My apologies in advance, as this is an altered/expanded post that I made on a different, dying thread. It is also a wall of text that you are not obligated to read. That being said, I welcome comments on my observations, but especially counterpoints. It seems that the forums have been generally more entertaining to me than playing the game itself.
I'd like to address something that has been bandied about in other threads from time to time, which is, why do some people continue to play a game past the point where the game stopped being fun, especially as it applies to this game. Please do not misinterpret this to mean that I am under the assumption that no one finds FFXIV fun, therefore those still playing must be using some bad excuse to continue. I am merely exploring the phenomena which affects every MMO: the sinking realization that the game has run its course, and not as fun as it first was. Regrettably, this point has hit very early for a good portion of FFXIV players. I began to ask myself, why is it that the classic reasons that people stick with an MMO are failing to apply with this game, and why so early? My conclusion is that this game does its best to ***** up every single one of them, and even some of us that are prone to carrying on are second-guessing ourselves.
The first reason people stick around an MMO long past the point that it remains fun is in the relationships that you forge with other players. It has been pointed out long, long ago that at its core, MMOs are glorified chatrooms. The funny thing here is, this aspect of keeping your player base is so very hard to ***** up, yet Square-Enix came very close to doing it. You can't chat well while fighting. You can't chat well while crafting. Even basic commands like replying to a tell were botched at release. Party and Shell functions are half-baked and non-intuitive. Interpersonal relationships in an MMO are so important to an MMO's enjoyment, and in fact, could arguably be the most addictive factor to MMOs in general. How it could be handled so incompetently by a veteran team of game designers, I can't even fathom.
The second reason people may stick around is through brand loyalty. Square and Enix both have given many people, including myself, great enjoyment for decades. I'm the type of person who likes to reward companies for taking care of their customers, a sentiment that goes well beyond gaming. Unfortunately, Square-Enix squandered this, as well. On an anti-FFXIV video I saw on on Youtube, someone suggested through a comment that Squeenix should actively ask for feedback from the player base and actually have a form in-game to provide suggestions. They did, I responded, it was called Beta testing. Outwardly they thanked the testers for the constructive criticism, but actions speak louder than words, and they clearly dismissed the vast majority of it. You could smell the hubris all the way from Tokyo.
It was like watching an impending car wreck on an icy road where there's a few hundred feet until the collision. XII and XIII was met with some skepticism and head-shaking by some with questions regarding the company's direction, to be sure, but some of us appreciated those titles even if they weren't our favorites. Conversely, XIV was met with resounding and widespread derision (or *ahem* silence). I for one don't look at the Square-Enix brand like I used to. I feel like I got burned badly purchasing this one, and this will affect my decisions to buy their products going forward.
The third reason people stick around is the ol' carrot in front of the horse/donkey trick. The carrots in MMOs and action-RPG games alike are new abilities, new equipment, and unlocking new challenges. Square drops the ball here, too. There is no carrot for equipment whatsoever. There's very little in the way of unique drops to hunt, and as for the crafted stuff which is close to 100% of what's available to us at the moment, you can wear anything at all at level one. Sure it breaks more quickly and generally isn't as effective, but that's completely inconsequential. It still kills your incentive to level up as far as equipment goes.
As far as unlocking new content... well what new content is there. One storyline that you continue every five or ten levels. More quests that open once you grind twenty levels in your job that don't feel epic at all - like the Pugilist quest where instead of using your martial arts skills you play door-to-door bill collector and pick up after some douchebag that tosses his money all over the floor and has you retrieve it like the lapdog that you are. Even getting killed by a fricking deer sneezing on me felt more heroic than that.
All of this is indicative to why people are having to dig so deep to find reasons to stay, why there have been so many posters who are turning on each other over a new game, and why piling on is breeding more piling on. My answer is that you shouldn't blame each other. You can just thank Square.
I'm trying to stick around, to make the best of it, to get my two month's worth. But I feel like I'm trying to stick to a wall that's greased with Crisco, buffeted by hurricane winds, and defended by the Kaboom! guy dropping bombs from above. Square-Enix needs to go back and review why MMOs got popular in the first place, rather than trying to shoehorn in ideas just because they're different.
Edited-in tl;dr version: MMOs are addictive for established reasons, and Square overlooked them while trying to be original.
Edited, Oct 29th 2010 11:54am by Shassa