Wisdom of Nym: Where Final Fantasy XIV’s tutorials really fall down

Red means dead.

I don’t think there’s really a question to be asked about whether or not Final Fantasy XIV wants new players to join the game. The game is pretty transparent about all of this. There is a clear push to help people who have never played an MMO before get into the game with a gentle, comfortable on-ramp, even aside from the general effort made to cultivate a warm and outgoing community.

And yet… the game’s tutorials still leave something to be desired.

The game is not unaware of a need for more teaching. The Hall of the Novice, the new video tutorial series, consistently refined tutorials and so forth… it’s clear that this is something the team is aware of and is constantly working to improve, to make it easier for returning players to catch back up and new players to get up to speed. But this week I want to talk about areas wherein the tutorials are still kind of lacking, where the points of guidance players need are not being given.

No, not these sets. Yet.

Gearing up

FFXIV has a pretty good deterministic gear system that allows you to really tailor your gear acquisition to suit your particular interests. Through a combinations of tokens, enhancement items, and tomestones, it is actually pretty simple for players to stay on par with gear progression even if they have zero interest in progression raiding. This is a good thing, and it is very good that these options exist and are set up to work reliably.

Unfortunately, though, the game is absolute garbage at explaining any of this.

If you’ve played the game for a reasonable length of time, you know that you can get a new tomestone weapon through seven of the once-per-week tokens dropped at the end of the normal raid series and a little more than a week’s worth of tomestones. It’s not incomprehensible or badly set up. The problem is that it’s badly explained, so it’s quite possible for people to not understand how upgrade tokens work in the odd-numbered patches or why you can’t upgrade your weapons right away (because otherwise you’d never have a reason to engage with the Extreme battle).

This isn’t super complex, and I can understand to an extent why it’s not in there; it’s relevant only once you are up at the level cap, and it seems like at that point there’s some expectation that you can ask about it. But I think it’s something that really should be explained to players, especially new ones but also returning players. It’s pretty straightforward once you know how it works. But until you know how it works, it’s a mess of tokens and rewards with unclear value. That is honestly not a great feeling in any situation.

Targeting markers

Folks, we have all seen a new player do that. It is not malicious. It isn’t really the fault of the designers; the stack marker is pretty well designed visually to tell you, “Hey, stack up for this.” FFXIV has a solid language for what different target markers mean and how you should respond to them, and usually it only takes one or two times for players to get these things unless they are particularly dense. (This doesn’t always mean people respond accurately, of course; it just means that you don’t have an excuse of “I don’t know what that marker means” for long.)

But that doesn’t mean that these targeting markers don’t need some explanation.

One of the things that the developers have mentioned adding is some sort of midway tutorial area, like a Hall of the Novice But More Experienced, and that would be an ideal place to put these sorts of tutorials. You know about all of the basic things that the Hall of the Novice covers; here’s where you learn what different target markers mean and how to deal with some more advanced mechanics like tankbusters, stack markers, impact markers, and so forth. The game does its best to introduce these things steadily through gameplay, too.

The point isn’t that the various markers aren’t communicated; the point is that we could stand to have more and better communication to help bridge that gap of understanding. A more robust tutorial explaining these markers would not go awry, and while the game does steadily introduce this stuff before making it much more inventive and require much more involved interplay, everything that helps new players get up to speed faster is a net boon for the game as a whole.

Fingerblasting, I guess.

Rotations and job mechanics

Here’s someplace where I feel there’s a fine line to be cut, and cut it we shall. There’s a certain contingent of people who feel very strongly that if you are not able to perfectly execute your job opener with nigh-on mechanical precision in every single situation barring weird fights like the first boss of Troia, you are a garbage human and do not deserve to be clearing any content. These people are wrong, and they should feel bad.

FFXIV is, correctly, balanced so that most content can be cleared so long as your group is doing broadly all right. That Ninja with a picture-perfect opener is going to be outdamaging the Reaper who is not really up on the timing and rotation, but that’s about all the impact you’ll see as you make it through a dungeon. A White Mage who doesn’t DPS will not mean that your Abyssos fight is a lost cause. Below Extreme, sloppiness is punished only with slower clears; below Savage, you can still probably compensate for it well enough so long as you have a solid foundation.

My point here is not that the game should enforce hard standards of “you must be this good to enter” for the majority of content. By and large, the difficulty balance is just fine. My point here is instead that for people who genuinely want to improve and get better, the game should provide some resources and better tools for learning mechanics.

The reason this is also a fine line is that there are player communities devoted to optimizing these things, and there’s always going to be a certain level of players doing it better than the developers themselves. But sometimes just knowing the intended flow of abilities can help players a lot. It’s useful to know, for example, that Ninja is expected to use Ten Chi Jin after Mug and Trick Attack are on the target and not before. That’s not really self-explanatory. It’s not wildly complex, but with a job that’s already very complex especially, it’s a good thing to know.

You don’t need to be great to clear most stuff, and that’s by design. But if you want to be better, you should not have to defile yourself by dipping into the Balance Discord channel. Therein lies madness and poorly thought-out grousing.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk a bit about balance between jobs, and why an awful lot of people are making it very clear that they do not understand how balance works in the slightest. Special guest star of Final Fantasy XI!

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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