World of Warcraft was the dominating MMO on the scene for years, but in the last decade or so there have been a few other MMOs which have managed to carve out a solid piece of the MMO pie. One of those, Final Fantasy XIV, has seemed to be on a real upswing lately while it feels like World of Warcraft is faltering a bit. Part of the growth for FFXIV is because they are getting ready to release a new expansion and every MMO sees a boost when an expansion is about to hit. However, the upswing has been steady in the last few years. Since I play both, I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the things I believe WoW could learn from FFXIV. Obviously, there are also things FFXIV could learn from WoW, but that’s outside the purview of this column.
In addition to my own opinions and observances of the two games, I also spoke with two of my guildies in WoW who also play FFXIV and recently have decided to quit raiding in WoW to instead raid in FFXIV. Sephiroht is someone who started WoW back when it was in Beta and raided through Vanilla and every expansion. In FFXIV he began on the 1.0 version and hopped back in for the relaunch and each expansion after. Vishina started WoW in BC and has been playing and raiding ever since. For FFXIV she’s pretty much been playing since A Realm Reborn went live, though she did take a small break at one point.
One of the significant issues Guthe brought up was how WoW handles alts can be frustrating, especially when you are trying to switch characters during a raid tier. It’s an entirely new character which doesn’t just mean leveling and gearing all over again but also, in the current expansion, relevel the Heart of Azeroth. Sure, they have made catching up a bit easier by reducing the amount needed overtime, but it is still a long slow process. Also needing to get reputations as well is just additionally frustrating, especially if you want any of your professions to be useful.
FFXIV solves a lot of these issues by making one character able to learn all jobs. This means that even when you are working on leveling a new job if you need to switch back to help someone out, it’s easy to do so. Additionally, you can work on collecting gear for your new job, or any job you might want to level in the future while playing whatever your current one is. As a result, it never feels like you are wasting your time no matter what you happen to be doing in the game. You don’t lose anything by switching jobs you only gain. For players who like having a different character for everything they can still do that as well, but for the rest of us, this easy flexibility is beyond helpful.
Vishina pointed out something which I honestly hadn’t thought about in quite a while, but an area WoW is flagging is with the class fantasy. Coming off Legion where the class fantasy was talked about a lot this particularly hurts because it feels like it doesn’t at all matter what class we are outside of doing group content. Even before Legion though WoW had pretty much scrapped the idea of class quest lines or class specific items. This is a massive loss to our overall connection to what we are playing. Playing into the class fantasy doesn’t even need to be as involved as the Class Halls were to feel worthwhile.
When it comes to FFXIV, they do an excellent job of integrating job importance in every expansion. In each one, all the jobs are updated with a unique questline which will reward job specific gear. As an example, in Stormblood a playable harp was added for Bards after finishing a short questline. This wasn’t a huge gear upgrade or anything, but it added to the whole idea of being a Bard. Some people don’t particularly care for these sorts of things, but for those of us who do, it adds a ton of value.
Personally, my biggest complaint about WoW right now is the lack of there being a skip mechanic in raids. Yes, I know the raids are shorter and doing all the bosses in a couple of nights isn’t a crazy idea on paper. However, the issue is Blizzard has a habit of not making the hardest bosses the end bosses. Sure, Jaina is complicated, and it’s a long fight, but for my guild, it has nothing on Conclave and Mekkatorque. We are a casual heroic raiding guild, and those two fights represented a real challenge for us. As a result, we chose to extend the raid every week, which meant we would be just doing one boss until it was killed… which wore on all of us. Even if we had been able to skip to Mekkatorque, it would have provided some variability and helped us not to get burned out as quickly.
FFXIV approaches this by taking the stance of once you kill a boss, you can skip directly to that boss, which helps in maintaining the variability. You still must kill all the bosses, there’s no getting around that, but you don’t have to make it through everything every week or only fight the one boss you are trying to make progress on. I’m not sure WoW needs to go that far with things though, bring back some of the tools for your more casual raiders.
One last area I wish WoW would take a lesson from FFXIV is not churning and burning the cool things introduced every expansion. I get not letting us keep the artifact weapons past Legion. As much as I liked not having to worry about finding a new weapon every tier, I recognize not having the excitement when a cool weapon dropped was missed for a sizable portion of the community. However, rather than keep the blueprint of how artifact power worked, they tried to reinvent the wheel with azurite power and abilities on gear. Other things like the class halls and garrisons have been wholly abandoned after their expansion ends, which makes the effort you put into them during the expansion feel less worthwhile over the long term. Not everything from every expansion needs to carry over, but some would be nice.
Like I mentioned before I’m not saying FFXIV is a perfect game or it can’t learn some things from WoW. However, WoW could be doing quite a lot better and at least taking some cues from FFXIV wouldn’t be the worst idea they’ve ever had.