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Article Series: Can FFXIV: ARR create “A Genre Reborn”?Follow

#1 Jul 13 2013 at 7:31 PM Rating: Excellent
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EDIT: Last Article Posted: Part VIII / Saturday July 20th

I have decided to discuss and debate certain aspects of FFXIV: ARR in a series of articles debating its design choices, marketing elements, approach and factors of success (or failure). The blog main page can be found here, and it's hosted on the friendly FFXIVRealms community site! If you actually read the article series, which begins today, feel free to leave your feedback in this thread!

Thank you :)

This post will be updated with links to the articles as they come online. You can click on the dates to read the article discussing the relevant points.

Quote:
Introduction
Welcome back to "A Genre Reborn".

Starting from today, the blog’s direction changes somewhat, towards providing food for thought for a debate, and will involve less of “fan points of view” arguments in articles. For the sake of maintaining updates, content will be written but not posted altogether in one go. Somewhat smaller pieces, but more frequent ones, is the new mantra.

Since Beta Phase 3 is approaching its final day, with Beta Phase 4 and beyond being some weeks away, we should concentrate on the big picture.

FFXIV: ARR is a unique proposition in the decade-plus long history of MMORPG’s. It’s the first MMORPG ever to launch, deliver a sub-par product as the general consensus went, and rebuild it with a totally different design vision in mind.

All too frequently, past competitors of FFXIV: ARR have preached about “innovation”, “revolution, not evolution”, and “radical changes to the way we play” the genre. More often than not, the end result of these forays has been stagnation.

In the next few days, following a large article to kick-start the series today, we will examine the effort and resources put behind FFXIV: ARR through a variety of topics.


Article Series: Can FFXIV: ARR create “A Genre Reborn”?

Saturday, July 13th:
  • Beta Phase 3 – Are there any critical failures so far?
  • A Gamble Worth Taking – Square Enix defends the Final Fantasy brand so passionately –and expensively
  • The “Million+ subscriptions” scenario – Can it ever be achieved?

Article follows (unformatted)
Let’s dive right in, with your permission.

Beta Phase 3 – Are there any critical failures so far?

There are differing opinions on the level of polish FFXIV: ARR beta builds have had, especially in Phase 3 where the testing audience was much larger than in earlier phases.

The percentage of “things done right” is often quite subjective. Some testers are not satisfied with game elements (graphics come to mind), others are very happy with what they see. Some testers cannot fathom this game being far away from their beloved FF XI, while others are glad the ************************************************************-bus” phenomena are a thing of the past.

Individual opinions aside, however: Beta phase 3 does not have any critical failures. Inconveniences are certainly there (The issue with /tells and limited social interaction while inside instanced content has generated quite a lot of controversy), but there are no game-breaking elements to be found.

It is quite amazing to see a small number of bugs in an unreleased game. People are not getting stuck all the time, and there have been several MMO’s where “/stuck” command was quite popular until patch 1.1 or thereabouts.

The PS3 version, which is first tested in Phase 3, seems to be handling the game rather stably thus far. Of course, there are more bugs to be found that are PS3-specific, but with no previous mass-testing from the community, this is quite the expected result.

The feedback I have had from friends who decided to test the game with me is quite positive. The world seems to offer enough immersion and character for them to overlook a variety of small problems still existing here and there. While naysayers have been quick to dub FFXIV: ARR “A WoW clone”, it does not quite fit in this category.

Rift was much more of a WoW clone than FFXIV: ARR is. SWTOR attempted to directly use many and more of WoW’s mechanics –and was often found lacking. FFXIV: ARR is positioning itself to become, perhaps, a unique proposition: A well-thought out, polished to perfection MMORPG, from a development team that cares about the world they’ve made.

There are certain elements about a game which prominently display the developer’s culture behind it. Guild Wars 2 attempted to thinly vein its PvP “focus” by including a “story” and PvE elements, but they were not up to par. Players reaching the max level whilst not being PvP fans were not really catered for.

Guild Wars 2 is not the sole example, it just happens to be one of the recent ones. Frankly, initially I intended to dedicate this article to these many MMO’s who (not so) valiantly fell on the battlefield. But it’s quite pointless to go over their failures in detail.

Suffice it to say that the MMORPG with the most gigantic budget and heavyweight brand name launched in the past few years, Star Wars: The Old Republic suffered from a multitude of problems, above and beyond merely horrible project management.

It did actually employ developers and team members who did not know how to manage such a game, and turned a blind eye to knowledgeable community members, despite the quality or quantity of their feedback. It suffered in the QA department much more than FFXIV: ARR already does. It tolerated in-game support tickets to be answered after two weeks, and even trivial –yet game-breaking- bugs being addressed during the course of several weeks, instead of immediate hotfixes.

No matter where your opinion about FFXIV: ARR stands, one thing’s for certain: What we’ve seen thus far doesn’t feel much like a game in beta. Even “features just out from internal QA” such as the Duty Finder are usually functioning correctly. All in all, this is a positive indication for the near future, since several MMORPG games plagued with more bugs than a reasonable human could keep track of plunged right to the bottom of the sea as a result of “being unplayable”. When these games fixed their issues, they found out only two or three servers with players remained, out of the dozens planned at launch. Tough love, there.

A gamble worth taking? – Square Enix defends the Final Fantasy brand passionately –and expensively

There is a universal truth behind Square Enix’s stance regarding FF XIV and its subsequent rebirth as FFXIV: ARR:

The company has never released a numbered Final Fantasy title which was deemed a commercial (and critical) failure.

Certainly, spin-offs or derivative games may have had different levels of success, but even if we merely begin by considering the 32-bit era games onwards (Sorry, FF VI fans), they have gone from strength to strength in terms of revenue and brand awareness.

Case in point: Final Fantasy XIII, which was not exactly the crown jewel of the series, did perform quite well both in reviews and in terms of generated revenue / sales. Its sequels, XIII-2 and the upcoming “XIII-3”, Lightning Returns have received quite some praise in reviews and previews respectively. And what has been the secret crown jewel of the “Final Fantasy XIII: Fabula Nova Crystallis” era, XIII: Versus has now become the next numbered game – and stunned industry observers and players alike with its first footage in E3.

All things considered, letting FF XIV die and moving on might seem like the sensible thing to do. The initial game’s reputation was tarnished, several aspects seemed unfixable, including the game engine’s suitability for an MMO environment, user interface, lack of quests and story, and stupid mechanics such as the “EXP fatigue” had created an explosive mix.

In fact, it’s worth pondering how such a massive FUBAR situation could evade attention before the game was released. Even the open beta was scheduled suspiciously close to release, causing a lot of grief to people who had already preordered the game.

But condemning this game to a swift, silent death did not conform to the company’s philosophy. Decades of success in the Final Fantasy brand, and then suddenly the company would have to skip from XIII to XV for all eternity, denying it ever existed. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened in the entertainment industry, however, since Squaresoft (and Square Enix later on) always prided herself on the quality and spirit of the numbered Final Fantasy games, this could prove a mighty blow to them, their marketing strategy and the series in general.

This ought to partially explain why the (for all intents and purposes) new game is still called FFXIV, even with smaller letters on the logo than “A Realm Reborn”. A numbered title cannot afford to be viewed as a perpetual failure.

Instead, they committed to attempt and turn this sad state of affairs into a memorable (marketing and otherwise) experience:

The world (and game) revamp is both reflected in the game’s story (with the usual quality of Square Enix FMVs abundant in the storytelling) as well outside the game, with failed version 1.0 remaining subscription-free for what seems like an eternity in MMORPGs, players offered permanent incentives to subscribe for as little as three months with the Legacy system, and a vision being slowly put together by the game’s new producer/director, Naoki Yoshida.

No one in their right mind would ever foresee a project involving Electronic Arts to do anything of the sort. In fact, Warhammer Online has been in “autopilot” status for a long time now, and even the future Star Wars: The Old Republic content will cut down significantly its production values, abolishing class quests entirely in favour of just two faction storylines overall.

In terms of funding, with Square Enix’s financials not being at their prime, this endeavour has certainly cost the company some millions it did not want to have to spend. However, as a “brand-repairing” exercise, the cost is not that large. As an added bonus, if FFXIV: ARR performs decently well, it will offer to Square Enix the capability to actually recuperate its investment in a matter of months, or a year. Provided of course the subscription numbers stay strong, which brings us to the next point…

The “Million+ subscriptions” scenario – Can it ever be achieved?

One million. This is a number which, before World of Warcraft came along, could only be described as an “out of the question” scenario for many fledgling MMORPG games. After the “WoW era” came along, suddenly achieving such numbers seemed to be within the grasp of any decent game on the planet. After all, a naïve publisher or developer could have forecasted, if Blizzard is able to pull several millions, why can’t “we” manage one?

Reality in most cases was not as forgiving. There have been many games which tried, and failed, to sustain a meaningful numbers of subscriptions in the past 5 years or so. Ranging from games with theoretically strong IP behind them (Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and others) to aspiring efforts by veterans or relative newcomers to the MMORPG scene (Age of Conan, Tera, Aion). Many tried, ultimately everyone failed.

It has been discussed quite often in the past few years, but several games were originally developed under the subscription concept. In fact, in the majority of the cases, the companies behind an MMORPG vehemently denied it operating under a different model (“Cash shop / micro-transactions / “Free to Play””) until the week they announced that different model.

So why FFXIV: ARR could do better when so many tried their luck, and ultimately gave up their noble goals to sustain a percentage of subscribed population making them, as companies, happy?

Normally, we would examine EVE Online here. It is a case where a “niche” game has managed to sustain and expand its player base admirably over the years, and the company behind it has also managed to build a fruitful relationship of trustworthiness with its players.

However, there is no need to do that, since Square Enix actually does have a game in circulation even today, before FFXIV: ARR came along. And its name is, Final Fantasy XI.

Final Fantasy XI shares some of the attributes FFXIV: ARR has (namely, cross-platform play, with PC / PS2 and Xbox360 versions offering players access to the same worlds without restrictions in community interaction), but could also be dubbed a “niche” game in itself.

While artistic style, music, and other elements did in fact point to a Final Fantasy numbered title (which incidentally has been the most profitable FF game of Square Enix ever), several elements of FF XI could not exactly be dubbed as offering “an easy learning curve”, at least in its earlier iterations.
Regardless, with all its barriers of entry, it surpassed the very respectable 500,000 subscribers mark in its lifetime, probably turning several other MMORPG publishers and developers relatively green with envy.

Here are some factors which can significantly contribute towards FFXIV: ARR “magic million” number:

Multiplatform, and then some: FFXIV: ARR launches on PC and PS3, with PS3 being nowadays an aged console, however boasting a very impressive install base of over 95 million consoles worldwide. PS3 has no MMORPGs to speak of, and although such a genre is traditionally PC oriented, the consoles’ install base is nothing to sneer at. PS4 version, which should be out quite shortly after the console release (3-5 months could be a good estimate) and provide a very welcome level of graphic detail ought to further help things roll in Square Enix’s way.
A “flight to quality”: Not everyone is a fan of “Pay-to-win” games, or micro-transactions in general. As long as Square Enix understands that content is king, and players engaged in the game do not lose interest (due to lack of updates, or lack of QA, or lack of things to do in general), the odds are that they will continue playing for a variable period of time which could well stretch into months or years.
FFXI: A percentage of FFXI players will migrate to FFXIV: ARR. At some point of time –although I would not expect this to be soon, seeing that FFXI received its latest expansion pack fairly recently, the company might officially end support for FFXI once FFXIV: ARR gets its bearings right.
The Asian Factor: Japan is a coveted target market for FFXIV: ARR, naturally. The game seems to already “click” with gamers in the land of the rising sun, and launching in China after the international release –although Chinese players will not be on the same servers- does not hurt the game’s “million chances” one bit.
Accessibility First: FFXIV: ARR seems to have taken great pain to welcome new players aboard, granting them this “sense of progress” very rarely seen in recent MMORPGs of any shape or form. Even Final Fantasy fans who have only played console single player iterations of the series may find themselves tempted to try out the game. The brand may hold less sway in 2013, but we wouldn’t be having the same discussion if the game was called “Knights of Eorzea” instead, created by ObscureGames.
That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of reading, of course!

Sunday, July 14th:
  • Lies, **** lies, and statistics – How does number-crunching help optimise an MMORPG?
  • People who know their game – FFXIV: ARR appealing to MMO veterans

Article follows (unformatted)
Lies, **** lies, and statistics – How does number-crunching help optimise an MMORPG?

You are being watched. We all are. Before your mind starts drifting towards fancy surveillance agency acronyms, however (NSA, FBI, or what have you), I should warn you that we’re not talking about this manner of surveillance. In the context of being an MMORPG player, however, you –me, everybody really- are being watched, probably in a degree you haven’t stopped and thought about.

There is an impressive wealth and breadth of information that is usually silently collected, logged or extrapolated based on numbers, in all MMORPGs in existence. This data collection may at times (especially in beta periods) tax the client or the server more than it should, making gameplay feel slower or less responsive than usual.

Imagine if one action your character took, one single ability used on an enemy of yours, created some dozens of logging lines. What we, the players see in our combat log does not resemble the information the developers can have in their hands.

Usually, number-crunching affects long-term development and features of a MMORPG game, but this is not always the case. A development team can trust hard numbers much more than user sentiments, so if they saw, for instance, that 95% of all parties attempting the Ifrit storyline quest at level 20 died a horrible death in 10’’, they would proceed to adjusting this in a minor patch.

If something had gone really amiss, such as Ifrit killing all groups with a Gladiator player in them because of a bug, that fact would be reflected in the numbers quite universally, as well –and probably be scheduled for a fix in an emergency patch.

Why this is relevant to FFXVI: ARR, you ask? Several threads exercising vocal criticism can be very neatly summed up in an Excel worksheet of numbers.

Players from Europe are crying foul regarding the non-existence of proper European servers in European soil. I am inclined to agree with this complaint, mainly because I view Europe as an important market which actually gets its own editions of the game (English, French, German, too!), but in a blatant cost-saving or complexity-reducing exercise, Square Enix has decided to bundle all of EU players to Canada, along with their North American brethren.
Lack of responsiveness has been particularly talked about during the beta period, despite this issue being only indirectly linked to ping times or latency. It seems that parts of the infrastructure (instanced content more than open world servers) feels the strain in some parts and probably responds in a non-instant manner to the player. In other cases, the server needs to send a result to the client before the client will illustrate the result. Try jumping from somewhere relatively high, and watch your character be hurt from fall damage. It won’t happen instantly, though.
Even class balance and battle skills most often hinge on numbers collected and analysed. Did you ever believe that someone in an MMORPG company made the call to “Reduce damage generated by Backstab by 15% and decrease its cool-down by one second” out of some personal, dark, masochistic way of living who had him obsessing with numbers every waking second of his life?
Of course you didn’t.


We definitely know that all sorts of data are being collected, and to refer to the problems or issues mentioned above more directly, data such as ping times per hour of the day per country of the client / player, or percentage in % of players who were burnt to a crisp by Ifrit’s ground fires, or system load of instance servers, or damage numbers per encounter and per class, are really quite easy to collect and analyse further.

Now, according to the severity of the findings (remember, numbers do not lie or exaggerate themselves, while frustrated human beings in a message board can and will do both), the data collector (in our case Square Enix) can decide to make any change they consider appropriate.

In an ideal world, they would take the plunge and establish a small European datacentre, and patch future versions of the client to be more independent or synchronise better between animations and actions, by needing less server interaction… And then of course, make all magic classes as overpowered as Warlocks used to be in World of Warcraft for insane amounts of time.

Okay, scratch that last “ideal world solution”, it’s only fair for me really, who likes to play caster classes.

Regardless, remember – Unless you get an explicit “We will not consider this change” when posting feedback, the developers usually have an ******* of numbers to back your claims up, or shoot them down unceremoniously. Whether they will take action on an issue perceived as “serious” by the community is another matter, but numbers tend to steer them to the right direction.

If a balance / ping / gameplay request can be corroborated by numbers, it has a much better chance to be addressed, or at least officially responded to in a proper manner.

People who know their game – FFXIV: ARR appealing to MMO veterans

We’ll take this a notch higher now, and put ourselves in a roleplaying situation. No nurse outfits shall be involved, fear not.

Let’s assume that you are outside, drinking a coffee, or beer, or tomato juice, or whatever makes you feel good, with your friend, Mike. You have seen coverage of FFXIV: ARR and perhaps even have played the beta, but he hasn’t, mostly because he’s not interested in the game.

Mike used to play World of Warcraft for some years and eventually stopped. Perhaps he had a look at some other MMORPGs, such as Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or Guild Wars 2. All in all, he has spent quite some time of his life gathering EXP, “farming” points or gear, and admiring his various characters at “end game” status, chock-full with relics, epics, legendaries, and the like.
Now, you might wonder –as I did-, why would an MMO veteran find FFXIV: ARR appealing? At first glance, there aren’t many arguments to begin with.

You may find yourselves straining to think of that single gemstone, that single undisputed feature of FFXIV: ARR that ought to make people sit up and listen. SWTOR had “fully voiced storylines”, Guild Wars 2 had “No holy trinity and PVP”, and Rift had, well, rifts… There ought to be something you can mention.

If Mike has any former experience with Final Fantasy games, your job just became a lot easier. Chocobos, Magitek, and some classes or jobs such as Dragoon, Black Mage, et al should instantly make Mike interested to hear more.

But…what happens if Mike was never a major Final Fantasy fan? How to begin capturing his interest?

There is a way: Utter these magic words for a critical +100% effect:

“So, I played / watched a video / read about FFXIV: ARR and it seems a very good MMO”.

The hardest part is over. A myriad of small details can follow, and Mike can be quite tempted to try –if not buy- the game after that.

In all fairness, if Mike is transfixed on playing a game with a 1’’ GCD and using his keyboard as a piano, out of the so many concurrent actions he’d have to do, I suspect he will be disappointed. He will call you names and insist that you wasted his time with a “game for casuals” (gasp)!

However, if Mike is a fan of the genre, an MMO player who just wouldn’t subscribe –again- to WoW because he’s sick of its concept after spending some years of his life, eager to see something different, a Final Fantasy world coming to life as a quite polished MMO –for an unreleased game, offering cross-platform play and easily playable from the comfort of his couch…

He’s hooked. And you know what? I have friends matching Mike’ profile 100%. Even if they appear hard to get “An online Final Fantasy? How idiotic that must be”, they will surely sense this feeling of world immersion within less than an hour.

If, after all that, they do not want to play the game, you’re out of luck. Best start looking for some new friends =).

For reference, the friends I talked to about the game did progress quite much in the Beta Phase 3 and plan to play on release, despite having had no connection with FFXIV or ARR 30 days back. I think this is a moderately good sign for the general appeal of the game to these so-called veterans. What do you think?

That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of articles, of course!

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Monday, July 15th:
  • Challenges of the marketplace – Is it necessary for a game to use micro-transactions to succeed, in both the western and eastern markets?

Article follows (unformatted)
Challenges of the marketplace – Is it necessary for a game to use micro-transactions to succeed, in both the western and eastern markets?

This topic is controversial, and rightly so. At this point of time, seeds of confusion seem to have been sown all around the brains and hearts of MMORPG stakeholders. And by stakeholders, of course I do not refer to the players – or at least only to them.

Thinking about the games development food chain rationally, we could draw the conclusion that there’s an awful lot of stakeholders, interested parties, individuals or organisations invested in the success (or lack thereof, where the competition is concerned) of a game.

Their investment differs greatly, with publishers bankrolling the project more often than not, developers turning it from a concept into a tangible product, and consumers just feeling aligned –or not- with their favourite brand or company, but it’s still there in all cases.

Some stakeholders could be the following, for a typical game:

- The publisher: The fact that this stakeholder is mentioned first has its own special significance. Many players may detest, abhor or despise (see what I did?) …certain industry behemoths (A random Electronic Arts executive must be suffering from a bad case of the hiccups right now), but there is a solid logic behind this love/hate relationship.

As budgets of newer and most polished games skyrocket, publishers become much more risk-averse and stick to tried and true formulas of profit. You can now imagine that funding the next expansion pack of an “industry leading” FPS is a safe bet for a publisher, while funding something that might be found appealing to players donating on Kickstarter would never be quite the same ordeal.

- The development studio & employees: Nobody really likes to be involved in a major failure, let alone be coerced into heavy drinking, substance abuse or worse, just to be able to remain sane during their crunch times at work.

However, although several examples exist, both inside the MMORPG genre and elsewhere, where developers just miscalculate or fall short of their community’s expectations, quite often they are not to blame for a game’s descent into the abyss.

There is usually a publisher in the equation, pushing the developers to “pack everything up to launch before the Christmas period”, or what have you. Yes, this sort of forced labour can quite often end up being a messy ordeal.

- The competitors: You do not really believe that when a leading, say, FPS developer / publisher hears about another FPS falling short of expectations, they will burst into tears and send official letters of condolences, chocolates and flowers to their competitors, do you? Yes, you’d better not.

Competitors are indirect stakeholders in any major release of a game, but they are actually secretly hoping for the game to fail. Carry on now.

- The rest of the food chain: Other parts of the industry may feel perversely happy (or devastatingly sad) if a certain game does well or not. They may be the manufacturers of the game’s merchandise and see a surge in orders for the New and Improved Action Figure ™. A gaming website seeing their advertising revenue soar because a publisher just increased their advertising budget threefold.

Smaller retailers who just believed their gut and ordered dozens of copies of a game, only to see them sell like hotcakes. Or the girlfriend of the studio head, planning her vacation to Caribbean with the bonus her boyfriend will get any day now. You know. All sorts of people left, right and centre.

- The gamers: Last but not least, people like us. Whether a devoted fan is borderline stalking his favourite gaming company, and knows more about the staff’s personal lives than their spouses do, or just “enjoys games by X company”, it’s important for all of us to see our favourite type of games continue being made.

After all, in a way, throwing a certain amount of money down the drain to buy a sub-par game makes for a universal sinking feeling.

So, competitors and archenemies aside, generally speaking, many people want a given game to do well. That’s the proper thing to want, after all.

There’s a catch, however…

There have been many cases where games, MMORPGs not excluded, have not done well at all. Perhaps the game was released prematurely. Perhaps the budget run out, and the developer was forced to wrap things up more hastily and over a weekend. Perhaps the game was crippled by bugs, and by the time they were resolved, all the players had moved to greener pastures.

MMORPGs are even more sensitive than other genres to the Syndrome of 30 days. If they don’t present a particularly engaging and well-implemented vision in the first month of play, the player(s) can and will abandon them.

Do note, for starters, that this sort of behaviour is persistent despite the monetization model a game may elect to use. A single player game, poorly executed, with frequent crashes and a good percentage of the game delivered in “Day 1 DLC’s” will suffer the same fate with an MMORPG failing to keep its player base engaged and interested.

Of course, the problem is more evident in subscription games, since they have the audacity to ask for recurring payments. A fair proposition, on its own, but it may summon sirens singing of “Rip-off” behaviour if the game is not up to scratch.

As previously discussed, the majority of the MMORPGs aimed to the Western market had been developed with the concept of a subscription in mind, at least until 2010/2011. The last game that launched with great fanfare, a monstrous marketing budget and high hopes in the subscription marketplace was Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Most impressively, even that behemoth succumbed to the so-called “hybrid” model within a matter of months, with its “Free-to-Play” implementation being acutely limited compared to the competition, locking great portions of the game behind either a subscription or micro-transactions.

Considering FFXIV: ARR, and the fact that it wants to continue using a subscription model, things may be looking bleak, so to speak, for the game’s success and longevity. But is this really the case? It’s somewhat more complicated than a mere case of “pros and cons”, however let’s approach this directly.

Goals and Targets of Free-to-Play or Buy-to-Play implementations

- The company managing the game would like to offer instant gratification to the player base. You are walking idly in the central town, and see a player wearing an awesome armour with a positively frightening two-handed axe.

Fear not! By the powers that be (Among others, Visa™, MasterCard™, American Express ™ and their brethren) you are able to have this item set for your character within minutes! This is also called “Pay to Win”, especially when it yields high quality items that should normally be obtainable through an in-game effort.

- The company actively encourages people to maintain subscriptions, while also offering a part of the game accessible “for free” to the masses. This is the majority of the Western games nowadays, with Rift™ being the latest game attempting this.

Through this “clever ploy”, dedicated fans of the game will maintain a subscription active, and countless others who are not-that-dedicated will still provide sporadic revenue here and there.

It’s a win-win scenario especially for smaller developers (Rift’s Trion fits that description) or publishers / companies looking to recuperate their investment faster. (EA and Bioware for The Old Republic belong in this category.)

- The company wishes to focus their “shop” to vanity, convenience or temporary benefit items. Guild Wars 2 goes here, and even the almighty World of Warcraft goes here, by selling various pets and other vanity items on its store, having recently declared that they will expand the selection in certain territories and make them buyable in-game as well.

- The company reserves a significant number of features behind a paywall, including functionality features or quest packs, or the ability to retry a dungeon after “a wipe”.

Players in that scenario are actually forced to pay, just not through a recurring, flat-fee model, if they want to “experience the game fully”. Various Korean-developed games go here, and a variety of smaller Western games, too.

- The company cannot actively force a player to buy something, since the player is not billed in a recurring fashion. However, the prices of items, add-ons or vanity items are quite specific, generally beginning from $3 or $5, making it quite easy to buy a relatively small number of items or services, and exceed a “normal” $13-15 monthly payment.

Caveats of Free-to-Play or Buy-to-Play implementations

- If a player likes the game, they may spend considerably more money than if they had subscribed to it. However, these “spending sprees” are not scheduled in advance. Hence, even if a player spends $100 on a given game in July 2013, they might just as well spend $0 for several months after the occasion.

All that being said, where a subscription option still exists, it tends to provide more value for money than “buying game features a la carte”.

- MMORPGs have recurring costs, and significant ones all things considered. Datacentres, bandwidth, hardware, IT management, in-game and out-of-game customer support, development, quality assurance, graphic design, music design, art direction, and the list goes on.

A successful MMORPG will be able to provide content on a regular basis, and it needs to be able to pay for a small army of expenses in terms of infrastructure and staff.

Operating with any model other than a subscription one provides less clarity on projected revenue, and forces the hand of game developers to create “shiny new items or shop content” every so often, to lure the fan base into buying just a little something extra.

- A certain community tends to gather around F2P / B2P games. For every 10 players who have decided to pay exactly $0.00 towards playing a game, there are some others (approximately 4) who have decided to pay a particular amount of money.

The players who opt to pay zero for a game with running costs and infrastructure will also spend significant amounts of time attempting to “farm” their way out of paying. “Farming” perpetually is not exactly a fun activity. The players opting to operate inside a game like this are most often “rude and abrasive”, to remain polite.

This is not always the case, however a certain attitude tends to exist in F2P / B2P games’ communities, even if they are not MMORPGs.

- Content suffers. Before attempting to convince the world that “F2P games are doing just fine”, consider for a second how many of these games have zero / extremely limited avenues of monetization.

Guild Wars 2 is unlikely to ever get an expansion pack. However, expansion packs are the standard-bearers of content in MMORPGs. A company can, and will, gradually introduce, say, a new dungeon here, a new area there, and 5 new daily quests beyond the corner.

But a company will not introduce a couple of continents, an expanded selection of many new areas, some new classes or races, new abilities, new mechanics in general, significant volumes of content with a high production quality, in the form of patches alone.

They can call them “digital expansion packs” as Star Wars: The Old Republic has done with its first one, but they don’t have the depth usually associated with one. This particular one is not priced expensively, but its content is so limited, that it’s unable to keep busy “even the most casual of players” for more than two weeks. Hence it should not be called an expansion pack at all.

Where FFXIV: ARR stands

The main objective and purpose of an MMORPG is to keep its players engaged, active and glad to be a part of its world, at all times. While playing styles can and will differ, with different players showing a preference to PvE, others swearing by the adrenaline rushes PvP offers to them, yet others deciding to embrace a merchant’s role and craft items and spend their days and nights in the market…

The most notable failure of past attempts of nowadays “Free-to-Play-in-theory”, or rather “micro-transactions fueled” games is incorrect world and activities design. Content that is bite-sized and can be consumed by the players in the course of a week, lacking any replay value, is incorrect design to boot, and does never rationally justify the price of a subscription.

However, games which are funded in bursts, and occupy their own designers, artists, and gameplay engineers, attempting to create new cash shop offerings for the players, in order for the developers to…get their salaries paid, win their bread and all, more often than not cannot provide content in the magnitude, scope, or quality needed for them to really succeed. They can "remain open / up and running" but will never become truly successful.

Blizzard may have shaped the MMORPG genre in the past 9 years, but they have done this right more than anything else: Keep their game updated, and the game’s content plentiful.

If FFXIV: ARR walks down the same path, it has all the potential in the world to do great. If, on the other hand, it delivers too little, too late to keep players busy, immersed and happy, the Fates shall not be that favourable and will not hesitate to deliver the game into Ifrit’s inferno for all eternity.

For all the analysis of this article and the factors “for” and “against” micro-transactions and the like, it boils down to just that little paragraph above.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of articles, of course!

Tuesday, July 16th:
  • From hardcore to casual: A gamer’s (and consumer’s) journey through MMORPG land
  • Demographics of FFXIV: ARR target group

Article follows (unformatted)
From hardcore to casual: A gamer’s (and consumer’s) journey through MMORPG land

There isn't a universal meaning for what someone may mean as “a hardcore gamer”. Or at the very least, there isn't a universal quantification of the term.

In my eyes, people who spend over 8 hours a day playing a particular game (MMORPGs are infamous for their time sink effects, at least the good ones have caused many a player wonder “When the f**k did 5 hours pass? What do you mean it’s 3 a.m.?!”) are comfortably sitting at the round table of hardcore gamers.

Then again, if you actually ask them if they consider themselves hardcore, they most probably will say “no”. In their eyes, hardcore is only someone who plays from dawn to dusk, and probably participates to e-sports leagues and such.

To someone else’s eyes, even a person playing 2-3 times a week a game devoting 2-3 hours at a time may be considered hardcore. Why, they could spend their time productively at… the gym, someone –not me, I swear! - might argue.

There are several interpretations. We should just consider a typical case which could be considered hardcore by the majority’s account:

A person playing a given day most of the days of the week, for an amount of time which is definitely higher than 1-2 hours at a time. They may participate in PvE raids, or train in endless PvP arena matches, but they’re dedicated to the cause.

They’re also increasingly absent from Square Enix’s best target group:
Long-time Final Fantasy fans (More about the target group at the second part of this article).

Consider this: Regardless of someone being classified a “geek” or a “jock” in U.S. high-school standards, they were bound to be able to –it’s another discussion entirely if they did- spend more time on average playing computer games at that age.

Student years are also infamous for their wild partying, high levels of alcohol consumption…and for the gamers of us, endless burn-out sessions of our favourite game(s) at the time.

However, there’s a realisation to be made at this point. Time able to be devoted to gaming is considerably less as gamers (and consumers, at the same time), grow up.

Just to set this straight from the very beginning, I do not mean that anyone over the age of X cannot play games. Far from it, I certainly wish I will have the mental and physical resolve to play games for many decades to come.

But the fact is, it’s quite easy to find oneself in a situation where gaming for 50 hours a week can’t really happen, or at least happen every week of the year.

Day-to-day obligations, including work, university –at higher years especially-, family, friends who we’d like to drink a beer with every now and then, all take their toll at our dream schedule of gaming time per week.

Let’s use an example from my student years: Once, me and my flatmates (most of them were far more obsessed with World of Warcraft than I was, back then in 2007 when The Burning Crusade launched, it burnt us as well), run a “levelling instance marathon”.

I believe we were running dungeons non-stop for a good deal of 12 hours, and had generally played, gone out, eaten etc. for some 24 hours before that, so at roughly 36 hours awake, and with our eyes obviously strained from the ordeal, we all collapsed at 7 p.m. and slept this off.

(Fun fact: On exactly that day, an annoying neighbour decided to file an abuse report at 8 p.m. accusing us of making “excessive noise”. The report concluded that a couple living inside the neighbour’s flat was having *** at the time, and he thought “it was our flat”, as he usually thought. It was quite hilarious for all our flat to be asleep at 8 p.m., yet it happened. The fine the annoying neighbour got served him right!)

The reason I mention this is because it wasn’t particularly planned. We just felt like it and did it. Today, if I ever wanted to run a similar marathon, the steps I would have to take would broadly be the following:

- Inform the people I’d like to participate at least a week in advance, to schedule it.

- Schedule it within a weekend, of course. Fat chance of pulling it off on a weekday.

- Ensure people could indeed attend.

- Run the “event”. Then proceed to not repeating it. For like a year at least.

There are many days where sheer fatigue, physical or mental or both, prevents several people from even gaming a little bit. They’d prefer to spend such days moving as least as possible, eat a pizza and watch their favourite movie. And they would be right to do so.

The reality is that people in the primary target group of Square Enix, people like us, to a large degree cannot don the mantle of the “hardcore”. At least not if we compare ourselves with the year Final Fantasy VII or VIII came out (at the very least). Now, about that target group…

Demographics of FFXIV: ARR target group

The target group for FFXIV: ARR is quite broad, in reality, and includes console players (in two separate consoles, one of which “next-gen”), PC players, MMORPG players, random people who might fall in love with the game, or play it ‘cause a friend nudged them to play it, and last but not least, Final Fantasy fans.

Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that inside that target group, there will be a very small percentage of 15-year olds. You might love or hate the fact, but it’s still a fact.

Why is that? Considering that people tend to develop their long-lasting loves from somewhere in the age of 7-9 (kids as young as 5 will grow bored of something and rush for ‘the next big thing’ pretty soon), there haven’t been enough Final Fantasy games out there, enough hype bombardment out there, for such an age group to become a franchise fan.

Exceptions always apply, but I would frankly expect to ask a random sample of 15 year olds what might their favourite RPG game be and get “None. LoL rules though!” or “Dunno, does LoL count?” as possible answers.

RPG games in general are facing a sort of transformation, to the point of creative decline in the past decade. Do not get me wrong, we have seen and enjoyed excellent releases, surely we have, but their actual number, well, that’s another story.

It’s not a genre-specific phenomenon, either. As production values soar, game quantity goes down the drain. See what happened to Final Fantasy XV a.k.a. Versus XIII for 7 years, and that’s not the only example.

So, long-story short, younger fans of the series are significantly less than older fans are. 15-year olds would actually have had the chance to get acquainted with the franchise either with the help of a friend or a family member, or with trying, playing and liking –to an extent at least- Final Fantasy XIII or XIII-2.

I hope you’re not wondering “why”. The answer is that the game launched before that would be Final Fantasy XII, some whopping 7 years ago. Yes, that’s a seven. Today’s teenagers were toddlers in some early stage of primary school when the last game before XIII was released.

Is this a fatal blow for the game? Should the developers be worried because they may be unable to indulge the, potentially even more “hardcore”, 15-19 age groups?

Hardly. The true target group is composed by long-time Final Fantasy fans, people who might actually recognise a Chocobo for a Chocobo, not mistake it for a…lama, as I heard a foolish younger friend of mine call my amazing Kweh! (From beta phase 3.)

In fact, and the precedent of Final Fantasy XI will further aid to that direction, FF XIV: ARR may well boast one of the most mature communities for a MMORPG.

Mature not necessarily in age, but in way of thinking as well. I mean, that community even includes insane people who have scheduled updates to their blog in the middle of the summer, on a daily basis, even though the content posted is certainly not bite-sized!

Right?! Imagine how crazy this target group is, now.

On the bright side, I still haven’t seen people calling others “f*cking noobs” or call them to “L2P FFS lol”. Oh, I’m sure this will not be avoided in the future, but well…

Can I be honest with you? Having spent the time I've spent in various MMOs in the 2003-2013 decade…

…I expected much worse. Much, much worse!

That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of articles, of course!

Wednesday, July 17th:
  • Community interaction: Lessons from Naoki Yoshida
  • Initiating the Uninitiated – The importance of group quests

Article follows (unformatted)
Community Interaction: Lessons from Naoki Yoshida

This article series would be severely incomplete if it did not mention the man behind FFXIV: ARR and the brand reparation task Square Enix set themselves to accomplish. Naoki Yoshida is the irrefutable architect behind the game’s eventual success or failure, and he has coordinated his teams in a quite astounding manner since late 2010.

Yoshida (colloquially known as “Yoshi-P”), where FFXIV was concerned, was certainly not granted a king’s throne and a kingdom to quietly rule at a time of peace. His appointment was more of a war-related affair.

Back in late 2010, with the original release of the game being entangled in a web of shortcomings, pitfalls and design problems, situation looked dire. He was brought into the battle of Waterloo and ordered to stop the enemies’ advance, muster the army’s strength, and turn the scale of the war around, if you will.
This might seem to be an exaggeration at a first glance. Yet, if you consider merely the features Yoshida brought into the original release of FFXIV (v. 1.0), just to bring the game up to his personal standards, you can bet that he was not lying when he stated that he slept very little to not at all:

Completely rebalanced all stats and gear
Completely remade the battle system
Personal chocobos
Added a Materia system to let players customize and optimize their gear
Added a job system that lets players turn basic classes into advanced Final Fantasy staples like Monk and White Mage
Revamped crafting
Added many sidequests
Added three epic boss battlesAdded four instanced raid dungeons, for mid- and high-level players
On top of that, he had to coordinate with the design, implementation and technical testing of FFXIV: ARR. This certainly seems daunting, and a quite Herculean task, reviving a game from the underworld it had plunged itself into, and at the same time working towards the renewed client, engine, and feature sets found in FFXIV: ARR. Who said high profile employees have their job cut out for them?

The impressive aspect of Yoshida’s reign however is not the fact that he volunteered to forfeit sleep, infuse himself with the spirit of the Primals and never rest until he had “fixed this mess”, no.

It’s the fact that, as of today, he has written no less than forty seven Letters from the Producer to FFXIV’s community, and delivered 6 live Q&A sessions of considerable length in video format.

Those are just the activities directly referenced on the game’s forums. The hundreds of posts he has made and all the external events (interviews, Q&A’s, presentations, et al) are not tallied towards these totals.

Working at a large gaming corporation, it would not be inappropriate to compare Naoki Yoshida with Jeff Kaplan or Chris Metzen of Blizzard (and World of Warcraft) fame. However, Yoshida has broken all counters of interactivity with “his” community, being omnipresent at all times, at all requests or questions directed his way.

Regardless of how the game actually ends up being, superb, mediocre, or an absolute flop, Yoshida has already set a quite brightly shining example on “How to interact with a game’s community”.

We’re talking about a game director who regularly –or at least more than once a year, that’s still ‘regularly’ compared to the status quo usually in place- plays (!) the game he’s associated with, and responds to player questions, without such events being advertised far and wide as “events” at all.

And let’s put it bluntly – This sort of extremely open, extraordinarily “by a gamer, for gamers” attitude has helped FFXIV: ARR score an array of points to anyone keeping tabs on it. By now, Yoshi-P has infused the game with his own, personal credibility.

May he be lying blatantly to all the community? The majority of the posts and articles I’ve read in the past few weeks would not believe so. The general consensus is that, if Yoshi-P promises something, he will do his utmost to deliver it. It remains to be seen (“end game”, hey there!), but even the radical transformation FFXIV v. 1.0 underwent is, on itself, a beacon of hope for the future. Of course, the fact that he seems to “get” the decision to use a subscription payment model is only a bonus element.

If all else fails, the guy can always launch his consulting firm, offering to coach traditionally very private and cagey Japanese executives on how to communicate with their audiences.


Initiating the Uninitiated – The importance of group quests

A considerable debate has been stirred in the past few weeks, and especially from the launch of FFXIV: ARR Beta Phase 3 onward, regarding group quests and their necessity / contribution to the game mechanics.

An important element of MMORPGs today (and not just today, since their invention, back in the stone years of Ultima Online or the original Everquest) is the fact that they’re exactly that – massively multiplayer online games.

However, as the sands of time shifted, several games took considerable steps towards isolating the game’s progression from their social aspects.

I can’t help but notice Guild Wars 2 being a very predominant example of this. Dynamic events aside, since the “communal participation” in dynamic events was a combination of luck, time of the day, and levelling zone one found themselves in, the rest of the game pretty much seemed to offer a quite unmemorable, yet entirely solo-friendly, story and progression.

Woe unto the game designer who would try and encourage community interaction or tackling of common issues! Players were reassuringly patted on the back, and told that “should they wish”, they could progress all the way to “the endgame™” all on their own.

Then again, if we exclude “the endgame™”, that was the exact same task one could accomplish in The Witcher series of games. In Dragon Age. In Mass Effect. In Baldur’s Gate. And so on and so forth.

What is the point of an MMORPG treated as a single player game? Who might benefit from treating it like so? I am already imagining the response:

“Certain players may not feel comfortable in social situations or people interaction. They should be provided with ample chance to progress in the game without any artificial barriers raised around them.”

Really?

Who exactly has believed and endorsed this tomfoolery? In case you didn’t know, MMORPGs are hardly the epitome of socialising. Yes, guilds –or Free Companies as they’re called in FFXIV: ARR- may exist, yes, there is a party system, and yes, people can play together.

But this is a far cry from calling a group quest “an artificial barrier”. There’s no intrinsic need to perform extreme degrees of socialising, even under the context of a group quest. Duty finder makes such tasks even more straightforward:

Are you a person who doesn’t enjoy, or does not have the attitude / capacity to enjoy social interaction? Perfect! Here’s a patented Three Steps to Finishing a Group Quest® approach for you:

Use duty finder and find a group for the quest.
Enter quest. Optionally say “hey” when you begin it.
Finish quest successfully, and leave. Profit!
Not so hard, now, was it? Actually, for the relatively fewer people who might enjoy group content, this could also (hard to believe, but bear with me) prove to be a positive experience! Yes, it’s amazing really, but a good portion of MMORPG players do tend to lure their own friends in, or make friends within the game. I know that this is the Devil’s talk, and vow to never again talk about such sinful issues in the future.

Woe unto the game developer who attempts to harbour a community feeling by gently encouraging players to work together towards a common goal! This wicked man, or band of men, should summarily proceed to Ifrit’s Ninth **** and burn for all eternity… Or should they?

That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of articles, of course!

Thursday, July 18th:
  • An all-encompassing battle system: Challenge Accepted
  • Flair and nostalgia: Satisfying (and converting) Final Fantasy fans of old

Article follows (partially formatted)
An all-encompassing battle system: Challenge Accepted

Quote:
The sky is dark, yet an amount of starlight manages to find its way to your feet. Lacking official training in areas which never interested you, such as tracking, or silent movement, you stride forward carefully. The derelict building stands defiantly before you. How many souls perished on these very grounds? You knew that the objective of the Grand Company mission was held in the basement.

After so many years, someone decided to put this place to the torch, finally. Which perverted mind might keep an elder Marlboro as a pet? Certainly, these naturalists, these botanists seemed to viciously protect and defend any species as their “brethren”. But you knew better than that, you knew that beasts and plants would never tip the scale to their favour, no matter what a guild of lunatics proclaimed.

Marlboros become a menace if left unchecked, if left to grow. When they are younger, they actively attempt to sap the life out of small animals with their deadly c**ktail of poison, and then consume them whole. When they are older, it’s quite natural to them to escalate their attacks to all humanoid species. They seem to ignore lalafells, however, possibly because they cannot easily sate their nutritional needs. Roegadyn are at the other end of the spectrum, sadly.

As you have entered the abandoned farmhouse, you notice planks of rotten wood all around you, and several bones littering the floor. Some of them are so large, they could only belong to a horse, a large chocobo, or… You gulp. A roegadyn.

The path to the kitchen is dark and the musty smell unpleasant, penetrating your nostrils on every breath you take.

At last, you made your way to the cellar stairs. The iron door screeches as you unbar it and pry it open. After a few, short steps, you find yourself in a derelict room, once used for storage, but relegated to an elaborate cage for a while now.

The smell has grown tenfold in intensity, churning up your insides. You boldly move forward and start casting a Fire spell. The spell hits its target and the elder Marlboro seems to silently scream in pain. Before you know it, it has pointed its many tentacles towards you, and spit a volley of poisonous liquids your way.

You continue casting tirelessly, switching to Blizzard spells to cool your mind and regain your mental strength every so often, then continue to burn the abomination with fire. Fire is doubly familiar to you right now. Apart from your mind enabling you to cast it, your skin also feels as if it’s on fire. You understand that if this keeps up much longer, your lungs, your skin, your entire body will betray you.

Determined to banish the monster once and for all, gathering all your strength, and focusing your mind so intensely you can feel your entire being attuned to your magical energy, you take a few steps back, look again at the Marlboro, and gently whisper:

Meteor.

The primal fires of creation, the breath of the universe have finally attended to your aid. The Marlboro is burning from tentacle to tentacle, emitting sounds which you interpret as its deathly shrieks of desperation.

It is finally over, but you are still poisoned. No matter. Back in Gridania, the Conjurers ought to take good care of you.

Oh, the sacrifices you make for the Order… The Matron Nophica had better keep you will comfortable in the afterlife. With a bitter smile still on your lips, you sigh and teleport away.


Quiz: Having read the short story above, which of the elements described do not exist in FFXIV: ARR?

a) Marlboros?
b) Conjurers?
c) Personal Limit Breaks? <---

Yes, you guessed right! This is a hotly debated feature, and should the game ever accommodate it, it would allow for stories of personal bravery and conflict to become ever more abundant, both in regards to available lore and the layers of strategy introduced.

I do not share the opinion of certain members of the FFXIV: ARR community regarding the battle system being “a failed one”. It’s a solid system that fulfils its purpose at this point of time. That is not to say it’s perfection impersonated.

Battle systems continuously evolve in MMORPGs, however. There is hardly any major patch to be found, in any game of the genre, where abilities, cool-downs and whatnot are tampered with. Part II of this article series discusses the capabilities number-crunching and logs provide to development teams.

This is the main reason one can remain optimistic about “concerns” voiced about the battle system. Now, if you expect the global cool-down (GCD) to drop to 1.0 second, you will be sorely disappointed. FFXIV: ARR is aimed to controller-wielding players as well (In PS3, PC if they prefer it, and PS4 in the future), so drastic modifications on this mechanism would not be expected to make their appearance.

Of course, it is quite conceivable that eventually GCD may drop to 2.0 seconds or thereabouts, since FFXIV: ARR developers have already confirmed “it drops under 2’’ in certain scenarios”. Skills can, and most probably will, be tweaked accordingly, either having their individual properties adjusted, or excluded from GCD altogether.

Let’s get it out there: Final Fantasy XI fans, people seeing requests of yours calling Square Enix to “slow down” elements of the game, combat included, you are making a grave mistake. It’s not that fun to have to endure through endless combat rounds just to kill an “Incredibly Tough” mob with a full party, out in the world. Sorry, but this is the way things are.

In raids or instanced dungeons, however, the story changes. Longer battles usually mean harder battles, as the instance / raid boss has the chance to wear out the players and decimate their resources. The addition of personal limit breaks and party combos would greatly increase the tactical element in the grander fights of the game, and would be quite welcome.

Regardless – If the numbers show that the system is not working correctly, or as intended, it can and will be properly adjusted. Consider how many things were in a limbo state in FFXIV 1.0 before the “new team” took things over. Consider how many things changed in just a few patches.

Understand that if they want to make modifications, they would first need to have a significant sample of lv. 40+ or lv. 50 players using their skills to overcome certain barriers of difficulty. Remember that numbers don’t lie.

Then, get up, go pour yourselves a glass of your favourite drink, sip it, and hope a community of several hundred thousand potential players has not been utterly deceived by a charming development team.

If the development team decides to ignore both numbers and community sentiments in one go, takes none of the above rational actions, and becomes responsible for the battle system somehow sinking the game permanently…

…We can always Kickstart a campaign of several thousand fans, dressed as chocobos with sad faces, to go and camp outside Square Enix’s offices in Tokyo.

That’ll show them, no?


Flair and nostalgia: Satisfying (and converting) Final Fantasy fans of old

There’s something to be said about FFXIV: ARR’s world design. It’s most definitely screaming “Final Fantasy” even from the 10 first minutes someone spends in the game.

Everything works the way you’d expect it to: Hop on a rental chocobo or hire a chocobo porter, and you hear yet-another-remix of the infamous chocobo theme. Get your own personal chocobo, and – that was a surprise-, you are graced with yet another chocobo remix to keep you company!

The music is… … …

Where were we? Ah, the music! Definitely one of the strong points of the game. In certain cases, the fact that Square Enix does not contract staff on a single project basis, but rather keeps on retainer / occupied on multiple projects notable professionals such as artists or music composers, tends to show.

The world is also designed intelligently, and with a certain amount of flair. Since the greater part of the Final Fantasy fans of older games are now at their twenties (at the very least), the underlying scenery and atmosphere tends to bring back wonderful memories from years past, when other Final Fantasy games had launched.

When achievements and the like are activated (they already existed in the game, but were not functional up until Beta phase 3), I expect that there will be additional incentives offered to players who enjoy exploring and discovering little bits and pieces of the world.

Oh, and the language and quest stories are definitely Final Fantasy – related. Although by now it’s totally evident that the localisation team of the English version are actual Englishmen. Or Scots. Definitely not Americans, though! ****** that, mate!

This world design and treats for Final Fantasy fans are a selling point on their own. Granted, as we’ve previously discussed, few 15-year-olds without prior knowledge of the series might care to even try this game, however I can foresee several “single player Final Fantasy” RPG players to check FFXIV: ARR out.

Depending on who you ask, the “last great numbered title” was FFIX. Or FFX. In some cases, FFXII could be mentioned. Even grey-haired veterans of the series will admit that FFXIV: ARR integrates wonderfully many cornerstones of the series.

Apparently, we are not done, either. Future raid instances will feature Bahamut, and the Crystal Tower, an infamous dungeon of times…ancient past, from early Final Fantasy numbered titles.

Does Lightning from FFXIII belong here? This is debatable, and would depend on her implementation. A more reasonable explanation would be that Naoki Yoshida lost some sort of bet, and had to include her in FFXIII – If he won, perhaps he would have forced Lousoix from ARR to make an appearance in XIII-3, instead.

Perhaps the most exciting features still to come include further interaction with chocobos (Chocobo raising? Chocobo racing? Both?), and of course the additional of such iconic places like the Gold Saucer. Would that come with its very own FFVII-themed Cait Sith? Hard to say yet.

At the end of the day, it’s fair to say that someone not being a Final Fantasy series fan, trying the game for the first time in 2013, would be at an unfair disadvantage, for not being able to appreciate all the pieces of the mosaic used to create FFXIV: ARR, from previous games and series lore.

Better late than never – They can catch up on the previous 13 games! Now that…would take some time to accomplish.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of articles, of course!

Friday, July 19th:
  • Interaction out of the game:Keeping an MMORPG always connected to the players
  • Luring the less bloodthirsty gamers in - Welcome to FFXIV: ARR’s crafting

Article follows (unformatted)
Interaction out of the game: Keeping an MMORPG always connected to the players


It’s a brave new world. Scratch that, it has been a brave new world for some years now. Companies associated with computer or console games have attempted in several cases to keep their players “engaged” with their titles even when they are not actively playing.

Why bother to form a strategy of the sort? The answer is simple, and it’s loosely related to the marketing principles of loyalty schemes. Consider the case of any store in the world offering you a loyalty card. Why do they offer it?

Firstly, if you keep such a card in your wallet(even if it’s loaded with stamps like some older iterations did, or small stores still do when they do not want to invest to an electronic system), and see it from time to time, it reminds you that you “have to” re-visit. Perhaps the 10th visit will net you a free sandwich, or amassing 1,000 points will provide store credit for a few bucks.

Secondly, even if you do not immediately re-visit, you tend to remember such an establishment more fondly than, say, its competitor which seemingly is manned by humanlike robots, never bothering to say “Good day”, much less so offering you a loyalty scheme.

Thirdly, if you consider the scheme a successful one –and especially if you are offered an additional referral incentive within the scheme somehow-, you are bound to spread the word to friends or relatives. If you pitch this right, they may become interested, visit the store, start amassing loyalty points / stamps / credit, and then continue the circle.

Games which invest to keeping their customers (the gamers) engaged operate in a similar manner, and in certain situations such a makeshift scheme will even form itself without a company actively endorsing it. Notably –and often-, people will always attempt to lure friends, spouses, colleagues or relatives to play together, and if their interests match, this will happen even when no loyalty schemes are explicitly available.

In the MMORPG marketplace in particular, approaches of “out-of-game interaction” tend to vary. The most advanced iterations can boast mobile apps, browser-based character management or access to in-game auction house whilst out of the game.

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft has offered a considerably broad suite of tools to be used on the go, including remote auction house access, armory and even guild chat. Since mid-2012 the aforementioned suite is also free of charge, increasing its potential user base considerably, since this sort of functionality is not mandatory to play the game.

Square Enix has made a right call in attempting to create an out-of-game community hub of their own, the infamous Lodestone. While its design and user interface up until now seemed to resemble FFXIV v. 1.0 quite much (and this is not a positive fact), the new and improved Lodestone Beta, which became available along with Beta Phase 3 of FFXIV: ARR provides new functionalities and improved features, including multiple character support, character emotions, blogs & comments, a character navigator system similar to WoW’s Armory, and more.

An argument could be made at this point on the necessity of such tools altogether. Perhaps resources ought to be better spent by focusing them on the game itself?

Hardly. While every MMORPG in existence does have a semblance of an official community / forum, very few actually take out of game interaction any further, to their loss.

Imagine if you were able to craft (an activity which is far more involved in FFXIV: ARR compared to other games, however poses no risks if carried out from a mobile screen’s monitor. Nobody will kill you or die due to lack of heals, for instance) while commuting to work or school, for instance.

The recently revamped and updated Lodestone is a step forward, and can conceivably provide an advantage in player interaction to Square Enix in the future, especially if they continue polishing it regularly and adding new features as well. Going the extra mile as a developer / publisher of a MMORPG tends to yield favourable results in the end.

Luring the less bloodthirsty gamers in - Welcome to FFXIV: ARR’s crafting

There’s a typical “crafting scenario” existent in several MMORPGs. Usually…

- You are forced to have an X number of crafting “professions” “occupations” “skills” active at any given time. This is quite usually a small number, such as 2 or 3.

- Your active “professions” frequently include both gathering and actual crafting classes.

- If you are aiming for an optimal result, a character is therefore forced to take up the gathering profession supplying materials for his crafting profession. Although this is not strictly mandatory, and alt characters may help greatly bridge the gap of choice, it is quite common.

I have crafted in several MMORPGs of past times. In World of Warcraft, I had become an Armorsmith, which was a sort of a prestige sub-class for a Blacksmith, back in its early days, when managing to become one did mean a rather lengthy questline and a very significant number of materials “wasted” just to procure the crafted items the quests requested. Of course, later on they changed this whole concept to simply talking to an NPC and becoming an Armorsmith, driving people like me slightly insane, but no matter.

Understandably enough, becoming a miner was the only option to pursue, in order to keep the levelling up costs “manageable”. That is not to say that one had no need to pay –and pay handsomely- for raw materials or recipe components, merely to level the profession up. The yield of mining was considerably worse in higher level areas, especially with “mining veins” being shared among players.

In Star Wars: The Old Republic I was also an armortech, the game’s armorsmith of the future. This game tried to go down a different route in regards to professions. Yes, a limit did exist, however, the “mining equivalent” of the game, scavenging, took place in a “metal skinning” fashion, harvesting junk from dead robot enemies.

What was even more important was that one’s spaceship crew could be sent to “missions” designed to fetch you valuable ingredients, while you were occupied with other tasks –or were doing exactly nothing.

While those missions cost money, their actual cost was considerably higher than “mere money”: They cost time. A high level “mission” could mean your companions sent to it were unavailable for 2 hours at a time. And if the mission failed, as was the case sometimes, they returned empty handed, having cost you both time and money for no profit at all.

Admittedly, FFXIV: ARR seems to have the most promising systems of crafting yet, compared not simply to the MMORPGs mentioned earlier, but generally speaking.

For starters, there are no limits. Much like the combat classes, a character can also become proficient in absolutely every single crafting and gathering class they choose to. The classes, themselves, are quite plentiful, offering a wide diversity of things to gather and craft.

I cannot speak out of vast personal experience, since in Beta Phase 3 I only dabbled in a couple of crafting classes and no gathering yet (since I found the time poorly invested with a character wipe looming), but still, crafting looks to be fun.

Time is definitely not the sole metric differentiating an “easy” to craft item from a “hard” one. There is an array of choices, skills and abilities, that can be used to craft the item, providing players with both a relative freedom of choice (Somewhat different skills may be used to produce somewhat different results) and a degree of skill introduced in the equation.

Combine higher quality base materials with the appropriate skills, and the chance to end up with a “HQ” or “High Quality” variant of the item rises. It makes for a satisfying challenge for both the players looking to spend some “alone time” in the game, and the dedicated crafters who would rather live a mercantile life to the end of their characters’ virtual days.

Improvements in some quality of life areas will be most welcome, once again, especially in the form of a “shortcut” to mass-create several basic items in a queued manner, or the introduction of some gathering-specific quests which will make these professions a tad easier to level up, compared to their crafting equivalents.

But one thing is for certain: If anyone I knew fancied to inform me of “a game where crafters are classes of their own and use crafting rotations, buffs and abilities”, a couple of years ago, I would probably still be laughing to the absurdity of the idea, imagining a hilariously broken system with a million things going wrong.

I am glad I seem to be proven wrong thus far.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned on the blog for the next articles to come in the next few days, provided you enjoy this kind of articles, of course!

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you'd like to leave a comment, or generally get back to me about it:
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Saturday, July 20th:
  • Identity Crisis - Has the MMORPG genre been fundamentally changed with the concept of “MOBAs” in existence?

Article follows (unformatted)
Identity Crisis - Has the MMORPG genre been fundamentally changed with the concept of “MOBAs” in existence?


Where (massively) multiplayer online games are concerned, the status quo has certainly been altered in the last decade.

After World of Warcraft’s all-time high numbers, suddenly creating MMORPGs became quite common, quite mainstream, compared to the obscurity the genre found itself in until the early 00’s.

Some years passed. Several strong brands attempted to challenge World of Warcraft’s dominance. There were certain universes which, lore-wise and as a foundation, offered much more than Warcraft, notably the Warhammer universe, or the Dungeons & Dragons collective universe (Forgotten Realms included).

Ultimately, it became crystal-clear: No, creating new games which lacked clear vision, considerable amounts of resources, a talented development team backing the effort, and a strong brand name, was not a profitable endeavour necessarily. Or at least as profitable as publishers might prefer it to be.

The reasons are many, but can be summed up to horrible project management, miscalculating the needs and skills of their respective community, remaining set on a particular course come **** or high water, dubious quality assurance processes, and of course attempting to compete with a behemoth, where World of Warcraft was concerned, swimming in money and able to freely devote weeks or months of brainstorming for certain features, without the fear or anxiety of financial woes present.

Eventually, both payment models and the very scope of several games changed. Apart from following the “Free-to-Play” route (which has been discussed in previous articles and elsewhere – but this comic strip seems to take the bull by the horns on how such a model truly operates), the very trends of games changed, or seemed to change, in the past few years.

The advent of micro-transactions and impulse purchases, championed by Apples’ AppStore™ and aided by Google’s Android as well as several other “shops” helped fuel a new genre of games on its own, the so-called MOBA.

What is a MOBA? First of all, a funny-sounding acronym, invented to describe something that could only be described as “DotA” before. It stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

What’s its relation to an MMORPG? None really. It’s infinitely more repetitive. Infinitely more boring. Infinitely more stagnating. But it can be played competitively, like an RTS built to do that (StarCraft™ comes to mind) can.

There have been articles from respectable electronic publications heralding “The death of traditional MMORPGs”, using examples of MOBAs as “their successors”. Some other games offering persistent worlds, but not belonging to the RPG genre at all, have also been dubbed “the next big thing”. Is this logic sound?

This depends on the viewing angle: If the question of our days is “Will an MMORPG ever reach the population of a medium country playing it, at any given time?” then – The answer is no, no it will not. Role playing games, by their nature, have an appeal which can be realised best with specific audiences.

Certainly, there are competitive elements inside MMORPGs. The desire to rise up in PvP rankings, or the desire to be counted among the select few members of a caste who have successfully brought down a hard PvE encounter. Even the desire certain people link with associating their player names as “quality crafting”. There are many cases to be found where people will compete, and will do so gladly.

However, will large-scale communities be formed on account of MMORPG inherent elements? By defining “large-scale” to a few million players worldwide, for the genre as a whole, they will. Still, overthrowing League of Legends’ 32 million registered players, and 5 million concurrent peak players, will simply not happen.

There is a simple reasoning behind this, and this is the age and attitude of players enjoying each genre. A great majority of teenagers will flock to a MOBA type of game, pursuing endlessly instant gratification and a sense of empowerment only quick victories may provide. That is not to state that there are no teenagers enjoying role-playing games, but they belong in a minority, compared to sheer numbers enjoying first-person shooters or MOBAs.

While these arguments may initially sound prejudiced, or biased, this is certainly not the case. Riot, the League of Legends developer, has spent unprecedented amounts of money attempting to both analyse psychologically, and offer a solution to, its community’s behavioural problems. Simply put, players indulging their instant gratification competitive play needs, are not ordinarily well-behaved, orderly or willing to function at higher level.

Response times (in the area of milliseconds, of course) are all that matter. Endless spamming of abilities, fine-tuning of strategies and the dogma of “practice makes perfect” reign over anything else.

Comparing MOBAs or other persistent world games which are not really an RPG with MMORPGs is somewhat offending, since they were meant to cater to quite different audiences. In raw financial terms, publishers and development teams are probably getting their money’s worth out of MOBAs at this point of time…

…But even this landscape is already dominated by industry titans, including Riot, Valve and even Blizzard, who are all launching their own flavours of the instant gratification competitive play arena genre.
Can this ordeal be compared with a player investing hours of his or her time into shaping a character into an avatar of their own, participating in glorious battles against notorious foes? Of course not.

But companies looking to create the “next big thing” luring a couple dozen millions of players to try it out will not find it in MMORPGs, since it can be easily admitted –and proven- that all role playing games in general, massively multiplayer online or single player, cooperative or solo, pen and paper or digital…

…Do have passionate fans, but not 100 million of them.

Can FFXIV: ARR create “A Genre Reborn”? - Epilogue

After an array of eight articles thus far, and some 10 days instead of the initially forecasted 8, it is time to complete this series with an epilogue, discussing previous articles summarily.

Can FFXIV: ARR create “A Genre Reborn”? This question may appear somewhat deceiving and incoherent, since ARR is not a game forcing its players to play it whilst nude on their respective town or village squares, dancing mad in an attempt to summon Shiva upon the land.

Innovation does exist in this game, however it comes in a form of several little touches around the world, the gameplay and the provision of an immersive, enriched experience.

Even after several thousand words of analysis, touching aspects of the upcoming game as well as the logic behind them, we cannot magically isolate one single element which FFXIV: ARR provides and promises to be the next best thing since sliced bread.

The game seems to take a modest route, avoiding statements ridden with illusions of grandeur such as “The killer game” or “The destroyer of Blizzard Entertainment”. And this is a positive sign.

Despite one great looming issue, associated with client / server logic most probably, the lack of perfect responsiveness when executing actions, and the combat system’s potential to become great –rather than simply edging from “adequate” to “good” as it does until now-, there are no huge show stoppers affecting the game.

If Square Enix continues to show long-lasting care into the game, under the guidance and leadership of Director Yoshida, they have a winner in their hands.

If they decide to take the easy way out, renege on their promises of well-paced and substantial updates, and leave Eorzea to die a horrible death, they will of course fail to turn this around.

The company deserves all the support it can muster from long-time fans and newcomers alike, for undertaking an unprecedented move, attempting to radically redesign and tune a failed MMORPG into something fun.

However, trust goes both ways, and should the gamers / consumers honour their end of the deal by happily subscribing, Square Enix remains liable to honour theirs.

That’s all for “The Genre Reborn” series of articles. After a few days of deliberation on where to continue this endeavour, an update will be posted on this blog, and in certain forums where this series of articles was posted for their readers’ pleasure, informing you on where you may find future articles and musings by yours truly.

Continuing to run these in a similarly frequent and “burst” fashion is unsustainable, considering that free time or lack thereof dictated their length and focus, more so than the author’s personal quality standards. In the future, it would be better for you to be able to read content including more references, images, and such, something which could not fit under the “broadly an article per day” premise.

I hope you enjoyed this series of articles and would consider reading more content from me in the future, and who knows, even cure your insomnia incidents if deciding to read it late at night!


Feedback is always welcome on both this particular article and the series as a whole. If you'd like to leave a comment, or generally get back to me about it:
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Edited, Jul 22nd 2013 7:48pm by Sovjohn
#2 Jul 13 2013 at 7:59 PM Rating: Good
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I think someone rated down my thread, which I found weird, since I did not post anything mean.

Even formatting this post for Zam's custom forum tags took me quite sometime, and while I'll respect anyone not liking the idea of my article(s) coverage, don't abuse that karma system for no reason at all Smiley: frown
#3 Jul 13 2013 at 8:47 PM Rating: Excellent
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1) Mentioning being rated down just leads to more rate downs.

2) People tend to dislike threads that boil down to "Go to this other page," no matter how much time you spent on the opening post, for many reasons. Some reasons include site loyalty, the impression that the forum is just being used to steal a reader base, the impression that the forum is being used for free advertising, and so on. The only exceptions to this dislike are links that are links to the site's own articles and links to the official page for whatever game the forum is covering.

3) People tend to have a less negative reaction if the contents of the link are also spoiler-posted in the OP or subsequent posts, because then they can read it without having to be diverted elsewhere.
#4 Jul 13 2013 at 11:18 PM Rating: Good
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I'll be keeping an eye on this. It's pretty late so I won't read it now, but I'll take a look when I can and offer my feedback.
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#5 Jul 14 2013 at 3:51 AM Rating: Good
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I don't have a problem with including the article / future articles in here. They'd just be somewhat less formatted, that's the only reason I didn't do it in the first place.

And no, I'm not trying to 'externally promote' anything, this thing could be in the new Lodestone if it was permanently up -it's not-, so nothing of the sort really.
#6Killua125, Posted: Jul 14 2013 at 5:05 AM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) Are you hinting in your first section that innovation is bad and ARR's "more of the same" is the hidden key to saving MMORPGs?
#7Killua125, Posted: Jul 14 2013 at 5:09 AM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) So why are they adding Lightning and dimension hopping robot behemoths?
#8 Jul 14 2013 at 5:24 AM Rating: Excellent
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Killua125 wrote:
Are you hinting in your first section that innovation is bad and ARR's "more of the same" is the hidden key to saving MMORPGs?


Innovation, on its own, is a gimmick. You cannot sustain a pleasant experience by touting "innovation" around.

Examples:

SWTOR stated that "full voiceovers everywhere" was innovation. They were very nice -and expensive to make as we all know-, but they could not save a dismally managed game.

GW2 claimed the "abolishing of holy trinity" as innovation. However, the way they handled skills across classes meant that everyone felt very generic indeed. Implementation was sub-par.

Tera wanted players to ignore the problems of the game and focus on its "action-based combat" as innovation. It did not take long before becoming stale and actually tiring, however.

As Elliot rightly writes at Massively FFXIV's Buffet Effect, offering many bits and pieces carefully considered can yield better results.

Killua125 wrote:
Quote:
While naysayers have been quick to dub FFXIV: ARR “A WoW clone”, it does not quite fit in this category.

Rift was much more of a WoW clone than FFXIV:


So FFXIV is a knockoff of a knockoff? Because it seems like RIFT is one of the biggest inspirations for ARR.

Quote:
from a development team that cares about the world they’ve made.


So why are they adding Lightning and dimension hopping robot behemoths?


No, Rift was (from its very launch) a copycat of WoW in all regards, with the "Rifts" being touted as 'innovation' by the way (Predictably they lost their shiny new effect some months down the line). I've talked to people who have played WoW for many years, and they don't call ARR a clone.

Amazingly enough, though, if they changed the combat system -for instance- to an even faster and 'button-mashing' one, that system would certainly resemble other games even more.

As for Lightning etc - You didn't ask why they're including Magitek armors, or chocobos, or materia, or several other elements from other FF games, why should anyone be bothered about Lightning?

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 7:25am by Sovjohn
#9 Jul 14 2013 at 6:07 AM Rating: Default
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Sovjohn wrote:
Killua125 wrote:
Are you hinting in your first section that innovation is bad and ARR's "more of the same" is the hidden key to saving MMORPGs?


Innovation, on its own, is a gimmick. You cannot sustain a pleasant experience by touting "innovation" around.



Hate that people keep saying this.

Love, love, love when developers try to be creative and add unique things to their game. Just because they advertise their unique features doesn't make it a gimmick.

Does it always work? No. (FFXIV 1.0) Does that mean developers should throw their hands in the air and do reskins of preexisting games? **** no.

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 8:07am by Killua125
#10 Jul 14 2013 at 6:19 AM Rating: Excellent
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Sovjohn wrote:
As Elliot rightly writes at Massively FFXIV's Buffet Effect, offering many bits and pieces carefully considered can yield better results.


That's the counter-argument that I wish was being touted around more and more when people clamor for some sort of innovation or state that A Realm Reborn isn't going to win marks for originality when it comes to what it does as an MMORPG. And I've felt that way since originally seeing Eliot's article on Massively a couple of weeks ago as well (actually longer, but he was able to put it in to words in a way I wasn't able to).

It's nice to see innovation and originality, obviously. It's what makes a genre of games, or even video games as a whole, continue to progress and move onward in ways that appeal both to a core demographic of gamers as well as to a larger, broader audience. But at the same time, sometimes it is simply about doing the right thing with the tools and mechanics already out there that will make your game a good one. Should a game such as The Binding of Isaac be immediately disregarded as just a The Legend of Zelda knock-off because its mechanics are ultimately the same, or should it be lauded for its dark, morbid themes and its own way of taking an existing system from a game and making it addictively enjoyable to play? Apparently Metacritic feels the latter way because its aggregate score sits at about an 85; not bad for what ultimately started as a Newgrounds flash game, right?

Anyway, getting a bit tangent-y. The point is that A Realm Reborn may not do a lot that is new (and some people in particular around here would likely argue it does nothing new at all, period), but that's okay with me. What it does do is take mechanics from the MMO genre that are already out there and shape them, mold them, and refine them in a way that makes those very mechanics even better. Putting it all together like ARR does may very well be what its strong point is, more than any efforts to innovate. And in the end there is nothing wrong with that.

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 8:21am by Satisiun
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#11 Jul 14 2013 at 8:54 AM Rating: Decent
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Sovjohn wrote:
Innovation, on its own, is a gimmick. You cannot sustain a pleasant experience by touting "innovation" around.

Examples:

SWTOR stated that "full voiceovers everywhere" was innovation. They were very nice -and expensive to make as we all know-, but they could not save a dismally managed game.

GW2 claimed the "abolishing of holy trinity" as innovation. However, the way they handled skills across classes meant that everyone felt very generic indeed. Implementation was sub-par.

Tera wanted players to ignore the problems of the game and focus on its "action-based combat" as innovation. It did not take long before becoming stale and actually tiring, however.

As Elliot rightly writes at Massively FFXIV's Buffet Effect, offering many bits and pieces carefully considered can yield better results.

Innovation is good, but it has to be done good and it doesn't allow you a free pass to do sub-par in other areas. If offline FF had only the ATB which is the series mainstay but faltered in delivery in other areas. That wouldn't get you those 90+ critic ratings.

Sovjohn wrote:
No, Rift was (from its very launch) a copycat of WoW in all regards, with the "Rifts" being touted as 'innovation' by the way (Predictably they lost their shiny new effect some months down the line). I've talked to people who have played WoW for many years, and they don't call ARR a clone.

Amazingly enough, though, if they changed the combat system -for instance- to an even faster and 'button-mashing' one, that system would certainly resemble other games even more.

Rifts are just evolutions of FFXI and Warhammer public quests, GW2 took that in a better direction with dynamic events., basically XI campaign all over Tyria., but added in some huge monsters and dynamic hotbars.

I certainly hope they don't increase the speed but rather the depth of combat. The fast speed would make it seem to be twitch based combat which FF is not known for.

Killua125 wrote:
Hate that people keep saying this.

Love, love, love when developers try to be creative and add unique things to their game. Just because they advertise their unique features doesn't make it a gimmick.

Does it always work? No. (FFXIV 1.0) Does that mean developers should throw their hands in the air and do reskins of preexisting games? **** no.

I don't love when developers try to add unique stuff unless it is done superb. And if they are trying to do unique on every facet at once, something usually gets implemented badly.

I want battle/racing content in Magitek. But I want them to get the fundamentals in the core game done first, so if they ever did add that type of content it is not rushed.
#12Ostia, Posted: Jul 14 2013 at 9:12 AM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) What does ARR does better than any other game, that any other game is already doing ? End game content ? No! Blizzard does that better, Duty Finder ? Nope, is a carbon copy of WOW's LFG Tool, Fates ? Nope, GW2 does them better, they are even tied to the story, in XIV, they are just out there to be there, having everything one just one character ? Nope! XI does it better, in XIV you are tied to one character, and that one character is unable to experience the complete game, if you want to experience the 3 different city stories, you need to create 3 characters.
#13 Jul 14 2013 at 10:00 AM Rating: Excellent
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Ostia wrote:
Satisiun wrote:
[quote=Sovjohn]
Anyway, getting a bit tangent-y. The point is that A Realm Reborn may not do a lot that is new (and some people in particular around here would likely argue it does nothing new at all, period), but that's okay with me. What it does do is take mechanics from the MMO genre that are already out there and shape them, mold them, and refine them in a way that makes those very mechanics even better. Putting it all together like ARR does may very well be what its strong point is, more than any efforts to innovate. And in the end there is nothing wrong with that.

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 8:21am by Satisiun


What does ARR does better than any other game, that any other game is already doing ? End game content ? No! Blizzard does that better, Duty Finder ? Nope, is a carbon copy of WOW's LFG Tool, Fates ? Nope, GW2 does them better, they are even tied to the story, in XIV, they are just out there to be there, having everything one just one character ? Nope! XI does it better, in XIV you are tied to one character, and that one character is unable to experience the complete game, if you want to experience the 3 different city stories, you need to create 3 characters.

So what does XIV really does better than any other game, besides being FF ?


For the life of me, I don't know what you might expect from a game, any game, in order for it to be worth of your praise.

What's wrong with ARR's duty finder? It resembles WoW's too much, you say? ...And?

How could it be 'better' or industry leading, if you will? Summon fairies to massage your feet while you wait? Offer you the chance to visit a whorehouse with male and female NPC's to kill your waiting time? Throw fireworks whenever it finds a group for you?

Come on. Get real. If the game had no duty finder, you would claim "it takes too much time to find a group, this is a recipe for failure". Now that it does have one -and it works-, you state 'it's a copy'.

There's no way to please a certain segment of people.
#14 Jul 14 2013 at 10:31 AM Rating: Default
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Crafting is better than most games?
#15 Jul 14 2013 at 12:05 PM Rating: Excellent
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Ostia wrote:
What does ARR does better than any other game, that any other game is already doing ? End game content ? No! Blizzard does that better, Duty Finder ? Nope, is a carbon copy of WOW's LFG Tool, Fates ? Nope, GW2 does them better, they are even tied to the story, in XIV, they are just out there to be there, having everything one just one character ? Nope! XI does it better, in XIV you are tied to one character, and that one character is unable to experience the complete game, if you want to experience the 3 different city stories, you need to create 3 characters.

So what does XIV really does better than any other game, besides being FF ?



Um. So yeah. Maybe I should have tossed in an 'in my opinion' somewhere. That or I should have been a little more general in what I said, since ultimately what I meant was that when everything is pieced together, it works pretty **** great.

It's basically the "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" argument, except I'm relating it to game mechanics more than I am people and teamwork. Still, I guess if you want to break it down on an individual basis, I'll keep it simple and just focus on your own grievances mentioned here:

End game content: Ostia, what end-game content? There is nothing available at all right now. The highest content in the Beta is level 32, which is the Brayflox instance. Neither you or I could argue one way or the other on what has better end-game content at this point in time because it simply does not exist for anyone to even try right now.

Duty Finder: I disagree, and I'll just let Sovjohn's response to that take over for anything I would say. Imitation is a form of flattery, after all.

FATEs: I disagree. Again. Personally speaking I would loathe for FATEs to be tied in to the story, much less actual story progression. Having to be at the beck and whim of when they spawn, and if enough people are around to take it down at any given time. As for "just being out there to be there", read the flavor text that comes with them some time. Many of them at least have some reason or rhyme, while others enjoyably pay homage to other references both from FFXI and other games/popular media.

Story content: Now this is a funny one, because you're basically trying to argue that going in to a nation's Chamber of Commerce and having a memory wipe spell cast on you (that is seriously how they explained it in Final Fantasy XI) somehow constitutes good storytelling. Because that is basically how it worked in FFXI; you went to the nation's CoC, pay a few thousand to a few ten thousand gil, and they give you a spiel about how they will now lock your memories away to hide "state secrets". And don't forget that every NPC is in on this, too. In short, XI's method of doing it, while it allowed for intake of all individual nation content, was also ridiculously simple-minded if you want to look at it from a lore standpoint. Further, we don't know if there will be individual city-state content after what we have seen so far. If they add something comparable to the Rank 6-10 mission content that you see in XI, than sure, complain about not being able to do it without grinding out a second character! I'd actually hope they would find a way to open up city-state content of that type without walling people out, so I'd concur if that happens. Otherwise you'll have anywhere from 7 to 39 other character slots to easily get from 1 to 15 in a matter of a couple of days.

So that's all I got. I still stand by what I said to begin with.

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 2:06pm by Satisiun
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Jobs: 99DRG, 99PLD, 99RDM, 99WHM | Everything else: 50-60
~Retired.~

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Server(s): Sargantas (primary)
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#16Ostia, Posted: Jul 14 2013 at 12:19 PM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) Why is there a need to say ARR does things better, when it does Not ? It creates hype that is not needed, and that cannot be matched, you yourself said it resembles wow's LFG tool and ? Exactly there is nothing wrong with it resembling it, but to go out and say "IT'S BETTER" is not factually true, are fates better than GW2 ones ? Nope, they are inferior, so why say is better ? This is what i do not understand around this parts, it is ok to lie if you are saying something positive about the game, but if you tell a truth that is negative towards the game is a big NO NO! ?
#17 Jul 14 2013 at 12:40 PM Rating: Excellent
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Dude, are you smoking something fancy? If yes, I want in on it please.

I don't recall my article stating "ARR is the best game in the universe, the destroyer of WoW and the executioner of all other games published in the world".

What I've actually said and implied is that there's nothing wrong with a game made up by several little things it does well, even without a "notable feature" it can use to attempt to persuade people to try it.

I will not continue this meaningless argument however - I will reply in this thread once my next article(s) are available.
#18Ostia, Posted: Jul 14 2013 at 1:02 PM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) End Game Content You cannot outdo WOW at WOW, 500 MMOS have tried 500 MMOS have died, 1.23 had end game content, you can judge from that, and predict what we will get, again we will have the same end game content as in 1.23 with the exception of White Riven, which will be replaced with the new Judge, and 2 Raid Dungeons at release, other than that, there is nothing new or shiny, Ifrit extreme will be ifrit extreme, garuda will be garuda, etc etc, that will be part of the END GAME CONTENT! With 2 raids that we know nothing off, other than one of them will be incomplete on release Smiley: lol
#19 Jul 14 2013 at 1:52 PM Rating: Good
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Ostia wrote:

Duty Finder It works exactly the same way as Blizzards LFG Tool, there is no difference, you enter a role, and your desired content to do, then after X minutes you get a party invite.... Nothing new or innovative, so how is it better here than there ? IS THE SAME! Is it good that is the same ? Yes! But it is not Better.

I won't argue if it's better or not but it is different. You don't have to hop on an alternate character and you can change jobs or activities on the fly if you fancy doing alternate class stuff while waiting.

Ostia wrote:
Fates Again they are inferior, and by your answer i suspect you did not play Rift or GW2, because they are not tied to the story, they have a lore in them to give them meaning in the game context, in XIV there is no real reason as to why 40 marmots warp in from a black light and start attacking you or an NPC other than because they wanted to ripoff GW2/Rift. There is no lore behind fates other than, "Hey it worked in that game, lets just put it here and call it a day" that is lazy, and their design in this game is very inferior to GW2, is it bad they ripped off GW2 or Rift ? No, but they should have done it correctly, adding stuff just for the sake of adding stuff is not good, if you are gonna add something, add it right, and then add a FF twist to it.

I think GW2 does it better because events cascade and it has emergent gameplay in it. It's not forever permanent but the world is affected briefly. I don't know why SE went with the appear out of nowhere thing. It would have been more immersive seeing them approach and attack as in FFXI campaign or besieged without cutscenes. This can be remedied if players demand it enough. I'd rather have alternatives to standard fed-ex quests than nothing at all.

Ostia wrote:
Story Content They already wiped your memory :) If you are legacy you get the same story as you do being a new player, there is nothing new or shiny for legacy players, and their excuse is "Memory loss" so if legacy characters and brand new characters are going to be treated as new adventures, because SE was lazy and dint want to give legacy players an unique story line.... Ok Cool! So we are new adventurers.... Why can i not experience the story quest of gradina if i started in uldah ? They are not the same, Gradina deals with the sylphs and ramuh, uldah deals with ifrit and the empire, why should i have to start another character in order to experience that content, when the selling point of this game, is that you can do everything in one CHARACTER!

I can see how that sucks for legacy players in a way. But if they re-did all the story from the ground up, I don't think ARR would be releasing until late 2014-mid 2015. By then that promise to PS3 players would be stupid to keep and idk if everyone in ARR would like having to wait two more years with no play.
#20 Jul 14 2013 at 2:20 PM Rating: Excellent
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Yoshida-san set out to create a modern MMO with a Final Fantasy theme. And I believe he did just that. And judging from the withdrawal symptoms from the beta testers, I believe that's all Final Fantasy fans ever needed.
#21 Jul 14 2013 at 3:20 PM Rating: Excellent
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The second article is up. You can visit the post at the top and click on the link to see it in its original location, or just click on the spoiler to see it here.

I hope you read the new article and would like to discuss it!

Unfortunately, due to ZAM's system being quite incompatible with VBulletin formatting, the spoiler included here is not formatted properly. Your mileage may vary.
#22 Jul 14 2013 at 3:26 PM Rating: Excellent
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Xoie wrote:
Yoshida-san set out to create a modern MMO with a Final Fantasy theme. And I believe he did just that. And judging from the withdrawal symptoms from the beta testers, I believe that's all Final Fantasy fans ever needed.


I think that's my issue. It seems like the "innovation" or "gimmick" or "hook" or "really cool thing designed to bring people in and keep them here" is the Final Fantasy name and . . . that's it.

I think what some people are arguing for here (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that we need more.

At least I do.

Now can I say what that thing is? I donno. ArchAge seems to be trying for it. Everquest Next seems to be trying for it. What is FF XIV doing? Seemingly relying on an established formula that won't shake things up and pull people in with the Final Fantasy name.

Final Fantasy and S-E loyalty is what brought me into beta. So far it isn't looking like I'm staying.

On the other hand, if Final Fantasy does it for you, I am very happy for you. Honestly.
#23 Jul 14 2013 at 3:44 PM Rating: Excellent
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Ostia wrote:
Satisiun wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:

Anyway, getting a bit tangent-y. The point is that A Realm Reborn may not do a lot that is new (and some people in particular around here would likely argue it does nothing new at all, period), but that's okay with me. What it does do is take mechanics from the MMO genre that are already out there and shape them, mold them, and refine them in a way that makes those very mechanics even better. Putting it all together like ARR does may very well be what its strong point is, more than any efforts to innovate. And in the end there is nothing wrong with that.

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 8:21am by Satisiun


What does ARR does better than any other game, that any other game is already doing ? End game content ? No! Blizzard does that better, Duty Finder ? Nope, is a carbon copy of WOW's LFG Tool, Fates ? Nope, GW2 does them better, they are even tied to the story, in XIV, they are just out there to be there, having everything one just one character ? Nope! XI does it better, in XIV you are tied to one character, and that one character is unable to experience the complete game, if you want to experience the 3 different city stories, you need to create 3 characters.

So what does XIV really does better than any other game, besides being FF ?


Yotis wrote:
[quote=Xoie]Yoshida-san set out to create a modern MMO with a Final Fantasy theme. And I believe he did just that. And judging from the withdrawal symptoms from the beta testers, I believe that's all Final Fantasy fans ever needed.


I think that's my issue. It seems like the "innovation" or "gimmick" or "hook" or "really cool thing designed to bring people in and keep them here" is the Final Fantasy name and . . . that's it.

I think what some people are arguing for here (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that we need more.

At least I do.

Now can I say what that thing is? I donno. ArchAge seems to be trying for it. Everquest Next seems to be trying for it. What is FF XIV doing? Seemingly relying on an established formula that won't shake things up and pull people in with the Final Fantasy name.

Final Fantasy and S-E loyalty is what brought me into beta. So far it isn't looking like I'm staying.

On the other hand, if Final Fantasy does it for you, I am very happy for you. Honestly.


I'm sorry it isn't good enough for you. It's the most "addictive" any MMO has felt to me since I started playing WoW. I've played all the games that innovated, and the only one that actually felt like more than a gimmick to me was GW2 (although they inexplicably fall into the trap of thinking they need "lots of levels," which caused problems with the design.). Even so, that game kept me entertained for a few months and then it was onto the next thing. I love the look of the game, I love (in concept) a lot of the game systems. I think they had the courage to be different and I hope they made and continue to make a bunch of money because of it, but it just didn't hold me for very long.

There are a lot of really good ideas for MMOs which have been abandoned rather than refined. There's a lot of room to do things which are proven to be engrossing, and ArchAge for example seems like one example of that, returning to a sand box feel for a game but with real commitment and resources. I hope it's also successful, and when it comes out, maybe I'll play it. I love sandbox games, especially sandbox MMOs, and I'm glad some one is really trying to make it work, with a budget behind it.

That said, I can tell you right now some of what I think FFXIV does better than other games. I like the crafting better than other games. I find it to be not quite as engrossing as Star Wars Galaxies, but SWG is dead. You can make an argument that EQ2 has better crafting, but the rest of EQ2 does not appeal to me like ARR does. FFXIV does a great job of pacing and even hand holding at the start, and it has a great aesthetic to it. It's easy to pooh pooh the FF setting and trappings, but there's a lot of great design and nostalgia in the franchise, and being able to faithfully execute that is worth something. Great aesthetics, great sound design, these things matter.

There are a lot of things I wish they did differently. I wish they'd kept the job/subjob system from FFXI, as well as more horizontal gear progression. I wish they'd kept BCNM type encounters. I wish they'd either kept the races identical to the way they are in FFXI or simply gone with a completely different lineup, perhaps from the Final Fantasy Tactics world. But all of that said, when I log into the game and play, I have fun, and when I log out, within an hour or two, I want to play again. Whether or not the game is completely different from WoW or Rift or whatever from a macro level, my enjoyment of it is vastly different, similar to the way I enjoyed WoW for the first 5 years I played it.
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#24 Jul 14 2013 at 3:47 PM Rating: Good
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/me sends a beer over to both Satisiun and KarlHungis for writing quite long and elaborate replies which I liked =)

On a sidenote, I hope you have the chance to take a look at the second article posted. Or future articles. Opinions are always welcome, positive or negative, doesn't really matter, everyone can play =)
#25 Jul 14 2013 at 3:52 PM Rating: Good
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Also, (although I generally feel bad when responding twice in a row) now that two articles are online, I would appreciate some feedback on the writing style / feeling of them. If you find them tiring, boring, or have other problems with them, I can still resolve them in the coming articles =)

...In a week, I won't be able to say that! :D
#26 Jul 14 2013 at 4:01 PM Rating: Good
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Quote:
That said, I can tell you right now some of what I think FFXIV does better than other games. I like the crafting better than other games. I find it to be not quite as engrossing as Star Wars Galaxies, but SWG is dead. You can make an argument that EQ2 has better crafting, but the rest of EQ2 does not appeal to me like ARR does. FFXIV does a great job of pacing and even hand holding at the start, and it has a great aesthetic to it. It's easy to pooh pooh the FF setting and trappings, but there's a lot of great design and nostalgia in the franchise, and being able to faithfully execute that is worth something. Great aesthetics, great sound design, these things matter.


Honestly, that's one thing that I feel bad for not trying. But, to be honest, I have no interest in crafting. My loss I suppose.
#27 Jul 14 2013 at 4:06 PM Rating: Good
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I read your second article, and I have to say your input about MMO veterans interested me a good deal because I've had a similar experience yesterday. No, I wasn't out having coffee with Mike, but I talked to other MMO veterans on the game and I asked them how they felt about it.

First of all, my first MMO was FFXI, so I'm a person who is used to slow, methodical, positioned-based gameplay. Mathematics and gear check scenarios are a norm for me, and I always aim to get the best gear at the time and make the most efficient choice. I play my role to the best of my ability and experiment on how to better myself. Once I was done with that game, I've journeyed through other MMOs such as Aion, SWTOR, and GW2. So I've seen multiple combat styles and vastly different progression methods.

I've played almost all of Phase 3 Beta. I cleared out all desirable content, tried out Gathering classes, Crafting classes, posted on forums to check out bugs, ran dungeons multiple times as both Gladiator and Lancer, and sometimes just sat back and enjoyed the scenery and ambiance. As we speak, even though I'm practically done with everything, I feel the urge to hop back on before Phase 3 ends and run dungeons on my GLA just for the fun of it.

This is a good sign.

My linkshell has different gaming histories. One person is a WoW veteran and runs nightly raids with his Guild, and he plans on dropping that game entirely as soon as FFXIV is released. Another played FFXI and XIV 1.0, and he's in love with the game. Another one came from EVE Online and Tera, and he enjoys the crafting system. Overall, they're all massively impressed with the game. They enjoy the dungeons, the multiple class switching, they even nerdgasmed over the Auto-Translate function, which is something that has been in FFXI ever since it began.

This is a great sign.

Now of course this is just a small pool of numbers, not even over 10. However, they're all MMO veterans from different backgrounds. I honestly don't know how ARR is appealing to such a large diversity of veterans, but it is, contrary to the official forums' belief.

However, my worry lies with the casuals. As everyone knows, RPGs these days are becoming more action-based. This means physically dodging instead of relying on a RNG, and physically aiming your attacks and having a slew of abilities to change the pace of battle. While I know FFXIV has a lot to do, I fear having all those choices may bring a mediocre first impression to casuals, the battle system especially since it takes quite awhile to start really seeing the depth, because Action RPGs usually has a strong start to excite you and drives you to play. Veterans aren't affected by a slow start because we all know the real meat of the game is at max level (or they came from FFXI/Everquest), but Newcomers don't know that. If Newcomers aren't impressed by, say, the first two hours of gameplay, will they continue to play? Let alone getting to max level.
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#28 Jul 14 2013 at 4:17 PM Rating: Good
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Many thanks for another long reply. You know, I tend to appreciate the time of other people as well, not just mine =)

Now, about your question: I think that even after playing 1-2 hours it becomes evident that "things get unlocked for me as I grow". The extent of this is not immediately evident, but there are two scenarios for "a new player" really:

1) They have joined because one or more friends convinced them to (this is the most likely scenario usually) or

2) They know noone, and I mean noone, playing the game personally and decided to get it out of being impressed with the name / box art on a shop, or what have you. That's less common.

However, this is something I will discuss in the future article of MOBA's and such, which is not far off (tomorrow). I'm afraid that most of today's teenagers have become somewhat broken with LOL and the like, and cannot easily appreciate any RPG, not just an MMORPG one.

For now, I just believe that some Q&A from friends where needed will convince scenario 1) players to stick around for a bit. After all, post-release, they get 30 days of game time, so it'd be somewhat stupid to drop the game in a couple of hours.
#29 Jul 14 2013 at 4:26 PM Rating: Excellent
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Sovjohn wrote:
Also, (although I generally feel bad when responding twice in a row) now that two articles are online, I would appreciate some feedback on the writing style / feeling of them. If you find them tiring, boring, or have other problems with them, I can still resolve them in the coming articles =)

...In a week, I won't be able to say that! :D


Regarding purely writing style, the articles feel well written, and you made sure to use the new paragraph lines more like a pause in breath instead of Every...Single...Line to avoid giant walls of text, so I like that. (I'm aware that the actual large clumps are really bullets in the original article.)
#30 Jul 14 2013 at 4:34 PM Rating: Good
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Thanks for the feedback. As previously stated, unfortunately adopting the articles format from standard BBcode of VBulletin to Zam's system would mean quite some additional time spent formatting them, so it's just sort of a compromise. Read here the crux of the content, but not really formatted to perfection, or visit the formatted article page instead.

I like Zam and all, but am not really fond of the forum system, since it feels quite "non-standard" to me. But oh well, can't have my pie and eat it too!
#31 Jul 14 2013 at 5:27 PM Rating: Excellent
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I have maintained a rather unpopular opinion since Tanaka left. I liked his game, or at least the direction it was supposed to take. I am not saying it was without flaw or polish, the publics response to the game really says it all but he had courage to try something different. I liked the concept of the open class system and the level up by quality of kill rather than quantity. I liked the idea of cross class horizontal growth not just vertical. I know everyone was clamoring because there were no clear jobs but I liked that you could make a unique class by crossing any ability.

I always caveat that Yoshi knows his stuff. He has created a game that fits today's current standard and I think will bring SE some good publicity and income. He just lacks the vision to break the mold. I like ARR mostly, I was just more excited by Tanakas vision of XIV than Yoshi's. I desperately wanted to see any MMO break into new territory.
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#32 Jul 14 2013 at 5:30 PM Rating: Good
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From the very little I had seen in FFXIV: 1.0 (a few hours only, on release, nothing after it, not even when Yoshi-P took it over) I think it generally bit much more than it could chew.

Am I mistaken in this? Do you think that it was a rough diamond of sorts?
#33 Jul 14 2013 at 6:59 PM Rating: Good
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Sovjohn wrote:
From the very little I had seen in FFXIV: 1.0 (a few hours only, on release, nothing after it, not even when Yoshi-P took it over) I think it generally bit much more than it could chew.

Am I mistaken in this? Do you think that it was a rough diamond of sorts?


It was a diamond in the rough, 1.0 with a proper team could have been a wonderful game, if managed properly, Tanaka is known for having a great vision for video games, he is also known for his tunnel vision, he will ignore any feedback that contradicts his vision of the game, even if said feedback ends up making the game better overall. The game first and foremost had a steep requirement just to run, and it launched lacking the most basic MMO tools. If they had launched with what the genre considers the standards, it would have given 1.0 more room to operate and implement tanakas vision. IMO
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#34 Jul 14 2013 at 8:01 PM Rating: Excellent
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Version 1.0 would have been fine if they had given themselves a little more time to listen to what people were saying.

But I think 1.0's failure was really good for the company as a whole, S-E's no longer this big secretive company, they're open communicators and in a sense, it's starting to be felt in their other projects as well.
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#35 Jul 14 2013 at 9:15 PM Rating: Decent
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kainsilv wrote:
I have maintained a rather unpopular opinion since Tanaka left. I liked his game, or at least the direction it was supposed to take. I am not saying it was without flaw or polish, the publics response to the game really says it all but he had courage to try something different. I liked the concept of the open class system and the level up by quality of kill rather than quantity. I liked the idea of cross class horizontal growth not just vertical. I know everyone was clamoring because there were no clear jobs but I liked that you could make a unique class by crossing any ability.

I always caveat that Yoshi knows his stuff. He has created a game that fits today's current standard and I think will bring SE some good publicity and income. He just lacks the vision to break the mold. I like ARR mostly, I was just more excited by Tanakas vision of XIV than Yoshi's. I desperately wanted to see any MMO break into new territory.

I'm gonna agree with you even though it don't matter now. Tanaka has left for a smaller company with more creative freedom but probably less global appeal. I wanted too see how the very first combat system in ARR would play like polished after feedback but they switched to that stamina system fast which I hated. I think jobs would have eventually made their way into ARR under Tanaka too just not at launch. I think he was shooting for an online FF tactics type of job system.

Yoshi is doing a fantastic job bringing FF up to the mmo standard for the core game. I don't think SE is gonna risk getting too wild to ensure they make what they lost back in this mmo and salvage their brand name in the mmo space. I do notice something I like about Yoshi but others might not agree. I'm getting the vibe that he will at some point bring metagames within the game. I'm really hoping for some magitek battles and for SE to make the airship battles, boat building, and group cooking/crafting come to fruition.

Edited, Jul 14th 2013 11:15pm by sandpark
#36 Jul 15 2013 at 12:42 AM Rating: Excellent
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However, my worry lies with the casuals. As everyone knows, RPGs these days are becoming more action-based. This means physically dodging instead of relying on a RNG, and physically aiming your attacks and having a slew of abilities to change the pace of battle. While I know FFXIV has a lot to do, I fear having all those choices may bring a mediocre first impression to casuals, the battle system especially since it takes quite awhile to start really seeing the depth, because Action RPGs usually has a strong start to excite you and drives you to play. Veterans aren't affected by a slow start because we all know the real meat of the game is at max level (or they came from FFXI/Everquest), but Newcomers don't know that. If Newcomers aren't impressed by, say, the first two hours of gameplay, will they continue to play? Let alone getting to max level.

Sometimes it's the veterans that are a curse to their own games. I have always felt the endgame term a misnomer within MMOs, but the fact the sentiment that endgame is where the game begins and perpetuated by veterans is a problem. Too many game devs embrace this and you get a mediocre leveling experience, either in not teaching people how to play, level too fast/slow, and poor stories. And even come endgame, stories tend to become secondary to the gear treadmill. Worrying about the casuals should be done, however, as endgame can be where they hit a wall when the quests run out, the duty finder isn't suitable for progression any longer, and their own casual friends are hard to organize with all their varied schedules/jobs/skills/gear level. When you find yourself spinning your wheels here seemingly getting nowhere, then that's when people will be tempted to quit. Basically, the casuals need their "endgame" too, and not to be treated as second-class players in the process. Unfortunately, it's too common for he MMO vets to demand that segregation.



As for the topic on GW2 events relative to FATEs, story integration, and all that jazz, all I can say is I'm seeing a bit of a selective memory with a potential dash of fanboyism. I seem to recall being a lowbie in Queensdale just to have spiders randomly attack an orchard. No real plot here. Just spiders attacking and no real consequence for doing nothing. "But that's just a lowbie area!" Well, if someone's willing to let that slide for GW2, it'd be a bit hypocritical to not allow it for XIV's early FATEs. As well, it's probably a bit presumptuous to assume player activity holds no influence in their spawning or eventual progression in (promised) tiered scenarios. I'd also say the consequences in GW2 get oversold. Oh no, a WP is inaccessible, a gate is put up, or some centaurs spawn in an area they normally didn't. These "changes" to Tyria were fleeting, and I'd also say Anet's fetish for temporary content/events is a bad thing. For all the talk of story integration, I never really felt like a hero. Even the main scenario's climax is underwhelming since, last I checked, Orr is still an undead-infested wasteland. Heck, for as "cool" as the three open-world dragon fights are, I can't really any reason for why they happen. They're seriously just overgrown spiders that happen to fit into their environmentally flavored orchard every so many hours. So, yeah, let's hold off on damning XIV's events until we see how the stuff with Odin and other homages pans out. ****, there was even one that parroted XI's beseiged with the quiqrns (I always butcher that race name) invading a town and kidnapping people we'll have to subsequently rescue.

To perhaps tie these two paragraphs together, I certainly hope casual endgame is more than just FATE chasing. I did that in Rift with its zone events. Sometimes you suffered with no events going on (also a problem in GW2). The rewards were also subpar for the time and effort. Someone leveling another class or craft will only go so far. But if you can keep the casual player engaged and feeling special in their own way, they'll be more likely to stick around. Though, vets also seem to interpret that as wanting handouts or other disparaging commentary. Ultimately, I'm hoping for a dev brave enough to break that "endgame" cycle of Raid or GTFO.
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#37 Jul 15 2013 at 4:57 AM Rating: Good
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You know I played XI off and on for nearly a decade. It took me 3 years to reach cap on my first job. You know what...? I was okay with it. The journey was just as much fun as the destination. I worked through parts of CoP and Zilart along the way participating long before I capped. The story was interesting enough I wanted to know more. The future of MMOs in my opinion, will be more about compelling story than battle mechanics or anything else. Involve people in telling a story and they will stick around.
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#38 Jul 15 2013 at 5:43 AM Rating: Decent
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Hello all,

With the Beta Phase 3 now over, today's article due to be posted in a few hours will be talking a bit about the business aspects of MMORPGs today. The article will not flame, however.

If you feel that posting one article per day is too fast for you to keep up with the content, I can easily modify this and make it one article per two or three days, so feedback is always welcome.

-John
#39 Jul 15 2013 at 6:39 AM Rating: Decent
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kainsilv wrote:
You know I played XI off and on for nearly a decade. It took me 3 years to reach cap on my first job. You know what...? I was okay with it. The journey was just as much fun as the destination. I worked through parts of CoP and Zilart along the way participating long before I capped. The story was interesting enough I wanted to know more. The future of MMOs in my opinion, will be more about compelling story than battle mechanics or anything else. Involve people in telling a story and they will stick around.

I do see big value in well told story. But this is not what holds an mmo together or TOR would still be P2P. A story in an mmo cannot match the number of hours you will put into the game. The preceding comments are not meant to imply that ARR has these qualities. If the combat sucks, the crafting sucks, the sidequest suck, the endgame sucks, the world design sucks, laggy menus, laggy play, no compelling job system, and redundant menus are all present. You could write the greatest story ever told and you might hold a few, but the rest will leave in droves.

FFXI had a great story in the main and sidequest, not just the main scenario where you won't be spending too much time. It was just so spread out and not clearly accessible which is partly why FFXI never got a larger playerbase than it did..But it's job system, renkei system, and other complexities is where most of a gamers time was spent. They were unique and deep, otherwise FFXI would have been the flat-out everquest copy with better story.
#40 Jul 15 2013 at 6:52 AM Rating: Decent
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@Seriha
I do not want Fates as the only piece meal in casual endgame either. I would like to see some content like FFXI abyssea, but without that gear relegating all other gear before it almost worthless. Content for low man or solo within the big dungeons like Crystal Tower, but still having that huge raid content for big groups.

There is going to be more casual endgame in ARR for sure with PvP coming down the pipeline. I hope it doesn't end there.
#41 Jul 15 2013 at 1:34 PM Rating: Excellent
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I'd be hesitant to call PvP casual. If anything, it can get pretty cut-throat and demoralizing for those who simply can't put as much into it if gear plays a major role in PvP effectiveness. Unfortunately, I don't think you're going to see the sidegrade model you crave in gear progression. Typically the biggest problem with new stuff invalidating the old is how quickly one can acquire the new stuff with a dash of how long the old took. People are going to feel jaded if it took 3+ months to get something, only for it to be second-rate a week later. Things like that are why I say no item in an MMO should really take more than a month to get with decent effort. Multiply this against job/class numbers on a single character and SE should really be encouraging people to play more than one (helps pad the duty finder when leveling, encourages the low/mid-range economy, helps early zones not seem so empty), instead of focusing so heavily on an individual class. Yet, you'll still have those who will refuse to branch out for whatever reason. As is, you'll get some gear overlap between jobs that share specific stats, but simply multiplying all those equipment slot needs can be perceived as a phenomenal investment if you don't half-*** it.

I'm probably going to be one of those people who levels all jobs eventually. I did it in XI with jobs and crafting. It got a lot easier to do when Campaign rolled around (granted I was one of those evil song-spammers while it was doable :P), and got easier from there with Abyssea and GoV/FoV. This helped when my LS needed some random job for whatever, though it did run the risk of me seeming lootwhoreish because casual progression was limited. I tried to set aside some personal priorities and in general, if I saw something not needed, usually asked if I could have it instead of outright taking. Some people still resented that and I have no doubt it contributed to the fallout I had with some people before I chose to leave XI, but it's never like I deliberately wanted to ***** others As such, I am always welcoming of things I can do on my own, or at least with others without super-RNGness while they get their own fair shake. I doubt I'll ever do 10+ man content reliably anymore. It's not because I lack skill/knowledge of things I play or hate people and can't socialize. I just refuse to schedule my life around a game, have grown intolerant of helping people I dislike (due to XI), and realize such things are rarely PUG-friendly. If SE can prove me wrong there, great, but I'd also hate to have a chance to see a certain piece of content time-wise, but to be refused because my gear isn't perfect. That mentality is hurting XI pretty hard right now with people only wanting people with Delve items to do Delve. Missing the introduction of any kind of content unfortunately makes it harder for anyone to do later, thus prudent methods of catching up are required. A hit to the raider's ego, maybe, but many there are too concerned with what people they'll never interact with are doing.
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#42 Jul 15 2013 at 4:31 PM Rating: Good
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Not that anyone will lose their sleep over this, but I felt the need to write it:

Some of the described topics (such as today's) felt too light on detail, too silly to post as an article with their initial intended word count, so I am reneging somewhat on the "smaller, faster articles", which meant broadly "1,000-1,200 words per piece max" and drifting towards good ol' 2,000 words again. Which won't help my endeavored "rapid updates week".

*Sigh*.

I know, first world problems and all.

I will probably have this particular article posted technically on Tuesday, because its topics are among my favorite ones.

Edit: The final article will be actually split, the second part discussing MOBA's will come on its own in an extra slot on Saturday, July 20th.

Edited, Jul 15th 2013 7:25pm by Sovjohn
#43 Jul 16 2013 at 12:37 PM Rating: Excellent
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Article 3 is up! Tuesday will have two articles, the second one is due to come in a couple of hours. Enjoy the ride!

However, the first one is among the large one of the series, and tackles only one topic, so it should keep you happy until the next one, I hope.
#44 Jul 16 2013 at 12:45 PM Rating: Good
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I'm curious if you read this article where Yoshida discusses the subscription based model:

Naoki Yoshida wrote:

There are many different types of MMOs. There are two big types or groups that we see. You have one group with games like your Rift or your Star Wars, which are very large-scale MMOs with established IP. Then you have your smaller MMOs, which are maybe new IPs that don’t need as big a user base to be successful. So we can start off with the big group, the large-scale MMO group, with your Rift, your Star Wars, your Guild Wars, your Age of Conan and The Lord of the Rings. These games all started out on a subscription model, or were planning for a subscription model when they were in development. Then, partway through, they switched to free-to-play.

Then again, you have games like Rift and Star Wars. Even though people have been saying that yes, there is this change in the market, everything’s moving to free-to-play, they still – up until recently – were developing a system that would be subscription-based. Even though everyone is saying the industry is going free-to-play, they still were developing these huge games with subscriptions in mind. Again, we’re not saying that one is better than the other, that free-to-play is better than subscription or subscription is better than free-to-play. But for a large game on that scale, what’s most important – more important than making a lot of money – is making a stable income, a stable amount of money over a long period of time. And so to develop a large-scale MMO like this, you need to spend a lot of time with a lot of resources and a lot of staff to make this game.

To do that, you need a lot of money, and to get a lot of money to do that, you usually need investors to invest in your game. Because you’ve spent a lot of money on getting this game ready and borrowed a lot of money from these investors, when you release the game, the investors expect to see returns. If your game gets a lot of users and a lot of subscriptions right away, your investors will be happy and you can pay them. But what happens if you don’t hit that number right away? You have a bunch of staff members waiting to get paid. You have a bunch of investors waiting to get paid. You have a bunch of contents that needs to get made because you have to have updates, but you can’t do it because you don’t have enough money, because you didn’t hit that number you were aiming for. And so what do you have to do? One option to get instant money is free-to-play, or selling these items. To get that money so you can pay off your staff, pay off your investors, and start making new content, switching to free-to-play, selling items, and using that money is one way to do it.

So why didn’t Rift or EA with Star Wars do this from the beginning? Why didn’t they start with free-to-play? There’s a reason behind that. With free-to-play, because you’re selling these items, you’ll have months where you sell a bunch of stuff and you make a lot of money in that one month. But it’s all about what happens during that month. Next month, the person who maybe bought $100 worth of items in the last month could purchase nothing at all. You don’t know what you’re going to be getting, and because you don’t know what you’re going to be getting, you can’t plan ahead. You don’t know how much money is coming in. If you can’t plan ahead, then you can’t keep staff, because you don’t know if you’ll have enough money to pay the staff next month.

With a subscription base, if you get maybe 400,000 members, you know that you’re going to have the money from that monthly subscription for the next month. You also know that you’re going to have 400,000 this month, and it’s not going to go down to 200,000 users next month. That type of jump really doesn’t happen with a subscription model. So you know that you’re going to have a steady income. Because you have a steady income, you can plan ahead further. You can make sure you have staff members to create that new content. By creating new content, you’re making the players happy. If they know this game is going to keep creating new content, they’ll continue to pay their monthly subscription fees. So rather than going for the huge $100-million-a-month hit that you might get with the free-to-play model, having that steady income allows us to provide a better product to the players.

Now, you have Blizzard and you have Square Enix. We’re the only two companies in the industry, basically, that are making MMOs with our own money. That gives us an advantage, because where other companies have to get money from investors and have to pay that back, we don’t have a lot of time to build slowly and be able to pay that back. Investors want their returns right away. With Square Enix and Blizzard, because we’re putting our own money into it, we don’t have those investors to worry about, and that means we can release something and maybe take a little bit of a hit at the beginning, but as long as we’re increasing the amount of people we have, then we’ll get that money and make the players happy. We’ll get into that cycle I talked about before, where we’re creating good content and have that steady income to keep the cycle going.

With version 1.0, even though we call it a failure, we still had a user base. During the time that we were developing this game, 2.0, we were able to increase the amount of subscribers threefold as well. Again, it takes time. It takes showing the users that we’re really into this and giving them that new content. But we’re able to see a rise there. That’s what we’re looking for in this. Again, we’re not saying—The market didn’t change. It’s that there are two different types of models. Choosing the model that’s right for your product and being successful with that is what’s important. We believe that the bigger the game, the larger the scale of the MMO, it’s going to be better for the game if it’s on a subscription model.

That’s why you see a lot of companies that chose the subscription model, that wanted to do what we were doing, but were forced to free-to-play. They didn’t go to free-to-play by choice, because if that was the case, they would have gone free-to-play at the beginning. They’d develop it for free-to-play, not full subscription, instead of being forced to go free-to-play. We hear a lot of people saying, “Star Wars is free-to-play now, it’s great!” But then you ask them if they’re playing free-to-play Star Wars and they say, “No, not really playing it.” Everyone talks about how great it is that it went free-to-play, but then you ask around and really, there aren’t that many people who are playing it since it’s gone free-to-play. If you spend all that money on a game ,release it, and it’s filled with bugs and you don’t have enough time to do your updates, people will leave. Players need that new content. Not being able to provide it is fatal. If they were able to produce as much content as players wanted, then people would have stayed there. We don’t really believe it’s a problem with the business model. It’s how that’s handled.
#45 Jul 16 2013 at 12:49 PM Rating: Excellent
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I absolutely did. I thought to reference it in the article, but its referenced indirectly in the epilogue, mostly.

If they stick to what's said in this article, they're walking a good path. That's the crux of things.
#46 Jul 16 2013 at 1:04 PM Rating: Excellent
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Agreed. Their reasoning is exactly what I would expect. I'm really hopeful that they will succeed!

I can say for sure that there are a handful of players who played 1.0 right up to the end, and would have kept playing. These are friends of mine and they had played all the available content then, and would have just kept playing it. Now my dedicated friends will have a bunch of new classes to try out while SE focuses on the first expansion.

I have a few questions:
Did they actually add in any additional level 50 content that will be available at release?
Have all of the dungeons available in 1.0 been recreated for ARR?
Are there new level 45-50 items available from a variety of the available content?

We will find out soon.
#47 Jul 16 2013 at 1:11 PM Rating: Excellent
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To be honest I read about SWTOR (remember, I paid for this game in retail AND subscribed for a few months. Sigh.) in the article of MMORPG.com and was even more disappointed.

It's not expensive, much (especially if subscribers get it for $10), but they call a "digital expansion pack" something that provides a few mere hours of gameplay? If the article writer states that casual players may be done with it in 2 weeks, an average MMO player will need, what, 2-3 days then?

And what's worse - They don't release these every couple of months! Not even close...

Yeah, I foresee many millions of players sticking around, surely - not! </sarcasm>
#48 Jul 16 2013 at 3:43 PM Rating: Good
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You people claiming GW2s Dynamic Events were this big great thing are silly. They were ridiculously easy to complete, from the little farm raids to the giant dragon fights, and most of them had no story to them. You just spam your attacks and run around to dodge stuff and you'll just about always win unless they decide to make the boss kill you randomly in one hit. GW2 was fun for a couple months at best.

And I said it once and I'll say it again, the voice acting in SWOTOR completely sucked, from the corny dialogue, badly done lip movements and continuous and repetitive body motions used by the characters when the talk (Character one says something, moves arm up and down in expression, character two says something, moves arms up and down, character one says something, moves arms up and down, repeat repeat.).

And for those who want to do this Rift/Wow/Gw2 being better arguement, I thought all those games sucked and FFXI rocked, so it doesnt matter at all to me. XIV will be better even if it does worse than XI because I like Final Fantasy and I like the online aspect of the game. I dont care if Wow has this or GW2 has that, I played em and I think they overall sucked other than that first month or two where everything is new and seems interesting at first.
#49 Jul 16 2013 at 4:08 PM Rating: Excellent
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*Drumroll*

Yes, it's done, along with Monday's article which was delayed due to its sheer size, now Tuesday's article is also up, bringing the article series back to speed, and a lighter article to dive into after Monday's extended one.

Next content will come tomorrow.

I hope you enjoy Monday's and Tuesday's articles! Thanks for the time spent reading them, and such! Smiley: grin
#50 Jul 16 2013 at 4:58 PM Rating: Good
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aadrenry wrote:
You people claiming GW2s Dynamic Events were this big great thing are silly. They were ridiculously easy to complete, from the little farm raids to the giant dragon fights, and most of them had no story to them. You just spam your attacks and run around to dodge stuff and you'll just about always win unless they decide to make the boss kill you randomly in one hit. GW2 was fun for a couple months at best.


The Dynamic Events were touted as being awesome for one thing: Streamlining. You didn't have to talk to people and spam through a text-well to get in on a quest. You just did it. GW2 was the first to do this, which is why everyone hyped it up so much. Regardless of them being easy or not, it skipped through the tedium and got you right in on the action.

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#51 Jul 16 2013 at 5:26 PM Rating: Decent
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HeroMystic wrote:
aadrenry wrote:
You people claiming GW2s Dynamic Events were this big great thing are silly. They were ridiculously easy to complete, from the little farm raids to the giant dragon fights, and most of them had no story to them. You just spam your attacks and run around to dodge stuff and you'll just about always win unless they decide to make the boss kill you randomly in one hit. GW2 was fun for a couple months at best.


The Dynamic Events were touted as being awesome for one thing: Streamlining. You didn't have to talk to people and spam through a text-well to get in on a quest. You just did it. GW2 was the first to do this, which is why everyone hyped it up so much. Regardless of them being easy or not, it skipped through the tedium and got you right in on the action.


Yes which is why they word it as a living story. Emergent gameplay. You don't read about lore that you don't interact with in dynamic events. You don't read about story much about what's happening in the world. Yes the effect you cause is not permanent but it does alter real in game things for a bit. Events cascade and branch into other events. You are not reading or watching the news about tragedies happening across the world. If you're in the area it happens right in front of your face first hand.

Quest running back and forth is old school, quest hubs allow you to grab a bunch at one time that get completed in that particular area versus back tracking. I'm probably in the minority here but I hate both those options when the scale, difficulty, and how much you do solo feels monotonous. Because they usually go with the lowest common denominator for breadth and variety of how quests can be done.

The difficulty has nothing to do with that.
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