This week, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to talk about my wife.
Lest anyone worry that this is the start of a Paul McCartney-esque slide into sappy sentimentality, there’s good reason for this. Ms. Lady has been mentioned on previous occasions as a gaming partner and skilled roleplayer. She’s not as into MMOs as I am, but she plays them a lot and she certainly knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. And let me tell you, she didn’t like Final Fantasy XIV.
This is a point of view I hold against absolutely no one, but it sure as heck meant that she was not interested in the relaunch. She’d had enough of the game after the first couple of tries to break in. The relaunch had no hooks to pull her back in, no interesting features that stirred her interest, nothing but the promise of a game she’d already decided wasn’t good enough to play.
And that all changed.
I make no apologies for liking the launch version of Final Fantasy XIV, but a lot of that was loving what it could be rather than what it was at the time. It’s a discussion I’ve had before, but it’s also one that’s adjusted by the fact that I am a journalist who writes about MMOs, something my wife is not. I spend a lot of time and effort examining games, and I can easily be fascinated by something that’s meant to be transparent in actual play.
So I can rant and rave about how cool the class guilds were, but the first quest didn’t come in until you hit level 20 and had been playing the class for a while. There were only two more after that. I can appreciate what guildleves were meant to do, but the darn things still just get thrown at you with no rhyme or reason or motivating factor to go to the next camp. I can appreciate the dynamics of class abilities, but that meant picking through dozens of skills that were functionally identical to other ones in a vain attempt to find the right configuration.
More than anything, I was willing to sit through a lot of broken choices to reach a point that most other games started at. She was not, and she honestly didn’t care.
I’d mention features to her, and she’d listen and nod but then move on. Sure, housing sounds great, and yes, a lot of changes had been made before the shutdown, but as far as she was concerned it was building upon an unsteady foundation at best. The fact was that FFXIV wasn’t fun, and all of the added bells and whistles couldn’t change the fact that the core gameplay wasn’t fun whatsoever.
So I went to San Francisco in February. I told her that I’d let her know if the game was good, and she replied with a snort. And we all know what happened on that trip because I wrote about it in great detail.
That got her attention because odds are good that if one of us raves about a game, the other person will like it as well. Fortunately for her, both of us had Legacy status, and that meant that when the first phase of beta rolled around, we were in the same boat as everyone else with Legacy status.
Cut to now, when she is absolutely ecstatic about the impending release. It’s the first game that’s had her this fascinated since we were playing World of Warcraft together, which was many years ago now. Perhaps most curiously of all, now she almost wishes she had played the game more in its original incarnation because she sees what the game was trying to accomplish originally.
This, I think, gets to the heart of what’s changed in the game, and it’s something that some of the detractors don’t or won’t process. For all the changes the game has endured, the core concepts of the launch version are still in place. All that’s been changed is the presentation and the execution, and that makes all the difference.
At launch, you have some choices of path as I mentioned last week. Once the game had a few patches under its belt, you had more. But even if we neglect things like the Duty Finder (which I look forward to with rapt attention), the problem was that the game didn’t really go out of its way to show you where these things were or establish any sort of flow. You were still tossed out and told to fend for yourself once the opening quest stopped, the equivalent of just leaving the pieces on the table and walking away.
The relaunch gives you the tools to slowly move through the game at a steady pace, introducing you to concepts in something of a slow roll. You aren’t having your hand held; you’re being shown the options and then let out in controlled environments where you have three options, then five, then nine, and so forth. By the time you can do anything, you know how to find everything. You have a picture of the world as a whole.
It’s easy to be cynical, and the game does have issues. But it turned someone who wanted nothing more to do with the game into someone who’s excited to play each phase of testing, then excited to see the full game on launch. That’s something special right there.
Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, as in previous weeks. Next week, I want to talk about forcing people to sit down for a group quest whether they want it or not… and how that may not be an awful thing after all.