In every MMORPG there’s a rather reactionary area of the community that tries to resist change, and especially during betas gets very vocal against anything that could be seen as a feature that makes a game less of a chore. One of the most common controversy sees the traditionalists shaking their angry fist at any features that automates the creation of parties or that blurs the borders between servers. That kind of features are normally accused of “destroying the community” or similar drivel.
Quite obviously Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn‘s quite sleek Duty Finder (the game’s own version of a group finder you can find in other MMORPGs) has become the natural target of that kind of criticism: not only it makes finding a party considerably easier, but it works across servers, automatically earning the silly label of “community destroyer”.
The game’s Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida decided to take some time off his busy schedule to write a quite lengthy post on the official beta forum and address the problem. Suffice to say, the Duty Finder isn’t going anywhere, and the same-server matching demanded by some isn’t going to come.
Yoshida-san also went quite in depth on his idea of what forms a community, and on the philosophy behind the duty finder. Normally I’d just summarize a post like this, but it provides extremely interesting insight in the development philosophy of the game, so I’m going to report it in its entirety. It’s a very good read anyway.
This is Yoshida, Producer/Director for FFXIV: A Realm Reborn.
Thank you for the feedback and concerns for the recently implemented Duty Finder.
Sorry that it took so long for me to respond, in part because of Japan Expo and the time it took to read over the comments on the forums. My post will be focusing on different things, including responses to the feedback we’ve seen so far.
First off, the duty finder is a feature that many Japanese players are trying for the first time, and I’d like to report that thanks to everyone’s help, it has been going very well so far. There seems to be a few things that people are worried about, so I will be posting the answers for each feedback along with explaining the concept of the duty finder.
As usual, my post is going to be quite long, so please read it over whenever you have time.
■ The Idea of Duty Finder ■
MMORPGs are in a genre that has the stigma that “it’s difficult to form parties, and you can only really play it by forming parties.”
As a result, MMORPGs are often forced into a very niche genre.
Even when looking at the global market (excluding China and Korea), this belief is very rampant. Especially because Japan has a very few locally created MMO games.
While it’s impossible to do everything while solo in an MMORPG, I really wanted the average gamer to experience the fun a player can experience in an MMORPG. With the FINAL FANTASY and DRAGON QUEST series, many users think “Well, I guess I’ll try it at least” feeling because of their strong connection to the brand. What better way for us to spread the fun of the MMORPG experience than with FFXIV: ARR?
The first thing that popped in my head was the necessity of a party matching system. To be honest, when I first took over FFXIV version 1.0, the first thing I did was check to see if it’s possible to implement a cross-world matching system with our server team.What I found out was very disappointing. Not only were we not able to implement a cross-world matching system, we could not even implement a matching system within the same world. I felt that this feature was so important that I was willing to toss all of the server source code for FFXIV version 1.0 and completely rebuild the server structure for FFXIV: ARR.
Simply put, when I first took over FFXIV version 1.0, I felt the following was necessary if I was to release a numbered FF title in the current day and age.
– A sense of being able to play the game solo.
– Have the players go through the casual party experience while progressing through the main scenario.
– Players will learn the basics of a party play by the time they complete the main scenario.
I created documents and specifications and then checked what we could and could not implement. After a thorough investigation, we decided to create “FFXIV: ARR.”
While we considered the idea of being able to complete the main scenario without being in a party, we knew that players would then have trouble with end game content because they lack any prior party experience.
Therefore, I believe the duty finder is a “necessary feature for the players new to the world of MMORPGs.”
I would like new players to think “Hey, that was much easier and fun that I thought it would be” after their first party experience.
■ Communication and the Formation of a Community ■
As I sated before, the implementation of the duty finder is something I wanted since I took over FFXIV version 1.0. I even think I mentioned the word “Finder” during some of my early interviews. We worked hard on balancing the difficulty, information that can be obtained through the UI, the number of times you can wipe to a boss, being able to re-challenge in case you fail, for “party content that can be played using the duty finder.”
Therefore, players will be able to solo their way through level 1 to 15 as a battle class. From level 15 to 35, the players will “learn the basics of party play.” After level 35, we expect some players to really start talking about the mechanics and strategies for boss battles.
Even with the 2.5 second global cooldown, from a newbie standpoint, it’s almost impossible to have a conversation during battle. Therefore, we intentionally left some extra room during the content (i.e. at the start, before a boss battle, when opening a treasure chest after the boss battle, etc.) to make it easier for players to say converse and to strategize (not including the battles that occur during the main scenario after defeating Ifrit). We would like new players to start using the chat after they are comfortable with the game.
Therefore, we’re not expecting players to chat during battle until they reach the high-level content. Chat should mainly take place “in between battles,” “in between content,” “in the city/field,” and “during FATE.” Of course, we expect players to form a party through /shout to have a better chance of beating battle content. While shouting may take some courage, I personally love seeing the conversations that take place via say and shout. I look forward to players talking about item stats, strategies, linkshell/free company recruiting, and general Q&A. We’ll do our best to support the players from the system-side and the through the Lodestone. However, please note that no matter how fulfilling the system is, it’s up to the players to utilize the system to communicate with other players.
We plan on actively supporting the community by enhancing the linkshell/free company features, invite features, implementation of a mentor system, etc. What would an MMORPG be without friends?
If this is your first time playing an MMORPG or an online game, take the first step and say hello!
As for the experienced players, please spark up a conversation in between battles and quests whenever you have the opportunity. That is the key to starting conversation within the community!
Of course, for high-level content, simply relying on the Duty Finder alone could make clearing some content difficult, and there will be cases where you need to partner up with those around you. We understand the importance and necessity of communication. If you’re worried about the potential loss of communication because of the duty finder, please do not worry.
■ Cross-World Matching ■
The main purpose of the duty finder is to “be able to experience party play immediately after logging into the game.” In other words, the “matching speed” is a key factor of the feature.
Nowadays, people are generally very busy and don’t have as much free time to play games as much as they used to. We would like our players to continue enjoying our MMORPG for a long time. In order to make that happen, we feel it’s important to provide an environment where the players always have something to do when they log into the game. It’s difficult for certain players to enjoy an MMORPG when it takes an hour to form a party (while there are some players that do have that free time).
I feel it’s important to “maximizing the demand.” Therefore, instead of just matching players within one World, we have designed it so that players are able to match with players on the same data center. As an extreme example, with this system, even if there are only 500 players logged in per World (across 15 Worlds), that’s 7,500 players you can potentially be matched up with. Of course, the class ratio of the logged in players will have a huge impact on the matching system. However, we believe we will be able to avoid situations where a player is unable to enjoy the game because there are not enough players logged in when the play.
■ Matching Options ■
We received an inquiry regarding the implementation of the option to only match with players within the same World, but we currently do not have any plans to implement that option.
While I understand the idea of “How about we initially get matched up with players on the same World, and if that does not work out, match up with the other Worlds,” this actually leads to a huge decrease in the matching frequency.
For example, let’s say there are four players on the Worlds A, B, C, D, and these four players are wanting to defeat Ifrit.
– Player A (TANK) selects the “Match with players in the same World” option.
– Player B (DPS) selects the “Match with players on all Worlds” option.
– Player C (DPS) selects the “Match with players on all Worlds” option.
– Player D (Healer) selects the “Match with players in the same World” option.
Player A will enter the queue in the state of “Waiting for a DPS/DPS/Healer in the same World.”
Player D will enter the queue in the state of “Waiting for a TANK/DPS/DPS in the same World.”
Player B and C will enter the queue in the state of “Waiting for a TANK/DPS/Healer in all Worlds.”
The problem is apparent right away. If all players were looking for matches in all Worlds, these four would immediately be grouped together to defeat Ifrit. However, due to this option, there’s a delay in the matching process.
While player A and D can switch to all Worlds if they do not find a match in the same World, every player has their own level of patience when it comes to waiting.
Let’s say player A waits for 5 minutes and player D waits for 7 minutes. In this case, all players will have to wait for 7 minutes until they are matched. During these 7 minutes, player B and C will wait while they wonder when they are going to be matched. Everything works out as long as these players are willing to wait, but let’s say player B gets tired of waiting and decides to join another party that was looking for an additional member via /shout, changes their role to a healer, or logs out. In this case, the match becomes invalid because one of the players decided to do something else.
Therefore, if it was just one player switching from one option to another, the only impact is making the remaining players wait. However, if every player has the option, it hugely decreases the matching frequency.
On the other hand, let’s say we set the waiting limit of the matches to 5 minutes (automatically cancels if no match is found for 5 minutes) and prevent players for waiting for an extended period of time. Every player registers for the duty finder at different times, so unless the players registers at around the same time, they will never be matched up.
While my example was a little extreme, if this happened with all players or if the majority of the player selected “All Worlds,” it would still decrease the matching frequency by a large amount as long as there are players selecting different options.
Of course after launch, we will take a look at the overall matching speed and the split between all the roles, and it’s possible that we will do things such as ease up on the role restrictions and allow for multiple role requests (tank and DPS, for example).
However, the main thing we want to guarantee is that you can play in a party when you want to and create parties comfortably, and I feel that the most important thing is to see to it that this goal is accomplished.
■ Matching Algorithm ■
In regards to the algorithm used when matching take places, this is an algorithm that places priority on matching speed, and thus same-world matching priority is not a function that is performed intentionally.
If it were to do this, each person would have to go through multiple matching groups, and even if this were constrained to just a single confirmation, there would be variations between the matching search and search targets of the second round and the previous round, ultimately causing a longer wait time. (I’m simplifying the technical explanation.)
Of the roles, DPS is often the most popular in MMORPGs.
When forming a 4-person light party, there are 2 matching slots for the DPS classes (pugilist (melee), lancer (melee), archer (ranged), thaumaturge (ranged)), which is double the number of slots than that of tank and healer. Two important things the algorithm determines are to make sure that two of the same class/job are not in the DPS slots as well as that they split between melee and ranged.
Various situations can be enjoyed with parties if they are matched with 1 tank, 1 melee DPS, 1 ranged DPS, and 1 healer. The programmers have done a great job making this so the system does not need to go through multiple matching search loops. (Though, if players cannot be found, the process will be simplified.)
■ Additional Features for Launch ■
Currently the Duty Finder is in the midst of stress testing in Beta phase 3, and we will be addressing feedback and adding the following features in time for launch:
・A feature to kick players who have gone offline or who have been disconnected after being matched.
・A status check when entering (entered by mistake, etc.)
・Announcement when there is a player that is challenging the content for the first time in the party, as well as a reward bonus upon clearing the content.
・Feature to retry content with the same party.
In other games there is a poll-based kick feature, but this system can be used inappropriately to kick people right before receiving loot, so we are thinking about this very carefully. We are also prioritizing discussions for how to address players that leave parties right after being matched. (This is also a countermeasure for harassment.)
We will of course continue to add features as necessary while the game is live.
■ In Closing ■
Lately I have been seeing a lot of people posting that “FFXIV: ARR feels more like an instanced-based game.” Everyone feels things in different ways, so I’m fine with that.
However, from Alpha all the way up to the third test of Beta phase 3 I barely saw any talk of this.
(Not to say it was non-existent, but it was much, much less.)
Dungeons are all instanced dungeons, and the arrangement of content has not really changed.
With the implementation of the stress tests for the Duty Finder in the fourth test, it’s true that the number of party recruitment shouts has dropped and the amount of conversations being held within instanced dungeons has also fallen. (I too noticed this when I’m playing in the beta.)
I think it’s easy to run through instanced dungeons using the Duty Finder (That’s why we made it.).
However, in Beta phase 3, the main quests that have been released are only up to level 20, and there are only three instanced dungeons up to level 20: Sastasha, Tam-tara, and Copperbell. The only time you are required to go to each of these dungeons is when you are progressing through the main quest line. (there will be side quests released in the release version for level 15 to 20.)
In addition to this, the main quest line will also have instanced battle content for Ifrit, and releasing more dungeons wouldn’t really fit the flow for the official release.
In phase 3, main quests and class quests are locked, and there are really no other efficient choices besides going around to dungeons above level 20. Since testing time is also limited, leveling has a tendency to be prioritized.
Naturally, repeating dungeons over and over would get played out, and once you get used to them it just becomes work and conversations will drastically be reduced.
I understand the fearful feeling that if you are only meeting someone once it is difficult to form relationships.
However, this is just a matter of having the finder or not having the finder, and in actuality, the tests up until now and the content have not changed. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who went and tried out the dungeons for the first time because the finder was finally implemented.
I’ve played many MMORPGs and online game in my time, but I’ve had a lot of friends quit in the beginning of games because they couldn’t make parties, or it was hard to play with people they didn’t know, and felt they cause problems with party play.
“All you need to do is shout ‘anyone want to go to a dungeon?’”
“You can still play without having to talk as much as you think you do!”
“Everyone is nice to new players, so don’t worry about getting in the way!”
I’d often respond to my friends in the above manner, but I was sadly told “it’s impossible.”
As a result, MMORPGs up until now have become games that can only be played by people who can play them a lot and have a lot of skill.
I have a lot of friends from all the MMORPGs and online games I have played. Just like me, they all chat, form parties, and go do content. “That difficulty is the good thing about MMORPGs. You are able to overcome it with everyone.” I understand this well.
However, naturally they accomplish things because it’s a gathering of people who know how. My job is to see to it so that those that cannot do this are also able to play.
I will also be preparing things for the hardcore players, as well as a community features, and areas for release, so please rest easy about this.
From a technical standpoint, there aren’t many differences between MMOs and instanced-based games.
The only differences are that you have large fields, a large amount of items, large scale updates that change the world, and a world where thousands of people can run around at the same time. However, an enormous sandbox where there are small things happening in the fields, boss fights are at the end of the dungeons, you can explore uncharted lands while riding your chocobo, and you can spend time talking to your friends – that’s an MMORPG.
FFXIV: ARR is about to start anew as an MMORPG.
And I’m not just talking about the release. We plan on continuing to update the game as an FF series title and as an MMORPG. This also holds true for events that take place in fields.
A wealth of players sharing the same world, a Free Company partying at Costa del Sol. A solo player fishing by the sea, a player fighting a colibri during a levequest. Two real-life friends riding side by side on chocobos and exploring the world. A player that dropped by to see a Miqo’te in their swimwear and check out the party as they sew waiting for the Duty Finder to make a match.
There are many types of players doing various things at every moment. You may just pass by them but there are times you will stop and make friends with them. That is what I think of when I hear MMORPG, and I want to create that type of Eorzea with everyone.
I’d appreciate it a lot if you think of the Duty Finder as a tool that increases the population of people playing and also as something that serves to increase the opportunities of meeting people
There you have it: once again Yoshida-san proves to have very clear ideas on the development philosophy behind the game. I’m especially in agreement with the last point that mentions that the Duty Finder is an opportunity to meet people.
As a matter of fact, I can’t wait for the time in which separate servers for MMORPGs will go completely the way of the dodo. It’s always extremely annoying to have to chose between friends playing on different servers, and being unable to play with some of the people you meet online. The Duty Finder allows us to meet a wider variety of people more easily. That’s not what destroys a community. That’s what helps building it.