Among the things I’m reluctant to talk about early when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV are the live letters from Naoki Yoshida. There’s always a thread rapidly updating players on what is said during those letters, but that thread is filled with quick translations that may or may not be accurate, and I’d prefer not to analyze and speculate on information that may have been misconstrued. The man speaks in dense blocks of information.
To my surprise, this week we got the full translation of the latest live letter, and something that struck me was how much of the game we’re still being told is just over the horizon. This is not to say that I don’t believe in Yoshi-P; Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 showed that if he promises something, it will be delivered. But there are a lot of things being held back for later, and honestly it’s a little disconcerting for someone waiting eagerly for the game to come out.
For example, the live letter says that Arcanist probably won’t be ready for the open beta testing. This is kind of a big deal. While we’re also told that it should be in for launch, it means that open beta will consist of one fewer class, and that means a lot of leveling and progress made with a balance of classes that won’t necessarily reflect the final makeup. It also means that assuming Arcanist is in the game at launch, it won’t have been put through the same amount of testing as everything else.
Do I worry it’s going to be awful? Of course not; as I said, the team has a track record. But I do worry about how much the team has taken on and how long it’s taking to get things together.
Final Fantasy XIV is in the midst of a competition for the minds of potential players. There are a lot of games out there already, a lot more on the horizon, and a need for players to still be interested and excited when the relaunch finally goes live. Every day on which it doesn’t go live is a day on which someone might decide to pick up shop and move to greener or more available pastures.
Shutting down the game was a risk. A calculated one, but still a risk. And there are a lot of moving parts that need to come together for when the relaunch goes live, some of which include making sure that those of us who goofed around in 1.0 can still access all of our old stuff. And that our options to redo parts of our characters all work. And that players who are coming into the game completely new aren’t going to feel as if they’re miles behind everyone who has been playing from the beginning.
All of that is taking place in a world where a relaunch will be judged by vicious standards. The knives will be out when people start getting into the new game, since FFXIV’s initial launch is something of a black legend in the MMO space.
I know all of this, and it makes me very nervous when I’m told that something else is being pushed back to be added a little bit later. I’ve said before that simply fixing the old game isn’t enough; it needs something to wow people. Hearing that Arcanist is going to be moved back for a later addition makes me all kinds of antsy.
Or there’s the fact that trying on gear won’t be in for launch. Or there’s the fact that you won’t be able to enter a dungeon with your chocobo (and while that might seem like a big deal, anyone who’s run a four-person flashpoint in Star Wars: The Old Republic with two companions will attest that it’s a lot more challenging and all sorts of fun.) Or the transfers of items between characters on the same account. That’s a lot of cool features held back until a point in time that we don’t know.
The new letter addresses a lot of interesting things, but it’s filled with stuff that won’t be in place at launch. Some of those items are standards across the gaming industry as a whole; at this point, dressing room features are expected. Others are impressive features that could really help give the game a leg up on its competition. Some of them seem to be ideas that will be absolutely mind-blowing to Japanese players who are unfamiliar with MMOs as a whole, but people surrounded by MMOs will just sort of nod and say, “Yes, and?”
Nervous? A bit. I have no doubt that given time, everything held back from launch will be in the game. I have no doubt that with the fullness of time, Naoki Yoshida can oversee several expansions and improvements that will be truly spectacular, as evidenced by watching his operation of the game. But I wonder how harsh judgement will be, I wonder how much time he’ll have after the relaunch if everything doesn’t come together nicely, and I wonder what will happen when the curtain is lifted.
And I worry that some of the cool parts of the game aren’t going to be there until act 2.