FFXIV: ARR (Beta Phase 3) Impressions

I am impressed, Square Enix really did overhaul the shitbag that was Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. What can I say, it's actually decent; At least on par with any other run if the mill new MMO on the market if not better. I am pretty torn on this game though. I really do want to buy A Realm Reborn, but I am unsure if I have enough time or interest to regularly play an MMO nowadays, even casually. I was going to preorder ARR but after hearing pretty awful things about the launch servers and experiencing many many bad launches myself, I think I'll hold off then reassess how much I need ARR in a week or so.

  • Questing: The quests are a mixed bag at least early on (unsure if that remains true through high level zones). Plot line quests seem decent enough but everything else feels like leveling filler. It's your standard fare quest hub grinding x and gathering y. 
  • Character models: Probably the best character creation system that I've seen. It has a lot of options without overwhelming players with sliders. You can also save and import character blueprints which is a nice and seldom seen touch.
  • Performance: It looks great and runs smoothly on my machine. Leagues better than the FFXIV 1.0 beta. No comparison. Very few technical issues. I don't think I experienced any noticeable frame drops or lag even in busy cities or FATEs
  • Interface: ARR actually has a functional and clean mouse & keyboard optimized user interface. It is intuitive to use with Bo interface lag; You can even move and scale bars and other UI elements.

I can't say if the game will be handled any better or if they are going to stay true to the supposed 3 month content release cycle, but we will see.

My Sims 4 Wishlist

A preview video and a few new features have been announced this week (news here). The Sims 4 Create-a-Sim looks really slick and way less cumbersome than having a hundred sliders. In a perfect world, I would love a game that's a blend between The Sims 2 and The Sims 3 as both games had various elements not present in the other. Here's my wish list for The Sims 4:

  • Hair customization: I can see why height is a huge point of contention for technical reasons relating to sim animations but, why can’t we have more hair customization? I would love for example, CAS sliders for hair length, bangs, curliness, etc (all factoring into genetics as well). Having a small handful of hairstyles makes everyone in the town look the same after a while.
  • Actual businesses: Less rabbit holes, specifically, the ability to run businesses ala The Sims 2: Open For Business. I am really surprised that this feature hasn't yet been added into TS3 via an expansion pack...
  • More distinct personalities: The Sims 2's trait system helped a little bit in terms of actually adding personality but sims as a whole still behave pretty similarly. I would love to have dynamic traits and habits that develop over time as well as the ability to set relationship related goals (perhaps a CAS option) instead of relegating that to traits. Have these goals factor into the AI behavior. The AI should actively seek to fulfill goals
  • Better town customization tools/more flexible neighborhoods: After 5 or so expansion packs, older neighborhoods start getting a little crowded after adding in all of the new lot types. I like playing only one or two neighborhoods; It's fun expanding them, adding families, and watching the town grow. It would be nice to have the ability to build and modify neighborhoods extensively within the game client instead of having to load a separate tool. It would also be nice to be as to expand existing neighborhoods with new regions (like adding a downtown area TS2 style without the loading screens).
  • Better family trees: At minimum it would be nice to enlarge the window to viewable families. Ideally, I would like to be able to export Gedcom files as well as click on portraits to view information, memories, and sim statistics.
  • Apartments a la TS2: Apartments that aren't just glorified rabbit holes. The apartment buildings obviously, should have the ability to hold multiple households. Individual apartments should be able to hold multiple households via a roommate system.
  • Per household/per sim story profession options: It sounds kind of sad, but I want the ability to shove a dozen sims in an apartment complex and not have them move around or do anything. I also want the option to keep certain lots "in the family."
  • Sim hot-switching: I want to be able to click on a household and start playing it without having to load the town editor etc etc. The one playable household per neighborhood design doesn't work all that well for my style of play.
  • Better pathing...
  • Seamless aging 

I know this one will never happen but: More features added into the base game. We almost literally have the same expansion packs being released for each game...

Magician's End by Raymond E. Feist

After 29 books and 30 years, the Riftwar Cycle finally comes to an end. Finishing the last book in a series, particularly a long series is always so incredibly bittersweet, especially for a cherished series that I grew up on. Obvious statement: Magician's End is the last book in a pretty long series. If you have not read the previous novels, it probably isn't going to be all that great of a read. Another obvious statement: If this is a series that you have read and enjoyed, this book is an absolute must read as it does wrap the series up nicely. Here are a couple of thoughts and shortcomings, mostly because raving about how much I love something doesn't seem like it would make for an interesting read (minor spoilers):

Many of the newer characters are obviously rehashed (the many Jimmies for example). I am sure that it is to provide continuity and to show the reader the the strength of the ConDoin line continues to carry on through the generations, especially when you take Pug's experiences and lifespan into consideration; And this book is very much about reflecting on the past. End result though is that Hal, Martin, and Jimmy feel shallow and rehashed. I didn't find either of them very interesting or developed characters. 

Magician's End effectively follows two separate story lines that don't really interact all that much: Pug saving the universe and the kingdom falling into civil war. Though I did enjoy Hal, Martin, and company's aspect of the story and  recognize that it is an important part of the story, there were stretches of it that weren't all that interesting. For example, the civil war. First off, it wasn't all that compelling. Second, it never reaches a point where anything all that important happens given the scope of the story, which arguably could be the point but reading it felt like it was written as an obligation to break up the Pug chapters. I feel as if the two story lines should have been either intertwined more or split into two separate books instead of effectively dividing the Chaoswar Saga in half. I almost feel as if that aspect of the book detracted from Pug's storyline.

That said and all that considered, I would rank Magician's End on the upper end of more recent titles in the series. It's an enjoyable read, the last couple of chapters being especially satisfying even if they are a bit heavy on nostalgia. Most loose ends are nicely tied up. Quite a satisfying end to a long series.

Site Upgrade/Update

LOOK EVERYONE, all of about two of you wonderful readers. I finally updated the software and theme on this site. When was the last time I bothered changing the theme or modifying it in any significant way? 4 years ago?

Missed Connection...

Dear 'Valdus', I apparently came across your StreetPass twice while I was on vacation in the midwest. The second time was in the Milwaukee airport on this past Tuesday when we were preparing to fly back home. The first time must have also been in the Mikwaukee airport on the previous Tuesday when we were flying in. Same itinerary I guess? What are the odds of that happening?