Monday, August 30, 2010

Bad Game Design: Final Fantasy 14

Sorry for the delay in posts lately, but my mother was in the hospital for a while. She's home safely now though.

Now, I’m no Game Designer, but I hope to be someday. However, even with my lack of experience, Final Fantasy 14’s XP system reeks of bad design.

“The main concept behind FFXIV is allowing those players with little time on their hands to play effectively, and game balance is based off of that. Furthermore, it is being designed to not give those with more on their hands to play an unfair advantage. Because of that, systems such as Guardian’s Favor (a bonus to Guildleves) have been implemented to make leveling in the short-term easier than leveling in the long-term. To achieve this balance, the amount of possible skill/experience points earned after a certain period of time has a threshold. Think of it as a real-life ‘fatigue’ from working at improving your skills via battle.” – Square Enix

Right now, that threshold is eight hours for full exp, and then it becomes even less for seven hours. After that, you gain zero experience. There’s a weekly reset. So, that’s 15 hours of game play each week, which equates to 60 hours a month. Now, to a person who has never played an MMO, that seems like a lot of time, but it’s really not. Even during my school semesters I pull down about 20-30 hours a week of World of Warcraft. The main problem with this design is that people are paying $15 a month to play this game. So at 15 bucks and 60 hours a month, that’s 25 cents per hour. So, the value of play is still pretty good, but it’s the principle of being how long you can play that throws me for a loop.

Let’s be honest, most people would only play the 15 hours, because whatever they do after is pointless since they aren’t gaining exp anymore. It just seems like Square Enix is setting themselves up for a business failure by alienating and angering people who desire to play the game longer. That’s what a game company should want, is people wanting to play their game. Also, later in the week most of the hardcore group will already be done with their 15 hours, making it harder for more casual players to find groups on the weekends when they can play.

Now, for a game that caters to the casual player, it seems more like a way to frustrate them when it comes to playing catch up. Hardcore players will always find a way to be hardcore, and will without fail play those 15 hours a week to level. Should a casual player fail to play for an entire week, they’re going to fall behind anyway, making this whole exp cap pointless. It becomes even more pointless when the casual player realizes that they can’t make up for that lost time, because no matter what, they will always be 15 hours behind. Even if that casual player got a weeklong vacation to play the game, they could only play for those 15 hours, which makes it impossible to catch up to their hardcore friend.

People will always be creating accounts and joining the game at different dates, which means there will already be a difference in competitive levels, so why handicap them in the beginning anyway? Punishing your hardcore player base also means the casual players suffer, at least with this set up. Everyone loses. Now, Final Fantasy 14 is still in beta, so they still have a chance to change this horrible design. However, with a September 30th release date, it doesn't look likely. It could possibly be patched out at a later date though.
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