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

#52 Jul 16 2013 at 5:29 PM Rating: Excellent
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...Aaand it's late. Again. I hate it when that happens =)

I will check out the latest responses, which I think debate GW2, which I played briefly, tomorrow -over here-.

I hope you get a chance to check out the last couple of articles, if you did, and disagree with them for instance, feel free to punch me in the face, figuratively speaking.

Will come back tomorrow and discuss more.

Cheers! =)

PS: Yay, page 2! Smiley: cool

Edited, Jul 16th 2013 7:30pm by Sovjohn
#53 Jul 16 2013 at 7:35 PM Rating: Good
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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?

Be careful with your assumption of average. This is a trap a lot of forum regulars for any MMO fall into, thinking everyone else is like them (with degrees of better or worse depending on their... personality). FFXI's older census data would probably be a good thing to look at if SE still has it about, but in relation to Mission content, RME completion, and so on, it can give you a statistical point of view on just what average may be. There are a bit of flaws in it, though, like knowing the precise numbers of (active) users they query, how many individual people have multiple RMEs, and so on, but I'll just say "casual" is the true average with the 2-3 day blasters never being the majority.

Financially, I'd probably be unhappy about little packs like that and XI got blasted pretty hard by its players for the mini add-ons pre-Abyssea. That's probably the closest I can relate. Yet, I've also been critical of SE releasing expansions for XI that are only 20-30% done. In the end, it kind of shifts the scale from 2-3 days to a month with the wait then being 3+ months instead of 2 weeks. If Yoshi keeps his word and XIV maintains an aggressive update schedule post-launch, great. Yet people are indeed going to be critical if they find themselves waiting for 3+ months for next to nothing that pertains to them. That's where Rift lost me, really, and eventually their update cycle just got worse as you had a "core" base that basically accepted anything offered without question. And my philosophy on MMOs as evolving games is that one should always be asking how they can make it better. When that stops, the game starts to suffer.
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#54 Jul 17 2013 at 2:10 PM Rating: Good
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So, a Beta forums guy / girl told me that they'd like more criticism elements introduced in the remaining articles.

Do you agree? Are there elephants in the room you believe should be discussed further? I could change the articles' schedule to accommodate this (plan to talk about the combat system anyway - something else of major importance?)
#55 Jul 17 2013 at 3:41 PM Rating: Good
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You can if you want, but I don't see any real point for anything beyond the combat system. You could criticize the game for anything unpolished but that doesn't seem like the point of the articles.

The only "Elephant in the Room" that I'd like to see discussed is the longevity of an MMO and what SE would need to do in order for it to last for years to come.
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#56 Jul 17 2013 at 3:53 PM Rating: Excellent
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We agree, HeroMystic. I should really be having people like you in the Free Company I'll play in, hehe.

This is what I told the guy (and combat system will be discussed on its own article tomorrow, not solely lavished with praise but discussed from all angles), basically what you also said.

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I don't deny that there is a certain optimistic predisposition in my articles. Regarding criticism, I think I could single out few issues to really warrant it at this point. Constructive criticism goes a long way, however I have not found especially nasty parts to focus on.

The most pertinent issue would be the treatment of EU players as second rate players, by not offering European servers at all but name. However, I do not possess important data such as volume of players in Europe and size of the infrastructure expenditure to accommodate them. To be fair, it would probably be a rather small size, judging from numbers I've seen floating around.

This angle of criticism could -and should- certainly be utilised in the future, but for it to be credible and not just an exaggerating voice, I feel that problems such as the dreaded "Lack of responsiveness" would have to be particularly bad, and often.

Apart from that, one of the most debated aspects that can / will be offered its fair share of criticism is the combat system, but not because I'd like it to transform into World of Warcraft: A Realm Reborn. It'll refer more to design choices made so far which could make combat more dull than it could be with some different mechanics in place.

Believe me, if signs of gigantic mistakes present themselves (SWTOR, which I've experienced, had so many issues it wasn't even funny), they will be presented as they deserve, but at this point of time I find it hard to actually single out many issues, as SE is also tweaking various elements in anticipation of open beta -I've read the dev posts-.

If you believe that there are certain elephants in the room I've overlooked, however, I will be more than happy to discuss them.


Longevity etc will be discussed on the currently last scheduled article of Saturday, where MOBA's and all these idiotic fads will also be discussed.

AFTER the series, I plan to actually continue writing, but of course more sporadically, and with a balanced approach. I don't know where, yet. Will probably find a website willing to host such a column.
#57 Jul 17 2013 at 5:42 PM Rating: Good
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New article (Part V) is up.
#58 Jul 17 2013 at 6:17 PM Rating: Excellent
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I certainly don't mind you posting these links here, but I also know that Zam is looking for story contributors (unpaid at the moment unfortunately, but it's a good way to get your foot in the door towards a paying job here) and you could have your stuff posted on our main page, tweeted from our official account, put on our facebook page, etc.

Just a thought if you ever decided you wanted to contribute, I can put you in touch with our editor in chief Jarimor.
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#59 Jul 17 2013 at 6:34 PM Rating: Excellent
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Hey Wint,

Thanks for letting me know. I'm not sure what will happen to my content after this mini-series is done, just yet. And am not looking for payment -at least necessarily so, wouldn't object to the concept of course Smiley: grin-.

What this series of articles aims to do is the following:

Discuss FFXIV and elements surrounding it in a specific manner. I aim for "objective", but admittedly optimism is a trait of mine, so I could say there's a "positive spin" somewhere.

Also, provide food for thought, to people who may not realise, or have stopped and thought how things might work in an MMORPG, from a business / marketing / consumer / design point of view. I'm no designer myself, but I'm a product manager in real life, and I have some experience in "normally obscure" fields such as forecasting, pricing models, feature sets, product lifecycles, blah blah blah.

And most importantly: Gauge whether my writing style, which is specific, and viewpoints are to the liking of people reading them. I don't expect, hope, or anticipate my articles to be "liked" by the random teenager playing LOL with their buddies right now, but feedback is important.

If you think -as Wint- that what I've posted in here would be welcome, in a similar form, to Zam, I could consider it among my options to keep this going.

To clarify, I never intended to 'start a blog' about these articles. However, I found FFXIVRealm an easy platform to put them somewhere, on an existing website, where they could be found and read easily. An independent blog needs daily updates in my view, and apart from "this special week" I am not able to provide so rapid updates.

But - An article / op-ed or two, per week, would work.

I hope you see the logic behind this and you can either respond here or via a PM about your opinion :)

Cheers,

John
#60 Jul 18 2013 at 4:34 PM Rating: Excellent
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New article (Part VI) is up. This one begins with a short story which I will probably re-post on its own, even though it's only 500-ish words.

Feedback is welcome as always.
#61 Jul 18 2013 at 4:58 PM Rating: Excellent
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Nice. You're giving Yoshida a lot of credit and he deserves every bit of it. He's like Atlas, literally holding the world of Eorzea on his shoulders.

Something you said about single player compared to multi-player progression reminded me of one of my friends complaints in beta.

He said:

Quote:
So I was in a party with my friend and I was trying to progress the Main Story Quest. It booted me out of the party I was in to watch a Cut Scene. After the forced-single-player only instance, it then told me I needed to join a party to complete the next part. I had a party in the first place! Why boot me out? Just to watch a video?!


He then went on to tell me how much fun he was having and how he was incredibly excited for the beta to return!

My only point is that it seems like some consideration should be given to players who are basically trying to Dou the whole game together. I know lots friends that play because they can play with their best friend or family member. I also know a few couples that log on and off together every night.

The main storyline progression can be possible single player, that's fine. The flip side is that it should also be possible to progress without being forced into single player mode. Certainly not 30 seconds before it asks you to join a party!

Keep up the articles. They are quite fun to read while we wait for that elusive Phase 4 start date.

Edited, Jul 18th 2013 6:59pm by Gnu
#62 Jul 18 2013 at 5:23 PM Rating: Excellent
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I don't envy Yoshida. I'm sure he makes at least 10x the money I do, and is revered among the ARR community ever since he took over, but boy...

I wouldn't want to share his sleeping schedule =)

It's blatantly evident that he must be operating purely on caffeine and red bull for a good amount of time!

And cheers for the input, Gnu, much appreciated.

Goodnight from Athens!

Edited, Jul 18th 2013 7:24pm by Sovjohn
#63 Jul 19 2013 at 3:00 PM Rating: Default
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Sovjohn wrote:
EDIT: Last Article Posted: Part VI / Thursday July 18th

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

Saturday, July 20th:
  • Identity Crisis - Has the MMORPG genre been fundamentally changed with the concept of “MOBAs” in existence?



Edited, Jul 17th 2013 8:45pm by Sovjohn

Edited, Jul 18th 2013 6:15pm by Sovjohn

Its a game reborn not a genre. Anything this wow clonesque isnt redefining a thing.
____________________________
BANNED
#64 Jul 19 2013 at 3:11 PM Rating: Excellent
*
138 posts
Excuse me, but I hate the term "wow clone", especially when people won't actually attempt to digest the differences present between games.

WoW has been online for more than 9 years at this point (gasp!) and there are few things "not included in there" during a 9-year development cycle.

Heck, if it stayed online for 20 years, it could probably have had the time to try anything, and by anything I mean from CGI pornography in pleasure houses populated by elven chicks, to being able to buy plots of land around Azeroth and turn them into gigantic Pizza Huts.

Grow up when making an argument.
#65 Jul 19 2013 at 3:16 PM Rating: Decent
***
2,232 posts
Ehllfire wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:
EDIT: Last Article Posted: Part VI / Thursday July 18th

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!

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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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

Saturday, July 20th:
  • Identity Crisis - Has the MMORPG genre been fundamentally changed with the concept of “MOBAs” in existence?



Edited, Jul 17th 2013 8:45pm by Sovjohn

Edited, Jul 18th 2013 6:15pm by Sovjohn

Its a game reborn not a genre. Anything this wow clonesque isnt redefining a thing.


Poubelle.....*sniffle* is that you????
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#66 Jul 19 2013 at 3:25 PM Rating: Good
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Who's Poubelle? An offspring of Killua125 and Ostia?
#67 Jul 19 2013 at 4:13 PM Rating: Default
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Sovjohn wrote:
Excuse me, but I hate the term "wow clone", especially when people won't actually attempt to digest the differences present between games.

WoW has been online for more than 9 years at this point (gasp!) and there are few things "not included in there" during a 9-year development cycle.

Heck, if it stayed online for 20 years, it could probably have had the time to try anything, and by anything I mean from CGI pornography in pleasure houses populated by elven chicks, to being able to buy plots of land around Azeroth and turn them into gigantic Pizza Huts.

Grow up when making an argument.


I like the game, but Im not wearing your rose colored glasses either. Abraham Lincoln once said "You can call a dog's tail its fifth leg, but it doesnt make it one." The game is absolutely a clone with absolutely nothing in it thats revolutionary or even new. Its not a criticism per se, an obvious observation. Your immature retort proves you are just here to only hear yourself speak and anyone who parrots you. Some discussion you are allowing.
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#68 Jul 19 2013 at 4:21 PM Rating: Decent
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Ehllfire wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:
Excuse me, but I hate the term "wow clone", especially when people won't actually attempt to digest the differences present between games.

WoW has been online for more than 9 years at this point (gasp!) and there are few things "not included in there" during a 9-year development cycle.

Heck, if it stayed online for 20 years, it could probably have had the time to try anything, and by anything I mean from CGI pornography in pleasure houses populated by elven chicks, to being able to buy plots of land around Azeroth and turn them into gigantic Pizza Huts.

Grow up when making an argument.


I like the game, but Im not wearing your rose colored glasses either. Abraham Lincoln once said "You can call a dog's tail its fifth leg, but it doesnt make it one." The game is absolutely a clone with absolutely nothing in it thats revolutionary or even new. Its not a criticism per se, an obvious observation. Your immature retort proves you are just here to only hear yourself speak and anyone who parrots you. Some discussion you are allowing.


I'd have to agree. I've been wondering "what's different?" for about a month now.

The only thing concrete thing I can lay my hands on is the "Final Fantasy" brand.

That's not an insult. It's just also nothing new. S-E is seemingly doing it better than average, but they're not exactly throwing themselves into uncharted territory either.

Therefore, I'd also have to disagree with FFXIV "redefining" a genre. Stop down-rating people simply because they are criticizing unless you want to stifle intelligent dialogue.

EDIT: I forgot a word. Doh.


Edited, Jul 19th 2013 6:21pm by Yotis
#69 Jul 19 2013 at 4:23 PM Rating: Default
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Yotis wrote:
Ehllfire wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:
Excuse me, but I hate the term "wow clone", especially when people won't actually attempt to digest the differences present between games.

WoW has been online for more than 9 years at this point (gasp!) and there are few things "not included in there" during a 9-year development cycle.

Heck, if it stayed online for 20 years, it could probably have had the time to try anything, and by anything I mean from CGI pornography in pleasure houses populated by elven chicks, to being able to buy plots of land around Azeroth and turn them into gigantic Pizza Huts.

Grow up when making an argument.


I like the game, but Im not wearing your rose colored glasses either. Abraham Lincoln once said "You can call a dog's tail its fifth leg, but it doesnt make it one." The game is absolutely a clone with absolutely nothing in it thats revolutionary or even new. Its not a criticism per se, an obvious observation. Your immature retort proves you are just here to only hear yourself speak and anyone who parrots you. Some discussion you are allowing.


I'd have to agree. I've been wondering "what's different?" for about a month now.

The only thing concrete thing I can lay my hands on is the "Final Fantasy" brand.

That's not an insult. It's just also nothing new. S-E is seemingly doing it better than average, but they're not exactly throwing themselves into uncharted territory either.

Therefore, I'd also have to disagree with FFXIV "redefining" a genre. Stop down-rating people simply because they are criticizing unless you want to stifle intelligent dialogue.

EDIT: I forgot a word. Doh.


Edited, Jul 19th 2013 6:21pm by Yotis

Thank you for the support, its good to see this site has people willing to discuss things civilly.
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#70 Jul 19 2013 at 5:10 PM Rating: Excellent
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As has been stated before, they tried to redefine everything and we got 1.0. I'd rather they take what works for other MMOs, then tweak it over the months to make it their own. I know "WoW Clone" gets tossed around a lot, but there really are a lot of similarities that can't be ignored. It doesn't have to be a negative thing through, I like the idea of their taking the best of every MMO and including it.

What it boils down to is "are people having fun?" and I know I, and a lot of others are. **** even my wife, who's never played an MMO in her life (had no idea how to WASD) was starting to get antsy between tests during Phase 3. That's my own personal indicator of how good the game is Smiley: thumbsup
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#71 Jul 19 2013 at 5:19 PM Rating: Good
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Yotis wrote:
Ehllfire wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:
Excuse me, but I hate the term "wow clone", especially when people won't actually attempt to digest the differences present between games.

WoW has been online for more than 9 years at this point (gasp!) and there are few things "not included in there" during a 9-year development cycle.

Heck, if it stayed online for 20 years, it could probably have had the time to try anything, and by anything I mean from CGI pornography in pleasure houses populated by elven chicks, to being able to buy plots of land around Azeroth and turn them into gigantic Pizza Huts.

Grow up when making an argument.


I like the game, but Im not wearing your rose colored glasses either. Abraham Lincoln once said "You can call a dog's tail its fifth leg, but it doesnt make it one." The game is absolutely a clone with absolutely nothing in it thats revolutionary or even new. Its not a criticism per se, an obvious observation. Your immature retort proves you are just here to only hear yourself speak and anyone who parrots you. Some discussion you are allowing.


I'd have to agree. I've been wondering "what's different?" for about a month now.

The only thing concrete thing I can lay my hands on is the "Final Fantasy" brand.

That's not an insult. It's just also nothing new. S-E is seemingly doing it better than average, but they're not exactly throwing themselves into uncharted territory either.

Therefore, I'd also have to disagree with FFXIV "redefining" a genre. Stop down-rating people simply because they are criticizing unless you want to stifle intelligent dialogue.

EDIT: I forgot a word. Doh.


Edited, Jul 19th 2013 6:21pm by Yotis

I rated up Ehllfire because there is a truth behind what he/she says if you remove the negative or positive perception.

I also rated Sovjohn up because he/she is proud of ARR and in their belief this is a good game. This game could use any positive it can get to lift itself up from the shadow of the beginnings.

ARR doesn't have to be the genre definer to scoop up a million subs. It doesn't have to be a genre definer to hold a million subs. It just has to be polished and offer enough content to hold those subs over the long haul.

Now if they want to aim for 2 million plus. That's when this game has to start throwing a controlled caution to the wind and explore redefining what an mmorpg is while cramming content down our throats. But I've seen Yoshi follow the more traditional mmorpg route since he took over and he has stated before they are not geniuses just developers.

I want to see more risky endeavors but at the same time. I don't want a pile of **** in implementation on those risky endeavors. I'd rather have a polished standard than a clunky mess with promise of grandeur. If they could pull off the polished grandeur then I'd be in heaven.

This game will do just fine if it's polished and has tons of content. And I leave it up to SE on whether they hold my sub or not. I've waited since 2010 and I do not want to wait longer than this year for ARR. They got my sub for now.
#72 Jul 19 2013 at 5:29 PM Rating: Excellent
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Ehllfire wrote:

I like the game, but Im not wearing your rose colored glasses either. Abraham Lincoln once said "You can call a dog's tail its fifth leg, but it doesnt make it one." The game is absolutely a clone with absolutely nothing in it thats revolutionary or even new. Its not a criticism per se, an obvious observation. Your immature retort proves you are just here to only hear yourself speak and anyone who parrots you. Some discussion you are allowing.


Yotis wrote:

I'd have to agree. I've been wondering "what's different?" for about a month now.

The only thing concrete thing I can lay my hands on is the "Final Fantasy" brand.

That's not an insult. It's just also nothing new. S-E is seemingly doing it better than average, but they're not exactly throwing themselves into uncharted territory either.

Therefore, I'd also have to disagree with FFXIV "redefining" a genre. Stop down-rating people simply because they are criticizing unless you want to stifle intelligent dialogue.

EDIT: I forgot a word. Doh.


First of all, no, I am absolutely not trying to "stifle intelligent dialogue" or anything of the sort. The response I provided was to an obvious troll-like post which instead of devoting a couple of sentences to explain the logic behind the opinion (as you did later on), seemed to me like you saw a random thread, clicked 'Quote' on the first post, ignored anything else, and wrote a random trololo response.

That being said - Why has the articles' question been about "a genre reborn"? That's rather simple to answer:

The underlying question is not "How can the MMORPG genre be shattered and completely reborn from its ashes", but rather "Will we ever see a production of a considerable quality, vision, and knowledge of the genre which will be able to bring out its best attributes"?

Hardly a question which could be appended on every single article, or thread title, is it now?

I've discussed innovation in this thread and elsewhere - My last response in this thread still stands: http://ffxiv.zam.com/forum.html?forum=152&mid=1373765492133125833#8

If you would like to respond to that, and disagree with me, feel free to do so, and we can take this debate further.

Long story short, however, games which have actively championed their "innovation" have more often than not used it as an excuse to fail miserably on several gameplay, design and content areas.

At the end of the day, even producing an MMORPG which appeals to a given audience and has no technical problems rendering it unplayable is a daunting task on its own, innovation be damned, and using the concept as an excuse in a "Players did not embrace innovation, not our fault the game could not sell anywhere" context, when the reality is "We included perhaps one or two good ideas, but the rest of the game did not deserve to be bought not even for $10, and our audience saw though the ploy", does not strike me as fair or correct.
#73 Jul 19 2013 at 5:31 PM Rating: Good
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Sandpark got it right :)

Oh, and - I am completely rational about ARR's potential -or lack thereof.

The very first article discussed the "magic million+" scenario, not the "Can it overthrow WoW and surpass it?" sci-fi scenario. The factors I included to back the magic million mark are not imaginary, either.

If asked to conduct an analysis of whether any game, ARR or whichever else, could maintain a, say, 3 mil. subscriber base, things would be vastly different*

*Unless it appealed to the Chinese so much, 2+ millions came from there alone. This has been the case with WoW for ages, by the way, asian audiences make up a very significant percentage of overall population.

Edited, Jul 19th 2013 7:36pm by Sovjohn
#74 Jul 19 2013 at 5:57 PM Rating: Good
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Wint wrote:
As has been stated before, they tried to redefine everything and we got 1.0. I'd rather they take what works for other MMOs, then tweak it over the months to make it their own. I know "WoW Clone" gets tossed around a lot, but there really are a lot of similarities that can't be ignored. It doesn't have to be a negative thing through, I like the idea of their taking the best of every MMO and including it.

What it boils down to is "are people having fun?" and I know I, and a lot of others are. **** even my wife, who's never played an MMO in her life (had no idea how to WASD) was starting to get antsy between tests during Phase 3. That's my own personal indicator of how good the game is Smiley: thumbsup



I've always had issue with 1.0 trying to do things differently. I think 1.0 was designed so bad that it looked as though it was meant to be different. It may be semantics, but really SE had no clue with what they were doing with 1.0 and to say they tried to do something different is, I think giving them too much credit at the time.

Their ideas about the armory system before the armory system, before it was implemented (the whole no levels thing) sounded awesome. What did we get? Levels? I knew from the start, much like with GW2 that you can't not have levels, or quest counters; they can only be hidden. GW2 initially, just did a better job with hiding the grind.

With 1.0 it was a melange of catering to the hardcore (no quests, retainers, slow fighting pace) but them limiting them with the leve system and EXP cap. It was very strange and again pointed to having no real clear direction.

I could go on forever about 1.0 (as well as most of us could) and how it failed in so many ways.

---

Then Yoshi comes along and basically gives the game a direction. But if you look at my posts from 2 years ago, I said SE/Yoshi needed to start with a WoW base, but also recall some of FFXI's strongest points.

From 2011: I always wondered if one were to replace the graphics, music and storyline from Final Fantasy and place it into WoW...

I think it would be very very popular. But I would wonder how long it would last. I would like to touch on depth and exclusivity in MMOs (specifically WoW vs. say, FFXI) but I'll just focus now parties as it seems this is the main contention in conversation.

I could go either way on party play. However I think Final Fantasy is a party driven game at it's roots and if I had the choice I'd love to see it become viable again. I think it can be entirely possible but we'd have to shift what we currently know about party play and SE would have to shift their approach as well. IF we are confined to what we are given in FFXIV then I guess it's back to dungeon/forming our own groups, solo/everything else. For me that's not acceptable (in the long run) because not only would I like to see party play, play more of a role, but I'd like to experience something new in an MMO as well.

Conversely, I don't mind solo play and I'm not adverse to it, but I only enjoy it partly because of the negatives that grouping entails. And I really only enjoyed it in FFXI because of the challenge it presented. If you eliminated or appeared to eliminate those negative aspects, that would be a great starting point.

It would be cool, for example, to have SELF/AI controlled "party" members like in FFXII that could be run on gambits, while at the same time allowing for others to join into your party. There are many other things like the idea of "Rifts" or just public parties in general, that allow easier grouping, or even a PvP group model, but for PvE content. Server wide open queues for 30min dungeons or just group quests.

All of these things combined would, in short, help in making party play casual content.

Instead of denying it outright or embracing it completely, there is a larger grey area than it seems on this topic. Whether or not it's viable in FFXIV is another story.

And ironically or not a lot of games (especially free to play) and upcoming games like GW2 are incorporating some if not all of these ideas. And while the genre is evolving, FFXIV is still playing catch-up.


...and what did Yoshi end up doing...exactly that.

Again, as I've posted more recently Yoshi is trying to cross a finer line by combining a FFXI leveling and party play with WoW-like dungeon mechanics. And in part, making dungeons mandatory if you want to see and experience a big chunk of content, is novel.

And although I don't know if that is going to save the genre or whatever, I think it's unique and will foster community even with the cross sever duty finder.

----

In the end, the best things refine and hone what is already there; and SE has all the ingredients to make a lasting game. They are borrowing from all of the right games and doing what they should have from the start. I think ARR will settle into a solid niche game, with a bigger base than FFXI had and if they continue to listen and communicate with their fans, it will last just as long.
#75 Jul 19 2013 at 7:29 PM Rating: Good
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Sovjohn wrote:
Who's Poubelle? An offspring of Killua125 and Ostia?


He actually got banned the same or the day before Killua made his first post. This led to some people thinking they were the same person. Wint says it can't be true because of IP magic but I'm still skeptical. Lol
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#76 Jul 19 2013 at 7:47 PM Rating: Excellent
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We look at more than just IP Smiley: wink
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#77 Jul 19 2013 at 7:50 PM Rating: Good
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Wint wrote:
We look at more than just IP Smiley: wink


Ahhhh. So there's behind the scenes magic AAANNNNDD IP magic. Lol
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#78 Jul 19 2013 at 10:13 PM Rating: Excellent
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It's not the first time my sock detector went off in that case.

For instance, it seems just as one particular individual managed to get das boot, another one of a similar disposition just happened to show up. So either the detection magic isn't working or these guys like to take shifts or something.

Anyways, it's my opinion that saying you like the game is meaningless if the majority of your time spent within its communities is spent chastising it, and those that praise it.
#79 Jul 20 2013 at 12:00 AM Rating: Excellent
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Wint wrote:
As has been stated before, they tried to redefine everything and we got 1.0. I'd rather they take what works for other MMOs, then tweak it over the months to make it their own. I know "WoW Clone" gets tossed around a lot, but there really are a lot of similarities that can't be ignored. It doesn't have to be a negative thing through, I like the idea of their taking the best of every MMO and including it.

What it boils down to is "are people having fun?" and I know I, and a lot of others are. **** even my wife, who's never played an MMO in her life (had no idea how to WASD) was starting to get antsy between tests during Phase 3. That's my own personal indicator of how good the game is Smiley: thumbsup



It's exactly this. Innovation is only good if it solves a problem the genre has (or didn't know it had). But difference for the sake of difference and expecting that will produce a WoW-killer is like throwing a dart blindfolded while going for a bullseye surrounded by killer beehives. FFXIV 1.0 lost its way because it simply forgot about the player experience being the most important aspect. The industry has evolved tremendously since the days of EQ, so offering a game that completely ignored the last decade of MMOdom was pure madness.

If they could only see how far UIs and gameplay had come, they'd never have thought FFXIV was even close to release–worthy in 2010. But even worse is that without knowing where the MMO industry was in the present day meant that they had no idea where to begin with a smart idea players would find useful.

The approach to simply make FFXIV a modern MMO with a Final Fantasy theme is really the only place for SE to go at this point. They do have a huge fan base in their offline games who would be prefect to get sucked into a casual MMO, and enough hardcore fans to glue the community together.

Is it playing it safe? Undoubtedly. But it's a safe bet and they're running low on camomile lotion for all the bee stings they got from their last innovative release.


#80 Jul 20 2013 at 6:32 AM Rating: Good
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Xoie wrote:
Wint wrote:
As has been stated before, they tried to redefine everything and we got 1.0. I'd rather they take what works for other MMOs, then tweak it over the months to make it their own. I know "WoW Clone" gets tossed around a lot, but there really are a lot of similarities that can't be ignored. It doesn't have to be a negative thing through, I like the idea of their taking the best of every MMO and including it.

What it boils down to is "are people having fun?" and I know I, and a lot of others are. **** even my wife, who's never played an MMO in her life (had no idea how to WASD) was starting to get antsy between tests during Phase 3. That's my own personal indicator of how good the game is Smiley: thumbsup



It's exactly this. Innovation is only good if it solves a problem the genre has (or didn't know it had). But difference for the sake of difference and expecting that will produce a WoW-killer is like throwing a dart blindfolded while going for a bullseye surrounded by killer beehives. FFXIV 1.0 lost its way because it simply forgot about the player experience being the most important aspect. The industry has evolved tremendously since the days of EQ, so offering a game that completely ignored the last decade of MMOdom was pure madness.

If they could only see how far UIs and gameplay had come, they'd never have thought FFXIV was even close to release–worthy in 2010. But even worse is that without knowing where the MMO industry was in the present day meant that they had no idea where to begin with a smart idea players would find useful.

The approach to simply make FFXIV a modern MMO with a Final Fantasy theme is really the only place for SE to go at this point. They do have a huge fan base in their offline games who would be prefect to get sucked into a casual MMO, and enough hardcore fans to glue the community together.

Is it playing it safe? Undoubtedly. But it's a safe bet and they're running low on camomile lotion for all the bee stings they got from their last innovative release.


This all makes me wonder why they went away from XI in the first place. They all but abandoned it prior to abyssea, but shortly after; it goes on to become the highest grossing FF game in history. To this day their only real claim to fame when it comes to being innovative or something that set them apart is still the same; the job system.

They may be playing it safe in terms of their unwillingness to stray too far from the beaten path, but I still think they're going into dangerous territory with the subscription fee. While it's true that they may end up switching to a F2P model down the road, games that usually start out as sub based and go F2P carry a stigma of being a failed game whether they continue on or not. The failure of 1.0 and a possible F2P model switch down the road isn't a good look.
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#81 Jul 20 2013 at 6:35 AM Rating: Good
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I hope you don't live in the States, sir, cause making such a post at 08:30 AM Zam time would mean you've woken up way too early =)
#82 Jul 20 2013 at 8:25 AM Rating: Decent
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FilthMcNasty wrote:
Xoie wrote:
Wint wrote:
As has been stated before, they tried to redefine everything and we got 1.0. I'd rather they take what works for other MMOs, then tweak it over the months to make it their own. I know "WoW Clone" gets tossed around a lot, but there really are a lot of similarities that can't be ignored. It doesn't have to be a negative thing through, I like the idea of their taking the best of every MMO and including it.

What it boils down to is "are people having fun?" and I know I, and a lot of others are. **** even my wife, who's never played an MMO in her life (had no idea how to WASD) was starting to get antsy between tests during Phase 3. That's my own personal indicator of how good the game is Smiley: thumbsup



It's exactly this. Innovation is only good if it solves a problem the genre has (or didn't know it had). But difference for the sake of difference and expecting that will produce a WoW-killer is like throwing a dart blindfolded while going for a bullseye surrounded by killer beehives. FFXIV 1.0 lost its way because it simply forgot about the player experience being the most important aspect. The industry has evolved tremendously since the days of EQ, so offering a game that completely ignored the last decade of MMOdom was pure madness.

If they could only see how far UIs and gameplay had come, they'd never have thought FFXIV was even close to release–worthy in 2010. But even worse is that without knowing where the MMO industry was in the present day meant that they had no idea where to begin with a smart idea players would find useful.

The approach to simply make FFXIV a modern MMO with a Final Fantasy theme is really the only place for SE to go at this point. They do have a huge fan base in their offline games who would be prefect to get sucked into a casual MMO, and enough hardcore fans to glue the community together.

Is it playing it safe? Undoubtedly. But it's a safe bet and they're running low on camomile lotion for all the bee stings they got from their last innovative release.


This all makes me wonder why they went away from XI in the first place. They all but abandoned it prior to abyssea, but shortly after; it goes on to become the highest grossing FF game in history. To this day their only real claim to fame when it comes to being innovative or something that set them apart is still the same; the job system.

They may be playing it safe in terms of their unwillingness to stray too far from the beaten path, but I still think they're going into dangerous territory with the subscription fee. While it's true that they may end up switching to a F2P model down the road, games that usually start out as sub based and go F2P carry a stigma of being a failed game whether they continue on or not. The failure of 1.0 and a possible F2P model switch down the road isn't a good look.

This game won't ever goes FTP if SE keeps their word about content and being a higher quality game compared to the other models.

I see three types of content in the shape of a line.

1.Amount of content__________________

2.Time taken to experience content_____________

3.Quality/Polish of content__________________

If you want to maintain let's say a million subs. You have to have a steady dose of all three lines. A development company can be master orators and make everything sound magnificent. But at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. The truth will come out whether good or bad and that will determine how successful a game is or isn't.

Alot of different model games do the free promise badly but some do it pretty good. SE has to show that they do everything those games do plus a level better. If you look around you have seen some P2P games even attempt to double dip and add cost on top of the subscription model. I think TSW tried to launch like that and WoW is doing the dip unless I misread the article about that.

TLDR: SE meets the three criteria of content and they can avoid the notion of F2P regardless of all the prophecies the mmo players have foreseen.
#83 Jul 20 2013 at 1:35 PM Rating: Excellent
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The only F2P approach I could tolerate would be Eve Online's PLEX system. Basically, subscribers get an extra month for every month they pay for. They can either use that extra month for themselves or they can put it up for sale in exchange for in game currency. So players can play the game free if they buy up those extra months subscribers put up for sale, and to come up with the in game currency, they'll have to take up activities not unlike those that RMT rely on.

So it's an effective curb against RMT since they want to exchange game currency for money, not more time to play the game, and this cuts a swath right out of their market.
#84 Jul 20 2013 at 1:48 PM Rating: Excellent
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Xoie wrote:
So it's an effective curb against RMT since they want to exchange game currency for money, not more time to play the game, and this cuts a swath right out of their market.

That may be true for the people who buy the subs, but I find it a bit worrisome those who want to play for "free" have to imitate RMT to do it. To me, that sounds like grinding something 24/7 and basically not enjoying the game because the cost of upkeep is fairly steep. As well, there's nothing stopping the RMT from using the free months on themselves to potentially multiply the production of resources they exploit, in turn making it harder for the little guy to make ends meet. Honestly, though, I have some other philosophical issues with that game, so I should probably just cut myself off now.
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#85 Jul 20 2013 at 8:22 PM Rating: Decent
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sandpark wrote:
This game won't ever goes FTP if SE keeps their word about content and being a higher quality game compared to the other models.

TLDR: SE meets the three criteria of content and they can avoid the notion of F2P regardless of all the prophecies the mmo players have foreseen.

You don't have to avoid F2P to be able to support adding large amounts of quality content and planning that content to be relevant for a long time. A game being F2P is completely independent of those factors. The only caveat to that is that the content that you do intend to introduce via cash shop needs to be attractive enough that people feel it's worth their dime so that enough people are interested in it and you earn enough to cover the costs and turn a profit.

The main issue I find with what you have stated here is that there is very little in FFXIV that separates it from other games. The FATE system and the duty finder, their two most recent additions to the game, are ripped directly from other games that are F2P. I'm not saying that those are the only things XIV has going for it, but the question to ask here; a question I have asked on these boards before is: What is it that sets FFXIV apart from the other, free options?

Most people looked at the question and put their shields up immediately saying things like "We don't need the game to be innovative, that's how we got the miserable 1.0 in the first place". While I agree for the most part, it still doesn't satisfy the question. What is it about FFXIV: ARR that is going to keep people paying a subscription fee when the majority of the same features are offered elsewhere?

I think I understand why Yoshi wants to go with the sub model, but his reasons don't all line up with what is actually happening with games that are successful in F2P.
Xoie wrote:
The only F2P approach I could tolerate would be Eve Online's PLEX system. Basically, subscribers get an extra month for every month they pay for. They can either use that extra month for themselves or they can put it up for sale in exchange for in game currency. So players can play the game free if they buy up those extra months subscribers put up for sale, and to come up with the in game currency, they'll have to take up activities not unlike those that RMT rely on.


That isn't F2P, though I do understand what you're getting at. F2P means that people can play the game without paying at all. There might be certain perks like vanity items or other bonuses(storage space, higher quest limits, ect.) and players can unlock content by either means, but there is no up-front cost associated with being able to access your account.

I see what you're getting at though. In TERA before it went F2P, they offered items that granted your account a month of playtime when used. These scrolls were able to be traded and sold on auction so that you could farm enough in-game currency to buy them without having to spend real money. Players who wanted to make money without farming could spend real money on these scrolls and then sell them on auction for gold(kinda avoiding the need for RMT) and players who didn't want to spend money on the game could farm enough to keep their subscription going without having to pay a dime.
Seriha wrote:
To me, that sounds like grinding something 24/7 and basically not enjoying the game because the cost of upkeep is fairly steep.

I guess that would all depend on what you do for a living...

The grind in TERA for the items to extend your playtime weren't a huge investment in time. It took a little while, but your options are to grind in the game or grind coffee beans at the cafe you work in. I think most players understand that things you want in game will take some time to obtain and that most of these achievements are sometimes a lot of 'work'. Given the opportunity, I think most people would look at the difference between a few hours at work and a few hours doing something in game that they might not necessarily enjoy as much as other options to be a pretty fair exchange.
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Only hips + boobs all day and hips + boobs all over my icecream

HaibaneRenmei wrote:
30 bucks is almost free

cocodojo wrote:
Its personal preference and all, but yes we need to educate WoW players that this is OUR game, these are Characters and not Toons. Time to beat that into them one at a time.
#86 Jul 20 2013 at 9:00 PM Rating: Good
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FilthyMcNizzle wrote:
I guess that would all depend on what you do for a living...

The grind in TERA for the items to extend your playtime weren't a huge investment in time. It took a little while, but your options are to grind in the game or grind coffee beans at the cafe you work in. I think most players understand that things you want in game will take some time to obtain and that most of these achievements are sometimes a lot of 'work'. Given the opportunity, I think most people would look at the difference between a few hours at work and a few hours doing something in game that they might not necessarily enjoy as much as other options to be a pretty fair exchange.


I agree with you in principle, but to what extent does this sentiment inhibit the enjoyment of that group of elite hardcore players who want there to be items that take a ton of grind work? While I'm certainly not in that category of gamer by a long shot, I still believe in providing content for those out there who are.

I think so much development goes into appeasing the less "hardcore" player that sometimes the extreme types are forgotten.
#87 Jul 20 2013 at 11:02 PM Rating: Good
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ClydesShadow wrote:
FilthyMcNizzle wrote:
I guess that would all depend on what you do for a living...

The grind in TERA for the items to extend your playtime weren't a huge investment in time. It took a little while, but your options are to grind in the game or grind coffee beans at the cafe you work in. I think most players understand that things you want in game will take some time to obtain and that most of these achievements are sometimes a lot of 'work'. Given the opportunity, I think most people would look at the difference between a few hours at work and a few hours doing something in game that they might not necessarily enjoy as much as other options to be a pretty fair exchange.


I agree with you in principle, but to what extent does this sentiment inhibit the enjoyment of that group of elite hardcore players who want there to be items that take a ton of grind work? While I'm certainly not in that category of gamer by a long shot, I still believe in providing content for those out there who are.

I think so much development goes into appeasing the less "hardcore" player that sometimes the extreme types are forgotten.

I don't think it inhibits their enjoyment at all. Maybe there's a misunderstanding here. I was using the example to show that in most games there's a choice between whether you pay real money for vanity items or services or whether you pay in-game currency. One of them requires you to work in real life to pay for and the other requires you to work(or farm) in the game.

As far as the balance between hardcore and casual; I think they can find a balance, but it's not going to be 50/50. Look at FFXI for how many players grinded out relics prior to the changes with dynamis being on solo farm. Look at WoW to see how many players are getting legendary weapons completed prior to the level uncap making prior content easier to complete. The balance will never be a true balance(at least to the outside eye) because the distribution of hardcore vs casual players always skews toward the latter.
____________________________
Rinsui wrote:
Only hips + boobs all day and hips + boobs all over my icecream

HaibaneRenmei wrote:
30 bucks is almost free

cocodojo wrote:
Its personal preference and all, but yes we need to educate WoW players that this is OUR game, these are Characters and not Toons. Time to beat that into them one at a time.
#88 Jul 20 2013 at 11:41 PM Rating: Excellent
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FilthMcNasty wrote:
ClydesShadow wrote:
FilthyMcNizzle wrote:
I guess that would all depend on what you do for a living...

The grind in TERA for the items to extend your playtime weren't a huge investment in time. It took a little while, but your options are to grind in the game or grind coffee beans at the cafe you work in. I think most players understand that things you want in game will take some time to obtain and that most of these achievements are sometimes a lot of 'work'. Given the opportunity, I think most people would look at the difference between a few hours at work and a few hours doing something in game that they might not necessarily enjoy as much as other options to be a pretty fair exchange.


I agree with you in principle, but to what extent does this sentiment inhibit the enjoyment of that group of elite hardcore players who want there to be items that take a ton of grind work? While I'm certainly not in that category of gamer by a long shot, I still believe in providing content for those out there who are.

I think so much development goes into appeasing the less "hardcore" player that sometimes the extreme types are forgotten.

I don't think it inhibits their enjoyment at all. Maybe there's a misunderstanding here. I was using the example to show that in most games there's a choice between whether you pay real money for vanity items or services or whether you pay in-game currency. One of them requires you to work in real life to pay for and the other requires you to work(or farm) in the game.

As far as the balance between hardcore and casual; I think they can find a balance, but it's not going to be 50/50. Look at FFXI for how many players grinded out relics prior to the changes with dynamis being on solo farm. Look at WoW to see how many players are getting legendary weapons completed prior to the level uncap making prior content easier to complete. The balance will never be a true balance(at least to the outside eye) because the distribution of hardcore vs casual players always skews toward the latter.


Ah I see. Indeed I misinterpreted what you said. Point taken.
#89 Jul 21 2013 at 7:33 AM Rating: Default
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sandpark wrote:
This game won't ever goes FTP if SE keeps their word about content and being a higher quality game compared to the other models.

TLDR: SE meets the three criteria of content and they can avoid the notion of F2P regardless of all the prophecies the mmo players have foreseen.

FilthMcNasty wrote:
You don't have to avoid F2P to be able to support adding large amounts of quality content and planning that content to be relevant for a long time. A game being F2P is completely independent of those factors. The only caveat to that is that the content that you do intend to introduce via cash shop needs to be attractive enough that people feel it's worth their dime so that enough people are interested in it and you earn enough to cover the costs and turn a profit.

The main issue I find with what you have stated here is that there is very little in FFXIV that separates it from other games. The FATE system and the duty finder, their two most recent additions to the game, are ripped directly from other games that are F2P. I'm not saying that those are the only things XIV has going for it, but the question to ask here; a question I have asked on these boards before is: What is it that sets FFXIV apart from the other, free options?

Most people looked at the question and put their shields up immediately saying things like "We don't need the game to be innovative, that's how we got the miserable 1.0 in the first place". While I agree for the most part, it still doesn't satisfy the question. What is it about FFXIV: ARR that is going to keep people paying a subscription fee when the majority of the same features are offered elsewhere?

I think I understand why Yoshi wants to go with the sub model, but his reasons don't all line up with what is actually happening with games that are successful in F2P.

After playing recent well done F2P option I can say nothing sets a P2P game apart out of the gate. It doesn't have a ton more content. It doesn't have more varied content. It's just that most companies don't do the F2P option well. Look no further than SWTOR if you omit the lack of endgame, it had everything a triple A P2P has at launch. When they switched over to the F2P option they did it about as wrong as you can do to lack of experience? I don't think SE would do it very well either. And if you don't do it well, you actually hurt the company reputation more than help it.

What does ARR have that other games don't? Final Fantasy and everything that encompasses that. Final Fantasy style of writing, universe, jobs, spells, characters, etc. You can see that as a negative or a positive. But for anyone who has played final fantasy and liked it. This is enough.

You might ask ok, why didn't that work for 1.0? Regardless of IP, if the game release a complete lag/buggy mess and doesn't kick you in the face with IP things you know. It won't be enough if you can't play it.
#90 Jul 21 2013 at 7:59 AM Rating: Default
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Yo Filth,

Let's come back here in 2 years and then re-visit the question of what a P2P offers over a F2P game.

We will look at number of expansions, patches, new jobs, number of dungeons,new areas, types of content, new gameplay to mmo, and how much it cost to access all non vanity actual content.

TERA(F2P): Release to two year mark.
GW2(B2P): Release to two year mark.
ARR(P2P): Release to two year mark.

#91 Jul 21 2013 at 8:45 AM Rating: Good
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FilthMcNasty wrote:
You don't have to avoid F2P to be able to support adding large amounts of quality content and planning that content to be relevant for a long time. A game being F2P is completely independent of those factors. The only caveat to that is that the content that you do intend to introduce via cash shop needs to be attractive enough that people feel it's worth their dime so that enough people are interested in it and you earn enough to cover the costs and turn a profit.

The main issue I find with what you have stated here is that there is very little in FFXIV that separates it from other games. The FATE system and the duty finder, their two most recent additions to the game, are ripped directly from other games that are F2P. I'm not saying that those are the only things XIV has going for it, but the question to ask here; a question I have asked on these boards before is: What is it that sets FFXIV apart from the other, free options?

Most people looked at the question and put their shields up immediately saying things like "We don't need the game to be innovative, that's how we got the miserable 1.0 in the first place". While I agree for the most part, it still doesn't satisfy the question. What is it about FFXIV: ARR that is going to keep people paying a subscription fee when the majority of the same features are offered elsewhere?

I think I understand why Yoshi wants to go with the sub model, but his reasons don't all line up with what is actually happening with games that are successful in F2P.


I understand this argument and I can see why it makes people worry. I often have my own worries about longevity as well. Thing is, we're talking about this while XIV is in beta. I know people often say "Well look at 1.0" when people bring up that argument, and I often agree with that, but in this case it's very much applies. People are practically asking for XIV to be the equivalent of 1 or 2 expansions before it's even released, and that's just unreasonable. It took WoW a few years before it became the massive behemoth it is now, and it took FFXI roughly 4 to 5 years to have a hefty amount of endgame content.

When a game is released, developers and players look for two things: Does everything work? And, is it enjoyable to play? Once those two requirements are met, developers can then look towards the future and start releasing content for longtime players and personalizing their game (though XIV already has it's own personality, look at the Armory System and Limit Breaks). No matter what your model is, P2P, F2P, or B2P, every MMO has this as their first goal.

I often find myself looking back to this video when I want to make a point about how important it is for developers to pace themselves and map out their goals on a roadmap. Because if developers try to take on too much it'll often fall flat on it's face. I think Yoshi-P and the Dev Team has a good understanding of this.

Of course this means we'll have to trust Yoshi-P's words and hope for the best, and I know we're already jaded from 1.0 (and life in general). But we also have to realize that there is a lot riding on this for Square Enix as well. Millions of dollars was poured into XIV and failure isn't an option for them. If they do, it's not us that'll take the biggest blow, it's them.
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#92 Jul 21 2013 at 9:49 AM Rating: Decent
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sandpark wrote:
Let's come back here in 2 years and then re-visit the question of what a P2P offers over a F2P game.

It won't even take that long. We'll know by or shortly after the first expansion how it is going to play out.

HeroMystic wrote:
I understand this argument and I can see why it makes people worry. I often have my own worries about longevity as well. Thing is, we're talking about this while XIV is in beta. I know people often say "Well look at 1.0" when people bring up that argument, and I often agree with that, but in this case it's very much applies. People are practically asking for XIV to be the equivalent of 1 or 2 expansions before it's even released, and that's just unreasonable. It took WoW a few years before it became the massive behemoth it is now, and it took FFXI roughly 4 to 5 years to have a hefty amount of endgame content.

This is not a launch or release. It's a re-launch or re-release. I'm completely willing to give ARR a shot to win me over as a game that I will enjoy, but this game was released 3 years ago. It's not at all unreasonable to expect an expansion worth or more of content, especially when Yoshi himself went off on quite a long explanation as to why ARR will still maintain a subscription model specifically because it will allow them to bring in more content than the F2P competition..
Yoshi wrote:
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.

Translation: "I'm going to charge because I'm going big." I'm not sure where SE keeps their coffers, but I hope for the sake of future Final Fantasy titles; they're somewhere in the vicinity of Yoshi's mouth Smiley: sly

HeroMystic wrote:
I often find myself looking back to this video when I want to make a point about how important it is for developers to pace themselves and map out their goals on a roadmap. Because if developers try to take on too much it'll often fall flat on it's face.


ZAM's own...

Edited, Jul 21st 2013 12:09pm by FilthMcNasty
____________________________
Rinsui wrote:
Only hips + boobs all day and hips + boobs all over my icecream

HaibaneRenmei wrote:
30 bucks is almost free

cocodojo wrote:
Its personal preference and all, but yes we need to educate WoW players that this is OUR game, these are Characters and not Toons. Time to beat that into them one at a time.
#93 Jul 21 2013 at 1:28 PM Rating: Decent
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FilthMcNasty wrote:
sandpark wrote:
Let's come back here in 2 years and then re-visit the question of what a P2P offers over a F2P game.

[quote=FilthMcNasty]It won't even take that long. We'll know by or shortly after the first expansion how it is going to play out.

It might not take that long for people who are not FF fans or are invested in another mmo right now. But to actually see the difference in amount of content will take around two years. Because every game usually front loads heavy on launch. It's the preceding years where the meat is exposed.

Sure it might not be a brand new game through and throughout. But I think I read that players from the original release have a lower cost of entry. So they have nothing to lose to give the game a shot. Please remember that the original game even brought almost high end pcs to their knees. I know like 20 people who bought the original and a $800 pc and still couldn't get the game to play smooth. That has been ironed out now.

I am rooting for ARR and that's not because I'm championing them. I actually don't agree that P2P offers better value just because of the payment model. My point stands be it P2P or F2P. They need to deliver the content and if they do the game will do fine.
#94 Jul 21 2013 at 3:50 PM Rating: Good
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Part VII, dabbling with interaction out of the game (and the Lodestone) as well as crafting, originally scheduled for Friday, July 19th, is now up.

The next part will close this series for now, and an epilogue will be incorporated in it, hence it only occupies one topic. It may be up later today depending on its polishing level.

Enjoy!
#95 Jul 21 2013 at 5:20 PM Rating: Good
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HeroMystic wrote:

When a game is released, developers and players look for two things: Does everything work? And, is it enjoyable to play? Once those two requirements are met, developers can then look towards the future and start releasing content for longtime players and personalizing their game (though XIV already has it's own personality, look at the Armory System and Limit Breaks). No matter what your model is, P2P, F2P, or B2P, every MMO has this as their first goal.


FilthMcNasty wrote:

This is not a launch or release. It's a re-launch or re-release. I'm completely willing to give ARR a shot to win me over as a game that I will enjoy, but this game was released 3 years ago. It's not at all unreasonable to expect an expansion worth or more of content, especially when Yoshi himself went off on quite a long explanation as to why ARR will still maintain a subscription model specifically because it will allow them to bring in more content than the F2P competition..


Regarding the points you both raise above - You have equally valid arguments. However, as FATE (Smiley: grin) has had it, practically all the previously released MMORPGs in the past ~5 years or so made critical mistakes. Mistakes of such magnitude, they were unable to sustain their player base for any meaningful amount of time.

More often than not, such mistakes were related to:

Content and lack thereof: When somebody finishes the leveling process, they expect to be able to do something other than staring at the night's sky for 12 months.

Lack of polish / QA: No, releasing a buggy concoction and burying your head in the sands doesn't really cut it. People are (directly or indirectly) paying for your game. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Project management / lack of funds: SWTOR, frequently mentioned by me as a leading -and expensive- failure, was that. We're talking about an MMORPG which cost as much to make as a small country's running costs would be for a year; a game built on a superbly crappy engine, unfit for purpose, forcing the developers to abandon their plans for "mass scale PVP" because the clients of everyone run at 2-10 fps; a game which seemed to have run out of money after its launch, to the point where bugs which broke the game (PvE raids were notorious for this) were left in the client for 30-60 days at a time, before fixing some of them.

Yeah, you know what? No alarms have gone off about these areas in ARR just yet. I know, there are kinks to be found, but so far, even if we played a beta?

I didn't die because the game wanted me to, for no good reason. I didn't get stuck anywhere. I didn't face FATE's which would never end or would never begin. I didn't get instantly killed due to a boss ability being bugged and one-shotting the dungeon group.

There are no signs -yet- that content is either too little or too buggy for people to enjoy at lv. 50.

And project management seems to have done the exact opposite than SWTOR (for example) has: Listen to feedback. Tweak based on feedback and findings. Adjust features.

Will this game hold me -or anyone I know- for a couple of years? Tough to say. We may only stick around for some months. It will largely depend on the patches introduced post-release and whether a steady flow of "things to do, new stuff to discover, content to beat" etc exists.

Has this game the potential, based on existing things we've already seen, to do better than the vast majority of MMORPGs released in the past few years? Sure, but it's up to SE to achieve this, not me, of course. If they seem to offer an overall good / decent experience, people will flock to it. If not...their loss.
#96 Jul 21 2013 at 10:16 PM Rating: Decent
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Sovjohn wrote:
Yeah, you know what? No alarms have gone off about these areas in ARR just yet. I know, there are kinks to be found, but so far, even if we played a beta?


Sovjohn wrote:
Will this game hold me -or anyone I know- for a couple of years? Tough to say. We may only stick around for some months. It will largely depend on the patches introduced post-release and whether a steady flow of "things to do, new stuff to discover, content to beat" etc exists.


The loudest alarm is the disparity between the large amount of players coming into the game with many or all classes and jobs at level cap and the influx of new players. As you said, releasing content in a timely manner is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. I'm curious how or why you think this isn't an alarm when it's an obvious issue facing ARR on re-launch.

Clearly you're optimistic about the game, even overly optimistic I'd say; that is your prerogative. I'm not going to tell you not to be excited about it. However, if you're so willing to ignore easily identified problems such as the one I just mentioned, perhaps it's you who needs to smell the coffee.


____________________________
Rinsui wrote:
Only hips + boobs all day and hips + boobs all over my icecream

HaibaneRenmei wrote:
30 bucks is almost free

cocodojo wrote:
Its personal preference and all, but yes we need to educate WoW players that this is OUR game, these are Characters and not Toons. Time to beat that into them one at a time.
#97 Jul 22 2013 at 1:17 AM Rating: Good
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FilthMcNasty wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:
Yeah, you know what? No alarms have gone off about these areas in ARR just yet. I know, there are kinks to be found, but so far, even if we played a beta?


Sovjohn wrote:
Will this game hold me -or anyone I know- for a couple of years? Tough to say. We may only stick around for some months. It will largely depend on the patches introduced post-release and whether a steady flow of "things to do, new stuff to discover, content to beat" etc exists.


The loudest alarm is the disparity between the large amount of players coming into the game with many or all classes and jobs at level cap and the influx of new players. As you said, releasing content in a timely manner is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. I'm curious how or why you think this isn't an alarm when it's an obvious issue facing ARR on re-launch.

Clearly you're optimistic about the game, even overly optimistic I'd say; that is your prerogative. I'm not going to tell you not to be excited about it. However, if you're so willing to ignore easily identified problems such as the one I just mentioned, perhaps it's you who needs to smell the coffee.




I think that judgement regarding content or lack of it should be withheld until someone is able to access all of it. If we enter Phase 4 / Open Beta, and suddenly it becomes blatantly obvious that the high level content is merely what existed in 1.0, with nothing else in place, this would be a good incentive for all **** to break loose.

However, the signs up to now do not point to such a scenario. We'll know soon enough (~15 days?) about what has remained hidden and its status / quality.
#98 Jul 22 2013 at 1:41 AM Rating: Decent
****
4,134 posts
Sovjohn wrote:
FilthMcNasty wrote:
Sovjohn wrote:
Yeah, you know what? No alarms have gone off about these areas in ARR just yet. I know, there are kinks to be found, but so far, even if we played a beta?


Sovjohn wrote:
Will this game hold me -or anyone I know- for a couple of years? Tough to say. We may only stick around for some months. It will largely depend on the patches introduced post-release and whether a steady flow of "things to do, new stuff to discover, content to beat" etc exists.


The loudest alarm is the disparity between the large amount of players coming into the game with many or all classes and jobs at level cap and the influx of new players. As you said, releasing content in a timely manner is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained. I'm curious how or why you think this isn't an alarm when it's an obvious issue facing ARR on re-launch.

Clearly you're optimistic about the game, even overly optimistic I'd say; that is your prerogative. I'm not going to tell you not to be excited about it. However, if you're so willing to ignore easily identified problems such as the one I just mentioned, perhaps it's you who needs to smell the coffee.




I think that judgement regarding content or lack of it should be withheld until someone is able to access all of it. If we enter Phase 4 / Open Beta, and suddenly it becomes blatantly obvious that the high level content is merely what existed in 1.0, with nothing else in place, this would be a good incentive for all **** to break loose.

However, the signs up to now do not point to such a scenario. We'll know soon enough (~15 days?) about what has remained hidden and its status / quality.


It's not a judgment, it's an observation. If they're going to be providing massive amounts of content(their own justification for charging a monthly fee), then they're going to have to have much of that available from the get go if a large part of their playerbase is starting ARR having already obtained the level cap. New players will also expect there to be quite a bit of content for them at lower levels. This basically means that instead of having the benefit of re-launching XIV with everyone at level 1, they're going to have to have things for level capped players to do right away.

Other games can almost ignore adding endgame content at least for a little while because the majority of the playerbase will be occupied leveling up. ARR doesn't have that luxury so they essentially need to have both new content and endgame content ready to roll. The bright spot in all of this is that assuming they do come through with that, new players will have an established endgame.

If I were an established player with some or all jobs and classes at level cap for ARR launch, I think it's fair that I be a bit concerned about that.
____________________________
Rinsui wrote:
Only hips + boobs all day and hips + boobs all over my icecream

HaibaneRenmei wrote:
30 bucks is almost free

cocodojo wrote:
Its personal preference and all, but yes we need to educate WoW players that this is OUR game, these are Characters and not Toons. Time to beat that into them one at a time.
#99 Jul 22 2013 at 8:55 AM Rating: Good
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1,218 posts
Xoie wrote:
Wint wrote:
As has been stated before, they tried to redefine everything and we got 1.0. I'd rather they take what works for other MMOs, then tweak it over the months to make it their own. I know "WoW Clone" gets tossed around a lot, but there really are a lot of similarities that can't be ignored. It doesn't have to be a negative thing through, I like the idea of their taking the best of every MMO and including it.

What it boils down to is "are people having fun?" and I know I, and a lot of others are. **** even my wife, who's never played an MMO in her life (had no idea how to WASD) was starting to get antsy between tests during Phase 3. That's my own personal indicator of how good the game is Smiley: thumbsup



It's exactly this. Innovation is only good if it solves a problem the genre has (or didn't know it had). But difference for the sake of difference and expecting that will produce a WoW-killer is like throwing a dart blindfolded while going for a bullseye surrounded by killer beehives. FFXIV 1.0 lost its way because it simply forgot about the player experience being the most important aspect. The industry has evolved tremendously since the days of EQ, so offering a game that completely ignored the last decade of MMOdom was pure madness.




I'd like to point out that there are valid reasons for wanting and seeking innovation. The MMO genre is well established at this point and a lot of the conventions have gotten a bit stale. There are usually good reasons why they have become the conventions, and changing them just for the sake of change is likely to result in a worse game, but a game developer isn't worth much if he or she isn't at least looking for ways to shake things up in ways that are as effective or ideally more effective than the convention.

One example of this is questing. I find myself barely doing side quests in FFXIV, and ignoring guildleves as much as possible because frankly they're the same boring concepts I've come to expect from 5 years of playing WoW specifically and MMOs in general for 15+. Seeing yet another filler quest from an NPC with an exclamation point over his head does not excite or compel me. I really enjoy the story and even the class quests, but that's because I'm generally getting to see a decent narrative with cut scenes and character development, and getting some nice abilities as rewards. They don't feel like filler.

FFXIV had a huge opportunity (and may still have one) with guild leves. The original concept with guild leves seemed to suggest that they would be somewhat modular, that you would sort of earn the ability to customize your goals, group sizes, and rewards more as you went on. You can KIND of do this now by choosing the level of the leve and choosing from a list for each hub, but you're inevitably going to repeat the same leves a lot, and maybe never find the one that fits exactly what you're in the mood for. IF they could ever revisit the leve system and really make it crackle and pop, that's the kind of innovation that would add a lot of value to the genre.

Similarly, I'd love to know if there was an underlying reason for the armory system. What were the imagined advantages of tying class to weapon directly? Is this something they did differently just for the sake of being diferent, or is there some emergent depth or compelling gameplay that's going to justify what otherwise seems like a narrow design decision? I felt like the job system in FFXI was very different than anything that's ever been done in MMOs before or since (although Rift probably comes closest to duplicating it). That's innovation for the sake of better and novel gameplay, and I love it. I don't love the armory system (though I do love being able to play every class on one character). Is this a system they could develop further to differentiate ARR in a very positive way? I'd love to find out.

Bottom line: A lot of the features that can make ARR different in a very positive way already exist in a skeleton fashion, or are promised for the relatively near future (housing, for example) but it all comes down to the execution. Can Yoshi and his team execute systems that haven't been done by any one else before? Can they innovate in ways that move the genre forward, or will they simply forsake innovation, or innovate just to be different?

Edited, Jul 22nd 2013 11:08am by KarlHungis
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#100 Jul 22 2013 at 5:06 PM Rating: Decent
****
4,134 posts
KarlHungis wrote:
FFXIV had a huge opportunity (and may still have one) with guild leves. The original concept with guild leves seemed to suggest that they would be somewhat modular, that you would sort of earn the ability to customize your goals, group sizes, and rewards more as you went on. You can KIND of do this now by choosing the level of the leve and choosing from a list for each hub, but you're inevitably going to repeat the same leves a lot, and maybe never find the one that fits exactly what you're in the mood for.


Agree with this a hundred zillion percent. When I first envisioned guildleves (at least from how they were first described) I pictured the MMM system from FFXI, but tuned to work the way it could and should have. Sort of a mix between picking an underlying branch of storyline and running with it in a way completely unique to your character. This is what I was hoping they had in mind for their whole 'character progression without leveling up traditionally' path they started out on.
____________________________
Rinsui wrote:
Only hips + boobs all day and hips + boobs all over my icecream

HaibaneRenmei wrote:
30 bucks is almost free

cocodojo wrote:
Its personal preference and all, but yes we need to educate WoW players that this is OUR game, these are Characters and not Toons. Time to beat that into them one at a time.
#101 Jul 22 2013 at 5:07 PM Rating: Decent
Scholar
**
970 posts
KarlHungis wrote:

It's exactly this. Innovation is only good if it solves a problem the genre has (or didn't know it had). But difference for the sake of difference and expecting that will produce a WoW-killer is like throwing a dart blindfolded while going for a bullseye surrounded by killer beehives. FFXIV 1.0 lost its way because it simply forgot about the player experience being the most important aspect. The industry has evolved tremendously since the days of EQ, so offering a game that completely ignored the last decade of MMOdom was pure madness.

I'd like to point out that there are valid reasons for wanting and seeking innovation. The MMO genre is well established at this point and a lot of the conventions have gotten a bit stale. There are usually good reasons why they have become the conventions, and changing them just for the sake of change is likely to result in a worse game, but a game developer isn't worth much if he or she isn't at least looking for ways to shake things up in ways that are as effective or ideally more effective than the convention.

One example of this is questing. I find myself barely doing side quests in FFXIV, and ignoring guildleves as much as possible because frankly they're the same boring concepts I've come to expect from 5 years of playing WoW specifically and MMOs in general for 15+. Seeing yet another filler quest from an NPC with an exclamation point over his head does not excite or compel me. I really enjoy the story and even the class quests, but that's because I'm generally getting to see a decent narrative with cut scenes and character development, and getting some nice abilities as rewards. They don't feel like filler.

FFXIV had a huge opportunity (and may still have one) with guild leves. The original concept with guild leves seemed to suggest that they would be somewhat modular, that you would sort of earn the ability to customize your goals, group sizes, and rewards more as you went on. You can KIND of do this now by choosing the level of the leve and choosing from a list for each hub, but you're inevitably going to repeat the same leves a lot, and maybe never find the one that fits exactly what you're in the mood for. IF they could ever revisit the leve system and really make it crackle and pop, that's the kind of innovation that would add a lot of value to the genre.

Similarly, I'd love to know if there was an underlying reason for the armory system. What were the imagined advantages of tying class to weapon directly? Is this something they did differently just for the sake of being diferent, or is there some emergent depth or compelling gameplay that's going to justify what otherwise seems like a narrow design decision? I felt like the job system in FFXI was very different than anything that's ever been done in MMOs before or since (although Rift probably comes closest to duplicating it). That's innovation for the sake of better and novel gameplay, and I love it. I don't love the armory system (though I do love being able to play every class on one character). Is this a system they could develop further to differentiate ARR in a very positive way? I'd love to find out.

Questing is boring whether it has the exclamation mark or not in just about every mmo. Because the norm is for developers to make 1000s of quests for the sake of content versus making them fun but not as numerous. Here's what I would like to see from quests.
Keep in mind an npc tracker would be needed to let players know their current whereabouts and intricacies.
Note: Quests should be able to be grouped and be scaled appropriately with the number of members.

1.Dynamic npcs(NPCs with changing requirements,objectives,motives, moods, beliefs, and daily activities)
The framework for how to make more dynamic npcs exist already if a developer would just look at other games and sponge up a bit of here and there to form a cohesive package from the whole.

Npc dialogue and player choices- Elder Scrolls and Bioware rpgs
Npc mood and beliefs- Xenoblade Chronicles Heart to hearts and Final Fantasy X jecht spheres
Npc daily activities- Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy IX active time events
Npc perception of the world- Bioware rpgs and Guild Wars 2
Npc quest interactions/travels with you- Basically any rpg including FFXI Prishe
Npc motives- Instead of just wanting something from the particular quests have that be a work towards something bigger

2.Quest variation
Rather than fall into the trend of kill this, gather this, fed-ex this. Let there be interactions consisting of more than trade or consume.

Cid asks you to gather some things to fix a magitek. You do whatever that entails, but rather than it end there with a cs or text box saying complete. How about actually helping fix it with dynamic hotbars to simulate maintenance activities. Context sensitive dynamic hotbars without resorting to QTE. Why stop there actually pilot one with dynamic controls!

Guildleves:
They had a good concept of having cards with different virtues. The problem was that all the duties were mostly the same regardless of which leves you grabbed. What if the word guildleve meant different content per leve. On the fly access to varied content at by linking them you could weave a story with your party? I am not going to link the pics of guildleves images.

Ambition- Political or financial activities effecting company or city state ranking(National PvP or PvE content)
Benevolence- Helping a player or npc with charity to win affection.(Helping with a quest for npcs or players well being)
Candor- Doing duties for a king or a nation's leader.(Assassination, sabotage, scouting, coercing enemies to your nation's side, PvP or PvE)

I could go on and list activities for every guildleve with different goals and gameplay but that's Se's job if they pursued it.

The gist is guildleves would just be a springboard for jumping to a unique activity.


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