The end of Final Fantasy XIV as we know it provoked a lot of emotions from me, as did the trailer released concurrently. I felt a great deal of sorrow, both for the end of the world and the end of my character’s story at the time (which is tied into a lot of roleplaying you don’t need to hear about). I felt a stirring of hope for the changes coming to the game and the world. I felt inspiration at the sweep and movement of the events surrounding the conclusion and a sense of awe at what had been done.
I also felt a great deal of frustration at the game’s servers and the rather lackluster event itself, but that’s kind of an irrelevant discussion. It’s a lesson to learn for a next time that won’t happen.
Amidst all of these other feelings, I also felt a sense of sadness about certain parts of the game that are going away when it relaunches. There are aspects I’m going to miss about Final Fantasy XIV’s first version, even if I know why those aspects need to be removed from a design standpoint. Today, I’m going to look back at those elements, things that we’re going to be rid of that I’m still going to sort of miss in the long run.
There are a lot of negative things to be said about the game’s zones in general. The Black Shroud, for example, is almost a textbook example of how not to put together a game area. The zones were bigger than they needed to be with too little to do, they had too much visual sameness, some of them made navigation a maddening chore… the list goes on. When the game relaunches, we should see much cleaner designs and much better layouts with more visual differentiation, which is good.
But I did like the size of the zones as a concept, at least, because it made these places feel real.
The fact is, the real world is made up of large stretches of ground that feel very similar with only slight variations. New England has basically one environment — gently rolling forested hills — and while things change up a little in certain regions, the general look is identical throughout the region and beyond. I don’t cross the border into Massachussetts and walk into a desert, nor do I find a land of perpetual winter in Vermont, and Rhode Island is not an enormous swamp. (It’s only like 80% swamp.)
For all the flaws of these early maps, they contributed to the feel of unique environments from one spot to the next. I won’t mourn more variety, but part of me wishes that the existing maps had been trimmed up a bit and expanded rather than amended with several new and more game-like zones.
The role of guilds
Admittedly, this is something we had already lost in large part, but I was always fond of the way that the guilds in FFXIV were structured. I’ve mentioned before how much I admire the way that the game’s designers made classes into a real thing. You aren’t just a guy with an axe; you’re a Marauder, and you get your training from a group of people specifically invested in training Marauders. Marauders have a place and a role within the larger structure of the world. I appreciate that.
With 2.0, guild marks are going the way of all flesh and and will be simply converted into money, meaning that any hope of their coming back into use at some point also vanishes. This is sort of a shame. I had hoped, probably idly, that the game would at some point revitalize the idea of these guilds being the central spots of learning for a given class. We might see something similar, but we won’t see training that requires you to perform tasks around the guild and then learn new skills specifically for those guild marks. It’ll be an improvement, to be sure, but one that diminishes the world in a small way.
I talked a little about this in my column on Wednesday, but I don’t expect you to read through that in order to understand this. Simply put, Yoshida has said that he wants to have an endgame that’s more focused on the usual party structure, full groups tromping in, clearing dungeons, and you get the idea. It’s the same sort of thing that would have been considered adequate in any other game, which astute readers will recall is not good enough for the game now.
FFXIV’s original outline of content at the level cap was pretty much a few confused glances from the development team. But for a while there was a real parity, some vague goals to achieve that really didn’t require any specific methodology. The best gear in the game was vanishingly rare and obtainable through several means, including by just throwing gil at the problem if all else failed. Or you could just staple materia to a less-powerful item, since the powerful ones were denied the right of these power boosts for good reason.
In other words, find the best stuff or make it; it didn’t really matter. I’d like to hope that element is sticking around, and Yoshida seems aware of the idea that it’s a good thing to have endgame options, but “aware” is somewhere south of “on board with.” Especially in the wake of City of Heroes’ closure, saying no to a traditional endgame rotation would be a bold and desirable move.
Unoptimized graphical engine
Nah, I’m just screwing with you guys; the engine needs an overhaul. No lie.