If you needed any more reminders that the end is coming to this version of Final Fantasy XIV, Naoki Yoshida kindly provided several during his time at Gamescom 2012 this week, and they weren’t subtle ones, either. He didn’t come out and say, “Enjoy the game now because it might not be here next month,” but there were definitely some implications. The shutdown before the resurrection is coming soon.
There’s some worry inherent in that change. I’ve talked about that before. But there are also a lot of parts of the game that I am not going to miss in the slightest. There are changes coming that I welcome with open arms, elements of the game that will be gutted and removed that I will bid farewell without regret.
Some of these elements are things I’ve never liked. Some of them are actually systems I’ve been fond of in the past but I won’t miss once they’re gone. But all of them appear to be going the way of the dodo — or at least they should — and I’m not going to weep any tears when they shuffle off.
The Black Shroud
The forest will still be around, of course. But it’s not going to have the maddening find-the-cheese-in-the-maze layout that it currently has, and that alone makes me want to fall to my knees and weep with joy. Navigating the place right now is such a dizzying and frustrating chore that I don’t even know where to start.
Wait, yes I do. This looks like absolutely no forest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of forests. There’s limited mobility through trees, sure, but that takes the form of close growths and small thickets, not a bunch of narrow laneways that occasionally turn into inexplicable bridges and overpasses, as if getting from point A to point B isn’t confusing enough.
In summary, if we could bring Dalamud down directly on the forest, that would be great. Just wonderful all around.
“But you like guildleves!” shout the masses. And yes, this is an entirely accurate statement. “Plus, they’re not actually going away, they’re just changing!” This is also an accurate statement. (Although you might want to stop shouting at your computer; you’ll look sort of crazy.) But the core of the leve system is going away, and despite the fact that I don’t mind its structure, I am very, very glad to see it torn away and replaced with something better.
First of all, I like guildleves because they are, in essence, the purest form of the filler quest. Kill X of Y. Collect Z from B. Do this arbitrary thing and then you get some stuff at the end. Rinse and repeat. Take a new set of leves and do the dance again tomorrow, or maybe just smash your face into a mirror until you can bear to look at it again. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it certainly functions, but it isn’t terribly engaging.
But the promise of a quest-based version of Final Fantasy XIV? That’s much more relevant to my interests. That’s something I really want to play, something with more investment in the world and my character. And it means that we don’t have to sit around and constantly wait for a new batch of leves to level, something that I ran into on more than one occasion.
Guildleves are perfectly functional, but making them something more than just a functional answer to a recurring problem is much more interesting than their current state. When they are no longer the bread and butter of leveling, I’ll be happy to see them go.
I’ve said many times that the game has some underlying brilliance to it, but the UI has never been a part of that. The UI is, at best, a transparent thing; at worst, it’s your chief opponent in making the game work. And the nicest thing I can say about it is that it’s not as bad as it could be.
The current development team has done a lot of work on making the UI better, and that team has succeeded. But the UI is still bad. It’s still very bad, with its sole saving grace being the fact that you can reposition everything, a trait that did no favors to the original Guild Wars UI and does not serve as any kind of saving grace. There are too many menus, too many hoops to jump through, too many restrictions for just putting an action on your action bar and expecting to use it.
Some of this is inherent to the structure of the game, but let’s be honest: There are much better ways to ensure that players don’t use every single ability they’ve learned. This is a clumsy workaround.
The new interface will no doubt have its own quirks, but they won’t be nearly this frustrating. I appreciate that fact more than anything. It’d also be nice if we could retain some of the reshaping and rearranging features, but at this point, I’m going to take what I can get.
Every game has these, but FFXIV has a particularly acute case. There are elements in the game that are clearly just hanging around as leftovers from a previous version, as parts of the design that have no relevance to the game as it currently exists. Things like the vast majority of Coerthas, the entire main story quest that has since been supplanted by the Grand Company material… you get the idea.
Every game acquires a certain amount of legacy cruft. It’s unusual for a game to have the chance to remove all of that cruft in one fell swoop, and that’s what Yoshida is able to do when the game changes. And I’m not going to miss elements that are at best an idea the didn’t pan out and at worst just unnecessary.