Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Types Of Player Housing Available In Final Fantasy XIV

Player housing in Final Fantasy XIV is somewhat controversial given the design choice of limiting the availability of the biggest and best locations. Any discussion of the feature should include an inventory of the types and amounts of housing available to players. Today's post will cover the types of housing along with some of the amenities that make owning a home desirable in the first place.

First, the list of amenities available in player housing. Some of the features are available in inn rooms available in many of the major towns in FFXIV. An incomplete listing includes:

The summoning bell. The summoning bell allows players to call their retainers to their homes. Retainers are sent out on expeditions to bring back resources as well as sell items on the market. Yes, people can sell things from their homes.

Orchestrion: Basically a box for playing music.

The Unending Journey: A book that allows the player to play back cutscenes from completed content.

The Armoire: A container that holds special gear, including from in-game events.

Features not found in inn rooms include:

Chocobo Stables: A place to store your chocobo. With the proper care and feeding, chocobos can not only train to higher levels, but change color as well.

Miniature Aetheryte: Acts like a regular aetheryte, but received a 75% reduction in cost for use.

Gardens: Players can grow crops in their gardens.

Flower pots: Players can grow some plants indoors.

Vendors: Homes can hold NPCs that can sell items like those in the main towns. Some vendors can also repair and meld materia to gear.

Mannequins: Interior furnishings players can equip with clothing items. Items can be sold off of mannequins directly, bypassing market board taxes.

Crafting Facilities: Items which help players level up their crafting skills by providing an increase to maximum crafting points. Currently, the bonus ends once the crafting level reaches 81.

In addition, free companies receive three perks when they purchase an estate.

Private Chambers: Each member of a free company can have a private chamber inside the free company building. The maximum number of members in a free company is 512.

Free Company Chocobo Stables: The chocobo stables for a free company can house up to 512 chocobos.

Free Company Workshop: A place a free company can craft major items for free company use. FC airships and submersibles can embark on exploratory voyages, which can provide a free company with revenue to fund FC activities.

When discussing player housing in FFXIV, the properties are divided into two types, estates and apartments. When discussing housing, most people think of estates. Three types exist:

Small: Cottage (6000 plots per server): As of Endwalker, a small plot of land cost between 3,000,000 to 3,750,000 gil. Building a cottage on the plot costs an additional 450,000 gil. The cottage consists of two floors and is approximately 3 times the size of an apartment. Cottages have the following caps:

  • 200 items inside/20 outside
  • 1 garden patch (8 beds)
  • 2 flower pots
  • 4 crafting facilities
  • 6 vendors
  • 6 mannequins

Medium: House (2100 plots per server): A medium plot of land costs between 16,000,000 to 20,000,000 gil. Once purchased, building a house on the land costs an additional 1 million gil. Houses have three floors and are approximately twice the size of a cottage. Houses have the following caps:

  • 300 items inside/30 outside
  • 2 garden patches (16 beds)
  • 3 flower plots
  • 6 crafting facilities
  • 8 vendors
  • 8 mannequins

Large: Mansion (900 plots per server): When thinking of free company housing or nightclubs, the large estate comes to almost everyone's mind. A large plot of land costs between 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 gil. Building a mansion costs and additional 3 million gil. The mansion is also three floors, but in area is significantly bigger than a house. The caps for mansions are:

  • 400 items inside/40 outside
  • 3 garden patches (24 beds)
  • 4 flower pots
  • 8 crafting facilities
  • 10 vendors
  • 10 mannequins

When most people think player housing in FFXIV, they think of estates. But there are also apartments. The private chamber mentioned above is a type of apartment. The private chamber is cheaper than a regular apartment at 300,000 gil, and players lose their room when they leave the free company. But in all other cases the private chamber is the equivalent of an apartment. So let's look at the apartment.

Apartment: 27,000 per server: Each apartment building can hold up to 90 players. External amenities like chocobo stables are provided free of charge. The apartment itself costs 500,000 gil. A market board along with a summoning bell are located just outside the apartment building door, along with a miniture aetheryte. Residents of apartments do not have access to gardens (unless their free company lets them use one).

While owners of apartments cannot share their abode with others, they also do not have to worry about the auto-demolition feature which exists for not visiting an estate within a 45-day period. Once an apartment is purchased, the apartment belongs to the player. The limits of apartments are:

  • 100 items inside/no yard (or storage of outdoor furnishings)
  • No garden patches
  • 2 flower pots
  • 2 crafting facilities
  • 4 vendors
  • 4 mannequins
This post is not intended as a comprehensive guide to all things player housing in FFXIV. The purpose today was just to provide a brief overview of what the game has to offer a player interested owning their own place in the game. Getting into more details will come with time.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Island Sanctuary Upon Reaching Level 12

Last night when I logged into Final Fantasy XIV, I knew I was close to reaching the new maximum level for my island sanctuary. After taking care of all my market orders, I headed to my island and checked the status of my workshops. Turns out, the mammets had traded for enough seacowries to get me to level 12.

A lot of people were racing to get to level 12. By just doing what I normally did, I hit the new level cap in less than three weeks. Not bad. And I received another visit from Tataru.

Tataru and friends from Stormblood

This time, she brought Cirina and Sadu from the Azim Steppe along for the visit. If the developers are going to clothe all the visitors in appropriate beachwear, I can't wait for the community reaction when Estinien and Ser Aymeric visit.

As seems traditional now, I received a present of some new clothes. They gave me the five-piece Isle Shepard's set

Isle Shepard's Set, undyed

The design is based on the traditional shepard's outfit from the Azim Steppe, just made from lighter clothing. For the glamour set, I see promise with all the individual items.

A new landmark

At level 12, a new landmark becomes available. The Gamboling Garden looks like a rollercoaster, but has several benches to sit on and converse with friends. I didn't think to take any pictures at night to see if the landmark has lights. If my defense, the rains came down and I decided to try to stay dry.

Island Alligator mount

New items also became available for sale. For 35,000 seacowries, I became the proud owner of the Island Alligator mount.

New clothing items

Since glamour is the true end game of FFXIV, the developers added the Isle Vacationer's set. The tops, bottoms, and footwear look like they are designed for male and female characters, and are wearable by both sexes.

Isle Vacationer's Set, female

For the female designed bottom, Square moved away from the string bikini design and covered a little more skin. The next detail is probably very important to the community, so bear with me. I'm not sure, but I think the new bottom makes my character's bottom more rounded than the old string bikinis. A detail to note. 

Isle Vacationer's Set, male

I've included pictures of my character in what I consider both the male and female versions of the new clothing available for purchase, but no hat. Why not, I'm not a Viera or Hrothgar? Because with my hairstyle, my hair clips through the visor. Too bad, because the visor comes with some pretty nice sunglasses. I guess I can't have everything.

So my journey to level 12 is over. I think the developers plan a bigger update for patch 6.4. If so, I need to save up some more seacowries. While I still have over 100,000, I spent 55,000 on level 12. I want to make sure I have enough to buy everything available in the next patch.

Friday, January 27, 2023

EVE Has Sound, Uprising Edition

"As you know there is no sound in space, but when we were developing the capsules we found that people wanted to use as many of their senses as possible, thus we added the sound. By letting a computer create three dimensional sound we also add to the awareness you have while in battles, for instance."

Yesterday CCP published an article about the audio improvements the developers made to EVE Online in the Uprising expansion. Cynics might think CCP was trying to sell an album. Entirely not true. The music is free and available on Spotify. But the upgrade is more than just music.

First off, the sound crew did another turret sound effects upgrade. 

With the various turret types having clearly distinct sounds that can be easily identified and perceived, it’s possible for players to quickly identify which weapons are firing from any ship the camera is zoomed in on – even during large battles. The sounds that play as firepower pounds your ship will also give auditory clues to what type and size of weapon is targeting you, informing your next battlefield decision.

Back in October the developers introduced a new sound prioritization system that not only allows for better sound, but better CPU utilization as well. 

New soundscapes were added to hangers to allow players to hear the health of the Upwell structure in which they are docked.

When a hangar has full health, the status level is that of full power. Here you will hear a lot of activity in the hangar, both in terms of sound effects and voice announcements. As a hangar gets attacked and declines in health, the soundscape changes accordingly to the low power status by decreasing the activity and density of SFX and voice announcements. If eventually a hangar gets an even lower health status, it is sonically regarded as abandoned and there is only a vast but faint noise left in the now much less active hangar environment. In this way, the soundscapes change the vibe and energy inside the hangars from hubs of lively activity to desolate places of solitude, while letting the players intuitively understand a hangar’s health status at any given moment. As with the turrets, here the new updates add atmosphere and immersion, while also helping communicate information with pilots in a highly natural way.

Not only does EVE have sound, but Factional Warfare has a soundtrack. CCP has tried in the past to use music to enhance the mood in the game. For FW, they are trying to match the music even more closely to the tactical situation.

With the adaptive battlefield music, the aim is to strengthen the sense of purpose and belonging for the factions at war. There are seven possible ‘musical states’ that can occur interchangeably during a battlefield fight, with the music transitioning back and forth between these states in accordance with the score tracker UI. This also helps everyone keep track of what the current score is without having to look away to the UI.

Each of the four factions even has its own battle music.

At this point, I don't know how old "The Jovian Wet Grave" is. But I know the Jovian Directorate withdrew from the CONCORD Inner Circle, naming the Society of Conscious Thought its successor state back in March 2016, so I'm guessing much older. Perhaps even back to the beginning of the game in 2003. With the sound improvements in Uprising, we see game tech catching up to the lore.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Habits Formed By The Challenge Log

In Final Fantaxy XIV, the weekly server reset happens on Tuesdays. While the game doesn't provide a set of tasks each week to advance a character's power progression, the Challenge Log opens up at level 15. Doing certain challenges gets a player experience, with all the challenges providing some sort of monetary reward in the many currencies making up the Eorzean economy. I didn't realize just how the start of my week is wrapped around the Challenge Log.

I begin each day after logging in by checking my retainers. A fairly passive source of income, retainers bring in a really good haul of materials and gil, which is why I am up to 8. Because I have 8, I naturally complete two challenges on Wednesdays.

  • Have a retainer complete 10 ventures. Reward: 1000 gil
  • Have a retainer complete 15 exploration ventures. Reward: 4000 gil
That's right. I get money for trying to make money. See where the system can get silly?

After taking care of my retainers, I check my market orders and restock my shelves. I sell both crafted and gathered goods. On Tuesdays I make a list and try to stock up on items I'm low on stock of. Usually I try to get the task out of the way on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I'm pretty good on keeping ingredients in stock, so I'll do my crafting after restocking my market orders on Tuesdays. I had a slow week this week and only had to make a stack of food for my own adventuring and one stack for sale. One of the items had a crafted ingredient, so I wound up crafting 24 items, all at high-quality. Doing so completed another challenge.
  • Craft 20 high-quality items. Reward: 2000 gil
If sales had been better, I would have crafted a little more and completed another challenge worth another 1000 gil. But I had places to go and games to play.

A new edition to my routine is a visit to my island sanctuary. Since the reset is on Tuesday, I travel out and see how I did selling my handicrafts. Because I don't check every day, opening up my workshop not only delivers the seacowries I earned the week before, but I complete one of the two challenges. I then run up and talk to the mammets looking after my crops and animals and complete another challenge.

On Wednesdays I come back to the island and set up the agenda for my workshop so I can collect the benefits the following week. Sometimes I do need to do a little gathering to make sure the workshop is adequately stocked. But for doing things I would do anyway, I complete two more challenges.

  • Collect 100 materials in your island sanctuary: 1000 seacowries
  • Ship 20 isleworks handicrafts: 1000 seacowries
This is a good spot to point out that for every 5 challenges completed, I complete a completion challenge. The 5 challenges are:
  • Complete 5 unique challenges. Reward: 10,000 gil
  • Complete 10 unique challenges. Reward: 10,000 gil
  • Complete 15 unique challenges. Reward: 10,000 gil
  • Complete 20 unique challenges. Reward: 10,000 gil
  • Complete 30 unique challenges. Reward: 15,000 gil
After taking care of my island, I run off to play at the Manderville Gold Saucer. FFXIV's casino/game room is one of my favorite places in the game. On Tuesdays I usually try to arrive right before one of the times a GATE occurs. GATEs consist of the bigger games like the jumping puzzles and airplane-on-rails game and appear every 20 minutes. I can complete most of the games pretty easily at this point.

After doing the GATE, I run off to play Triple Triad. I'll play until I win 10 times. Doing so kills time until the start of the next GATE. After participating in the second GATE, I then will play one of the smaller games located around the facility. The Gold Saucer has games of strength and the little crane game that picks up prizes, but I prefer the basketball toss. I then play the Mini-Cactpot. I love that game and play every day.

In addition to having a bit of fun, I completed four challenges.
  • Triple Triad, 10 games played. Reward: 5000 MGP
  • Triple Triad, 10 games won. Reward: 8000 MGP
  • Complete 3 mini-games. Reward: 1000 MGP
  • Earn 100 MGP from mini-games. Reward: 1500 MGP
On Wednesday I came back to race chocobos. I recently took up the hobby and am training and racing my second racing chocobo. I figure I can do 3 races between GATEs. Sometimes I even win. Last night I won one out of the three races. I also completed one of the two GATEs I participated in. I completed three additional Gold Saucer challenges last night.
  • Enter 3 chocobo races. Reward: 5000 MGP
  • Win a chocobo race. Reward: 5000 MGP
  • Complete 3 GATEs. Reward: 8000 MGP
People wonder how I manage to amass so much MGP. The 33,500 in challenges I make on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is just part of the secret. I'll have to write a post some day.

After my daily visit to the Gold Saucer, I'll spend time gathering. Over the course of a week I usually spend two hours travelling around to restock my shelves. Ideally I finish on Tuesday or Wednesday. I completed my list on Tuesday this week, but didn't plan ahead for decorating my cottage so I'll have to do some more later this week. But I did complete two more challenges.
  • Successfully gather items of comparable level to your own 100 times. Reward: 1000 gil
  • Successfully trigger the Gatherer's Boon effect while gathering items of comparable level to your own 30 times. Reward: 2000 gil
I looked back and saw I only completed 14 challenges. So I reached into my inventory and pulled out 5 fish to desynthesize, earning myself another 10,000 gil.
  • Successfully desynthesize 5 items. Reward: 2000 gil
See how the Challenge Log system can become addictive? My grand total for two days was:
  • 42,000 gil
  • 33,500 MGP
  • 2,000 seacowries
My list is rather carebear specific. But the developers put in a long list of challenges for those who like combat, including PvP. Those who hate crafting and gathering never have to touch those activities to take advantage of the Challenge Log.

After playing FFXIV for almost 3 1/2 years I don't really need the gil anymore. But I always want more MGP in case the next patch includes new Gold Saucer prizes. The new rewards obtainable from the Island Sanctuary system help pay for automating my island. Looking back, though, I was amazed at how much this little weekly system influenced the way I play FFXIV.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

I Bought A Cottage In FFXIV's Patch 6.3 Land Rush

In patch 6.3, Final Fantasy XIV experienced a land rush as Square Enix added six wards to all residential districts on almost all worlds. I managed to lose my previous small plot of land a couple of years ago by not understanding the rules. But with 92 million gil in my wallet, I decided if I wanted a plot of land, now was a really good time to do so.

Since the last time I bought a plot of land, the process changed. Gone are the days of clicking on an object until you win. In July a much more civilized lottery system was put into place. My free company still has a group that goes around helping people obtain homes. They had a list of plots in which either no one or one person was bidding on the plot during the land rush. So I waited until about 12 hours was left in the bidding window, went to a plot no one was bidding on, and plunked down 3.5 million gil for a small plot in Lavender Beds.

That's right, for all the complaining done about the lack of housing in FFXIV, my bid was uncontested. From the list I saw, The Goblet even had medium plots of land no one or only one person bid on. Of course, that is The Goblet. My first plot was in The Goblet. I much prefer Lavender Beds, the Gridania residential area. 

Of course, for the most part, if players wanted houses (medium plots) or mansions (large plots), they had to compete against other players. If someone wanted, let's say, a beachfront mansion in Mist, they might have to compete against 8 or 10 people. At that point, the odds of winning go down around 10%. Want to know where most of the complaining comes from? Those people who want prime real estate. Those wanting medium, large, or well-located small plots of land will need patience and luck.

How much luck is needed? Most servers are like mine. With 30 wards per residential area, my server has 900 large plots, 2100 medium plots, and 6000 small plots of land. Part of the reason why I chose to buy a plot of land to build a cottage on during the land rush was availability. I knew if I wasn't picky I could get a plot uncontested. From now on, people will roam housing districts waiting for open plots to appear. I expect the competition to increase.

For those wondering, FFXIV does have instanced housing called apartments. My server has 27,000 apartments. I have an apartment also. Yes, players are allowed to own a cottage/house/mansion and an apartment at the same time. Two apartments if a player belongs to a free company. I'll have to explain FFXIV's housing system later. I may create an entire series on the subject. But for now, I'm happy to have a cottage.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A Project M5 Sighting At The Beginning Of 2023

Last week CCP caused a bit of a commotion by putting in new measures to prevent players from mainland China from accessing EVE Online's Tranquility game shard. Were the Icelandic game developers responding to a crackdown from Chinese authorities? Did CCP have to do so according to a contract with its Chinese publisher NetEase? I stumbled across a third reason. Maybe, just maybe, CCP is planning on launching a new game this year.

Hilmar announcing Project M5 at Fanfest 2022

The game is currently known as Project M5. CCP's Shanghai studio is currently working on the F2P 4X strategy game for mobile devices. Since the game is set in the EVE Universe, revenue from the title will undoubtedly wind up recorded in the EVE IP bucket in Pearl Abyss' financial reporting on earnings calls.

While Project M5 still has no release date, testing has begun. I ran across a video by an EVE Echoes YouTuber, Captain Benzie. Apparently he is part of closed testing for the game. In his video, he states that the second test dropped in the first week of 2023.

We will probably hear more details at the next Pearl Abyss earnings call in a few weeks. For now, I am assuming CCP is preparing to submit an application to run the game in the People's Republic of China. I would even go so far as predicting the Chinese publisher for Project M5 most likely is NetEase. So even if the launch of the game is a year out, CCP has to clean up to make itself presentable to the Chinese bureaucrats who will process the application.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Google Trends For EVE Online In 2022

I see a lot of content creators using Google Trends to look at the rising or declining popularity of video games. I decided to try doing so with EVE Online in 2022.

Interest remained fairly consistent throughout the year. We can see the highest interest was at the beginning of the year with the Dr. Who crossover. Interest then peaked again in the beginning of May as the price increase approached. The final peak of interest coincides with the run-up to the Uprising expansion. 

The first low point occurred in the week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. The interest by region view explains why.

Google trends by region in 2022

Setting aside Iceland, the top 6 countries interested in EVE Online were either involved in, or bordered the conflict zone. Not shown on the first page of the view is #6 Ukraine and #7 Moldova.

The second low point occurred the week after the announcement of the Uprising expansion. After that, the Alliance Tournament began and then interest began to rise again.

How did Google Trends do compared to player counts? Fairly well.

Chart from Jester's Trek

We see that player counts were the highest at the beginning of the year with the Dr. Who crossover event. We also see the big drop caused by the war and the beginning of financial sanctions on Russia. The news of the price hikes peaked interest in EVE on Google but decreased player counts on Tranquility. Still, Google does show the long term downward trend until a rise for the expansion. The increased interest in EVE due to the expansion didn't show up for a month, however. The delay could have occurred due to the Alliance Tournament not really bringing people into the game.

After playing around for a little, I might try using Google Trends more. While the application doesn't exactly correlate with popularity, the data displayed does point out events of interest. For my purposes in writing about video games, I think that serves well enough.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

EVE Online And Accommodating Chinese Players

Yesterday, someone pointed out to me Crowd Control Productions (CCP) had released a patch note mentioning the Iclandic company had added additional restrictions to prevent citizens of the People's Republic of China from accessing the Tranquility game shard. Today we find out the move was in preparation for additional services for Chinese speaking players.

With Blizzard Entertainment pulling out of its relationship with NetEase Monday, CCP needs to take care on two levels. The first is that not only is NetEase CCP's partner in the PRC running the Serenity game shard, but also develops and publishes EVE Echoes. The company is probably sensitive to Western countries trying to steal its players away right now.

The second is the Iclandic CCP does not want to upset the Chinese Communist Party (also CCP). Upsetting the CCP is a bad idea. The Chinese Communist Party does not like its citizens to play online games on servers outside the country. They are kind of control freaks that way.

The moves announced today possibly do both. A paragraph at the end of the post, "Happy Lunar New Year", might spell trouble.
Simplified Chinese is now live on Tranquility server, catering to the Chinese speaking community and honoring their invaluable contributions to New Eden's history. Union Pay has also been added as a payment processor to provide better service to this player base.
The first point, that the new EVE client is in Simplified Chinese, is a point I would have missed if not for the dustup between Blizzard and NetEase. In an article on Wowhead, I read an interesting passage:
Chinese and Taiwanese players are rather notorious for not getting along, which has been highlighted by a significant spike of newly arrived Chinese players reporting Taiwanese players for writing in traditional Chinese, while long-term Taiwanese players report Chinese players for using simplified Chinese. This kind of mass reporting has become rampant, alongside other issues of discrimination - kicking each other from parties, racial slurs, and politically incendiary comments are becoming common place. Other players have begun creating primers, coaching one another on how to mass report players in an effort to "take over" the realms. [emphasis mine]
I realize southeast Asia has a significant diaspora of ethnic Chinese so perhaps simplified Chinese makes sense. But will something that makes sense to South Koreans and Icelanders make sense to NetEase and Chairman Xi? The leadership of NetEase may understand, but does the most powerful man in China play video games?

Adding UnionPay as a payment processor really raised my eyebrows. Reuters explained what UnionPay is back at the beginning of the current Ukraine-Russia war.
China approved the central bank's creation of UnionPay as a coalition of banking operators in 2002 to allow domestic inter-bank transactions and settlements across different platforms.

Funded by the government and China's largest commercial lenders, UnionPay clears and settles payments directly with banks and licensed lenders by issuing debit, credit and prepaid cards.

It has 87 shareholders including affiliates of the People's Bank of China, commercial lenders such as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (601398.SS) and China Construction Bank Corp (601939.SS), and rural credit providers.

It enjoyed a monopoly before China allowed foreign payment networks to set up onshore operations in 2020, and in recent years has rapidly expanded overseas.

UnionPay ranked first by number of cards in circulation worldwide as at the end of 2021 with 9.4 billion, showed data from researcher Nilson. Visa had 3.7 billion and Mastercard 2.5 billion.
Before now, the only Chinese-based payment system I knew of was Alipay, which was run by Jack Ma's Alipay group (Jack Ma was removed from control two weeks ago). UnionPay is run by Chinese banks, including by the Chinese central bank. I don't see many people outside the People's Republic using UnionPay services if they could avoid doing so. The ones who would I think live in Russia and UnionPay said no in order to avoid Western sanctions due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Crowd Control Productions is not attempting to attract EVE players in mainland China to the global Tranquility shard instead of the Chinese shard run by NetEase. But at a time when NetEase is in conflict with Blizzard, I wouldn't blame NetEase for being extra suspicious right now. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

BDO's Land Of The Morning Light Expansion Launched Today

With Pearl Abyss still struggling to launch Crimson Desert, the South Korean game company needs to rely on its Black Desert franchise to maintain revenue and investor confidence. Hopefully today's launch of the Land of the Morning Light expansion will help.

The following highlights were featured in the maintenance notes.

  • New Class Maegu Added
  • Winter Season Graduation Begins
  • Character and Storage Silver Integration
  • Tier 2 and Tier 3 Node War Improvements
  • Marni's Realm - Thornwood Forest added
  • Guild Bonus System Improvements

The Maegu is a twin class with the Woosa, which was introduced on PC in December. Black Desert Mobile saw the introduction of the classes was reversed, with Maegu introduced in December and Woosa introduced now. Pearl Abyss produced a video explaining the twin class concept.

Perhaps the introduction of Asian inspired classes will help with the games' popularity in Asia, particularly Black Desert Mobile's. As an EVE player, I recognize that Black Desert succeeding is good for my game as well. Hopefully we don't see the disaster that hit Pearl Abyss' stock price with the introduction of BDM in China. So far, so good as PA stock rose ₩350 in trading today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Too Scared And Lazy To Use Mods

In MMORPGs, a lot of people like to use mods for end game content. Usually the mods are against a game's terms of service. Final Fantasy XIV is no different. The half-a-joke about FFXIV is glamour is the true end game. Yes, raiders have add-ons, but the hard-core social crowd seen at the game's clubs are really serious about their glam game.

I'm not going to say I don't care about graphics. I run GShade to sharpen up my graphics just a little. Hopefully the upcoming graphics update in 7.0 will mean I can ditch the program, but for now it's running. But that's my limit. A graphics program that only affects my PC and hopefully Square Enix makes obsolete.

Over the last couple of months I've heard of a new mod called Mare. The mod allows a user to share their character's appearance on a local client with other users. In. The. Game. Definitely against the terms of service. Yoshi-P turns a blind eye to what players do on their local machines. Want to use a mod to put tattoos on your character? Want your Viera to have the ability to wear hats? Great! Just don't stream it or otherwise make the violation clear. Then he might have to crack down on the behavior.

I decided to look at the software. Oh my! The mods required to run Mare remind me of the botting software in EVE Online. The mod devs warn users they use code injection. I got the impression that intercepting packets between the client and servers was a given. And like EVE Online botting software, a warning about how the mod software violates ToS, but they make sure its safe and well, Square Enix doesn't really care.

The biggest red flag is to use all the glamour mods listed on the web page is the requirement to use a custom launcher for FFXIV. And the possibility the user's anti-malware/anti-virus may detect the launcher as a virus and require the user to white list the application. I don't think so.

But even if I decided to ignore the security issue, I have an even bigger problem. I am not messing with the way I access the game. I had enough trouble setting up an account to play FFXIV. I wound up using Steam, which presents additional issues when using the mod. I can access the game now. The old saying is, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it." Quite frankly, I'm too scared to touch what I have in place now. I have too much time and money invested in the game to start over on a new account.

Eventually, I believe Square Enix will crack down on Mare. The glamour mods I've seen allow hard-core glamour enthusiasts to skip paying for some items in the cash shop. While Yoshi-P may turn a blind eye to certain things, I don't think the beancounters will when they hear there is an application that allows those users to share local glamour mod use with others in the game. So for now I'll keep my head down and hope friends don't get caught up in a ban wave that hopefully will not happen for a very long time.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Why 250,000 Is A Magic Number In Low Sec

Since the launch of the Uprising expansion in November 2022, the activity in New Eden has exceeded our wildest expectations with active player counts swelling since release and - more importantly - pilots being more active in space. Particularly notable has been the sharp 75% increase in PvP kills in lowsec as well as the 11% PvP kill increase in highsec despite the additional restrictions on ganking and changes to Abyssal Deadspace following the release.

- Producer's Letter, 6 January 2023

Average concurrent users for 2022 from Jester

I think players over the years wonder about the numbers CCP uses to analyze EVE Online. I think most players will now concede Uprising, while not returning player counts to levels seen before all the talk of NFTs, blockchains, and play-to-earn mechanics, did have a positive impact on player counts. The Producer's Letter was also a good step. No talk of daily active users or monthly active users. Instead we heard talk of "PvP kills". Very appropriate for an expansion who's biggest goal was revitalizing low sec in general, and factional warfare in particular. Exploding spaceships is the language of the EVE player.

But, I think the numbers lack a little context. What really is the time period used for the figures provided? Are they historically high numbers, or just getting back to normal? While not having access to PvP kill numbers like CCP, I do have access to Dotlan maps and the statistics available on Wollari's website. Over the weekend I updated my spreadsheets and graphed out the number of ships players lost in low sec from 2010 to 2022. Looking at my graphs I came to the realization that 250,000 is a magic number where low sec is concerned. When players lose more than 250,000 ships, players are happy. When the number falls below 250,000, players grumble.

Player ships destroyed in low sec, by month, over the last 4 years

First, let's start with the number of player-owned ships that exploded in low sec in Uprising's launch month: 271,159. Was the magic number of 250,000 kills reached? Yes. November's ship death toll was a 52.3% increase over the number of ships players managed to lose the previous month. 

But more impressive is doing a comparison of ship losses in previous Novembers. From 2019 to 2021, the average November experienced 170,596 player ship losses. That's right, the Uprising launch month saw player ship losses rise 58.9% over the 3-year average. 

December was not bad either. While falling just short of 250,000, only one month, April 2020, witnessed players lose more than last month's 244,797 in the previous 4 years before the launch of Uprising

Before continuing to earlier times, I want to pause another moment to reflect on the last four years. If 250,000 ship losses in low sec means happiness, then less than 200,000 ship losses leads to grumpy players. Out of the four years, only 5 months saw over 200,000 ship losses recorded in low sec. The first period, from March-June 2020, was a result of the world-wide COVID lockdowns. The final month, March 2021, was pushed over the mark in large part thanks to a free-for-all event held by Rixx Javik in Ouelletta. If the majority of players in EVE have played for 4 years or less, as we heard at Fanfest last year, no wonder people are ecstatic over the state of low sec after the launch of the expansion. 

Low sec player ship deaths, Jan 2010 to Dec 2022

One has to go back nearly 5 years, to January 2018, to find a month in which more player-owned ships exploded in low sec. Even then, the first month of 2018 only beat November's total by 424 ships. When calculating the average number of ships exploding each day instead of total number for the month, one has to go back an additional year, January 2017, to see the launch month of Uprising beat.

But before declaring the current state of low sec the best ever, I want to point out the period from December 2012 to May 2016 that began with the launch of the Retribution expansion. During that 3 1/2 year period, players never failed to lose at least 250,000 ships in low sec in a single month. Indeed, players lost an average of 317,718 ships every month. And within that period, the 18-month period from January 2013 to June 2014 stands out as players failed to lose at least 300,000 ships in low sec in a month. If players are happy when losing 250,000 ships, imagine a time when they lost an average of over 350,000 every month. I personally do not believe we will see another period like it again.

The closest CCP has come since the launch of the Citadel expansion to the glory days of low sec, at least in raw numbers, was the launch of the freemium model that came with the Ascension expansion in November 2016. The period of November 2017 to January 2018 eclipsed the numbers of ships lost in Uprising, averaging 319,514 per month.

Does CCP have every right in the world to celebrate the reception the Uprising expansion received in low sec? Absolutely. The developers do need to iterate on the factional warfare system to keep up the momentum. A good sign is that Direct Enlistment is still due for release in the first quarter of 2023. I'm not exactly sure how the feature will work out in practice, but the ability to not have to join a FW corp to participate will make factional warfare content more accessible. The one action the developers cannot do is to rest on their laurels. As long as they pay attention, I can foresee another period where New Eden will see the magic number of players die in low sec.

Friday, January 13, 2023

WoW Patch 10.0.5 To Drop The Same Day As FFXIV Patch 6.31

Last Friday I wondered if Blizzard and Square Enix would alternate months for releasing content. Yesterday we got the answer. Dragonflight patch 10.0.5 will release on 24 January. Not only will the patch drop in the same month as Final Fantasy XIV's patch 6.3, but the WoW patch drops the same day as FFXIV's patch 6.31. For those who don't play Final Fantasy XIV, patch 6.31 introduces the new Ultimate raid, The Omega Protocol.

On a somewhat bright note, one of patch 10.0.5's new features, The Trading Post, won't go live until 1 February, so that pushes some of the content back. But with the new Storm's Fury world event, I can imagine some players might be torn between games.

I stopped playing World of Warcraft a month or two after the opening of the Ahn'Qiraj gates back in 2006, so the dueling patches we apparently will see between the two games throughout 2023 doesn't really affect me. But during the great WoW refugee migration in 2021 I met a lot of refugees. Sometimes some would stay in Eorzea while their friends would return to Azeroth to check out the latest. I talked to a couple of sad players in that situation.

I was hoping that the release cycles would allow for players to bounce between games, constantly consuming freshly released content. And what individuals could do, groups of friends could do as well. Of course, that might not please the beancounters who depend on statistics like monthly and daily active users. But for players who don't stick with just one game? The situation probably would have worked out quite nicely.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The New Gathering Role

I decided to do a little gathering this morning because I ran low on two items. I make my gil in Final Fantasy XIV mostly by gathering and cooking. By doing some gathering before work, I hopefully have time to do some fun things in the evening. Apparently I didn't read the patch notes carefully enough, because upon gathering from my first bush, a tutorial pop-up appeared telling me about gathering roles.

The actions all gatherers can now use

Simply put, all gathering classes now share the basic gathering search abilities. Botanists can spot mining nodes, miners can find bushes and trees, and fishers can do both. Before the advent of the gathering role, players could do the same, but the system for doing so was clunky, and after putting the Truth abilities on my hotbars, I quite frankly ignored the system.

As a max level botanist, miner, and fisher, the two gathering role abilities I have on my gathering classes hotbars are Truth of Forest and Truth of Mountains. The abilities allow your character to detect unspoiled, legendary, and clouded nodes in the current zone. Those are special nodes usually worth more than the normal nodes and sometimes I stop what I'm doing to go gather from them. So my botanist always runs Truth of Mountains and my miner always runs Truth of Forests. When fishing, I should run both, but if I'm fishing, I'm either doing so to get particular fish, or to relax. I usually don't feel like rushing around.

Apparently, I'm not the only gatherer who didn't use the old system. The developers probably saw the usefulness of allowing gatherers the ability to see all the nodes, or just selected nodes, in an area. I can see wanting to run both Prospect (sees mining nodes) and Triangulate (sees botany nodes) when exploring a new area. I imagine the ability would also help when leveling gathering classes. 

Some might think a better way for searching for gathering nodes is to update the mini-map with new filters. But I'm wondering if the easier solution was to create the gathering role. Either way, searching for more than one gathering classes' nodes got a little easier in Patch 6.3.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Changes To The Gold Saucer In 6.3 And My New Mount

I admit I am somewhat addicted to the Manderville Gold Saucer in Fiinal Fantasy XIV. A mix between a casino and an old school game room, the Gold Saucer offers everything from a weekly lottery drawing to a timed basketball hoop shooting game. Home to FFXIV's triple triad tournaments, chocobo racing, and minion battles, I've heard the Gold Saucer described as World of Warcraft's Dark Moon Faire, but much bigger and better.. And did I mention the jumping puzzles? Not content to settle for the status quo, the place received some changes in Patch 6.3.

First, two new prizes were added to the redemption center.

The new items in Patch 6.3

I had slowed down my play in the Gold Saucer as I approached the cap of 9,999,999 Manderville Gold Saucer Points (MGP). The new Blackjack airship mount put a big dent in my wallet at 4 million MGP. When I finished up at the Gold Saucer, I went back to my island and took my new mount for a spin.

Floating over my island in Blackjack

The other item is a minion. The Mama Automaton floats around characters, doing up and down motions if motionless for too long.

Mama Automaton floating behind me

The developers also added a new jumping puzzle area to the Gold Saucer named Sylphstep. Each of the three areas have different layouts within the areas that changes each time opened up. For those interested, Yoshi-P tried to complete Sylphstep on stream during the Producer's Live Letter. While he's a world class Black Mage, he wasn't able to complete the course.

For those who have never visited the Gold Saucer, one cannot just enter a jumping puzzle and run it over and over again. Every 20 minutes, the proprietors of the facility offer Gold Saucer Active Time Events (GATEs). The GATEs randomly select one of three events in which players can participate. The new schedule for Patch 6.3 is:

Every hour, on the hour (Earth Time)
    • Air Force One
    • Cliffhanger
    • Leap of Faith (The Falling City of Nym)
Hourly, 20 minutes past the hour (Earth Time)
    • Any Way the Wind Blows
    • The Slice Is Right
    • Leap of Faith (The Fall of Belah'dia)
Hourly, 40 minutes past the hour (Earth Time)
    • The Slice Is Right
    • Air Force One
    • Leap of Faith (Sylphstep)

I don't have screenshots because I wasn't lucky enough to draw Sylphstep, so hopefully the image from the patch notes will do.

Sylphstep from the patch notes

I didn't really need more than the new mount, but a new Leap of Faith map will definitely help keep the content from becoming stale. Now, to go off and try to finally see the new jumping puzzle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

My Very First Look At My Island Sanctuary In Patch 6.3

I woke up early to download Final Fantasy XIV's Patch 6.3 this morning. Since I didn't have time to do anything very serious, I decided to look at the changes on my island.

Of course, the first thing I did was see what new stuff I could buy. I had saved up 135,000 seafarer's cowries, one of the two Island Sanctuary currencies, for the occasion. The price list of the new items is below:

New in patch 6.3

The selection is pretty nice. A new minion, fashion accessory, triple triad card, and two accessory kits to enhance a character's adventurer plate. Plus four outdoor furnishings for homes, which might come in handy if I ever get the itch to move out of my apartment.

The new umbrella and one of the new poses

With the window shopping done, I next moved over to Felicitous Furball, who now had a quest icon over his head. I talked to the little mammet and received the receipe for an iron axe. Making the iron axe opened up 5 new types of material to gather. Of course, I had to find the spots myself. So off I went exploring.

Four of the five new materials are gathered from existing nodes. I put the existing material that corresponds to each tree so players can use the sanctuary gathering log to find the spots.

  • Mahogany Tree - Wood Opal (Island Log)
  • Apple Tree - Beehive Chip (Island Apple)
  • Tualog Tree - Resin (Island Branch)
  • Palm Tree - Coconut (Island Palm Leaf)

The new gathering node is the multicolor blossoms which yields Multicolored Isleblooms. The map where I found them is below.

If you want to hold a small beach party with 14 of your closest friends, the northern island marked is a good place.

I also tried out a couple of the new UI improvements. The collect all for harvesting my crops and leavenings from my pasture worked wonderfully. I also captured a new animal and was able to release an animal under the mammets' care with no issues. Just remember to go to the pasture and tell the mammets you want to care for the new animal if you are lazy like me.

Next came the improvements to the workshop UI. Figuring out what to make was a real pain point due to all the switching back and forth between screens. For 6.3, the devs put in some really useful filters.

Finding the best products for the week

But wait, there's more. The devs also updated the UI used to select items to manufacture items.

Don't really need the Supply/Demand page anymore

If a player desires to just build from a category, all that is needed is to open up the category and figure out the best items to make. All the information is on the page now. Personally, I would still use the Supply/Demand page to find the categories I want, but from there go to the Set Agenda page to further refine my choices.

For those who wanted more information, I can just say I only had a few hours before work to explore a bit and write this post. The leveling process from 10 to 12 will take me some time, because I don't plan to kill myself. Hitting level 11 requires 42,000 experience points and I only gained a little over 10,000 today. I do need to gather a lot of the new materials for my workshop this week, but no where near enough to reach a new level. Besides, island sanctuary is meant as side content. I have a heck of a lot of the main content to go through before patch 6.4 is released in May.

Monday, January 9, 2023

A Producer's Letter Brings A Roadmap, Expansions Back To EVE Online

An important lesson I hope CCP learned from the "Chaos Era" is that EVE players do not like being treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed fertilizer). The new framework for the roadmap seems a concession for players' desire for knowledge. Starting at the beginning of 2020, players will receive the names and theme's for the upcoming three months, and the name of the theme for the following quarter.

- The Nosy Gamer, 29 October 2019

One important thing I've learned through the years is players like to know that not only that content is coming. Knowing the general what is coming is probably as important as when. Perhaps the gold standard in the MMORPG industry today is the Producer Live Letters streamed by FFXIV's Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida. He gave his 75th last month. Not only do players have a road map of when content will come out, but they also have a general idea when Yoshi-P will give an update.

Blizzard seems to have learned the same lesson. For the first time World of Warcraft has a road map letting players know what will come throughout 2023. WoW Executive Producer Holly Longdale wrote the following in December.

A WoW expansion is not a single moment in time but a journey —we know that the merit of an expansion hinges on the sustained quality of its entire arc. Years after its release, Legion is remembered fondly as much for the 11-week content update cadence that served as the framework for its first year as it is for artifact weapons or Khadgar's brilliant dad jokes.

In planning out the road ahead following the release of Dragonflight, we've been mindful of the duty we owe our players to nurture this living world and, frankly, the need to do better than we have at times in the recent past. Our goal for Dragonflight is that there should always be something right around the corner, with a new update hitting our test realms shortly after the last one is live and in your hands.

All of this leads us to Friday's Producer's Letter from CCP. Since Andie Nordgren left as EVE's Executive Producer in 2018, CCP as tried to abandon providing roadmaps to players. The first failure was 2019's Chaos Era which led to the Quadrant system which ran in 2020 and 2021. In February 2022, CCP announced the end of the Quadrant system:

This update comes without a Quadrant theme to kick off the year. That is because it has been decided that after 2 full years, it’s time to evolve from Quadrants into something new, taking the good and combining it with learnings from previous efforts (such as the Invasion) as well as former expansions.

It’s been a great journey, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. However, as we look ahead and into the future, there are some bigger topics we want to tackle that will take more time than Quadrants allowed, making this the perfect time to take those learnings and enter a new era.

The lack of a roadmap lasted one year. For 2023, CCP published a high-level roadmap.

Yes, the two expansions a year model that dominated EVE's first decade is back. However, the explanation sounds like a load of fertilizer. Or perhaps gaslighting. I'll let the reader decide.

Over the last couple of years, we have carried out important, foundational work that enabled us to build Uprising, our first expansion since 2018. We aim to continue releasing expansions of this caliber going forward, with additional updates, more shiny toys, and riveting world events like the stellar transmuter incident in-between to keep New Eden vibrant, active, and well-balanced.

The Uprising expansion seemed more a reaction to the player uprising against Pearl Abyss' desire to put NFTs and blockchain technology into EVE. The success of the player revolt against such content was confirmed on the Pearl Abyss Q3 2022 Investors' Call held in November. CCP is still the studio working on web3/blockchain technology, but will do so in the Icelandic studio's upcoming game in development.

The roadmap does need a little work. The graphic above shows the introduction of the Microsoft Excel plug-in for EVE occurring in the first quarter, but won't officially launch until the second quarter. But perhaps players can get excited about EVE in 2023 with the knowledge of two major content drops coming in the second and fourth quarters.

Friday, January 6, 2023

The Heavensward Dungeon Upgrades Are Complete

On Tuesday, Creative Business Unit III finishes updating all of the main scenario quest duties for Final Fantasy XIV's Heavensward expansion with the release of patch 6.3. Not only will the following 4-character dungeons be part of the Duty Support system, but other things, like floor tells, will also be brought up to modern standards. 

  • The Great Gubal Library (level 59)
  • The Aetherochemical Research Facility (level 60)
  • The Antitower (level 60)
  • Sohr Khai (level 60)
  • Xelphatol (level 60)
  • Baelsar's Wall (level 60)

With the last of the Heavensward MSQ dungeons complete, the developers only need to upgrade the 8 MSQ dungeons in the Stormblood expansion over the next two patches to complete the task. Also, patch 6.3 completes the modernization for the complete free trial for Final Fantasy XIV.

The upgrades do not eliminate the need to group with other players to progress through the MSQ. I counted 8 8-character trials in A Realm Reborn and 4 in Heavensward required to complete the main story of FFXIV.  And of course, players still need to complete the three level 50 alliance raids that comprise the Crystal Tower quests to enter Heavensward

The upgrades also do not eliminate the need to group to complete non-MSQ content. So no, Yoshi-P did not turn FFXIV into a completely solo game. Looking at the list of content, not even close. But for Final Fantasy fans who haven't tried FFXIV because of the forced grouping, the game is a little better now.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Will World Of Warcraft And Final Fantasy XIV Take Turns Releasing Patches?

One of the truisms I've believed is expansions and meaty patches help retain, if not grow, the player bases of MMORPGs. I watched CCP usually launch 2 expansions per year during EVE Online's climb to 500,000 subscriptions in the game's first 10 years of existence. Perhaps the end of major expansions with Kronos in June 2014 didn't cause EVE's player decline, but I maintain the reduction of the release of large injections of content played a noticeable role.

Another game with even worse issues releasing content on a timely basis was World of Warcraft. The existence of content droughts became acute during the Shadowlands expansion when Blizzard launched the game on 23 November 2020 and did not release patch 9.1 until 29 June 2021. A 220 day dearth of content did not go over so well with a lot of WoW players. I experienced the wave of "WoW refugees" migrating to Final Fantasy XIV during that time. Many reasons were cited, but do the WoW players even give FFXIV a glance if all was well in Azeroth?

FFXIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida believes in providing content on a predictable basis. Back in February 2022 the man fans fondly call Yoshi-P provided a roadmap for the release of the 5 main post-expansion patches following Endwalker. He also announced a slowing of the release cycle to every 4 weeks, with a .5 patch released approximately half-way through the cycle. Players can expect patch 6.3 released on Tuesday, with patch 6.4 to release in May and patch 6.5 in September. Patch 6.55 should release sometime in November.

New WoW Executive Producer Holly Longdale decided to introduce a roadmap herself and did so two weeks ago.

WoW's Roadmap for Dragonflight

I think her words brought some joy to players.
A WoW expansion is not a single moment in time but a journey —we know that the merit of an expansion hinges on the sustained quality of its entire arc. Years after its release, Legion is remembered fondly as much for the 11-week content update cadence that served as the framework for its first year as it is for artifact weapons or Khadgar's brilliant dad jokes.

In planning out the road ahead following the release of Dragonflight, we've been mindful of the duty we owe our players to nurture this living world and, frankly, the need to do better than we have at times in the recent past. Our goal for Dragonflight is that there should always be something right around the corner, with a new update hitting our test realms shortly after the last one is live and in your hands.

In total, we are planning to deliver six content patches, fairly evenly spaced, over the course of 2023. This will include two major updates, the traditional pillars of our expansions—with new zones, raids, and seasonal rewards—but in between those, we want to keep expanding and evolving our world with new world events, updates to systems, and evergreen holidays, new dungeon experiences, new narrative chapters and cinematics that can serve as epilogues or as prologues to the next major step in the adventure, and, most importantly of all, more opportunities for us to respond to feedback and change or add elements based on what we're hearing is most needed by our players.
During the WoW refugee crisis of 2021, I heard many talking heads on YouTube and Twitter speculate about a competition developing between WoW and FFXIV for which was the top game. Some foresaw a future where players could bounce between the two games. Run though the content of the latest patch? No problem, the other game just released something, so run over there for a month.

Is 2023 the year we see WoW's and FFXIV's schedules align? Here is the tentative schedule for the two games this year.
  • January - FFXIV patch 6.3
  • February - WoW patch 10.0.5
  • March - FFXIV patch 6.35
  • April - WoW patch 10.0.7
  • May - FFXIV patch 6.4
  • June - WoW patch 10.1
  • July - FFXIV patch 6.45
  • August - WoW patch 10.1.5
  • September - FFXIV patch 6.5
  • October - WoW patch 10.1.7
  • November - FFXIV patch 6.55
  • December - WoW patch 10.2
Schedules could change and patches could launch in the same month. But will we see the two companies take turns launching content throughout 2023? I really hope so.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Looking Back At Square Enix Stock Price In 2022

Unlike Pearl Abyss and Cloud Imperium Games, I don't have years of experience looking at any of Square Enix' financial information. But I figure I should close out my look at gaming companies with the maker of my current main MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV.

The Square Enix investor relation page has very nice functions, including allowing a user to compare the price of its stock against the Nikkei Index on the Tokoyo Stock Exchange. 

Square's stock price throughout 2022

Square Enix Holdings Co. Ltd. finished 2022 approximately where it began the year. The stock opened the year at ¥6100 and opened this year at ¥6130. Trading fell as low as ¥4965 in April and as high as ¥7150 in November. More importantly, the stock outperformed the broader Nikkei average. While Square's stock only increased by 0.5%, the Nikkei Index fell 9.7%.

But what about the U.S. dollar value? Turns out the Wall Street Journal calculates the price based on the dollar.

Square's stock price in USD, via Wall Street Journal

In U.S. dollars, Square's stock price fell 12.9%, from $52 to open the year down to $45.31. Still, a better than average performance than found on U.S. exchanges. For example, information technology stocks in the S&P 500 fell in price an average of 29%. The Nasdaq performed worse, down 33.1% last year.

The performance of Square's stock is a contrast to Pearl Abyss'. While the Japanese studio produced some games that didn't do well, that is a lot better than what our overlords in Anyang managed to do. Add in the good games Square also sold and the financial performance of the two companies, at least their stock prices, are explained.