There have basically been two attitudes throughout the past weekend with Final Fantasy XIV’s early access to Stormblood. Here, we’ll run it like a Tumblr meme; tag yourself appropriately in the comments:
- “Wow, all of this stuff is really cool!”
- “A system error occurred during event movement.”
I spent Friday and Saturday stuck in the latter, but Sunday I moved on the the former. But I can’t really talk about this early access period without talking about the server errors, what may have been causing them, and what should be considered when discussing them.
Because, make no mistake, this was not a fun weekend to be trying to play FFXIV much of the time. It was often dizzying in its frustration, and it was made all the worse because there’s always a communication gap with the game despite the best efforts of the staff. This in and of itself is something I really should write a column about, but that’s not today’s column.
Yes, I was there. And this was incredibly frustrating, even as I worked hard to remind myself that, at the end of the day, Naoki Yoshida had no reason to avoid having exactly this quest structure. Because it had happened before and worked then.
Seriously, Heavensward featured just as many early-quest instanced scenario bits, arguably even more. It didn’t cause a problem there. That leads me to believe that the correct reading of the issues the game was experiencing has more to do with data structure and the instance servers, not this particular quest. If you tried doing other stuff like Palace of the Dead, trials, roulettes, or whatever, you know that the instance servers were quaking even when you weren’t trying to get past Raubahn’s quest.
One of the things that has been mentioned repeatedly is that the characters of FFXIV have a lot of data associated with them. The expansion ups that, and my suspicion is that the problem the instance servers were having was the same problem that led to the Susano bug where characters were unable to reconnect. Data were overflowing in a way that wasn’t originally noticed, and that was causing bugs, so the developers strictly limited instances on the basis of “we can roll out this fix and have most of the game working until then.”
Do I agree with the course of action? Not entirely, but I don’t think it matters. I can understand it, and as nice as it might be to say what should be done, it’s kind of belaboring the point. Something went wrong, and it was worse than queues. Developers did their best to fix things, and are still doing their best to fix things. C’est la vie.
That’s the double-edged sword of the early access period. I’ve seen people complaining that we paid extra to get into this period, but that hasn’t been the case since the game’s original collector’s edition; we paid the same amount as everyone else, just earlier. We were promised that we could get in earlier than the original release, and we could. Problems existed, and they’re being addressed.
It’s frustrating as heck. Believe me, I know; nothing frustrates me personally more than feeling as if I’m inexcusably behind, because one of the things I pride myself on with my job is knowing this game and how it works. I was stuck being unable to actually comment on much of the game, and that – more than login queues – infuriates me. Especially since getting in successfully was almost entirely a matter of luck.
But at the same time, I recognize that it’s part of the nature of the beast. It’s unpleasant and bothers me, and if you’re stuck behind a quest you just cannot do, it’s even worse. In a month, we’ll forget about it aside from Raubahn memes. I think that works out in the long run, even if being there is excruciating at the time.
But the actual expansion…
I’m not ready for a full-on first impressions piece yet, but that’ll be happening soon. Now that I can actually see more of the expansion, though…
Well, I’m not surprised. This is a really high-quality expansion, but the bar was already set high by Heavensward. So on one level, it’s more of the same. But when it comes to the story, to the zones, to the overall experience… it’s arguably even a notch above.
Red Mage and Samurai both feel organic, complete, and downright fun to play. They feel like natural inclusions to the game, and Red Mage is already exactly what I had hoped for even it’s accomplished that goal in exactly a different way than I had been hoping. It’s a textbook example of how to marry spellcasting and melee combat, which is impressive when you consider that only a handful of the components are actually melee abilities. Most of it is all about just casting spells in a slightly different fashion.
That’s not to say Samurai is less impressive, although it did in fact steal a bit from Ninja in the form of its interlocking combos. (Ninja got more instant strikes and such, so it balances out.) It’s just another melee job, so it feels less like it’s breaking new ground. But it feels solid, complete, and most importantly fun.
The zones feel enormous, although I’m sure part of that just comes down to the fact that I don’t know them inside and out like I do with Heavensward zones. I’m all right with that fact. And they’re gorgeous, frequently featuring some eye-popping bits here and there. The story moves on at a solid clip and rarely, if ever, seems to rely upon people doing something stupid for plot reasons.
All of this is to say nothing of the music; one of the beast tribe strongholds has what may be my favorite tune in the game when it comes to entering a stronghold, for example. And the instances, and the job design, and the job quests, and…
Eventually I kind of just trail into excited babbling.
In short, now that I’m actually past the roadblock? This expansion is everything I could hope for. And as I keep getting more experience in preparation for a formal first impressions piece, it’s important to stress how good it all is. The problem is just getting there, and I think that’s only half down to design and half down to bad luck and timing.
I still want my /smoke emote, though. Now more than ever.
As always, feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I’m sure I’ll have more to talk about with the story and such, and you should look forward to my full first impressions in the near future. For now… well, there’s a main scenario to advance.