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Is the Barrier to Entry too Steep?

Victor Barreiro Jr. Posted:
Columns The Eorzea Prospect 0

Hey folks! Welcome back to another installment of Eorzea Reborn. While the past weeks have been generally news recap weeks, I thought to take some time out from the news cycle to discuss a thread on the MMORPG.com forums that made me want to respond in a constructive manner.

In a post titled, “New players and the expansion. Massive barrier to entry. You have been warned.,” Foomerang discussed how the currently-known requirements to access Heavensward content in the future were a bit of a frustrating thing for someone who preferred playing the game as a crafter-gatherer type.

He wrote that after completing the main storyline up to 2.0, he dropped combat altogether to level crafting and gathering skills.

“To my dismay,” he wrote, “ in order to even step foot in the new area, I must go back to my combat class and finish off a whopping 120 more quests. These quests so far have been mindless fetch/kill quests and also having to rerun old dungeons with most of my abilities missing (since it scales you back).”

A long-standing requirement

For most of the FFXIV players who are avid fans, this is a well-known and longstanding requirement.

Simply put, To complete the questline up to patch 2.55, you need to get into trials and dungeons, with the last set of trials and dungeons requiring a minimum item level requirement of 90. I even mentioned this in my Prepping for Heavensward column back in April.

For the most part, due to the way the developers have structured the game, it is now easier to acquire the dungeon currency needed to acquire item level 100 gear. Combined with some lucky drops, you should have been able to reach the necessary item level casually, or rather quickly through some dedicated play on your main job type, waiting notwithstanding.

This, to some extent, invalidates the idea he put forth that one would need to invest a significant amount of gil to get the item level required to run the needed story content. However, it also means he’d need to actually engage in more fighting than he may want to do with his spare time.

Addressing Foomerang’s concern

Here’s the thing that struck me most when I read Foomerang’s post: I think he’s right when he mentioned the following:

"Every MMO expansion I have experienced has had little to no barrier to entry. A simple level requirement and a couple introductory quests to the new areas at most."

From my experience, most MMO expansions do not actually gate future content by requiring the completion of past content.

World of Warcraft, for example, allows players two levels below the previous expansion’s cap to go ahead and run into the newer zones. Guild Wars 2, which is a vastly different beast from WoW, does not even require completion of its Personal Story to get into the Living Story Season 2 content, so long as you have it unlocked and meet the level cap.

Final Fantasy XIV, for its part, does away with that convention, making it an outlier among MMORPGs. The strange bit for Foomerang, which I can see from his point of view, is that entering the expansion content requires participation in a game activity he does not like, but that makes up a large part of most of the content for other people.

In my opinion, I can see why it’d be off-putting to pure crafter-gatherers, though I’m not entirely sure if his concern is in accordance with how crafting in particular is done. Since he purchased Heavensward already, then he should be able to break through to crafting level 51 to 60 and acquire new recipes by default. The problem would lie primarily in acquiring Heavensward-level materials for crafting items.

To this, I admit that he has a point: crafters and gatherers are gated by battle content. This is a shame, and it’s also one aspect of the game that may require the Square Enix team to find a future workaround that eventually lowers the barrier to entry for crafters and gatherers.

Are newcomers unwelcome?

One other part of his post said that because of this decision to gate expansion content behind story content, it makes newcomers unwelcome.

With this part, I would disagree. Newcomers to Final Fantasy XIV or MMORPGs in general will likely be signing up because of a number of potential reasons, from social gaming, to wanting to try an online Final Fantasy, to wanting to play an accessible game. This means that a game where, by design, players are slowly taught how to play their class – as FFXIV does throughout its content – makes it an accessible title.

If that newcomer has friends that introduced him or her to the game, then by design, the game allows them to play together through adjusted leveling in dungeons. The newcomer gets help in his dungeon runs, while his friends get extra Tomestones for running low-level content as a level 50 adventurer. Even with casual play, this means that time is well-spent getting to learn the base classes and jobs required to survive in the expansion.

Comparatively, grinding to 50 and forcing yourself into Ishgard without an inkling of why you’re going there and how to survive with a group of people seems like a disservice to someone who came into FFXIV expecting a fun time. For many, part of the fun is bearing witness to the struggles of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. For others, it’s exploring the new lands. For Foomerang, it may be creating items and making a killing in the markets. He’s welcome to explain his side further in the comments below, and I’d welcome them gladly.

The thing is, it would have been impossible for Square Enix to have done something that everyone would be satisfied with, so my guess is they likely took the best steps they could and tried to give ample notice in advance of what was needed to get ready for Heavensward.

That said, we’re a few weeks away from Heavensward’s release. I look forward to seeing my fellow FFXIV players there come game day. Cheers!


Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and The Secret World columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.