How to Make Sure Final Fantasy XIV Doesn't Suck--Final

Wednesday, August 5, 2009
So, this is it. The end. The final installment of--No, no, don't cry. Really. It will be okay. I'll write more articles, I promise! Oh, sweety...stifle your weeping. There, there. It's all right. Let any tears you may shed be tears of joy, for the day of reckoning has come! Descending thunder-like upon us (and bristling with familiar blue pincers) is the oft-heralded Part Seven of Somnambulant Gamer's


Okay, don't rejoice. I know that really, I owe you an apology. This entry has been a long time coming. (Well, not so long time a time to a Galapagos tortoise. Maybe to a fruit fly. Or an orchid. At any rate, it's been an eternity in Internet time. You are all old and shrivelly, by now! Digitally, anyway.)

So, I'm terribly sorry if you've been waiting. If you had held your breath, you'd surely be dead. I don't have any reasonable excuse other than one involving a three-headed monkey or Line's delicious cherry pie. No, that isn't a double entendre.

Okay, okay, I'll get to the stuff you came here for. There's business to get to, and I intend to get to its meaty core.

This entry is all about everything not covered in the other parts of this series: PvP, Jumping, Crafting, Mini-games, Chocobos, and Music. That's why this entry is titled


Games have a myriad of factors that make them good, and gameplay is at the forefront of these. If the core gameplay isn't at least good, no amount of extra bells and whistles can distract players from its core failure. This is not true for anything if it is not true for MMOs. That said, what do we do when the core gameplay is great? Well, we make all that extra stuff awesome. We don't have to, no--but that's what sets good games apart from legendary ones. I don't know about you, but I want Final Fantasy XIV to be legendary.

player versus player

I'm just going to come right out and say it. Final Fantasy XI's PvP sucks. This judgment is coming not from a place of experience, but a place of utter indifference. I have only played Ballista two or three times, and if I have ever played Brenner, it didn't impress me enough to take up any space in my big, meaty brain. I think most of FFXI's player base will agree that while FFXI's "PvP" games do have one or two redeeming qualities, they are, by and large, ignored by the community. The reason for this is multifarious, but there is one singular blockade to participation that I think trumps all others, and that is: accessibility. Between all the teleportation, NPCs, item trades, chat log announcements, level caps and strange locales, getting to, joining, and participating in a PvP event in FFXI is more headache than its worth. There is almost no reward for participation.

It sucks.

Final Fantasy XIV needs, at the very least, a duel mode. Duels might be able to support 2-12 players, enabling two six-man teams (say, a Linkshell's best fighters) to face off. They should be able to challenge, accept, and engage in a battle in any area--better yet. Add to that a colosseum. I can think of a half-dozen ways to make this interesting, including Gil and Experience wagers with safeguards in place to prevent cheating.

Another possibility is to expand FFXI's 'Conquest' system. Instead of having players gain influence in an area by killing monsters, have areas come under nations' controls through PvP battles. This would work in exactly the same way Campaign works now, except that fighters from both nations would show up and battle for dominance of the zone. Depending on the zone, level cap the fights so that any player has a place to participate. Players then have to defend their nation's zones from both other players and campaign-like waves of monsters. As nations expanded their territory, player forces would be spread more thinly throughout, leading to an eventual collapse in power. In this way, the system would be self-regulatory. In essence, it would rock so hard all of our faces would fall off.

We still have a lot to cover, so let's move on to the next order of business. It's simple. It's seven letters. It's


In Final Fantasy XI, you can't jump. Galka, Elvaan, Mithra, Hume, or Tarutaru, your legs can literally carry you across the world--but they can't get you up onto a shin-high ledge.

World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has a key that is only for jumping, and nothing else. This leads to people jumping absolutely everywhere they go, and generally looking like assholes.

Neither of these are optimal. Thankfully for yours truly, (and all of us, really) a user by the name of Kharmageddon has come up with one solution that seems workable: a charge jump. Simply hold a button for a few seconds, and your character executes a jump in whichever direction you're holding.

Another possible solution would be an 'action' button system. That is to say, small cliffs or ledges could be vaulted up onto by pressing the Action button when standing next to it.

The point? I should never have to worry about my level 75, uber Samurai character to not be able to scale a three-foot ledge. In keeping with the running theme of this series, it just doesn't make sense. Give us something in Final Fantasy XIV, SE. This is 2009 and and there's no excuse not to.


Crafting in Final Fantasy XI is an area in which I don't have much experience. The furthest I ever got was a level twenty-something smith.

A good friend of mine, however, has leveled a different skill, Alchemy, and I can't emphasize enough how many hours and how many hundreds of thousands of gil he's sunk into his craft. Yes, he makes a profit now--on one or two recipes. But the effort it took to get there is not, in my opinion, worth the reward. And I don't think I'm the only one with this opinion--hardly anyone I know on FFXI has leveled a craft to any notable level, although some out there do nothing but.

In addition, the crafting system is ingenious in a villainous sort of way. Hidden variables affect successes and failures, down to the direction your character is facing when attempting a recipe. This would be okay if such algorithmic mechanations were still not largely mysterious--e.g., players have discovered (through seven years of trial and error) what variables affect success or failure when crafting. But to what degree they affect is still somewhat of a mystery, mathematically. While developers don't need to reveal the key to 100% success rates, they do need to cut players who don't have the time, money or patience for that kind of abuse some slack.

What I mean to say is this: crafting needs to be something I can do when I don't have time for adventures. I want to pop on with 10 minutes, grab a few materials. and craft some items. I shouldn't need guild support, have to look up the proper direction to face, make sure I'm doing it on the right day, blah blah blah, to make a sword out of a few chunks of metal. If I'm a woodworker, it shouldn't be too much to expect that I can do something with wood--like turn it into lumber--at a relatively low level. Make crafting more transparent, Square Enix. Entice us. Make gathering materials something you can do through quests--make it fun! Hell, if I do some quest to get a rare piece of lumber, (say I can only do this quest once per week), why shouldn't I get experience points, too?

I have a good feeling that SE is going to do something like this. Today, they revealed four beginning classes for FFXIV. Two of them are crafters. How they're implemented, well, it remains to be seen.


The above image is not an FFXI screenshot. It is an FFIX screenshot of the card game Tetra Master, which is playable through Playonline--sort of "down the street" from FFXI. But aside from a non-really-in-the-game card game, FFXI has no mini games. Yes, there are a few gambling tables. Yes, there is chocobo racing...sort of.

The problem is that there is no direct player to player minigames. I am a staunch supporter of the card game idea, (and although I preferred FFVIII's Triple Triad to IX's Tetra Master, I can see why Tetra Master is a better choice for an MMO), but the implementation of the game was completely wrong.

In VIII, or IX, you simply clicked a player using the Square button to challenge them to a card game. Why can't we do the same in XI? FFXIV needs a card game. Period. People like me, (and there are a lot), will obsess about collecting that shit until the end days. It's also a great way for people who don't like PvP to do PvP. Let monsters drop cards, even. Just give us something!

More minigames could involve chocobos. More on that below, in the Chocobo section of this article.

The point is that XIV needs minigames in which players can interact. Let us bet on the chocobo circuit. Give us something like FFVII's battle arena, to see how many monsters you can take on by yourself--or hell, the Gold Saucer! Give us a carnival where we can play games. Things of this nature bring a level of vitality and fun to the game world which can't be obtained through fighting and questing--namely, not everything you do is drama-filled, life or death situations. The world's in dire straits, sure, but the denizens are getting enjoyment wherever they can. Think of Chrono Trigger's millennial fair. Life doesn't revolve around fighting. Things of this nature give us the impression that our world is alive.


FFXI didn't give us Chocobos like we wanted them FOR EV AR. I, for one, was very excited when SE finall did give us things like:

Chocobo breeding/Calling your own chocobos
Chocobo colors
Chocobo racing

And yet, Square Enix, even when what fans wanted was so obvious, you still managed to choke. Bred Chocobos had to be raised to PERFECTION to be any faster than the ones you could rent from the stables, which literally took months of daily care. Chocobo colors gave your chocobo no special attributes. You got to name your chocobo, but there was never any way for other players to see that name. Worst of all, racing your chocobo was a boring, sit-and-watch deal in which you almost never raced against other players' chocobos.

The only thing even remotely right was Chocobo Hot and Cold--one of XI's few minigames (that most players still aren't even aware of), taken straight from FFIX in which you use your chocobo to hunt for treasure. Keep that up, Square. I sure do love making Autumn Flare dig up some tree roots, or whatever. (Read: make the spoils a little better, in the future!)

In XIV, we want all of those things you tried to do in XI, but done right.

-Chocobos should be as fast as rental chocobos upon reaching maturity.
-Colored chocobos should be rare, but have attributes. Flying should definitely be considered. Stealing the attributes from VII would be more than okay.
-Players should be able to race their chocobos agaist one another. Active participation is key, as is having the chocobo circuit PASSIVELY VISIBLE. This means that players can see chocobo races happening while they do other things. Just imaging running through Southern San'doria in XI--instead of those stupid guards along the walls, wouldn't it be cool to occasionally see your friends go racing by on their chocobos?

Also, just to throw it out there, I have two words: Chocobo Jousting.

Make it a rock/scissors/paper game. 1 on 1. Each player accepts the Joust. Before the match, chooses their 'high', 'mid', or 'low' attack. High>Mid>Low>High. It doesn't matter who wins. Just make sure other players can see this happening. Nothing like watching a weak newbie knock a veteran off his bird!


Okay, Square Enix. This is one area where I'm going to just start off by thanking you. You've already announced that Nobuo Uematsu is returning to do the music of Final Fantasy XIV.


Not that XII's music wasn't good. It was. And XI's was good, too! Well, the little bit Uematsu did. X-2? I don't know any game by that title.

I know I am not the only one who feels that Uematsu brings the emotion to Final Fantasy. Without his memorable scores, I doubt that Final Fantasy I - IX would be the masterpieces each one is. It is commonly accepted that Final Fantasy lost something after X, and many players argue over just what that is. They bring up gameplay, camera angles, characters, story...

but the truth is, they're missing Uematsu. To me, it just isn't Final Fantasy without him--to the point that Lost Odyssey, on Xbox 360, felt just like an FF game, largely because of his musical touch.

That said, you have two major ways to cock this up, if you really feel like it.

One is to tell us Uematsu is doing the music...and then reveal, later, that he's actually done maybe 1/5th of it. Let him do it all. Pay him whatever he wants. Just, please. Make this happen.

The second is to repeat a terrible mistake you made in XI: to allow there to be zones without music.

Look, we have the option to turn it down if we want a more ambient, open-world feel. But honestly, it's mind-numbing to run through a world of silence. Soul-crushing.

You probably are thinking, "well, there are just too many zones to have music for ALL of them". Okay, that's fair, but there's an easy workaround--one you've done in other FF's.

Give music according to environment. Dungeons have one or two songs, forests get something else. The jungle gets something, as does the desert. You could break this down into maybe a dozen zone types--god knows you clones enough areas in XI-so we could have music everywhere we go.

Get it? We want music AND ambiance. Players' emotional connection with a game is largely dependent on music, and while XI had some good tracks, there simply weren't enough of them.

Well, Somnambulant Ones, that's it for How to Make Sure Final Fantasy XIV Doesn't Suck. As more news rolls out, I may post some thoughts, tirades, and/or pictures of myself doing the electric boogaloo. I really look forward to seeing you all in Final Fantasy XIV, to enjoy what Square Enix has to offer and to see if the game can live up to our (admittedly lofty) expectations. If you were wondering, my player character for Final Fantasy XI is Hiroken, on the Hades server. If you weren't wondering, I hope you choke on a chicken bone.

I kid, I kid. I just get uncomfortable at good-byes and make inappropriate jokes.

At any rate, keep reading Somnambulant Gamer for more of my and our other capable authors' posts. Bookmark us, or say awful things about us or our mothers in forums around the web! Either is okay, although I admit I'd prefer the former. A heartfelt thanks for everyone who's read and contributed comments to this series--it was your enthusiasm that made my editor chain me to my laptop, going without food or light for days, you sick sons of--huh? Oh, shi- he's coming.

Ahem! So, thanks to readers, commenters, and Final Fantasy enthusiasts everywhere. And Square, if you're reading this--I only say these things because I love you.

Now get back to work.