Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s moving violations

    
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Up.

Here’s a bit of full disclosure: I still cannot reach the top of Kugane’s tower to this day. It’s the one jumping puzzle that stymies me in Final Fantasy XIV. I can speed-run Leap of Faith, I’ve bested the other little jumping challenges for lookout points, and this year’s Moonfire course requires me to just speed-run the whole thing in order to maintain a sense of challenge. And I have no idea if that makes me good, average, below average, or just generally disinterested at the moment.

Of course, the obstacle course always brings back the discussion of jumping puzzles in the game in the abstract because you always wind up with some people who have no problem with the challenge as presented and some who find the whole thing far too difficult and unfair. And some of this is probably due to the fact that for various reasons, an awful lot of the game’s movement still feels a little… odd in places.

For example, there’s the fact that several of our movement abilities don’t work the way they look like they do.

At a glance, Spineshatter Dive and Shoulder Tackle have immediate differences in how they operate. Shoulder Tackle is a dash along the ground, while Spineshatter Dive has you leap into the air and not touch the ground again until you hit your target. If there was some hurty bit of floor between your target and you, Shoulder Tackle would run right through it, but Spineshatter Dive would evade it.

Except that’s not true at all; both abilities are actually identical but animate differently, so you would both go through the hurty bit of ground either way. Similarly, if there’s a gap between you and your target, you’ll fall in every time, no getting around that because all of those gap-closer abilities basically just move you along the ground super-quick.

This gets weirder when you consider that some abilities really should work differently. Ninja basically teleports when it uses its quick movement. If you bring Thancred into Dohn Mheg, he specifically uses his gap-closer to jump a gap that will send you tumbling if you try it. It’s not hard to remember, exactly, but it is counterintuitive.

A bunny must jump.

I don’t think this is down to an intended consistency so much as a limitation of the game’s engine; it’s possible that playing with vertical tolerances cause weird programming issues or that the game doesn’t have a means of handling an actual teleport. The problem is just that sense of “my gap-closer doesn’t work the way it seems like it should.”

Herein, I think, lies the main “issue” with jumping puzzles. It’s not that the game has a problem with its movement physics; they’re fairly crisp, responsive, and comprehensible. Once you know the rules of the game, they make a certain amount of sense. The trouble is that the rules don’t make sense until you know them, and what it looks like the rules should be doesn’t match what the rules actually are.

Jumping puzzles in general are touchy for games that use them. Navigating jumps in a three-dimensional space can be tricky even when you have literally one size of character with a very fixed set of abilities and the entire game is built around it; I remember flubbing so many jumps when playing the original Spyro games, which I both loved and were built around solid jumps to nice chunky landing zones. Jumping puzzles in MMOs, meanwhile, are designed to have much more of an optional appeal and feature a game in which all characters are expected to have the same basic movement speed, jumping range, and so forth.

Having said all of that, I do feel like FFXIV handles the ones it has a bit better than other games with similar challenges. For one thing, the fact that your various abilities can’t be used to bypass the challenge has the downside of counterintuitive play but the upside of uniformity. Everyone makes the same jumps, no matter what jobs you have leveled, and the actual mechanics of the jumps don’t even favor the passive speed boost of Ninja.

What it doesn’t handle very well is the same problem that most jumping puzzles struggle with, which is making the process interesting and offering some degree of satisfaction as you work at it. What usually keeps me from making as much progress as I’d like in the Kugane tower is the simple reality that a mistake means falling and starting all over again, and eventually my patience wears out.

IF YOU WANT TO BE AN ACROBAT GO PLAY THAT

See, keeping everyone on a level playing field is good insofar as it ensures you don’t have people cheesing through things. But the slow grind of getting better at memorizing this specific series of jumps and getting a feel for the right moving sequences is kind of tedious. There’s a very shallow skill gap and no real option beyond “practice a bunch.”

For bragging rights challenges, that’s fine. But when we do actually have rewards tied to these challenges, it becomes a bit more problematic. Want to get some paintings from Stormblood? You’d better be able to reach the top of the tower. Is Leap of Faith the GATE that’s up? Start mastering those jumps or learn to live with disappointment.

This is compounded by the fact that your options are down to “move” and “jump.” Compare that to, say, any 3D Mario game, wherein you have an assortment of different ways to tackle any given challenge. Sure, certain jumps are more useful than others for certain challenges, but that’s part of what makes the jumping fun; you know that every jump you need to make should be possible to make. FFXIV requires you first to figure out what jumps you even can make.

I feel like in some ways, the Costa del Sol jumping course is like an effort to give people a training course in jumping puzzles, but even there it doesn’t really address the core issue. For that matter, it doesn’t really touch on what jumping puzzles want to be, whether they’re supposed to be purely for bragging rights or a gatekeeper for actual rewards.

My feeling is that if they’re going to be gatekeepers, we need to have some more actual effort put into making these things fun and accessible. It’d actually make for a fun sort of limited job if we had a job with no active abilities (or a minority) that leveled up by clearing jumping puzzles and gained specialized jumps and movement styles by doing so, although I realize that is probably not something the designers are anxious to do when there’s not really a long tradition of acrobats as a job in the series.

But if they’re just there for bragging rights, well… even then, they need some refinement. People who like jumping puzzles will probably find obstacle courses like the one for this year’s Moonfire Faire a bit bland and simple. People who don’t find them fun won’t want to do them. It’s one of those cases where splitting the distance winds up missing the mark a bit all around.

Feedback is welcome by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com or down in the comments below. Next week, it’s time for a year in review column!

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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Renny Nanaya

To me the jumping puzzles are a nice distraction, but what I find detracts from them the most more than “how do jumps work” is how uneven and sometimes downright cheating they feel, combined with the “Getting over it” levels of loss when missing a jump. I had never tried one of them before and was giving the moonfire tower a try when I had to be informed by friends that some of the jumps actively require completely divorcing your model from reality and just hovering over empty space in order to make them. This is not as difficult for something as small and clear as a Lalafell, but Hrothgar? Get rekt, good luck finding where that center of the model is trying to pivot off into infinity.

Later I also had to discover there’s a bizarre third jump, and for all intents and purposes my latency made it bordering on impossible. There’s a walking jump, and there’s a running jump, and then there’s this really awkward “running but not quite” jump that’s just a little shorter than walking jump, and it’s activated by basically hitting jump a quarter second after forward. and it’s almost mandatory to master it for the puzzles.

and then there’s the added confusing of what I like to call “invisible nails” where what looks like it should be completely flat geometry just drags you back or stops you dead mid jump, and there’s nothing to see regarding why. it even kills easier jumps just because they are aimed at the wall a little, and it’s frustrating to have a simple jump ruin all progress because of these.

These annoyances would be so much easier if the game just let you have legitimate checkpoints. but instead it starts you way back at the beginning, and it really just turns me off of wasting my time when most of the puzzles feel like I’m abusing the physics of the engine instead of actually solving a puzzle or being skillful.

Carlo Lacsina
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Carlo Lacsina

I just want to add that running out of an AoE circle is actually faster than jumping out. The client updates your position to the server only when you’re on the ground. So if you jump at the last second before an AoE goes off you’ll take the hit because the server still thinks you’re in the AoE till you land.

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Brian Locke

I wish we had video of people’s faces using a jump type ability the first time when they were trying to go over a hole in the ground.

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sandrock124l8

Dragoon’s jumps and other gap closers were actually changed to work this way. I believe it was around the time ninja was released that they did this, but up until then things like elusive jump would behave exactly the way you expected, and it caused some problems.

There are a lot of holes in the invisible barriers to keep you from going out of bounds in xiv that you were able to use elusive to slip through. Sprint, jump, rotate your camera 180, hit elusive at the peak of your jump, and you would not only go much further, but also a little higher than normal. You could reach ledges you were never intended to, and things get really, really weird once you slip outside the areas with proper collision. You’re able to walk up completely vertical terrain if you’re on the edge of the ground’s 3D model and the void. The camera can get pretty screwy when you’re underneath things as well. It was especially easy to get out of bounds in housing areas by using specific roofs, and the glitch ‘elevators’ to get on top of them. Fun fact, you can actually see the main ward from the subdivision if you get out of bounds in the Mist, it’s to the southeast just floating there. There were constantly little unnoted patches to fill in holes when they were found.

I assume all of this was changed cause of Ninja’s teleportation ability. Elusive is difficult to control, has limited height to it, and has a set distance it travels, so the places it allowed you to reach were fairly limited. Shukuchi however opened up a new nightmare for the dev team, as any ledge you had line of sight on within range you could now potentially get to. Rather than fixing every hole as it was reported by the players, they changed all movement skills to now path across the ground as if you were walking there, and removed verticality from everything except the default jump.

This has fixed a lot of these issues for them by keeping movement consistent, but sadly at the cost of movement skills feeling kind of wonky. Personally I’d love to have the old days of trying to leap from rooftop to rooftop seeing how far I can get in revenant’s toll, but I also know that constantly fixing holes in barriers and testing new zones for where shukuchi breaks things eats into dev time for something that is ultimately a minor realism thing. If I had to choose, I’d take the quick fix we have currently and the devs use the time saved on new content, like the jumping puzzles we now get. Otherwise, you’d have jerks like me pulling mobs to walls as close as possible, using star driver, and seeing if things freak out and I end up on top of a cliff I shouldn’t be on.

JonBuck
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JonBuck

I gave up on the Kugane jumping puzzle loooooong ago.

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EmberStar

I’ve never been a fan of jumping puzzles. In fact, the sheer number of them (and the fact that some were basically mandatory for map completion or taming critters as a Ranger) is part of why I stopped playing Guild Wars 2. That, and the part where it felt like most of them had never been playtested with a Charr. “Oh whee, I bounced off of an invisible wall and/or a random vine that has a solid collision box, because reasons. Is there a way around? No? Right. This is so fun.” :(

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styopa

Yeah, GW2’s hitboxes, inconsistent player graphics* and “floppy” movement model** make their gameplay dependence on jump puzzles rather …odd.
*(I’m sorry you wanted to play a charr, you are hereby granted terrible camera angles, bad visibility, and awkward movement !)
**(where you have this elaborate half-second ragdoll over-pantomime whenever you start-stop moving – I play an asura and I wonder if her joints even completely attached)

In that sense, I do very much like FFXIVs system more where (at least with a catgirl) I know that if I’m precisely clear of that floor-fire, I WILL NOT BE DAMAGED. One single pixel is enough, and it’s never lag-killed me (where I think I’m out of the fire, but the engine doesn’t yet).

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François Verret

I’ve been working on the Moonfire Faire tower for over a week and I still haven’t managed it. I have a week left, though.