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It is a commonly established fact among gamers that we are fiercely defensive of our favorite games. Such loyalty leads to countless message board flame wars and fanboy crusades over which game did what the best. These “debates” never lead to any sort of satisfying conclusion, each side turning a blind eye to the opposing argument; or as much of an argument one can make when fumbling between 1337 speak and heinously butchered English.

With the advent of Final Fantasy XIV at this year’s E3 convention, heated discussions of this rather stubborn brand have sprouted up across the internet. This time players of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI have engaged in a futile, yet seemingly unending dispute of what this new MMORPG from Square-Enix will offer fans of these vastly different games.

Final Fantasy XI preceeded World of Warcraft but has maintained a consistent playerbase of approximately 500,000 over the past 7 years. WoW , on the other hand, is the juggernaut of the MMORPG world boasting millions of subscriptions. Despite the large difference in player populations, however, it is undeniable that both of these games have garnered a large amount of success in an area of gaming where most forays into the genre fall away unnoticed after the initial hype leading up to their release.

So what is the problem exactly? Final Fantasy XIV provides the possibility of a new, quality MMORPG strengthened by the knowledge of the mistakes of both FFXI and WoW respectively. Many current WoW players were once FFXI devotees, and even more are just fans of the Final Fantasy series, period. A majority of current FFXI players intend to migrate to FFXIV upon its release. Both sides have invested a large amount of interest in this upcoming game, and both sides want to see elements of their beloved WoW and Final Fantasy XI reincarnated in Final Fantasy XIV.

This is where the initial conflict lies. FInal Fantasy XI is notorious for its sky high difficulty level. As a veteran player, I can safely assure those who haven’t played it that the game is basically a full time job if you ever want to reach end game. Final Fantasy XI is not a casual friendly game in the slightest, although Square-Enix has been making changes to lessen the intensity.

ffxiWant to fight this super cool Mithra Ark Angel from Final Fantasy XI? It’s definitely plausible, just be prepared to sell your soul to the game first.

WoW, in light of FFXI, is more casual and fast paced. There are more gameplay options when it comes to improving your character – grind out the levels solo or group up. The process is much faster and easy going (although this doesn’t prevent players from spending every waking hour in front of their computer screen).

These games cater to 2 separate types of MMO gamer – the more casual and the hardcore. Yet both sides are looking forward to Final Fantasy XIV with the hopes that it will give them the sort of experience that they enjoyed so much in each of these games. Square – Enix only helped to feed the debate, claiming that they would be taking examples from World of Warcraft while also building on what they achieved in Final Fantasy XI.

The WoW faction wants a Final Fantasy RPG that is more forgiving in the grind, offering shorter missions, instanced dungeons and more opportunities for solo play. Those in the Final Fantasy XI want to maintain the community oriented atmosphere that the original Square MMO provided with (mostly) mandatory group levelling and missions that required at least a party of 5 other players. They prefer the satisfaction that comes from finally surmounting a difficult obstacle or the quality of player skill required to defeat some of the story-line missions (the Chains of Promathia expansion pack stands out in this example).

Each side fears any trace of the opposing element in FFXIV. Team FFXI is deathly afraid that SquareEnix will dumb down Final Fantasy XIV by taking too many lessons from WoW. Those rooting for more independent and casual game play are worried of the possibility that FFXIV will follow in the footsteps of its predecessor as another MMORPTS (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Time Sink). Both groups find it difficult to believe that one side’s way of playing could make for a better experience overall.

This conflict raises mutiple questions regarding the MMO genre as a whole. Is it possible to create a succesful game that panders to both casual and hardcore players? How do we balance this, making sure that those who only wish to spend two hours (at the most) a day on the game can compete with those who spend up to 8 hours every evening levelling and raiding? How can such a varied intensity level be achieved without creating too much slack in the skill level of the players? What do you, as the reader, feel is the right way to go about this?

  1. As I see it, WoW is making all the right moves. As of late, they’re dumbing down the requirements needed to receive mounts, and making the game easier all the time, all while increasing the amount of end-game raids. Also, 10 days game time is all that’s needed to get max level in WoW: which is daunting to casual players, true, but hopefully (at least Blizzard hopes), they’ll be sucked into the colorful world by then.

    All they have to do is implement some sort of “easy level” system (which they will, when WoW starts to saturate) and they’re gravy. At the moment, they have a “create a free level 50 DeathKnight” if you have 1 other max level character. A free character! That’s fairly casual.

  2. I’d class myself as a hradcore gamer. Yet MMO’s terrify me, I have no desire to really get into one. I just don’t feel as if I could have the dedication that seems to be needed to get to a decent level.

    I was gonna bite the bullet and try WoW but I may hold off until next year and go with FF14.

  3. You’re right Chris, WoW does have a lot of things that keep end game coming back while keeping the newbies in mind. But the hardcore aspect of WoW definitely hasn’t reached the level of intensity (insanity, maybe?) found in FFXI. In XI, it takes the average player about 5 – 6 months to hit the level 75 cap the first time around, which is considerably longer than 10 days. haha It could easily take longer than this if you take time off to work on crafting, exploring and socializing (not to mention engaging in real life activities) I believe it took me about a year to hit level 75. Of course, this number might have decreased a bit with the previously mentioned expansion and the new level sync system.

    I would really like to keep some of the challenges XI has, but I do want the new MMO to be more accessible, like Wow, especially since I no longer have hours to devote to an online game. Perhaps Square can solve this issue so many people had with Final Fantasy XI by maintaining the slow, gradual crawl to that last level while making the grind less of a chore and more interesting. This would mean more types of experience options – soloing, grouping, questing. But whereas a lot (but not all) of the fun that was to be had in XI was found in the end game content, I think it would be worth their while to explore some more challenging (and rewarding!) missions that would be accessible to lower and mid level players as well.

    Oh, and Grahame, MMO’s are a lot of fun, but you definitely have to be disciplined enough to know when to stop. I don’t think I was as mature when I started playing FFXI in high school to tell myself to stop before it was too late and I was realllly addicted. Not good. Haha

  4. @Jess
    Definitely! I was the pleasure(?) of playing FFXI for a few months, and good god, I would NOT recommend it for any gamer less than hardcore. You can look for a group for hours in that game. If you so much as mention the words “The Dunes” to any casual gamer that’s played it, they’ll quiver in fear.

    WoW’s known as the “soloing” MMO. You can get all the way up to 80 just by questing and grinding by yourself. FFXI? Goodluck unless you’re beastmaster. Even then, you’re better off staying up until 6am and finding a Japanese party to roll with.

  5. Recently, Blizzard changed the xp rate in WoW to 2x, so that definatley made the game more casual.

  6. avatar Sean

    Wow on a whole in my opinion is a pretty casual game. The leveling is not too difficult and you really dont need a party BUT if you wish to be a hardcore gamer then there are many things to do eg instances and raids which give the xp and the gear that make leveling even easier, Also if youve never hit the levelcap you really have no idea of the end game that awaits( especially for pve) but if you wish to proceed and get your T(what ever is the highest now) your really do need to be hardcore. (i quit wow about 8 months ago).

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