Final Fantasy XIV Needing to Learn Lessons of the Past
The path of Final Fantasy XIV is one fraught with more ups and downs and then even more downs than any other MMORPG I can think of, at least when were talking about the ones that made it out the door. The first iteration of FFXIV did make it to the public, but was so universally hated that, aside from a brief period of time in 2012, Square Enix never bothered to actually collect any subscriptions from their customers and eventually shut the servers down. Rather than scrap the entire project and create something completely new, they decided to attempt a rework and reboot the existing game.
At E3 this year, we gave FFXIV an award for best respawn, saying at the time, While the game still retains its distinctive look and feel, nearly every aspect of the game has been rebuilt into a tighter, faster, and more cohesive overall MMO experience. This is still true and, although Ive never personally been a huge fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, I am excited to see a game attempt a comeback and expand the choices we have when it comes to scratching that MMORPG itch.
While we cant talk about everything weve seen or the various systems in the game just yet, FFXIVs creators, Square Enix, have given the NDA a partial drop allowing us to speak about the beta test itself. As such, I pestered my friends who had keys, and we started the magical ride of beta testing goodness or so I had hoped.
The moment I even began the process of trying to recover my Square Enix account from my Final Fantasy XI days, I was instantly reminded of how insanely painful, frustrating, and just freaking mind-shatteringly maddening their entire account set-up process is. To give a little context here, I bought FFXI after a number of expansions had already been released for it in 2006. As a result, the idea of having a smooth account creation system should not only have been within the realm of reasonable thought, it should have been a damned reality by then. It wasnt. Not by a long shot.
Back then, I ended up having to use three different emails before I finally managed to get their system to work and recognize that yes, I had indeed actually created an account, checked all their buttons acknowledging that I had registered on the forums with said account, and registered my key. This took up nearly an hour of my time and to this day I still blame that Saturday morning for half of the grey hairs on my head. If my PC hadnt been my baby, I would have chucked it out the window in pure frustration.
Fast forward NINE YEARS and guess what? Today was the exact same experience. Just for the sake of argument, lets assume (and this is one hell of an assumption) that Final Fantasy XIV did reasonably well when it released the first time. Im not even saying it had to do really well, just well enough that it wasnt a flop. Then, I might be able to understand a developer believing their fan base was so strong they wouldnt need to bother changing the account set-up process. You know that thing a potential customer has to do before they even get inside your game. Even as I write this now I cant adequately express how completely asinine, uncalled-for, and inherently stupid this is.
Well guess what, Square Enix? Your game wasnt so successful that you neednt worry about the customer experience. Final Fantasy XIV was a complete and utter failure on a scale of which we have never seen in the industry. To say it went down more explosively than the Hindenburg would be a kindness. Im not sure whos calling the shots over there, but to me, a failure of that magnitude should indicate to the company that they need to do everything possible to ensure that systems such as account creation offered the smoothest and least painful experience not only compared to other MMORPGs on the market now, but out of any that would ever come in the future. If youre trying to crawl out of a pit so deep there doesnt appear to be any bottom, letting go of the rope before you even open the gate to the game is just baffling.
To put things in perspective, Ive got four friends who were trying to get everything set up to play FFXIV this past weekend. Two of us were eventually able to get to the point of downloading the game. For me, getting to this stage took over an hour and forced me to create two new Gmail accounts because the system borked my first attempt... and my second. One friend gave up after two hours and multiple emails stating, The game can f***ing rot and die before Im wasting any more f***ing time trying to get an account created.
This is all before weve even looked at the game itself during this phase of the beta test. If I were Square Enix, Id figure out a way to fix these issues and fix them now, or this new version of Final Fantasy XIV isnt going to stand a snowballs chance in hell of doing anything but crashing and burning again.