Hello everyone! Yoshi-P here, back for my twentieth letter.
How’d you like the live producer letter last week? People watching in some regions (such as Germany) or on smartphones seemed to have a bit of trouble. To all of you who took the time to tune in outside of Japan, I apologize for the lack of subtitles and real-time interpretation, but I hope that the Twitter updates kept you as up-to-date as possible. We’ll be taking all of the feedback we received into account when planning for the second installment of the live letter.
I have to say it was a first for me—to have my face beamed around the word, speaking to the players in real time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. We’re planning to do a follow-up to the live producer letter sometime around late October or early November, so keep an eye out for future announcements!
How are you liking 1.19 and all the changes it brought to Eorzea? There are some things we’ve found to be still a bit unbalanced, so we’ve put some tweaks in 1.19a, and have further adjustments planned. We’re looking forward to your feedback!
And then there’s the Bowl of Embers hard mode. Man, you guys don’t waste any time, do you? There’s word of it being cleared all over the Lodestone forums and on blogs. It looks like Ifrit went down on October 8, 2011 at 11:58:33 (JST). Congratulations to the heroes on Gysahl for their world first kill!
You’ve certainly earned the respect of all the devs here. Can’t wait to see how you guys tackle the new primal content coming in 1.20...
We really made a lot of ground with this last patch. Not only did it have a bunch of new content, but it also altered many of the game’s in-world rules. It was the first big step for all of us here towards the new FINAL FANTASY XIV that we have envisioned.
Of course, with so many changes to the game’s rules and style, there’s unavoidably going to be mixed opinions among players—some people who like this and hate that and vice versa. I think the intent behind changes is the important thing, which is why I’m going to keep the lines of communication open with all of you via these letters, the forums, and media interviews.
In this letter, which marks a turning point for FFXIV, I would like to talk about beyond 1.19—about the future direction of the game and the policies I have in place. (It’s gonna be a long one, so please look it over when you have the time!)
Current MMORPG Themes
FFXIV is an MMORPG. And it’s an MMORPG released globally not at the genre’s infancy, but during its adolescence.
There are a ton of other MMORPGs out there bearing comparison, from veteran titles that have seen their peak to fresh new titles just beginning service.
I believe that as a major MMORPG title, rather than as a FINAL FANTASY title, FFXIV needs to be three things—global, widely accommodating, and secure.
MMORPG = Theme Park
I often say that MMORPGs are like theme parks. Theme parks have any number of different attractions—merry-go-rounds, go-karts, Ferris wheels (including those with the crazy see-through gondolas), roller coasters, drop towers, haunted houses. I’m always amazed by the professionalism of the cast of people working at theme parks. They cater to visitors of all ages, visitors with all kinds of expectations and desires, in all sorts of situations; visitors who have all come to enjoy themselves in this “world” that has been created.
Stretching this metaphor a bit further, if MMORPGs are theme parks, then first-generation MMORPGs are some of the most sensationally themed theme parks out there. I mean, you had to put together a balanced party and meet up to play for ridiculously long periods of time. Dungeons with absurdly high levels of difficulty and insane penalties for dying, like losing two week’s worth of EXP from one wipe... And on top of all that, maybe you’d drop all your weapons and armor wherever you died, and have to run back naked to get them. EXP took a backseat then, didn’t it? You’d take a look at the clock and see that it was somehow already five a.m., but there was no way you were going to get a wink of sleep until you get your gear back, and you knew it.
“Alright, throw on your backup gear and meet up in thirty minutes!” I can still hear my leader trying to keep the run together, though that almost always ended in a second wipe. And then? Well, then your eyes were too blurred by the tears to keep playing. It was enough to make me scream more than any theme park ride I’ve ever been on, that’s for sure.
I pulled my fair share of all-nighters, and slacked off work the next day (sorry ‘bout that, boss!). But I could stay up all night all over again just talking about those days, they were that much fun.
But the lifestyles, preferences, and balances struck between private life and work are much more varied for today’s player than they were back then.
The entertainment industry has expanded enormously into the spans of time not spent playing games while at home or commuting, and our competitors are no longer limited to just the games of other companies.
You’ll never hear me say there’s anything wrong with devoting your life to playing games. That’s what I do, after all. But if you keep doing the same thing, it’s easy to burn out, and there are people who can’t keep up. That’s why I think that in the world of the modern MMORPG, which should be everything like a theme park, diverse rides, facilities, and specs are an absolute necessity.
Less Black and White, More Grey
To take an example, there were discussions both before and after the release of patch 1.19 on the requirements for equipping items.
One side was represented by the current in-game spec—that gear can be equipped by anyone, but there are optimal classes and levels for getting the most out of the stats.
The upside to this is anyone can equip anything, allowing them to give their character any appearance they want. The downside is you’ll be gimped if you gear outside your class and level.
The other side to the discussion is what we’ll be adding from here on out in future patches—gear with specific class, job, and level requirements.
The upside to this is stronger, more specialized stats, and clearer objectives for players seeking to gear up. This way is also easier to balance from a dev perspective, and allows the freedom to create unique designs for classes and jobs. The downside is you can’t tailor your character’s appearance to look however you want.
I think it’s good to have both. It’s a bit of a gray area, no? There are supporters for both sides, each of which have pros and cons. So I’m good with having both.
This makes it easier in the early and mid levels to gear up, allowing you to equip whatever you pick up. It also means more ways to deck out your character. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having optimal class and level conditions for say, the basic items made by crafters, even at level 50. And now, by affixing materia, you can customize the gear you like with the stats you need.
But when we start talking about powerful items tailored to a certain class, tough-to-get items won only after a series of hard-fought challenges, items that are objects of pride for a particular class or job—those are the items I plan to put strict conditions on.
Pimp gear for walking around town, gear for doing light party content, gear for doing full party content—I want you to have the freedom of choice for all of your gear, and I hope you’ll all go after the items you want based on your own style of play. I think that’s the way it should be. It’s not a binary yes-or-no argument, but a matter of choices and degrees. We’ve received a ton of feedback on 1.19, and are doing our best to address it. If you feel something’s missing, or that things are too one-sided, I hope you’ll continue to let us know!
Matching Casual and Heavy Players
Online games have a hierarchy to them, or at least that’s what I like to call it. It’s often described using a pyramid, the width of the pyramid being representative of the number of players. At the peak are the hard-cores—the minority of players who completely immerse themselves in the game, playing day and night and often forgetting their biological imperatives. As you work your way down the pyramid, players become increasingly casual. It bears mentioning that this model illustrates the quantity of players only, not quality.
In the first generation of MMORPGs, the pyramids were skinny and tall. In the current generation, while I think the peak should still stay way up there, the slopes projecting down from it should be less extreme. What I want to make is a theme park where both casuals and hard-cores can exist and play together. That’s the minimum requirement I think a modern MMORPG should fulfill.
I hope you heavy gamers out there will hurry to clear the game’s latest contents. I hope you beat Ifrit before anyone else and get those new weapons. I hope other players will see you and want to do the same. I hope you try and clear the beastman strongholds with less than the maximum number of players. And I hope you post on the forums about all your accomplishments.
I hope you more casual players will enjoy traveling around Eorzea by chocobo and airship with your in-game and real-life friends while working your way up to end-game content like the Ifrit fight. By then, the battle strats will be worked out, and you’ll be able to fight at your own pace. There’s no need to rush. Both play styles have their place. Should the need arise, we’ll look into adjusting the level of difficulty, or introducing a system that lets you set it yourself.
For any given content, the difference in the amount of time players need to figure it out and get the loot will unavoidably vary.
Hard-core gamers are hard-core gamers because they are always leading the charge. Following close behind their trailblazing are the “mid-cores.” And then there’s the casual gamers making progress at their own pace.
To realize the ideal we have in place, we need a powerful matching system capable of connecting all of these players, whatever their rates of progression might be. We plan to study what other MMORPGs have achieved here, and make it one of our main tasks as we move forward, together with add-ons and the UI.
Speaking of the UI, we are well aware that there are still difficulties with the mouse/keyboard interface. I’m a mouse/keyboard man myself, so believe me when I say I plan to continue making both little and big improvements with global standards in mind.
The ideal we’ve put in place may be a bit up there, but we have every intention of achieving it, and will do everything in our power to do so.
The FINAL FANTASY Feel
Like I said above, the majority of changes and additions made to FFXIV from here on out won’t be so black-and-white, yes-or-no, all-or-nothing in nature, as we’ve already taken care of a lot of the stuff that was. Content specs will depend on who that content is intended for, such as casual or heavy users. Maybe it’s best to think that there will be both black and white, but in different proportions in different areas of the game, resulting in varying shades of gray...if that makes any sense.
Take materia, for example. When affixing the first materia to a piece of gear, the chance of success is 100%. There are seven gear slots in total that can hold materia (though this varies a bit between classes), which is enough for some serious buffing. This is the casual peak that anyone is assured to get to if they put in enough time.
Trying to affix more materia to the same piece of gear is where it gets risky. That next “peak” is a new goal to strive for. This is something that we’ve added with hard-core players in mind. Failing an attempt at affixing any piece of material beyond the first results in a loss of all involved items—catalyst, materia, and gear. As far as peaks go, it’s a spiky and treacherous one, but I settled on the specs myself. Think of it as a challenge being issued to hard-core players. I wonder how the odds will work out... Let me know what you think!
Patch 1.19 had a broad range of new additions and adjustments. I wanted to convey to all of you the intent behind everything as much as possible, but I think there are some areas where this would be difficult, and others where it would just not be possible. (One of those reasons being that not everyone wants to read producer letters this long every post… ^^; )
But we’re pouring our hearts and souls into every system and spec, getting into heated debates about what needs to be done to release them, writing up all the settings, creating the characters, continuing the storylines, and then finally bringing it all to Eorzea. There are time constraints, but rest assured nothing will be given anything less than our full attention.
But we’re only human, so we’re bound to make mistakes from time to time. When we do, we’ll do everything we can to make it better based on your feedback, with pride in our roles as this theme park’s creators and caretakers.
By doing this, obvious yet difficult as it is, Eorzea will become all the more dramatic and dynamic, full of adventure and surprises. And that is the FINAL FANTASY feel that FFXIV is shooting for. I want to make it so that when people think of fantasy, or of MMORPGs, they think of FINAL FANTASY XIV.
And to make an MMORPG like that together with everyone, I plan to keep things lively on FFXIV as long as I’m around!
FFXIV has a lot of fans, and as far as fans go, you’re the best in the world. You’re relentlessly unforgiving at times, and incredibly sweet at others. The FFXIV team and Square Enix want nothing more than to deliver a fun experience to you. We want to build this MMORPG together with you, the players, and make an exciting time of it!
Please have a look at the forum posts below if you get a chance.
[dev1026] Changes to Claiming and Engaging Enemies
o.O Overkill on the crafting Dumb down?
[Dev] Repair system problems
Keep an eye on the Lodestone on October 14 at 5:00 p.m. (JST). We’re going to be making a progress report of what we’ve accomplished so far, and release some files detailing our future plans for the game so that you, the best fans in the world, can continue playing FFXIV with a sense of comfort and pride.
I’ll keep making a bunch of different announcements in a bunch of different places. And most importantly, I’ll be sure to keep open the lines of communication with all of you, so whatever changes I do announce will be sure to be FINAL FANTASY XIV-esque!
See you next letter and/or on the forums! And/or in the next live broadcast!