Final Fantasy XIV: A Collection of Mistakes

Mistakes can sometimes be a good thing. If you can take the mistake and then move on and learn from it, then at least something positive came out the other end. The second MMO in the Final Fantasy franchise however has been making substantial mistakes since before day one – and has yet to make any effort to learn from them.

Though they have yet to learn from their mistakes, the team behind Final Fantasy XIV (FF14) have at least taken steps to admit them, as seen in a rather desperate and pitiful public apology to the players of the game that we reported on here. It has been just over a month since that apology and the game has seen one large patch of extra content, which did little to fix core problems that should have been caught over six months ago.

FF14 follows a certain form of pedigree established by Final Fantasy XI (FF11). Though it isn’t what many Westerners would consider to be the standard MMORPG archetype, a game originally released for the PS2 in 2002 continues to thrive with a substantial player base well into its ninth year of existence (one year less outside of Japan). It is a sad indictment of just how appallingly sub-standard FF14 is that its predecessor manages to remain significantly superior to it.

So where did things start to go wrong? I would surmise right at the concept phase. As a player of FF11 for more years than I am comfortable admitting to, I saw the game change as the development team reacted to what I would call Western influence. FF11 started as a game with a forced community, by which I mean after the first few levels there is little that can be done alone. Slowly additions were made to suit the more solo-based or small group based players, and in the last two years this has been a particular focus.

At the development phase for FF14 they appear to have taken this desire to do things alone to extremes. Grouping is still possible of course, but there is little point to it due to the lack of content requiring it. It feels like they failed to see the balance that people wanted. Subscribers didn’t want to be forced into being a team player, but they didn’t want to be encouraged to be alone either. It is, after all, an MMORPG.

Even more fundamental than that is the inability to really listen. The development team appears to think they have heard what the player wants, but really they haven’t heard a thing. I was shocked at how the closed and open Beta phases of FF14 were handled in regards to this. A beta phase, whether open or closed, is to test many things; the server load, gameplay mechanics, fundamentals, bugs and so on. The role of a tester is to report on that kind of thing.

Why then only (seemingly randomly selected) members of the Beta could report bugs is beyond me. The rest, myself included, could only hope that our reports would be seen in the mess you could barely call a forum within the Beta Member site where anything of value was quickly buried beneath many threads complaining about something I will move onto in a moment.

As far as gameplay (as in core, basic gameplay) goes there was one common complaint made over and over during both phases of Beta: there isn’t enough to do. Gone were the cutscene-laden quests of FF11 and instead generic, word filled daily fetch quests replaced them. When the player was bored with them there was a broken and entirely too random crafting system to frustrate themselves with briefly and then…nothing. There was nothing else. There still isn’t anything else in fact. Not even Chocobos.

Even on a more basic level there are many things missing: without previous experience from FF11 new players will be totally lost. The so called tutorials within the game are pathetic and you will feel lost within an hour of play without any idea of what to do. Well, there’s nothing much to do actually, so perhaps not. Wander around aimlessly.

It’s hard to tell if it is ignorance or arrogance that is to blame, but clearly the development team (now largely replaced, as you will see in the post linked to earlier on) thought something else could carry the game. What could it be? What could carry a shallow game with nothing to do in it and gameplay that even by MMORPG players’ standards seemed boring and repetitive?

Graphics.

Have you heard the phrase ‘priced out of the market’? It’s a basic business expression when a considered purchase is outside the threshold someone is willing to pay against comparable product. FF14 is doing something similar to this. FF14 is ‘specing’ itself out of the market.

To make FF14 look good, by which I mean to make it not look like it is playing through a screen filter composed of badly rendered slime and cut out squares, a pretty hefty machine is required. Though, as a side note, I’d like to point out that even playing on a beast of a machine only the cutscenes show real quality and the game world itself is barren and dull no matter what settings you use.

While there are graphic whores amongst MMO players, that is rarely the priority on their list of things they want from their games. Among the demographics I played alongside in FF11 were housewives and family men, far more interested in the escape into fantasy than how well rendered a rock wall is.

Assuming you have a decent machine and want what was meant to be a top quality MMO that is currently still free to play, by all means take a look at FF14. However – to really fix the game, to bring it to the standards already established by long running MMOs or even some released in the last few months, I honestly cannot see any hope of that. All MMOs begin unfinished and are built up as time goes on; but FF14 is starting from such a broken and boring beginning that trying again from the ground up makes the most sense.

I would not be surprised if the new team brought in to fix the game either just brings it down or goes to the free to play forever model hoping then that the poor quality standard is partially ignored. The ones to blame are those in the original development team and it is good that they are gone, but it is still shocking that – given the previous experience of some of them – FF14 turned out so bad.

There’s always that bit of hope though, isn’t there? Let’s use some examples. An update on January 18th adjusted points rewarded by Regional Levequests! One just before Christmas added the ability to actually search for items within player’s bazaars (the previous method being to check them all manually)! An Auction House would make more sense or shops that actually sold decent equipment at reasonable prices but hey, everyone’s allowed to make a few mistakes, right?

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

4 comments

  1. kebrus /

    i agree, ff14 failed in the design process and thats why i believe there’s no solution to this game, they can’t simply erase everything and start over, the core mechanics are broken and can’t be replaced, bandages will only hide the worst of the game and the game wont live just by its name

  2. RealTalk /

    I disagree, the reason for a game like this having such a difficult learning curve is to weed out potential whiners and babies. I’ve seen this happen since the opening of FFXI Online where people in the beginning would just whine and complain until eventually they would get off and never return. Would you like to know what was left behind? Mature adults and fans of the series who enjoyed the beautiful fantasy world they were left to play with unhindered by childish mentalities. Like any fine wine it takes a sophisticated palate to actually appreciate and enjoy what’s being consumed. I’m pretty sure the rest of the sheep looking for more water will just play WoW.

    • The reason FFXIV has such a difficult learning curve is due to the lazy production and lack of effort. It is not to weed out certain personalities of players which is entirely impossible, save perhaps those with no patience.

      I played FFXI for many years and can safely say that people of all ages and mentalities comfortably made it past the ‘hard’ opening levels. The difference with FFXIV in comparison to FFXI is the lack of anything substantial, interesting or fun to make getting used to the different style of playing at all worth it.

      I’m not sure which of the two you are trying to compare to fine wine, but even though I played one of them for many years I can also confirm that neither represents an experiance like that.

  3. newbie /

    wow and i was gonna get that game T-T that totally changes my mind

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