As a gamer and writer with a penchant for the dramatic, there is something to be said about a compelling story. The tale of Final Fantasy XIV's lifecycle is a very dramatic one, to be sure, with the hype and subsequent letdown that caused many people around the world to cry in frustration at the seeming demise of the Final Fantasy brand.
I do not discount those feelings. I myself felt a distinct sense of disappointment at the Final Fantasy XIV game experience in the early days. As I've watched the game and come back to it from time to time, however, I've come to realize something about Final Fantasy XIV and the Realm Reborn reboot: its eventual release by Square Enix should be a cause for celebration as a momentous occasion. Below, I will tell you the reasons why.
Ruin as the Road to Rebirth
The in-game story of FFXIV is one of the more intriguing aspects of the game, by virtue of its ending being a foregone conclusion ever since A Realm Reborn was made known. It's also intriguing because that same story acts as a sort of allegorical parallel to the troubled history of the game itself.
In the story for FFXIV, there is a cycle of apocalyptic proportions going on: there have been six “umbral eras” for the world of Eorzea: giant cataclysmic events that resulted in the death of every civilization preceding this story. The story goes that there were supposed to be no more umbral eras past the sixth one, ushering in an untold time of growth and prosperity for the world, except for one thing: the recent prophecy of a seventh umbral era that supposedly can be prevented by worthy heroes.
The story of Final Fantasy XIV in its current state is tragic, because heroes (players) did come and take arms to defend Eorzea from beastmen and the Garlean army, but nothing could prevent them from really taking on one of the world's moons from crashing into the planet and ending all life, even after the formation of the Grand Company storyline and the defeat of endgame bosses.
The world of Final Fantasy XIV, as a story that was told, will fall under a crushing, immense weight that could not be stopped despite ill portents. Final Fantasy XIV, as a game that was developed, was nearly crushed by seemingly antiquated game design choices and the displeased fanbase of the game and the Final Fantasy brand, which left in droves after being disillusioned.
The Cautious Process
One of the main reasons why you should not discount Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is due to the cautious, yet open, discussion Naoki Yoshida and the development team has had with the MMORPG community.
In addition to numerous Letters from the Producer that has detailed many aspects of the development process with the community, the FFXIV: ARR team has also produced live video discussions addressing questions sent in by people regarding the direction of the game. The most important letter they've come out with was probably the one from September 27 (Letter from the producer LIVE Part III) which came with a lot of clarifications regarding the development of A Realm Reborn.
Yoshida and company wanted to explain what was already being developed and what was in the pipeline or set aside for later development, and so most of the above-linked video and translation is careful in informing people of the realistic limitations their already-stressed development team is managing, as well as tidbits regarding what's being focused on and actual concept art for their creations.
All in all, unlike the early advertisements made for the game and the attempts to explain away the necessity of things like the levequest fatigue system and the rehashing of map assets that created a bland-seeming game world, this lack of PR speak and hype for a major brand-name game from a large gaming company is immensely satisfying to see.
10 Truthful Statements
There's still probably a subset of individuals who are convinced that FFXIV is a lost cause based on outdated information, so let's talk about truth. Below are truthful statements regarding what is currently known so far about Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, based on a variety of reports and the Producer's Letter mentioned above.
- A Realm Reborn is using an entirely new game engine and client (“...we’ve redesigned the game from the ground up.”). For all technical intents and purposes, assume that FFXIV: ARR is a separate game from FFXIV, and will have a different set of technical requirements from FFXIV. That said, this new game is designed to work on more systems and a benchmark-slash-character creation tool will be made available closer to launch.
- A Realm Reborn will feature a PC version and a PS3 version that will have a UI and control scheme that works well with the specific version you're playing. Quoting the September 27 letter, it was also mentioned that “PS3 players and new PC players will be able to select any world when making a new character, including currently existing worlds.... It will absolutely be possible to play together.”
- The Realm Reborn graphic engine will not be DirectX 11 compatible at the offset. They have mentioned, however, that “After launch, our next big milestone is DX11 compatibility. Once we achieve this, there will be a further improvement in graphics.”
- A Realm Reborn will not feature a levequest fatigue system (this XP fatigue system was removed in patch 1.18 in FFXIV), and levequests will not be the primary means of gaining experience in the new game. Quests will play a larger part in the game's experience system, though levequesting is still available for players that want to do more things.
- Classes are being reworked for A Realm Reborn in varying degrees. While the Armoury and Job system is still a big thing, how certain disciples and jobs play will be changed due to changes in the combat system. One example mentioned in the September 27 letter was that the Pugilist and Monk would be undergoing the most change, with the retooled focus being about chaining skills. As stated in that letter, “Not only monk will change, mind you - all classes and jobs will be different come ARR.”
- A Realm Reborn will feature instanced housing. They've not really shown too much of it, but the explanation is that you can buy a plot of land in an instance, and then build and develop a house and a yard, as well as purchase, create or earn building materials and decorations that change the appearance of the house and add potentially useful stuff to the yard. This will also be developed further in future patches after launch.
- There will be a currency redenomination come FFXIV: ARR. What this basically means is that A Realm Reborn will have one less zero in all gil prices, and as such, existing characters' gil will be “reduced to 1/10 of current values” to make sure that everyone has the same purchasing power, yet with one less zero in the values. (an 800 gil chocobo rental becomes 80 gil, and your 100,000 gil becomes 10,000 gil in A Realm Reborn.
- Connected to number seven, certain consumables such as ammo and fishing lures will be removed in A Realm Reborn, inventories limits will change, and certain items will either be removed, retooled, made retrievable or unobtainable, or otherwise converted into gil.
- A Realm Reborn will have additional classes and jobs, though it hasn't been mentioned what they are or when they'll be made available, aside from the Arcanist class and Summoner job, which is supposed to be out at launch. You can also create Female Roegadyn and Male Miqo'te in A Realm Reborn.
- Crafting and Gathering is being reworked to be more manageable while maintaining a certain level of complexity that makes it interesting. New characters will also start off as a battle class in A Realm Reborn and get the chance to craft and gather as those appropriate classes after completing a set of tutorials, which will let players learn the basics of the revamped game and reach level 10 in that chosen battle class.
History in the Making
At this point in time, when no one outside of Square Enix's employ has really tried A Realm Reborn, speculation exists that FFXIV: ARR will essentially be World of Warcraft with the Final Fantasy universe.
While some of the information may lead to that sort of conclusion, I want people to not discount FFXIV because of such hearsay, or even because they don't think Final Fantasy XIV deserves a second chance. Rather, I want people to judge the game based on the finished product that A Realm Reborn provides gamers. Above, I've listed statements that may garner interest in the revamped game based on what we know, and whether it turns out well or badly for Square Enix, I want to be there to experience it.
Why? Because it's a momentous occasion for gamers and for Square Enix.
The momentous occasion of FFXIV: A Realm Reborn lies in its potential: the potential this game has to revitalize a flagging brand known as Final Fantasy or destroy the possibility of Square Enix, a significant player in the worldwide gaming industry, ever releasing an MMORPG ever again.
I want to ride a chocobo, build a house, and build new friendships in a world that is an amalgamation of Final Fantasy concepts. I want to lay the deathblow on a Marlboro by stabbing it with a spear. I want to jump in Eorzea (Jumping will be in A Realm Reborn) and give a reborn world a shot at surviving another umbral era with my help.
More than anything else though, I want to be there to see if Naoki Yoshida's vision for the game and the development team's hard work on A Realm Reborn was really worth the heartache that came with watching the struggles FFXIV had to become worthwhile.
That's a momentous occasion that should make any gamer quiver with excitement: A Realm Reborn may very well be a defining moment in the history of MMO and game development. It's history in the making, and it all depends on whether or not we give it a chance and decide its future fairly.