Do I reactivate my Final Fantasy XI account? Or do I make the great jump into Final Fantasy XIV?…
These are the questions I ask myself on a daily basis.
FFXI and I have been together for nearly nine years. The MMORPG played a big role during my formative years. Most nights I would find myself escaping the drudgery of high school and being a part of something larger than life. I met great gamers. I met egotistical ones. I met ones that really didn't believe that I , an at the time teenage girl, could be so into an online RPG. But lately, as I've found myself wanting to get back into the swing of things, I have noticed that some of my closest friends and online companions are abandoning FFXI and flocking to its flashier successor.
"Why?", was the question this inevitably provoked. It wasn't too long ago when I was excited for the new MMO's release. After its rather long installation process had run its course, I entered the massive new world, only to be so utterly crushed by its shortcomings that the mere mention of Final Fantasy XIV made me cringe. Things just didn't feel right from the get go: creating my character led to the mother of all lags taking an upwards of 10 minutes for my character to appear on-screen. So with a bit of a broken heart, I returned to what I knew best, to what hadn't failed me – FFXI. Don't get me wrong, FFXIV certainly had a few things going for it. The obvious graphical upgrade notwithstanding, the ability to add a first and last name to your character as well as more options to customize your appearance were a big win for the sequel. But overall, the package just felt broken and inferior. Which brings us to now.
It has been two years since my first encounter with FFXIV. Since its release, Square Enix has fessed up to its mistakes and seems adamant as hell to make up for massive belly-ache that was Final Fantasy XIV. A fresh team has stepped in and looks to turn trash into treasure, something worth playing. So how do the players feel about this? Curious to gauge the pulse of the Final Fantasty MMO community, I sat down with Xatsh Vei, famed FFXI and FFXIV player hailing from the Paradox Linkshell on Durandal Server for a little Q&A. Mr. Vei ran the top elite Linkshell on the Fenrir Server and was ranked #1. As such, he knows more about the FF MMO than Wikipedia itself.
Games Abyss: Coming from FFXI, how does FFXIV's community compare to that of its predecessor?
Xatsh Vei: Currently, XI's is about 9x larger than the XIV's community.
Games Abyss: That's a big difference. What were your some of your initial feelings of FFXIV when it first came onto the scene?
Xatsh Vei: The current version of XIV cannot even compare to XI, in all honesty. In XI you were drawn into the game from the get go and it kept you hooked throughout your time playing it. There was a feeling of gratification, of achieving a goal in a world was full of content. XIV while drastically improved from launch, misses this completely. XIV was a train wreck when it started out and honestly the worst MMO ever made at launch.
Games Abyss: How has that changed with the current version of FFXIV?
Xatsh Vei: The game has improved more drastically then any other MMO on the market. Today, even with version 1.X ending on November 11th, it is not even recognizable from the way it was a launch. It has much smoother controls, more stable server, loads of content, and new battle system, and many other improvements that make it a better MMO. It benefited greatly by getting Naoki Yoshida as a producer, an avid MMO player. He gave the game direction and focused the team into improving the most critical errors from launch. They removed the surplus, added in more group focus, gave solo-ers the ability to progress through the game, added in dungeons, a solid story line, and made a faster battle system. Really, everything from launch has been improved.
Games Abyss: Sounds great! But it can't be all peaches and cream. Have there been any issues?
Xatsh Vei: Currently, the graphics engine is what's limiting them, which is the main reason for 2.0's launch. It's sorta hard to explain. Classes are designed for small groups/solo play and players can benefit from abilities from all classes. Like a Lancer using Cure from Conj. and Sentinel from Glad. Jobs however are specialized for party play. You get a lot more job specific abilities but lose your ability to cross class to a degree. Each job is restricted to one main class and two sub-classes. With classes, there is no restriction.
Games Abyss: What would you say is the best feature of FFXIV right now?
Xatsh Vei: Where do I begin? The freedom of jobs, the graphics, the play-run economy all make it a great MMO. Even the endgame Boss encounters are well done. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. We need an Auction House, quicker response time, more varied content: 4-man, 12-man, 16-man, 24-man groups – everything is 8-man min/max now. We also need more variety in leveling in this day in age; quest leveling and party grinding will not cut it.
Games Abyss: Speaking about the job system, what about Mog Houses? Do you still need to go inside like FFXI to change your job/class?
Xatsh Vei: To comment on Mog Houses quickly, no more changing jobs in there. With 2.0 we'll get company (Linkshell) houses though.
Games Abyss: What about crafting?
Crafting is much more involved then before; you have abilities which effect progression and quality. So the results are much more in the hands of the players as you can actually control the high quality rate depending on how many crafting abilities you have.
Games Abyss: What else can be improved more in FFXIV?
Xatsh Vei: Square Enix needs to remove the time limits on everything; this is causing a 'Zerg' mentality throughout the game. It also needs to abolish power leveling; going to Level 50 in two days is just ridiculous. More variety in crafting would help prevent people from getting bored doing it; it is a long, long grind.
FFXIV could also benefit from open world content and not just instances. It also needs variety in design, while we have a fair amount of content it is more or less all the same with a new skin For newcomers especially, it needs content for low/mid-level players as the game's content focused on the endgame.
Drop rate also need to be addressed, some get gear in one run some take dozens to hundreds. We need meaningful, long lasting content, not something that will be negated next patch. Currently you can spend months getting gear after countless runs with your Linkshell just to have a new patch make all the work pointless. Square Enix needs to look at modern MMOs and find what gamer want, but at the same time not lose the fans from FFX You have a player base that wants different things, different focuses. It is Square Enix's job to try to find a way to make the game appease to both the mainstream and the base audience. And this is going to be a challenge going into A Realm Reborn.
Games Abyss: Sounds like Square Enix has its work cut out for itself. Anything else you would like to add?
Xatsh Vei: I think anyone who loved FFXI and FFXIV should take a good look at this game again. Even with all those negatives, almost all of them are being addressed in 2.0. It is more or less a whole new game, and SE seems to have learned from its mistakes. The developers are finally taking a lot of player input, and getting out of their bubble. XIV has improved I would say 10-fold but I would still only give it in its current form a 6.5/10 coming from a 3.5/10. The game is moving in the right direction but it is not there yet. Hopefully a Realm Reborn it will be the FFXIV it should of been two years ago.
Games Abyss: Thank you for your time, Xatsh Vei.
Xatsh Vei: The pleasure was all mine.
By the looks of it, Square Enix best approach A Realm Reborn with an 'all or nothing' mentality, 'go hard or go home', 'if you can't stand the heat…" well ,you get my point. At this point, FFXIV certainly has my attention again. And with 2.0's alpha launching later next month, perhaps it will finally make me leave FFXI behind for good, and embrace a Final Fantasy MMO that is worthy of the franchise name. Either that, or I'll just dive right into The Elder Scrolls Online.