How FFXIV Helped Me Decide to Drop MMORPGs And Move On With My Life
You may have noticed that I’ve disappeared.
I’ve been god damned obsessed. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I’m a fan of Final Fantasy XIV. Last I checked in here, I was pretty excited for A Realm Reborn, which has sorta been out for like a year now. My lack of blogging in that time may or may not be related.
The new Eorzea is dangerously immersive, enough so that friends I had never been able to get into MMO’s were similarly entranced – and still are!
That may have been the best part. For me, it was like living a dream to race through the storyline and eventually tackle endgame with real life actual people that I know. You know, in real life. Finally, they saw what I was talking about! They understand! They’re just as addicted as I am!
It was almost validation for spending all my time playing a single video game. At least I’m being sociable, right? I mean, what else would I be doing? Drinking with the same people at a bar instead?
The year since launch flew by. I finished leveling every battle, craft, and gathering class the game has to offer – and had respectable gear for most of them. Every patch meant 20 new gearsets to collect, and I did the best I could while also devouring every square inch of content available. There’s nothing like an MMORPG to challenge a completionist.
My to-read pile stacked up. My boyfriend spent his evenings waiting his turn. The cat pawed longingly through the arms of my chair.
But I cleared Turn 5! And my character is hot!
You all know where this is going, and so did I. Six months into ARR, I cut my work schedule down to four days, hoping that an extra day would allow me the time to catch up on all the Real Life I was missing out on. This worked out splendidly, until someone asked on my novel’s progress and I had nothing to tell them. Indeed, the only thing my extra day off accomplished was an additional raid per week.
But the happily addicted are not so easily swayed, especially one with so little impulse control as I. Fully aware of how much of my life I was letting slip by, I continued to kill internet dragons. Not even gaining – no joke – thirty pounds (!) snapped me out of it.
It wasn’t until the advent of patch 2.3 that I finally realized I wasn’t happy. As much as I wanted my best in slot, I just wasn’t having fun any more.
I only like maybe three of you people, and that’s on a good day. Why are you the only seven faces I ever see?
If you want to progress anywhere in Coil, you need to have a static. Seven other members reliable enough to show up at all your raids on time, the same seven members for anything that matters. Without them, it’s gambling with random players without any feel for their skill and experience.
Every fight is a scripted, team jump rope affair – completely unforgiving of missteps. If one player fucks up, they bring everyone else down with them. Recovery may be possible with seven other people you play with multiple times a week, and you’re perfectly in tune with. Recovery is very unlikely with randoms who are used to a different way of doing things, or, more often than not, don’t know a thing about the fight. This discourages mingling in endgame, locking everyone into their regular groups they know and trust. It festers hostility toward learning players, because they’re wiping entire raids with minor mistakes.
I have plenty to say about the faux difficulty of team jump rope mechanics, but let’s stay on topic and dive into the greater problem this static mentality poses.
Once you’ve found a solid static, there is little reason to play with anyone else. Coil is the end all be all content, and you can’t return to turns you’ve cleared for the week to help your friends out. Your friends who aren’t in your static are on their own. Sure, you can do a four-man dungeon, or you can run Crystal Tower, or a Primal. But all that’s just fluff. And if you’re only focused on one job, there’s no reason to do the fluff. Not if you’re clearing Coil.
I’ve seen it happen in multiple Free Companies: The static groups remain tight cliques, focusing on their own goals because they’re unwaveringly on similar progression levels. Anyone not in that group is hardly recognized, because nobody wants to do anything they can’t benefit from in this game. There is shit to do. Ain’t nobody got time for carrying Titan Ex!
People feel left out. They leave. Friendships end.
Yes, friendships end. It doesn’t matter how good the intentions are. Resentment grows because now you have to find a replacement, feelings are hurt because now you never do anything together. I’ve lost so many friends since ARR launched, friends I had played with for years in FFXI without conflict. All due to Coil and this static mentality.
Timed Resets Are Like Taco Bell: Addicting. Hollow, yet delicious. But not so fun at the end of the day.
As I had posted before ARR launched, one of the things I looked forward to most about the relaunch was the prospect of playing the game more casually. Naively, I believed I could play the game at my own pace, whenever I wanted, without missing out on too much. Daily/Weekly resets were pitched as a way to ensure that, and they did a very good job early on. But as more time gated content was released, more things to accomplish every day, I found it had the opposite effect on me.
I had to log in every single day to ensure I did my roulettes, get my Alexandrite, do my dailies, harvest my map, send my retainer out, and try to squeeze some leves in, because dammit: I want to be an Honest Gillionaire!
These tasks alone claimed the better part of the day, at which point I had to use my remaining time chiseling away at the weekly content. I reviled the idea of taking a week to travel anywhere and missing out on a week’s worth of tomes. I didn’t care if I was going to motherfucking Hawaii. That’s a whole round of Coil that I might get that drop I’ve been wanting, and if not, definitely something from Crystal Tower! Hawaii can wait.
Some of these seem less important than others, but the fact is, missing that tome cap really hurts your progression. As I write, I’m stressing out that I didn’t cap Soldiery for the week before quitting and it’s the first time I haven’t capped since launch. I’m stressing out that I’ll miss Turn 9 practice this week. I’m literally fanning myself like a Belieber trying to keep from charging down the road to try and get a piece of his clothes.
If I start playing again, will I ever clear Turn 9 after everyone has moved past it? In a game culture where nobody wants to go back and help anybody, there’s a lot of pressure to keep up. There’s a constant need to stay on top of everything so that you’ll never be locked out of new content.
The thing is, none of this bullshit is any fun at all. It’s the same crap you did yesterday, or last week. These are chores to be done, ones that I was valuing over important tasks being neglected in my life. All because doing them enough got me an achievement, or a new shiny, or kept me competitive. But mostly: shiny.
They Want Me to Deliver Perfume Again
Don’t get me wrong, I love FFXIV’s storyline. The big showdown in Praetorium was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had gaming, and I still remember the chills I had in the following cutscenes. I love Eorzea. I eat the lore right up. Wanting to know as much as I can about it is a huge reason I’m so determined to complete all the content. Leave no quest unflagged! Must know every NPC by name!
But the quality in storytelling has decreased dramatically since 2.1. Each patch, I find myself impatient with the new main scenario. I have to consciously prevent myself from speeding through the dialogue until something interesting happens. When it does, inevitably that gold text appears on a black screen, informing me I’m done until the next patch.
This is a far cry from the top-notch storytelling in the later patches of 1.0, and is the greatest thing I miss about the original game. The cutscenes were epic. The quests were difficult. Ranking up in my Grand Company felt like I just overcame fucking Modor, Howard Shore soundtrack and all.
There was a foreboding sense of danger in Eorzea that is missing now. Garlean airships flying over the city and imperial attacks have been replaced with… delivery? I don’t give two fucks. I kill motherfucking primals. I downed Twintania. I’m not delivering your damn perfume!
Even “big” events, like the summoning of Leviathan or Ramuh, are a total let down. There’s no build up, no tension. It just happens, you kill them, it’s done. You never really feel the threat, as you did very early on with Garuda, or Ultima.
Hunts Are Broken… Like, really. Really broken.
And this was the straw that broke the goobbue’s back.
The community has done their best to make hunts inclusive for everyone and settle much of the hostility that was arising from it. That doesn’t change the game breaking design that hunts introduced.
The rewards for this zergfest are so insane, I don’t know how it even passed testing. Myth, soldiery, sands, and oils, all from bitch slapping a mob down in 2.5 seconds. All the new content in 2.3 was dead in the water as soon as people discovered this.
Nobody is doing dungeons. No one is doing Ramuh. The weekly lockout on Syrcus Tower gear is a joke, and queue times show that everyone knows it. Why bother with ilvl100 gear when you can mindlessly spam for better? Even Frontline, which was massively popular for a couple weeks, is a ghost town. You can’t just choose to only do the content you like if another is hogging all the tanks and healers.
I tried to grind them out. Tried. My brain melted. I’m sorry, but running from mob to mob spamming Cure III for some of the best gear in the game is not my idea of a good time. The thought of doing this for just one job, let alone nine, is enough to make me question my life priorities.
In my opinion, SquareEnix’s biggest mistake was undertuning Second Coil and making tome gear ilvl100 to compensate. Sands/Oils were a superfluous wall that shouldn’t have been needed if they had tuned Second Coil as they had the first. Because overcoming this wall is necessary, the entire rest of the game is suffering.
And thank god!
I’d be lying if I said I’m not still addicted. Like a recovering alcoholic peering longingly through the windows of every bar he passes, I’m still religiously checking every website I know of for updates on what everyone’s doing. I haven’t uninstalled yet, and I don’t think I’ll have the heart to for awhile (if FFXI still on my HDD is any indication).
But that was SE’s intent: to make me feel like I needed to complete everything, to stress me out when I’m not playing, and to compel me into coming back every single day (even if what I’m doing every day isn’t particularly fun). They did a wonderful job. I don’t know how anyone escapes it, and props to you if you can. I can’t, and that’s why I’m leaving MMORPGs altogether.
This post isn’t here to convince anyone to quit playing, or not to start. And I don’t give a fuck what you think of me quitting. If you’re loving FFXIV right now, good for you! If you’re looking to check it out, I highly recommend it. The game is beautiful, the main scenario is exhilarating (until you reach cap, at least), and it’s easy to get into. Go for it! Unless you’re completely OCD like me and have absolutely no self control. Then stay the fuck away.
This is here simply so that I’ve said that I’m quitting. I’ve committed my words to the internet gods, and I’m done. I can’t be tempted back into the same habits. The moment I hit publish, I can’t go back on my word. That’s just the way I work.
It’s time to lay Reyn Wilde to rest and get back to Nathan Trader. I have a novel to finish. And thirty fucking pounds to lose.
Until the expansion pack, anyway…