Final Fantasy was released back in September of 2010 and received a less then welcoming reception from the fans and media because of the numerous issues that continue to plague a potentially great game. The situation deteriorated so badly that the president of Square Enix, Yoichi Wada, personally wrote a letter apologizing to fans that the game wasn’t meeting their expectations and that Square Enix was fully committed to improving the game. They immediately showed that commitment immediately restructuring the development team – including a great shift in the upper management – and declaring the game free to play until it met everyone’s expectations.
In the midst of the debacle, they did the one thing they were dreadfully awful at: communicating with their player-base; they released surveys for players to voice their opinions, as well as a steady stream of developer letters that went into great detail about upcoming changes and the progress of development. From the surveys, the players told the developers that their biggest expectation was an overhaul of the fundamental aspects of gameplay; their biggest issue with the game was the lack of in-game content and they wanted to see more story-based/mini-quests in the game first.
Battle & Progression Systems
The problem with the progression and battle system is that it tries to do too much and ends up doing very little.
The way they approached the levelling system was two-fold: You had your physical level, which housed your main attributes and resistances, and then you have your class level, which uses those statistics from your physical level and scales them with your class level. It all sounds very unique but, when players did some testing, they noticed that the scale of power as you levelled up was relatively small.
The combat classes themselves were lacking in terms of being unique. Your class was defined by the weapon you used but you had the ability to equip non-class specific abilities outside of that class( you could equip unlocked magical abilities on your melee class and vice versa). Aside from the different type of weapon damage and a few unique abilities that are class specific, all of the classes feel the same in the current levelling system. There isn’t enough in the current system for the combat classes to feel different and provide a unique experience.
The hole gets deeper when you discuss the armoury system. The armoury system is very flexible and allows you to wear any type of armour regardless of what your class and level is. To balance it out, certain gear favours particular classes and job levels – meaning that you get the full effect of the item if you wear it in tandem with the favoured class and the correct class level. Again, the issue here is that even if you have really good gear and it caters the particular class you on you really don’t see that big of a difference; the whole point of attaining gear is that it gets better and better. So attaining new gear, playing different classes, and levelling up your character bottoms out and loses what a MMO needs to have and that’s a sense of progression.
Crafting System & Economy
The issue with crafting and the economy is fairly simple. In most theme park MMOs, the materials you need to craft are plentiful and the system is designed to either have you create trash loot for levelling, or provide a system that allows you to break down loot and reuse for the purpose of levelling. Within that system there are usually some pieces that cater to specific classes – allowing the crafter to have a wide arrange of items to make without overloading the market with a handful of useful items. In FFXIV the materials are easy to get but the rest is a bit of a clustered mess.
Crafting is very realistic in requiring you to make parts and then using those parts to create an item. I personally like a system that takes some of the real life practices of crafting, but the system is very bloated – requiring ample amounts of material to craft items. Grinding a level or two on your crafting job ends up requiring a lot of materials just for a level or two. Blend that with the entire crafting process takes a significant amount of time to do; From inputting the materials you want to use along with the mini-game you have to play to try to complete the item, you end up spending a chunk of time crafting in your day to day play session alone, which doesn’t leave you with a lot of time to go fight monsters. At the end of the day, crafting just isn’t very fun and at some point people, like myself, started calling Final Fantasy XIV ‘Craft Fantasy.’ Crafting woes aside, let’s look at how the economy is affected.
The economy issue isn’t necessarily tied to the crafting system but one of issues that harms the economy is the armoury system. Like I stated before, you can wear any piece of armour in the game regardless of your class. With the levelling system and the way statistics are calculated, it all falls by the waist side, so people end up sticking with one or two sets of their highest level gear for crafting and combat and just roll with it. Add that to the fact that you can level your character’s level efficiently by crafting, and now you have a flood of goods flowing into the market that leaves a higher supply than demand requires.
In addition, the formula for acquiring and spending gil (gold) isn’t correct. You get plenty of gilas a reward from performing Guildleve jobs that can leave the players pretty wealthy by grinding those out and levelling up. The only way the game takes out gil is by repairing weapons and armour and passing money around in the economy via the marketwards. Coming full circle, players aren’t spending a lot of money on items since they’re plentiful and cheap thanks to supply being higher than demand. There aren’t a lot of items that a player needs to perform tasks outside of crafting, so you have players with a lot of money that they don’t necessary need on anything outside of purchasing crafting material and the occasional armour and weapon upgrade.
To address the battle and progression problems, Square Enix is looking at retooling the levelling system, nothing official on that front yet but they are taking the matter of levelling system very serious with various forum posts and surveys. Based one of the surveys, players have opted for getting rid of physical levels and judging progression by class level. The developers are also looking into adjusting the battle classes to make them a bit more unique on the battlefield as well as restricting gear based on level and class. Though I would like them to implement a feature where you can level adjust to play with a friend and keep the way they scale the gear currently to make that possible.
In line with tweaking the battle classes and adjust the levelling system, they are also reworking the way a party functions. If you played Final Fantasy XI you’ll know combat in that game is very tactical; you work with other classes to perform weapon skill combos that, if performed correctly, produce an additional effect, resulting in more damage. They kind of went away from that with the fifth-teen party man system which just resulted in a bunch of zerging (throwing a mass number of players at one mob). They have reduced the limit of party size to eight and are making the battle regiment system more intuitive in order to promote tactical play. With the refocus of the party system they are also developing small and large scale PvE dungeons and other events.
They’ve already introduced a number of stand-alone quests that don’t involve the Guildleve system and are routinely developing more quests and story lore in each patch update – The latest being the introduction of grand companies that play a major role in the game’s story.
For the crafting system and economy, they plan to revise the recipes to require less materials, adjust the difficulty, retool the required items, and allow crafters to craft in bulk. This will ease the process of solo crafting and, by Rank 20, have crafters participate more with the focus being on the markets. I’m speculating that the crafting changes will result in players crafting items that will be in demand by other crafters. That’s one thing that I like about the crafting system in this game is that some recipes require materials that have to be made by other crafting classes.
Along with these changes, the developers have also spoken about a concept system in the works that will improve crafting and the economy. They call it the Materia system and, much like the inspired name from the Final Fantasy 7, this concept looks to bring uniqueness back to the classes by allowing crafters to create enchantment stones to help further differentiate various crafting pieces and allow them to made to cater towards certain classes. This system not only would fit in line with the changes being applied across the board but will also bring back some legitimacy to the crafting and gathering classes giving them another foothold in the game as well as another source of capital.
There are many problems with the current state of the game in and the developers are working hard to lay out a plan that will remedy a lot of the problems with the game and create a game that the developers and players can be proud of and take part in it.