Dear Syp, please stop trying to make FFXIV happen

Dearest Syp,

When you read this, it’s probably been three to six months since you wrote this. The MMO world is alight with buzz over FFXIV: Shadowbringers and about half of your friends are playing it. You’ve probably forgotten — weak as your mind is — the last time you played, and so you’ve decided to comb back through your blog post history on this game to refresh your mind.

That’s why I’m writing this. That’s why I’m here to remind you that, just as much as you’re not a fan of feta cheese on salads, you just don’t like Final Fantasy XIV — and you need to stop trying to make it happen.

Trust me, I know what you’re thinking. I’m you, after all, just the you of your past. I know that, on paper, FFXIV checks off many of the boxes of “must haves” for an MMO. It’s got a strong story emphasis, a thriving population, a tab-targeting combat scheme, a robust housing system, the ability to switch classes, and a community that’s kind of crazy about fashion.

And so since enough time has gone by, you’re probably thinking that you just haven’t given it the fair shot you should. Maybe, just maybe, you can crack that code if you can approach the game with a fresh perspective or a different way to play.

The problem, dear Syp, is that you simply don’t like this game. Be honest with yourself — you really have given it more than a fair shot over, what, three years and 300 days of subscription time. You had some fun, met some great friends, and enjoyed it for a spell. But ultimately, every single time you came to the same conclusion as I am right now, that it’s just not the game for you.

Maybe it’s the aesthetics or the ploddingly slow story and combat. It definitely doesn’t help that despite that out of a dozen or so classes, you like pretty much none of them. The pieces may be good, but the combination doesn’t please you. And so every time you end up subbing for a month or so, only to become disillusioned with the taste of this game and wander away, out $12 and several hours that could’ve been spent better in other games.

It’s time to call it quits with FFXIV. It’s perfectly OK for others to like it, bashing it is not why I’m writing this. I’m just trying to remind you that your MMO gaming path going forward probably shouldn’t include this game, even if it does end up being the last title standing. Branch out. Try something new. Check out some older proven favorites. But your time here is done.

Sincerely,

Syp of May 2019

FFXIV: Search, heal, and destroy

As I may have mentioned before, my second time through FFXIV here has been a lot more organized and driven than my first. The first time around? It was all about learning and experimentation, which resulted in a lot of grinding and repeated content. This time, sticking with the same job/class has resulted in me rocketing up through the levels and greatly outpacing the MSQ levels.

In fact, I stopped doing daily dungeons for a while because I hated getting so far ahead. Plus, the lowbie dungeons are soooo boring to heal, since FFXIV level-scales you down and takes away your fancy post-30 job skills. Whee, I have one whole heal spell to use. This is living.

So I’ve been focusing almost entirely on the main story quest — and as I said, I printed out a complete list of all of the quest names to keep track of where I’m at. As of this writing, I’m almost done with the second of 16 pages, nearly complete with the 21-30 content (as my Scholar rushes into the early 40s).

And as I know I’ve said before as well, this MMO frustrates me because it’s almost completely balanced between things that I find fun and interesting and things that annoy (or bore) the snot out of me. My greatest wish for this game is for FFXIV to decisively swing over into the former and just stay there — otherwise known as “clicking.” But as I know the bulk of the story to come for the next couple of months for me and the skills I’m going to be getting, I don’t think that there’s much to anticipate other than hopefully shooting up through the content to new stuff (to me) before I lose interest.

Maybe FFXIV just needs to be one of those “every so often” MMOs for me that I can keep up on the side. I’m already starting to look around for a stronger second game, as I’m looking into SWTOR and ESO while also pushing myself to try out new games this year.

In any case, I remind myself often that there is plenty to enjoy here. Some of the story is really good and carries a more cohesive narrative than I find in most MMOs. I really do like healing and look forward to doing so in mid- and high-level dungeons. And there’s the upcoming excitement of Shadowbringers, which is bound to get a lot of attention turned back to this game. There’s something comforting about being latched on to a “game of the month” to keep one from worrying about the downfall of other titles.

A FFXIV Christmas miracle

I think that MMO holidays are always a tad bit intimidating when you’re coming to them as a newbie. You don’t have any idea how complicated or involved or difficult they are, and there’s also the added pressure of years’ worth of content stacking up. So while everyone else seems to be zipping around with all that knowhow and getting sweet rewards, you’re fumbling and feeling a little insecure.

It’s why I completely avoided FFXIV’s Christmas event the last time I was in the game over the holidays. Just didn’t want to bother with it. But this time around, I’m comfortable with my progress and reassured by other players that it really wasn’t too overwhelming. And you know what? Turns out they were right!

Like nearly any other storyline in the game, the Christmas event took the form of a medium-sized quest chain that involved a performance at the Starlight celebration, a runaway girl, and one of the most off-putting holiday soundtrack pieces I’ve ever heard in an MMO. At the end of the chain, players have the option to “conduct” a small choir through a quick-time event minigame that is very forgiving and doesn’t take too long. I think that, start to finish, I ran it about 10 times in 15 minutes total to get all of the tokens for the items I wanted.

From the quest chain itself, I got a nice choir outfit that looks quite charming on my Lalafel. From the tokens, I grabbed the full set of indoor decorations for my apartment/house (whenever I get one!). A holiday event that doesn’t overstay its welcome or bore me? I’d say that was a Christmas miracle.

Apart from that, I’ve been engaged with a pretty regular pattern in the game. Now that I have Scholar and my mount, most nights I’ll log in, do my daily dungeon roulette (insta-pop thanks to heals), and run a main story quest or three. While I’m level 33, in the MSQ I’m back around level 21, so I’m steamrolling pretty much any opposition I encounter. Most of the time that these quests take are in the travel and cutscenes.

Will I still be playing next month? I… don’t know, yet. As I’ll talk about next week with my Gaming Goals post, I’m in a deep state of inner deliberation over how I want to spend my gaming time in 2019 and what I would like to accomplish. FFXIV alternates between being fun and comfortable and being a bit bland and unwieldy, and unless I can latch on to a solid reason to keep playing, chances are that I might drift away come January. There are, after all, always other worlds than these.

FFXIV: Lalafel from hell

So yes, I’m a Lalafel now with a weird punk hairdo and a big book of pain.

I’m going to have to back up to explain a tad, if you don’t mind. About a week after re-entering FFXIV, I’m talking with Belghast, and he lets me know that the guild I used to be in is still in existence and some fellow Twitter people and bloggers are on there. Unfortunately, my cat girl was on a completely different shard, and I wasn’t about to pay $18 to transfer her. This all resulted in the decision to re-roll and repeat the last four or so days of progress.

On my side was a refreshed knowledge of how to play and a determination to catch up to, what was I, level 15 or so. I had a full Sunday afternoon to play, so I powered through and got there in one nice long gaming session. I also went with a Lalafel this time because… well, Bel inspired me in part, but I guess I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone in this game. In any case, I’ll probably switch over to a BunnyPerson when those come out, so I don’t have to worry about being stuck with this.

The whole theme this time around is “learning from my past.” The first time I played FFXIV, I spent just so much time experimenting with various classes before acknowledging my preference for Arcanist/Scholar, so that’s what I went with right off the bat. I also feel like this time through, I’m not struggling as much with pointless side activities or trying to figure out systems. It’s mostly main quest, main quest, main quest with sides of dungeons, side+ missions, and class missions.

It’s mostly been a good time. You have to meet FFXIV at its own pace and be content with that, because if you want to speed through things you really can’t. The story is plodding and the pace of everything is more laid-back than sprinting, but that’s kind of nice at the end of a long day.

Forget you, catgirl. Imma pet your li’l unicorn here. Such a cutie, yes you are! Yes you are!

I am trying to focus on leveling up to 30 as quick as the game will allow, however. I miss my Scholar abilities and having to queue and fight as DPS in dungeons is a real bummer. I want to be a healer, but there’s a bit of a time gate here. At least I had the foresight to go through the series of Smith training quests to get my 30% XP ring. That right there is pretty handy!

The only real bummer I had this past week was when I was running a dungeon and some pompous buffoon decided that it was his job and responsibility to lecture the rest of us how to play MMOs. I found out there’s no /ignore function for teammates (alas), so I just switched over the chat to free company instead and finished the dungeon while his words fell into the void. Honestly, if I want your advice, I’ll ask for it. You haven’t earned the right to “teach” me just because you’re level awesome.

Final Fantasy: An Interest Reborn

This wasn’t really where I expected to be at the end of this year, but that’s how gaming goes, sometime. The thought of returning to FFXIV has tickled the back of my mind most of 2018, but with other interests in the forefront, I’ve pushed it off. Now, what with the expansion news and some time to let my interest regenerate, I’m back.

Unlike my previous re-entries, this time around I elected to start aaaaaall the way over again to pursue the same class. On one hand, this feels like foolishness. I’ve invested a whole lot of time and effort into my old character, and she’s at least made in-roads into Heavensward. On the other hand, I feel like a fresh start is needed. I want to relearn everything, get invested in a character from the start to finish, and enjoy the full journey. Even if that journey involves some boring pre-50 stories and a whole lot of nodding.

Class-wise, I’m going with Arcanist/Scholar for leveling, mostly because I love healing in dungeons here. I do have my eye on the Red Mage, Mechanist, and this weird Blue Mage thing they’re doing, but that’ll be in the future. As for now, give me a big textbook and some glowy pet thing.

I did deliberate on a race and spent some time messing around with Lalafell options, but despite being a small race, they’re just… way too cutesy to embrace. So cat-girl it is, at least until the rumored bunny folk arrive. I’ll save my potion of fantasia until then.

On a different server (Ultros), I began my journey anew. This all came with a heavy dose of nostalgia — both for FFXIV and for Final Fantasy games in general. I may be going through a bit of a nostalgia phase these days, and I kind of reveled in the music and wonky feel. Anything I could do to power up enthusiasm and settle in for the long leveling haul.

At least I have the benefit of hindsight. This time, I wouldn’t be flipping between jobs and wasting a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to play. I also wouldn’t be doing any side quests — it’s all main story quests or bust (with any dungeons or leves to assist with XP as needed). I printed out the list of MSQ names — just the names — and broke them up by patches and expansions. This turned out to be (and I kid you not) 16 pages long. Just quest name after quest name. And these aren’t usually short quests. I did that because I appreciate having some idea where I’m at in the overall story and to be able to see my progress as I cross off the names.

So far it’s been a fine if not exceptionally interesting journey. Play sessions are fun enough, although I’m recalling story beats from a year or two ago the second that the game starts into them, so I’m a little concerned that it may bore me after a while. Depends whether or not I’ll really grow attached to this character — if not, I can simply not re-subscribe or I’ll move over to my old toon. I have options.

Gaming press’ condescension toward MMOs

One of my ongoing pet peeves in regards to MMORPGs is how the wider gaming press tends to demean, ignore, or hypocritically attack these games. Since about 2008 or so, it’s become pretty common to see gaming journalism make snide comments about or act condescending toward MMOs. Some of it is the console bias, some of it is personal burnout, and some of it is simply ignorance and an easy target.

Probably the most aggravating type of article is the one where a writer who has never played an MMO in his or her life reluctantly covers a story on one of our games. Nothing good tends to come from this. As one person wrote, “Why is it nearly impossible for people who don’t play MMOs to write any article without sounding like they’re an anthropologist recording lost tribesmen?”

The thing is that pretty much any criticism or snark levied against MMOs boomerangs right back at the author in regards to other games. MMOs are grindy? So are many console titles out there. MMOs breed devoted communities? So do plenty of single-player franchises. And so on. Broadly speaking, we’re all in the same boat, so why demean something you don’t personally play and understand?

We talked about this on a recent episode of the Massively OP Podcast, but if you’d like a good example of this bias in action, look no further than this November 20th article from Rock Paper Shotgun.

The author of this article took advantage of a paid press junket to attend Final Fantasy XIV’s fan festival in Las Vegas, despite seeming to have no first-hand knowledge or interest in the game itself. That’s fine, press often does cover games that it doesn’t play, but the article just goes off the rails on the gaming culture that he witnesses. From start to finish, the piece drips with sarcasm and head-patting condescension, such as:

  • “This is the kind of unsettling wonder you may witness”
  • “It’s the kind of audience so charged with unbridled fanaticism that it will erupt into cacophonous applause at some nice box art.”
  • “‘Haurchefant!’ she says again, as if I had not heard of Jesus Christ.”
  • “There’s more happening in the world of Eorzea than I could have imagined. The worship of dead NPCs, the housing problems, the strangers cyber-rutting in the corners of fantasy taverns.”

To add insult to injury, the author hijacked a developer Q&A session to try to get the team to address virtual bordellos, a topic that seems to have interested the author greatly but wasn’t any sort of relevant topic or pressing concern.

It’s obviously a piece written by someone who just doesn’t want to be there, who doesn’t understand geek culture, and who is happy to use big words to take pot shots at the game and its community. It didn’t cover much in the way of the big announcements or do anything to paint the community in a good light. It was simply a hit piece disguised as a convention report.

Predictably, the FFXIV was steamed over this article. The author used complaints to continue to needle fans, while players of this MMO felt as if they were unfairly slandered for having a good time at a convention that covered a game that they loved. After having read the article a couple of times, I think they have a right to feel upset.

Over at MOP, we have a term that we are always holding out in front of us: Don’t punch down. That is to say, we have to be mindful of the platform and power that we have to make statements, and so it’s generally not cool to mock or ruthlessly attack a smaller, weaker, or more innocent title or studio. We should always engage in fair criticism, but when we’re bringing out snark, it’s best reserved for bigger boys who can handle it. In this case, I would say that the game and studio itself are big enough for good-natured snark, but the fans aren’t. They’re just people devoted to a game and shouldn’t be teased because of it.

RPS has a much bigger microphone than we do, and it has proved on several occasions — including this one — that it doesn’t mind punching down at what it sees beneath it. And apparently that means MMOs and those who play them.

Retro Reprise Episode 14: Final Fantasy combat tunes

It’s been a year-and-a-half since Syl and Syp first dove into Final Fantasy music, but now the duo is back to discuss combat themes from four of the game’s 1990s installments! From One-Winged Angel to The Man with a Machine Gun, it’s all the classics you’ve been listening to — and adoring — for years, packaged with exclusive fan commentary!

Show notes (episode downloadepisode page)

  • Intro
  • FFV: “Clash on the Big Bridge”
  • FFVII: “Combat”
  • FFVII: “Jenova”
  • FFVII: “One-Winged Angel”
  • FFVIII: “The Man with a Machine Gun”
  • FFVIII: “The Extreme”
  • FFIX: “Combat”
  • Outro