I really like this series you're writing. I don't agree with all your points, but they're very good topics for discussion. I'm going to write my thoughts as I read them here.
Um, some of my quote tags don't appear to be working. Use your imagination.
Final Fantasy XI's combat is obtusely boring.
It's really not. Let me rephrase: it can
be, but it is generally not. Example: playing BRD when they don't let you pull: more boring than almost anything in gaming. Playing BRD when they do
let you pull: great fun.
There are subtle differences in the job you play, how you play it, and who you play it with that make the game either the most boring game around, or one of the most entertaining games around. People always say how much they like their static parties, but my god I hated mine. I got bored so fast. Same rotation every pull, no difficulties, nothing interesting happened. We use to meet once a week for 5 hours, and that was way, way
too much of that. But when I played my BRD or THF, doing the random party setup thing with random people, it was always an adventure. There was always something different about every party, and that made it fun. So for this point, I'll say: if you are playing the combat right, it can be very, very fun.
More importantly: if you thought the combat was so boring, why did you play it? I guess endgame or something? I dunno. That's a lot of time you still have to spend doing something you think is boring.
Paraphrase: less crabs, more manticores.
I agree in a sense. I don't mind fighting crabs, but I do wish you could tell a steelshell from bubbly bernie. But really, there has to be some overlap. There just can't be fifty million types of monsters, the developers would die of exhaustion. I do think they could tone down their usage of the crabs, but the way FFXI was made, they kind of needed a stock monster that could be used for EXP parties of many levels.
If you think you'd prefer to fight a manticore as opposed to a crab, I am not on your side. I don't need huge disgusting things to fight to keep me interested. For me, I know the Final Fantasy number=pain system so well that the fear of the damage a crab might do to me makes me much more scared of it than I am a manticore.
Given that the development team needs a limit on the amount of monsters they produce, I think it's necessary that they keep the ratio of normal looking monsters to ultra-badass looking ones about the same. If south gustaberg were covered in malboros instead of lizards, you cheapen the coolness of the malboro, and you also make the death rate of newbie players increase by 900%.
That said, I don't completely disagree here. Crabs don't need to be *************-where. They could mix it up, but there do need to be more crabs than there are wyverns.
Notorious Monsters (or 'Named Monsters', more generically',) should not just be a little larger than their standard counterparts. They should scare me so much you'd think I had lady parts. *
I'd agree to a point. Leaping Lizzy could really use some horns or like, bigger legs. You know, for leaping. I think they chalk this fault up to PS2 capabilities. If they had a different model for every NM, maybe the PS2 couldn't handle it. I don't really know, maybe it could and they were just lazy. But yes, NMs should look different. I don't really need them to all be scary looking, but they should at least look different from their placeholder. Different color, different features, whatever. Make emperor look like he's related to the other flies, but just cooler.
There isn't too much of Final Fantasy XI's combat that should be kept. The skillchain system, with improvement, could stand the test of time.
I'd keep a few things from FFXI's combat system. Mainly, the difficulty level. For all its faults, FFXI is hard, and there are real consequences for dying. Everybody whines about leveling down in FFXI, and really, that's one of the points I like most about it. When you die, it's truly a tragedy. Not only do you have to go back to your HP (assuming you don't have a raise coming) but you also lose EXP. It made the game feel a lot more like an adventure, that it was much more immersive. Certainly more immersive than any other MMO out there.
Secondly, I'll agree that the SC system could be kept in some fashion. I think it's important to make party members work together to achieve the greatest results. Of course you're already working together because you're in a party, but I want to see more of the Sneak attack-trick attack, more emphasis on skillchain magic burst. Really, I hope they change how the players work together. If they kept skillchains as they are, meh. Been there done that. Have you ever played crystal chronicles? How if you combined magic with a friend at the same time, you'd get a different effect? That was really cool. I'm just saying, there are other ways they could go about it, and have it still be great.
Two hours: I'd like to see them put in limit breaks in some fashion, like in the old games. They do need to make it so they are powerful, but also not usable all the time. Actually, there is a way they could make them usable pretty often, without being overpowered. For instance, you could have a gauge that fills slowly over a 2 hour period. You could use your limit break any time in that 2 hour period, but if you used it before the gauge was full, you wouldn't get the full effect. Maybe mighty strikes would only last a couple seconds, maybe perfect dodge wouldn't dodge every hit, hundred fists would only grant 5% haste, that kind of thing. And then when you used it, your gauge would reset to 0. They could have it fill in different ways like in FFX also. Like maybe if you were a tank type you could have it fill by amount of damage you take, or if you were a BRD you could have it fill by buffs you cast, THF could be number of hits you do, whatever. But I think they need the trademark limit break. They did an ok job with them in FFXI, but I think they could do better (wtf Mijin Gakure?)
I'm going to disagree with your statement that 3-4 is the magic number for party size. I think they got it pretty right with FFXI with 6. A party size of 3 lends itself more to staticing, and as I said before, staticing is so boring I could cry. Staticing is what makes FFXI boring for me (that and standing in jeuno flagged up, but that's another story). 6 is a good number, but they truly need a better way to find people to party with, and have more things to do while you're looking for a party. I could even see a situation where you could have sort of a dynamic party size. Where your party could grow and shrink basically as much as you wanted, and people could just enter and exit as they pleased (pending the party leader's approval for entry of course). But say someone has to leave, it doesn't need to be the end of the party. I got sick of "oh the WHM has to go, I guess that's it for us." I'd love to see an adventuring group of like 15 people, and they would just run around killing stuff and doing quests all day and night, where somebody would leave, maybe someone else would come in and take their place. Maybe late at night there would only be like 2 people out there. I don't know what kind of system would need to be implemented to make something like this work, but I think it would be really interesting. No maximum party members, no minimum. But more importantly, there would not be a penalty for not having the recommended number of people. I guess that lends itself to soloing, but I don't know. There are a lot of things they could do.
Combat needs to be turn based, but in today's world, it also needs to be fast-paced.
I wouldn't mind a turn-based battle system, but I think real time works better in an MMO. They'd have to do it just right.
Next, Characters need to interact on a combat-based level and there need to be real reward for this.
Your ideas in this section are interesting, but they will serve to make the player lose an amount of control of their character, or they will serve to make the player exploit those bonuses. If the tank gets an ATK bonus when the healer is at low HP, just leave the healer at low HP all the time. That kind of thing. I know that was just an example, so it's not really a big deal. If they put limitations on it, like say you could only get the buff once for every time the healer drops below 50%, or something like that.
On to Section 2:
These kinds of quests are okay, when given from random NPC's for small rewards; But a big, important, main quest needs to grab you at the very beginning and not let go.
Agreed. FFXI kind of took an odd approach with its story, and put its least interesting quests first. I can understand the logic here, being that "The story's progression should be analogous to your character's progression." This makes sense, but doesn't make for a good beginning of the story, and as I have said before
, the beginning of the story is one of the most important parts. There is no necessity to make boring storyline points. "Get a lizard egg for the president's aide so he can have a snack" does not belong in the main storyline. Sidequest? Sure. I went to find the cucco lady's chickens in Zelda, too. No reason I couldn't get the guy a lizard egg. But as part of the main storyline? No. No thank you. The main (unskippable) part of the story needs to be epic from start to finish, and there's no reason it shouldn't be.
Branching dialogue trees, seen in games like Mass Effect, go a long way toward customizable stories
No they don't. Branching dialogue trees are just a slap in the face. They say "we're not going to give you a truly customized storyline, but we'll try to make you think
we are." If my choice does not affect what happens at the end of the game (or at least the outcome of the cutscene, my god) don't even give me a choice.
You create a character. Along with physical traits (more on character creation in parts three and four of this series), you choose personality traits. Are you a more physical or mental person? Do you prefer cities or the great outdoors? Are you serious or silly? Disciplined or mischievous?
I would prefer that you don't simply input your character traits, but they could be decided via the story. At random points in the story, you could be asked a question, and your answer to that question might determine part of your trait in a certain area. Or, even better: you are given a task, and how you go about accomplishing that task determines part of the trait. Say, again, with the lizard egg thing. The aide asks you for the lizard egg, and there are several ways to acquire it. One, you can go kill lizards, two, you could maybe steal one from the house of somebody in town, or three, maybe um... buy it on the AH. Ok not the best example, but you see where I'm going with this. If you killed the lizard, you would gain points in a physical capacity, stealing would probably get you mental, and AH would maybe make you more serious? I don't know, but you get the point.
For example, if you chose "Mental", "Cities", and "Silly", you might start the game as an apprentice in a magic shop in a big city, with a boss who doesn't like you very much. This, of course, could lead you down the path of a Mage when your Adventure begins.
This seems at odds with your note that the story needs to grab you from the beginning and not let go. But it's just an example I guess, I get the picture.
Add in dialogue trees for all NPC's and you've got yourself a custom storyline, something that's never been done in an MMO. This is all "If X, then Y" simple stuff--but implemented much more often, and in the right places.
I wouldn't mind dialogue trees for just normal NPCs, but not on the main storyline. They're fine if you're just developing relationships with the NPCs around the town. But what of the MMO aspect of the game? Talking to NPCs is a fairly single-player aspect. Think about this. What if the NPC would say something different to you if someone on your friends list had already been to talk to them recently? Say I'm on your friends list, and I encounter an NPC that gives me a choice to be rude to them, and I take it. Then the next day, you happen to go talk to the same NPC, and they say to you, "Oh I know, you, you're friends with that Antime boy! We don't take kindly to your types around here." That kind of thing. Or if I was nice to him, he would be nicer to you. The end result in terms of item rewards from quests should probably be the same (you don't want to be paying for my mistakes) but it could add an extra element of community to the game.
Obviously, with all this storyline customization, players are going to have vastly different goals--if one player needs to kill enemy X, but another player doesn't have that mission, what's the draw in helping him?
EXP. Pure and simple. You help another player? You reap the benefits--what's more, you get to witness a part of their story. If that player reaches his goal, player 2 who helped him should get to see what unfolds when he arrives. Hear the dialogue, see the reactions, and maybe give his opinion to his new friend on what should be done next.
What if, upon seeing the path your friend is taking, it modifies your own path? Maybe you see that your friend is trying to rid the world of a great evil that you hadn't noticed, would you not alter your course to aid them?
Your thoughts on story are great, but I think they may be unrealistic in terms of what can actually be done. The level of customization you are implying seems impossible. I don't know, maybe it can be done. It would be cool if it was, I'll say that.
I'll add one note about story: I think FFXI didn't present its story very well. In the beginning, I didn't really care about the story, not because I thought it was bad, but because there was such a long time between each cutscene that I'd run across. It took me a long, long time to get to rank 6 from rank 5 the first time I did it, and by the time I got to the appropriate level and had the party together, I'd forgotten a lot of what was going on in the story. I think that's a point they need to work on, is reminding the player that they're in the story, and why they're leveling their job other than "to be super badass."
Onto part 3
I loved Valkurm Dunes. I don't know what everyone's problem is. When I first got there, I loved it. Loved every minute of it. Loved the exploration and the sense of danger, loved meeting new people. I remember I saw a 40 WHM and I was so amazed. I remember looking at people who had subjobs and thinking how cool they were. Loved. Valkurm. Dunes.
And subjobs? Scrap 'em. We can do better than that.
I thought the subjob system was actually quite interesting. But you're right, they should do something else. I'm just saying, subjobs were valid, and pretty cool.
Keeping the job system:
Yes, and also no. If you don't want to select a job from a list, the issue becomes: how are you going to change jobs? I could envision a system like FF7's materia where you equip different items to revamp your party role, but if you want to keep the "job" system (WHM, BLM, SMN, etc) things can't be that broad. A BLM has specific things that it can do, and specific things it can't do. A system like materia or junction is simply too
customizable to really have anything to do with the traditional job system.
That said, I don't think they need the job system in general. My favorite battle/stat management system was the junction system of FF8, where you could customize your stats and abilities based on your equipment (equipment in FF8 being GFs and magic, not gear). FFXIV could be customizable to the same degree, but with restrictions. This ties into what we were talking about earlier with character traits chosen via the storyline. If say your character had a high mental stat, you could more easily equip or learn something like Fire 3, but it would be more difficult for you to wield a Greataxe. As I have heard so far of FFXIV's battle system, they are implementing something like this, where the weapon you choose determines your stats. Or something like that.
Onto part 4
Monsters are rated against your level from easiest, "Too Weak", to most difficult, "Impossible to Gauge"
Just a quick note. So many people say this. "Impossible to Gauge" isn't the hardest monster, "Incredibly Tough" is the hardest monster. Impossible to Gauge is just that: impossible to gauge. Meaning you can't tell how hard it is. It could be too weak, it could be incredibly tough. You have no idea. Stray Mary is Impossible to Gauge, at lv 25. I can beat her. Nearby, I find Steelfleece Baldarich who also checks as Impossible to Gauge. I beat Stray Mary, so Steelfleece should be just the same difficulty.
[quote]Yes, you get to complete the storyline. Yes, you potentially get some cool items. Yes, you get a sweet-*** cutscene; but ******* it, you just fought and defeated the King of Dragons. And that doesn't count as "experience"?![/quote]
I absolutely agree with this, or at least, what you're implying here. Storyline landmarks need to yield similar results in your experience points. Fighting a crab should not give you more experience than fighting the shadow lord.
[quote]One reason World of Warcraft is so successful is because Blizzard was one of the first developers to hang up that thorny hat. WoW players are given experience points for every quest they complete. In Final Fantasy XI, when you die, you can lose three hours' worth of EXP. In WoW, you just have to go find your body and climb back into it. Death in WoW is a deterrent against shoddy playing, but it isn't a punishment.[/quote]
FFXI's design far surpasses that of World of Warcraft in almost every way. Outside of PvP and the economy, WoW has absolutely nothing on FFXI, and that includes death penalties. FFXI's death penalty is harsh. Yes, it is very harsh. Not only do you feasibly lose a half hour of travel time getting to wherever you are, you lose precious EXP. But that's what gives FFXI its sense of danger and adventure. WoW is very prominently a game
. FFXI strives less to be a game and more to be an immersive world. Does this make it almost unbearably hard? Yes, but that's what makes it great. It's partly the difficulty that makes it so much more immersive and interesting than WoW. WoW will always be the more successful game, because it caters to the whims of its fanbase. They simply give their players anything they want. Trainable Ice Block? Here you go! Cheapened leveling? No problem! Ulduar too hard? Why not nerf it?
I will tell you why not: because it cheapens the experience of the game, and pulls the player from a point of true immersion in the story and the game as a whole into a realm of complete disconnection from their motivation. If everything is easy, there is no point in playing. If you aren't afraid to die, there's no reason to avoid it. In FFXI, there is almost no circumstance where you say "It's fine I'll just die." But that happens all the time in WoW. If you die, no big deal. Doesn't even matter. Couple gold, quick run back to your body, and you're right back where you left off. There is no immersion in that, and no feeling of danger, anywhere in wow. In FFXI, it is almost an emotional event when your character dies because the consequences are so severe, but in WoW, it's just annoying. Dying once is barely a setback. Dying twice is is annoying. Die three times, and you are no longer having fun, and you are thinking "this game
is not fun." In FFXI, that's not how it is. You aren't even thinking about the fact that it is a game. You may be frustrated if you die three times, but each death is a learning experience. You don't hate the game. It's like dying to the Midgar Zolom in FFVII. You go into the fight the first time knowing you'll die, because you know you'll forget to put elemental-fire on your armor, or forget to be in the back row, or whatever. Generally, there is always some way you could have not died, and you learn from your mistake. In wow, you are free to make the same mistake over and over and over because you just don't care, you just begrudge the game's poor design and move on, seeking the next phat loot. It's superficial and pathetic. WoW has two aspects which are better than FFXI: the economy and the PvP. I call the economy better because RMT do not cripple normal players' fun, and I call PvP better simply because blizzard thinks about PvP. PvP in FFXI was an afterthought, and I have no problem with that, but WoW's pvp is still better.
[quote]Square Enix needs to toss the idea that they can't reward players with EXP for things like simple quests, storyline missions, finding treasure, raising a chocobo, even crafting an item. They don't have to be large amounts of experience points--but giving the player gameplay options is never a bad thing. As it stands, doing anything but grinding is a moral dilemma, since most other things don't net exp. For a level 10 player, they find themselves thinking, "Well, yeah, I'd like to try out synthesis...but I should probably level up first."[/quote]
On this point I'll agree. It can really detract from other aspects of the game when your only way of gaining "real" exp is to go grind. Now I'm not saying grinding is so terrible (if it's fun. I loved grinding on FFX, but hated it in XII), but there are so many aspects of the game that you don't get to experience until you've hit max level. I'm not sure what the solution to this is, because the FF formula is basically built around the EXP system, but gaining EXP from the storyline would be a start. Or, they could give leveling less of a weight in the game. What I mean by that is: make leveling just as difficult, but take less time. In older FF games, it was not uncommon to gain one level every couple fights, if you were fighting the right monster. Now, I'm not saying we need to gain a level that
often, but having closer goals would make things more fun, and less taxing overall. I played FFXI for a good 4 years, and I still didn't experience everything there was to experience, because I spent most of the time leveling. Now, I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the time I spent leveling, but I could have seen more of the game, and maybe even not lost interest in the game, had the leveling process been more analogous to one of the single-player FFs like VI or IX.
[quote]Also, the fanfare music when we level up! Everyone likes the fanfare.[/quote] Yes.
[quote]Give us fifty faces, a hundred hairstyles, twenty colors, tattoos, scars, eye patches, jewelery--there are literally dozens of character-appearance choices players could make that don't have to infringe on gameplay.[/quote]
I personally don't need all of this. My character was very distinguished, mostly by what I did, how I acted, and how I played. I wouldn't complain if they let us choose from a lot of different hairstyles and such, though. I just want my character to be something I want to look at, or at least, don't mind looking at. I could never play a tauren in WoW. They're just ugly. I don't want that to be my character. As long as the character looks okay, I don't mind being kind of limited on my customization options. You don't get to choose what you look like in real life. I suppose you also don't look exactly like some people in real life, and I guess that's your point, but it doesn't really matter. You can pick your character out of a lineup by the gear they're wearing, most times. But again, I wouldn't complain if they gave us a lot of choices.
[quote]When creating a character, let the player pick personality traits. Things they love. Things they hate. Weather they find pleasant. Whether they're outgoing or reserved, clumsy or precise, curious or content. Fears. This could be done via questionnaire, sliders bars, or random select for the impatient.[/quote]
Again, I think this would be more interesting if it were implemented via extracting information about your character from choices you make in the game, rather than simply saying "I'm scared of spiders" at the beginning. Say you get killed by lots of spiders, maybe your character starts becoming afraid of spiders. What this would mean from a combat perspective, I don't know, but you get the point.
[quote]We, as players, want to be thrust into an experience. Your first day on the job, a huge rat might break into the basement. Your boss hands you a big kitchen knife and tells you to go kill it. If you do, you get some exp for killing it--and then a few more for completing your duties.[/quote]
This may just be an example, but it should be noted: this is boring. I do not want to do this. I can kill a rat with a knife in real life. There is no reason to start the player out with something so simple, no reason to start off as a lowly worker. I agree that the player wants to be thrust into an experience, but the example you're describing sounds less like jumping headfirst into a cold lake and more like an old man easing slowly into a warm bath. There is no reason that your first mission can't be to protect the city against invading yagudo. You could be dropped into the world in the heat of battle, and have some NPCs asking you what you want them to do. I'm just saying, you don't have to start out doing menial tasks. An epic game can be epic right from the beginning. This is a mistake a lot of games make. It is important to teach beginners how to play, but that doesn't mean they have to be bored out of their mind while learning. It's the difference between Kingdom Hearts 2 and Final Fantasy VII. FF7's beginning is my idea of being thrust into the game, KH2 is one where you're eased in, and you're bored the whole time. I don't remember enough about KH2 to go into more detail than that, but let's just say I remember being very bored.
[quote]In Final Fantasy XIV, what if you got EXP depending not just completing a mission or quest, but a range of exp, based on performance? If you win, but just barely, maybe you get 75 exp. If you kick the **** out of it in record time, maybe you get 100. If you lose, maybe you still get 10.[/quote]
Yes, this sounds good, but it would have to give you exp also relative to your current stats. If you're currently level 50 and turn in the lizard egg in 12 seconds flat, you shouldn't get 9001 exp. The fact that you're level 50 should offset the fact that you did so well on the mission.
[quote]Say you're at level 10 in 'alchemy'. Craft a level 1 item, you get 1 exp. Level 2, 2 exp. Level 3...? 3 exp. Crafting at your own level gets you double the exp of that level--so a level 10 item would get you 20 exp. It isn't much, but it's satisfactory on a basic level. That while a player focus on one thing, the experiences therein are still benefiting his character.[/quote]
I actually don't mind the separation of job and craft. I think that the things you craft should be useful to your job in some way, but that you shouldn't really get exp for your job while leveling your craft. You say things should make sense. If I take a class in painting, I don't also learn fencing.
[quote]If your character did completed a quest for an NPC, and that NPC pops up from time to time in the pub, he buys your character a drink if your character is present--and other players witness this.[/quote]
The problem with that is that there are so many people doing the same quests that he'd be buying a lot of drinks. He'd never want to go to the pub, because he'd spend all his money on buying drinks for the people who had helped him. It could maybe happen to an extent, though. Maybe if you did the quest, and then waited a long time, went to the pub and saw the NPC, he would greet you as an old friend.
[quote]When you created your character, maybe it came to light that he had a fear of snakes. Fight snakes, and maybe he misses a lot. Fight enough of them, and maybe he conquers his fear and gains an accuracy bonus against them.[/quote]
Not a bad idea. Again, I think the "input fear here:" thing is lame, but having fears would be fine. Maybe you die to lizards a lot of times and develop the fear, and the accuracy loss vs. lizards, but then overcome your fear and become even more powerful against them for having been afraid. Also: Sheep beat lizards. If you were afraid of lizards, maybe you could go fight sheep and eventually understand how the sheep fights, and thus be able to beat lizards. Just a possibility.
Finally part 5
[quote]And another thing! The same NPCs are standing in the same places, 24/7[/quote]
What I wouldn't give to have Zelda-style NPC events. Different shops open at night, different NPCs around, different quests to do. NPCs that move around from place to place like they actually have lives. I'm reminded of Majora's Mask. While not as amazing as ocarina of time, it was truly great, and all the NPCs had true character. They all had lives and personalities. I would love to see that in FFXIV.
[quote]Also, I know you two are close, but...zones need to go. Zones were really cool back in the day. We didn't mind because they made playing technologically feasible. But today, zones are tired...and they make you look old, too. No more borders, okay?[/quote]
At this point it's more of a stylistic trademark than an oversight. I don't mind zones. Elements of the game you describe as wanting remind me more and more of WoW, and the last thing I want is a wow clone here.
[quote]Honestly, I'm reticent to say more about that--if I have faith that you'll change one thing for the better, it's your graphics.[/quote]
This is one of the absolute last points I would fault FFXI for. The size of the world, the intricacies of the characters and NPCs, weather effects, all were top of the line for the PS2, especially when FFXI was released.
Furthermore, graphics are not just about polygons and texture resolution. They are about style, and the graphical style of FFXI is top notch. It is a cohesive world, and it all looks as if it was real for that world. Nothing looks out of place, nothing looks sterile. You are not going to sit there and tell me that this
looks bad. Even the screenshot you posted doesn't look bad, especially considering the capabilities of the PS2. You've got the depth map shadow on the ground from the chocobo, mountains of various shapes and sizes in the background. And don't even talk to me about the spell effects. The spell effects of FFXI are great, especially compared to warcraft (which seems to be the new standard for comparison). WoW's spell effects, character designs, environments, and overall style have absolutely nothing on FFXI. Nothing.
That said, I think they'll be increasing the technical quality of the graphics for FFXIV, so the polygon counters can still be happy.
As a whole, I think the FFXI world is well done. There is quite an overuse of those bone looking structures, but whatever. It still was a very fun and immersive world.