Updated Expectations for FFXIV

With open beta registrations still wholly in the dark, I’ve been stalking FFXIV Core all day waiting for an update. Though Square has pretty much said “hold tight” and little else, I’ve found reading the boards to be especially interesting. Up until today,  they were largely dominated by the very optimistic but very uninitiated Final Fantasy fan. People’s excitement was really at a fever pitch, and still is, but we’re seeing a bit more reality creep into posts. Responses are pretty much as you’d expect, either “it’s BETA dummy! What do you want from a BETA? Don’t you know what BETA means?!?!?!1” to the simple “pre-order canceled.” I have to say though, most of the reactions being posted are overwhelmingly negative.

Aside: Both of those option are extremes, but, I’m getting tired of hearing this beta excuse. Yeah, it’s in a testing phase, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking we’re getting a different game at launch. If the game is lacking content now, it will probably still be lacking it later. Anyways…

The issues are, surprise surprise, grinding and a lack of content. Well, to be fair, that’s not all. Little annoyances are cropping up and bugging people, such as the mouse cursor being tied to your FPS. Some people are claiming that the UI is sluggish, too, but other people say it’s fine, so I’m taking it with a grain of salt. Keen supports some of these and adds his own thoughts to the mix, so take a look for thoughts within our community.

After reading today, my expectations and excitement for the game have dimmed a little bit, so I’m hoping I’m wrong.

This is a grinder. I know, I said repeatedly that SE would be stupid to make 14 grinding based.  The problem is, your PvE seems to be limited to three things: story missions, guild leves, and grinding. According to this thread, both missions and leves are incredibly limited. Leves are limited to a total of 8 every 48-hours. Story chains are every 10 levels. If the threads are to be trusted, you get a single quest line, doable within an hour, for your first ten levels.  By the sounds of it, everyone but the “jump in and do two quests” type player will probably hit a wall. During the downtime, players will have to grind. This is me eating crow, but as Pete from Dragonchasers recently tweeted, should we be surprised at FFXIV following the Japanese formula?

Now, I don’t necessarily mind grinding. I’m actually hoping that these mechanics will push people towards grouping up more (an aspect of MMOs that desperately needs revitalizing). I have to wonder, though: if progress is throttled by an XP amount instead of time, wouldn’t that just mean you run out of XP quicker? I suppose it will encourage players to try new classes, but I can see this being a big problem for lots of people. Modern MMO players don’t like to grind and FFXIV is likely to suffer the same fallout as Aion because of it. The difference between the two is, of course, the class system. Exploring the classes is a big part of the fun, so I’m expecting it to offset the grind and progress cap.

Lack of Endgame: I’m stretching on this one, but I’m not the only one that’s questioning SE because of this. What exactly is the end-game of FFXIV? They’ve said nothing about it – other than having large-group leves (raids). That’s great, except it’s totally untested and that makes me nervous. How do you have a quality raid without testing it? How do you have a quality quest-chain or leve without testing it for that matter? With progression being throttled, this may all be in the works and ready to go when the community gets there. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a few details on what we’re actually working towards, however.

Now, I’m usually the kind of player that enjoys the journey as much, if not more than, the destination. The problem is, if I’m going to grind, I want to know the destination is worth it. In Aion, I was happy to grind to 25 to experience the Abyss. Except, once I got there it was a big, empty disappointment. I never ground out another level after seeing that my reward was an empty pinata. FFXIV is much more story driven than Aion, however, so progressing the narrative adds a lot of motivation. The problem is in how compelling they can make the story. They’ve done good in the past, so I’m reserving judgment. Still, I’m keeping my expectations here low. If I can play past level 20, I’ll consider my money well spent.

I’m still optimistic about the game; you won’t see me cancelling my pre-order. These are important considerations — especially the grind and group-centric nature of the game design — and have put the game into a more realistic light for me. As a rule, I take fansite articles with a grain of salt. This is one of the truest tests any MMO can face: pre-release buzz, does it help you or harm you? Right now, it’s still too early to say. Here’s hoping I get a key to see for myself.

PS: Does anyone else find it ironic that the “open beta” was open for less than 8 hours before they stopped letting people in? Server load, schmerver load. To most players, this simply looks like shoddy planning and a shoddier response. Square Enix absolutely cannot approach this game and its community the same way they approached FFXI. Times have changed and so have player’s expectations.

Update: Keys are now being released! I just grabbed mine. Get it while it’s hot!

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