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Final Fantasy XIV - What can one expect from this Square-Enix's next-gen MMO?

In this blog I talk about SE's new upcoming MMO 'Final Fantasy XIV (Online)'.

Author: Hyanmen

An early comparison between the popular MMORPG's and FFXIV

Posted by Hyanmen Tuesday June 23 2009 at 4:38AM
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 First I'll look at how other MMORPG's handle the progressing of the character- these days often called leveling.

1. The difference between soloing for experience

Most of the time you can solo all the way to the level cap with ease. The difference between grouping and soloing isn't massive. Soloing is done in the same manner as grouping: killing monsters alone most of the time, and doing simple quests.

It is very possible that FFXIV might break from this trend, and try something quite different instead. Where do I base my assumption? For the answer to that we need to look at FFXI and how it has developed from a 99% grouping game to a more solo friendly one.

For one, FFXI has implemented the so called Fields of Valor system- basically a renamed event for "questing" in other MMORPG's; you kill a few mobs and get extra experience. There isn't much difference between this system and other MMO's questing systems.

However, what I think SE will use later instead of the oh so popular quest system is something they implemented in their 3rd expansion pack, Treasures of Aht Urhgan and continued in the 4th expansion: Large scale battles that are always available and where one doesn't need to group up to get decent experience.

In FFXI the event could be better; Ps2 limitations are holding it back from being something mindblowing. However, that's where FFXIV comes in: with the PS3 capabilities it could become something really epic. Especially if the game is actually designed around it, instead of trying to implement it into a system not designed for that kind of encounters.

There is one more reason for me to assume this; the development team has always been a fan of grouping up. It might not be unreasonable to say that they want to keep the grouping aspect as strong as possible, while making it possible for players to get experience (or whatever it is called in XIV) by themselves, although they'd still be a part of something bigger. 

2. The different emphasis to grouping and soloing

As mentioned above, the FFXI (and XIV) development team likes players to team up and play together. That's why the grouping aspect in FFXIV might be given more emphasis than in other MMORPG's.

It won't mean that the grouping will be 'forced' like it is in FFXI. It is very likely that it will play a bigger role in XIV than in other MMO's however. How big the role will be is unknown, but expect to see a clear difference.

3. PvP

The biggest difference will most likely be in the amount and type of PvP you are going to see in XIV compared to titles like WAR and WoW. 

As the development team has said in the Q&A session few weeks ago, PvP in FFXIV will most likely shape up to be similar to what it was in FFXI. Let me explain how it was done there:

There wasn't any open PvP, and the event was very friendly at heart. Grouping was important, and soloing wasn't nearly as effective. The main purpose wasn't to kill the opposing team, but it was more like a "Capture the flag" type encounter.

It was a fun minigame to do and not really a big part of the game itself. That is how it will probably be in FFXIV too, although it could be  a part of the main game this time.

4. The world, the graphics and the classes

The graphical style in FFXIV seems to continue in the same trend as in FFXI: realistic 'anime' look. More similar to the korean MMO Aion rather than western MMO's like WAR.  

Nobody knows if the world will shape up to be zone-based like FFXI or an open world area like WoW. Knowing SE's track record, I'd probably say that they will keep zones around, however make the loading times smaller and the zones bigger in size, as well as more open.

A significant difference between other MMO's and FFXIV will be that you can change classes with the same character, and that there won't be race/class limitations like there often are in MMO's these days.

5. Endgame and gear progression

One big difference in the endgame structure will be that there will be less events released, but they all add up because nothing gets replaced. The drop rates will be lower than usually, but because there's so many events you can do after a while it won't be much of a problem. The events will vary and there won't be just one type of event to do. Gear progression at level cap will be horizontal, and full of sidegrades.

6. Communicating

The dev team doesn't communicate with the players as much as the western developers do. They like to hide things as long as possible, and answer to questions with "We cannot tell you at this time." They do take feedback from the players, but often implement their suggestions in a way nobody would have expected: they're still developers after all, just copying ideas isn't good enough!

 

That is all about the differences between the MMO's for today. Next time I'll talk about the director of FFXIV - Nobuaki Komoto and his last work, the "Chains of Promathia" expansion for FFXI. 

BadSpock writes:

"One big difference in the endgame structure will be that there will be less events released, but they all add up because nothing gets replaced. The drop rates will be lower than usually, but because there's so many events you can do after a while it won't be much of a problem. The events will vary and there won't be just one type of event to do. Gear progression at level cap will be horizontal, and full of sidegrades."

I hope you are right. Raising the level/job lvl cap will only make older content obsolete and make FF XIV another level grinding, gear progression treadmill which I greatly hope it will not be.

And the solo friendly events you talk about sound a lot like PQs from WAR, which I'd have no problem with as they are great.

Tue Jun 23 2009 10:18AM Report
Hyanmen writes:

 It seems that the dev team has noticed the public quest system in WAR and is trying to implement it in FFXI as well right now- which is even a stronger indicator that if there's something that we'll see taken from WAR into FFXIV, it'll be that kind of event (with new aspects to it, of course).

Tue Jun 23 2009 10:55AM Report
ProfRed writes:

It's funny, but in many of today's MMO's the only thing that can hold my attention is really solid PvP because these solo story grinders lack soul.  The PvE is meaningless to me, and the groups that I find are so socially inept and focused on finishing X quest and then never hanging out again.  There is no bonding, and there is no real dependance on group mates.  All that leaves for me is PvP/RvR and most of that has lacked soul lately as well.  When I look at a game like Aion I look at the PvP/RvR and try to figure out if it will entertain me for a few months.  The same is true of WAR and WoW. 

With FFXI I could have cared less if there was any form of PvP, and it was the greatest gaming experience I ever had.  I think that all of these casual solo friendly games really create a very sad community and overall bond between players.  When I compare it to FFXI PvE it just feels incredibly meaningless and hollow and it becomes hard to continue on.  There is no real sense of adventure, only achievement labeled by random numbers that I could care less about.

There is something very special about FFXI's PvE and I don't care if they leave out PvP entirely from FFXIV, but they must focus on creating that same magic in FFXIV while trying to allow for casual players which I have become since getting married and having a baby girl.  I am torn because I want some casual aspects, but if it loses that FFXI community bond and the environment it created then it could be a very similarly shallow experience. 

I do look forward to the PvP minigames I am sure they will come up with.  I hope they are fun and provide a good sporting break from the everyday affairs. 

Wed Jun 24 2009 9:14AM Report
Hyanmen writes:

 That is interesting, and does make me wonder.. what if most of the MMO players prefer PvP to PvE because they haven't seen how entertaining properly made PvE content could Really be? I've never played other MMO's to level cap than XI, so I can't comment if that's true or not..

Wed Jun 24 2009 11:11AM Report
DemonGod86 writes:

 It's good to know that there will be a reachable level cap in this game.

Even more fascinating is that for once, this was an MMO designed around, rather than being a grindfest, to actually *TELL A STORY*, which has been the MMO genre's biggest downfall, since by definition, everyone can't be the movers and shakers in a vast world, as opposed to the player in a single player FF, in which the "game" is basically just a compllicated way of holding down a "play" button for an epic movie spanning tens of hours.

I feel that with FFXIV, that perhaps for once, players can have their cake--the vast MMO world experience--and eat it too--with an excellent story, to boot.

I really look forward to SE's work here, and as soon as FFXIII comes out with FFXIV on its heels, you bet I'll be hopping down to buy a PS3.

Wed Jun 24 2009 5:32PM Report
WSIMike writes:

Very good post!

To add my own two cents to the topic of importance of story...

I have to say that I think part of it is on the players as well. Many players couldn't care less about storyline. A quest line they're doing could have an amazing storyline behind it... they'd never know, because they're just clicking through it as quickly as possible.

I've been nagged at many times now while doing missions in FFXI by players who wanted me to just "hurry up and click through the cut-scene... It doesn't matter". I've actually had fights begun while I was watching the cut-scene because the others were too impatient to wait a few more moments.

Even in a game like WoW, believe it or not, there are some great bits of story and lore there. Again.. many people who play it wouldn't know because they don't even read the text.. They click "Accept", check their Quest Helper add-on to complete it, select their reward, click "Complete" and move on.

In following some of lore and some of references to lore beyond the game, previous installments and, possibly, future installments, I've seen a lot of great storyline in WoW. Sadly... most don't.

LoTRO's another example.. some great story-telling going on in that game... if you actually take the time to read it. Again, many players don't.. they race through it and don't read anything just to get the quests "over with".

And then they complain about the game being a shallow grind-fest and blame the developers.

If MMOs do see, or are seeing a trend where storylines are becoming more banal and unnecessary... It could well be because the developers are realizing that most players couldn't care less about them anyway... Why put the effort into trying to create an engaging and immersive story-rich world for your players when most of them couldn't tell you a single thing about any quest they've done, beyond what they had to kill, where and what the reward was for it?

 

Thu Jun 25 2009 7:17AM Report
Hyanmen writes:

 I don't think that story is something all MMO's should have, however I think that if the company presents it right to the players they might get a strong following of subscribers who actually care about it.

Imo developers should use the capabilities of, you know, games when telling the story to the players. Pages of text really could be changed into animated cutscenes, which would make the story visually appealing. 

They could try making the stories more 'grand', too (as we could see in CoP, especially at the end). Tales of world saving should be more epic than the ones of rescuing a lost cat from a dark forest, after all.

Thu Jun 25 2009 8:16AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Exactly Hyanmen.

Up until now most "story" in MMOs has been through text...

FF XI and Aion are doing the cutscene route, SW:ToR is going the dialogue route Bioware is famous for...

Hopefully FF XIV does somthing interesting to present the story as more then walls of text.

Becuase others are right, a lot of people will just skip over walls of text, but an engaging and fun cutscene is alot harder to skip! :)

Tue Jun 30 2009 10:06AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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