FINAL FANTASY XIV fans the world round, the fifth Letter from the Producer has arrived for your viewing pleasure!
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Well, my stint in London has drawn to a close, and I'm now making my way to L.A. At the London office, I had the chance to speak with a few people from FFXIV's French and German fan sites, and enjoyed what I felt were some very meaningful exchanges. Unfortunately, I couldn't meet up with representatives from one of the German sites due to some transportation trouble on their end. But I'll be back in Europe before long, so we'll have to get together then!
Japan to England to America in the span of a week. It's all got me feeling a bit...off. Maybe it's because I'm not the type of person who sleeps much to begin with, but I'm not really feeling the jet lag, per se. I'm just worried that if I stop to take a break or slow down, it'll hit me all at once. If anyone out there knows a cure for this nonsense, let me know.
As I mentioned before, I left the results and analysis of the second Players' Poll out of my last letter to try and keep it short, so that's seems as good a place as any to start.
I'm writing this at 30,000 feet again, so I may not be calm, cool, and collected. But my interpretations of the poll data were all made while I still had two feet on the ground, so they should be solid. (Seriously, I really hate planes.)
Poll responses numbered in the tens of thousands again, and I'd like to thank everyone who participated. Let's get right to it, shall we?
1. What do you feel are currently the most significant issues with the battle system? (up to three answers)
For Question 1, we decided to list up several points of concern the dev team and I had, and allow you to select multiple responses. It looks like the end result is that you feel all of them are significant issues. We'll do our best to address them all. In particular, the lack of class uniqueness seems to be prevalent in all regions. As this relates closely to core elements such as battle strategy, party composition, and attributes, we will be giving it top priority. It is going to entail a huge overhaul, including balancing the distribution of actions across classes, but we'll be looking to see what we can do, and then doing it! The result will be less monotony of actions, and once those changes have been finished, we'll move onto reworking the Battle Regimen system.
2. What type of class role would you like to use in combat?
You guys love your melee attackers, don't you? I guess it's to be expected, considering Matsui (the battle team leader) tells me that melee attackers have been the most popular classes in FFXI, too. Personally, when it comes to MMOs, I'm more of a ranged man myself. I've logged more than my fair share of play time online, and have played every kind of class, but whenever asked what my main is, I always say caster first. At any rate, we'll be taking the results from Question 2 into consideration when making system changes to help encourage party-based play.
3. How frequently would you like to engage in party-based play?
At first glance, Question 3's results look to be an overwhelming desire for party-based play, but looking closely at the regional breakdown, Japan in particular has a strong showing of players who prefer rolling solo. I imagine for many people it might go something like this: real life obligations at school or work → can't play for prolonged periods of time → log into a game with mostly party-based content → spend time looking for a party → end up losing actual game time. I'm well aware of these issues, and promise not to let vicious cycles like this dominate FFXIV's gameplay. I'm on it. ☺
Though we're revising the battle system with a focus on making it fun for parties, the solo/party orientation and recommended ranks of game content will be clearly defined, and future adjustments and additions will take all types of player lifestyles into account. To take guildleves as an example, there is a certain comfort in knowing that if I go to this aetheryte or that counter, there is something to do. I'm of the opinion that there is nothing better than the ability to pick up the game and play even when you only have a little bit of time to do so, and this will continue to be an important element in the future. Of course, to make party play as enjoyable as possible, we're going to be coming up with some new specs and begin implementing them when possible.
4. What types of game content would you like to undertake while in a party? (up to three answers)
5. What types of game content would you like to undertake while playing solo? (up to three answers)
Questions 4 and 5 were aimed at party and solo play, respectively. These tremendously informative results will go a long way towards serving as a barometer of sorts for future content balancing. We will draw heavily on this data when considering the necessity of forming parties, the presence of in-game features to aid in doing so, and other such differences between solo and party play. These differences seem to attribute in part for the strong showing of the solo PvE content option. Also, the solo play response for farming/gathering is extremely valuable feedback for the dev team, and I’m thinking that this is something we can tie into the in-game companies we have planned!
6. In addition to enhancing class differentiation with essential attributes and distinct appearances, we are also looking into introducing class and rank requirements for equipping gear. How do you feel about the implementation of such a system?
The overwhelming majority seems to be in favor of an item system with an emphasis on class uniqueness, much like the results from Question 1. As I mentioned last letter, this is something that we've already started on, and we'll be implementing the changes over time together with adjustments to item stats.
7. The fatigue system currently in place aims to prevent excessive "grinding" of skill and experience points. Have you felt the effects of this system while playing?
No doubt many players experienced this to a greater extent after the changes to skill and experience point calculations introduced in 1.15. I can't give any particulars about the timing, but once we rework the foundation, we'll be touching up this as well, so please bear with us.
The bonus point allotment system was intended to be a means by which players could customize their character's individuality. The free distribution of attribute points has given rise to certain problems, however, such as compatibility issues with the Armoury system, and the lowered effectiveness of the attributes themselves. In particular, this lowered effectiveness of attributes also extends its influence to items, and is therefore something that we feel must be rectified. To do so, we are currently looking into the following two options:
Removal of the bonus point system, and the addition of automatic allotment of attribute points based on class. Removal of physical levels, and the addition of class-specific allotment of attribute points for each class based on rank.
Removal of the bonus point system, and the addition of automatic allotment of attribute points based on class.
Removal of physical levels, and the addition of class-specific allotment of attribute points for each class based on rank.
8. Would you prefer option 1, option 2, or the current system?
To be honest, I'm genuinely surprised by the response to Question 8, as are Matsui and Gondai on the battle team. We certainly didn't think that over 50% of players would be for doing away with physical levels. This would entail some pretty big changes tied in with enhancing class uniqueness. But we're coming to realize now that most of you seem to be saying you're fine with radical changes as long as they make the game more fun. We'll definitely refer to this data when coming up with new specs, and will be implementing them when we can!
9. If the current target claiming system were done away with, would you be in favor of a system that rewards skill, experience, and loot only to the party that first deals damage to an enemy? Or would you be in favor of skill, experience, and loot being distributed amongst all parties that contributed to an enemy's defeat?
Player opinions are pretty evenly split on this one, and the regional breakdowns are varied a bit as well. I'm kicking myself for not having put in a third option combining the other two: Skill and experience going to all parties, and loot going to only the first party to deal damage to an enemy.
I personally think that this mixed option (skill/experience to all involved parties, loot to only the claiming party) makes sense. Well, the official FFXIV forums will be going live shortly, and I'd very much like to open this topic up for discussion there to hear your opinions. I'll be posting, too!
10. If the current target claiming system were done away with, would you prefer for content such as dungeons and battle to be converted into instances as much as possible?
* "Instances" refer to those events and areas that can only be occupied by a single party, or certain characters, at once. This serves to prevent players from competing with one another for the same enemies, for example.
This data is somewhat representative of the response seen to Question 9 data. The people have spoken. As such, we'll be operating under the premise that new PvE content, such as dungeons containing sought-after loot, will be instanced. By instancing content in this way, we'll be able to reduce claim wars and counter-camping and all that. There's also the added merit of enabling the level design team to work with a clear theme in mind, and create much more engaging and challenging content.
So, what did you think of the second Players' Poll results? I really can't thank you enough for all of the valuable opinions. The data has really helped us map out the direction in which to take the battle system from here. All that's left to do is to finalize the specs and start writing the code. But after-the-fact adjustments and reworkings being what they are, it simply isn't possibly to fit everything that needs to be done in a single monthly patch. And so we're planning to release every big change over the course of two smaller-size updates. You'll be able to start seeing the changes to the battle system come spring, so please be patient just a bit longer!
My next letter will be sometime after the Game Developers Conference, when I'm back on Japanese soil. Patch 1.16 will be live by then, and I'm planning on diving into the topic of in-game companies! All of the system-side preparations have been made, and it's almost time for Eorzea's radical transformation to begin!
Well, I have to man up through two more flights (L.A. to San Fran, and San Fran to Tokyo). Keep me in your prayers, everyone! It's times like this a little FF Levitate spell would come in handy...
See you next post! ☺
FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer & Director, Naoki Yoshida