Wisdom of Nym: Thankfulness for Final Fantasy XIV

Here comes trouble.
I haven’t exactly made a secret of the fact that I’m on a bit of a low pulse for Final Fantasy XIV at the moment. Some of that is just me and being in a rough place mentally; some of that is the game being in a rather in-between place as it gears up for the still distant second expansion. But this is the week of Thanksgiving for those of us in the US, and let me tell you: Even if I’m not playing as much of the game at the moment, I’m still immensely thankful for it.

While I could talk about cool people I’ve met or nifty parts of the community, the fact of the matter is that I feel like the game only deserves peripheral credit for that; after all, lots of games (darn near all of them, even) have cool community stuff and the like. So instead, I want to talk about the cool stuff that’s unique to FFXIV. What makes me thankful for this game in particular?

It’s a big question to answer, but I think a large part of it comes down to an anecdote from liveblogging.

The liveblog in question can be found here, and it included a statement that I’ve kind of been turning over in my head ever since I heard it. The essence of the statement, in short, was that World of Warcraft‘s designers saw how many people took part in PvP and also saw that there were other players who enjoyed PvP games, so the designers asked how they could get those people who didn’t like PvP in this game to take part.

And that, in part, is why I’m so thankful for FFXIV. Because I’ve never once heard Naoki Yoshida wonder in any capacity why more people don’t like PvP or Extreme primals or endgame progression raiding.

You just assume I like this. And, I have to be honest, you're pretty much right.

It’s not a failure state to have content that’s only enjoyed by 10% of your game’s population, but it is a failure state if that content takes 50% of your design resources. The usual designer question, without fail, seems to be, “How can we get everyone else interested in this?” I don’t mean to pick on Blizzard here; I’ve seen it from other designers as well, designers speculating on why it is more people don’t take part in activity X.

But I’ve said before, in many places, that there are some activities in an MMO that I just don’t find fun. Open PvP, for example, is something I’m just never going to find fun. I do not enjoy that. That doesn’t mean I don’t like PvP at all, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t PvP games that I enjoy immensely, but if you take a world where I can just go off and do my own thing and then stick enforced mandatory PvP on top of that, I’m not going to enjoy it.

Why do I enjoy it in other games? Because those other games are, well, other games. I’m looking for something different when I play them. Period stop.

FFXIV has never gone with that explanation. The question has never seemed to be “how do we make more people like activity X” but “how do we make sure that more types of content are available to everyone,” and that seems like both an incredibly simple goal and one that underpins so much of the game.

I realize and acknowledge that some of this is based around the fact that the game pitches itself at a level that I’m particularly fond of, but that doesn’t change the fact that the game does not, at any point, force you into scheduled, structured progression. The option is there, but this expansion made a point of removing barriers from letting you see and experience content by doing so. You can get the whole story of the game without ever heading into Alexander Savage, but that content is still there for people who want the challenge. It’s important, but it’s never meant to be overwhelming.

Crafted gear, of course, occupies a very different part of the framework, and I am somewhat sad that I didn't devote more space here to discussing crafted gear in this particular context. Or crafting and gathering in general, really.Similarly, if you’re at the cutting edge, you get to upgrade your gear to the highest level first. But it’s never much further than what you get through other means, and it’s only a matter of time. I can’t hit level 270 right now because I’m not taking part in progression, but that will change after 3.5; I can hit 260, and do so consistently, and the resultant gap in performance is significant without being overwhelming.

There’s always going to be content that doesn’t appeal to me in any game. I don’t much care for Aquapolis, and since jobs are pretty uniform across given lines I don’t find the game’s PvP terribly exciting. (I do like its progression system, though.) I don’t really want to shackle myself to things like Extreme primals or Savage content. And that’s perfectly fine. These things are not retuned to appeal more to me, because I’m not the target audience.

Meanwhile, there are some people who don’t like the Deep Dungeon as much as I do, and that’s fine. The option is there, but it isn’t mandatory. The question isn’t why more people aren’t doing it, it’s how to make the content fun and rewarding for the people who do enjoy it while keeping on par with the rewards offered elsewhere.

There are, of course, gaps here and there. You still do need to do certain things if you want to play at a certain level, and while none of that bothers me (I’m perfectly happy to run the normal Alexander content and the 24-person raids) I can see why some people might be a little miffed by that. Of course, even there the performance gaps aren’t overwhelming, so it’s not as if you’re crippled by not enjoying that content; it’s just closer than anything else gets in the game to saying that you have to do certain sorts of content.

But by and large, that always makes me thankful. The designers don’t ask why I’m not doing something, they try to make sure that the things I do that I clearly enjoy are in the best possible place. That should be pretty obvious and transparent, but it apparently isn’t. And it matters to me.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, we’ll have another live letter covering the upcoming 3.5, and while it’ll be in the post-Thanksgiving haze I’m sure I’ll have more than enough time to internalize and understand it by next Monday.

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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