Final Fantasy XIV Retrospective

A Look at the Razed and Reborn Realms of Eorzea

It’s amazing that the team was able to turn the original game into something worth checking out. Even in its original state, I was able to see a kernel of something interesting there, but everything surrounding it repelled me — a feeling I’m sure many people had about its predecessor, FFXI! I actually started to play the game a scant few months before its closure and found myself enjoying it, though it was still a flawed experience. What are your thoughts on the game, post-updates?

Essentially, the game came a very, very long way since release, and a large portion of those improvements have come while the development team was simultaneously remaking the game. AV and CC were interesting and fun up until the thousandth run of each dungeon; the structure of that content was torturous in how it played to our worst tendencies as monomaniacs. Garuda was a glimmer of hope, even though we destroyed that content. Hamlet was a serious misstep, but we'll call that a mulligan. Ifrit (Extreme) would have been great if not for the game's engine. Rivenroad (Hard) is, fittingly, close to the apex of what I imagine was possible with 1.0's engine in terms of fight complexity and design. Knowing that the engine has a hard cap on mob HP, that hit detection is poor and the degree to which latency affects actions even worse, that fight was pretty good, which is why we spent so much time trying to break it apart. (We succeeded in our goal of beating it in under ten minutes, but we have a lot of respect for the Japanese group that beat our time.)

Combat is obviously a very large part of any MMORPG and, while some elements of 1.0’s combat system will carry over into A Realm Reborn, it’s still going to play very differently. Why don’t you tell us about the combat system in 1.0?

FFXIV 1.0's combat system was bizarre because, for most of the game's lifespan, everything just felt way too slow. By the time AV and CC came around, with the addition of jobs and various rebalancing changes, there was this cool intersection for physical DPS jobs. On the one hand, you had the mechanical skill requirement — mostly figuring out how to counteract the engine by sliding through weaponskills or mashing out the /facetarget command to force position checks — and then the preparation requirement, which involved playing around with the different weaponskills to see how they fit together perfectly in a given timeframe.

Probably the most fun any one of us could have in 1.0's combat was to play Dragoon in the Rivenroad (Hard) encounter: the player had to dodge lasers, deal with teleports and knockbacks, gauge enmity against the tank's enmity (usually the easiest part, given how good Paladins were by that point) and adapt a DPS rotation based on cooldowns, positional requirements and the phase of the fight. When all was said and done, the Rivenroad (Hard) fight wasn't as hard as most people made it out to be but, at the same time, it was an amazing achievement of fight design considering the limitations of the engine. And it was probably a skeleton crew that did it, or just one or two people really, since 2.0 was already well into development at that point in time.

The Rivenroad encounter was well-designed, both mechanically as well as in its general aesthetics. It represented a fantastic send-off for the beleaguered game.

For 1.0, when we recruited someone to fill a DPS role, quite often we asked that person for any footage he or she might have of MNK gameplay on a fight like Miser's Mistress, where it was mostly tank-and-spank. That kind of fight was a perfect showcase of how a player approached the game, because it was very simple, but the difference between a bad player and a good player was colossal, and the difference between a good player and a great player was still very substantial — in terms of the DPS numbers, but also just how the player moved his/her character, pushed the buttons, etc. What's even better for us, looking ahead to 2.0's combat, is that the speed requirement — the mechanical skill requirement — is going to be much higher. People talk about RTS or MOBA players in terms of their APM ("Actions Per Minute"); to be considered decent or good at an RTS, you probably need an APM of around 100 at bare minimum, and the pro-level players usually range from 200-400. That's 400 clicks or key presses per minute. FFXIV is never going to approach that, of course, but I'll be very disappointed if the game's APM ceiling is 24 (2.5s Global Cooldown) or 30 (2.0s GCD) instead of 40 (1.5s GCD) or more.

Speaking of FFXIV 2.0’s combat, what do you think of it based on what you’ve seen so far? Based on my experiences, it definitely starts out a bit simplistic, but that’s par for course with most MMOs.

As far as 2.0's combat goes, I like the general framework and I like the philosophy in place; even at this early point, it's an improvement over 1.0's combat, but there's a lot of room for further adjustments. I still think it's currently too slow, but Yoshida seems to agree with me on that point, so I'm cautiously optimistic. We've seen far fewer positional requirements, which could potentially lower the skill ceiling but, at the same time, dealing with too many positional requirements can limit one's choices from a design perspective (fights would then need a ceiling on movement/positioning to avoid imbalance). If the GCD bottoms out at 1.5 seconds (or lower), and if we have enough choices to make every time we push a button, I'll be happy.

Right now, it's hard to tell how good combat will be at 2.0, but it's easy to tell how bad it could be if it's too simplistic, too rote. That goes for more than just DPS jobs, though; healing is a huge question mark for us, since we don't know what the final ability selection is going to be like. From what we've seen so far, White Mage lacks granularity; a low-power instant-heal would be a nice way to fill some gaps. Black Mage was notoriously two-dimensional in 1.0, so we're also hoping to see some dramatic changes to that job in particular.

The rate at which new content is beaten typically vastly outstrips the rate at which it is generated, resulting in large lulls in activity for dedicated groups such as yours. During such periods, it’s typical for members to leave for other pursuits, either different activities in the same game or outside of the game altogether. In your case, though, all of you are on a forced hiatus from the game for at least a few more months, beta test phases aside. How do you anticipate that affecting your efforts once A Realm Reborn hits?

Things have been quiet around here since the end of 1.0, but we stay busy by playing other games, catching up on real life, watching Game of Thrones/Mad Men/etc, and posting random stuff for each other on our Guildwork feed or forums. We pushed recruiting pretty hard just before 1.0 ended, and we're going to reignite that push before 2.0 starts. We want to make absolutely sure that we're ready for Crystal Tower and the Labyrinth of Bahamut. Right now I'm happy with how far we've come since the days of camping Dodore, but we always have a lot of room for improvement.

I'm sure there will be growing pains; there's no way around it with a transition from 8-man content to 24-man content. The first 1.0 content transition, from 15-man to 8-man, had its own challenges as well. But that was a trend toward exclusivity, rather than inclusiveness, so it's something of a different story this time. And, as content updates have given us more means by which to test our members' skillsets, our standards have grown tougher; our expectations for performance are higher. So we have to make sure that even though we're going to be tackling content with 24 people instead of 8, we need to be able to trust each other even more than we did before.

Lastly, for people interested in hitting FFXIV’s end-game hard when it relaunches, tell us more about your linkshell’s schedule and philosophy.

Our scheduling is subject to change as we learn more about the raid structure for 2.0, but right now we're tentatively looking at a 4-day/week schedule, running from 5 PM PST/8 PM EST to 9 PM PST/12 AM EST. When we're pushing for world-firsts, we ask our members to take vacation/sick days, get notes for classes from someone else, and beg their significant others for some leeway, so that we can run for at least 12 hours a day. That kind of schedule is obviously unsustainable for very long, so we do our best to work around everyone's real lives after the first few days. We obviously are very motivated to get things done and get the gear for our members, but we also try to stave off burnout.

I look forward to watching your linkshell’s exploits in the new world of Final Fantasy XIV. We’ll have to link up again in the future and exchange our updated thoughts on the game.

I'd be happy to follow-up sometime down the line. We are proud of what we've done, and we only hope to accomplish even more in 2.0.

Douglas J. VanDerveer

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I know!
# May 18 2013 at 9:10 AM Rating: Decent
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Since there was no good way to say this in the article without having to restructure things, I'd like to note that I am aware of games like Darkfall: Unholy Wars essentially being rebuilt too. :) Sorry I couldn't fit everything in!
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