FFXIV: Might need to move up that “bigger than WoW now” timetable

May 11, 2015

FFXIV isn’t out in South Korea? That was news to me, and has a huge impact on when FFXIV will eventually overtake WoW as the biggest real MMO out. Serious one-two punch coming up, with the expansion and now hitting a major market like South Korea. Suggesting that FFXIV will be bigger than WoW by 2016 is actually looking really conservative now, damn.

Also you gotta love Square keeping the sub model even in F2P mega-land huh? Not only do they not have to waste effort on the usual F2P garbage like flooding the shop with the One Ring and coming up with new and creative ways to spam you about it, but unlike somebody (WoW) every account globally for FFXIV will be a real account, not 5m people dying in some internet cafe and paying two cents an hour to do so.


FFXIV: Should I be worried about the expansion?

April 29, 2015

Quick concern here; currently I’m lvl 35 in FFXIV, and odds aren’t great that I’ll have time to hit 50 and do most of the end-game stuff in the game before the expansion hits. From those who are 50 and have been following the expansion news, is this something to worry about?

My main concern is that once the expansion hits, finding groups for the older content will become impossible or require super-long queues, and that any progress or systems at the current level cap will become obsolete due to the level increase (basically what happens in most other themeparks when they soft reset via cap increase). Again, based on current info available, is this going to be the case or does SquareEnix have something in place to not repeat this common mistake of the themepark model?


GTA V: A monster of quality content

April 21, 2015

Quick plugs first: The CoC clan has one spot currently open. Anyone with a non-rushed TH7+ that will be active please apply to “Supreme Cream!” and mention the blog. Also the Boom Beach group “Hardcore Casual” has spots open as well. More relaxed in that game so no reqs to join.

Moving on.

GTA V is an example of a massive budget used well. For example, the amount of top-notch voice work you will miss or have in the background easily outnumbers the total amount of voice work in most ‘AAA’ games total. Or how some of the side activities are better ‘games’ than other products that do just that one thing. Or just the sheer size and detail of the world, right down to traffic patterns. It really is mind-blowing when you stop and think about all of the work put into the game, and how somehow, amazingly it all comes together to form such a great game. From a project management aspect the game is a huge accomplishment.

It has been said in the past that WoW is impossible to replicate because it has so much content, but WoW over time has been replacing stuff rather than just adding more and more on (unlike, say, EVE). It’s why you can launch FFXIV and not have it feel like a much smaller version of WoW, despite WoW having nearly a decade head start. GTA V isn’t that. Sure, it builds off of what worked in previous GTA games, but GTA V itself is a massive package of content that few if any games can even come close to matching (Skyrim is really the only title that comes to mind).

It also brings me back to when I played Saint’s Row 3 (a solid game itself), and why that game is smart to push what it does well (over the top action and comedy) and not just try to straight-up be a GTA clone. If it did that, it would get slaughtered, because it would be nearly impossible to stack up in terms of quality AND quantity, and the corners cut would be noticeable.


FFXIV: Playing different roles on one character is brilliant

March 18, 2015

Quick note to start with: Playing the relaunch of The Elder Scrolls Online just reinforced how much better FFXIV is at being a thempark MMO. I might still try to get back into ESO at some point, but after spending 15 minutes with it, I’m more than fine waiting a bit longer.

Anyway, FFXIV. Having finally hit level 30, I’ve dug more seriously into leveling other roles using other (non-questing) systems, and man oh man is it fun. As I keep saying about FFXIV, what makes the game great isn’t the addition of some new magical feature, but rather taking the existing themepark formula and significantly refining it towards perfection. Rift certainly wasn’t themepark 3.0 (thanks Trion!), but FFXIV is. The order of significant themepark evolution now goes EQ1->WoW->FFXIV.

When I play MMOs I want to play my avatar, which is why I’ve always hated alts. I don’t want to be a bunch of characters in a game; I want to be ONE character in a world experiencing things. I don’t have multiple people playing my account, so I shouldn’t need multiple characters to play the game.

FFXIV nails this by letting you switch from role to role, and also by making the gathering and crafting roles a real thing rather than just a single skill bar to max out. Finally I can ‘play an alt’ in an MMO while still being my one character. That sounds so simple, but at least for me goes such a long way.

But that feature alone wouldn’t be nearly as great if FFXIV did what most other themeparks do and force you into the normal questing grind until you can do other stuff. FFXIV has that option mind you, there are three separate leveling chains from 1-cap (I believe), but that is but one choice among many (how sandboxy huh?), and you can mix and match all of the options as you go, which is also brilliant. Whether you decide to chase Fates, run dungeons, do guildhests, or just farm mobs for xp and crafting resources, how often and in what order you do all of this is up to you.

What turns a lot of MMO players off from a sandbox is the lack of direction, while what annoys others in a themepark is the on-rails experience. FFXIV has plenty of guided content (and also plenty of not-so-guided content), but at almost any point you can stop the ride and do something else, potentially never returning to that ride again (the main quest chain aside). I love that, because I can play an MMO ‘my way’, but it’s not as investment-heavy as a sandbox often requires.


FFXIV: Sub model isn’t just about higher quality, its also about safety

March 10, 2015

Full interview can be found here.

So, just because ESO moved into a free-to-play subscription model, it doesn’t necessarily mean for us to move into that direction as well. Also, for use we have taken player surveys and took a look at what our customer satisfaction level is and we actually garnered data that shows that over 80% of our players are satisfied with the subscription model and they feel very assured that it is a constant. You are safe to be in that environment, and you know that you can expect a decent amount of updates and content. So, we don’t believe that FFXIV needs to shift in that direction and not everything that other competitors or titles do will necessarily apply to our title.

Bold section for emphasis as its something I’ve always felt is true about the sub model vs other models, and it’s nice to have a senior dev from the most recent successful MMO state it as well.

As I’ve written before, each update from a sub MMO is usually a celebration of getting something new or improved, while each update under non-subs is a potential “give us more money” cash-shop power update or ‘addition’. In short, you cheer sub updates, and grow to fear non-sub updates, which itself has a pretty significant impact on overall enjoyment.

PS: If/when they add the snowboarding game from FFVII, that’s going to be a massive time sink for me. God I loved that game back in the day.

 


FFXIV: Gold Saucer is golden side content

March 9, 2015

I was finally able to check out the Gold Saucer in FFXIV, and its a rather great piece of content IMO.

The area looks great, and has plenty of nostalgia bits from previous FF games (FFVII sticks out in my mind mainly because I spent an ungodly amount of time in it). The music is also fantastic and keeps the mood up. Finally the place feels more alive than in non-MMO FF games, not just because you have a ton of players running around, but also the wandering NPCs are a nice touch.

The mini-games are fine; you will likely play them a few times and move on, and I’d say that bit of content, as well as the initial tour quest, will take an hour at most. The juicy bits are the Triple Triad card game (returning from FFVIII) and chocobo racing (FFVII, maybe others?).

Triple Triad is as good as I remember it. Its a surprisingly fun card game on its own, and then you mix in the MMO aspect of playing against other players, as well as scattering NPCs you can play against across the different zones, and its near-perfect MMO content. Building up a great deck and refining strategy was already fun in FFVIII, but now you also have the ultimate ‘pay day’ in tournaments against other players for unique and ever-changing rewards. Funny how entertaining this stuff can be when a dev actually takes something and enhances it due to playing it inside an MMO, rather than just going down the lazy route and tacking it on.

Chocobo racing, based on a dozen or so races, is awesome. The fact that you race against other players rather than bots alone increases the fun-factor big time compared to the single-player FF games. You also have the more familiar systems, like your chocobo gaining levels, being able to train it (pay casino currency to buy stat increasing items), and the biggest time-drain of them all, breeding. This bit of content has a LONG road to travel to reach the upper end, which again is perfect IMO for sorta side fluff that can also get you ‘main game’ upgrades (you can buy a bit of gear with casino currency, though how strong it is I’m not sure since its lvl50 gear and I’m still just 29 on my main class).

The racing itself is also interesting. Your chocobo runs along the track automatically, but you can move side to side to grab power ups, run over speed boosts, or to avoid other players using abilities. Your chocobo also has stamina, which is drained when you sprint. The basic strategy for the race is to finish with zero stamina, using every bit of power to finish as fast as possible, but the various abilities you and others can use tends to mix this up for you. At higher levels, different abilities can be trained to further add some depth/complexity, but I’m not there yet.

What FFXIV does better than most, if not all MMOs is add content rather than replace it. When new stuff is released it rarely if ever makes something else obsolete, which is why, even now, there is so much ‘stuff’ to do in the game. The Gold Saucer follows this design, adding a fun bit of ‘side’ content that fits in perfectly with everything else already in place.


FFXIV: 4 million ‘registered accounts’

February 27, 2015

Square Enix, in announcing 4m players, continues to troll all of us with their use of the term ‘registered accounts‘ in a world where F2P exists and the Turbines of the world announce number of characters created as an example of success.

As stated before, for whatever reason Square uses ‘registered accounts’ instead of subscribers, but they mean subscribers. So 4 million before the release of the game’s first paid expansion is rather historic; only WoW ever hit that mark, and if we are tracking growth since release, the chart for FFXIV looks very similar to WoW in 2004-2006.

With the expected sub dip for WoW coming ‘soon’, the question comes up once again; when will FFXIV have more subs than WoW? I think the safe money is just after the launch of the expansion, especially if it launches during one of the many and very long content lulls that WoW is infamous for, that FFXIV continues to show is more Blizzard being lazy than any real constraint in terms of content delivery pace/quality.

The other interesting question is at what number will WoW officially be dethroned? It dropped to 7m or so subs before, but perhaps it drops further this time around? Will the number be 6.5, 6, 5.5? What will FFXIV be at after the expansion? I’d put my money on the number being around 5.5-7 million. I think WoW will drop rather sharply, and I think a lot of those players, if they haven’t already, will head to FFXIV.

Either way, interesting times. FFXIV in many ways is a modern vanilla WoW; fitting that the ‘WoW-killer’ will be a game that is, in many ways, WoW’s best version that it itself has moved away from that their own expense. There is a very solid lesson in that for the genre, so I’m all for it.


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