All posts by Rednanaki

Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy XI, also known as Final Fantasy XI Online, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), developed and published by Square (later Square Enix) as part of the Final Fantasy series. Designed and produced by Hiromichi Tanaka, it was released in Japan on May 16, 2002, for PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Windows-based personal computers in November of that year. The game was the first MMORPG to offer cross-platform play between PlayStation 2 and personal computer. It was also the Xbox 360’s first MMORPG. All versions of the game require a monthly subscription to play.

The story is set in the fantasy world of Vana’diel, where player-created avatars can both compete and cooperate in a variety of objectives to develop an assortment of jobs, skills, and earn in-game item rewards. Players can undertake an array of quests and progress through the in-game hierarchy and through the major plot of the game. Since its debut in 2002, five expansion packs have been released along with six add-on scenarios. Each expansion pack and add-on brings a new major storyline to the Final Fantasy XI world, along with numerous areas, quests, events and item rewards.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII is a 1997 role-playing video game developed by Square for the PlayStation console. It is the seventh main installment in the Final Fantasy series. Published in Japan by Square, it was released in other regions by Sony Computer Entertainment, and became the first in the main series to see a PAL release. The game’s story follows Cloud Strife, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist organization to stop a world-controlling mega corporation from using the planet’s life essence as an energy source. Events send Cloud and his allies in pursuit of Sephiroth, a superhuman intent on destroying their planet. During the journey, Cloud builds close friendships with his party members, including Aerith Gainsborough, who holds the secret to saving their world.

Development began in 1994, originally for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. After delays and technical difficulties from experimenting on several platforms, Square moved production to the PlayStation, largely due to the advantages of the CD-ROM format. Veteran Final Fantasy staff returned, including series creator and producer Hironobu Sakaguchi, director Yoshinori Kitase, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. The title became the first in the series to use full motion video and 3D computer graphics, which featured 3D character models superimposed over 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. Although the gameplay systems remained mostly unchanged from earlier entries, Final Fantasy VII introduced more widespread science fiction elements and a more realistic presentation. The game had a staff of over 100, with a joint development and marketing budget of around US$80 million..

Setting and characters

Characters of the Final Fantasy VII series Final Fantasy VII takes place on a world referred to in-game as the “Planet”, though it has been retroactively named “Gaia”. The planet’s life force, called the Lifestream, is a flow of spiritual energy that gives life to everything on the Planet. Its processed form is known as “Mako”. On a societal and technological level, the game has been defined as an industrial or post-industrial science fiction milieu. During Final Fantasy VII, the Planet’s Lifestream is being drained for energy by the Shinra Electric Power Company, a world-dominating mega corporation headquartered in the city of Midgar. Shinra’s actions are weakening the Planet, threatening its existence and all life. Significant factions within the game include AVALANCHE, an eco-terrorist group seeking Shinra’s downfall so the Planet can recover; the Turks, a covert branch of Shinra’s security forces; SOLDIER, an elite Shinra fighting force created by enhancing humans with Mako; and the Cetra, a near-extinct human tribe which maintains a strong connection to the Planet and the Lifestream.

The central protagonist is Cloud Strife, an unsociable mercenary who claims to be a former 1st Class SOLDIER. Early on, he works with two members of AVALANCHE: Barret Wallace, its brazen but fatherly leader; and Tifa Lockhart, a shy yet nurturing martial artist and childhood friend of Cloud. On their journey, they meet Aerith Gainsborough, a carefree flower merchant and one of the last surviving Cetra; Red XIII, an intelligent quadruped from a tribe that protects the planet; Cait Sith, a fortune-telling robotic cat controlled by repentant Shinra staff member Reeve; and Cid Highwind, a pilot whose dream of being the first human in outer space was not realized. The group can also recruit Yuffie Kisaragi, a young ninja and skilled Materia thief; and Vincent Valentine, a former Turk and victim of Shinra experiments. The game’s main antagonists are Rufus Shinra, son of President Shinra and later leader of the Shinra Corporation; Sephiroth, a former SOLDIER who reappears several years after he was thought dead; and Jenova, a hostile extraterrestrial life-form imprisoned by the Cetra 2000 years before. A key character in Cloud’s back story is Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER and Aerith’s first love.

Plot

AVALANCHE destroys a Shinra Mako reactor in Midgar; an attack on another reactor goes wrong, and Cloud falls into the city slums. There, he meets Aerith and protects her from Shinra. Meanwhile, Shinra finds AVALANCHE and collapses part of the upper city, killing most of AVALANCHE along with the slum population below. Aerith is also captured; as a Cetra, she can potentially show the “Promised Land”, which Shinra believes is overflowing with exploitable Lifestream energy. Cloud, Barret and Tifa rescue Aerith; during their escape from Midgar, they discover that President Shinra was murdered by Sephiroth, who was presumed dead five years earlier. The party pursue Sephiroth across the Planet, with now-President Rufus on their trail; they are soon joined by the rest of the playable characters.

At a Cetra temple, Sephiroth reveals his intentions to use the Black Materia to call “Meteor”, a spell that will hit the Planet with a devastating impact. Sephiroth will absorb the Lifestream as it attempts to heal the wound, becoming a god-like being. The party retrieves the Black Materia, but Sephiroth manipulates Cloud into surrendering it. Aerith departs alone to stop Sephiroth, following him to an abandoned Cetra city. During her prayer to the Planet for help, Sephiroth attempts to force Cloud to kill her; failing, he kills her himself before fleeing and leaving the Black Materia behind. The party then learns of Jenova, a hostile alien life form whose remains were unearthed by Shinra scientists decades earlier; at Nibelheim, Jenova’s cells were used to create Sephiroth. Five years before the game, Sephiroth and Cloud visited Nibelheim, where Sephiroth learned of his origins. Driven insane by this, he murdered the townspeople, then vanished when confronted by Cloud.

At the Northern Crater, the party learns that the “Sephiroths” they have met are Jenova clones created by the insane Shinra scientist Hojo. Confronting the real Sephiroth as he is killing his clones to reunite Jenova’s cells, Cloud is again manipulated into delivering the Black Materia. Sephiroth then taunts Cloud by showing another SOLDIER in Cloud’s place in his memories of Nibelheim, suggesting that Cloud is a failed Sephiroth clone. Sephiroth summons Meteor and seals the Crater; Cloud falls into the Lifestream and the party is captured by Rufus.

Escaping Shinra, the party discovers Cloud at an island hospital in a catatonic state from Mako poisoning; Tifa stays as his caretaker. When the island is attacked by a planetary defense force called Weapon, the two fall into the Lifestream, where Tifa helps Cloud reconstruct his memories. Cloud was a mere infantryman who was never accepted into SOLDIER; the SOLDIER in his memories was his friend Zack. At Nibelheim, Cloud surprised and wounded Sephiroth after the latter’s mental breakdown, but Jenova preserved Sephiroth’s life. Hojo experimented on Cloud and Zack for four years, injecting them with Jenova’s cells and Mako; they escaped, but Zack was eventually killed. The joint trauma of these events triggered an identity crisis in Cloud; he constructed a false persona around Zack’s stories and his own fantasies. Cloud accepts his past and reunites with the party, who learn that Aerith’s prayer to the Planet had been successful: the Planet had attempted to call Holy to prevent Meteor’s impact, but Sephiroth blocked Holy.

Shinra fails to destroy Meteor but manages to defeat a Weapon and puncture the Northern Crater, costing the lives of Rufus and other staff. After killing Hojo, who is revealed to be Sephiroth’s biological father, the party descends to the Planet’s core through the opening in the Northern Crater and defeats both Jenova and Sephiroth. The party escapes and Holy is summoned, which destroys Meteor with the help of the Lifestream. Five hundred years later, Red XIII is seen with two cubs looking out over the ruins of Midgar, which are now covered in greenery, showing the planet has healed.

The Burning Crusade

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (aka TBC)

The first expansion for World of Warcraft, was announced on October 28th, 2005 and released on January 16th, 2007. The main features include an increase of the level cap, the introduction of the blood elves and the draenei as playable races, and the addition of the world of Outland, along with many new zones, dungeons, items, quests, and monsters.

In preparation for The Burning Crusade, Blizzard released patch 2.0.1 in North America and Europe on December 5th, 2006. The patch introduced some of The Burning Crusade’s content prior to the expansion itself — including a revamp of the honor system, skirmish Arena matches, and a new Looking For Group interface.

The expansion was released in standard as well as Collector’s Edition packages. The Collector’s Edition of The Burning Crusade includes a bonus Behind-The-Scenes DVD, an in-game Netherwhelp pet and many other exclusive extras.

Lore:

The quests in The Burning Crusade are generally set in continuity with original lore quests, meaning that timeline speaking, BC is basically the direct sequel to the original WoW. Some quests set in Outland, especially those that are related to Illidan, do speak of a five-year hiatus in the storyline, which suggests a one-year long interval between BC and the original. This is however unconfirmed, since there never was any real statement that TFT takes place one year after RoC. But generally agreed, there was a four year break between Warcraft III and WoW.

The expansion concretes around Outland, the former world of Draenor and the new continent in the game, and quests generally allow players to explore the world on their own. The main storyline points to Illidan the Betrayer and what happened to him during the last years. Players can also go on quests that suggest helping Illidan in his time-being or slaying him for a special reward.

Other than that, many links between the former world of Draenor and the current Outland are also made, such as the opening of the Dark Portal by Medivh, which is an instance quest located in Caverns of Time. Retelling of the old relationship between Orcish shamans and the Burning Legion is also told in quest-sequence storyline.

The Burning Crusade also centers on the two new playable races and their affiliation to the gameline. Many plotholes are filled with quests that set the blood elves in with the Horde and the draenei with the Alliance. Players still have to be part of the old world quests in order to obtain lore related to Outland.

New races

The Burning Crusade contains two new playable races:

Blood elf — A faction of former Alliance members join the Horde in the expansion. They are led by Regent Lord Lor’themar Theron. The blood elf capital is Silvermoon City. Their racial mount is the bird-like hawkstrider and their Native language is Thalassian.
Draenei — A faction of uncorrupted eredar join the Alliance. They are led by their prophet, Velen. The draenei capital city is the Exodar. Their racial mount is the elephant-like elekk and their language is Draenei.

The expansion also allows previously faction-exclusive classes to be played on the opposing faction, with the inclusion of Horde blood elf paladins and Alliance draenei shaman.

New Mounts:

Each new race received its own new mount:

Blood elf — A hawkstrider (originally called a cockatrice). These mounts can be found outside the entrance to Silvermoon City. Blood elf paladin mounts, are the same as Alliance though they are red instead of the Alliance blue.
Draenei — An elekk. These mounts can be found outside The Exodar.

New mounts are also available via drop from high-end instances such as Karazhan.

Flying Mounts:

Flying mounts are only usable in Outland at level 60. The Horde and Alliance have the wyvern and gryphon, respectively, as standard mounts. The epic mounts are the armored wyvern and armored gryphon.

In addition there are rare mounts such as the netherdrake and the swift Nether Drake. An armored nether drake can be obtained by ranking in the top 0.5% at the end of an Arena season, and the unarmored netherdrake can be obtained through a series of quests. There are also Nether Rays.

Normal flying mount training costs 225g and the mount costs 50g . Training for flying mounts requires a skill of 150 (epic mount) and brings it up to 225. The epic version of the flying mount cost 5,000g for the training and 100g to buy. Training for epic flying mounts requires 225 riding skill and upgrades it to 300. Faction reputation discounts apply to the prices.

Druids receive Flight Form at level 60 that offers the ability to fly and has a speed equivalent to a normal flying mount. Druids may obtain a quest at level 70 to obtain an epic flight form or wait until level 71 to train it without doing the quest chain. Purchasing riding skill 300 is a requirement for the quest.

Character changes, New spells and Talents:

In the expansion, Blizzard added five to six new spells for the 60-70 level range to each class in order to round out the classes better. The talent trees were also greatly expanded and revised. All classes have additional talents leading up to a 41 talent point ability. Players gain new spells at every level from 60-70 instead of every two levels.

Since the Paladin and Shaman classes are no longer unique to either faction, Blizzard added new abilities to each class to make them what they truly feel they should be: Paladins received a long-awaited spell, Righteous Defense (a long-range, mass taunt-like ability, like the Death Knight’s Dark Command); and Shamans received the spell Bloodlust (a long-cooldown, powerful buff) to complement their DPS and utility roles.

See each class’s respective page for more specific information regarding new spells and talents.

Combat rating system:

With the release of The Burning Crusade, critical strike, defense, hit rate, spell critical, and dodge stats as well as a new stat, resilience, changed from being absolute percentages to ratings, with each player level requiring more rating points to achieve the same absolute percentage.
New Zones and New Starting areas:

The blood elves have two new starting areas located in the Eastern Kingdom:

Eversong Woods — Level 1-10
Ghostlands — Level 10-20

Similarly, the draenei have two starting zones off the west coast of Kalimdor:

Azuremyst Isle — Level 1-10
Bloodmyst Isle — Level 10-20

New continent:

The expansion heralds the addition of Outland, an entirely new continent/world, reachable through the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands and portals in several major cities. Interactive maps and otherwise detailed maps are available for use.

Outland contains the following zones:

Hellfire Peninsula — Level 58-63
Zangarmarsh — Level 60-64
Terokkar Forest — Level 62-65
Nagrand — Level 64-67
Blade’s Edge Mountains — Level 65-68
Netherstorm — Level 67-70
Shadowmoon Valley — Level 67-70

New high-level dungeons:

The expansion has added several dungeons, most with separate wings to make runs faster, including some in both in Outland and Azeroth. The dungeons contain a plethora of new equipment including Tier 4 , Tier 5 and Tier 6 armor pieces.
Azeroth:

Karazhan in Deadwind Pass
Caverns of Time in Tanaris
Zul’Aman in Ghostlands (added in patch 2.3)
Isle of Quel’Danas in Quel’Thalas (added in patch 2.4)

Outland:

Hellfire Citadel, located on the Hellfire Peninsula
Coilfang Reservoir in the Zangarmarsh
Auchindoun in the Terokkar Forest
Tempest Keep outside Netherstorm
Gruul’s Lair in the Blade’s Edge Mountains
Black Temple in the Shadowmoon Valley

Raid and Instance Changes:

All future raids will now have caps not exceeding 25 players (older raids will remain at a 40 player cap, at least for now). This was done to allow a greater number of players to participate in epic raids, and to allow more flexibility in the design of encounters.

In addition, high level instances have a feature allowing players to have the option to run the instances at two different difficulty levels: Normal and Heroic. This would turn normal level 60-70 instances into much harder level 70 instances with better loot. The final boss of every hard mode instance will drop epic items, and every boss in hard mode instances will drop tokens to get special gear available in Shattrath. These instances will be marked with a purple portal.

Profession changes:

Jewelcrafting and socketed items.

Jewelcrafting allows the crafting of rings, trinkets, necklaces and special jewels that can be used in specific items, called Socketed Items.

New Specializations and Profession Abilities:

For professions, the expansion adds a new level past Artisan (300) called Master (375). This can be maxed to 390 for gnomish engineers, draenei jewelcrafters, tauren herbalists, and blood elf enchanters.

Characters are also be able to take advantage of new specializations within each profession as well as many new recipes, enchantments, patterns and schematics.

New PvP features:

Eye of the Storm

A new battleground called Eye of the Storm is based in Outland. The battleground features a mix of holding territory and capture the flag styles of gameplay.

Each team has 15 members ranging from levels 61-69, 70-79 and 80 in it’s own bracket.

Arena PvP System:

Following the introduction of Arena PvP, level 70 players are able to win prizes in these matches. The rewards for the arena is on par with even the most powerful PvE rewards. There are currently three Arenas: The Ring of Trials in Nagrand, the Circle of Blood in Blade’s Edge Mountains, and the Ruins of Lordaeron, above Undercity.

Voice Acting:

Contrary to the popular belief that Blizzard brought back none of the original voice actors, actually almost half of them were brought back.

In Battle for Mount Hyjal the voice actors of Thrall and Tyrande were the original voice actors; Azgalor and Rage Winterchill didn’t have speech in Warcraft III, so it can be told that their voice actors weren’t changed; Archimonde voice actor was the same although he sounds different, it’s probable that Blizzard used different modulations for the voice. Anetheron voice actor was changed but probably because of his minor role in Warcraft III (with just three quotes) Blizzard wasn’t able to find him.

Illidan’s original voice actor, Matthew Yang King, was changed due to guild union reasons. But his lieutenants Kael’thas and Lady Vashj were kept with the original voice actors. Akama’s voice actor was changed probably for his minor role in Warcraft III (with just the gag quotes and two cinematic speeches). And Maiev’s original voice actor was brought back.

Kil’jaeden’s and Magtheridon’s voice actors weren’t brought back, probably for their minor roles in Warcraft III (with Magtheridon just having two quotes[14] and Kil’jaeden appearing only in two interludes).

The Alliance Expedition heros’s voice actors weren’t changed either, they were given the default human/dwarven voices, however Khadgar’s voice actor was indeed changed in News From Outland: Crisis at Da Portal! official video. The Horde of Draenor hero’s voice actors were changed, Kargath’s voice actor used to be Bill Roper but he left Blizzard years before the release of The Burning Crusade, while Teron’s voice actor was changed for unknown reasons.

Rexxar’s and Nazgrel’s voices are also the default voice of the orcs (ironically the default voice of the orcs and Rexxar’s voice actor in Warcraft III are both made by Chris Metzen). Zul’jin’s voice actor wasn’t really changed because in Warcraft II he used the default troll voice and in The Burning Crusade he was given a unique voice.

Medivh’s voice actor was changed from Michael Bell to Cam Clarke for unknown reasons. Sylvanas’s original voice actress didn’t sing Lament of the Highborne but probably because Piera Coppola isn’t a singer.

World of Warcraft in the Beginning

Many have great memories of adventures that have spanned from when World of Warcraft first launched through to the present day. The game has evolved quite a bit over the years, and especially for the many quality of life upgrades that were made along the way.

Way back when, one could only get a mount starting at level 40, so it took quite a bit of time to travel around Azeroth on foot. Flight points were by far the fastest modes of transportation, but you could only use them if you first hoofed your way over and discovered each Flight Master individually. When you used flight points you also could only travel directly from one to the next. They didn’t automatically connect to your final destination like they do now. So you’d have to make your way to the first point, talk to the flight master, fly to the next point, talk to the flight master, and so on. Accessing dungeons or raids also required additional travel time, as you had to make your way to them manually, and there were no mass summons or personal flying mounts back in that era that could speed up the process, either. So assembling five people for a dungeon run involved quite a bit of waiting around while people slowly made their way to the particular dungeon. It often took even longer for raids to get up and running because you’d be waiting for 40 people instead of just 25 or 10.

Battlegrounds and Arenas also did not launch with the original game. The first two Battlegrounds areas, Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch, went live on June 2005, and you had to physically travel out in the world to the particular Battleground portal for each location in order to queue for them. As there was no time or resource limit on those games, they could run very long, and indeed some Alterac Valley matches on the servers I played on at the time could span multiple hours or even, in some cases, multiple days. For Battlegrounds, specifically, there were no cross-realm Battlegroups originally, so you could only face-off against opponents from your individual realm that were on the opposite faction. Way back then, you also couldn’t step up and challenge another guild on your own faction to an all-out War Game in Warsong Gulch, either, because War Games didn’t even exist until shortly after Cataclysm launched.

Travel around Azeroth and assembling groups for anything from PvP to dungeon runs and raiding is much more efficient now than it was in classic times. I think it’s especially fantastic being able to freely roam around the world and do other activities while you wait. Then, once the group is assembled, you can teleport directly into battle with your comrades as well as your friends from other realms (thanks to the advent of Real ID’s cross-realm support). And that’s, well… awesome.