Wisdom of Nym: What it means to be good at Final Fantasy XIV content

    
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Wisdom of Nym: What it means to be good at Final Fantasy XIV content

Let’s start with an assertion that some people may or may not believe but is still true no matter what: Dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV are not terribly difficult.

That’s not to say that FFXIV is bereft of difficult content, although your standards on how difficult it actually is will vary. Savage and Extreme, for example, are meant to be difficult but not that difficult; there’s a learning curve, but it is assumed that a reliable group should be able to clear these things on a regular basis and even packs of randos will be able to much of the time. Ultimate is the real face-smashing difficult, and that’s a decided minority.

Given the difficulty of the content, then, players might find it easy to get lost in the woods and conclude that there is no real worry about being good or bad. After all, if the content can be cleared easily enough, what difference does it make if you screw around? And to answer that, I feel we should talk about Sonic the Hedgehog.

Warping shadow.

If you know only one thing about the blue hedgehog who doesn’t really look like a hedgehog… well, it might be that you know there is a truly unsettling pornographic community out there dedicated to the game franchise, but you are also probably aware of the refrain about “gotta go fast.” And on the surface, yes, that’s true. Sonic the Hedgehog was a much faster game than its immediate contemporaries at the time.

There is an excellent post well worth your reading over on Kimimi the Game-Eating She-Monster’s blog about how the games really aren’t just about going fast. Yes, you want to go fast, but your main goal is more about cadence. It’s not too hard to reach the end of a level just by holding right. But can you get all of the stuff that’s hidden? Are you making an optimal path through the level? Can you do so while moving at the speeds that many of these secrets require?

It’s in sharp contrast to its immediate contemporaries in that, too. You don’t want to clear the level and get to the exit or the secret exit. You want to find the optimal path through the level. The levels are big, they’re sprawling, and they require a cadence to clear through optimally, much more so than just going as fast as possible.

You probably see where we’re going here for FFXIV, but let me make it explicit. Doing well in dungeons in FFXIV, in the broadest strokes, is about doing maximum damage in minimal time and racing through the whole thing as fast as possible. If they’re easy to clear, after all, it makes sense to just do them as quickly as you can and…

Oh, wait. That’s not it either. Because I emphasized right above this that a more important skill than speed is cadence, and raw speed can actually be counterproductive to that cadence.

Your goal in any dungeon – or alliance raid, or normal raid, or whatever – is not actually to get through as fast as possible. Your goal is to get through as smoothly as possible. And that opens the door to a whole lot of other fine details when it comes to a run.

Consider, for example, the scenario if you get dropped into Sastasha on Paladin. Your healer is a White Mage. Your two DPS are a Lancer and an Arcanist. Clearly, the smoothest thing to do is to pull at least two packs at a time and round them up, right?

Well… no. Because the only person in the party with AoE is you. Everyone else is single-targeting, and by pulling big packs, you’re forcing the healer to spend more time healing you and less time doing damage. Counterintuitive though it may seem, the smoothest run here is to pull as little as possible to ensure maximum DPS on every individual target.

By contrast, if you had a Machinist and Bard, you would want to make larger pulls you could slice down faster with AoE. And I’m using a specific low-level dungeon here as a means of illustration because it’s a stark portrait of the differences.

Pulling big groups isn’t likely to make you fail the dungeon, after all. But it is going to make it take longer and generally be rougher by comparison.

Big summer blowout?

One of the things that I’ve said to people in parties before is that the player who has lower DPS but scrupulously dodges AoE and avoids Vuln-Up stacks is doing a better job than a better-geared player who ignores mechanics. Yes, there are some mechanics you can just power through in certain dungeons, but most of those are either lower-level or things that have been adjusted or nerfed in specific ways to render them irrelevant. Being aware of mechanics more often means that things are going well.

Being good is a matter of paying attention to mechanics, doing your proper DPS rotation, paying attention to what you can do to help the rest of the party, and doing all this with a minimum of extraneous activity. It means tanks making smart decisions about where to fight trash packs and reasonable choices about pull sizes based on the group. It means healers avoiding drawing threat before the pull is finished and balancing healing needs against additional DPS. It means DPS avoiding damage where possible, using AoE intelligently, and not blowing cooldowns frivolously.

It’s also why we all know the “well, we’re clearing it, why would you complain” response when someone is asked to stop doing something (or start doing something) is so ridiculous. The request isn’t about “we’re all failing, please do your job.” It’s about changing the way you’re playing in order to make the content go faster and more evenly. It’s about smoothing things out, so treating it like a pass/fail instead of a matter of proper management is disingenuous in the extreme.

And on some level, I think we all know that to start with. After all, when was the last time you went into a dungeon and couldn’t complete it? I can’t think of a time myself. So if someone is asking me to, say, drag an AoE away as DPS in a dungeon I don’t know, it’s not the difference between clearing and failing. It’s something that makes life easier for the person asking, and thus that’s more important than whatever reason I might have for not doing so.

(I mean, unless it’s the wrong thing to do, but even then my response isn’t “why should I” but explaining how the mechanic works and why it’s a bad idea.)

So what does it mean to be good at the game? By and large, it means being able to work with people and ensure that you’re not frustrating them. It’s not about big numbers from DPS, but about being efficient, scrupulous, and amenable. It’s not about the size of your pulls as a tank but mitigating them. It’s not about how much DPS you do as a healer but how invisible your healing can be in the middle.

Or, in other words, it’s about being a fun party member. And if you focus on that, you’ll find that even a slightly slower dungeon is much more fun.

Feedback, as always, is welcome to eliot@massivelyop.com or down in the comments. Next week, I expect to have preliminary patch notes, so… well, that should be obvious.

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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John Artemus
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John Artemus

I’m actually in the minority opinion when it comes to this game, in terms of difficulty. I played WoW from 2005 – 2018, thereabouts. Switched to FFXIV and have been playing it ever since. And I gotta tell ya, I found the dungeons in FFXIV to be harder than the dungeons in WoW. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and my reflexes are slower, but I feel like FFXIV does expect more out of you than normal dungeons in WoW.

I never really worried about dodging AoE or anything like that in WoW. The tank just YOLO pulled everything, and then the three DPS just burned everything down in the blink of an eye. That was my experience in Legion anyway. Don’t know what it’s like now.

In fact, the most common refrain in the WoW community is how easy that game was. FFXIV seems to provide a bit more challenge, in my opinion. Not that it’s hard, just that I have stay on my toes more than I did with WoW.

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Steven Williams

Absolutely this. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve ran with sprouts during the first boss in Sunken Temple of Qarn, various points in Aurum Vale, first boss of Dun Scaith, the bloody Mist Dragon, occasionally Ozma, etc. Bloody massacres sometimes, but I enjoy the challenge and communication.

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Jo Watt

I could never stick to FFXIV after running through content. Not enough to do when all is said and done.

This speed running is clearly an issue with just that… you have nothing left to do except try to make things interesting by speed running.

Fallina
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Fallina

This. This. This.

I can’t even tell you how glad I am to realize I’m not alone on this. For years it’s been getting worse and worse, and I thought it was just me. I took hiatus from the game right before Shadowbringers launch. When I left, I found it annoying, but I could heal the speedsters because most of them only pulled a couple groups. It was fine. I came back about two months ago and the speed run culture in public roulettes has gotten worse. Pulling barrier-to-barrier and it’s all I can do to keep the tank alive. Spamming heals because the tank’s HP drops from full to almost dead by the time my spells finish casting. This is not a me problem, this is a problem with tanks thinking it’s the norm. It’s not the norm if you’re not geared. I can’t stress that enough. If you’re running a lvl 65 dungeon and you’re still in 60 armor, your HP is going to melt as fast as the healer can throw out spells. If you don’t pop your cooldowns to mitigate the incoming damage, you’re not doing your job. Stop mass pulling. And for a courtesy, it would be nice if we could return to the old norm of asking your healer if they’re okay with it before the mass pulls. Large, barrier-to-barrier pulls should be the exception, not the norm. It’s so bad that I hate running my healer in public roulettes anymore.

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Steven Williams

This is a major reason why I tank a lot, but don’t heal often at all. As a tank I adjust the speed. I start slow, and pick things up a notch if the healer can handle things (but never more than 2 groups, seems to go faster when the white mage has time to actually throw some dps).

If there’s sprouts viewing cutscenes, I go through all the side paths and pause if someone is reading a lore thingamajig. Stop to explain mechanics occasionally if it’s a trouble boss, etc. If a ranged dps is constantly running ahead of me (always seems to be a ranged dps for some reason), I don’t take it as an immediate shift to barrier-to-barrier pulls.

Tanking has become much more accessible than before, but it seems to have widened the rift between people who rush mindlessly into pulls, hyper-focused at their HP bars and cooldown timers, and tanks with peripheral vision who pay attention to their party members.

Nephele
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Nephele

I kind of agree with what you wrote Eliot, but I think the speed run culture has overwhelmed FFXIV at this point. I main paladin, but I refuse to take for DF groups anymore – because in their eyes, if I am not doing giant pulls, I am doing it wrong…. even if the dps in the group is arguably better suited for small pulls. People believe that big pulls are faster because they have been taught that by years of over-geared groups brute forcing content to get the tomestones.

You know what is hard? Running dungeons at minimum item level – especially ARR and HW dungeons. THAT requires skill, coordination, and attention from everyone in the party. That’s not something that 95% of players will ever do though. I have FC members that clear savages consistently, who still balk at trying to do something like wanderers palace or keeper of the lake at minimum ilevel. Of course, there is no real incentive for them to do that either.

I really wish SE would amp up the challenge in dungeons and tighten item level ranges. I love tanking alliance raids when they are new specifically because they are tough, and you have to take every fight seriously. Yes, it gets easier with gear and practice, but they become trivial far less quickly than the dungeons do. If I could get that same experience with dungeons, I would enjoy the game much more than I do now.

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Mark

Normally I agree with most things Eliot, but please not this. The last thing I want in my FFXIV (other than perhaps non-queueable content) is the rush-rush like in other games. And it’s kind of already there.

Imho, being good at content means you’re knowledgeable and helpful to other players, friendly and approachable, and won’t meltdown at the slightest hint of trouble or a wipe.

And while I don’t disagree that most FFXIV dungeon content is on the easier side, the game is not baby easy like, say SWTOR. Or at least, things don’t die in 1-2 hits.

chamllw
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chamllw

I’m probably a very small minority here but I’ve never found the FFXIV dungeons to be easy, except perhaps some of the starting ones. The combination of the way the game makes enemies use aoes and latency issues has always made this game much more stressful for me. This is of course in comparison to dungeons in games like ESO or LOTRO.

I’m not the best player but I did do my best to practice. But the experience in trials which I had to go through for story was bad. I would’ve really liked to enjoy the game but aside from moving next to the servers or paying for an expensive VPN that would be impossible.

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Jo Watt

I mean I’m surprised they haven’t just taken the trash mobs out of dungeons yet. The raids are literally drop on top of a boss and walk out with loot.

Might as well change it to 3 or 4 boss waves.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

While I prefer the community’s expected pace until and unless those instances stop being mandatory for completing the story “well, we’re clearing it, why would you complain” is the baseline.

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Greg Kuchta

You try to separate cadence from speed, which makes sense in your Sonic example with there being hidden secrets and an optimal path for reaching hidden areas and whatnot. But in FFXIV there are no secret areas, no hidden unlockables in dungeons, no rewards for completing content “well”. All that matters is speed. The only measurable metrics that differentiates top players from average players is DPS/clear speed. Speed in dungeons trumps all, because the only way to increase the rewards you receive is to complete the dungeon faster.

If your pulls are too big and the dps your healer loses trying to keep you alive is greater than the extra dps gained from the other 3 members being able to aoe more targets, then you are not being efficient. Smoothness isnt a factor, except where it impacts efficiency. You talk about taking vuln stacks as DPS as being a bad thing – yet there are multiple instances where the optimized strategy for killing a boss involves standing in a vuln mechanic to get more uptime, often in cases where the healer doesnt need to heal you anyway, or there is forced downtime after that mechanic. Stacking mid for titania extreme during her Shiva mechanic comes to mind.

As you said, dungeons in ffxiv are laughably easy. One of the only ways to increase the challenge (and consequently the enjoyment) is to do large pulls. Tanking especially is incredibly easy now with the removal of entity management, so dungeon content is pretty braindead. Mt Gulg is one of the few dungeons I enjoy running as a tank, because of the absolutely massive pull you can do at the beginning. It’s fun, its challenging (especially with a pug healer), and it’s so rewarding when you pull it off.

At the end of the day the difference between the top players and the average players is efficiency, which directly translates into speed. Anything else such as cooldown management, rotation, positioning, all contributes to efficiency.

Bereman
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Bereman

You talk about taking vuln stacks as DPS as being a bad thing – yet there are multiple instances where the optimized strategy for killing a boss involves standing in a vuln mechanic to get more uptime, often in cases where the healer doesnt need to heal you anyway, or there is forced downtime after that mechanic.

I’m reasonably certain they are talking about taking vuln stacks from ignoring mechanics in unplanned moments.

Also, the amount of time you gain from doing those big pulls versus a more standard 2 pack (with the occasional 3 pack mixed in, especially the way the current dungeons are designed) isn’t exactly significant. A couple minutes per run at best for your average group, which can easily be lost by a mis-timed heal or errant cooldown or simply misjudging the ability of the group.

I’d be very surprised if the average run time for someone who focuses on smooth 2 pack pulls ends up around the same average time as someone who also pulls as big as you can, but wipes every few runs as a result (and assuming they are running primarily with random players through Duty Finder – if you’re going in with a pre-made group, it’s a different dynamic, obviously).

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styopa

As a White Mage main that loves tanking in most games:
“…Your goal in any dungeon … is not actually to get through as fast as possible.”
– said nearly no rando group whatever.

I won’t tank FFXIV any more. Just not worth it. I typically DO go slow at the start to get a feel for how the healer is handling it before I pick up the pace, but when I’m catching LOTS of heat by the first boss for not going fast enough?

Nah. No thanks. I’m here to have fun.

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Rndomuser

It is unfortunate you had such impatient people, back when I played FFXIV I only had a couple of those, most other times people never cared that the tank was going slow or starting slow.

Fallina
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Fallina

I remember when it used to be common courtesy to at least ask the healer if they wanted large pulls. To at least acknowledge that the size of the pull you were making was not standard and to “back off” if they weren’t going well or the healer was stressed. Not anymore. I’ve watched tank HP melt. They pop their invuln cooldown, then, instead of thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t do the big pulls,” they run right through all the mobs, straight to the next barrier. I’m like you with your tank, except on healer. I don’t like taking my healers into public queues because it’s just not fun for me to watch the tank’s HP plummet, nearly die, spamming heals the whole time because I literally have no time to do anything else except the occasional off GCD spell.