SE aims to repair FFXIV's reputation by pledging fixes and reaching out to players.
We waited with bated breath for Final Fantasy XIV to go live; but when the servers fired up, the game fell woefully short of our high expectations – and we let Square Enix know it.
We criticized the retainer system. We ripped apart the user interface. We flamed the server lag, the lack of a player search feature, the lack of quests and the behavior of monsters. The list of flaws went on and on. And we weren’t the only ones who got in on the flame fest. Bloggers and game reviewers got in on the action too.
On Friday, the folks at Square Enix responded.
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In one fell swoop, they restored much of the community’s faith in FFXIV by outlining exactly how they plan to improve the game between now and December. More importantly, they showed us that they’ve learned a thing or two about communication, and that swallowing a little pride can go a long, long ways.
Everything in FFXIV Director Nobuaki Komoto’s message gave us reason to believe in Square Enix as a viable MMO manager – and reason to believe FFXIV will be around for a very long time.
The market wards will be fixed and fitted with search functions, but in a way that preserves this unique approach to facilitating a player-based economy. Server lag will be addressed in a way nobody should notice. Notorious monsters will be added in guildleves and open areas. The cluttered user interface will be simplified. Seasonal events are on the way.
These are fixes to short-term problems that players desperately needed to hear. Obviously this game was released too early – no way anyone can deny that now – and players were correct when they called Final Fantasy XIV incomplete. The unfinished state of the game upon launch day gave players good reason to doubt the competence of Square Enix. We wondered whether the company had learned anything from missteps in Final Fantasy XI, or whether the development team genuinely cared about communicating with players outside of Japan. The bugs and inefficiencies reported throughout beta testing had made it to the game’s finished product. We couldn’t help but ask ourselves whether SE was listening to anything we said.
Which is why the extension of the 30-day free trial was so clutch. Although nobody typed the words “I’m sorry” into the update notes, this extension of free play is nothing short of an apology. And not only is Square Enix apologizing for the state of its game, but the company is acknowledging just how incomplete the game really was. This isn’t just lip service, folks; Square Enix is putting its money where its mouth is. It’s an unprecedented move by a gaming company that has long been accused of intentionally ignoring the needs of its most dedicated fans.
I’m excited by all of the upcoming revisions to Final Fantasy XIV, but I’m most excited by the olive branch – no, make that the olive tree – extended to us by Square Enix. I can’t help but feel that this wouldn’t have happened two or three years ago. Seems like SE has been skilling up its public relations team, doesn’t it? Silliness aside, continued communication from developers will help Final Fantasy XIV get the positive exposure the game needs to overcome its shaky start. Further down the road, improved communication from Square Enix will help keep FFXIV relevant for years to come.
Hopefully these announcements bring an end to the endless tsunami of FFXIV rage threads. Obviously, players, bloggers, reviewers and gaming journalists have every right to speak their piece about Square Enix and Final Fantasy XIV. Some of the flaws this game currently has are so glaring that I can't blame people for leaving Eorzea behind. Lately though I felt as if some critics were grasping at straws in an attempt to brand the game a failure.
Even before these fixes were announced, Final Fantasy XIV had a lot going for it. The game has incredibly unique questing and leveling systems, and the crafting and gathering systems appear ready-made to thwart RMT. The graphics and sound are amazing. I know I’m not the only gamer who was thrilled to be playing a state-of-the-art MMO that doesn’t require hours upon hours of free time to make any kind of progress.
Some players want to see these upcoming improvements be implemented before granting their trust to Square Enix. I’m going to give SE the benefit of the doubt and predict they will make the majority of these changes on schedule, and that anything not fixed as planned will be patched soon after. Never before has the development team been so bold about detailing version updates this far in advance. To me this indicates a change in the way Square Enix does business. Considering the large amount of money SE has already spent on FFXIV – and with the Playstation 3 launch looming -- I’m going to assume the company isn’t blowing smoke to temper early reactions toward the game. The company had better not be blowing smoke, or this game faces a real risk of going up in flames.
Rest assured, though, these aren’t the last problems FFXIV will face. The risk of playing an ever-evolving game is that errors, glitches and ill-conceived systems will always slip by the developers. Call it the MMO Circle of Life; mistakes will be made and people will complain. I have confidence Square Enix will address these mistakes, as they did most of the time in FFXI.
All that really matters is that Square Enix keeps talking to its players. On Friday we witnessed how far a few simple messages can go. Let’s hope the developers use their budding communication skills to remove all doubts from our minds that Final Fantasy XIV will grow and succeed.
As long as the developers keep talking -- and listening -- I have a feeling this game will be just fine.