The Unknown Gamer

Eternal Bond Ceremony

This is a video I put together of my character's Eternal Bonding ceremony in Final Fantasy XIV. I typically play as a female highlander (because in the end, there can be only one...) but I used a fantasia bottle to switch to a male Lalafell in order to make the ceremony a tad less absurd. Either way, we're still getting married by a moogle...

I'm not really a specialist at video editing, but I was able to whip up something at least presentable using AviSynth. Thankfully the game provided a good amount of the footage on its own in the form of cutscenes.

RNGesus is a False God

Despite adding a slew of quality-of-life improvements over the years, MMORPGs still have a tendency to slide back into dated concepts simply because that is the way things have always been done. Among these, an over-reliance on randomness is possibly one of worst habit that MMOs have hung onto. Anyone who slogged through classic World of Warcraft likely has stories about how it took forever to gear their tanks up in Molten Core, or about how they never managed to snag that one elusive piece of loot they had been after. To quote a character in a now long-forgotten machinima video:

"That damn staff never dropped..."

Being at the mercy of the Random Number Generator can often suck. While some RNG dependency is good, depending too heavily on it simply leads to time sinks that test a player's tolerance for grinding (as well as the amount of time they're willing or able to spend playing) rather than providing a true measure of skill. Because it is incredibly common for players to immediately judge a character by the gear he or she is wearing, players are frequently considered unskilled simply because they have not been as lucky as others. Pick-up groups rarely consider that a player may have been running dungeons for weeks in order to get upgrades, instead frequently opting to make angry remarks about the sorry state of someone's gear. As a result, many players have come to refer to the RNG as RNGesus as a way to acknowledge that they are often wholly at the mercy of randomness.

It is true that most modern MMOs have at least taken some steps to address the problem, primarily by adopting token or point systems that help mitigate the RNG factor. This alternative currency is awarded simply by completing content and can be traded to a vendor NPC for gear. Depending on the game, however, this gear may be of a lesser quality to raid drops and is rarely the best-in-slot item. This helps players with poor luck be able to keep caught up enough so they're not left out when the next raid is released, but it generally won't help them top the DPS charts. Still, it is a welcome change to the days when warriors needed to farm Dire Maul relentlessly for a copy of Foror's Compendium of Dragonslaying in order to upgrade to a raid-worthy tanking sword.

On the other hand, some games have instead embraced the cruelty of the RNG to exploit players for more revenue. Many Korean MMOs which brand themselves as being free-to-play have an infamous reputation of featuring weapon upgrade systems that are heavily reliant on randomness. Failing the upgrade can lead to lost materials used for the upgrade, or sometimes even the loss of the item itself. Instead of taking their chances, players are instead encouraged to visit the cash shop to purchase items that will mitigate or eliminate the chances of failure. It is no wonder why many of these games are considered pay-to-win by many players.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if developers come up with more creative ways to avoid wholesale dependence on randomness. Even though random numbers have been the way of things for RPGs since before PC gaming, it may be possible to free players from RNGesus in the future with better effort and innovation.

The Circle is Complete

Like many other gamers of my generation, I first entered the world of Azeroth in 2004. The first character I rolled was a human paladin on the Feathermoon server. At the time, World of Warcraft seemed to blow every other MMO I had tried out of the water in terms of story, visuals, and game play. Impressed with the scenery I encountered in the Alliance Capital of Stormwind, I took the following screenshot in front of the cathedral to commemorate the beginning of my journey.

WoW in 2004

I ended up playing WoW for quite some time, though I took breaks here and there. I did eventually stop for good at the conclusion of the Cataclysm expansion. By that time, I wasn't happy with the direction Blizzard had been taking the game for a while, and the changes slated for the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion were the straw that broke the camel's back. The game had strayed too far from how it had been back in the days of Blackwing Lair. Still, there will always be times when I long for the good old days of exploring Azeroth for the first time in 2004.

Yesterday, I received an email from Blizzard offering me a free seven day pass to come back to WoW. I decided to take them up on the offer for two major reasons:

  • I wanted to see if any of my old friends and guild mates were actually still playing.
  • I wanted to see what my characters looked like with the new models that were introduced in the latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor.

In the past, I had never stayed away long enough to lose my familiarity with the game. This time, however, things were different. Maybe it is because my characters don't quite look the same, but I just think I've been gone long enough and have acclimated myself to Final Fantasy XIV. Even with some graphical updates, I can clearly see how much the game has aged. Honestly looking at it now, the game's visuals are jarringly bad compared when compared directly to more recent titles. It also doesn't help how much Blizzard has changed just about everything so drastically, which was part of the reason I left in the first place. It doesn't seem as if the development team has backpedaled on any of the talent-simplification and class homogenization that left me scratching my head in the first place.

I am not entirely surprised that a few of the people I played with back in the early days ended up still being around, and that they are still raiding regularly. I spoke with one of the people from my old guild at great detail today, and subtly tried to win him over to FFXIV, though I think that at this point that he's probably going to stick with Blizzard until the very moment that they pull the plug from the servers some inevitable day in the future. Such brand loyalty is a bit extreme, especially since WoW has seen better days.

Overall the free return trial was uneventful. I didn't check out any of the new content except for screwing around with pet battles. I chatted a bit with some people, and then hopped into Molten Core on my Warrior in a fruitless attempt to finally get the left binding for my Thunderfury, which was the ultimate tanking weapon in vanilla. It still didn't drop. Finally, I logged into my paladin, put on his Lightforge gear (the original dungeon set), and took this screenshot in front of Stormwind Cathedral.

WoW in 2015

Then I logged out and uninstalled the game. At this point the only way I'll resubscribe to World of Warcraft is if Blizzard releases true vanilla servers running patch 1.12.

Random Gallery