According to Massively OP, FFXIV is getting so popular these days that a producer released a letter to apologize to players for the server loads and difficulty creating new characters. FFXIV does appear to be insanely popular. I haven't seen a login cue less than 16 players deep on my server in ages, even in the wee hours of the morning on a weeknight. However, I am not sure I would say my server is more crowded than normal these last few weeks. The game has always been hopping since I've played. That said, the game sure is appearing all over my blogroll.
|My character flying around on the first non-chocobo mount I earned. Even if my current outfit is a big goofy looking (a fantasy fur trader?), I find the game to be quite pretty.|
If populations are ramping up, I think it may have something to do with the woes of retail WoW. We are now on the second poorly received expansion in a row. According to Metacritic, user ratings are sitting at a fairly abysmal 5 out of 10. Though to be fair, even that is a step up from the last one. Regardless, a lot of players seem to getting fed up with retail WoW, and Blizzard in general,* and the perception (real or not) is that a lot of them are switching to FFXIV.
|My main character in another slightly goofy outfit, this time seemingly inspired by the mad hatter.|
It's a scenario that makes sense. When a lapsed WoW player looks around for another tab-target combat Diku MMO with strong production values from a publisher they have heard of, FFXIV is one they are probably going to at least consider. Even Blizzard may think this is happening. They recently released a poll asking players whether they plan to play the next FFXIV expansion. Soon after getting the results, they released a new mount that you get for free with a six month sub. This mount, the Sapphire Skyblazer, bears more than a passing resemblance to a mount that every player of FFXIV that plays through the main story of the Stormblood expansion gets for free.
|A mount that everyone gets during the main story of Stormblood. Yes this is an a cool mount, but it's probably not why players are gravitating to FFXIV.|
I could get a whole post of of comparing the two games, and there aren't a lot of points in which retail WoW would come out ahead in my mind. I have been wildly entertained by FFXIV until recently. Somewhat ironically, even as the hype around FFXIV builds to a fever pitch in anticipation of the next expansion, I find that the game is finally winding down for me. Part of it is that I am nearly to the end of the main adventuring story line, and the last few steps I have left to to finish it just don't sound like a lot of fun to me. However, I hit that soft content wall a few months ago, and remained highly engaged for a few months past that. That's a bit unusual for me.
In many MMOs hitting the end of the levelling content is a death knell for my interest, because for whatever insane reason many designers seem have this idea that endgame in a MMO should equal raiding, PvP or "time-to-uninstall." Not so in FFXIV. Whether you are leveling or not, there is simply a ton of fun stuff to do in the game. The developers have put real thought into making activities that are boring and grindy in most MMOs deeper and more engaging (or needlessly complex depending on how you look at it I suppose).
For example, the crafting system. FFXIV has the most fun gathering and crafting professions of any MMO I've ever played. The closest comparison among the games I've played would be EQ II. Like that game there are entire crafting quest lines, one for for each profession in FFXIV, and you have to activate abilities to make items. However it's also a fair bit deeper in that there are entire gear sets for crafting and gathering, and many more abilities to learn. When I switch over to the goldsmith class, even at level 41 I have something like a dozen different crafting abilities I can use. Various abilities increase progress on a finished product, increase quality, restore endurance, or restore small amounts of the "mana" that powers all the abilities. You often have to balance them carefully to make the best products. Any decent crafter can make high quality items by starting with high quality materials, and being a skilled gatherer (e.g., a high level miner or botanist) makes obtaining high quality materials easier. However, an exceptional crafter can make high quality items out of any materials, even starting with a zero item quality bonus.
It's really incredibly fun, and I have gotten every crafting and gathering profession in the game to at least level 20 now (and some more than half way to the cap). However, despite how engaging it is, I find myself wondering why I am learning to make all this gear if I have no intention of ever using it. I could use it to kit out different adventuring professions, and I have done that to a point. The problem is that lately the repeatable content that you use to advance new combat classes has started to get stale to me. I have taken the crafting far enough to make completely awesome gear for any class. Yet I have almost no combat classes high enough level to use the best gear I can make. For example I can make suits of plate armor for level 30ish characters, and my highest level tank class is 22.
|I recently went to another guild wedding. It was adorcable, and this time I had duds a little fancier that my adventuring garb to wear.|
|I find the fantasy themed visual designs of FFXIV in general really compelling. My wife collects Asian (mainly Japanese) ball jointed dolls, and the aesthetic is very similar. She has asked about this game a lot more than others that she has seen me playing when she wanders past my screen.|
|My next post?|
I have started dabbling in Star Trek Online, and I may be posting about that soon. It's an interesting game that's not very much like anything else I've played (besides the tween MMO Pirate 101 oddly enough). As a side note, I haven't died. I've been on hiatus, from even my normal infrequent posting schedule, because real life has been insanely busy for me the last few months. Six months from now, I'll be in a new house, in a new job, in a new city, so things certainly won't slow down in the near term.