Cat Context 70: Final Fantasy 14, Kickstarter Fatigue, Games for New Parents

Cat Context 70: Final Fantasy 14, Kickstarter Fatigue, Games for New Parents

cat context vertical Cat Context 70: Final Fantasy 14, Kickstarter Fatigue, Games for New Parents

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This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide talk about games! MMOs, even! I know, we’re as surprised as you guys.

New father Elly has been in the market for games that he can play with one hand and no time commitments. He talks about some of the successes in this regard, like Broken Age, and some other potential point-and-click titles. In the meantime, Elly’s been playing Dynasty Warriors 8 and he reports on how he’s been enjoying the game.

Liore starts an unplanned side discussion about Kickstarter and Patreon. Are we fully into a Kickstarter fatigue, at least for gamers? As an enthusiastic participant in the past, is Elly a little more cautious about crowd-funding games now? And how does Patreon compare to Kickstarter in how willing we are to part with our money?

But enough of all that, let’s talk about Final Fantasy XIV. Both Aro and Liore are enthusiastic about the game, and we .. gently.. suggest to Elly that he give it a shot.

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* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

Scenes from the Golden Saucer

Scenes from the Golden Saucer

(Looking for the latest episode of Cat Context? It’s been delayed by a day, and that delay sure had nothing to do with the subject of this post! Nope, nothing!)

Last night the Manderville Golden Saucer opened in Eorzea and welcomed in all citizens level 15 and higher for fun and games. I had a great time sampling some of the attractions, like coming in second place on my initial chocobo race and winning a small jackpot at the lottery. (Or as it’s called in Eorzea, a “cactpot”. Yes, really.) Of course I had to try my hand at Triple Triad, and I even started running around the world looking for NPCs to throw down against.

The Golden Saucer content is not only fun, but also as with everything else in FFXIV it looks great. Behold! (Click the images for large versions.)

cactuscasino 500x281 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

After logging on last night I got a quest from a fellow by the main portal in Ul’dah that gave an airship ticket to the Golden Saucer. I love how it looks from the outside.

ff 500x245 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

The inside reminded me a lot of modern day Earth casinos — all gleaming metal and fancy carpets — only GC has more giant stained glass windows.

cardslarge 500x292 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

Of course everyone showed up to check the new place out. The Triple Triad tables were packed with players.

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Crescende takes a selfie from the upper floor of the card room.

ttgameboard 500x220 Scenes from the Golden Saucer

The Triple Triad game board! The basic rules of the game are fairly straightforward, but there are regional variations that can make it quite confusing.

(PS: For more screenshots from yesterday’s Golden Saucer patch, go visit Mr. Murf.)

Crowfall Kickstarter is Smart Marketing

Crowfall Kickstarter is Smart Marketing

Hey, did you guys hear that Crowfall launched a Kickstarter today?

I’m not a big user of Kickstarter myself. A lot of people who I like and respect are into it so no slight to them, but it’s never been my thing. I’m too miserly to spend money on a concept that may or may not ever come to pass, and my internal hipster voice could never hop on a project just because it was popular. In fact the only time I’ve ever used Kickstarter was to throw $20 at Reading Rainbow because I was a kid too once.

I do, however, enjoy reading other people’s Kickstarters. You can learn a lot about marketing and content (my day job, man) by examining what works and what does not. For example, unsuccessful campaigns often treat Kickstarter as the first thing on the to-do list and that’s totally wrong. Nowadays just having a Kickstarter is not notable — you need to have your marketing and awareness campaign in full swing first, and then lay down the rails for the gravy train.

Wilhelm feels that Crowfall hit this sweet spot, and I totally agree. The game has drummed up a great deal of ground support and buzz since it was announced at the end of December, organically sliding into my Twitter stream on enough occasions that even I found myself wondering what this Crowfall game was and whether I should care about it or not. They’ve had numerous marketing pushes with new art work and class descriptions. Wilhelm mentions in his post that the clever observer could spot a Kickstarter campaign in the works, but as someone who wasn’t really playing close attention to the game I found the news this morning to make a lot of sense.

crowfall 500x164 Crowfall Kickstarter is Smart Marketing

The Kickstarter page itself is very well put together. There are a few recognizable industry vets and a lot of previous experience, a ton of details about the game, and many screenshots and pieces of concept art. There’s not a lot to indicate how much of the game has actually been developed so far, which is smart. The reward tiers make sense, and walk the fine line of giving rewards that backers would actually value and not just t-shirts and thank you letters. Personally I would highlight their target completion dates more prominently, and I’m assuming their stretch goals will not be Star Citizen levels of crazy.

As of this post Crowfall has raised $350,000 on their first day, so it seems pretty likely that they’ll make their $800,000 goal. Even if I was Kickstarter-inclined I probably wouldn’t contribute because I’m not sure it’s my kind of game and I’m a little put off by some of their rhetoric, but they’ve definitely put together a great offering and I think it’ll serve as a excellent example to more niche MMOs in the future.

Review: Transistor

Review: Transistor

So I finally got around to playing and finishing Transistor, and while I knew going in that the game was good it was actually so much better than I imagined. In retrospect, had I played this when it came out in 2014 it would have been one of my favorite games of the year, without a doubt.

If you played Supergiant Games’ last effort, Bastion, then you already know that they excel at world building and story telling. (And if you haven’t played Bastion yet then I just don’t know what to say.) Transistor and Bastion have some narrative similarities: they both have a quiet protagonist and a third party “narrator” who helps guide you through a crumbling world. Both games tell their story gradually as you progress, and in both cases the story is laced with melancholy. The music is amazing in both games, although I’d have to tip Transistor as having the superior soundtrack.

20130611040635 transitor 500x280 Review: Transistor

The big difference between Bastion and Transistor is the combat. Bastion was praised for having “fun” combat when it came out and there was nice flexibility in which weapons you chose to use and upgrade which created a few different ways to approach encounters. That being said, Bastion was still real-time, twitch style combat which is not something I’m great at and I can find it a little stressful in long stretches. In fact, part of the reason it took me so long to play Transistor was just steeling myself for another twitchy combat game.

My concerns, as it turns out, were completely unfounded because the combat in Transistor is so much more.

Supergiant took the idea of flexible combat and expanded on it to the point where it’s possible for two players to go through encounters in entirely different ways. Instead of just assigning a couple of weapons, Transistor provides a number of skills (the exact selection is up to each player) and then lets you combine them in strange and beautiful ways. The player has a points cap, basically, and can juggle skills between being base skills, upgrade skills, or passive skills assuming the slot is open and the total resources used are under the points cap. Each skill has a theme but applies it in slightly different ways depending on whether it’s in a base, upgrade, or passive slot. Even just directly swapping two skills can make huge changes in the results.

Now add to all this the tools for turn-based, non-twitchy combat. In Transistor the player is able to pause the game and map out their next few moves. How many moves you can fit into your turn depends on how much distance you travel and how much time the skills you are using take. When your turn is over and you un-pause, the protagonist zips around executing all the moves and then you have to wait a while before your next turn. Between the use of turns and the highly customizable skill system, combat in Transistor becomes more of a puzzle than a shoot ‘em up.

(Or more specifically it COULD be more of a puzzle, if that’s how you enjoy playing. You don’t even have to use turns at all if you don’t want to and ahhhhhh have I mentioned yet how great this game is at letting you play how you want?)

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Exploring your options when it comes to skills is highly encouraged in the game. Much like Bastion’s challenge zones, Transistor eventually opens up a hub where the player is given a number of different types of combat puzzles like “kill all of these mobs in one turn” or “stay alive for the next two minutes”. There’s also a sandbox mode where you can kill stuff to your heart’s content. And as if that wasn’t enough, the game’s lore is also tied to combat! Use each skill in battle in all three slots (base, upgrade, or passive) to unlock three pieces of story. I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons, but in an age where combat can feel so disparate from story in games (Bioshock Infinite, talking to you) it’s delightful to see a developer combine them together in a way that does justice to both.

Basically what I’m saying is that if you if you love lore and world building you should play Transistor. Oh, and if you love gorgeous graphics and music. And highly flexible combat. And great story-telling. Look, just play Transistor.



Everyone is Suspiciously Nice in FFXIV

Everyone is Suspiciously Nice in FFXIV

How is it that the Final Fantasy 14 community is so gosh darn nice?

I was thinking about it while making coffee this morning — during my last sojourn in WoW back in the middle of Pandaria I ran a loooot of LFG and LFR and yet I find it hard to remember a single run that didn’t have at least one jerkwad in it. Complaints about healing/DPS meters, slurs in chat, revenge group kicks, “go go go go go”.. for just about every random group I would put a movie on the other monitor and explicitly ignore chat. When I think about queuing up for a random group in WoW, I feel nervous about the possibility of being insulted by strangers.

To be fair I’m only level 31 in FFXIV, but I have had plenty of opportunities to use the Duty Finder (aka LFG) while working on the main storyline and seriously every single time I’ve been matched with folks who are at best friendly and helpful and at worst quietly competent. It’s almost spooky.

In FFXIV, the first time you visit each dungeon using the Duty Finder your entire group is informed that “someone” in the party is new. The first time I saw that notice it was actually a little worrying. Oh no, someone will figure out that I’m a supernoob! Prepare for insults or maybe a group kick! But no, instead I discovered very experienced players who actually volunteered to clear extra pathways for my achievements or quests. Once I was even in what turned out to be an all-noobie group, and we took turns quickly reading boss fight descriptions and relaying critical moves to the rest of the party. It has been a universally pleasant experience. What’s the deal?

farmer 292x500 Everyone is Suspiciously Nice in FFXIV

This NPC has nothing to do with the subject of the post. I just wanted to share his outfit.

I can think of two differences between WoW and FFXIV that might point to a reason, and first is the age of each game. WoW has been around long enough for folks to get pretty jaded. (If you too are an old school player you need to read this Dark Legacy comic right now because oh my god it’s pitch perfect.) Everyone is expected to know exactly what to do because, ugh, where have you been for the past decade? It doesn’t matter if this is a reasonable expectation or not.

The other difference is that FFXIV moves at a much slower pace than WoW, and so perhaps appeals more to players who are feeling pretty relaxed about their leisure time. WoW has a rush to level cap, while FFXIV has a rush to level cap… and then whoa, slow down and repeat that like a dozen more times for each class. Grinds that might take hours in WoW are stretched out to days in FFXIV. (Whether you enjoy that kind of thing varies, of course.)

Even more importantly I suspect is the fact that WoW’s Global Cooldown is 1.5 seconds while in FFXIV the GCD is a whopping 2.5 seconds. That extra second actually makes a huge difference in play, meaning less frenetic combat, more measured response. In WoW I would spend groups spamming flash heal or hitting Circle of Healing on every cooldown, but in FFXIV the emphasis is on aggro management so I spend less time casting and more time planning my next spell. It’s not for everyone, but I think that slower pace keeps some of the “go go go” crowd away.

Obviously I’m not saying that everyone in WoW is a meanie, but that game sure does have its loud, rotten apples and it’s been extremely pleasant to play a game where I feel good about running random group content on my own. Way to be impressively nice, FFXIV folks!

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