Posted in Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft

Deja vu? I think I have that in the kitchen.

I’ve had a couple people ask me why I’m not even looking at Final Fantasy 14, to which I generally reply that I’m pretty much over and done with my love for the Final Fantasy series, and I disliked almost everything about Final Fantasy 11.  Of course, it doesn’t help matters when Square Enix comes out with ridiculous plans like penalizing customers for playing their game for more than a certain time period.

The proposed “fatigue” system in FF14 has stirred up a lot of controversy this past week.  Basically, if you play a character for more than eight hours a week (not a day, a week), then you start to get less and less experience as you go along until you’re finally getting nothing at all.  This system resets after the full week’s gone by.

Now, to you or I, this smacks of punishing players for playing, right?  But to Square’s wacky mentality, it’s because they’re trying to impose some sort of artificial fairness across all of the playerbase:

“First off, the main concept behind FFXIV is allowing those players with little time on their hands to play effectively, and game balance is based off of that. Furthermore, it is being designed to not give those with more time on their hands to play an unfair advantage. Because of that, systems such as Guardian’s Favor (a bonus to Guildleves) have been implemented to make leveling in the short-term easier than leveling in the long-term.”

I don’t really have the energy or desire to spell out why this is incredibly stupid, but it’s already starting to bite the company on its bum, as well it should.

The funny thing, to me, is that right here is an example of history repeating itself, and companies failing to learn the lessons of the past.

Way back in early 2004, World of Warcraft was in the beta stage, and those of us on the outside were devouring every scrap of new information, patch notes, etc., as it progressed.  In April, Blizzard threw testers for a loop with a new concept called a “rest state.”  To quote the 0.6 patch notes:

  • The Rest state modifier only affects experience earned from killing monsters. It does not affect experience earned from quest rewards or other experience rewards in the game (such as future PvP experience rewards).
  • As players kill monsters and gain experience points, they become increasingly tired. Their rest level reflects this tiredness in five tiers: well rested, rested, normal, fatigued and exhausted.
  • Well-rested players receive bonus experience points for killing monsters. Rested players receive a smaller bonus. At the normal rest level, players receive no bonus experience points for killing monsters. Fatigued players receive half of the normal experience points from their kills, and when exhausted they will receive a quarter of normal experience from a kill.
  • To become well rested and start earning bonus experience from killing monsters again, players must either log out or rest online at an Inn (see below) for several hours.
  • Thanks to the comforts of a warm bed and a hearty meal, players who rest or log out at an Inn can regain energy up to the maximum level: well rested (it takes 8 hours to go from exhausted back to well rested). Players who log out anywhere else in the world will only regain energy up to the normal level.
  • Note that while your character is resting at an Inn, you can play other characters on your account. The rest state is per character only.

Now, this is certainly not what made it into the game, and the reason was that testers and followers flipped their collective lids over it.  Penny Arcade even made it into a strip, which you can read above, gently mocking both sides of the debate.  But do you see the similarities?  Both games are/were trying to manipulate how players spent their time in the game, by rewarding those who used alts and punishing those who stuck with one character for a great length of time.

Blizzard, of course, decided to rethink this, and eventually toned it into a no-punishment, all-reward system that we see in WoW today (and many games since).  I thought it was an interesting experiment at the time, but nobody likes to feel confined in their gameplay, and unless you’re very sensitive to these things, it didn’t make any difference whether others were leveling faster or slower than you.  But apparently FF14 doesn’t think so, and history loops back on itself.

12 thoughts on “Deja vu? I think I have that in the kitchen.

  1. Ah Syp, you missed the word on this one:

    There’s and interview with a WoW dev out there who explains that after the resting system got hammered in beta, they adapted just by halving xp gains and making rested a x2 bonus. No real change except semantics and the removal of some levels.

  2. Yeah, it´s not the same in FF. But that´s such a bad idea really. Instead on focusing on problems like (still) horrid PC controls, crapy ui and many more, they simply force you to stop lvling.

    I was in the beta until now (just got it of my machine), they are in no touch with their playerbase, and don´t seem to care either.

  3. 8 hours a week?! Even I play more than that . . .

    Is FFXIV like XI, where you get very few character slots and have to pay a monthly fee for additional ones? If so, a “feature” like this would likely lead to actual mass boycotts rather than just the usual nerd rage.

    I play pretty casually, but even to me that sounds ridiculous. Most people who play games casually don’t give a crap how quickly others advance — if they did they wouldn’t be playing casually 😛 I just dont’ see any point to this concept except to piss people off.

  4. I lost interest in Final Fantasy after the first game for the PS2. Final Fantasy 4,5,6, & 7 will always be my favorites.

  5. Not to sound jaded, but the reason to implement this is the same as it was when WoW did it: it increases the leveling time of the game. The theory is that if it takes longer to level, people will play the game for more months, leading to more income.

    The problem is that, for me at least, I don’t always play to level cap, so this kind of tactic is more of an annoyance rather than a deterence.

  6. @jason

    You’re somewhat off. You’re probably talking about Rob Pardo’s presentation at the Game Developers Conference. Here’s a more precise summary:

    “Make it a Bonus: Players respond better to incentives than to punishment. That’s a no-brainer, but Pardo had a couple of funny stories from the WoW beta to back it up. He said that originally the Rest System in WoW worked like this: You started out gaining 100% xp, but the longer you played, the more that percentage dropped, eventually falling to 50%. This was to discourage players from playing more than a few hours at a time. Beta players hated this system — so Pardo changed it by doubling the amount of xp required to reach maximum level in the game, starting players out with 200% xp gained, and slowly dropping it to 100% xp as they played. Same effect, same numbers, the only difference was the way the numbers were presented — and people applauded the ‘change’.”

    http://www.wow.com/2010/03/12/rob-pardo-speaks-about-blizzard-game-design/

  7. So what we have here is a sort of “Effective Play-Time cap”. If we assume that FF14 uses the 15$/month billing cycle, the price works out to about 50 cents for one hour and 8 minutes of EPT. Still more valuable than a Frappuccino, though.

  8. :/

    So this is bad when FFXIV does it, but when EVE pretty much forces EVERY player to advance at the same rate through realtime sp gain, it’s great.

    and 16 hours of leveling is not enough per week (after 8 hours, it reduces down in exp till zero)

    It’s so ironic, people complain about how MMOs are these huge timesinks, yet when someone makes steps to limit the amount of time per week you can spend to help you have a life it’s bad. Especially when the game is a spiritual sequel to FFXI, where you could easily sink 12 hours a day into it and still take years to finish.

  9. Right, thanks Zambos. Halving xp gains or doubling level requirements, either way WoW’s current system has the “same numbers” as the one Syp thinks was so bad.

    If we need to change the semantics, so be it, but it’s hardly a catastrophe if you have some way of putting people with reasonable schedules close to those who’ll spend all day, every day in game.

    These systems:
    Make it easier to level as a group of friends without strictly playing the same amount of time.

    Increase retention at cap, as the first people to reach cap won’t be all alone with their cohort of similar obsessives. People playing normal schedules won’t be as far behind.

    Encourage approaching the game as a fun activity, rather than a leveling treadmill. It was always nice in WoW when someone who was out of rested xp came to help out his lower-level guildies. Devs are allowed to do this sort of social engineering to make the game fun for everyone–it falls in the same category as designing cities to be good social hubs, by, say, not allowing global access to auction houses.

  10. True, the numbers are the same – the overall time spent leveling didn’t change. However, the effect on player psychology, and the overall incentive structure are both totally different.

    Being punished for investing a certain amount of time into a game doesn’t feel good. On the other hand, getting a little bonus (in this case, bonus EXP) upon logging back in after some time off is satisfying.

    So again, yeah, the effect on leveling is similar either way. Good game design isn’t just a matter of numbers, though. Really, WoW’s rest system backs up what Syp is saying: it’s the result of Blizzard learning how important it is to make things feel like a bonus, opposed to a punishment. That may not universally apply, but it was certainly a good rule to follow in this case.

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