Marvel’s Avengers: Learning More About the Story, The Structure and What’s To Come

By now you’ve probably seen our hands-on impressions for Square Enix’s upcoming Marvel’s Avengers. Take a good look, because they actually provide a little more nuance to the gameplay that made its premiere at Gamescom a little while back. The game feels really good as far as how each of the characters play, particularly Thor and Hulk. That’s just one part of the picture. After our gameplay demo, Crystal Dynamics walked us through other portions of the game, giving us an idea of what to expect when it makes its way to release in May 2020.

So let’s break down each of the components and get a good idea of what this game is all about. We’ll start with the very thing that brings all the Avengers together in the first place – the story.

Marvel's Avengers

Taking A.I.M.

As you might have seen from the gameplay footage, things aren’t going so well for the Avengers. Following the opening of a new San Francisco headquarters, a terrorist attack breaks out. The heroes manage to thwart it and stop the evil Taskmaster but at a price. A massive explosion tears apart San Francisco, and possibly kills Captain America in the process. As a result, the heroes are devastated, and eventually blamed for the devastation.

“Following the events of A-Day, the Avengers disbanded,” the developer explained. “In their absence, a new organization rose to power in their place – Advanced Intelligent Mechanics, also known as A.I.M. 

“A.I.M. believes that science will save the world, not superheroes,” they continued. “(But) five years after A-Day, the world is a very different place than it was beforehand. Superheroes are now outlawed and have been replaced by A.I.M. and their advanced synthoid AI. 

“A.I.M. wants to redefine all of mankind’s future through logic and reason and science. So they build a force to protect the rest of us from the superpowered individuals. And you can probably see where this is going to go.”

As a result, the remaining Avengers now have to re-assemble, as it were, and try to take back each part of the world from the forces of A.I.M., using their unique powers. That means Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow have to work together with whatever resources they have to save the day.

Marvel's Avengers

Getting Powered Up With the Avengers

When the group does come back together, they turn to a downed helicarrier in the middle of nowhere as their homebase. It’s here that players can get a look at the open world hub, which shows the available missions that are on hand for them to take on.

There are two types of missions that are available in Marvel’s Avengers. The first are Hero missions, which are meant for single players and move forward the storyline, giving them control of select heroes over the course of each one.

The second are WarZone missions. Here, players can work together in up to four-player co-op, working alongside one another to push the narrative forward and collectively take down enemies both large and small alike. These missions can also be taken on in single player, if you don’t have buddies that can join you in an online session at the time.

As you complete missions over the course of Marvel’s Avengers, more missions and areas become available. Soon, you’ll come face to face with tougher A.I.M. enemies, and eventually turn the tide back in the favor of the Avengers. Who knows, maybe Captain America could resurface. We did see his character in concept art, and he is quite playable in the beginning. So anything’s possible.

 “The more you play both WarZone and Hero missions, the more stuff populates in the world,” Crystal Dynamics explained during its presentation. That means the more you do, the more the world opens up.

You also get to unlock some content, which we’ll cover in the next paragraph.

Marvel's Avengers

Did Someone Say New Content?

Everyone likes collectible gear, and Marvel’s Avengers will have no shortage of it. Over the course of the game, as you play in both Hero and WarZone missions, you’ll have the option to earn new outfit and gear for characters within the game. In addition, some outfits will also be available for purchase via Microtransactions.

Now, keep in mind that these are the only Microtransactions within the game. These are for special outfits that pay tribute to the Avengers with some of their best goods. These include Black Widow’s original costume, Hulk’s Mr. Fixit zoot suit, and Thor’s classic Lord of Asgard suit, among others. They’re completely optional and aren’t required to unlock anything in the game.

Otherwise, you’ll earn lots of suits as you battle your way through the missions, and be able to equip these outfits on your characters at any time. Though Crystal Dynamics didn’t really have too many to show off during the demo, expect quite a bit of variety for the long haul.

Speaking of long haul, Marvel’s Avengers certainly has a lot of, ahem, “endgame” content in mind. Crystal Dynamics has already promised that the game will be supported for years to come, with a number of new heroes and WarZone missions, as well as some pushes to the narrative. It didn’t break down who was coming to the game just yet, though we did see a hint of Ms. Marvel in the opening gameplay trailer, as well as Ant-Man. There’s also no word as to what kind of new villains could enter the picture alongside Taskmaster and a teased Abomination, but the door’s wide open for some of Marvel’s worst to walk on through and wreak havoc.

On top of that, the developer also promised that this content will be free. The rest will be included within the game’s price, and there will be a lot of it. Square Enix is building the game for the long-term alongside Marvel, and it sounds very promising, provided it can live up to what the opening gameplay demo provided.

 

Push Your Character To New Heights

The Avengers characters start out nicely powered up enough, with a number of abilities and special skills to activate once you build up the proper level of energy. However, like all great superhero games, it helps to make enough progress to unlock new abilities. Fortunately, Marvel’s Avengers will provide the option to do that.

As you make progress across both Hero and WarZone missions, you’ll be able to unlock new powers for each of your characters, depending on what you want to do with them. We didn’t see all the ones that are available throughout the game, but did get a taste of some of Iron Man’s. This includes a pair of lasers that can cut through enemies very quickly as well as some cool punching abilities. These skill trees will open up quite a bit, making your heroes even more powerful as you go along.

“As you play these heroes and you level them up, you’ll get skill points that you can invest in each hero’s individual skill tree. All heroes’ skill trees are unique, they all have sets of skills that they have to go through, and you can choose how you want to spend your skill points, and where you want to go deeper, so your hero can be customized the way you want to play.” Some even involve “classic” moves taken straight from the classic comic books, which the game was inspired by. There are original ones to boot as well.

There are also perks that tie together with certain costumes within the game. “Gear can modify directly how your hero plays,” Crystal Dynamics explained during their presentation. “The higher the rating the gear, the better the perks, sometimes even the more perks you get.” They then pointed out how one piece of gear had higher stats than another piece of gear, with an increased power level. They can vary depending on what you use. Synergies and boosts can play a part, particularly with Iron Man’s tool set. But they’re all great to mess around with, if only to see how your performance changes up with each character.

Marvel's Avengers

More Ground To Cover

Crystal Dynamics has hinted that there’s even more territory that will be covered with Marvel’s Avengers in the months ahead and not just with the heroes and storylines to come. It noted that even more systems could deepen the game even further, revolving around the characters. This will likely be with the WarZone missions, as we’ll likely get a look at just how well multiplayer will work somewhere to closer in the year.

This, combined with what we’ve managed to learn over the weekend at PAX West, really paints a different side to Marvel’s Avengers. There was a great deal of skepticism about the game during its initial introduction at E3. Crystal Dynamics, aided by the developers at Eidos Montreal, is assuring that they’re making a superhero game that lives up to the legacy of the superhero franchise, even if it is somewhat different from the Marvel Studios film property. It still has a ways to go before it finishes its trip to retail, but thus far, it’s definitely making a heroic journey.

Marvel’s Avengers releases on May 15, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

(Square Enix invited us to a suite to play the game and speak with Crystal Dynamics during our trip to PAX West. We thank them for accommodating us!)

The post Marvel’s Avengers: Learning More About the Story, The Structure and What’s To Come appeared first on MMOGames.com.

Marvel’s Avengers Hands-On Preview

After several years of working behind-the-scenes on the franchise, Square Enix finally lifted the veil off Marvel’s Avengers. The company initially revealed a trailer for the upcoming action/adventure title from Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics back at E3 2019 earlier this year.

There were some who felt mixed about it. Taking control of Earth’s greatest heroes seems to be a dream come true for some players, but there are others that have come up with complaints. For instance, the character models being somewhat unfamiliar compared with those from the Marvel Studios films. Keep in mind that the game property is different than the films, despite the similarity in tone. Then there’s the concern about the first pieces of gameplay, which make the action seem more straightforward and potentially limited.

However, the publisher wanted to answer these questions properly. During our recent trip to PAX West this past weekend, it invited us to go hands-on with the game for the very first time, following a gameplay showcase the week beforehand from Gamescom. Even though there wasn’t anything new present in the demo – it was the same opening level that was previously shown – it does feel like Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal have something special here. In fact, it might just go its own way when it comes to establishing a superhero hit for the teams, outside of what Insomniac Games has done with its Spider-Man property.

Avengers Day Is Cut Short

The game begins with the celebration of Avengers Day, with Tony Stark and company opening a new headquarters in San Francisco. However, it isn’t long before a terrorist attack takes place, with a mysterious benefactor looking to destroy the team with his well-armed soldiers. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Bruce Banner and Black Widow set out to stop them, by whatever means necessary.

It’s here that the game begins to rotate through each of the available characters, giving players a good idea of what they’re capable of doing in Marvel’s Avengers. Surprisingly, there’s a heaping amount of variance for an action/adventure game, instead of the usual tap-tap combo business.

It Must Be Thor’s Day

First up is Thor, complete with Mjolnir in hand. He comes crashing down onto the scene with a powerful lightning strike, as soldiers continue to be dumb enough to move in on him. It’s here that we learn about the combo system that Crystal Dynamics has implemented with the character into the game, as he’s capable of quite a bit.

For instance, he can use Mjolnir to smack a few folks around up close, and he can also break through barriers to get to other parts of the stage as needed, once he’s cleared the area of certain enemies.

The real treat here is being able to throw his hammer at foes from afar. It’s great being able to guide it just as Chris Hemsworth’s character has done in the movies. Not only are you able to hit someone as you hurl it towards them, but you can also do damage as it comes flying back. Sometimes it automatically recalls, so you’re able to continue delivering smooth combos at enemies that get close to you.

Let’s Build an Iron Man Suit

Next up is Iron Man. His gameplay segment starts pretty nicely, as he flies through the sky and shoots enemies that fly within his range with their own rocket packs. Taking them down is fairly easy, though you do have maneuvers where you can dodge incoming attacks should the need arise. This feels like a cool flight sim that puts the older Sega Iron Man game to shame, and that’s with just a few seconds of gameplay.

Once that’s done, Stark can land on the ground and deliver some punishing blows with his suit, mainly with lasers that he can fire at adversaries. For good measure, he can also fire a repulsor beam for several seconds, doing damage to tanks and other well-shielded foes with no problem whatsoever. It does need to charge, so don’t expect to use it all the time.

Overall, Stark’s got some great stuff with his toys here, and from the looks of it, you can unlock new abilities as well.

Smash…

And as you might guess, Marvel’s Avengers indeed has a Hulk. Bruce Banner enters the scene as his usual calm self, but it isn’t long before Black Widow sends him flying onto the scene as the Golden Gate Bridge starts coming apart from attacks.

It’s here that he transforms into Hulk mid-air and lands on the ground. As adversaries get close to him, he can deliver a number of strikes that can make quick work of them, while taking the least amount of damage out of the characters included within the game. What’s more, he can also pick up enemies and slam them down in a number of innovative, and fun, ways.

There’s also some platforming with Hulk, though this can take some getting used to, mainly due to his size. He’s a big, lumbering guy, so it might take a bit to handle his jumping capabilities across limited platforms. Fortunately, they’re clearly marked to show where they begin or end, so you can proceed to the next section. You can land with precision with the help of his ground smash – which can also take out some unfortunate saps on the ground for good measure.

Hulk can also grab onto some sections of the stage to temporarily gain some leverage, and maybe even do a quick wall jump to another part. Again, it takes some practice, but it shows off his versatility, even for a big dude his size. It’s really cool to watch him play, and even kick some poor idiot that comes flying out of a tank that he just flipped on its head. T Thunderclap is included as a special “cinematic attack” of sorts, as you can clear the area of most foes once you utilize it.

Hulk is probably my second favorite of the bunch behind Thor…but don’t tell him I said that. I don’t need to get punched in the face.

Captain America Needs Your Help

We’ve all seen the gameplay footage by now that shows poor Captain America meeting his fate in the Helicarrier once it’s destroyed. However, before that, we get a great idea of the fighting style he possesses within the game, when he’s available for use.

First off, you can throw his shield, similarly to how Thor throws his hammer. It’s a great tool for taking down an opponent from afar or even messing up someone long enough to land a combo strike on them. His combat style is very cool, filled with all sorts of dynamic moves and suave acrobatics, just like his big-screen counterpart in a way. His shield is also handy for occasional defensive techniques, should his health need a little bit of saving. Overall, he’s a good character, but his opening segment was cut a bit short.

Don’t Mess With the Widow

Last but not least, we get a taste of what Black Widow can do. She uses stun batons and her firearms to take down enemies, along with her quick grab movements. These especially come in handy for the boss battle that takes place at the end of the level, where we’re introduced to Taskmaster.

The former colleague of Natalya pops up and introduces a “sonic bomb” that could easily tear the city apart. As the other Avengers try to keep the bridge from completely collapsing, Black Widow takes it upon herself to take on Taskmaster and stop him from detonating it.

At first, the segment is a quick-time event scene, in which Widow punches her foe in mid-air. Then it settles into a full-on brawl on the ground. She can counter and roll out of the way, and then hit back with her own techniques to throw him off. It’s a boss battle that does pretty well, to say the least, and hopefully sets the tone for other encounters with Marvel enemies later on in the adventure.

There’s one other great segment where Taskmaster comes flying in, forcing Natalya to do quick damage to him with each swoop before he lands on the ground to do one-on-one battle. She can also temporarily turn invisible, as she does in the demo, to throw him off. This adds a neat twist that we wish we had seen more of with other characters, and it’s a great way to tie up the demo overall.

A Smooth Flow, But Merely a Taste

There’s still some questions as to what’s coming with Marvel’s Avengers content following its release, but the opening demo seems to take on a whole new life once you actually take control of it. Sure, some questions could be asked about the character models, and what really happened to Captain America following the events that unfolded on Avengers Day. However, the game just feels naturally cool, giving each character a degree that we didn’t expect from a title on this level.

Thor probably relates closest to Kratos from God of War here, being able to kick opponent’s butts with majesty and grace, while still generating enough lighting and cool Mjolnir throws to barely break a sweat. I also have to give a nod to Hulk, who is just as enjoyable to play here as he was in his classic adventures, namely with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube days. Granted, the chaos doesn’t get that far out of hand, but you can feel the sheer joy of smashing and having a field day with it.

The other characters have their balance as well. Iron Man is an outstanding hero both on the ground and in the air, and it looks like the final game will offer more than enough opportunities to try both, across single player and multiplayer. 

Black Widow is cool as a cucumber here, and her boss battle with Taskmaster shows that she shouldn’t be messed with. My fingers are crossed that we see other weapons introduced over the course of the game.

Again, though, I would’ve liked more Captain America. I can understand why his role was diminished, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him here. He’s an iconic character, and there’s something that Crystal Dynamics in store that’s likely to throw us for a loop. The co-developer did note that we could see new heroes enter the fray, and that leaves lots of room for either the Winter Soldier or the successor to the shield, the Falcon.

The Heroes We Need

For now, though, I feel a lot better about where Marvel’s Avengers is heading. The gameplay really has that click that fits in with the visuals that we got a taste of a little while back; and the content that the developers have in mind make this sound very promising.

Also, keep in mind that it took a while for Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man to build up as well. So there’s potential here for Marvel and Square Enix to strike gold again, this time with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

They’ve still got time to get it right, since the game doesn’t ship until May 15, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Plenty of time to assure that it’s got the polish it needs to truly do these heroes…justice?

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Art of Eorzea: 10 Step ReShade Filter Guide

Welcome to another edition of Art of Eorzea. This is the sister column to ‘Echoes of Eorzea’ and is dedicated to the artistic side of Final Fantasy XIV. In this series have already covered ‘Screenshot Basics’ and an ‘In-depth Depth of Field’ guide, however, within the very first article I specified that I’d be exploring many aspects of screenshot photography,  expanding on each area, such as DoF, color theory, framing and lighting.

To ascertain what would be the most useful subject to cover next in this series, I asked the FFXIV community on Twitter by use of a poll. The highest percentage fell upon the creation of a ReShade preset guide and, as ReShade very heavily falls into the creative side of gaming, it’s a very worthy subject to be covering in my opinion. I really hope that this article can be of some use to you on some level. If you don’t know what ReShade is, the following articles may be of some use:

ReShade Install Guide
ReShade Settings Guide
ReShade Depth of Field Guide

Before I continue I would like to take a moment to emphasize that I am no expert, and any creative opinions are entirely subjective (my experience can be found here). The following advice and tips are just explanations of the way I do things, they may not be perfect in the slightest!

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Late afternoon in La Noscea.

Results will vary based on time of day, character clothing, hair color, skin tone, weather, how vivid the color in the environment is and many other factors. I’ve tested the preset in both day and night conditions and it ‘seems’ to work well (unless the light is too bright). Hopefully by the end of this article you will know enough to be able to adjust your filter to suit your environment.

Where to begin?

The first thing I think of when beginning the creation of a filter is an imagined ideal end result. Do I want it to look autumnal, or stark, or suitable for portraits? With the help of the new Group Pose time-stop feature, creating filters suited to environments has become a lot less stressful as you can now pause the time of day when entering GPose.

Today I will be starting with my usual filter basics and then leave you with some optional extras which will allow you to easily tweak the look of the filter.

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Tip: Keep in mind that, even though you create your filter for a certain environment, you can test it out alongside the GPose filters and various lighting environments to see if it becomes more versatile.

Basic 10 Step ReShade Filter

SHADERS

For each shader I mention, I will reference the description from the ReShade Settings Guide (or summarize it) alongside my own comments if applicable. Ideally, this will be a basic environmental filter which will emphasize color, contrast and image depth with slight sharpening.

For the sake of comparison this preset was created at the Last Vigil in Ishgard.

Important: Please remember to disable GPose ‘Depth of Field’ setting before creating any sort of filter preset (it will throw off your DoF and sharpening).

The video above shows the before and after stages of this ReShade preset as well as some of the variables each shader can achieve. Sadly my screen recorder (Action!) crashed the game six times while trying to film the creation live, so I had to go back to film afterwards with OBS (and pray Ishgard weather conditions didn’t change). The best I could do was to deconstruct and reconstruct the filter to show you how the layers build up, I do apologize that there was not more. Should you not be able to discern the settings from the screenshots, they are available within the video. I have tried to not go over the top with the filter and maintain a relatively ‘neutral but enhanced’ look, though I’m not sure if I succeeded or failed in that regard but I hope you like the results.

ONE | MXAO

MXAO is at the top of my list because it gives me a good idea where character and object shading is going to be, then when it comes to adding in the contrast and brightness in other shaders. This way I’ve got a good idea what I’m working with and I won’t go overboard on the shadows, which could create very heavy and jagged lines.

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Description: In Final Fantasy XIV ReShade, MXAO creates a very noticeable difference between images, creating depth and shade.

“MXAO can both apply little shading almost for free or heavy shading for screenshots to completely change the look of the scenery.” Source.

Keep in mind that this is an environmentally dependent preset, so one set of values may work for certain hairstyles, yet for others, you might have to pull the slider to the opposite side and lessen the intensity to create a more subtle effect or compensate for certain shapes. The most important slider here is Sample Radius (determines where the shadow will sit), so set that first before altering the others.

TWO | Adaptive Sharpen

Next, let’s sharpen the image a little to provide slightly cleaner lines and emphasise features.

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Description: Adaptive Sharpen is versatile and its primary use is to provide definition around objects within an image. I tend to use this option in its default form more than any other sharpening shader. You may increase the sharpening strength to suit your need, although I would recommend having lower values for wider distance shots as it may make the image look very grainy or cartoon-like.

THREE | Tonemap

Tonemap might seem a rather extreme addition to the filter at this point and ‘washes out’ a lot of the color but when I build a filter I think in terms of building blocks. This shader provides the ability to lay down the foundation of the color changes and also provides the ability to make some basic contrast and brightness alterations. Keep in mind you can always come back to this at a later stage and make some careful adjustments.

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Description: Tonemap is another color manipulation setting incorporating Gamma, Exposure, Saturation, and Bleach. However, the most important feature of Tonemap is the Defog setting. The color you choose in the bottom right is the color it will remove from the image.

FOUR | Clarity

Although subtle, I feel that clarity adds some more image depth that MXAO doesn’t quite capture and emphasizes objects in the image a little more with out excessive sharpening.

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Description: Clarity essentially emphasizes the shadows in the image to provide more contrast. This shader is somewhat similar to the ‘strengthened effects’ GPose filter. There is a lot of flexibility in this preset and it’s well worth spending some time on as your image can get a great boost from it.

FIVE | Levels

Levels will act as the base for the image contrast, as you can see in comparison to image three, it has become significantly more bold and less ‘washed out’.

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Description: Levels only has two settings to worry about, BlackPoint and WhitePoint. BlackPoint emphasizes the dark areas and WhitePoint, the lighter areas. This is a very simplistic way of adding contrast to the image.

SIX | FilmicPass

This shader is very much personal choice but I absolutely love including it within my presets, it makes the tones quite unique but keep in mind you may have to balance other settings around it. The shader itself also has great control of lighting and saturation so it’s great for multi-purpose use.

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Description: FilmicPass provides both contrast and background darkening. The most important values to keep an eye on are Strength, Fade, Contrast, Linearization, Bleach, EffectGamma and Saturation. The values required for a daytime shot will be quite different as these values will over expose your character quite badly because they are designed to compensate for low light.

SEVEN | DPX

Here I’m using DPX to emphasize the cooler tones without losing saturation, depth or contrast.

Description: DPX is a powerful preset in terms of the color manipulation of your image. You have control over Contrast, Saturation, Colorfulness, Strength, RBG Curve and RBGc.These settings are relatively safe to play about with to see the color alterations that can be achieved. Having a play works best for a preset such as this.

EIGHT | Tint

Changing the color tone of your image can have a huge impact on your final image and in this instance I’m using the tint to add a slight warmth back into the more pale tones such as Novi’s skin and the sky. In effect, I am replacing the warm tones of the were lessened by Tonemap/DPX, but these tones are artificial and of my own choosing.

If I add a tint into images it may be necessary go back and edit the Tonemap again to make sure that the color balance is as desired.

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Description: Sepia is a handy setting to use if you wish to subtly tint one of your presets. Just modify the RGB value (or enter your desired hex code) and adjust the strength. 

NINE | Technicolor2

In all honesty I don’t know how my brain works, but here I can only assume that I’m using Technicolor2 to emphasize both the cold and (artificial) warm tone structure developed using the other color management shaders. In all honesty, I just do what my eyes tell me to!

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Description: The technicolor setting aims to recreate the Technicolor three-strip process. Technicolor 2 has slightly more versatility and may play a useful part in slight alterations of color in conjunction with other settings.

TEN | Depth of Field

As a photographer I enjoy using depth of field in my images above any other style or technique, the same goes for my Final Fantasy XIV images. I don’t seem to be capable of creating a preset without it!

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Description: The depth of field variables within the ReShade presets are possibly some of the more complex options in the lineup and can very easily break, so pay attention to what you are changing and note the value before changing it. For a standard preset with simple DoF, I will turn on the DOF_AUTOFOCUS and DOF_MOUSEDRIVEN_AF in the general DoF settings. Mouse driven AF simply means the mouse will determine where the focal level is detected. [Full DoF Guide here.]

Why leave DoF until last? It’s easier to see the whole picture during the color/light editing process, and then add in the DoF. If gamma/exposure alterations need to be made because of DoF bloom then you can go back to Tonemap or FilmicPass and alter those settings retrospectively.

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Landscape versatility: Filter used in Eastern La Noscea on a bright, clear day.

Note: You are absolutely not obligated to use all of these shaders or even replicate the settings I have used. A similar filter could be achieved in fewer steps but I feel each of the color altering shaders offers something unique and it’s just my preference to use a few of them during the process of creating a filter base such as this one. I also based the main chunk of this shader around color and contrast management because these are the foundations of all my presets. Many other additional shader choices would be down to personal taste such as adding blooms, lens flares or special effects, so working with the basics seemed logical.

Please, please remember to back up your presets!

Optional Extras

The above video displays some of the capabilities and uses of the addition shaders mentioned below.
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DepthHaze

If you’d like to add a little more depth and interest to your images, depth haze is a great way to do it. From steamy pools to eerie forests, this is a fantastic and versatile shader.

Description: Depth Haze is similar to Adaptive Fog although far more subtle. The shader places a fog effect in the far distance.

Adaptive Fog

Description: Similar to DepthHaze but with greater flexibility and stronger effects. This preset is also wonderful for creating silhouette images for the background with the right configuration. It also makes a great green-screen!

Emphasize

Description: Emphasize gives you color in the foreground of the image, fading out to grayscale in the background. You can manually alter the color focus by using the FocusRangeDepth and the ManualFocusDepth.

Ambient Light

Depending on the look you are going for, this shader gives you the ability to add a soft lighting effect without losing the sharpening effect from Adaptive Sharpen (as you may do with Gaussian Blur).

Description: This is a great setting for adding not only more light and contrast to your images but allows a subtle ‘bokeh’ type effect that I spent a very long time in the lens flare section looking for!

Magic Bloom

Description: Ideal if you want to add a slight bloom to your image without losing too much clarity. It is a wonderful effect, but sometimes this shader is bugged unless moved to the top of the use list in the preset .ini file. Please do not make modifications to these files if you are a novice user!

Tip: Depending on brightness of day use levels to realign the contrast and exposure.

Why am I not giving the preset away with this article? Simply put, it would defeat the object of me showing you how the filter is made and I’d like you to have a play with the settings! This way you may find something more suited to your tastes visually. If you do have a go please be sure to tag me @aeyvi on twitter to show me your screenshots (I really would love to see them)!

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Portrait aspirations: Although the filter has very warm tones it still seems to work in a dark studio with one subtle GPose light source (level 1) positioned on Novi’s right side.

 

The ReShade Settings guide has a visual index of various other shader settings if you’d like some inspiration.

All the images in this article have been created using the same filter featured in the guide, as versatile as the filter has (luckily) proved to be, not all conditions worked well, as shown below.

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Not so versatile: Light studio environments do not wield the best results.

 

Final Thoughts

If you got this far, thank you so much for taking a look at the article. I can’t tell you how unbelievably grateful I am for the support that I’ve received from the community in regards to this column and my screenshot adventures. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have the confidence to keep working on my screenshot portfolio or write these articles.

I hope above all that this guide has been helpful and informative. Enjoy your new preset!

If you have any questions, advice or comments please don’t hesitate to get in contact either through here, Screenographic or Twitter.

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MMO Money: Funcom Q3 Report and Pokemon Go’s Great Month

We’re now in quarterly report season and it is off to a great start with fantastic news from Funcom, including six new games in the works! Pokemon Go had a fantastic month in October and Square Enix is pulling some of their games out of Belgium completely by the end of the year. Find all the details below in this week’s MMO Money report.

Funcom Q3 Shows a Strong Company

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

It is all around great news for Funcom in their Q3 report. They reported the highest EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) margin in the company’s history. Revenue was higher even than Q3 2017 which had some significant launches in it. Also, last year’s annual profit record has already been beaten! We also can’t forget that in October the company officially announced that they are debt free!

Conan Exiles was the driving force behind all this positivity. In Q3 they had a successful launch in Japan and the game continues to have a loyal, dedicated player base around the world.

Mutant Year Zero Road to Eden is now in final production and due to launch on December 4th. They also have two more Conan games in the works. One of them is single player for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 while the other doesn’t specifically say what it is other than coming to PC and in the works with Petroglyph.

They also have a Heroic Signatures game in the works. If you don’t remember Heroic Signatures that’s totally understandable, they’re the company that was created to manage the interactive rights to IPs based on the books by the author of Conan the Barbarian, Robert E. Howard. There are in total about 29 different IPs for them to pick from so it will be interesting to see which one we get. That game will also be PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

There’s also a Funcom IP in the works that is set to release Halloween 2019 and is being worked on with RockPocket Games. Funcom says that the title is top secret but, if you head over to RockPocket’s website you’ll see they’re working on a game called Moons of Madness. They don’t come right out and say that it is a Funcom game…but it kinda sounds like it might be. Here’s the first sentence from the paragraph about the game. “Moons of Madness is a first-person, story-driven cosmic horror game exploring combining Lovecraft inspiration with hard science.” That just screams Funcom to me. But, we’ll have to wait and see if that’s what it is.

Finally, they have an open world multiplayer game that they’re working on. It’s currently in the concept phase so there isn’t anything else known about the game. The one exception is we know it will be a PC, Xbox One, and PS4 game.

 

Source: Funcom Quarterly Report

 

Pokemon Go Earned $73 Million in October

Pokemon Go had another fantastic month, October 2018 was a 67% increase year on year, finishing off with $73 million in revenue. This is down slightly from the high they experienced over the summer. But, with the change in weather and school being back in session it’s completely understandable. According to the report from SensorTower, it ranked number 8 for revenue across all apps on both stores worldwide and it was number 7 among mobile games. It even beat out Fortnite which ranked just one number lower. 33.2% of spending on Pokemon Go was from Japan while 32.9% was from the United States. Also, 54% of all spending came from Google Play users. Last year Pokemon Go saw a significant drop in spending during the winter months which again makes sense, because who wants to go sit or walk outside when the weather is miserable? But, this winter they do have Adventure Sync which will allow players to continue to get walking distance from home or while they have the app turned off. So, if players can find somewhere indoors where they can reach a gym there’s no reason for the gaming to stop entirely.

 

Source: SensorTower

 

Three Square Enix Mobile Games Pull Out of Belgium

Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Kingdom Hearts Union X, Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, and Mobius Final Fantasy will all be pulled from service in Belgium over the next few weeks in response to the Belgian Authority’s response to lootboxes.

The games will be pulled from service slowly with the first one happening as soon as November 30th, that game will be Mobius Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts Union X will end on December 6th and Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia on December 19th. Square Enix recommends that all Belgian players use their consumables and currency before those dates.

This is the first time we’ve seen this sort of reaction where games have been pulled out of the countries who take issue with lootboxes altogether. Typically the reaction is to remove lootboxes from the games. Though EA is standing their ground and plans to go to court over it even. It will be interesting to see if any other studios take this route as an option going forward.

On that, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. What do you think about Square Enix taking the games away entirely? How would you feel if something similar happened in your country?

 

Source: GamesIndustry

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FFXIV Community Spotlight: Twitch Streamer Tuatime

Welcome to the FFXIV Community Spotlight column! This column runs parallel with the Echoes of Eorzea series of articles and aims to highlight and show appreciation to members of our community who go that extra mile to create content, promote FFXIV or organize projects for us to enjoy, usually in their own time and for free. Today we talk to streamer Tua, primarily a Final Fantasy XIV streamer and Twitch partner from Finland.

tua stream

Originally introduced to me by a mutual friend, I’ve come to both admire and respect Tua for her dedication to her stream and community. She is an incredibly kind, open and grounded person whose streams embody those qualities.

Not only does Tua stream four nights a week, she also holds down a full time job as a graphic designer. Along-side this, she is a self confessed geek with a love for a wide variety of RPGs and her two adorable cats, Jimmy and Mustis, who are often on screen with their very own dedicated cat-cam. To add to all this, Tua is a GPose wizard and has very kindly provided the majority of images used for this article, thank you Tua!

Tua Teatime – Odin (EU). Image credit: Tua.

Final Fantasy XIV has been Tua’s main game for over four years, where she currently plays a Mi’qote Scholar (among many other jobs) by the name of Tua Teatime on Odin server (EU).

If you’d like to learn more about Tua please drop by her channel for some tea and friendly company!
A link to Tua’s channel can be found here.

About FFXIV

How long have you played FFXIV and why did you begin?

I bought the game back in 2010 but the 1.0 version barely ran on my PC, so I didn’t get to play it much back then. I returned for the ARR betas in 2013, fell in love with the new version and have been playing non-stop ever since! I’m an MMO junkie, and until FFXIV I tended to switch games every few years, but since 2013 no other MMO has captured my interest.

tua stream

What is your favorite class/job and why?

I alternate between ranged DPS and shield healers. I was a Bard main in ARR, went Machinist in Heavensward, and now in Stormblood I’ve become a Scholar and Nocturnal Astrologian main. I’m dabbling in Red Mage now as well, I really love the weaving of melee and ranged attacks! I’ve always loved support-type classes in games, those that aren’t necessarily the highest damage dealers or pure HP-whack-a-mole healers, but offer different kinds of buffs and shields to party members.

What is your favorite in-game activity(ies) and why?

I love farming Extreme trials, and running 8-man and 24-man content in general. I love having many different jobs working together, and the music and mechanics in Extreme and Savage are so cool.

tua stream

Image credit: Tua.

Is there any area of the game that you feel could be improved?

Right now I feel we’re missing challenging 4-man content, but perhaps the new Heaven-on-high will fill this void. I wish there were “Savage” versions of some dungeons though. Vault Savage, make it happen!

Where is your favorite in game location, and why?

Probably the Namazu beast tribe location right now! Everyone’s just goofing around there and having a good time. Plus the mount is all kinds of adorbs and people are having so much fun with it there.

 

About Streaming

How would you summarize your stream to someone visiting your channel for the first time?

I’m a chill cat lady geek, playing different jobs (and way too many alts) on stream, and petting two super cute cats that are the true stars of the show.

tua stream

One of Tua’s streams in action.

What does an average ‘day in the life of Tua’ consist of?

Eight hours of work (my day job as a graphic designer), then hurrying home, preparing to stream, then sitting at my PC for 4-5 hours streaming and being a general dork in FFXIV or other games.

What does your streaming schedule look like?

Four times a week, from 5pm UK time onward!

When did you first decide to start streaming, and why? Did anything/one inspire you to take it up?

My PC broke shortly after Heavensward launched, so I started watching streams on my PS4 to kill time, and realized they were something I could try as well.

What does your stream setup consist of?

It’s a single-PC setup, three monitors, two webcams, lots of bright lights, a DIY green screen that sometimes falls on my head, a Nintendo Switch and some PlayStations. I use OBS as my streaming software, and I make all my layouts, alerts and other stream graphics myself.

Tua’s PC setup:
CPU i7 6850k
GPU GeForce GTX 1070
RAM 16 GB DDR4
29″ Ultrawide, 23″ & Cintiq 13HD monitors
Logitech G600 mouse, G710+ keyboard
Logitech C920 webcam
AT2035 Microphone
DIY Green Screen & Lights
Micomsoft SC-512N1-L/DVI capture card

Tell us about your journey to becoming a Twitch Partner

I’m a casual streamer, since my day job eats most of my time and energy. I worked a lot on my stream in 2016, focusing on events and production value. Even though I didn’t feel ready for it, I sent my application on a whim later that year… and during my Christmas vacation in Sweden, I finally got a reply email that I’d been accepted.

tua stream

Image credit: Tua.

What changed for you and your stream when you became a Twitch Partner?

I feel like the biggest change was that massive confidence boost, that I was over that uncertainty of “am I good enough, or am I not.” The most practical change was being able to provide more for my viewers with the tools and benefits that partners get, and lots of networking and new opportunities behind the scenes.

How do you prepare for each stream?

I try and eat a decent meal before every stream while preparing my setup (turning on lights, aligning my greenscreen). I make a unique start image for each stream I do, I post them on social media and they’re also a good way for me to keep track of my streams. Then I make a big cup of tea, sit down and start the 10-minute pre-stream slideshow.

tua stream

Image credit: Tua.

 

What parts of FFXIV do you focus during your streams and why?

I prefer running 8-man content, it’s a good party size that’s easy to fill with friends, stream viewers and random guests through the Party Finder. I try to mix max-level content with some lowbie and alt leveling as well, especially since it’s easier to chat with people while doing more chill things.

What other games do you enjoy streaming aside from FFXIV?

I dabble in other MMOs sometimes, especially my old love Lord of the Rings Online. I also love other Final Fantasy games, and gorgeous story-heavy games like Nier Automata and Shadow of the Colossus.

How do you stay so down to earth with so many viewers and a chat that is moving so quickly?

I try to take breaks to catch up with the chat if I miss out on too many lines while focusing on a difficult fight, but it’s not easy!

tua stream

Image credit: Tua.

Have there been significant challenges or hurdles for you to overcome?

Being confident on camera was my first biggest challenge! I was really afraid of trolls and nasty comments. Another thing that’s been difficult, and something I still struggle with, is getting over the occasional disappointments, mistakes and anger while being on camera, and maintaining a positive and cheerful atmosphere.

If/when you have difficult days, what drives you to keep streaming?

I know that streaming itself is so much fun that it can usually turn a lousy day around, if I just get myself to start!

Can you tell us a bit about your stream/Discord community?

We like glamours, screenshots, and cute animals!

tua stream

Streaming star kitties Jimmy and Mustis! Image credit: Tua.

Note: A link to Tua’s Discord server community can he found here.

What aspirations do you have for your stream and FFXIV future?

Not going to lie, I would love to try streaming full-time. As for FFXIV… see you at the Paris Fanfest!

What has been the most positive thing to come from this journey so far?

Realizing that I, as a shy and dorky nerd, can actually show myself doing dorky things online and being sort of good at it. It’s a massive confidence boost. Playing video games with cool people is a plus, too.

What advise would you give to other streamers who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Watch other streams and try to create the sort of stream you’d enjoy watching yourself. Even if you don’t feel like it, pretend you’re streaming to at least 50 people watching!

tua stream

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for the awesome work you do in the community ♥

Reply: You are most welcome, but thank you for giving your time freely for this article especially with such a busy schedule and other pressures of the time.

Final Thoughts

Lots of thank you’s and kitty hugs to Tua for taking the time to share an insight into her life. We all wish you the very best for your streaming endeavors! Not only do I feel it important to highlight community activities through this column, but as a (very mediocre) streamer I’ve derived a lot of useful, interesting and encouraging information within this article, and my hope is that others will too!

Links

Tua’s Twitch Channel
Tua’s Twitter Page
Tua’s Discord Server

Thank you for reading this months Community Spotlight! If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to get in contact either through here, my gallery site or Twitter. 

Until next time I wish you many happy adventures and glorious cups of tea!

The post FFXIV Community Spotlight: Twitch Streamer Tuatime appeared first on MMOGames.com.

Echoes of Eorzea: 10 Reasons to Play FFXIV

Welcome to another edition of Echoes of Eorzea! Today I will be striving to create a list of ’10 reasons to play FFXIV.’ Often I will be talking with friends about Final Fantasy XIV and explaining to them the positives, and negatives, of the game; it has dawned on me that it might be easier just to have a list that I can throw at them! Speaking as a very average player, here are just some of the reasons I consider FFXIV to be a wonderful game. Of course, as with any MMO, there are two sides to the coin and the game is not without its frustrations. For now, let’s focus on the positives, in no particular order!

For those of you who may not know, Final Fantasy XIV is the second and current MMORPG in the series produced by Square Enix. Released in 2010, the game initially flopped until it was taken down for development and re-released as ‘Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’ in 2013 under the new direction of Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P). Set in the lands of Eorzea, we play as an adventurer blessed with the rare gift called the ‘Echo,’ which gives us the power to see glimpses into the past of others and prevents us from being tempered by the Primals. We follow the footsteps of our adventurer as they travel throughout the extensive and beautiful lands to discover their place in the world following the catastrophic events of the Calamity that took place five years before-hand.

 

10 Reasons To Play FFXIV

1. It’s Pretty

This is somewhat a sweeping statement as it depends on what you find appealing. With that disclaimer out of the way, I will elaborate!

Environmental

Eorzea is an ever-changing landscape from sunrise to moonset, with beautiful transitions between day and night and all that flows in between. There is a wide range of vistas to gaze over in Eorzea including the Deserts of Thanalan, beaches of La Noscea, dense forests of Gridania and the snowy plains of Coerthas. Each environment has so many idyllic locations to explore. The weather changes the environment tremendously as well, which adds even more character and beauty to the world.

10 reasons ffxiv

Glamour

Glamour is the FFXIV term used when referring to creating outfits by changing one piece of gear to look like another. Some say that glamour is the ‘end game’ and for some, this is very true! The armor in FFXIV is incredibly detailed and well designed with lots of depth and texture. This is just not a flat image rendered over a character model; it has detail, layers, and texture.

There is a very popular website dedicated to all things Glamour called the Eorzea Collection. This site has an incredible catalog of gear combinations for you to look over for inspiration if you happen to be lost in the lands of fashion or simply wish to get an idea of what sort of gear is available. I would highly recommend a visit to the site.

10 reasons ffxiv

 

Character Creation

FFXIV character creation is nowhere near the realms of Black Desert Online, however, it is not as limited as something like World of Warcraft. I find that it reaches a happy medium between too few or too many options, even though I’m pretty sure that character models will be updated sometime in the future. The creation has five races (six with the inclusion of Au Ra unlocked after the purchase of the Heavensward expansion), each containing two tribes and a variety of options including height, skin color, race or gender specific options, hair and eye color (which has a multitude of color options), many hairstyles, tattoo or make-up, and so on.

10 reasons ffxiv

Choosing a look you are happy with is relatively important at this point, as the player is able to have every class/job and gathering/crafting profession on the same character so there is little need for alts. In this game, more than any MMO I’ve played, your character avatar becomes a big part of your gaming identity. Having said that, for each character you create, you are given one free Fantasia potion, which is a complete character overhaul token (name excluded). Should you wish to change your character’s appearance several more times, the Fantasias are available from the Mogstation (FFXIV online shop) for a relatively inexpensive £5.75.

 

2. Community

The general kindness of the FFXIV community was something I noticed very early on in my time traveling through Eorzea. When I was a tiny new player, one person ran past me and randomly gave me an adorable non-combat pet. Another stranger crafted me a bobble hat and during the Halloween event I was taking a picture of one of the city decorations and I got a PM from one of the people sitting near me asking if I wanted him to move out of the way in case he was blocking part of my screenshot (now one of the longest FFXIV friends I’ve known). Dungeon groups have nearly always been pleasant and patient, although I am aware not everyone has the same experience. Another example of this amazing community spanned across several servers, where players reached a choke point during Stormblood early access and hundreds of players formed an orderly queue and waited patiently in line for 4-6 hours to just attempt to get into the solo duty, which was broken due to the pressure of the release.

Players queuing for Raubahn Savage on Odin.

The community surrounding FFXIV is not only warm, kind and supportive of each other, but they all share such a staggering passion for the game which leads on to some truly beautiful community content and projects.

10 reasons ffxiv

As with all things, there are always going to be some bad eggs depending on your perspective and involvement in the game, I’m just saying that it’s a big difference to what I had been used to up to that point. In truth, I think I have come across a total of maybe 10 horrid players in 3 years (in-game), even when using the dungeon finder frequently. I still hold the belief that the FFXIV community is the kindest I have experienced out of all the MMO’s I’ve played so far (about six) and it’s made a hugely positive contribution to why I love this game so much.

Keep an eye on the Community Spotlight column for more information on highlighted projects or content creators.

 

3. Animations

Emotes

FFXIV is the most visually expressive MMO I’ve played in terms of character emotes and interactivity with other players, possibly because the emotive system is developed using motion capture. Under the social menu, there is a whole panel of emotes for you to use.

Emotes also change depending on which race and gender you are. There are a whole host of facial expressions, dances, happy and sad emotes, you even have three choices of the way your character stands, and three for the way they sit. More emotes and dances can be unlocked throughout the game content through the main story quest line, side quests, beast tribes or the Gold Saucer.

10 reasons ffxiv

 

Spells

Spell animations are incredibly detailed, not only in the casting sequence but also in terms of lighting and effects. In this case, I will let the images speak for themselves.

10 reasons ffxiv

Click to enlarge. Various combat animations.

 

4. Group Pose!

Those that have read my previous articles will know that this is my happy place in the game (how I wish it had an XP bar!).

Group Pose, or GPose as it’s more commonly known is, in essence is an in-game camera tool. After performing an action or finding a beautiful location, the tool allows you to freeze the frames or the actions of your character or your group (even individually one at a time), move and tilt the camera, add status effects, light the image and use an array of filters and effects to achieve the perfect screenshot. A full guide to the tool can be found here.

It hasn’t escaped the developer’s attention that this is a much-loved area of the game for countless many. As the patches continue to develop, so do the features of the Group Pose tool. If you love photography in real life, this is sure to be an area of the game that you will enjoy! Group Pose could easily be a stand-alone program in itself.

10 reasons to play ffxiv

10 reasons ffxiv

 

GPose is very powerful in conjunction with ReShade but I won’t go into that just yet! For the purpose of this article, all of the images have been created with GPose only.

 

5. Seasonal Events

FFXIV boasts nine standard seasonal events each year (excluding one or two special events). To me, they are special because the content changes every year, sometimes developing on from the previous year’s story and sometimes containing a new story entirely. The rewards also change annually, giving you the chance to earn various permanent gear items, housing items, emotes and more. The items from the previous year’s event will be available for purchase on the Mogstation.

Glamour items from All Saint’s Wake 2017.

Starlight Celebration 2017.

 

For those interested in the seasonal events lore, I have written up summaries of Heavensturn, Valentione’s Day, and Starlight Celebration stories to hopefully give a good impression of the quality and depth of the yearly events.

 

6. Every Class, Job, and Profession on one Character.

In FFXIV all Classes/Jobs and Professions can be leveled up on one character, meaning that nearly everything you do in the game is beneficial to your game progress. Ideally, you level your ‘main’ job (a class becomes a job at level 30) through the main storyline, and then other classes/jobs can be leveled through dungeons, side-quests, FATES (small events that happen throughout the world) or Palace of the Dead.

Perhaps this section might be a downside for some that enjoy playing multiple races or styles of character (though Fantasias are fairly cheap as mentioned already), but within the final fantasy XIV community, it’s clear that many hold a strong affinity to a singular avatar.

There are also a host of ‘logs’ for the completionist inside of you, including the combat log, which earns you EXP and Gil, and the Gold Saucer log that gives you the Gold Saucer currency called MGP. Also, there are the sightseeing, fishing and hunting logs.

Games within Games

Palace of the Dead
PotD has its own leveling system within the game but offers EXP for the class you are on once you finish a set of floors. There are 10 floors in total per set with a boss on the 10th floor. You may enter with any combat class you have unlocked from level 1.

Gold Saucer
After you have reached a level 15 travel quest within your main storyline you can obtain access to the Gold Saucer. Here you have the games wonderful casino where you can play Triple Triad, an assortment of minigames and events take part in group events. The Gold Saucer is also home to Chocobo racing (think simplified MarioKart with Chocobos) where you and your friends can obtain, level up, race and breed your racing Chocobo.

10 reasons ffxiv

7. Main Story Quest

Unlike many other MMOs, FFXIV revolves around a central narrative, which for some may be seen as a negative depending on your taste in story progression. From the moment you take your first steps into the Adventurer’s Guild, your character grows alongside the story and the characters you meet throughout the game grow alongside you. Many important events are linked to your Main Scenario Quests, such as intercity travel, obtaining your mount and access to dungeons.

One thing you will notice from the FFXIV community as a whole is that spoilers to the main story are guarded heavily as there are important and emotional story twists that we all want you to experience first hand. In nearly 4 years in Eorzea, I haven’t come across a player that has had the main plot spoiled for them (yet!).

The story, nor the dungeon content is not at its strongest early on in the game. Having said that, if we are following the story of an adventurer it seems logical that we need to do a bit of hard grafting before we can wear the ‘hero of the world’ title. For me personally, the best part of the game starts at level 50 but level 30 onward was good. Yes, the lower levels can be a little bit of a chore but I assure you, if this game is for you, your perseverance will pay off in droves.

Story and Job skip tokens were added to the store following the release of Stormblood (to the sadness of many). I would heavily advise against them unless you truly just couldn’t care less about the game experience as a whole and merely want to focus on something such as raiding, or unless you have done everything before.

 

8. Housing

Housing in FFXIV is an extensive part of the game, and there are thousands of furniture items available that can be set out in any number of ways (if you have the gold!). Houses are available in limited numbers and belong to ‘housing wards.’ Four of the five major cities have their own set of houses. There are 4 zones, with 18 wards and 2 divisions containing 30 houses. Each district has a variety of small, medium and large plots. The larger the housing plot, the more items it can contain within. Currently, 4320 plots are available in total per server.

10 reasons to play ffxiv

Even if a house is not available to you, there are other options to obtain a room such as purchasing one in your Free Company (guild/clan) or purchasing an apartment.

As with the glamour website, there is a very detailed housing website which catalogs all of the available furniture in the game called FFXIV Housing.

10 reasons to play ffxiv

To get a great idea of what can be achieved creatively with the housing system please take a look at Nora’s Twitter!

 

9. Dungeons & Boss Mechanics

Before going into this section, here is a disclaimer about myself: I am not a Savage content raider (though I’m an experienced HC raider in WoW), so my perspective on this is just from a very average point of view. When I say ‘boss mechanics’ I mean either dungeon fights from lv50+ (where you can still wipe if you don’t pay attention to mechanics), Alliance raids (24 man, equivalent to WoW LFR but much harder) and the 8 man raids of Heavensward and Stormblood. In fact, Sigmascape has been, by far, the most enjoyable content of Stormblood so far, for me. Who doesn’t love a ghost train?!

One of the players I used to raid with in FFXIV would say to me ‘raids are like a dance, once you’ve got the steps you’re all set.’ However true that is, I still find them fun, challenging and visually beautiful, whether I’m dead on the floor or not. There is a mix of both raid-wide mechanics and some individual mechanics/requirements to deal with.

I still hold a very fond memory of my first A-8, when the music changed I giggled so much. Killing a giant robot contraption, made up of all the robots in the world, with ridiculous music in the background is just part of the fun of FFXIV.

10. Value for money

I was in two minds about including this here, but I personally feel I get a decent amount of content for my money, and in comparison to other MMOs I feel like I can justify my subscription in terms of content provision. The closest and fairest comparison that I can make is with another MMO of the exact same model, which in this case is World of Warcraft that also requires a purchase of the base game, expansion packs and a monthly subscription.

Please keep in mind, this is just a comparison between models/prices. I’m not hating on WoW, I happen to love it and have been pretty much subscribed for the last 10 years.

Subscription price:
FFXIV: £7.69 (single character sub option)/£8.99
WoW: £9.99

Monthly subscription benefits:
FFXIV: Patches every 2-3 months containing (roughly) 1-2 new dungeons, main story quests, new haircuts, new 24-man raid (every 2nd patch), new 8-man raid and potentially a new trial and minion/mounts.
WoW: Access to new raid tier every 5 months or main story development.

The Mogstation is another example of (moderate) value for money, even though lately prices for outfits and mounts has crept up somewhat and perhaps they’ll slowly edge closer to higher prices given time.

Minion/Non-combat pet Price:
FFXIV: £2.88 / WoW: £9.00

Mount price:
FFXIV: £6.90-£13.80 (1 person)- £17.28 (2-person) / WoW: £19.00-£27.00 (1 person).

Outfit price:
FFXIV: £2.88- £11.16 (full attire)/ WoW: £13.00 (hat only).

Appearance change:
FFXIV: 1 free + £5.75 after / WoW: £13.00

Character boost:
FFXIV: £18.50 (level boost) + £18.50 (story skip) / WoW: £49.00

(All prices are listed as of May 2018)

Disclaimer

Keep in mind that the game is not for everyone. If you want a super speedy leveling experience and all your mounts, pets and dungeons thrown at you with minimal effort required, this is NOT the game for you!

Thank you for taking the time to look through this article, I hope it has been of some use to you or to pass onto someone you know who might be interested in picking up FFXIV. There is a host of other things about the game I could have mentioned but I decided to babble on forever might take too much of your time!

If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to get in contact either through here, my gallery site or Twitter. 

Related Article:

Beginners Guide Part One
Beginners Guide Part Two
Group Pose Tutorial

 

The post Echoes of Eorzea: 10 Reasons to Play FFXIV appeared first on MMOGames.com.

Eorzean Evening Post: Under The Moonlight

Patch 4.3 is just around the corner, as showcased in the recent Letter of the Producer Live by Final Fantasy XIV’s Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida and its Global Community Producer Toshio Murouchi. Carrying the title “Under the Moonlight”, this new patch brings us the latest addition to the Main Story Quest, which will likely be centered on Yotsuyu and her comeuppance prior to the events in the Stormblood. The new storyline was also noted to be the final leg and conclusion to the Doma chapter, which means we’ll most likely see some hefty transitions in terms of story. With all the sensitive reveals in the previous update, this makes me all the more excited to see what comes next.

FFXIV Live Letter XLIII

The update will bring a lot of new features, as well as a few balance changes to existing classes. The content is said to be segregated into small patches along the way, but the lineup looks promising thus far. Here are a few things that caught my eye during the FFXIV Live Letter XLIII.

In addition to the main scenario quest, we’ll also be getting another side quest for the Four Lords arc, which of course means having another intermediate 8-man fight like Byakko. It’s still unclear as to which of the four we’ll be facing next but the series of pictures suggest that we may get a proper Genbu 8-man raid. I would have preferred either Suzaku or Seiryu just for the sake of diversity, especially given the fact that we’ve already had a bout with the turtle back in Hell’s Lid; then again, his shenanigans there might prove interesting when exercised in a raid scenario. At least we know they aren’t short handing us when it comes to intermediate content. Furthermore, they’ve revealed that we will be getting a mystery trial in addition to the four lords, which will be kept secret until further notice. I may be wrong about this but I’m certain those who have finished the MSQ might have an idea on who it may be. If so, then I have no qualms with this choice whatsoever.

Want more of a challenge? The next Ultimate fight has finally been announced in the form of the Ultimate weapon. Looking back at the fight back in ARR, it does offer a lot of phases that could be tweaked well into something so frustratingly difficult. He does house the original 3 Primals, so we might get ultimate versions of Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan in the middle of the fight. Who knows? We may actually even see Golden Frieza—I mean, Gaius van Baelsar. Guess Alexander Ultimate won’t be coming any time soon.

Those looking for a bit of comic-relief will be happy to know that we’ll be getting more adventures with Hildibrand and his band of whacky mystery solvers in the coming month (or months, depending on where they squeeze it in). I honestly haven’t toucehd Hildi quests for quite a while, but I’ve been hearing a lot of hilarious things about them. Guess it’s time to pick up where I left off and be a Manderville man who does what a Manderville can.

Now that we’re here, let me get something off my chest—the Ananta beast tribe really creeped me out. Those blank dead eyes, that slithering movement *cringe*. There is no way anyone can convince me to place a snake lady NPC inside both my FC and personal house. With that said, gone are the days of pointless killing and traveling, not to mention the needless washing of bedsheets. The new update will bring us a new rep grind—I mean beast tribe in the form of the Namazu. This particular tribe will be centered on both crafters and gatherers, which is quite refreshing as our Eorzean entrepreneurs can finally have something that’s more suited to their expertise.

We will also be treated to more side quests that will continue the Doman Reconstruction. If you have not done it, I suggest starting the chain via Kozakura in the Doman Enclave. It’s a pretty quick and nice introduction to everything, so do try it out. I’m still unsure as to how it’s tied to the overall story, not to mention its relevance gameplay-wise, but I’m guessing it’s connected to the Namazu beast tribe quests given the Namazu found inside one of the jars within the Enclave. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a screenie.

Even now, I’m still of two minds about Eureka. It’s fun at times but gets terribly tedious when you’re aware of the time spent within its confines. Ah, Eureka… and I thought I would be rid of thee. Great news for weapon farmers though. Eureka will be getting its second update in the form of its Pagos Expedition soon, which was showcased to be a new snow filled land to explore. I’m actually glad that they are adding more areas for weapon farming. It’s a lot better than seeing the same dungeon over and over again, that’s for sure. Love it or hate it, I think Eureka has already proven itself to be better than the Diadem in terms of giving the player a purpose to traverse the land. Having it tied to the new living weapons was definitely a lot better in terms of player progress than simply doing it for the sake of weapons with randomized stats.

Patch 4.3 will also be bringing the next installment on the Return to Ivalice saga with its next 24-man raid, the Ridorana Lighthouse, which of course is made famous by Final Fantasy XII. The Alliance raid was also stated to have special quests that are exclusive to crafters and gatherers. We’ve yet to see anything of the sort, so I’m very excited to see how it pans out. In addition to that, certain changes have been implemented on the looting system which I found questionable at best. Upon the patch’s arrival, Alliance raids will no longer support the Need option for loot, and players are only subjected to Greed rolls for their weekly 24-man drops. I’m unsure what this particular decision of theirs will solve. Are they trying to get us to queue for it more? Queueing for this raid continuously until you see your desired item drop was stressful enough. Not everyone sports a 370 set, and it’s possibly the best gear non-raiders could attain until they grind enough tomes, not counting the fact that it could even be BiS for them without Savage gear. Isn’t that the reason we queue as a particular class regardless of queue times? I don’t know. It’s just a very odd move for me. Might as well queue as tank and spam greed until you get something.

We’re also getting another dungeon in the form of the Swallow’s Compass, which is the tomb found on the western side of Yanxia. I’ve always wondered when we’d be able to see more of it, as anything with big doors warrants exploration. The dungeon’s open aesthetic is very pleasing to look at and really piques my interest.

Now that we’ve come this far, it’s time to address the elephant in the room; I’m talking about the Final Fantasy XIV Companion App. I guess FFXIV’s April Fools stunt wasn’t all lies after all, as we will now be getting our first mobile app that connects to our respective accounts.

Upon installing, you’ll be prompted to choose a character to log in with while using the app, as well as an additional Favored Destination Aetheryte for reduced teleportation costs. You can either use this app for free or avail its premium plan for $5. You’ll be able to manage your inventory, as well as chat with fellow players on the go. The inclusion of in-game chat is somewhat useful, although with the likes of Discord being commonly used by players, it may just end up being a secondary communication tool. Perhaps the most useful feature in this app is the ability to check, Preview (opens in a new window), sell and buy items off the marketboard, which is done by using kupo nuts to order your moogle to make the transactions for you, an app only currency that is obtained via login bonuses. It’s also worth noting that premium users are given double their original saddle bag space and will be able to hire an additional retainer. Quite useful for heavy crafters. A lot of people seem to be deterred by how the premium plan offers these extra benefits, but I for one have no qualms with it. I’m not looking to use its premium services, but I really don’t think it’s as game breaking as some claim it will be. Anyway, the on-the-go chat and Favored Destination should be reason enough to download the app when it hits stores, even just for its free plan.

That’s a lot of awesome stuff on the way. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s heavily bored by the drought, so all these new features are a welcome sight for me. Patch 4.3 is scheduled to hit on the last week of May.

Also…

Twelve have mercy…

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Eorzean Evening Post: Tiers for the Fierce

It’s not hard to see how much Final Fantasy XIV has been streamlined upon the arrival of Stormblood, letting go of its once convoluted nature in favor of a more comprehensive system that does well in helping its players focus better on the actual fight instead of their classes’ quirks. The same could be said for both its end game raids and intermediate content, which seemed to have been made more accessible compared to their Heavensward counterparts (except for Creator, maybe). I had originally intended to write about this sooner, but Eureka got the best of me. Apologies, my fellow Eorzeans!

I was surprised at how easy it was to take down most of the Primals early on, with runs being easily salvageable, despite most of the party eating the floor. The likes of Susano’o, Lakshmi, or even the recently released Byakko were a far cry from Ravana or the Warring Triad, who weren’t as lenient when it comes to punishing mistakes. A tad disappointing for players who expected more of a challenge from FFXIV’s latest expansion, but it’s a welcome change, considering how it effectively opens the gate for new adventurers, properly pacing them towards harder content without overwhelming spikes in difficulty.

Weeks after mindless ‘doggo’ mount farming, we were finally given a taste of Deltascape (Savage), which was very different from Heavensward’s raids. We had a designated action button that allowed us to boost ourselves from the ground (O2S), as well as a fourth-wall-breaking “The Game” mechanic that made us position ourselves in squares containing our role symbols (O3S). Regardless of it being questionably easier than what we were catered to in the last expansion, Deltascape felt fresh and greeted us with mish-mash of mechanics we’ve yet seen combined.

Of course, what was once new will eventually become the norm, and we were once again left with recycled mechanics like gaze, moving AOEs, and the everyday stack and spread. And with Patch 4.2 then on the horizon, we wondered if we will ever see something different in this sea of repetition.

Enter Sigmascape, FFXIV’s latest raid tier themed from the hailed installment that is Final Fantasy VI. I had good hopes for this raid tier, especially given the prestigious pedestal it drew inspiration from. Suffice to say, Sigmascape was looking great during its first week, feeling as fresh as the former tier in terms of mechanics. But how exactly did it fare in the long run? Let’s find out.

 

How to Train your Phantom

I immediately got excited after hearing about the Phantom Train being the first encounter in Sigmascape. We haven’t had an interesting first fight in a while, so I found it necessary to hope that it won’t end up as boring as Alte Roite. To my surprise, the fight did great in mimicking the actual encounter found in the classic RPG, minus the player’s ability to suplex the ghastly locomotive. For a start, the fight took place on a moving platform, emphasizing the movement found in the original encounter. Most of the boss’ skills from FFVI were also properly implemented as raid mechanics, with players having to dodge moving ghosts and the scar beams (spotlights) that mildly tracks before activating.

We also weren’t stuck on a single platform, which was a breath of fresh air since both the first encounters of the last two tiers were very contained fights. Regardless of difficulty, I enjoyed the visual spectacle of having to jump on the train’s back (or top) to take out its chimney, as well as being dragged into its passenger car right after. It’s a bit sad that they never patched the strategy where only one player goes in to take out a ghost. Despite it making the fight faster and more efficient, I kinda enjoyed seeing three different areas in one fight.

Alas, the fight still sits well with me after downing it on a weekly basis. Despite its RNG getting in the way of uptime for some players, Phantom train persists as one of my most enjoyed fights in Stormblood’s savage lineup.

 

Chadar-noob

I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed about the Chadarnook fight, especially after the brilliant pacing showcased by the previous scuffle. If there’s anything O6S raiders will tell you, it’s that it’s much easier than the Phantom train. Indeed the normal mode took some time to learn over O5, but its Savage format was merely just a few mechanics different from its normal counterpart. I would even go as far as to say that it’s perhaps the easiest Savage fight ever. During progression, it did not take us long to realize that everything was a scripted dance. There was very little RNG involved, and the adjustments needed were easily handled and were addressed in an almost free-form manner. It also didn’t help that some of the mechanics were very easy to cheese, all thanks to Hallowed ground eating the stack marker.

Regardless of difficulty though, the paintings were unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the recent raids, so it does get some points for creativity. Following the ‘now’ trend of the second fight having a designated mechanics button, players are to walk on paint to brush and activate buffs from portraits. Having the Siren portrait in the middle was also a good choice, encouraging teams to assign paint carriers during the Demon’s Lullaby.

Unfortunately, it did not do much to resemble the original encounter, as FFVI’s Chadarnook fight merely consisted of the painting changing forms. Given the considerable simplicity of the original, they did well in creating a unique set of mechanics for it, with the team activating paintings in reaction to the Demon and Goddess’ mechanic. I do wish they integrated the two switching more instead of the Goddess being an untouchable entity on the field, as doing so would have added more depth to such an easy encounter. While the masochist in me would have wanted more portrait-related RNG to make this a worthy second fight, it still an enjoyable encounter. Or at least one that just lets me FIRE IV all way.

RDM woes: I really hate how the boss must be face-pulled to activate the encounter. Just a pet peeve, I know, but it really is frustrating to have to wait for the fight to start. Jolt II Opener? No thanks! *Switches to Black Mage.

 

Guardian

A fitting gate before the final bout, O7S pitted us against the Guardian, who carried with him a bunch of familiar skills from the original encounter. It was interesting how the developers managed to integrate his program gimmick into the raid, with Dadaluma, Air Force, and Ultros unleashing a series of mechanics in rapid succession. Ultima, sadly, was replaced by Bibliotaph, but it’s not too bad as we did get the beast itself in Fractal Continuum (Hard).

The Guardian was a bit more lenient when it came to uptime compared to O3S’ Halicarnassus. It had relatively good pacing which allowed most classes to shine and worry more about the fight rather than their rotations. The fight had a lot of things to watch out for, as well as a returning Allagan Rot debuff reminiscent of the Binding Coil of Bahamut’s Turn 2. I really enjoyed this fight a lot more than Deltascape’s third boss, perhaps due to the lack of mechanics that render you unable to attack or function. You’re almost always in control, without the fear of those random switcheroos.

The many programs were interesting and all, but the true star of this fight would have to be the missiles, which once again carried the same bullet hell feel patch 4.2 had featured on its previous fights (namely, Byakko and the ghosts from O5S). It’s fun seeing new things to dodge, and getting hit by one just felt so mockingly painful, you’d want to pay more attention to it. Michael Bay would be proud.

 

Kefka Palazzo

And finally, we have the evil clown himself. Even now, I still don’t know if I enjoyed this fight, or if it was any better than the dodge simulator that was Neo Exdeath. Much like O4S, the fight is divided into two parts, with God Kefka emerging after you drop Kefka’s health down to fifty-nine percent.

kefka sigmascape

Kefka’s core mechanic comes from his Mana Release, which are a series of familiar raid hazards that are either dealt with normally or in reverse depending on whether Kefka is lying or not. This is indicated by the appearance of a question mark or lack thereof on top of Kefka’s head. A very tricky mechanic, but one that’s easily avoidable if everyone pays attention as they are just reskinned versions of what we have already seen thus far.

Other gimmicks such as Gaze, half room AOEs, and pushbacks are weaved into these tricky deathzones, which at times force melee users out of range. Regardless of how it complements Kefka’s lying nature and the overall difficulty of the encounter, most of his mechanics were simple at best. The Statue of the Gods (Tower) also makes an appearance but is very conservative regarding its involvement.

In terms of mechanics, I personally find ExDeath to be much more challenging due to the movement and placements involved; however, Kefka definitely wins in the DPS check department.

 

Dancing Mad

After the hard-won fight with his mortal self, we were finally able to bring out the final phase of this encounter in the form of God Kefka. The game tugged hard at my fandom as soon as Dancing Mad played at the start of the fight. Much like FFVI’s final battle, Kefka gains access to skills such as Heartless Angel, Trine, Forsaken, Hyperdrive, Meteor, and Ultima, which were all sewn together as a beautiful dance of mechanics.

Tip: Trine’s deathzones are deceivingly large.

The main difference between God Kefka and Neo Exdeath for me was the overall focus of each fight. While Neo focused more on vanishing and giving players mechanics to dodge in his absence, God Kefka centered more on gradually bombarding you with small but frequent bursts of mechanics that get in the way of your uptime. Kefka is within reach for a huge duration of the encounter, and you’re almost always greeted with ample time to hit him back after adjusting yourself for each mechanic. It’s this form of methodical precision that I enjoy in FFXIV’s raids, and I’m glad they brought it back after Deltascape.

kefka sigmascape

This form, to say the least, becomes a clusterfluff of mechanics that’s more intimidating than it actually is hard. Things do hurt more and a lot of healing is required, but that’s more or less the norm for the final fight of a tier. I honestly believe that Neo Exdeath felt very different from the other raids in the game. It felt more akin to a play that must be carried out with little to no combat instead of the precision-based DPS dance I’ve come to know in FFXIV. The latter is exactly what God Kefka is, and I’m very happy with how the fight turned out. God Kefka is very fun fight to end Sigmascape with.

 

If Its Not Broke, Don’t Fix It

I’ve had a discussion with a couple of MMO players about how FFXIV’s raiding fares in its current state. Most of them argued that it lacked new significant mechanics, with us getting the same reskinned hazards to watch out for every tier. In a way, they are correct. The game is indeed giving us a lot of recycled content. It’s like they just jumbled yesteryear’s mechanics into different sequences to keep them from feeling old.

I still think that Stormblood was made with new players in mind, and the inevitable inclusion of overused mechanics were more of a conscious approach to help tier content better for newer players, making their past experiences more meaningful. We could also argue that the dev team’s running low on creativity juice, but it seems that they’ve yet to give up on raiding innovation given the birth of bullethell mechanics in 4.2.

sigmascape

Just to make it clear, Sigmascape as a whole wasn’t the groundbreaking raid experience I was hoping for, especially as a FFVI fan. It had its shining moments and was absolutely fun during our progression period, but all that excitement just waned a little earlier than expected. It might be due to the fact that we’ve been playing this game for a long time, but that only shows how the game tries so little to break free from its traditions with regards to raiding.

Was Sigmascape fun? Yes, it was! Could it have been better? Indeed. We’ll most likely get the last leg of Stormblood’s raid tier next, provided that they followed the previous expansion’s format. Regardless of my various pet peeves regarding this one, I’m still very much excited to see what comes next.

A big thank you to the 8-Wonders static (Tonberry). Cheers!

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Eorzean Evening Post: Eureka Grinding

Fun comes first! If it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong—these are words taken from one of Naoki Yoshida’s slides during his presentation back in GDC 2014, indicating what they have learned throughout the development process of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I’ve reflected a lot on this before writing this piece, especially given the community’s vocal distaste upon the arrival of what seems to be the successor to both the Diadem and Anima weapons—the Forbidden land, Eureka. Was it really that bad?

As a longtime player, I’ve gradually asked myself if something was bad or if I’m simply too jaded after having endured its myriad of recycled content to appreciate it. Final Fantasy XIV has been my go-to MMO for many years now, and though it still keeps me invested with its steady stream of content and storylines there’s no denying that any game, no matter how good, can only do so much to surprise its longtime players. I imagine this to be the case for many users out there who feel that the game is getting stale, despite it still being a beautiful and amazing game for newcomers. We only get more critical about things the more time we spend on a game, after all, getting more and more perceptive with regards to its flaws and shortcomings.

I’ve entered Eureka and have had my fair share of its, uhh, splendor, which is what prompted me to convey my opinion on the matter. With that said, these are my thoughts on patch 4.25’s weapon grind.

Eureka is Boring(?)

I’m still not certain as to why the devs are still pushing this idea of a remote place full of monsters, not to mention a leveling system that’s completely separate from the rest of the game. To be frank, both incarnations of the Diadem was very boring for me and I was already questioning my choice to queue after a few hours of that Eureka exp crawl. It felt like a very dated MMO built using FFXIV’s graphics engine, with Eureka resembling that of Final Fantasy XI’s. You go out with your party, slay as many monsters as you can, upgrade your Elemental stats/level, and wait for the Notorious Monster (a.k.a. pit bosses) to spawn. To make matters worse, players lose exp or level down upon dying after reaching level 6. We all knew it was going to be a grind, but who would have thought we’d be grinding old school, right? While it does have its merits, seeing as this is a way to bridge both games together, it felt more grindy and brainless.

Much to my dismay, it’s a shame that the first step of the new Relic is tied to this. The glow on the upgraded Artifact gear seemed too beautiful to pass up—not to mention the fact that this may very well be best-in-slot for Ultimate Coil of Bahamut, unless you want crappy stats with your Diamonds.

The Question

I’ve been thinking—Is Eureka really uninspired content or are we just jaded after years of grinding Relics? Most players grinded for their living weapons since the first Relic was introduced in ARR (Remember Atma farming?). Three-hundred Garuda runs and the surplus of light farming have been all but one of the many gameplay tortures we’ve had to endure just to bring our weapons to the next level, so what makes this any different?

Eureka Grinding

Stormblood has brought us a series of improvements that really made us look forward to what they were going to revamp next. We got toggled switches in raids, creative fights, and a better UI to suit our job of choice. I’m guessing that everyone looked forward to how they would address the next weapon grind, only to find that it didn’t change much—or did it?

It Was An Improvement!

Now before you send killer bees to sting the life out of my eyes, please grant me the opportunity to explain myself as to what I think Eureka did right over the past Relic grinds.

Firstly, Eureka is a brand new world. I know it’s not the most innovative feature brought out by FFXIV’s dev team, but it certainly isn’t what I would call uninspired. To be honest, it’s a lot more creative than simply just making us queue for already existing dungeons that we were all happy to be rid of upon having new dungeons in Duty Roulette: Expert. What we have here is a world that not only makes the grind simpler but much more effective for group play as well. While not the most enticing approach to make players build their weapons, I’d say it’s still worth a shot. It might actually be more bearable than the number of times you’ve had to queue for the Fractal Continuum.

The next improvement would be the ability to switch classes on the fly. Anima grinds had the tendency to make you sick of your main class, which likely made you consider if you even wanted to grind with that class to begin with. I consider Relic farming to be the most effective way to get sick of your main, which was actually the reason why I switched to Black Mage. I mean, it’s true that doing these tasks with your mains only makes you more proficient in handling it, but damn is it boring! It’s not like a few more overgeared runs of First of the Father: Savage will make you a better player, right?

Finally, we have the ability to queue solo. Being able to just jump inside Eureka without a fixed party is a welcome thing for me. Building Relics without the much-loved tank and healer queues were such a pain back then as DPS, which prompted me to just go for Nirvana and Sindri. The Twelve know how painful it was to add more wait time to an already hefty Fractal Continuum grind, and Eureka addresses that by allowing players to queue in solo and just look for a party once on board, just like those Hunt chains.

The Problems

I think there is no need to emphasize how boring Eureka grinding is, given the many threads you’re bound to come across all over the internet at this point. Playing devil’s advocate to my earlier points regarding Eureka being an improvement, it tends to get in the way by preventing people from earning exp when paired with high-level players. Yes, I do understand that it works the same way in Eorzea and across various content but we never had that problem back when doing our Anima or Relic weapons. Regardless of how far ahead your weapon’s ‘light’ was, you’re still able to get something when paired with users with little to no light. In other words, you’re not deadending yourself by just helping people unless you’re literally done with it. This for me felt a little contrary to what could have been a catalyst for a better farming experience with friends and FC mates. Remember, Eureka isn’t the main game but a ploy for Anemos weapon farming, so I don’t see why the segregation was necessary. Could this also mean that starting your weapon late would screw you over? Might as well wait for them to nerf the requirements, if ever.

Another thing I found iffy about Eureka was how it does so little to contribute whatsoever to the main game. What I mean by this is how Relic and Anima prompted experienced players to do older less-played dungeons, thus keeping it played enough for newer players to have people to queue with. Garuda felt very much alive during ARR due to this, contributing to the overall census of players keeping content alive. I mean the chunk of people doing DR: Main Scenario Quest have lessened drastically after the implementation of unskippable cutscenes, so surely it would have been a better idea to implement something that uses its story dungeons like ‘Ala-Mhigo’ than simply separating those in the end game from new players further.

Final Thoughts

I’m not by any means trying to cover up for Eureka’s shortcomings. I still think it’s quite boring, possibly even more than the dreaded Diadem or other Relic farms. This new system is a far cry from the improved experience we’ve come to expect from a Stormblood installment, and the players’ reactions prove it. What also sucks is the fact that grinding there is mandatory for our future BiS weapon.

Again, “Fun comes first! If it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.” You just have to wonder—did they do it wrong, or are we just not enjoying it right? Eureka is a grind, but it was no different from the other weapon farms that came before it. It’s not like doing old content while overgeared was any less brainless than what we have today. We don’t prize our Relics and Anima for the enjoyment we felt while making them, but the sheer hard work and lengthy grind we’ve had to endure just to see it in its final form. If you want that glow and the BiS goodness it brings on its later stages (or just for glamour), better get started.

Look on the bright side. At least we have more Hildibrand!

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Art of Eorzea: FFXIV Screenshot Basics

Welcome back once again to yet another screenshot oriented edition of Echoes of Eorzea, or should I say Art of Eorzea! Due to the nature of this series I have decided to re-brand this part of my FFXIV column to create a sister column. Firstly, because it seemed more fitting, and secondly because it will be neater and more recognizable for the creative intent. Today is the first in a series of screenshot photography and art columns that will introduce the technical aspects, color theory, and my own personal approach and experience in regards to photography and screenshot photography. This column will reference several previous articles which will be linked to in the article and below in the related section.

To begin with, why am I writing about this? To put it simply, because I have been asked to write more on screenshot art by numerous members of the FFXIV community and I dearly hope that it could be of use to someone. Yes, I’m sure there are various articles out there that cover similar things but in a series such as this, it seems sensible to start at the beginning. I do not consider myself an expert in the slightest but hope that in the coming months and years that I will learn and improve. If you are a veteran in the screenshot photography world, I am afraid that my words may not shed new light on matters, although you are still more than welcome to pull up a chair and share some tea.

For this guide, or rather explanation series, I will be referencing some aspects of the GPose tool and ReShade program so if you are unfamiliar with either, guides can be found here:

In-depth GPose see here.
In-depth ReSahde here.
(Update for ReShade 3.1 coming soon).

My Experience

My love for photography began the moment I held an SLR and came across the term ‘depth of field’, as those of you that have seen my images will know, this is often a great focus of mine. My very first digital camera was a 1.3 megapixel (oooh wow!) Olympus D-460 which at the time was like gold dust. I simply adored it, although it never quite captured the same beauty as proper black and white film in an SLR. My A-level photography education involved learning to process films in a dark room, various exposure techniques, learning about the technical aspects of SLRs, introductory digital work and of course, portfolio creation. I have a history of conference and AGM photography for a London organization.

In terms of gaming, I have always taken far too many screenshots for my own good, beginning with World of Warcraft. Mostly these were taken to document memorable times with friends or guild achievements. Final Fantasy XIV opened up a whole new world of screenshot photography. Perhaps it is the art style, the ever-changing landscape or the expressiveness of the characters but since my first day in Eorzea, I felt compelled to capture everything, and at this point GPose was a far away dream.

With the introduction and development of GPose, even more screenshot photography took place and I believe my addiction ran riot.

Over 30k screenshots and more than 4,000 individual edits later (I have no life!), I am here to write to you about both the base technical aspects of screenography and my own personal methods of achieving the images I create.

You do not have my eyes, and I do not have yours. I cannot tell you what is right or wrong but only try my best to explain how my brain translates what I see in the images you see.
None of the above, or below, holds any sway on whether or not you can take decent screenshots!

In terms of the comparative between instinctual photography or technical photography, a dear friend of mine provided me with this quote that couldn’t be more fitting.

“Of course there are [people that ‘follow’ strict rules on these things]. In the end, art or science or anything, the world needs both. One is perfect for what is, others try to find new for former to define and perfect.”

Personally, I take an instinctual approach (inclusive of technical knowledge of tools and programs, but not composure), many others I know take a technical approach. I cannot emphasize enough that neither is right or wrong. What is important is that the end result is something you are content with yet keeping an open mind to new techniques. My portfolio of gaming images can be found here.

Photography Principles

If we intend to cover the basics of in-game screenshot photography, we must first look at real-life photography principles. Now, just a heads up before I explain these: I do not and never have thought in terms of these principles for my images, nor have I knowingly used them during my 12 years of photography experience and 3 years of screenshot experience. Yes, perhaps I am an uneducated pleb, yet what drives my images is my love of the color, atmosphere, and emotion, I then combine this with the use of tools such as Reshade and Picasa. This article has involved learning for me as well, and I intend to summarize what I have learned along with the source and try my best to translate this into game screenography terms.

My only excuse for my work is that I try to make what my brain thinks is pretty. This does not mean others will like, value, or appreciate what I create and as a creative, I very much accept that. We all have different eyes, tastes, and different views. My best advice is to stay true to what you find beautiful and should you see a technique used by another, investigate it, learn what methods went into its creation and adapt that to your own style.

In my view, an image created with heart and spirit in it is far better and more meaningful than a technically ‘correct’ mechanical shot (following photography principles), even though technical knowledge of programs can very much help and editing can work to enhance your original shot.

Color Theory

Definition:
Colour theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. There are also definitions (or categories) of colors based on the color wheel: primary color, secondary color, and tertiary color. (Source)

Color theory to some is considered incredibly important and can work to truly emphasize and enhance your images. My main educational source of color theory is this Color Theory video by Blender Guru (I couldn’t recommend it more!) and the color chart now stuck to my wall as I try to etch it into my brain.

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Image credit.

I could write up a huge long paragraph explaining each section and try to translate examples into the screenshot world, but I have so far found the video and image mentioned above to be most useful when trying to understand the principles. Although I haven’t consciously applied structured color theory to my images, it’s something I’d like to create a project on in the future, so hopefully, I can combine that into an article for this column. I’ve looked for a couple of images in my portfolio to represent some of these categories below.

In terms of color coordination for my own images, I first try to keep in mind my own characters colorings and tones, usually opting for colors that complement it in a subtle way or use a tone to complement the character, but also one that matches with something else in the image. If I am aiming for a more striking picture, I will use a much higher contrast color but still match it in with something in the image, such as a flower or object.

 

An example image of Novi where I have tried to pair her hair and skin tones to the background of the image but complemented the yellow tones with the blue tones in her eyes and outfit.

 

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An example of Analogous featuring green, blue and violet hues.

Depth of Field

Definition: The distance between the nearest and the furthest objects giving a focused image. (Source)

When we use the term in photography or screenography, depth of field is used to describe an image that has an area of sharp focus while the remainder of the image is out of focus. Both GPose and ReShade have the ability to create artificial DoF, though the GPose version is quite subtle and lacks proper control currently.

Using shallow (or ‘strong’ in relation to ReShade) depth of field is best used when you wish to draw the eye to one particular subject and hold a strong focus, with less need for detail on background areas.

Strong use of DoF known as ‘shallow’ depth of field.

Use of a deeper (further back) depth of field is ideal for landscape shots where you wish to capture a greater area of the shot in focus.

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Deep, or distant depth of field used in this shot of Ishgard.

I often find the depth of field to be the most powerful effect in photography and screenography because I find it the strongest element that allows the creator to speak to the viewer, you are effectively directing their eyes, and asking their mind to wander.

Framing

Framing is always something I struggle with and it leads to me taking around 5 to 10 images at various angles, sometimes just so I can have a comparative view. My main gripe is clipping an ear, tail or a hand, so I try my best to avoid this unless I have no choice and the composition of the image is lessened. Keep in mind just how much control you have of your image, that you can zoom in, out and tilt the camera. Rotation of the camera is 360° from your characters starting point, try to imagine a sphere around your character. Remember that walls can be used to ‘push’ the camera in closer. If you cannot get the frame you want from your own character’s sphere, you can use a minion, NPC, or ask a friend to stand in a specific place to allow you to capture the spot (remember they don’t have to stay there once you are in GPose). For those of you that have seen my GPose stream, you will see how much I twist and turn my camera to achieve a shot. If I cannot line up the edges neatly in GPose, I will zoom out a fraction and then crop the image afterward in Picasa.

If the image has a central focus I will first try to keep the image straight, then examine the background. If there are say two doors in the image either side of the central object, I will try to include equal amounts of both so that the image retains some symmetry.

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Here I have attempted to keep the shot central by cropping (by eye) equally either side of the image.

The Rule of Thirds

Definition: The rule of thirds is applied by aligning a subject with the guidelines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to section. (Source)

I see this ‘rule’ pop up here and there and it’s one I have never consciously paid any attention to (perhaps to my detriment), but I’m going to put it in here anyway as for some it is an important factor of screenography capture.

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Needless to say, I am yet to master this principle.

If using a grid theory system helps to line up your image, create better proportions or tell the story of your image, then it seems a worthwhile consideration when forming images. Personally, I feel it may lead to artificial structure, or perhaps it’s something I take into account subconsciously (or not, judging by the image above!), who knows. I’d rather be concentrating on capturing the mood or colors of an image rather than trying to see an imaginary grid across my screen. This is, again, the difference between instinctual and technical creativeness. In art terms, neither is wrong, it’s just not my preference for use in the images I capture.

Clipping

Sadly this happens a lot and can sometimes be unavoidable. Clipping has the ability to totally ruin an image once noticed. I recently took a dancing image of Novi for an EGI daily theme and I picked a dress specifically as I knew the emote would make it fan out and flow. Unfortunately, as she was mid-spin in the perfect pose, I noticed her tail clipping through the dress. This alone limited my screenshot angles by about 50% or more as it became apparent in so many frames. I worked around this and came up with something but ideally, I should have come out of GPose and picked a different outfit!

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Argh! The clipping sadness!

You can also never really know which image will work ‘best’ for any given subject if you have a selection of a few. In the story of the clipped tail incident, those ‘disregarded’ images were seemingly liked a great deal more (says Twitter!) than the main image I spent 5 times more composing!

Patience

Do not rush your images. If you are using GPose effects like Sakura or Particle, they can look wonderful and create depth and beauty in the image. Yet, taken at the wrong time, you can end up with sparkles or leaves over parts of the body of your character which may mask specific features or details. A well-placed sakura petal can create beautiful depth within an image. Weather and lighting conditions can vastly influence the image as well so if you have a pose that is working, try hanging around in the same spot for a while to see if an atmospheric change could emphasize the image.

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Taking too many shots is always better than taking too few if you’re aiming for that perfect shot. You can always delete the unused files later. Acceptance that some shots just don’t work is also important. If you’re not getting a good feeling for a shot, change pose, outfit or location and try somewhere else.

Thank you for reading! Next in line is a much-needed update to the ReShade install guide but following on from this I’ll be expanding on topics mentioned in this article along with further basics, software guides, image organization, an updated GPose summary, ReShade DoF guide (it was too extensive to fit in the main guide) and more! If you would like me to write on a particular topic later down the line in relation to screenography just let me know in the comments below or via Twitter.

Until next time, happy prt sc’ing.

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