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Casual Player/ Progression Union

#1 Jun 25 2013 at 6:30 AM Rating: Sub-Default
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Pawkeshup, Averter of the Apocalypse wrote:
There is a lot of truth in what you are saying, but by the same token, you are offbase as to what causes the issue you're talking about. If you look at the expansions, and their relative endgames, you will see that SE has truly helped to force this model into existence. Let's break it down by expansion.

Vanilla FFXI and Rise of the Zilart
The original content here was primarily leveling with roadblocks for progress that required assistance to surpass. For example: The 2-3 rank fight. The fight itself could be done by two or three people at this time if they were prepared, but did not require a whole alliance. The game was also new, so a lot of the population was on the leveling treadmill, and that required socialization as you could not solo easily or at all on most jobs. This forced socialization led to the formation of most of those family-esque linkshells. Most events were designed with parties and grouping in mind, from Garrison to Eco-Warrior to even some quests. It made you meet people and get together to work for a common goal.

Zilart's Sky, the first real big endgame area, is where you see the need for certain roles being filled. This is, however, when things start to break down. Whole alliances were working to gear a handful of people based on randomly dropped items. Because you could not necessarily earn a reward every visit, people began trying to find the most effective, efficient way to repeat this content quickly. That led to the concept of minimum risk of failure for maximum reward. Here is where we broke down as a community, because for our gear to progress, we would either have to wait in line patiently and hope or become greedy and take what we want. Dynamis was much the same as above, except requiring even more at this time since gear wasn't like it is today.

Chains of Promethia
The greatest bottleneck of FFXI's history happened right here. CoP promised a rich storyline, but to prevent burning through the content, SE set up roadblocks in the form of level-capped areas. Now, at launch these areas would strip any gear that was not of the correct level. They did introduce new gear for these levels, resulting in three forms of grind.

- A grind for money/skill to obtain the new gear
- A grind of EXP to get the "best" job for each capped area
- A grind of the content itself to farm items for each of the events

The roadblocks were made worse with the fact that there was literally no incentive to backtrack to help a friend. Originally, there were no ENM fights for added treasure. There was exp loss when dying in the fight. You had to mule or keep gear for the jobs you would be helping on. The zones were true sight for the first tier, and after that featured enemies that were very powerful and capable of killing players easily. That turned any small mistake into a run from hell.

The changes shook the community, creating two classes of player: Those with Sea access, and those without. It was really the first time you saw people just give up and decide to quit. Sky access and Dynamis access took time, but with a few dedicated friends, they were very doable. CoP required a balanced party of competent, well geared, and well prepared players to even attempt. This led to more people wanting to horde items and grab what they could when they could. People had to abandon their friends at times to get their own progress done.

If that wasn't bad enough, the content seemed to have an even worse drop rate endgame than before, and required more farming than before to obtain items. Today, duoing Limbus and getting 50 coins will net you gear fairly shortly. Back then, those coins would either be carefully parceled out or given to "those who need it." This pushes the player to look after their interests more and more because spending 2-3 hours playing with only lost exp as a reward feels like a defeat, not a victory, even if it was "for the good of the LS."

Treasures of Ahut Urghan
The first time the content itself showed pushback against player strategies. Yes, it's the Colibri thing again. This is also the era where we saw the game become Final Melee Fantasy. Originally, magic damage was a great way to blow through enemies, and skillchains were a great way to make that magic even more effective. Now, leveling and meriting could be done with only a healer, no need for magic, and in fact many enemies were either magic resistant or mimicked magic back. But then, enemies were more physically weak, allowing melees to burn them down much faster.

Endgame content here tried to give rewards to all, but in reality, it was again nothing more than blind luck. Yes, there were some earnable rewards for the first time, but the very best items were random drops. And with ZeniNMs, now you had farming of points to do and randomly accessible progress, as you didn't always get your next tier pop as you got higher up the ladder. And, again, the final boss of that string only dropped a small item pool to be distributed among a large group of people.

Sure, you could help people do assaults, but why? With only 1 tag per day max, you were wasting a run just to help. And tying Nyzul to the same tag just left you with more of an issue. And, of course, Salvage requires points from assault, so there's another reason to not "waste" a tag helping because you need those points. Sure, Einherjar only took gil... and Odin kills.. and had a timer...

You see, the content was more and more timed roadblocks, more and more rarely dropped or hard to gather gear. The Mythic weapon is the ultimate example of this. Even more than Relics before them, Mythics had a ridiculous number of requirements meant and intended to force you back through all the content when you wanted one, and force you even more to grind certain events to obtain the item. However, the amount of grind was too much for most, hence why Mythics are some of the rarest weapons.

Wings of the Goddess
And now the biggest sh*tshow arrives in town.

Server-wide requirements for endgame content to be unlocked? Completely random weapon augments? I honestly don't even want to go into it. While I was a fan of the storyline, and enjoyed the drop-in battles of Campaign, the endgame for this expansion was utter, total, and complete garbage. It was the exact polar opposite of the more accessible endgame just one expansion ago. Pretty much everything this expansion did, it did wrong.

The Add-ons
SE's first true attempt at making content repeatable. This stuttering, shambling mess of shoe-horned content, much maligned for several reasons... is why we got Abyssea. For the first time, SE played with the idea of making content that could be repeated for additional rewards for everyone. For the first time, people could even help if they were not even on the quest. Sure, the rewards were random, and mostly crap, but there was always the random augment lottery (I actually have two really nice pieces from this I still use on some jobs). It wasn't perfect, but it showed promise. Now helping your buddy could reward you both!

Sadly, the first boss fight set the tone and left a bad taste in most player's mouths. Also, the loss of KI on failure often left people reluctant to risk their hard work often on less than ideal setups. In the end, however, this content was far better designed than any endgame content was so far.

Abyssea
The grand reset button. This content moved away from the requirement of large LS's with deep ranks, and instead offered the opportunity for smaller groups to band together for their farming of endgame items. Sadly, by this point, after countless me first expansions, Linkshells were largely ghost towns or dead. The smaller group format allowed for something not seen a lot on the game, pick-up parties. PUGs were never really a thing for endgame content. The risk/reward before Abyssea was too great. Sky farming could take hours. Sea farming had time locks. So did Aht Urghan. Risking pops was just not done.

Abyssea rectified that by making pops easy to obtain for base level mobs, and harder but not impossible for mid to end game. For the final boss, it only cost a low entry fee of 10k of points you can earn fairly easily. They even gave the option for those who repeat to use an item that, while expensive, all but guaranteed a win.

Abyssea bosses were designed with multiple rewards (Atma/Abyssites for everyone, collectible items for armor and weapons, actual gear drops). Drop rates were not truly awful, and actually were controllable to some extent. The revolution was here, and it was glorious. Progress was something achievable. You could set a goal and arrive there.

I argue that, honestly, had all the previous content used this model, FFXI would be one of the premiere MMOs, sporting membership in the millions. This "rewards for all" concept was a master stroke for the game.

VoidWatch
And here we see both the worst and best design decisions blended into a disgusting stew. A return to form for SE, the rewards from VoidWatch are not earned. Rather, they are randomly dropped. Yes, you can control them (sort of) through the bastardization of the Abyssea proc system, but it is still random. You cannot earn rewards here. You just have to grind the content till you get lucky.

But it is not all bad. As I said, there is good here. The individual loot system is probably the best idea out of VoidWatch, even better than Abyssea's something for everyone. Sure, the items inside might be mostly garbage, but the idea is much, much better. It makes me wish this idea was around back in the BCNM days to some degree, even if the seals mechanic worked well. Also they allowed you to buy entry into the event as well, with the advent of Voiddust. This allowed you to be able to attend runs and get rewards even if you were "out of tags".

And one of the biggest points was no loss of stone or cells if you lost. You just tried again. Literally the single best concept in this. Now there was no risk at all. Just lost time, that's it. That means that you could wipe as many times as you needed to sort out the strategy. This is something that would have saved the game even if nothing else were changed to the original expansions.

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As I have said though, all of this is, in essence, too little, too late. Linkshell drama destroyed a lot of the community feel. It is coming back, slowly. Hell, last night I got a pearl to a VW shell, offered after joining a shout group. But with the new content returning to an old paradigm of catering to the elite becoming more so, and not allowing for failure, you will see that even if the content is well designed otherwise (earnable rewards, individual loot chests), those KI kill parties will be a rockblock, a knife in the heart of the community rebuilding.

Edited, May 19th 2013 11:33am by Pawkeshup


Damn, got tricked by the excellent rating in the top. Not to self, stay away from Pawke's posts. Add-on scenarios being good content? What are you on? Seriously? It was a lousy attempt from SE to keep us happy during the non update years. Content that could easily be cleared in what? 5 hours? Crystalline prophecy was awful. Mog and Shantotto's were fun storylines, the repeatable content was utter "insert bad swearing word here". CoP content had a clearly distinguishable line between hardcore players and casual players. Was not the best for the casual crowd, I agree, still I liked it very much and yeah I got through it. Couldnt get my casual friends through though. WotG, campaign? Seriously? Fun? You gotta be kidding. It was ridiculous. Everyone /brd singing songs to maximize the AN rewards. Abyssea, yeah, good content for the casuals. See what I did there? Best content? Are you kidding me?? Complete reboot and instant quit for most of the remaining hardcore ls. What the hiatus of good content did during WotG for HNMLS, Abyssea kicked the remainder out. Oh wait I forgot, grinding for Empyrean weapons, so much fun. HMPs come to mind. Oh wait, that's also Casual content. Repeated indefinately. Dont get me even started about Logwatch. Oh Aht Uhrgan you said? Yes meriting shut out a whole lot of jobs, I even leveled a DD job for that. Still it was ok. Oh and your comment about ZNM content. Brought back every job to Aht Uhrghan, literally all jobs were wanted. Dont know about you, but that was some good content. Imo Aht Uhrghan is the best add-on to date overall. The Fact you needed Magic casters for the last fight was reason enough to make some friends with Blm main players. Timed Roadblocks? I agree, but it wasnt a very bad thing unless you wanted to do everything at once. There was lots to do and Besieged was pretty fun also. I got a soft spot for CoP, imo the best add-on for me personally, at the hardest difficulty of course. You could do CoP missions once you got to level 30, 40, 50. Best reason to level for me at that time. I had something to strive for, every 10 levels new storylines, new CS and a new area to boot. Wow....
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