Ragar sees quite a bit FFXIV could learn from Carbine's new MMO
Hello and welcome to the sixteenth edition of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM’s column on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For this week’s column, we're going to take a look at the recently released MMO from Carbine Studios, WildStar. This one's going to be different than when we looked at The Elder Scrolls Online earlier this year; I won't be trying to help anyone choose between the two. Instead, we're going to look at WildStar as inspiration for changes in FFXIV. While the games themselves are quite different, some systems could still be used or modified to improve things for everyone here in Eorzea.
Housing: The Grass is Greener On The Floating Island Space House
This one's actually something I ranted wrote about when Free Company housing came out in patch 2.1 with some rather exorbitant price points. The housing options in FFXIV are interesting, with plenty of options available to players. When we look at WildStar, we see nearly all those options and then some. When you hit level 14 in WildStar, you're given a quest to tour various sample houses. When finished, you take a teleporter to a housing plot on a floating island. Suddenly, that island is now yours – no questions asked, no upfront fees. It's fairly simple at first, with just a starter tent in the center. A small starter house can be purchased for an insignificant amount of money even at level 14. If you want to fancy things up a bit, that's where the expenses come in.
Now that you've got a small house on your land, there's still plenty to do. We'll start with the land outside your house. In addition to the central plot on your land where your house lives, you have two medium/large plots and four small plots where you can place “plug-ins” with various features. Want to craft away from the crowd? Place a Crafting Station plug-in. Need to grow crops for Cooking? Add a Farm and plant away! There are plug-ins that are purely decorative, some that give daily Challenges, scalable 1-5 player dungeon plug-ins and more. With your plug-ins covered, it's time to start customizing your house and land.
Open mic night is never a good idea with Chua around
You could place some trees and plants around the entrance to your house to bring that personalized landscaping look. Don't like the color or texture of your house's default walls/roof/trim? Pick one of the alternative looks. You could even change the sky for your land: clear skies, a cold snowy haze, all the way to the star-lit backdrop of outer space. This is all just the outside, mind you – we still haven't started the interior. You can do the same kind of major feature customization (e.g. walls, ceiling, trim, etc.) to the inside of your house as well. That's quite a bit of control over your home's appearance, and we haven't even looked into decor items yet!
Decor operates like most of us are familiar with from FFXIV and Rift. Choose an item from your bag or storage crate –items stored to your inventory from anywhere – and place it in the world to preview it. From here you can get into the fine details of exact XYZ positioning, object scale, rotation, etc. before hitting “Place” to make it stay. All of this is pretty standard fare for MMO housing... until we look at the decor bonuses. Many of the decor items you can place have some form (small/medium/large) of decor bonus: lighting, ambiance, pride, etc. These bonuses affect your rested experience and, once you’re level capped, give you bonus Elder gems for end-game content. So not only can you customize your house to fit your aesthetic needs and your crafting/gathering/raiding needs, but can have a direct impact on your rested bonus for those times when you have to log out of the game (for silly things like “work” or “school”).
FFXIV does have some advantages over their Nexus neighbors for housing. They have actual neighborhoods for homes rather than flagging friends as Neighbors so they can visit. They’re lacking in personal housing at the moment (still waiting on that patch), but they do have regular homes specifically for Free Companies; guild housing in WS is, for the most part, just Warplots (though technically that’s another thing they have over FFXIV). That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement though, so let’s see what we can do with this.
Does your fancy space game have a Magitek Armor statue?
Howdy Neighbor, Can I Borrow A Decor Bonus?
We can’t really take the plug-in model from WS, at least to the degree they use it, simply due to how housing is designed in FFXIV. The plots of land aren’t really built with the scale necessary for too many external additions like dungeon portals and moonshine stills. We already have control over much of the interior and exterior features for the house itself in FFXIV, so no need to take that. Changing the sky is right out as an option – can you imagine an entire neighborhood fighting over what color the sky is going to be? That leaves us with the two major features I’d like to see FFXIV take borrow from WildStar’s housing model – object scaling and decor bonuses.
Now, when the art team creates the asset for your various housing decorations, they pick a size roughly appropriate for that style of item (e.g. beds, tables, rugs, etc.). Depending on how you want to layout your house, though, or what you picture your house should be like for your character, those sizes may not line up. Lalafell players may think that a Hume-sized bed or chair seems absurdly big, while a Roegadyn would want something a bit roomier. The default rug sizes may work for a room centerpiece or a throw rug under a bunch of furniture, but what if you want something a little smaller for an entryway or to place underneath your crafting station? These are just a couple of examples of why scaling is something players would love to have in FFXIV’s housing. Sure it’s not game-breaking if we don’t get it, but housing is already a side activity to give players an opportunity to make this little piece of Eorzea their own – why not go all out?
As important as the object scaling is, decor bonuses would actually be the bigger item for FFXIV to borrow. Why? If any game benefit from better rested XP, it would be the game where one character can level every Class. We already have consumables that give us bonus XP for the Disciples of the Hand/Land Classes and players grinding out FATEs and dailies to powerlevel the others. If we add in something like these decor bonuses to boost players’ rested XP, it not only gives them more reason to put money into their houses (as well as incentivizes other players/Free Companies to buy their houses), but it also gives them something to focus on other than the leveling.
Instead of looking at FATEs like “I just have to grind these for another few hours then I can go back to leveling Blacksmith”, players could have more physical goals like “Another few FATEs and I can get that trophy case for the main hall!” or “My Armorer’s high enough now to make some decorative pieces for our war room!” Mixing the bonuses across PvE, PvP, gathering and crafted content, you would also give Free Companies reasons to recruit professions they’re missing. Single-class players could go out of their comfort zone to make their home match what’s in their head. You could even go beyond the rested XP for the crafting Classes if you wanted, and add in something like ArcheAge where crafting in a home with certain decorations gives you a boost to your skills (to push for harder recipes) – but that’s likely too far in the direction of trivializing the leveling process. We don’t want to make leveling go away; we just want to give players something to focus on other than the grind.
Sure the eye's creepy, but it gives me a small rested XP bonus!
Renown: Making Friends with Strangers for Bribes
This next topic is actually something that I’d not only like to see FFXIV borrow from WildStar, but pretty much every MMO: Renown. WildStar uses an open tagging system for their monsters (something I’d also like to see more games use) – as long as you do enough damage/healing/threat before a mob dies, you get credit for the kill, including loot table rolls and quest completion credit. You won’t get as much credit killing monsters with strangers (ex. 5% completion instead of 10%), but you won’t hate their presence or curse them for stealing your named mobs. Grouping up with those other players though will give you the full credit and you’ll start to earn this new Renown currency. Renown is earned whenever players in a group complete tasks like questing, completing objectives in dungeons, killing world bosses, etc.
So what’s all of this Renown good for? There are two primary places you can spend Renown: your house and the Renown vendor in your faction’s main city. The Renown vendor sells primarily cosmetic items like dyes, dye packs, mount flair customizations and Scanbot vanity items for Scientists. If you’re looking for something a little more practical, you can also spend Renown on bags of gathered goods (nice for those who went double crafting tradeskills), flasks for various temporary buffs, as well as two different hoverboard mounts – assuming you were patient enough to get to level 25 without spending gold on one of the level 15 mounts.
When it comes to housing, there’s far more available for your Renown. From home decorations to changing the sky above your house, there are many options only available with Renown. Want your home to have a view of Outer Space or a permanent Starry Night? Better start grouping up, because those are 10 to 15 thousand Renown (I think I’m at about 7.8k or so at level 36). The actual decor pieces are more reasonable in the three to four-digit range, so frugal players could (theoretically) fully furnish their home with only dropped and Renown-purchased pieces.
Since Renown isn’t tied to the open tagging system, it shouldn’t be that difficult to add to a game like FFXIV and it would greatly help to bring players together. Speaking for myself, I know I tend to quest solo when my friends aren’t on, and only group-up when I need a named mob and I’m trying to avoid waits and fights over tagging. Same thing with FATEs: often when I’m just grinding FATEs, I only group if someone else sends me an invite. It would give me more incentive to group with other people for FATEs (beyond gaming the Bronze/Silver/Gold rewards system) and regular questing if I could get this extra currency for doing so. As long as you keep it to cosmetic and convenience items only with the currency, there’s no risk of players abusing the system to get awesome gear quick. By incentivizing players to group with strangers, you create opportunities for them to meet more people they like and add to their Friends list. I know it’s a weird idea, players being social in an MMO, but just trust me on this one.
Imagine all of those people fighting over what the weather's going to be today
There are more areas of WildStar’s design I think FFXIV could take lessons from, but perhaps I’ve written enough about those two for this column. For our next issue we’ll start looking into the combat side of the game and see if there’s anything else Square Enix could learn from Carbine’s MMO. Sure it’s an action-based MMO, but there are still a few details I think we’d like to see over here in FFXIV.
That’s it for this edition of the Eorzea Examiner. Have you stepped foot onto Nexus yet? What do you think about WildStar's housing versus that in FFXIV? Do you think something like Renown would make you group up with other players more, or would it need to be for more than cosmetic items? Tell us in the comments below. If you've got any requests for column topics, add those as well. Until next time, see you in Eorzea.
Michael “Ragar” Branham