Square Enix has been regularly presenting us with tidbits of their grand plans for revitalizing FFXIV on a weekly basis. These morsels of information have been feeling high on gristle low on meat to me for the last few weeks. As such, I thought I would put forth a more general question for discussion while we wait for them to toss us the real meat.
I have been contemplating the amount of customization offered by the Armory system and I have found myself wondering, neither in the positive nor the negative, whether absolute customization is really a good thing from a development perspective. There are two extremes you can examine for contrast. On one end, there are games like FFVI, in which characters have abilities that they learn at various levels and, with small exception, nothing you do is going to change that. On the other end of the spectrum, FFX allows near complete customization with no real levels. Each character is what you make of it, for better or worse.
The question I put forward is this: given that FFXIV already swings heavily toward FFX, from a general perspective, do people even embrace a game in which you could learn every skill and customize a character from the whole pool of abilities, rather than one in which you gain abilities over time through levels? Or perhaps a better question would, where is the balance? At what point are you giving players too much freedom, and at one point are you taking too much away? There are a lot of points to consider. For instance, in a system such as that, would the satisfaction of learning a new ability hold the same draw as the classic ding? Would the desire to find the ultimate combination of skills out-weight the human need to conform to established templates? Would the complete lack of templates discourage people from even trying to develop common trends?
Even in FFXIV there are basic templates that you build off of, limits that guide players into various corridors of ability sets. Would it be better or worse, if there were a game with no such limits/guides?