Last week we saw the closure of the original Final Fantasy XIV servers in preparation for the relaunch of the title under the “A Realm Reborn” banner. The development cycle for FFXIV has been difficult at best but with this new game version the team behind FFXIV hopes to revive the ailing title.
Final Fantasy XIV was released in September 2010 to Japanese and Western audiences. The game was not received well from not only critics, the current metacritic score standing at 49%, but also fans. Some fans were expecting a modernised version of the title Square Enix calls “the most profitable Final Fantasy title”, Final Fantasy XI. What players were greeted to was an incomplete, buggy product of such poor quality that the release of the PS3 version of the title was cancelled until the product was considered acceptable. Eorza, the land Final Fantasy XIV was set in, was an empty lifeless shell with little to do within it. On top of this players were greeted by two initial problems.
The first problem that players had was that players were limited to how much they could level on one class. This Experience Fatigue system worked on the principle that experience gains would be slowed down the longer a player played a class, then over the period of a week the fatigue on the class would cool down. Whilst I understand the idea behind this – to force players to try and diversify their class choices by forcing them across different classes – all this served to do was annoy players and make them choose roles they were not interested in, or did not want to take part in (due to lack of gear, for example) or prevent frequent players from fully enjoying themselves. The second problem was that players were limited to the number of quests they could take per week, quests were purchased through the ‘leve’ system and allowed players to take a number of quests per week depending on how many leve quest points they had accumulated.
These two major issues after much complaining from the player-base, were fixed soon after launch when suddenly, the title went free to play for a year. Around then the games producer replaced. Naoki Yoshida replaced Hiromichi Tanaka who announced his resignation from Square Enix soon after the games release. Since then Yoshida has strived to listen to the player base and look at what changes they would be interested in, what Yoshida and his team managed to achieve was to make Final Fantasy XIV more playable. Not only did they improve the state of gameplay within the title they also fixed a plethora of technical issues, at release FFXIV was incredibly poorly optimised and ran terribly, frame rate issues were abound even on higher end platforms.
Yoshida’s first move was to introduce player forums where he could compile and receive player feedback, to which he would sometimes personally reply to. In this time several changes were made not only to the game world but the combat system which was revised, adding simple things like an auto attack. This sounds almost ridiculous for an MMO not to have. He added the materia system which allowed for augmentation of equipment and other changes like Chocobo riding.
Yoshida has also pushed to Westernise the game in order to expand the market of the title. Final Fantasy XI was heavily focused on team play, sometimes making it hard for players new to the game to progress, after level ten very little content in the game was geared towards solo players. In Final Fantasy XIV there has been a reduction of the amount of content that requires players to group up in an attempt to make it easier for players to get into. In “A Realm Reborn” traditional style dungeons will be added to the title, steering away from the current open world model, which has players only enter instances for storyline missions.
Overall, with a rocky start, the changes to the game in “A Realm Reborn” are looking promising, the game has already received praise at Gamescom in Germany, where the first live footage of the game was shown, and hopefully showing that the games false start will be a distant memory. Yoshida notes that it’ll take a long time to rebuild the trust of the community after the games initially poor release, but his attention to the community and willingness to make changes are a welcome change in an environment where if you can’t even sell an MMO with a large brand like Star Wars, you don’t just forget about it and make it free to play. You work on improving it.
A Realm Reborn does not currently have a release date but has already gone into the alpha testing stage, players who signed up for the alpha will start receiving their invites soon. Beta testing will start before the new year potentially. The re-release will feature a completely reworked world map, including dungeons, new server technology, reworked user interface, controls, new graphical engine, reworked job options and a new summoner/arcanist class.
Square Enix had a lot of space to improve on Final Fantasy XIV but didn’t shy away, and hell. If anything they can produce a damn good CGI trailer.
The following trailer was released to explain what happened at server closure and why the world was destroyed:
Here’s hoping “A Realm Reborn” is worth the wait.
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