Friday, August 07, 2009

FFXIV News: The Pied Piper of Shibuya.

The more and more I hear about FFXIV the more and more I get concerned. I was really looking forward to this new game, but really I have to wonder if I am interested in a new version of FFXI if SE hasn't really determined what are the real problems with FFXI. Sure SE is covering all their bases, describing the new job system, quest system and other things. But these are all things that SE does correctly right now. What about things like job balance? What about some of the insane and inane content? Instancing? World spawns? What about the basic information that anyone outside of the fanboys are really interested in when choosing a game.

The forums are frothing at the mouth over a game where they have seen nothing more than concept art. Are they going to want a game that doesn't support external add-on development again? Are they going to want to play a game that does even let you alt-tab out again, and basically requires anyone to violate the rules to even have the game playable on a PC for the first four years it is available? This is just the internet at it's worst. All flash and no content.

Don't get me wrong, I want this to turn out really well! I want FFXIV to be great, but I don't want to have to give up almost two years in FFXI content to get to that point and I don't want to have to experience the same exact mistakes they have made for seven years just delivered in a shiny new package.

Also, we haven't ever gotten the real honest truth on some issues from SE and their answers tend to change over time to fit the current mood of the player and the development team. PS2 limitations are a great example of excuses that were nothing more than hot air for a lot of things that were implemented later on.

Is the real reason they are using the same races from FFXI really to provide continuity between FFXI and FFXIV, or is it because it just saves them a lot of programmer/designer time to just reuse something they have already been developing designs for? Sure there are differences, but the creativity has been removed from that part of the development cycle.

The question is this: Are the problems in FFXI because of structural game designs that SE isn't going to have with FFXIV, or are the problems because of the people that developed FFXI feel they know better than the players? If the problem is the former, then FFXIV will likely be a great game because there is so much that has happened in the MMO world since FFXI was released and a new platform will let SE unleash their ideas integrated into a much more playable platform. If it is the latter though, then FFXIV will be nothing more than a gussied up but casual version of the game we already play. If that is the case, I already have my old faithful crack, I don't need New Crack™.

Here is my run down on the more specific issues that have been presented about the game.

The new job system - This is the main thing that FFXI got right, and it sounds like the are going to do something different but similar enough to maintain the flexibility to change jobs. Doing it on the fly will be even better. This is my one shining hope for this game.

Crafting - Oh god, not this again. Crafting in FFXI sucks, the system sucks, the skilling-up sucks, the HQ system sucks, and the economy sucks. Some people like it and I am not saying they are wrong, I am just saying that it could be so much better. Crafting shouldn't be an end in itself, but a means to make money. Integrating it into the job system seems like they are trying to make it an end again. There needs to be a purpose for crafting and that purpose needs to be making an income of a reasonable amount.

Trading-off skills - No. Just please God no. No one likes it in FFXI because it is not a "fun, additional aspect to player customizing", it is an artificially construct limit on your potential. Artificial limitations in combat skills, magic skills and crafting don't do anything to provide customization, they just sharpen the edges of the cookie-cutter even more.

Races - I stated this above but it bares mentioning again. I have to wonder how hard they really are trying here if it's just the same people in a different place with just more technology than in Vana'diel. Even the story line seems to have major resemblances to Vana'diel.

UI/Macro system - This is one place where uncertainty definitely is playing a role in my doubts about FFXIV. I should be assuming that SE is going to have a wonderful new UI and Macro system and there have already been statements about the ability to quickly swap around sets of gear, but SE's inability/lack of want to improve FFXI's UI and failure to create a decent Macro system makes me have major reservations.

Communication - SE seems to be taking the same exact approach as they did with FFXI, while every other major MMO developer is moving toward more contact with it's player base. I understand that it is a Japanese company so there will be some disconnect, but Blizzard seems to handle it's Oceanic players with a modicum of respect. The NA representatives for SE seem to be as out of the loop as the players are for most things.

Balancing - SE doesn't have to worry about job balance in FFXI as much as other games because people can freely change and level different jobs, and FFXIV appears that it won't have this problem either, and it may be even less of a concern depending on the amount of over lap that is available for already trained skills. The problem is that SE actually though the subjob system was going to allow this to happen in FFXI, but instead the subjob system just worked to further restrict players choices. The major concern I have over game balance as a whole is that we will see mobs like Absolute Virtue again. This just causes frustration more than anything else, and is the best, most obvious example of the disconnect between how the developers envision the game and how the players actually play it.

I have high hopes for FFXIV, and I have real apprehensions. Either way, as of right now, I have no plans to stop playing FFXI. Nothing that has been present so far has made be change my plans at all. I will definitely pick up FFXIV, but the jury is still out on how everything is going to pan out.

1 comment:

Paul meister said...

I agree and disagree with some things you said...

How SE is going to magically appeal to all audiences is what has me concerned... it seems to me they will be making compromises in the uniqueness that FFXI displayed in order to draw in as many people as possible, by having all these elements that are present in other popular MMOs, like WoW especially.

Eye candy is a good way to draw in the crowds but if I can't sit down and play FFXIV exactly the way I play FFXI, or if it feels too much like I'm playing a mish-mash of every popular MMO to come before, I'm likely not going to keep it for long. FFXI's unique feel is really what kept me hooked to it.

I love the minimalist GUI that stays out of my way and is so efficient that I can effectively play two characters at the same time with one hand each (duo box), and if I can't replicate that in FFXIV, it's back to XI I'll go.

I have to run back to work so this will be cut short... I really have high hopes for XIV like most people, but I also have strong reservations and concerns. Attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator (WoW players) is not something I look on favorably, and I'll gladly trade a smaller fan-base for a better and more unique game experience.