A lot went through my head as I was reading the updates listed. There were a couple of things that struck me as a bit worrisome, several things that I am psyched about beyond all reasonable points, and one strange little theory that occurred to me as being just paranoid enough to have some truth to it. And yes, were we promised customizable ships in there at some point? I can get behind that.
First of all, there's a lot of stuff in here aimed at things people have been complaining about interfering with their enjoyment of the game. I'm not sure how much of it will actually mollify anyone, but then, I'm not the person being targeted by these improvements in the first place. The UI quirkiness and so forth doesn't bother me enough to impede my enjoyment. People who are that bothered might find it fixes a lot, might find it's not really a big change -- again, I don't know.
(Those of you who are asking "why didn't they start fixing this right away, these are old problems from testing" please stand by. No, really, down toward the bottom.)
"I have to wonder if some of these changes are a direct result of both closed and open beta testing that just required a lot of time to implement."
Additional guildleves and main story quests are also more of what makes the game fun in the first place. The difficulty-change feature is another welcome change that I hope goes live this month, as it's a big shift in gameplay. One of the problems that I think many people have had with guildleves is that when you start one, you might pick something either too difficult to accomplish or not difficult enough to earn you any real skill gains. Being able to change that makes leves feel much less like a crapshoot in terms of actual activity.
Oh, and the market ward changes? Pretty much universally welcome. I've gone down on record as saying that just doing an auction house would have been a million times easier, but I can give the development team credit for doing the legwork necessary to make this system work.
Notorious monsters worry me more than is probably correct. Well, that's not true -- the monsters themselves don't worry me, the line about equipment associated with said monsters worries me. One of the parts of the game that I have greatly enjoyed thus far is the complete absence of anything that smells like Leaping Lizzy, and it's not due to a lack of lizards in the game at present. Yes, I understand if your HNMLS in Final Fantasy XI was the most fun you ever had and so forth. I do not share your feelings on this matter, however, and I would be very happy to see random world monsters with insane respawn timers and powerful drops never appear again.
This is probably an empty worry. Most of the recent NMs in Final Fantasy XI have been triggered spawns rather than Valkurm Emperor Mark Two. I'm still just a little bit worried.
We aren't getting any more main storyline quests until early next year, and since the current storyline kind of peters out around the mid-30s, that's a little distressing. It's not that players will lack things to do, but one of the big strengths of the game is how deeply and emphatically it pulls you into its storyline as a major figure. It's also very different from what many players are accustomed to at this point, with a lot of things to do that are really wholly disconnected from the main storyline at any given moment.
The conspiracy theory
And now it's time to put on our tinfoil hats, because two interesting thoughts have occurred to me. One of them is going to be popular with people who prefer to defend Final Fantasy XIV, and one of them will be popular with the more negative crowd. Both are best taken with a grain of salt large enough to be used as a dinner table.
The update talks about some pretty significant changes to the game's UI, something some players have said the game has needed since March kicked off the closed alpha testing. Of course, that makes me wonder... how much time does it actually take to make major changes to the UI? I have to wonder if some of these changes are a direct result of both closed and open beta testing that just required a lot of time to implement. Reprogramming a UI when it's hard-wired to the game client can take a fair bit of time, I would imagine. It takes a fair bit of work even for games with a very open structure such as World of Warcraft.
But then, they could have always delayed launch a bit until it was ready. There would have to be some reason why the game had to launch at the end of September if that was the case. Some reason... like the PS3 version being far enough away at that point that any major changes would be in and fixed before the console launch.
Think about it. Players who want an MMO on the PS3 are by definition not going to provide the same sort of critical feedback as PC players, since the field of qualifying games is so much narrower. FFXIV is very likely to be one of the first, if not the first. And so there's always the vague possibility that Square-Enix expected a launch storm, that there was a plan from the beginning to let the PC version suffer early on in favor of having a strong product when the PS3 version launches.
Credible? No, not really. But most conspiracy theories really aren't. I do think Square is taking a marathon approach rather than a sprinting approach, that the focus is on the game's long-term results rather than how it does out of the gate... but that's another column to be written another time.
This time? I've got some other projects to work on, including some community awesomeness that should be coming in the not-so-distant future. Until then, feel free to leave comments either in the thread below, or send them along to my inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.