Wisdom of Nym: A musing on malaise in Final Fantasy XIV

    
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Are you not entertained?
There’s no question in my mind that Final Fantasy XIV is still one of my favorite games of all time. It certainly doesn’t lack for things to do, even now. Between the setting, the aesthetic, and the mechanics of the game, I’ve vastly enjoyed it through launch until now. And yet lately there seems to be something in the air, some distant sense telling me – and several other veteran players, by my own unscientific examination – that maybe right now it should just be allowed to lie fallow for a while.

You can, of course, read that as a natural consequence of any game you play for an extended period of time. But I think there are reasons that this is hitting now, when I know full well that if I wanted to there are definitely things I can do in the game. I do not want for content by any stretch of the imagination. So why, then, do I not want to play that content? Why now? What’s different about this situation?

I think some of the issues – perhaps not all, but some – can be understood by taking a look at the beast tribe quests added in this patch. More specifically, what wasn’t added with this patch, something that was normally brought along with a new beast tribe quest line – a second best tribe quest line. The Vanu Vanu have a single track of daily quests and you get three per day; they’re meant to help leveling along, in part, so you don’t get ever-escalating tiers of quests but just get three per day to do in a very steady order.

And there is where troubles begin, oddly.

Your new raid could be a little more interesting, D.

Previous patches usually included two separate beast tribes with a fairly straightforward structure. You had six quests available per day, and you could use all six of them on the highest ranks of a single tribe, or you could split them between the two tribes available. The former option meant you capped out on a single tribe faster, but had to do a bunch of additional work on the other tribe. The latter wound up being slightly faster overall, but you wound up advancing each tribe more slowly.

A grand choice? No. But it did allow for you, as a player, to determine how you wanted to go through this content. By making for only one path with only one right answer, it’s no longer possible to make that choice, and the net result is that you have content with a smaller individual footprint but a longer tail. You have only one path, and it takes longer to walk, like doing both tribes individually back-to-back.

Why does that bother me? Because, I realize belatedly, I’ve always much preferred doing my full allotment of daily beast tribe quests and getting through both tribes faster. Even though I’ve never really wanted the rewards.

If I had to formulate a working theory, it would be this: By diminishing the amount of time needed or encouraged for an individual task in the game, the designers have made it easier for you to find yourself bored and move on. And I think that in a subtle fashion this has run its way through large portions of the game. There’s just as much to do as there has ever been, but subtle choices in presentation make it harder to sustain interest and keep going.

Doing a full set of six beast tribe quests itself isn’t a huge issue one way or the other. What it does impact, however, is how much time I spend playing to accomplish that. A full set of tasks means that I’m playing for an extended period of time, which means I start thinking about the other things I want to accomplish and planning around those. Then I start inventing more projects because I’m already playing, so I might as well stick with it.

Eventually, all the possibility always collapses into now.Halve that time, and it reduces the required investment. And I’m looking at a longer tail, where each individual day’s effort contributes less forward motion. It’s a shorter walk to shrugging and saying that it’s not really that important and I’m not going to log in just for that.

The functional removal of leves hasn’t helped matters, either. Yes, leves are still in the game, but the 50-60 leves are only obtainable and redeemable in Ishgard proper, slowing down movements. A full outlay of temple leves, which are the only ones that provide a meaningful chunk toward the next level, wipes out your leves as a whole for several days. You can get only three at a time at most, and while temple leves are supposed to be larger and more elaborate, in practice it just means doing the same thing a few more times. So it’s more time for less actual content to do and more irritation, and there’s a real sense once you do it that it’s not worth logging in just for that.

It’s a subtle effect running through a large amount of the game at the moment, I fear. Not bad design, not even boring design, but design that emphasizes a certain degree of of extended content compared to letting you set the pace. There’s a sense of disconnect, and it feels as if many of the projects players could undertake solo are now sharply stymied on a daily basis.

I like running dungeons. Given the option, I know my choice for leveling is always going to be running leveling roulettes and clearing out leves. But at this point, with leves functionally pointless, I feel as if my options are more accurately presented as “run your leveling roulette, then wait until tomorrow.” It’s a removal of options, and while it may not functionally change a great deal, it still leads me to ask myself whether I want to log in simply to complete one half-hour task with a very constrained availability.

There’s definitely content in place. I can even understand a push to make sure that the content is more accessible for people who don’t have a couple of nightly hours to devote to that content. For the players with less time to do something on a daily basis, subdividing things thusly can be helpful. Heck, I imagine there are people who prefer content arranged in that fashion, not beholden to a single clock.

But for the way that I enjoy playing, the most recent patch offers me very little in terms of reasons to stay logged in and engaged if I don’t have something planned. That leads to me not logging in or planning as much, which only exacerbates the problem. I’m hardly of the mindset that this means doom or anything of the sort, but it does make me think that perhaps a bit further consideration is warranted before patch 3.2’s content is released.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. As always when I write a column that’s a bit different than usual, your feedback is particularly valuable in determining whether or not this was a successful experiment. Next time around, I want to talk a bit about obvious places for the next expansion to go and which ones seem most likely.

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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Mikeyceratops
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Mikeyceratops

The larger problem, for me at least, is that the game seems to focus too much on the casual player. I understand that this is the most popular & most profitable route, however, it often seems the developers often take this concept too far. One of their few current concessions to the less mainstream player is an outrageously long relic weapon grind quest chain that is seemingly designed to be done in bite sized chunks. None of the content is difficult in any way and all of it is recycled from past content.(dungeons, FATEs, etc)
Is it really unfair to ask for less superficial filler for the sake of time-wasting and new, more challenging content to go with what should be an epic adventure for an epic item? (All said, I remain a tremendous Yoshi P fan.)

Eliot_Lefebvre
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Eliot_Lefebvre

A Dad Supreme I’m not exactly on break; I logged in earlier today, even! But I’m not doing a whole lot. So I’m in no risk of losing my house, but even so.

Nevid
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Nevid

So much for “I dont like this, I don’t like that, I don’t like that either and nothing has changed so it’s pretty much perfect.”, huh, eliot?

A Dad Supreme
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A Dad Supreme

Breaks are fine in most games but if you take breaks in FFXIV, you are in danger of losing your expensive housing, so make sure you don’t take one that’s ‘too long’.

Dope_Danny
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Dope_Danny

Theres definitely been a huge “well no need to sub right now” feeling going around with a lot of players. Personally right now im super into leveling crafting and making some gil for once so im happy and occupied but for people not into that sort of thing i think they hoped the relic would be some fun thing to do when the big problem is that they made it a big grind -which isnt a bad thing being a grind, but they really should have broken the grind up into lots of different little grinds instead of essentially farming points in some fashion to get the same item. It makes the end seem so far away and just makes it not fun for 90% of players.

Personally i think they should have put some focus on gatherers to get some of this stuff, giving an incentive to revisit old content is great, but gathering kind of feels like something you just do if you really want to make gil but servers no other purpose while the crafters still have some satisfying stuff to do in terms of making things for other players, desynthing and so on. Just seems like a missed opportunity.

Flimflamberge
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Flimflamberge

Sorenthaz Polyanna They have said they’re not gonna force main story completion to play the next expansion. Though being level 60 will be hard without doing at least some of Heavensward, which will still mean getting through the 2.X story.

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

Polyanna FFXIV doesn’t really have the issue though of not being part of that first wave.  At least, not for leveling through stuff and doing the main story quests.  Older dungeons are visited by level capped players who are running their daily Duty Roulette and/or those who are leveling up other classes.  
Main thing is to find a decent Free Company to join or go into it with a group of friends.  FFXIV isn’t meant to really be played alone even if the option is there.  Things become way easier to do when you’ve got a FC full of folks who’ll run older content with you and whatnot.

Phubarrh
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Phubarrh

I am so much here myself…sadly, as my wife still loves running the dungeons.  But I need something a little more in the way of a goal in the game, and having capped two jobs with relic weapons, I’m finding tedious the prospect of levelling up other roles, pulling my crafting over the hump that the expansion inserted at level 50, or any of the other minor achievements that I might pursue.  I’ve let my sub lapse at the moment, while I catch up on other gaming…just completed the Dragon Age trilogy for the first time, and now I’m trying to decide between Mass Effect or The Witcher.  Or maybe a little WOW on a WOTLK-era server…

Polyanna
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Polyanna

It’s a very delicate balance matching time /played to rate of reward, and easy to get wrong.

One of the things that seems to make WoW such a sticky game is the finely tuned sense Blizzard has for this. People bitch about it plenty, but really of all the games I have played, WoW comes closest to almost always giving you just enough to keep you going, without it feeling like too much too fast, or like you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact it pretty much always feels like you’re really close to that light, but then as soon as you pop out of one tunnel, you head right back into another.

Unlike most game makers, Blizzard also understands the notion of catch up mechanics, and does a very good job making the second X easier than the first, or making things that are more grindy than usual account wide, or dropping in express lane and discount mechanics as time wears on, so that it’s “never too late” to get started on big stuff, and everyone can catch up even if they started late.

That has been the single biggest thing that has led to me leaving a lot of other games; older grinds never getting discounted, and never having adequate catch ups in place when new content is imminent. Just as bad are rewards from grinds that you need a group to do, where you never can get a group for them after X months because “everyone” already has done it.

In WoW I feel like I always very explicitly have the choice to either start on the new thing as soon as it comes out, get it sooner (but with more time invested), and use it longer; or just wait a while until it’s quicker and easier and I can do it at a pace that better suits me. Some things I’ll want to get right away, and some are not that important to me, and I’ll wait until they go on sale instead. Either way, I never feel that gnawing paranoia that if I wasn’t in the first wave then all hope is lost of ever getting it done.

Archebius
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Archebius

Sometimes I want to get into this game just so I know what Eliot is talking about.