, AND it is how my dad played Final Fantasy games. I don’t see myself beating it anytime soon, and I probably will not post any videos or have any streams of FF15, but I will be on it from time to time. Still one of the best RPGs I have played since the Witcher 3.

Horizon Zero Dawn – Both I, and altlesjo (my YouTube partner) will be playing this. THIS game I will be streaming and uploading videos – so everyone will have an opportunity to see what some people have called the best looking game on PS4 along with me. I have been looking forward to this for a long time, and I am excited to pop it in tomorrow.

Mass Effect: Andromeda – Comes out in the middle of March – same goes for this game, will be streaming, etc.

Elite: Dangerous – Will release on PS4 in Q2 – no exact date yet, but I have played a trial on PC and watched a lot of material on this game. This looks to be my “other” MMO aside from STO, and i am looking forward to this game a lot as well.

Minecraft – Another game I have always loved – will play mostly on PS4 with a little bit on PC. Cooking up a Star Trek themed escape on Ps4 right now, and some PC friends already have some stuff that looks amazing – one of them is Darth Protius. A STO science guru in his own right, he has put a lot of effort into his Minecraft endeavors. Worth a look.

On a streaming note – I now have the capability to stream through my PC using an Elgato HD60s – so, streams and our J&J Show should be getting a lot better – and a little more complicated.

So – to some it all up – still going to be doing STO, just not as heavy. Look for more variety in content, and as always, keep sending me questions, comments and ideas.

LLAP,
jzhnutz

Final Fantasy – A Family Tradition

First off, this post is not as much about the game as it is my own personal experience with the franchise. It’s not even just about Final Fantasy, but about a deep and meaningful sense of purpose that was given to me at a young age.

Twenty-six years ago my dad brought home Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I was ten years old, and had already watched my dad play through the Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and the like. I had joined him on the journey in those games, as well as others, and I remember well joining him on what would become a life long affair with a game series that the producers of the game saw as their last gasp. Final Fantasy, the original, was everything a lover of role playing games could ask for at the time on a home console, and eventually would become one of the largest names in the genre.

My dad loved it – and subsequently, loved every Final Fantasy, or Final Fantasyesqe game that came out – think Chrono Trigger, etc. Dutifully,  would watch my dad play for hours and hours, into the wee hours of the morning, especially on the weekends. When we moved and my brother and I had our own floor (a former attic), the gaming TV and the game systems followed with us, and so did my dad – at least on Friday nights. We would sit there on the floor, as he sat on a dusty and lumpy old love seat, mesmerized as he defeated enemies and leveled up. We followed along in the strategy guide, telling him where treasure was. He patiently would move back and forth, in what we now call grinding, in the same spot for hours, leveling up.

It’s one of the most pleasant memories of my childhood, and even into my adulthood, I would follow him along as he journeyed in the lands created by Square Soft, and later, Square Enix. My dad wasn’t the greatest JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) player, but his attention to detail insured he left no stone unturned. His desire for perfection is what ultimately led to him never completing Final Fantasy XII – he missed the Zephyr Spear because he unfortunately opened a chest in the beginning hours of the game. He, of course, as a “completionist”, restarted. I don’t remember how far he got in his second play through before he had his stroke that left him physically incapable of playing, but I know he was probably close to the end again. I also don’t remember if he actually got the spear – I would like to think he did, but again, that was nine years ago, and unfortunately we had more important things on our minds. I, of course, was playing as well – but likewise, I never finished the game due to the upheaval. This led to one of my biggest regrets – we, as a family, left a Final Fantasy game unfinished – a first.

Eventually over the next couple of years, I became a family man myself. Marrying my beautiful wife, and at the time of this writing, having five beautiful and wondrous children to call my own. I played Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 – not enjoying them as much as previous titles, but playing and beating them nonetheless. Lightning Returns, not so much. I begane playing Final Fantasy XIV and my three oldest children loved it. With exclamations like, “its a chocobo!” the would sit and watch me play for hours – like a lot of games. However, beyond their random comments, the interaction was minimal.

With Final Fantasy XV, this has begun to change. My oldest son, who is six years old, has dutifully watched me play a couple of hours over the past couple of nights.  He has anxiously waited on me to complete my other “gaming duties” – I run a successful Star Trek Online fleet (think guild) on Playstation 4, and the moment I click on the FF15 icon, he grabs his blanket, runs to the couch, sits down and smiles. The interactions are priceless – “daddy, those guys look like robots,” (Imperial magitek soldiers), “Daddy, your car is awesome and gold,” (it has the chocobo skin from the pre-order), to, “daddy, its getting dark, you don’t want the real bad guys to get you.” I have been trying to connect with video games with my children – at least one of them – like my dad did with me, and it seems, just like it did with me, Final Fantasy has brought that to pass. Last night he asked me if he could stay up and watch me play tonight, I told him I didn’t know if I would be able to – again, gaming obligations with Star Trek Online, but since it is Friday (I get off early), we can play tomorrow afternoon. There, I said it, “we.”

Final Fantasy XV is a single player game – but for my family, Final Fantasy has always been more then that. An experience shared between father and son, and now that tradition, it seems, is going to continue. Part of me thinks it was a way for my dad to get us to calm down and sit in one place, yet I also understand that my dad felt joy when we did sit next to him, reading him the maps and telling him where to go. I can remember him explaining what he was doing and why he was doing it the way he was – sharing his strategy, sharing his wisdom of trial and error. Much like the way he did with everything in his life – as a clergyman, as a father, as a husband – he learned from his mistakes and triumphs, and passed that knowledge on to his sons and daughter. I’m not banking on my oldest son, or any of my sons and my daughter in fully appreciating Final Fantasy – and in this case, Final Fantasy 15, as much as I ultimately did right away. For one, they are still a lot younger then I was when I began the journey twenty-six years ago. I am, however, thrilled at the prospect of at least one of my children wantonly desiring to share in this game’s journey.

As I was going to bed last night, my wife rolled over and told me that as she was putting my oldest son to bed, he could barely contain his excitement. “Daddy said we are going to play Final Fantasy all afternoon, and he is going to teach me how to use the strategy guide (or something to that effect)!” It hit me, my son is excited – not just for a video game, but because it is something that we have been doing together. I rolled over in bed and realized that so was I.

I still have my dad’s copy of Final Fantasy XII, he, of course, got the collectors edition. I still have his strategy guide, again, the collectors edition. I still have all of his notes, and his marks and checks are still visible in the guide. I don’t have a Playstation 2 – otherwise I would have completed it. I do hold out hope that one day they will “remaster” it for PS4, if only so I can lay that one beast to rest, for both myself and my dad. If that day comes, I know I will have at least one son of my on by my side, and I have a feeling I will have at least four others being just as dutiful to me as I was with my dad.

*Note: My dad passed away in 2014 – I know a lot of people wont get it, my wife sometimes included, but Final Fantasy, at least to me, was and is a very important part of my life and time with him. There are obviously a myriad of other things, many things far more important, but FF has always been the one thing that has stuck out in my mind. I am honored that I have the chance to share that same type of experience with my children that he did with his. I am sure he would have loved this game as well.

Guilds and Gaming

I’m a gamer – meaning I play video games. Much to the chagrin of my wife and to the delight of my children, I love sitting in front of a computer screen and allowing an alternate reality to consume my time. I have been playing video games since I was about five years old – from Super Mario Bros., Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy (the original) to Skyrim, the Witcher 3 and Star Trek Online. My gaming “career” has spanned for 20+ years, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

During the span of my gaming lifetime, I began to play video games online – both games that allowed for simple co-op with friends to massive multiplayer online games (MMO’s), and this expanded my horizon when it came to the games I came to love. I’m a role play gamer by heart – meaning I love creating a character and making him or her my own. This began with a free copy of Dragon Warrior from Nintendo Power magazine to anticipating the release of Final Fantasy 15 next month. With my love for RPG’s I began to dabble in a lot of MMO games, and to date have played a lot of them. In that span I have been a part of corporations (EvE Online), guilds, fleets, etc, and have even chose to start and lead my own. My experience is less then some, but it is still vast, and my take on in game organization of players is not unique.

For the sake of wording, let’s just call them guilds. My first experience with this was in EvE Online, and my current experience is being a guild master in both Neverwinter and Star Trek Online, both on Playstation 4. It isn’t easy being in a guild – there are rules, regulations, and requirements. There is typically, if the game is good and thought out, some sort of guild objective to complete. However, without these guilds the game and experience itself would be incomplete. In some games I like to sit back and just be a part of the crowd, yet in others I like to lead from the front. I have ran successful guilds in some games and had disastrous results in others. My guild in Neverwinter, for example, which I have passed off the day to day duties to a good friend of mine, on PS4 is a leading guild, especially around the guilds that don’t charge for admittance. We do have requirements for membership, but they are not strict – the purpose is to both have fun and better the guild at the same time, and in truth, they go hand in hand. My other guild is a Star Trek Online fleet, which, even though only being out for only about 2 months, has grown and carries a good reputation in the community – in fact, both of these guilds carry weight and a good reputation in the community. We are not perfect, far from it, but we are good. I appreciate the fact that people want to join us and be a part of our group, not because we are elite, but because we are not.

Elitism in gaming is a given. There is always going to be those people who are willing to do anything at all to be the best – from paying a ton of money to cheating. We have guilds in game that ensure they are the “best” by forcing people to pay money or in game materials to enter their guilds so they can boost their guild status – though holdings, guild buildings and guild projects. I understand, everyone wants to be in the best position as possible, yet to me, this takes the fun out of the game. Once you have reached the top, there is only one way to go, and that’s down, and it seems to me to be inevitable.  But I digress from my main point. The way I see it there are four types of guilds:

1 – The Elite

These are the guilds that make you purchase your way in. They are typically honest – they take the money or materials and boost the guild to heights that no other guild can reach otherwise. You instantly have access to the best gear, benefits and the like, and you really don’t have to work hard for it, just open your wallet (or in some games, farm the materials / in game currency). These guilds are great – in their own mind, because they are the world’s first in clears, their guild holdings are maxed or way beyond any other guild. They have the right to look down on the little people because they are nowhere near the pinnacle that these guilds have reached. These guild rise fast, but in the end, simply plateau to quickly – and ultimately get caught up to by one of the next types of guilds.

2 – The Militant

These guild usually start out as type 3 – simple groups started by groups of friends that eventually grow because of relationship and overall appreciation for the games. However, due to wanting to be the best – but not wanting to spend money, they fall into the trap that the elite guilds simply by pass through entry requirements. Members are required to donate large amounts of materials – meaning the grind is real in two ways – the personal grind and the guild grind, and what happens is that people will eventually lose interest in the game all together. Grinding is fun, but when it is all you do, it gets old quick. Yes, grinding is a major part of MMO gaming, but when it becomes just that, the fun is gone, and the stress sets in. (My opinion is that gaming should relieve stress, not cause it, at least not on a continual basis). It usually starts out small, but in the end, because the demand to be the best is so high, the need for grinding increases, and eventually will swallow the guild whole. Unfortunately, in the end the guilds like this never actually plateau, they end up getting half way there and they stop. Guild participation is a must at some level for all members, but these guilds end up taking it too far. People get for the slightest reason – it can be as simple as an officer is frustrated because certain donations aren’t coming in, or because someone is asking a stupid question or whining over something. The thought that we have no idea of what is going on in that person’s real life never crosses our mind, only that we are tired of people’s bullshit.

3 – The Ugly

These are the ultimate failures. Again, typically started by a group of friends. Has typical growth but has no real vision. Unfortunately for the guild leadership, is is just as much the fault of the members they bring in as it is their own. They grow in size only to have a roster full of dead weight. No one wants to kick anyone because they do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, yet there is no active participation, except maybe from a few select people who just want to play the game and could care less about the guild or its functions. These guilds ultimately just fill useless stats by developers – “In 6 months we have 1.2 million players with 1325 guilds!” blah, blah. So, I suppose they are at least good for the bottom line, but not for much else.

4- The Good

The last category of gaming guilds – at least in my mind. To be honest, the have attributes of the elite and the militant – They want to be the best, they want people to participate, they want guild donations, they want active and good members. At the same time, they take the time to cultivate even the most idiotic members – as a friend of mine calls them, “The Potatoes.” They mentor these members as long as they allow it and help them grow into something else. If they don’t grow, they get let go for more viable players. These guilds call for donations and put incentives in place beyond the obvious ones – the growth of the guild. They recognize that people need something for themselves, not just the group as a whole. The guild itself is important, but it always comes down to the individuals that make up the guild. In other words, the guild members don’t get lost in a roster, they are the roster. Growth in these guilds is not as quick as the militant, but it certainly isn’t as slow as the bad. The guild members are happy and they are willing to help the guild grow any way they can. Some help more than others, and these people are recognized. Some only help a little, and appreciation is shown and at the same time they are helped to get to a place where they feel they are free to donate more. There are requirements, rules, etc, yet when these are not met there is an attempt to figure out why and there is an attempt to rectify the problem. These guilds ultimately get to the top, and they get there through hard work and effort. They don’t pay their way to the top and they don’t crack the whip to get there either. These are the guilds that last, these are the guilds that have happy and successful players.

I admit, these descriptions are over generalizations. There are thousands of gaming communities and guilds out there, and to lump them into one category or another is simply too difficult to nail down. I also left off the list my least favorite type of guild or community, and that is the one where the leadership doesn’t even play the game, but rules at the top for no other reason than because they can – not caring for anything or anyone except the number of members on a spreadsheet. This is more of a plantation then a community – and I despise them – but it is what it is. For those in these type of groups, I encourage you to leave and find a home that actually cares. The choice is yours in that matter.

Again, no guild is perfect, and most guilds typically, and fluidly move from one type or another. House Stargaryen, the community I run, as an example has had its militant times – thankfully to our benefit, but sits pretty comfortably in the good zone. In the end, a guild or community should enhance YOUR gaming experience and in turn you should enhance the GUILDs gaming experience – a mutual beneficial relationship. To me, a guild or gaming community should be a place for people who love a particular game or games to come together and participate in that game together. Simple as that. The guild should enhance the gaming experience and not be a detriment to it. Obviously politics and goals will enter the picture, but they should never detract from the game or the gaming experience. They should make it more fun, and not the other way around.