Wisdom of Nym: Surpassing Final Fantasy XIV’s cross-class legacy

    
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Wisdom of Nym: Surpassing Final Fantasy XIV’s cross-class legacy
In one respect, Final Fantasy XIV is an incredibly flexible game. You are never actually locked into a single role or job; even if you’ve been playing a dedicated Warrior since the launch of the game, you can always start taking up the lance and become a solid Dragoon. You always have options. So from one point of view, there’s nothing wrong with your options for playing a given job.

On the other hand, there’s still the screaming problem that there’s no customization once you make that choice.

There’s been an issue in place since the game launched in straddling the line between what players can and can’t toggle around. While the current state of affairs is arguably better than the game was at launch, it’s still not good, and it has a major issue insofar as the game has two systems for player customization that both don’t work in the slightest. It’s something I’ve talked about before, and it’s something that should be examined in more depth.

Since the old days

Solving problems that no one asked to solve once again.You can’t claim that FFXIV doesn’t come by this particular issue honestly; it has always been an issue for the online installments of the series. Final Fantasy XI fought with a similar issue for quite some time because players noticed very early on in that game’s lifespan that there were sub jobs that offered benefits and ones that… well, didn’t.

Since you didn’t have any sort of line-by-line ability equipping in that game, you could get abilities equal to only half of your main level. The limitations of power meant that several different jobs were, from a practical standpoint, complete and utter garbage. Having Dragoon as a subjob meant getting access to Jump on occasion, but missing out on better stats, attacks, and almost everything else from a better subjob. As a result, leveling Warrior became a de facto chore for pretty much anyone who wanted to play a physical job at higher levels; it took rare situations for people to even consider abnormal subjobs, like the unholy collection of abilities and use that was smashed together to make RDM/DRK worthwhile for a brief window.

As with everything else, I believe FFXIV‘s launch system was meant to address the problem of the prior game. It went way too far in the direction of letting you mix and match abilities, but its core conceits made sense. But what we have now is functionally worse: We have more technical choices but fewer actual meaningful ones.

Here’s an example: As a level 60 Monk, you have nine cross-class skills to choose from. One of them is completely useless, providing you with absolutely no benefit whatsoever; three of them are so overwhelmingly useful as to be mandatory. That leaves five choices for the last two slots, and of those it takes only the most cursory examination to realize that two of them are functionally identical and one is more or less a non-starter.

In other words, when all is said and done, your choices are between two defensive cooldowns, Bloodbath, and Feint. None of them is going to have any significant impact on your play, at that.

Technically, yes, you have choices for these slots. But a technical choice isn’t a choice. If you can choose between paying $400 and paying a million dollars with absolutely no meaningful difference, you will always pick the former because there’s no reason not to pick the former. It’s a choice that gives you no meaningful reason to choose otherwise.

The systems are there

We both know what comes next.At this point, the cross-class system is basically nothing more than a low-level tour of other classes. It serves no practical function. Scrapping it altogether means tearing out a lot of basic functionality, but we also need to have some methods of actually customizing our characters.

Ironically, an alternative system already exists: the PvP advancement system. It allows for customization of individual jobs in a way that the core game currently doesn’t permit. There are certain actions that definitely take precedent over others, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but the core of it is that you aren’t forced to take anything.

A not altogether dissimilar system exists in Final Fantasy XI with Merit Points, allowing characters to not wholly rewrite how a job functions but tweak some of its restrictions. Improve cooldowns, improve your attributes, add traits, that sort of thing. Merit Points are gained instead of experience at the level cap, which always seemed like an option that players should have earlier in the leveling process; I can definitely see arguments to be made for locking yourself at a lower level to improve your power.

Both of these systems are in place and they both work. They’ve worked for years, giving players something to strive for and a method of advancement that doesn’t necessarily result in everyone playing the same thing with equivalent gear. Players like having choice when building their characters.

The obvious counter is that people would min-max the selections and determine the “best” choices, but that’s going to happen anyway; people have determined optimal compositions for content assuming skilled players for all content. The game as a whole has done an excellent job of keeping its many options balanced, and while this would introduce an extra wrinkle, it’d also give players more choices and more ways to play.

Beyond just porting

It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how.Let’s assume that for whatever reason, the designers don’t want to just port over one of these systems. There are still options that I think the game could explore with similar ultimate effects.

What I’d love to see as a more robust sort of option would be a system for linking your main job with another job. Imagine, for example, if rather than progressing through arbitrary ranks, you’re working on creating a bond between your Ninja job and your Monk job, or your Dragoon job, and so on. The ability options could easily be tailored to avoid unbalancing the balance as a whole, just to bring a touch of the flavor of the source job; it could even be limited to a small selection of “compatible” jobs.

Another possibility would be offering a more direct customization route akin to the one used in 1.0 with specific class traits unlocked and equipped. Adding in a system for unlocking and equipping traits – including ones that allow you to equip some actions that would otherwise be unavailable – would have a major impact on the game and give some options for doing something other than simply putting your points in the same spot.

Right now, we are really starved for choices about how to play. Yes, you can play all classes on a single character, and perhaps that’s what the designers want in terms of player choice, but it makes that choice feel a bit more empty when it’s the only choice. If I can’t make bad choices for a given job, I can’t make good ones, and my investment is reduced.

It’s a testament to how well the game plays as a whole that those limitations don’t ruin the game, but it’s still something that could be improved significantly.

Feedback, just as always, can be sent along to eliot@massivelyop.com or dropped in the comments below. Next time, I’m going to finish up my series of role evaluations with healers.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.

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mossu
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mossu

Dope_Danny A Dad Supreme  I can say with 100% certainty that the video you saw was just people fucking around after actual progression was over (or was from just after launch when people didnt know how things worked). The design of the game just doesn’t support it, the stats and abilities gained from jobs are better than the cross-classes you have available as a class.

AGx
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AGx

I actually think that FFXI had a fine sub-job system. I remember a time where RDM/DRK really wasn’t something that seemed logical but there were cases where it worked. I remember playing RDM/THF or WHM/BRD, SAM/THF or SAM/WAR. They were all very situational. Even in group settings they could work. Because of how classes worked together to do damage (Skillchains), even the oddest combos could work. The actual system only had two problems:

1) It didn’t feel designed to make the abilities work with each class as sub-jobs. It’s more like they made the jobs to function individually and left it up to the players to decide what to use and when rather than putting any thought into how they could or should be combined. You still weren’t restricted like in FFXIV where you got the hand picked abilities. This just created imbalances.

2) Even more important than the first point, you had a stubborn community. The same community that insisted (at the time I played at least) that “SAM can’t tank” is the same community that refuses to embrace anything that isn’t a “standard”. It’s the same idea behind how people approach end-game content in FFXIV. They saw how to do it in a video and that’s the ONLY way they will do it until a group of more intelligent and skilled people get together and work out a different strategy. Only then is it OK to do it differently but again ONLY those two ways they were shown. It really doesn’t help when that mindset dominates the playerbase.

Caec
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Caec

The only meaningful design choice that results in class/build diversity is making a game so easy that even hard core gamers have a hard time keeping a straight face when talking about optimal builds. A person has to recognize that results are what drives choice in games. Choice does not drive choice in games. And, to be clear, this isn’t some snidely subtle way of me railing against the end idea that games should be easier. I’m simply pointing out the fallacy in the train of thought that seems to think it’s the way skill systems are designed that has to do with diversity.
Yes, XIV technically gave you a lot more flexibility in 1.0, but at a practical level was no different than it is now with its glaringly obvious optimum cross-class skills. Your $400 to $1 million analogy was still in play. If there was a duration of free-form enjoyment of going crazy in that department, it was the first couple of weeks, prior to everything being “figured out”, but that’s a whole separate phenomenon found in virtually any MMO that has little bearing-imo-on the greater discussion concerning diversity.

Budukahn
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Budukahn

BryanCole Budukahn They really need to do something to make leveling alt classes more fun I’ll agree.  GW2 and Rift seem to be going in the right direction.   Fates are good, but they scale poorly to small groups or solo and become really dull to do.  Maybe something like ToR’s tactical flashpoints which remove the need for tanks and healers would be good too as an option.

Budukahn
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Budukahn

A Dad Supreme Budukahn  
I’m not sure if you’re understanding correctly – you say it’s better if you don’t have to worry about what class you play because say, plate warrior is viable.   The reality is that your warrior example, in FFXIV is NOT viable unless he grinds up level 21 in Gladiator and gets the Provoke ability because the warrior completely lacks an instant taunt of their own.
The Simplicity then is this – if you want to be a Good Warrior, you’ll have to level up Gladiator a bit, despite the fact that all you wanted to be was a warrior.  Simplicity thus becomes tedium.  Shouldn’t it rather be you can play Warrior exclusively and not worry that role essential abilities require you playing other classes?  
As for half-heared – I don’t think I’ve gained a single new cross class ability from 50-60 on WHM and SCH and the new classes offer no new skills for my established classes.  Not even they seem to care about developing the system further it seems.

gogglezombie
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gogglezombie

In my experience player choice(either through skill trees/tick boxes etc) rarely ever offer any meaning form of customisation. Instead they ten to funnel people into one of a couple/few variations of playing the same class and I would much rather take this again over the confused mess that cross-class skills currently are.

That said I do like your idea for linking a primary class with a secondary one. I would dearly love the option to link to a healing class and for my Bard to become an actual honest-to-goodness support job instead of just a dps job with mediocre output because the developers feel there must be a downside to also offering some situational group utility!

Nevid
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Nevid

Khalith I find it funny that you say you prefer just playing the game instead ‘researching’ gear. You’re pretty much just like the majority of the players in xiv in this regard and yet they’re all terrible players for the most part. That census numbers about Alex 1 NORMAL clearance rate was a proof of that.
It’s both sad and amazing how yoship managed to constantly distract the majority of the playerbase with glamour and other superficial crap. Dedicating 1/2 of a live letter with pet battles was a joke.

A Dad Supreme
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A Dad Supreme

Dope_Danny A Dad Supreme “I thought it wasnt viable myself till i saw the videos of a team clearing Coil with a lancer and archer because they used and abused cross class pre job craziness and did well with it -better than some others with full job crystal teams.”
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I can believe some people are okay with this as said, but I don’t believe it’s the classic meta-think in MMOs nowadays, at least I haven’t seen it.
From what I’ve seen from SWTOR to ESO to GW2, it’s all about dps, every single time. Very little strategy other than a burn session and that doesn’t allow for ‘fun builds’ to make it into places for the most part.
Still do not think that many pre-mades will take that view, and that then bleeds down into the PUG levels. 
Devs need to try to make more content that is more challenging other than dodge this or dps that down moar, that way people won’t always be going after FOTM top-dps builds as a necessity rather than a choice.

Khalith
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Khalith

I’m going to say I have the unpopular opinion here and say that I prefer NOT having choice when it comes to my character for stuff like this.

FFXIV only gives you the one set of gear that’s highest ilevel, one set of abilities to choose from, only so many useful cross class skills where it makes the “correct’ choice obvious.  I never feel compelled to do a whole lot of research on how to optimize my character’s stats because it’s already given to us.  I think that’s awesome, I prefer the simplicity of it and it let’s me focus on playing the game rather than going the WoW route where I need a spreadsheet or a website to consult after EVERY gear upgrade to determine if I’m specced/geared right.

Dope_Danny
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Dope_Danny

A Dad Supreme Actually you would be surprised but this isn’t actually true. Some progression raid groups actually have some people stick to classes without jobs believe it or not.

I thought it wasnt viable myself till i saw the videos of a team clearing Coil with a lancer and archer because they used and abused cross class pre job craziness and did well with it -better than some others with full job crystal teams.

Its apparently something only for the insane level min maxer but its totally done.