Want to run a dungeon? Hope you've done all the prerequisites.
Hello and welcome to the sixth edition of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM’s column on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For this week’s edition we’re going to talk about the way FFXIV handles its content gating. Now when I saw instance gating, most of you coming from other MMOs are probably just picturing raids since those are usually the only thing you have to earn your way into these days, be it through an attunement quest line, an item level requirement or something like that. FFXIV goes a bit further. Want to run dungeons with your friends? Hope you’ve been keeping up with your story quests.
Duty Finder and the Story
When you get to level 15 in your main story quest line, you'll be sent to the first of FFXIV's dungeons, Sastasha. This is actually the first of three dungeons in a row you'll be running for this stretch of your story: run to dungeon entrance, queue in Duty Finder, run instance, turn in quest, rinse/repeat. The dungeons themselves are fairly simple and each run will last somewhere between 15-25 minutes barring poor luck or some horrendous pulls, so doing this stretch of your main story isn't too time-consuming even with queue times. Once those three dungeons are finished, you're clear for a bit with a stretch of solo questing before the next Duty Finder fight with Ifrit, then another stretch before the next DF queue, etc. Starting to see a pattern?
Now some of you are probably wondering why I'm even bringing up the Duty Finder here - it's a modern MMO after all, so we've come to expect the ability to queue for dungeons from anywhere. While that's true, this is the first time in my recollection that a game has tied its core story quest line to the ability to queue for dungeons with random people. This means that anyone playing the game solo (e.g. trying the game out before friends join in, fans of the regular Final Fantasy series without MMO experience, etc.) will get to that level 15 main quest and be forced to group with others. That may not sound like a major deal to some of you out there, but I can relate; other than grouping with friends and guild mates, I tend to be a very solo player who rarely queues for anything solo. For those times when it's just me, I would prefer to work on tasks like knocking out my story quests in-between crafting and dailies, but in FFXIV that's not always an option. There will be times where you will simply be stuck either waiting for friends to come home or just biting the bullet and hoping for a good pickup group.
This problem doesn't improve over time either. While there are a handful of dungeons sprinkled through the game that are separate from the main story line (all these require is grabbing a breadcrumb quest and going to the dungeon door), the vast majority of instances in the game require you to be at a certain part of your main quest line and that can be a point of contention for some players. I'll use myself and my questing friends as an example. During our run to 50 there was quite a bit of solo playing due to conflicting schedules. I spent most of my solo-play time (that wasn't crafting) running FATEs and questing. My healer friend, who has far more patience for pugging than I do, continued through his main story while leveling. When the time came that our schedules finally lined back up, he asked about running some dungeons, but over half of the instances he wanted to run were unavailable to us because of my position in the story quest line. It didn't matter that I was a comparable level to him or that he was group leader and had earned access - everyone has to be there or it's a no-go. This problem would come up again and again, including when patch 2.1 was released with a new 4-man dungeon, Pharos Sirius. All the patch notes said about this instance was that it required level 50, but our healer was the only one with access to this instance as well. That meant this four-man dungeon required you to complete the original main story line, including the three eight-man dungeons at the end. Seems a little strange to gate a small dungeon behind raids, don't you think? Of course FFXIV also gates non-combat content behind Duty Finder instances, so that's not the strangest thing they've ever done.