Founder's Day in Eorzea: A Misleading Anniversary

Eorzea's birthday is upon us, but should we really be celebrating Final Fantasy XIV's launch? Thayos discusses the topic in this editorial.

If you had asked me a year ago what Final Fantasy XIV would be like at its one-year anniversary, my prediction would have been glowing.

Like many people, I ignored the warning signs – the lag and problems throughout alpha and beta testing, the surprisingly early release date just ahead of a World of Warcraft expansion, even the lack of attention devoted to Final Fantasy XI during the previous couple of years.

Now, here we are. Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary in Eorzea for those of us who bought the collector’s edition. A week later, people who saved money on the standard edition will notch their one-year marks. While most anniversaries are events to be celebrated – and while there is much to be happy about regarding the recent updates to the game – I can’t help but wonder whether we should be celebrating at all.

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Founder's Day

Launch day was truly a memorable day. My linkshell from FFXI had been planning its move to Eorzea for months. We had chosen Ghysal as our sever, and Ul’dah as our nation. Despite the lag and lack of things to do, we were thrilled to find each other in this stunning new world. Most of these guys were like me, in that they’d spent months looking forward to that day, launch day, a year ago from Wednesday.

We weren’t the only online friends who migrated to Final Fantasy XIV. Many other groups from several other games started linkshells in Eorzea, regardless of the fact that linkshell management controls were (and still are) nonexistent. In less than two months, roughly 630,000 copies of the game shipped to players all over the world. The Playstation 3 version of the game was planned to be released last March, roughly six months after the PC release.

As much as I remember the thrill of launch day, I also remember the growing sense of uncertainty as issues were allowed to linger. Why was the lag so bad? Why weren’t quests being implemented? Why was the user interface so unintuitive? Why was crafting so convoluted? After doing a handful of guild leves, what was left to do? We told ourselves the development team must be on the verge of releasing a slew of fixes and content updates. As the days passed, the updates never came.

That’s when the exodus began. Players started leaving in droves. Most of my friends who had waited so long to play were gone within a few weeks. Linkshells that grew meteorically after launch day were suddenly empty, with the few remaining members unable to clear the dozens of inactive, grayed-out names from the ranks. The initial linkshells were broken, and the stragglers repearled. Then more people left, and more shells were broken – the cycle repeated itself too many times. Server populations dropped so drastically, the development team even revoked the ability of players to see how many others were online with them.

Is the game’s one-year anniversary really something worth celebrating? Is it possible to feel good about a day of false hope that was followed by months of frustration and loss?

Or for the real mind-blowing question: should Wednesday even be considered the game's true anniversary?

Perhaps a more worthy anniversary worth celebrating would be Dec. 10, 2011 – one year to the day that Naoki Yoshida replaced Hiromichi Tanaka as the game’s producer and director. Please realize I have nothing but respect for Tanaka, a father of the Final Fantasy franchise and arguably one of the most influential video game designers of my generation. However, his development team dropped the ball in a big, big way. A game that should have enjoyed more success than its predecessor was instead the laughingstock of the MMO industry.

Nobody expected Tanaka would be replaced – the official story is he resigned – but the enormity of the news signaled a monumental shift in how FFXIV would be managed. The announcement marked the first day since the game’s disastrous launch when players had good reason to be hopeful.

In the weeks that followed, Yoshida began to unveil his ambitious plans for rebuilding this broken game, and then he set a bold goal of releasing two patches per month. As his development team introduced quests, notorious monsters and other bits of content into the game, Yoshida asked us to be patient while more sweeping changes were worked on behind the scenes. Now we’re seeing those massive patches come to fruition, and so far the changes have been stellar. Already we’ve seen an overhaul of the battle system, the implementation of raid dungeons, the introduction of companies, the abolishment of skill points fatigue and other important updates. Later this month, the next big patch is expected to deliver chocobos, airships, overhauls to crafting recipes, a redo of the guild leve system, more dungeons, a new caravan escort activity and more. And on the horizon, a third giant patch promises to deliver even more Eorzea-altering content, possibly including the creation of traditional Final Fantasy jobs.

There’s a lot to be excited about, but that doesn’t change the fact that being a Final Fantasy XIV player is hard work. We’re still playing a game that is below industry standards. We’re still stuck with the awkward market wards instead of an intuitive auction house. The user interface still lags, although not nearly as bad as before. We have no mailbox system, and character animations are repetitive and boring. Forming parties is shockingly difficult because we inexplicably don’t have a basic party search tool. Cultivating a healthy, active linkshell is nearly impossible given the lack of linkshell management controls.

But things are getting better, and they’re getting better fast, and I don’t think I’d be saying that if Naoki Yoshida hadn’t taken the reins from Tanaka.

So say what you will when Wednesday arrives, but realize that Eorzea as we know it wasn’t founded on launch day. The game that launched a year ago today died in early December, and Yoshi-P’s version of Final Fantasy XIV has taken its place. To put it simply, this Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of the game’s servers being turned on -- nothing more, nothing less. We still have a few months to go before the game we’re playing turns a year old.

When that day comes, I hope to give Final Fantasy XIV a glowing review.

Comments

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.. Bad animations..? What?
# Oct 08 2011 at 8:59 AM Rating: Decent
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While I do agree for the most part, especially with regard to not feeling wholly comfortable with the celebrations (however much I may mourn the loss of Tanaka's vision. Problems or no, and still play though I do, I personally felt it was a hundred times more worthwhile and far closer to what I want to some day see in an online game), I really must disagree on two points:

1: I'm in the 'iterate on the Market Wards camp', as are a fair few others. I'm sure people will lash out at me for saying this, but I feel it really ought not be portrayed as so clear cut an issue, especially given what the people demanding an 'Auction House' are asking for is a great deal more similar to the current setup than it is the proper definition of the term 'Auction House'.

2: What.. on earth are you talking about with 'boring and repetitive' character animations? They're no more repetitive than those of any other online game I've seen (barring ones like Phantasy Star Online and Universe, which are far more dynamic by virtue of their action/reflex/true-realtime combat systems). And boring? If there is one area in which Final Fantasy XIV has led the genre from the start, it's the quality of its character animation. Every movement is detailed and fluid, animation transitions are almost invisible; I've never seen a character animated more naturally in an MMORPG. Even the combat movement animations are dynamic, interesting, believable and in large part, move smoothly from one set to another. Quite simply, I love to watch my character, and have a hard time stomaching the way characters move in other games as a result of the sheer quality of Final Fantasy XIV's entity animations.

Now, if you were attempting to bash the effects, like explosions and magical spells and so forth, then I might be inclined to agree with you. But in that case I'd thank you not to confuse the issue further by giving them the name of something entirely different and far better.

The only area in which character animations are boring and repetitive is in spell casting, with every last spell being cast by holding up your foci for a moment then vaguely waving your arm.

Anyway, all said, feel free to bash away. One way or another, new as I am (having felt driven to register to pass this comment): hello everyone, sorry it's such a verbose first message.

Edited, Oct 9th 2011 8:22am by Fensfield
F2p or even B2p
# Sep 25 2011 at 7:37 AM Rating: Decent
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It would be cool if it went free to play, but if they did do something like that, they will probably make it buy to play, but even if they did that they might only have a few more people because of it's high system requirements.
Blehh
# Sep 23 2011 at 7:13 AM Rating: Decent
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I have been hearing how much FFxiv has failed since its launch and people are extremely dissapointed and upset, even after hearing about all its failures the only reason i havent bought it yet or played it is because i cant afford the game or the right comp atm , but it can only improve. this game obviously means alot to SE and their doing everything they can to fix it, if your are a FF fan then stick with it all the way and try to look at whats happening as an FF story in itself, A Tragic begining nothing but tears frustration and anger, Hope (as Yoshi-p makes his entrance into it)and then as patches start rolling out the story starts to lighten up a bit, but its an on-going story and in true final fantasy fasion all i can see in the future is a BRILLIANT EPIK OF AN ENDING!. . . WHEN everything yoshi-p has in mind is put into action and put into this game i feel it will be an epik, give it time.
Rift Too.
# Sep 20 2011 at 7:17 PM Rating: Decent
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Reminds me of RIFT.

That game failed hard.

Not enough content.
Rift Too.
# Sep 21 2011 at 5:39 AM Rating: Decent
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DoctorMog wrote:
Reminds me of RIFT.

That game failed hard.

Not enough content.

When exactly did Rift fail? When it didn't manage to dethrone WoW from it's no.1 spot, or when it just didn't please you? Because Rift didn't fail. It had one of the best launches in MMO history, in the fact that Trion didn't push an unfinished game to market (i.e. FF XIV).

Sure the game will suffer a major loss of players, come SW:TOR and Guild Wars 2's release but that's not due to Rift's failure. It's because people are tired of the same old same old, which is why I even have my doubts on the long term longevity of SW:TOR.

As for the article, I still remember how ****** off my friend was a week after having bought & played the FF XIV Collector's Edition, so I find it amusing that Square are trying to celebrate the occasion.
Rift Too.
# Oct 02 2011 at 4:13 PM Rating: Decent
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Master10K wrote:
DoctorMog wrote:
Reminds me of RIFT.

That game failed hard.

Not enough content.

When exactly did Rift fail? When it didn't manage to dethrone WoW from it's no.1 spot, or when it just didn't please you? Because Rift didn't fail. It had one of the best launches in MMO history, in the fact that Trion didn't push an unfinished game to market (i.e. FF XIV).


Pretty sure he's trolling you. Mog is a smart enough person to know that a game with over a million subs, and new content (whole raids) released like every month and a half, isn't a failure..
Great article
# Sep 20 2011 at 12:20 PM Rating: Decent
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Amazing, this is one of the best articles i've read so far here.
I think you're right and we probably shouldn't be celebrating the game's launch, but actually the time when it started to get better (patch 1.18 or others).
Maybe when it does become a good MMORPG (or at least what can be considered as good) we'll be able to recall the game's launch, despite all it's problems.
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I think ...
# Sep 20 2011 at 11:46 AM Rating: Default
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They should probably just make it Free to Play. Is anyone going to really want to pay a monthly subscription for this? I'm still hanging in there, but ... I'm not sure for how much longer. There are other games coming.
Founders
# Sep 20 2011 at 6:50 AM Rating: Good
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I remember how full the servers were, then how barren it all became... maybe one day many years from now we'll look back with a nostalgic glow in our eyes and say "remember the good ol` days when the cities weren't so crowded".

Unfortunately I cannot foresee this happening. I have great memories from FFXI but so far FFXIV has offered very few, if any, memorable moments.

I do remember being unimpressed and let down, I guess that's something to celebrate! We'll see what Yoshi can do, hopefully the fruits of his labor taste good.

Edited, Sep 20th 2011 8:52am by RemVye
Founders
# Sep 20 2011 at 9:21 AM Rating: Good
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Has any MMO ever reached true success after a really horrible launch? FFXIV was geared for a specific market, mostly XI players who had long left (or those who may grow tired of XI soon). Those people mostly have tried the game and left. How many people are willing to come back to a game over a year after they already gave up on it?
(| Hmm... |)
# Sep 19 2011 at 11:13 PM Rating: Excellent
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A fine article, no doubt, but I don't how I feel about it closing with FFXIV's mantra, "Just a couple more months.... just a couple more months... just a couple more months and it's fixed."
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"Thus opium is pleasing... on account of the agreeable delirium it produces." (Burke para.6)

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# Sep 19 2011 at 11:16 PM Rating: Excellent
I hear you, and I thought about that, too... but that's a topic for its own editorial, maybe in a couple months from now. (See what I did there?)
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(| Hmm... |)
# Oct 17 2011 at 4:37 PM Rating: Decent
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long live squaresoft
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