Updated Fri, Dec 17, 2010 by Stow
In WoW, you fought endless waves of Trolls. In FFXI and FFXIV, you get these little adorable bastards that tend to fall on their own bombs.
Very few titles have launched to such a spectacular failure as Final Fantasy XIV. You had a game that had three things going for it :
- A predecessor with years of experience in balance, content, and player base feedback and trends.
- A large budget to create some of the finest graphics and sound ever to come from an MMORPG
- A legion of fans of the previous game that were just begging to see the aging Final Fantasy XI be reborn, and would throw money at them to see it happen.
Do you know what anyone sees in that game now? Nothing. Three months have passed since its release and those of us who braved the open beta and said “Things will be better on release guys. They can’t mess this up!”…. yeah well, we screwed up. It’s time for those of us who convinced our friends to buy the game at launch to apologize if we haven’t already. It says a lot when the developer is willing to axe the majority of the management staff. There are five main problems that doom FFXIV to even more hatred than Final Fantasy XI in its first years.
#1 – Inane quest and XP systems punishing you for, you know, playing the game.
Let’s face it, people love quests. People love the direction they provide, the story they sometimes tell, and the juicy rewards of them in the end. What does FFXIV do here? Nothing. Spawn a pack of monsters, kill a few, call it a day. People always joked about getting 10 bear asses for a quest, well, that’s basically what every single combat ‘leve’ in Final Fantasy XIV is. On top of that, they are highly limited to several every few days. This is silly. Why would you punish people for playing your game?
The stupidity continues with the fatigue system kicking in if you level a class too quickly, cutting your XP rates drastically. Way back in the early beta days of WoW, it had Normal, Rested, and Tired experience levels, but the good folks at Blizzard said “Negative XP penalties? We want people to play this more, not less!” and threw it out the window. The only reason I’d peg the game for including this is the following problem.
#2- Style without Substance
You cannot deny the fact that this game has stunning visual and audio elements, but that awe wears off quickly when you’re fighting the same monsters over and over again, doing the same quests repeatedly, and suffering through archaic at best gameplay. One of the highlights of FFXI and MMORPGs in general are boss monsters, both instanced and rare world spawns. These were not in the game at all at launch and only recently were put in outside of the story, at a slow rate. What the hell?
#3 – The godawful interface.
Those of you that touched the game know what I’m talking about. When your character info is six clicks away, when an attack doesn’t happen for a second after you push the button, when the interface is simply broken… welcome to FFXIV. They have acknowledged the problem but it’s hard to expect much after their first offering. Hell, it took five years for the official client to be launched in a window for FFXI, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up here, especially with a console version on the way.
I have to wonder if they actually played their own game here. Fighting with the interface is the hardest part of getting into FFXI or FFXIV, and it just seems to be a fetish for them to make new players suffer as they attempt to equip themselves, sort loot, or allocate stats. Even if you get used to it, compared to every other game on the market in the last 10 years it is nothing more than a menial chore. I can push one button in every other game and see my character’s stats and equipped items, and another key for my inventory to do something with it. Scrap the whole interface, Square. I don’t care if you have to ‘WoW-ify’ it, your interface is an abomination and the subject of many horror stories for children around the globe.
#4 – It’s the most backwards, unintuitive game on the market.
A lot of us are sick of the WoW handholding, WoW clones, WoW influences, whatever you want to call it. This is the other end of the spectrum. This is the “Crap, I cannot interact with my surroundings and the map barely functions and these dodos are eating me alive, help” you’re on your own feeling. And while that may be the game some of us are looking for, the market is not that accepting anymore and people can and have moved on to other offerings. It’s one thing to challenge the biggest MMO on the market by releasing your product against it, but it’s another thing entirely to brag about your product pre-launch and call out your place in the market alongside it when this is what you’ve got.
#5 – It’s a step back from FFXI, one of the most polarizing MMORPGs already.
Perhaps the biggest offense of FFXIV is that its predecessor pretty much eclipses it in every way at this point. Easily from a content perspective, the races are pretty much exactly the same, the community is much more established and optimistic, and the economy is stable. The latter is extremely important—the Retainer system of holding and bartering items is a pathetic excuse for an auction house and harkens back to the days of running to the ‘trade district’ of your MMORPG to do business, such as the tunnel in East Commonlands of Everquest (if you remember this, you’re probably feeling pretty old right now)
Even the storyline has suffered by comparison, which was one of the few shining aspects of FFXI that kept people interested and made the game unique compared to the other poorly written and unimaginative offerings on the market.
What can be done to win anyone back, or at least not be a joke of the MMO community?
Now, FFXIV has done some good. Most importantly, they’ve established that they have botched the game. This is extremely rare for any developer, and almost unheard of for a Japanese developer. Free months are being handed out like candy to everyone, and the game has officially gone free to play until further notice for current owners and prospective ones alike. They’ve done a complete personnel overhaul, bringing on a slew of FFXI veterans to attempt to breathe life into the game before it becomes a corpse. Square-Enix has realized their error and is actively trying to salvage their offering thankfully, but the damage has been done to the game’s reputation, and my advice to them is rather simple.
Remember that open beta you did, that got everyone so excited along with the benchmark, but was absolutely abysmal and a chore to play? Fix the game and issue another 10 day open trial for everyone to try out. Let everyone see what you’ve done and feel what FFXIV really is supposed to be about. Hell, go free to play and eventually switch to a VIP system like Turbine did with DDO and LotRO. It seems to be working great for them!
All is not lost for the online version of the esteemed franchise, but with these kind of changes happening, it's fair to say it's on life support and struggling to stay afloat.