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FFXIV is Meant For Consoles; a Suggestion for ALL Players

My wife says I'd look like this guy if I was an elf kid. I look like anime?

The more I play through the FFXIV open beta, the more apparent it is that the game is really meant to be a console experience. Everything about it just screams “port.” From the menu design, to the seeming expectation for players to only hop in for an hour or so a day, FFXIV is the console MMO we always said we wanted. To the average console player, virginal in their expectations and prejudiced against the typical MMO timesink stereotypes, the game probably seems pretty cool; a bridge between single player and MMO gaming. I’m very much left with the impression that Square wants this to be the Final Fantasy fan’s introduction to the world of MMOs.

The problem, of course, is that we’re all veteran players and have all of the expectations that comes with that. We want controls that we’re familiar with and we want them optimized for the keyboard/mouse before anything else. We want the freedom to throw ourselves at it for as long as we’re willing, and we want the stream of rewards WoW made famous.

That’s just not this game. Honestly, I don’t think FFXIV is the MMO for MMO fans. This is more akin to a persistent world version of Final Fantasy 8. Heck, running around through Limsa Lominsa, you could be forgiven for look for Balamb Garden over the next rise.

With that in mind, I decided to plug in an after-market PS3 controller I bought from Gamestop (used) for $15. It was a breeze to set up in the configuration utility and WOW, what a game changer. Interacting with the game goes from being obtuse to simplistic and natural. Seriously, if you’ve ever played a console game, you can get the hang of playing FFXIV in seconds. Not using the mouse cursor also gets rid of any perceived UI sluggishness, which supports that it was never the UI to begin with: it was the game cursor.

As I played, I started to notice that my perceptions about the game started changing too. The simple act of using a PS3 controller made me feel like I was sitting in front of a TV instead of desktop. Combat no longer seemed sluggish, but more in keeping with the PSone era Final Fantasy titles. I started multi-tasking and exploring menus while I was running around. Interacting with everything was so much smoother that I explored the city and talked to the citizenry for the fun of it, not because I had to. In short, FFXIV changed from an MMO into an online console game. The difference is subtle on the surface but the difference it can make in your outlook is tremendous. Not to mention, removing the layer of crap that is the keyboard/mouse control scheme just makes the game more fun, plain and simple.

Is that Balamb Garden I see out there?

So, instead of looking at this as the “Final Fantasy version of Aion/WoW/LotRO/Etc.,” try looking at it like an online version of your favorite entry in the series. If you’d asked me ten years ago how I felt about having to grind XP in FF8, you wouldn’t have heard a complaint. That was what you had to do to advance the story and get to more bits of awesome gameplay. That is the exact same thing FFXIV is asking you to do, only they’re giving you more choices in how you play and a massive world in which to do it.

Don’t believe people when they say this game is no fun. It is. If you look at the complaints, they’re almost universally based in comparisons to other MMOs. It doesn’t hold up and it’s no wonder people feel let down in that way. And, you know, I don’t blame them. Why shouldn’t they compare it to WoW or any of the other myriad titles? It IS an MMO after all. But, when you break from that mold and take FFXIV for what it is — an online console game — the differences are much more acceptable. It may not be that MMO outlet you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game in its own right.

The suggestion: Most importantly, and no matter what else you do, pick up a game pad before you play. It will change the way you play and, if you’re like me, how you look at the game. Maybe it’s bad that you need something like this to enjoy the game to its fullest but it is what it is. Get it and save yourself the frustration.

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  1. Victor Stillwater

    Question from me as a potential future buyer (if circumstances change): How do I set up a PS3 game controller to receive FFXIV input? Will the regular PS3 controller suit my purposes for this on the PC?

    1. Chris

      I’m glad you asked because I actually JUST tried this. By default, the PS3 controller won’t work with the PC. There’s a homebrew driver you can get, but it looks like it only works for about half the people. Xbox controllers work just by plugging them in. I’m just using a used gamestop PS3 controller I bought for $15. It works fine and was recognized immediately.

      Tramell is right, though. You just go into the configuration utility and select gamepad setup. From there, you can program it however you want. Here’s the suggested template.

      Once you get used to the controller, the menus and interaction become second nature. Really, the menu system is only a variation of the same kind of thing that’s been in every FF game forever.

      1. Victor Stillwater

        Thanks Chris. Honestly, FFXIV is quickly losing its steam in my mind. I want to play it, but I’m really hesitant to jump through a ton of hoops just to do so.

  2. Tramell Hawkins

    @Victor – I haven’t tried a regular PS3 controller on it but I do use a Xbox360 controller. TO set it up going into the Beta Config menu outside the game and choose the gamepad option and you set up everything from there.

    I wholeheartedly agree Chris coming from playing FFXI with a controller it was a no brainer to use it in 14. i kinda have to resist facepalming when people complain about the game and I ask them what input their using and they say keyboard and mouse. Anyhoo, yes, use a controller

    1. Chris

      Yeah, it’s amazing the difference using a controller can make. It becomes like second nature pretty quick.

  3. Syl

    While that is true, I still cannot but marvel at SE’s logic behind this – do they simply not care about PC gamers as an audience for this or do they actually believe everyyone has a gamepad around nowadays? when they presented FF14 with a keyboard at gamescom some weeks ago, I was taking this as a sign that they intend the game to be played with keyboard and mouse, but oh how wrong I was!

  4. Andrew

    Honestly, I don’t think FFXIV is the MMO for MMO fans.

    You just made my night. I’m so sick and tired of “normal MMOs” and I love the Final Fantasy series. I’ve been avoiding the open beta because I want to play on the console, and have no desire to corrupt my experiences with a potentially flawed PC version.

    Also, if you’re right about supporting breezy ~1 hour sessions then this might be the first MMO I’ve really played in a year.

    Thanks!

  5. KalibreOnline -Games, Life and Ent

    I followed your advice on the controller. MAN WHAT A DIFFERENCE! @Andrew: You should try it on the PC but following Chris’ suggestion regarding the gpad. I tried the PS3 controller but it didn’t work for me. Instead of looking for drivers I just plugged my Xbox 360 pad.

    The damn mouse cursor is just horrendous.

  6. Akasha82

    So, instead of looking at this as the “Final Fantasy version of Aion/WoW/LotRO/Etc.,” try looking at it like an online version of your favorite entry in the series.

    I do agree with that. Final Fantasy isn’t just an ordinary series. Any game is created to be unique so we don’t have to compare FFXIV to the other MMOs we’ve been playing. With regards to the control keys anything can be learn in due time.

  7. Kyle

    I have to admit that this is a welcome new perspective, and if it helps p ut things in context for all the naysayers, then I’m glad the piece was published, although at the same time I think to swing the phrase that “FFXIV isnt the MMO for MMO fans”. I acknowledge that you recognize this as a console port, but this game is designed to be on a console, I never even picked up FF11 until it came out on the Xbox, since i was never big into online for the PS2 I would have never fathomed picking it up for that system. All Final Fantasy games are designed to be used with a controller, that is just the iconic tool for playing any final fantasy game. To suggest that this game is some bridge between the two is an interesting concept, but this game is still in a rather early stage of development, and already the depth of a lot of areas are daunting to anyone who is first stepping into an MMO. even a large number of players from wow, (which could be considered the simplest MMO available right now) who have a leg up over console gamers in the massively online environment are struggling to find their way around this game. In the end what I believe this game will end up being is a respectable mirror of FFXI in regards to success. Over the beginning months, the game will see the first wave of people that don’t understand the game drop off, and then over time people may move on to other ventures, and in the end, the game will be considered a success by SE for holding 200-400k subscribers that comprise a close knit MMO community.

    I just thought that while we’re throwing interpretations of what this game is trying to accomplish in the hat, that I would make a contribution

    All in all a well thought out article and a nice read, thanks for something interesting as the last couple days have been dull in the communities

  8. Tridus

    The gamepad helps make the gameplay less horrific, but the patcher is still terrible and it’s still really crash prone. And that 48 hour retry wait when you fail due to a crash? That has to be the single dumbest design decision in an ONLINE game ever. Seriously, do these people not know that connections can drop?

    As a PC game this is simply bad.

    1. Chris

      If what they say is true, the last couple of patches should have fixed both problems. I agree though, that patcher was horrible. Worst I’ve ever used. I wound up getting mine through other player’s files on MegaUpload.

  9. Vidrak

    I don’t know what it is, but I think FFXIV is one of the worst “MMO’s” I have ever played. I do want to pick up a controller, or get my PS3 controller working on it to see how it plays, as I am sure it is better. But the game itself just simply isn’t ready for release.

    I have played for around 3-4 hours so far. I felt like I given it a decent chance, and plan to play it more tonight and the rest of this week (maybe more). But honestly, thinking this game is good, by any stretch of the imagination is laughable at best.

    Despite how the game feels like a console port, which is basically is, there are tons of other problems with it. My computer is basically brand new and the game has framerate problems (as in dropping below 30FPS). Be it at low settings, or even the highest, it is bad in all of them.

    Then you have the non-hardware mouse cursor, that lags out with the crappy FPS in game. Making for a basically unbearable experience trying to navigate menus. This again has to do with the controller/mouse debate, but lets face it. Don’t release a game on PC that has such a horrible UI design that you have to use a controller. Make it a console launch.

    Throwing all “crappy PC” port problems out the window entirely, the game still has major issues. You can only get 8 quests every 2 hours or more? What the hell, are you serious? It is riddled with graphical glitches (despite looking great) and misspelled words in most every conversation with NPC’s. Being a game requiring lots of patience, it does a terrible job giving you any kind of tutorial or guidance to figure out what to do, or how to level up, or how the game mechanics even work. There is horrible, horrible lag (for me at least). I am not sure if is from the mouse/input lag, FPS, or the server; my guess is a bundle of all 3.

    Then there is the stupid asian MMO design of making movement non-fluid and completely craptastic. Do I really have to stop moving to pull my weapons out or put them away? Do I really have to put my weapons away before I can sit and rest? Is there a fucking point to making trivial tasks such a huge waste of time and require multiple button presses and even navigating through menus?

    I mean really, what is good about this game besides the graphics? Even compared to EQ, this game is horrible, just like 11. I can’t say any part of it is intuitive, informative, or anything but frustrating.

    Being a game designed, supposedly, after games like WoW, Warhammer Online, and others … SE has totally missed the mark. Everything feels so robotic, and painful to control, I don’t see how you could find it engaging or fun in the slightest. Aion suffered from some of the same robotic animations/long un-fluid pauses for no reason, but at least the combat was smooth and the game ran amazingly.

    I don’t see how FFXIV can release in less than 3 weeks and expect to succeed in any way. Serious optimization, PC port work and general fluidness/UI work needs to be done. I highly doubt I would buy this game for the PC, as it doesn’t live up to the expectations that ANY PC game should. The author calls it a “console MMO”, which is exactly what I think. Consoles are a dumbed down, simplistic form of gaming, at least when it comes to more complex games, like MMO’s. FFXIV fits that bill exactly. Real MMO’s are designed for the PC, not consoles, and FFXIV just doesn’t live up to the hype, or anything from a person that has touched an MMO on a PC.

    1. Chris

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a fleshed out comment, Vidrak.

      I won’t say any of your criticisms are necessarily off base. That being said, a lot of it is a matter of personal taste. I agree with many of thing points you’ve brought up: having to stop to take our your weapon, performance, and so on. Honestly, I’d like to see more things to do apart from leves, but the 48-hour timer needs to stay unless they’re going to rebalance the leveling progression. There’s a serious lack of quests, which is a big change from 11, so I’m hoping that comes down the line.

      I think your question of point is a good one and the answer probably explains why it’s so different. The point of most modern MMOs, in my opinion, is to get to the end-game via quests/dungeons/pvp (depending on game, of course) to engage in other similar activities there. The main activity is combat, so you could argue that fighting takes precedence over narrative. The point of FFXIV, on the other hand, is to experience a story by partaking in other activities. That sounds very similar, but I think the difference is in the decreased emphasis on combat. Even though we’ll spend a lot of time doing that, I doubt many people would consider it as intrinsic to the core game experience as the narrative. As a result, you have a game that’s designed in a much more limited, console-esque capacity; a game much more in keeping with FFVII, VII, and IX rather than WoW, Aion, or LotRO.

      I’m with you in that I don’t think the game will be ready for release in three weeks. I also think that they could have done a better job prepping people for what to expect when they got in, as well as optimizing the keyboard system. Those two things may have shot them in the foot with a big portion of their potential audience. Still, taken for what it is (see explanations in the blog), I don’t think it’s bad. It’s not WoW, but I find that change of pace very refreshing. While FFXIV meets all the criteria of the MMORPG acronym, I don’t think it really fits in the same category as most other games we think of when we hear that term.

      Keep an eye on it, though. I totally respect your criticisms and choice to not play it on release. Square tends to release patches and new content at a decent pace. A few months after release, you might find the game in a very different place.

      Hope to see you again!

  10. Drew

    Great article; as someone who cut his teeth in the MMO world as a PS2 player of FFXI, I cannot wait to get FFXIV up and running. I loved playing it on a controller/keyboard combo there, and I’ll have no qualms about doing so on a PC.

    So. Excited. :)

  11. Tom

    OK, I’m just wondering, is there any chat system in this game? I’m not too concerned if there isn’t, but if there is I was also wondering how you could do it while using the PS3 controller. Thanks.

    1. Chris

      Hey Tom, thanks for stopping by!

      There is a chat system but there’s no easy way to use it if you’re going to controller route. It’s like you would think: set the controller down, type, pick it up again, repeat. The game tries to compensate for this by giving you some pre-formatted responses that you can select with the controller though. It’s the same system they use to get around the language barrier between countries. It’s not perfect but it helps in a pinch. I’m can’t say for sure if it’s related or not, but the game definitely seems quieter than other MMOs I’ve played. With most people using controllers and ventrilo, I can see chat not being used as much.

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