Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sequels

I'm sure anyone reading this has already heard that FF14: Online has been announced. I'd call it "FFXIV" like a normal person, but don't Roman numerals start to look a little ridiculous at some point?

Anyway, I'm both intrigued by the possibility of a sequel or much improved follow up to FF11, but at the same time, not sure I personally ever want to devote anywhere near this amount of time to an MMO ever again. To do all the cool endgame stuff in FF11, such as it is, you really need to devote at least a few nights a week to an LS. If you've got a job, significant other, school, or any of those things on the list of things SE warns you not to forget about everytime you login to FF11, that can be a little much.

I had planned to write a reply/rebuttal to Pitchfork's FF11 article, but in thinking about it, he's not really wrong on that much. (The rest of the series on hte other FF games is both entertaining and informative, check it out.)

So, instead I want to focus on sequels in general, what I would hope to see in a spiritual successor to FF11, and what would really need to be different about it to consider ever playing an MMO again.

Morrowind Vs. Oblivion

I played quite a bit of Morrowind and finished most of what there was to do in that game including its first expansion. It had some definite odditities though. A presentation like a first-person shooter, yet stabbing or shooting your target accurately didn't necessarily make your attack land, a hidden d20 style roll did. Most of these were changed to be more intuitive in Oblivion, but the latter is still regarded as a weaker game as far as its story goes.

Janky Combat

I would kind of expect FF14 to be a similar evolution in this regard. Things like being frozen in place unable to move because somebody casts a spell on you, being unable to re-draw your weapon for a period (even if you would have to wait to auto-attack again until the delay cooldown), "Unable to cast spells at this time.", "Unable to use that ability.", and probably half a dozen other things make FF11's combat kind of clunky.

Why couldn't most of those actions be sort of queued? I accidentally put my weapon away before killing something, now I have to wait 8 seconds to draw it again? I couldn't draw it and have to wait for the delay? Why am I completely immobile for 5 seconds when somebody casts Haste on me? There's no good reason for these things to happen.

It's like having "ineffective attacks" in FF1. Dump that crap in a follow-up.

HNMs/Endgame

As it stands now, many parts of endgame can only be enjoyed by a handful of people per server simply because of mob respawn times being 3 days in real time, or even just being several hours which means if one NA Sky shell gets an NM no other NA Sky shell will that night. The same is true of Sea and SCNMs.

There's other scheduleable events like Dynamis, Limbus, Assault/Salvage, Einherjar, etc, that have their own problems. A major one is that there's only a few zones and they aren't instanced. If FF14 doesn't have every single similar endgame event instanced then it's conclusive evidence that Square-Enix does not understand their own game or the playerbase at all.

There's also the matter of HNMs that spawn only once a day at most and drop Rare/Ex that people sell or wildly expensive items like Herald's Gaiters. That really doesn't make the game particularly enjoyable for people who get cockblocked entirely or have to spend massive amounts of gil to the few who monopolize the NMs.

The Zeni Notorious Monsters kind of got around that, but obtaining Zeni is kind of retarded and a pretty big timesink. I would hope to see a better designed ZNM-style system in FF14.

Character/Equipment Progression

There's also a bit of a problem with character progression in FF11. Everyone looks exactly the same. There's a handful of gear for each slot for a few different builds on every job, and if you don't have that you're considered gimp.

Group 1 merits are nearly the same for everyone on every job. There's a few that are clearly superior with only a little bit of variation in what's most desirable based on a few niche activities.

Group 2 merits were introduced as a way to make it so not everyone would have all the same spells and abilities as everyone else. They really only created another thing you must have or be considered gimp. For most jobs there's one build that's good and a bunch of others that are really kind of idiotic or crazy.

While I haven't seen WoW in person since it was in beta a few years ago, I've seen that it has some different character progression schemes which are considered valid and efficient by the player base. (And, amusingly, Blizzard is going to get people to pay them $20 to be able to switch between two builds on the fly.)

While there is some obvious differences between WoW with single classed characters and FF11 where every character can level every class (and some sorry bastards do) I would like to see a more flexible Job System. And not just some new features that nobody with some understanding of game mechanics might do for everyone else's lulz (WAR/WHM, etc).

Possibly make more subjobs genuinely useful. Or perhaps allow subjobs to be switched in the field.

I'm not sure what exactly, but the Job System has been improved in every incarnation and for FF14 to be more than FF11: DirectX 10 Edition, it's going to need to find some ways to improve.

Trans-Time Sinks

"Trans-Time Sinks" is a shiny new term I'm coining for things that really shouldn't be in any MMO ever. They're like the transfat of time sinks. As "immersive" as it is to stand around waiting 22 minutes for a Ferry to arrive, it really isn't that enjoyable. 11 minutes of auto-running at a wall so I can catch the Airship while I attend to real life does not good gameplay make.

Wouldn't a massive world with international trade have more than one fucking boat anyway? Either get instanced Airships running every 3 minutes, ubiquitous teleportation services or spells, or something else new entirely.

FF14 shouldn't feature "waiting 35 minutes for people to get their asses to Einherjar."

Missions and Soloing

FF11's biggest fault is probably how grouping dependent it is. People shouldn't be able to solo Tiamat, but it also shouldn't be amazing that somebody level 75 can complete a quest by himself for his level 56 Artifact Feet or whatever.

Missions that require a bunch of people shouldn't have EXP loss penalties for people who come along to help and shouldn't be so rigid in who is even allowed to enter the BCNM to help. Offerring some worthwhile rewards would also really help in this regard.

(Note to SE: This is 2009, 1,500 EXP for wandering through level capped zones and winning a hard fight is not a worthwhile reward.)

Perhaps there could also be non-retarded NPCs that could be hired to help with Missions? Wouldn't it be great if Bob the WHM could hire an NPC Paladin to come and tank his San d'Oria 2-3 Black Dragon BCNM? You know, instead of /shouting for two hours and begging for help with it?

Maybe even give those NPCs better AI and greater player control than Stop-Start and Leeeerooooy Jenkiiiinnnnnnssss!!!!'ing into the boss at a BCNM fight? I've played Half-life 2, I've seen NPC helpers don't have to be 100% retarded like it's 1992 still.

More Technical Stuff

Now, I want to move into less directly gameplay related things and more technical and social issues regarding FF11, FF14, and MMOs in general.

Casual Players

Much has changed since FF11 launched and in FF11 itself to allow more casual players to enjoy the game. Solo EXP being possible and not completely horrible has made leveling subjobs by yourself on your own randomly available time pretty viable. Burn parties have made getting hundreds of merits pretty reasonable compared to 2005.

But soloing to 75 is still kind of ridiculous. And there's several jobs (BLM, BST, etc) that aren't wanted in conventional parties and Square-Enix seems completely unable to adress this.

I'm not sure how you would go about fixing this really. Probably just increase EXP and EXP from IT mobs.

As far as FF11 endgame goes, being able to play casually is...kind of bleak. Other than Nyzul Isle, there really isn't much a pickup group can do escpecially without some Rare/Ex gear you really need a large static group (LS) to obtain in the first place.

I'd really hope that FF14's endgame is a little more accessible for casual players.

I personally am thinking I won't play FF14 for that reason, and quite a few people over on BG have said the same. Not just the "starting from scrach" thing and "needing to figure out how to make gil again" stuff either. It just takes too much time to play an MMO and I could be experiencing dozens of other games in whatever time I have for gaming. At my own pace and accomplishing things in them instead of grinding out some incremental improvement in FF14.

Importing Characters?

Probably the most entertaining conceit being discussed on BG and elsewhere is will we be able to import characters from FF11 into FF14.

While it might be more tempting to hop into FF14 being able to bring my pretty well geared/merited character from FF11, I don't think I'd want to do it. That would completely kill both the ability of SE to drastically alter (for better or worse) the gameplay from FF11 and make it so new people would be unwilling to start playing who hadn't been playing FF11.

People also point out that no other MMO ever let people do this. Those are both good enough reason for me to be fairly sure we won't see our FF11 dudes running around FF14 (even if we can make ones that look almost identical as the trailer seems to suggest).

Regional Servers?

Probably the most interesting thing I've seen mentioned is will there be regional servers? Or perhaps no-region servers and regional servers mixed with players choosing on which type they would like to play?

Being able to be on an NA-only server could be interesting. There would be times when most of the playerbase is sleeping, so timed spawns would be less camped. Then again, timed spawns are...kind of lame. As I mentioned above already. So, I'd prefer to see less of them in FF14.

There's also the issue of "JP ONRY!!!!!!! \(O.o)/". Which wouldn't be an issue on NA-only servers. But at the same time, it probably wouldn't be an issue if there were no-region servers and region servers mixed. Japanese who hate everyone else for whatever reason could go to JP-onry servers and leave the rest of us the fuck alone.

So, I would kind of like to see a mix of regional and non-regional servers. I personally like being able to meet people from all over the world playing, it's pretty neat.

TTFN!

That's about all I have to say on the whole FF14 thing.

There's plenty of stuff to read on the TTTO as well as additional info on FF14 as it becomes available, so have a look there if you haven't already.

1 comment:

  1. Here's the followup interview with more FFXIV info: Live Blog

    They do specifically say they're incorporating all the things they've learned into the new game. Some things I'd think that would include is the instanced fighting (like Assaults) and the HNMs (like Campaign or ZNMs).

    They say the job system is completely different, maybe that will address some of those issues.

    They mention that they've tried to make it very accessible to casual players too. People with less time to spend.

    Importing characters is such a ridiculous idea I'm not even go try mention their denial of that possibility (Oh! whoops!)

    They do not confirm regional servers. They do confirm servers not being regional as well as a simultaneous release worldwide.

    I'm going to have to get it. It'll mean running FFXI and FFXIV simultaneously for a couple years, or until I choose one over the other, but I love this game more then anything else I've played, so I can't see not doing the new one. I'm way more excited about a new one then I'd ever have believed. Mainly because I don't have time to play FFXI, let alone another. But I'm excited anyway!

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