Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn -- Three Criticisms About Eventual Grinds, Loneliness, And Too Much Fan Service

| 10 Jul 2013 14:00
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Criticism 2 - Cross Realm and Community - A Paradox of MMOs Come to a Head

One thing that Yoshida has repeated constantly is that an MMO should be a community. Just recently, he was quoted on catering to console-specific servers saying that this would destroy a community by putting artificial walls up around different modes of entry into the same content. However, there are already artificial boundaries around players - servers.

The most difficult problem of MMOs at the moment is having to choose a server to go to. On some servers there might be some of my real life friends who might play sometimes but are not as hardcore as me. I can't leave them on a whim because I see them everyday. On other servers, my favorite forum community might be setting up shop because they identify with that server's name or they decided by voting. The fact that this choice happens at all is a testament to the destructive power of the server: all players lose a chance at some sort community by choosing to play on a specific server.

This criticism is a strange one to make for FF14 because it parallels another criticism that people make of the Duty Finder. The Duty Finder works a lot like the Looking For Group (LFG) tool in World of Warcraft. This tool allows players to decide what content they'd like to queue for, what job they'd like to queue as, and if they'd like to join a party in progress or start new. This tool then looks through the database of other players queued on the Duty Finder and assembles them into a four-person party, two Damage Dealers, one Tank, and one Healer.

This tool has caused quite a stir within the beta community. For example, on the beta forums, there were a dozen or more threads discussing the impact of the Duty Finder as a community destroying tool. These players felt that it was a slap in the face to be paired with people so they could get into a party quickly instead of having the option to choose people to go into a dungeon with from their server.

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Their complaints are couched in the server structures that have maintained larger MMOs for years. Only recently, nine years after it began, has the mightiest of all MMOs, World of Warcraft, started to tackle this concept. Virtual realms, Real ID, Looking for Raid, Looking for Groups, and all these things are meant to lessen the physical boundaries between servers. They do this through allowing members of different servers to interact which ends up expanding the community.

Where the FF14:ARR Duty Finder fails is by not also considering in things like friend lists, cross-server whispers, or even a "Recently Dutied With" list. In addition, WoW has been addressing this more with things like Cross-Realm Zones, Virtual Realms (virtually combining servers), and Real ID raid groups.

Here, we come upon what might be a "first game syndrome symptom" but this is something that has plagued MMOs for quite some time. If you want to foster a sense of community, make it easier for players from different servers to communicate with each other.

Make it easier to forget that I play on Midgarsormr, that some of my friends play on Carbuncle, that my forum friends play on Excalibur, that my Twitter friends play on Gilgamesh, and we will all be better for it.

Finally, my last criticism has to do with being a fan of Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy XIV - A Realm Reborn

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I find it hard to attribute these criticisms to anything actually involving the game. The server issue isn't much of a 'design' decision, as it is a technical decision. It seems a little unfair to criticize something that might have been technically driven, and not a "deliberate choice."

Additionally, WoW is actually one of the last ones to the party when it comes to next-gen server architecture. GW2 has the guesting feature, Anarchy Online used a single server, Eve still uses a single server -- Neverwinter uses several servers now, but will be merging those in the future. WoW has been pretty behind the times when it comes to server tech. In fact, they are likely to remain so as server transfers are likely a fair substantial source of income for them.

As for the Japanese feel of the game, I didn't get that at all. I'm not a huge final fantasy fan because I'm not a fan of the JRPGs (not that they aren't great games, just not for me) but I definitely didn't get a JRPG feel from the hours I've played the game.

Additionally, I don't see the fan-service as 'driving people away.' A battle is a battle. That's like saying the Caverns of Time in WoW drove players away because it was fan service to long-term players of the franchise. It just seems silly. People don't stop playing because of cool encounters / boss battles.

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