I got really excited when SE made the announcement about FFXIV at E3 a few weeks ago. I watched the trailer several times, spent the evening talking about it with my brother and most of that night digging around the internet for more info. This led me to the ZAM FFXIV forum, which at that moment was nothing more then links to the official FFXIV site and a whole lot of speculation. Reading the threads there got me even more excited about the game, and for awhile I was pretty convinced I wouldn't be able to wait a year until it's release. I was even considering sending a bunch of emails to SE begging to get in on the NA playtest.
The talk on the forum very quickly moved into the realm of asking how much the new game would be like FFXI, which quickly led to asking what parts of FFXI needed to be fixed, what could be learned from other games and what worked well and should be carried over. This is the point where it occured to me that playing FFXI could scratch my itch and hold me over until FFXIV. And that's pretty much how and why I started playing.
I've been keeping up with the FFXIV forum and I've noticed a few things that I find pretty... disturbing/amazing/insane. Granted, any forum is going to be populatedby people opinionated enough to post their opinions (myself included), but still...
- It seems like a huge amount of the forum population has a thriving, all consuming hatred for World of Warcraft. Not a passive indifference, or the dislike of someone who tried the game but decided it wasn't for them, but the kind of seething hatred usually reserved for the people who killed your family. This means that any conversation comparing FFXI to WoW, mentioning the merits of WoW or even making a casual reference to WoW quickly degenerates into nastiness and name calling.
This is too bad because it seems very, very likely that SE will make use of many of the ideas that have worked in WoW. This would include stuff like accessable solo and small group content, easy travel, seamless zones, easy party formation, quicker leveling, alternative ways to gain experience (like exploring and quests), more in game instructions and directions and... well, that's just the tip of the iceberg. This doesn't mean that FFXIV will be a clone of WoW ( despite what many, many people over at ZAM have been shouting). Rather, SE has the chance to learn from the success and mistakes of the current generation of MMO's. Like they did when they created FFXI.
- FFXI is not a flawless game. I'm new to it of course, but I have a little bit of previouss exprience with it, and I did some research before I started. I know that travel, waiting for parties and grinding for experience are all hidious time sinks. I know that soloing is very difficult (although apparently easier now then it used to be). There are other problems as well, but it seems to mee like these are the big ones. Time sinks are not fun. This is a universal rule of game design. I won't fault FFXI for being the way it is. It's an old game, part of a previous genration where time sinks were acceptable. I'm positive that SE recognizes these problems and will be addressing them in the new game. But...
It seems like there's a sizable number of people on the FFXIV forum that don't want these problems fixed. Conversations surrounding these issues have included such stunning responses as (and I'll be paraphrasing here since I did not have the forsight to bookmark specific threads):
1. Soloing shouldn't be an option, because this is an MMO and if you want to solo you should play FFXII.
2. Faster travel will ruin the game. I enjoy running everywhere. It makes the world seem larger. Better travel options would ruin that.
3. We can't get rid of the grind. If people want to play an easy mmo they should try WoW. Without the grind people would reach the level cap in a few months. Only noobs want an easy game. Hardcore players appreciate the grind.
4. Grinding should be the only way to gain experience. Nobody want to do quests where you just have to kill 10 of the same monsters. It's too easy and it gets boring fast.
5. Quests and in game instructions that help players find their way through the game make the game too easy. Noob's who can't just figure this stuff out on their own should go back to WoW.
It's kind of insane, isn't it? Clearly the game has problems, but so many of these players have been dealing with the problems for so long that they no longer see them as problems. Or they've developed a kind of badge of honor for having dealt with it so long. And if they had to deal with it, so does everyone else!
-There's some kind of crazy consensus that somehow SE is only interested in courting hardcore gamers, and has no interest in the enormous casual market that WoW and other games have managed to capture. The arguement is that because FFXI is clearly aimed at hardcore players, FFXIV will be as well. Except I'm pretty sure that's a false assumption. FFXI may have become a home for hardcore players, and it certainly comes from a generation where MMO's were much more about overcoming time sinks, but I doubt that SE ever inteded to drive away casual players in favore of hardcore ones.
While I can't imagine FFXIV will be accessable in the same ways as WoW is now, I find it hard to believe that SE won't be trying hard to entice new players with easier content, more intuitive controls, easier partying and leveling, much more social content, more charatcer customization options, more solo and small group content, more alternative play options, less draconian billing and registration options, faster and easier travel and easier access to end game content. The crazy thing is that none of these things are to be feared. All of them will lead to a better game experience!
Alright, I'll end by saying that there are lots of smart people over at the FFXIV as well, many of them making interesting and valid arguement. It's worth a read.