Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV endures

Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years.

Last week, I wrote a farewell, and I wasn’t happy to be doing so. I knew that I would still be playing and thinking about Final Fantasy XIV, but I also knew that I was done writing about it for the same reason that everyone else was done. I certainly didn’t imagine that a week later I’d be preparing a new column with a new name and a new lease on life on the same topic after you wonderful folks smashed the hell out of our Kickstarter goal.

But here we are, and I’m happy to be here again. I’ve got a new column, I’ve got a new lease on life, and it seems that today is the best possible time to talk about Final Fantasy XIV‘s fantastic endurance, and not just how it’s managed to take a game that was widely panned and bring it back as a surprise hit; that much is a given. No, I’m talking about how the game keeps winning converts, entrancing new people, and pulling players back time and again.

It’s even true when it comes to my own play habits. There are times when I’m pretty sure that I’m done with the game, at least for a little while. Right now, I have virtually no projects that I’m really gung-ho about, you know? I’d like to keep getting my weekly quest done, of course, and hitting the Poetics cap is a good idea. Other than that, I can take a break.

But then I logged in earlier today just intending to get a few daily chores done… only to realize I’d been playing for two hours and was concerned with tricking out my crafting classes. That’s part of what keeps the game so vibrant: There is always another project.

Bree stop reading this right now.

My word choice two paragraphs ago was no accident. I said that I have no projects that I’m gung-ho about, not that I don’t have any projects. There are always projects. There are projects even when you’re running around in high-end gear and have all of your reputations maxed. There would be projects even if I were dedicated enough to actually get my PvP rank up to max, which in and of itself is a project. I could be more dedicated to my crafting and gathering classes. Heck, for a while I was working hard on the “earn tons of gil” project, which is why I now get to strut around a Medium house like I own the place.

Because I do own the place. That’s the joke.

Having stuff to do alone isn’t enough to keep people playing a game just the same. That’s important — don’t get me wrong — but when it comes to MMOs, you have projects to beat the band anyway. No, I think the core of it is in a comment I had back on the Old Column Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken from longtime commenter wolfyseyes. He mentioned that while he categorically hates endgame gear grinds, in Final Fantasy XIV he was still taking part to an extent… because, well, it was just plain fun.

And I think that’s the big part of it. With only a few exceptions, the game has been made with an eye toward being fun for a variety of playstyles, and the content that players “have” to do to progress is, well, fun.

I would argue, for instance, that grinding desynth skill isn’t terribly fun, but I am also quite open about the fact that my crafting is a sideline for me. If you’re the sort of person who finds maxing a craft skill fun, it’s probably more fun to be able to specialize like that. I know that I find it really fun to be able to switch to anything and be able to do it with at least reasonable competence, and the game lets me do that. It even encourages it!

The game doesn’t just throw you in with a shrug when you want to try something new, either. As you keep advancing, the game introduces concepts slowly and piecemeal. You might say that you don’t need to be told how materia melding works if you’re a veteran player finally leveling a new craft, but if that’s your first craft, then it matters a lot more.

Everything in the game is rolled out to you while leveling, and if you choose not to take up one of the many options available to you, the game doesn’t make it hard to find these things again. There’s always a lot going on, there’s always plenty to do, and there are always guideposts for those looking to get involved in the game.

This is a good thing. It’s an intensely good thing. Combine that with a gorgeous look, solid mechanics, and staggeringly huge content updates, and it’s easy to see why people get in and just keep going as long as they can.

One of my goals for this new column is specifically to provide people with a better base for learning how to play and figuring out what they’re doing. I want to encourage new and old players to get the most out of the game. Heck, that’s part of why I changed the title. (The other reason is that I didn’t like the old title, but that’s not important right now.)

But above all else, there’s the undeniable fact that this is a game that endures. It’s filled with fans who endure and a base that not only thrives but seems as if it grows. It’s probably the most solid MMO to come out in recent years, and the player stats attest to that.

Heck, just writing all this makes me want to log back in. That should say something.

Feedback can be sent to eliot@massivelyop.com or left down in the comments below. It’s a new address, yes, but the heart is still there. Building off of a reader suggestion, I’d like to offer a quick crash guide to new players who are getting into the game for the first time before Heavensward launches. Expect that next week.

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