Friday, July 3, 2015

Buyer's Remorse

I don't often fall prey to the whims of my crowd, but I'm beginning to suspect that's what's happened here. I've returned to FFXIV, and picked up the new expansion.  Everything is exciting and new, and I should be happy as a clam.  Except.. it isn't, and I'm not.  So.. what's going on here.

As you know, I've been bouncing around a bit from MMO to MMO, once the shiny wore off of Draenor, and I found was feeling hemmed in by my own garrison.  And it really wasn't so much of a I'm searching for the next best MMO kind of thing, but really more of a there's a lot of cool shit going on in many MMO's right now, and I want to check that out! thing.

So for about the last six weeks or so I've been playing Star Wars the Old Republic, and really enjoying it. My smuggler Kaytte has climbed her way all the way to 60, and she'd completed all of the current main story - right through the Shadow of Revan, She wasn't totally geared up yet, but gearing wasn't too much of a problem right now anyway. Also she'd earned a nice bank of credits, buying and selling things on the GTN.  Point being, while I wasn't neccessarily feeling done, per se, I did feel like I'd reached my original goals for the game at the time - which was to make it to level cap and see the story all the way through.

And all the time I've been playing, I've also been eyeing FFXIV.  See, FFXIV is an excellent MMO. This much I know for fact. I played it a little at launch, then came back last summer when they had a free weekend, and stuck with it pretty much all summer, leveling a Bard all the way to 50.  So it was, just about the time I reached 60 in SWTOR and finished the main story, FFXIV officially released the Heavensward expansion.  Oh my.

Now, if there's one thing I've learned from experience, it is that if you're thinking of returning to an MMO, the time to do it is when they're having a major event - such as an expansion launch.  Many people will be returning, and they'll be a great uptick in population - and that uptick will likely only really substantially last a month or so.  You want to ride that wave of returning pop. Queues will be faster, group events work better - and everyone is experiencing the new content at the same time you are. It's like a partial reset of sorts, and it's best if you experience it with everyone else.  So I decided - HEY, you've reached the level cap in SWTOR, there's a new expansion coming out for FFXIV - now's the time to check it out! So I did.

I patched up FFXIV, and jumped in and logged into my bard, and was greeted with that familiar "returning to MMO feeling", which is to say, I was staring at three hot bars full of buttons and couldn't remember much about what any of them did, or the order in which I should press them.

Now, I was aware of the Heavensward expansion, and had watched a few of the teaser videos, but that was just about the extent of my knowledge about it. I did know you had to have a character at level cap to experience the new content, but I had that, so I wasn't too worried. Shortly after logging in and running around a bit, I went ahead and navigated the maze of Square Enix account sites to purchase the expansion, so I could patch it in, and start leveling my way to 60.  And of course, all the best in game goodies came from the collector's edition, so nothing would do but to get that edition!

Now, being greeted with a hotbar full of icons I didn't recognize, I decided to ease my way back into the game by way of switching jobs to rogue, which wasn't in the game the last time I played, and was one of the things I wanted to check out. The nice thing about FFXIV, is you don't have to re-roll a character to start over, you can just switch jobs with the current one, and get the same effect!

So I set about leveling rogue, and remembering how to play the game. It wasn't really grabbing me, but I know that leveling low level alternate jobs is pretty a pretty grindy affair of running fates and bland side quests, so I wrote it off to that. Also ran a few low level dungeons, had a pretty good time, and before I knew it was 20. Time to switch back to my Bard and start in on that expansion content!

So Kayette switched back to Bard (where clearly she's happiest), and I started running some fates, and did a few low level dungeons, to get back into the swing of her rotation. She was currently stuck at Garuda in her story.  Mind you, I still hadn't done anything with the new expansion yet, but at least I was earning XP towards 60. I used the Duty Finder to tackle Garuda, downed her without too much difficulty, and we were on our way again, making progress on the story.  Surely there wasn't too much left to do right?

The thing was, the whole time I've been playing, I still hadn't really recaptured that feel.  I couldn't explain it, but the game just wasn't grabbing me. I felt kind of a malaise at running fates, and working my way through the story missions felt - bland. More than anything, I suspect it was a matter of aesthetics over mechanics. Coming from SWTOR's excellent, fully voiced in-game story cinematics, to FFXIV's mostly unvoiced cinematics, where the full extent of your character's interactions with the NPC's is to nod in the affirmative, felt - well, a bit anticlimactic.

But I soldiered on for a bit, progressing a bit more through the story. But at this point, I began to wonder in earnest, just how far did I have to go on the main story, before I could actually start seeing some of the new content in the expansion.  And that was when I realized.. goodness.. it turns out, quite a bit.  See, while I am actually only a few short instances from finishing the original vanilla story, you have to finish all of the other expansions stories as well, before you ever set foot in Ishgard. And it turns out.. that is a lot of content! Dozens upon dozens of missions and instances. And, if the was giving me the feels, I'd wouldn't mind a bit.  But sadly, for whatever reason, it just isn't. As I'm progressing in quests, mostly I felt like I should be checking in on m smuggler's GTN sales, and learning how to run operations with her!

So, just out of curiosity, I logged back into SWTOR. And had more fun in 30 minutes of play there than I had in the last 2 weeks of FFXIV.  And that was when I thought - What are you doing? Like it or not, a mistake has been made here. Whether it's just the difference in presentation of the missions, or maybe it's just the thought of the weight of fully re-engaging in another MMO right now, when I just got well engaged with my previous one, was too much to bear. But right now, the thought of progressing through all of those FFXIV missions to see the quote-unquote new content (let's be honest, it will all be new to me) isn't compelling me. So I think you'll be seeing a return of the SWTOR screenshots in my morning game sharing time on twitter.

You'll forgive me if I wax parent-ish a bit here, but it feels like there are two lessons that I knew already, but clearly needed to be re-reminded of. The first, is to remember to not throw good many after bad. I was feeling compelled to force myself to play FFXIV because dammit, I did just spend money on the expansion, and by god I need to get my money's worth! But the money's gone, and if you're not having fun, are you really getting good use out of it anyway? And the second - and far more important, is for the love of god, research an expansion before you buy it knucklehead!

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