How Things Change

Just yesterday, I was hard at work updating my FFXIV data and guide functionality.  (Incidentally, the filters on the armor list are pretty sweet.)  Today, I’ve cancelled my subscription.  It’s still active until they start charging, and I’m notoriously bad at sticking to these sorts of decisions, but for now I don’t expect this guide to be updated past 1.20 for the foreseeable future.  What follows is a post I wrote explaining what led to this decision, which I present here for the curious.

I just cancelled my FFXIV subscription, despite thoroughly enjoying the game. I feel like this is the sort of contradiction that defines my MMO experiences. I’m too casual for hardcore players, and too hardcore for casual players. I like to play with friends, but I refuse to join a linkshell (guild). Someone recently asked me why I even play MMO’s, and I haven’t been able to answer that one for a while. I have given a lot of thought to the inherent conflicts I have with MMO’s, though.
Solo vs. Multiplayer
You’ll see a lot of people on the FFXIV forums complaining that there isn’t enough to do solo. I tend to agree with these people in principle. The usual answer is that the “M stands for multiplayer,” which is a pretty reasonable response. I mean, if you want to play solo, why are you playing an MMO? (Answer: because MMO gameplay is, by design, addictive. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.)

The FFXIV content that frustrates me is the endgame content. There are two types: big boss fights, and instanced dungeons. Both require a full party of eight people. Now, given that the game is an MMO, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a content that can only be experienced with other players. That is, arguably, the whole point. As a result, I haven’t really been able to pin down why this content frustrates me so much.

The simple truth is, this is not multiplayer content. It is guild content. Sure, I could theoretically do all the endgame content shouting for groups in town without ever joining a linkshell. The same was true of FFXI. In practice, this takes too long and has a very low rate of success. If I want to do all the content in the game, I am effectively required to join a linkshell. I have had nothing but terrible luck with linkshells in FFXI, and I don’t really want to get into that in FFXIV. I don’t want to play on a schedule, I don’t want to grind content endlessly, and I don’t want to repeat content I’ve done over and over so I have a chance to do something I do want. I just want to experience the game.

I think this is the real argument many “I want to be able to solo” players are trying to make. I want to play solo as in on my own terms, without obligation. I’d be more than happy to join pickup groups if doing so didn’t take so long. They are supposed to be adding a cross-world raid autogroup mechanism ripped from WoW at some point. I didn’t really understand the appeal until now – something like that may get me back in the game.

Casual vs. Hardcore
The solo vs. multiplayer argument is pretty straightforward. Casual vs. hardcore is much harder to define. Some define casual as not playing very much, or not caring about how good they are, or not wanting content to be difficult. Most hardcore players would call me casual, but none of these apply to me. I’m seen as “casual” because I don’t want to play the game for the game’s sake. This is the main reason I’ve quit FFXIV – there is no goal. Sure, I could get more combat classes to 50 to broaden my options for endgame content, or get crafting and gathering classes to 50 to support the materia needed to get truly elite gear, but to what end? I don’t want to fight Ifrit 30 times until I get all the weapons I need to go on to the next thing, I want to fight him once to say I did it.

The problem is, because I do play a lot and I do care about being a competent player, I don’t really get along with the typical casual player. This is the main basis for my linkshell problems. Linkshells are either so casual they accomplish nothing (thus defeating the one real purpose they have), or they are too focused and hardcore to appeal to me. Middle-ground players like me may exist, but I’ve never been able to find them in numbers, let alone a linkshell full of them.

The Bottom Line
I’ve kept playing FFXIV because it’s fun, and has gotten more fun patch by patch. The newly balanced classes make combat really tight and exciting. But to what end? I’ve finished the main plot, and have no hope of doing endgame content. The game is now squarely focused on endgame content, so what reason do I have to play at all? The sad truth is that it’s just a waste of time. And it’s fun, but not nearly enough fun to justify that.

Why do MMO’s still have levels? I mean, if the whole point is to get to max level and do endgame content, why have levels at all? What purpose do they serve? I feel like whatever game eventually dethrones WoW is going to be one that realizes that leveling is an outdated mechanic.