I’m going to be a bit angry for a bit, so strap yourself in for a nice rant from an opinionated person with no legitimate superiority over the developers of any game, let alone an MMO. I have no design experience, no business experience, but the one thing I do know is what the word “option” means.
Final Fantasy XIV is unacceptably disingenuous in its definition of what it means to be a game. I understand that micro-payments have become the latest trend in gaming, selling you the game piecemeal to maximise profits. That, in and of itself, is painful. FF14 goes even further, however, by being the only MMO I know of to charge you not only a monthly fee for game time, but also one for your characters.
When I installed the game, the rational part of my mind said “Oh, this will be like all those other 30 day free things, you’ll get one free character slot and have to pay for extras. No big deal.” But no, you have to buy a character slot, an extra monthly fee on top of your game time, just to play. They then have the gall to call this a “character option”.
No, having a character slot is not optional in an MMO. This was a situation made more irritating by the convoluted sign up system. Do you want to pay with Crysta (Square-Enix’s magical online currency) or directly by credit card? If you want to pay by credit card you’ll have to sign up to another website first. Why? No idea, especially as pretty much every other MMO out there manages to do direct billing without signing up for yet another website.
But, that annoyance out the way, I finally got my character built and dropped into the colourfully bizarre world of FF14. I then spent two hours trying to decipher the terrible pirate-voice text and dull tutorial quest of my chosen starting point.
Everything from the overly verbose quest briefings, to the unappealing combat and the control scheme that practically requires a gamepad serve to make it one of the dreariest first impressions I’ve had from an MMO. The best part of the game, oddly enough, was the one mission that fulfilled the typical MMO tropes: killing rats with my giant axe. Completing the quest rewarded me with the traditional Final Fantasy victory fanfare, which genuinely made me smile. I dare say that when the game lets me at more of these guildlevel quest things I may start to drag some enjoyment out of the game, but the tutorial section has, so far, been dull and far too drawn out.
I don’t understand how so many people can make this same mistake. If your game isn’t interesting at the start, people will not want to see it through to the end, especially if they have to pay two monthly fees for the privilege.
There are some kernels of what might become good ideas in Final Fantasy, however, so I’m not writing it off completely at this point. I hope they play out, especially giving my character a mysterious past, that’s a bold move for an MMO, but even if they do there’s an awful lot of hassle before they start paying dividends.
Not a good start, Square. Not a good start at all.