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.
Want 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?