Ragar looks back at FFXIV's launch and where we go from here
Hello and welcome to 2013’s last issue of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM’s column about Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Normally in these columns, I’d find a specific aspect of FFXIV to discuss, be it ways to improve existing systems or looking into a world event and where they did well or poorly. As much as I’d really like to do that with FFXIV’s crafting system, we’re going to hold off on that for when everyone’s not on holiday travel. Instead for this week’s column, we’ll be looking back over 2013 for FFXIV, both the good and the bad.
Off to a Good Start
When I first heard they were rebuilding FFXIV after the mess that was the original launch in 2010, I’ll admit I was skeptical. I played the open beta during the two weeks before launch and nearly everything about v1.0 frustrated me to the point of not buying the game. In June of this year when our editor here at ZAM was asking who wanted beta keys for this new FFXIV v2.0 beta, many of us were understandably skeptical, but I was curious what exactly they had changed (that and I think I was in-between MMOs again), so I gave it a shot. Fast forward six months later and I’m still playing the game – guess they did something right, huh?
This remake of FFXIV brought us many of the aspects of v1.0 that were promised, but had poor execution. A well-written core story quest line was integrated into leveling with hooks into group content not only to point out to players which dungeons were applicable to their level, but also to give those instances some actual story significance rather than “loot piñatas live here”. Players were delayed from going gatherer/crafter until level 10 this time, but that gave them both some initial funds for crafting as well as familiarizing them with the world some beforehand. It also cut out those silly “Throw Rock” moments from v1.0 where the game was trying to tell its epic story and you were trying to save the world as a Miner/Goldsmith/etc.
Many of the other good aspects we’ve seen in FFXIV aren’t exactly new ideas, but the execution has worked very well. Cross-class skills give players not only reasons to level those other classes/jobs for variety, but also provide options to make your Marauder/Thaumaturge/Conjurer different from your friends and Free Company mates. The Armory Chest gave you both a way to swap classes on the road and helped keep your gear uncluttered by the rest of the junk in your bags. The dungeons themselves started off simple, but as time went on we’ve seen (in most cases) a good mix of boss mechanics and the random chests in different nooks and crannies of the instances give players a reason to do more than find the most efficient straight line from zero to loot. Finally the Duty Finder at launch not only let you queue for any dungeon/guildleve/trial available to you and your group, but also gave you the freedom to work on other classes till it was time to go and it told you to switch back. Well, when it was working and you could log in.
It’s Not an MMO Launch Without Something Breaking
Nearly every MMO has something go wrong at launch and FFXIV was no exception. Early Access Players became very familiar with Errors 90000, 3102 and more as they found themselves unable to log into their servers. Even those players who were able to log into the game ran into major roadblocks whenever their story or class quest lines required an instance, a dungeon or a solo quest fight, as all of those instances shared the same server system. Throw in multiple periods of emergency maintenance downtime and you found yourself hard-pressed to make much progress for a few days, but these issues were resolved soon after launch and those players were able to get back to leveling. The ones who didn’t have Early Access found themselves facing a new problem though: full servers.
Prior to FFXIV’s official relaunch on August 27th, Square Enix had been selling digital copies of the game through its site. When the 27th hit and the floodgates of players opened, SE found itself with far more players than it anticipated. Digital sales were halted that day until server capacity was expanded enough to reopen three weeks later, but there were still all of those boxed games and previously bought digital copies with players looking to log in and join their friends. Those new players (or even previous players just trying to reroll with their friends) were faced with a wall of locked servers for days on end. Speaking from personal experience, one of my FC mates couldn’t join us on Gilgamesh for over a week after she got her copy of the game. In MMO terms that’s not a giant chunk of time to make up as everyone makes their way to endgame, but at launch that’s a hard pill to swallow. Regardless, these issues were resolved, players were finally allowed to roll on servers of their choosing and we had nearly four months to play through the launch content prior to FFXIV’s first content update, patch 2.1, on December 17th.