Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

FF XIV Doesn’t Want Me

This news is a coupe of days old, but still something I find very interesting to discuss: Apparently Square Enix will limit the time people can meaningfully play their new MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV. Only during the first eight hours of play each week will you be rewarded full experience. After that the amount gained will decline until it reaches zero at the fifteen hour mark. Yes, that means you will gain no more experience when you play more than fifteen hours a week – a number that’s hardly large for a typical MMO player.

“Firstly, the concept for FINAL FANTASY XIV was to design a system of character progression that offers meaningful advancement for those with limited time to dedicate to playing. We did not want to create a game that forced people to play for hours on end to see their efforts rewarded.” – Nobuaki Komoto, Game Director

There’s always been tension between more casual players (time-wise) and those who are willing and able to invest more time into a game. The former ones tend to be unhappy with the so-called no-lifers that get ahead of them in the game so very fast while the latter just want the ability to play a lot when the have the time for it (and are often willing to make sacrifices to ensure they do have the time for it). This new concept in Final Fantasy XIV is clearly aimed at the more casual bunch and at that pretty much a slap in the face for the other part of the player-base. Personally, I like to play a lot more when I have time to do so. The weeks right after World of Warcraft expansions still belong to the best memories of my gaming experience. Both time I freed up a week from all other responsibilities, met up with friends and played a lot of WoW. In Final Fantasy XIV, this would be impossible. Even a weekend dedicated to gaming is severely hampered by these restrictions.

Welcome to the World of Final Fantasy XIV. Feel free to browse the souvenir shops, then don't let the door hit you on your way out.

A decision to cater to the casuals surely isn’t uncommon, but I am quite skeptical whether they actually enjoy this limit so much. While many may enjoy the ability to keep up with other players who have more spare time at their hands, I can hardly believe that this feature is that much of a selling point to casuals to make up for showing the finger to anyone a bit more “hardcore”.

In order to prevent the actual issue behind this to arise, one needs to create a game where time invested does not equal power but where people can still meaningfully invest time. Creating such a game obviously isn’t easy, but surely a band-aid solution like the Square-Enix one is not where it’s at. I think that the real motivator behind this change is a completely different one: Limiting play-time each week stretches the content offered by the game over more time, which in turn means more monthly fees paid to the publisher. What better way to keep people in a game with little end-game than simply preventing them from getting to that point for a while?

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