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Before I begin writing this, I want to make sure everyone understands that this is solely my opinion, and based on my perception rather than facts. With that said, a few other things to note about me:
1) i'm a die-hard Final Fantasy fan, grew up playing it, and played FFXI for nearly 4 years, and FFXIV since P2 beta.
2) I've played dozens of MMORPGs, and even written reviews for this site and other sites, so I have seen my share of the genre.
3) I've currently got a level 49 BRD, 50 LTW, and 40 WVR/GSM, and I'm on the Ultros Server, and leader of the Veterans of Valkurm Free Company and Linkshell (DUNES)
Now I'll say that I had a great blast playing FFXIV. I've run nearly every dungeon, fought nearly every primal I can fight so far, maxed out a craft (which is wearing full HQ AF armor ^_^), nearly completed the main story quest, etc. To say "I've done a lot" is fair, as I am afforded the opportunity to play this game quite frequently (since I can play at work). I've made a few friends in game, set up some events, and tried to buiid and foster a positive community with my linkshell (which has around 100 dedicated members). I really enjoyed the game thus far, but I have numerous worries about the future.
Now, I hate doomsayers as much as anyone, but in my brief time in Eorzea, I've stumbled across several problems and concerns relating to the long-term of the game. After a very rocky start (#3102, #90000, #2002, etc) they did fix their servers and login problems, which was a great job by Square Enix. I was worried that if those problems persisted, that it would drive people away in droves. However, many new concerns have arisen, which I'm going to go into in-depth in the next few paragraphs.
Issue #1: Crafting is utterly useless
As I got my LTW to 50, I had a sense of relief. "Alright, I'm done with THAT part of the game..." I thought to myself. I figured with my newfound craft, I'd be able to start making money almost immediately in the game. There is just one small problem; there is no demand for hardly anything. Gear, which should be utilized to a degree by all classes, isn't necessary. Because of the incredible ease of the game, it hasn't been uncommon to see people wearing severely outdated gear throughout the game. I've seen level 40's rocking level 18 armor, and to no real penalty. Since there's no reason for combat classes to buy gear, there's no reason to craft combat gear. Furthermore, combat classes can get gear cheaper/free, and easier simply by doing quests and dungeons. Furthermore, due to Issue#2, people are leveling so fast and efficiently that there's no reason to EVER buy gear! In fact, the irony of crafting +gathering and +crafting gear is that the only people who buy it is fellow crafters and gatherers. Essentially, you're creating gear for crafting because it's mandatory, but crafting has no purpose other than to build more crafting gear...and, of course, materia melding. I basically spent all my gil buying crystals and ingredients to level a craft which is now essentially worthless. Also, since no one needs to buy anything... there is no economy. Gil is essentially used to skilling up a craft, or repairing your end game gear. That's it. And once you lose it, it's 10x harder to make it back, because there is ample supply, and meager demand. This is probably related to the fact that...
Issue #2: Fates have rendered the game utterly pointless
Since fates are essentially just massive zerg fests that generate 10+k exp for roughly 1 minute of work, there's no reason not to just run fates. Dungeons are slower exp, questing is slower exp, killing mobs is slower exp. Because there's no reason to do anything other than Fates, people are hitting 50 at a ridiculous pace; I've seen multiple people with 2-3 jobs at level 50, and you have to consider that we're not even at the end of the first month. Now I don't know what kind of content patches SE has planned, but people have burned through all the content the game has to offer in 1 week because of the way you can level off of Fates. I would dare to say that, if the quests weren't mandatory for advancement and gil, people would totally ignore them. Because of the abuse of the fates...
Issue #3: Everyone has hit level 50, and as such, is picking up a craft
This further nullifies the usefulness of crafting, because everyone is a level 50 Disciple of War AND a level 50 Disciple of Land/Hand. There is no demand now, and there will be even less demand as people continue to level their 2nd job/craft. Think this is an exaggeration? Go look at the diremite camps, or the ornery karakul spawns; watch how many 50's are camping these mobs for mats. Look at the incredible oversaturation of goods on the AH, and the rock-bottom prices on nearly everything. Because leveling is so easy, once you hit 50, your options are essentially to ruin dungeons, or to level up another job craft. This wouldn't be so unmanageable, except that...
Issue #4: The duty finder has far too many DPS, and not enough tanks/healers to go around
While this one is 100% preventable for the player to deal with, because of the small party size, you're getting tanks and healers geared up SUPER fast, while many DPS don't even have but 1 relic item. As such, if you're solo queueing as a DPS, enjoy your 4 hour queue timer. While this can be alleviated by grouping with LS mates, if there are none on, you can be stuck waiting around for hours on end with nothing to do, sans for crafting/gathering. This problem could have been avoided by having a slower leveling pace, but the FATE system ruined the game's pacing entirely.
Issue #5: The game is entirely too easy in all aspects
Tradecraft leves that provide 140k exp in 1 craft? Fates that add 12k combat exp for 5 seconds of work? You can 1 v 3 mobs essentially the entirety of the game? There is legitimately no challenge for 99% of the game. Dungeons are a welcome change of pace, but for those out there who don't have 3-4 hours to queue up, that aspect of the game is all but absent for people. And because of this incredible ease of access, everyone is nearing end-game (at least on the Ultros server). With everyone at level 50 DoW/DoH/DoL, guess what that leaves people to do? More fate grinding (for company seals), maxing out additional crafts, and queueing for dungeons. Additionally, the end-game is so easy that Free Companies are legitimately selling clears and relic weapon acquisitions to the highest bidders (roughly 150k gil) Which leads to...
Issue #6: There simply isn't enough to do once you hit 50
And this problem is the most alarming. I'm not sure what sort of content SE plans to pump out every month, but with players completing the game in roughly 14 days, you have to believe that whatever they do release simply won't be large enough or at a fast enough pace to keep up with the player base. Using my own observations, as soon as new content is released, nearly everyone on the server will already be ready to advance through it. As it will likely be the only content introduced, people will probably burn through it in a week, tops, effectively leading to more waiting. This was my biggest fear pre-release, the philosophy of It's not about the journey, but the game starts at 50; 1-50 should take a long time. It's much easier to control content for a handful of players rather than all players. Because 1-50 is a cakewalk, new content is going to be in demand at a rapid pace.
Issue #7: The gil-sinks, gil-gains debate (which is covered by MMORPG.com already) and the gil-sellers
For anyone who played FFXI, you no doubt remember the dreaded gil-sellers. Well they're back, and with a vengeance. In fact, the problem with gil-sellers is so dominant that every time I go to town I have to add at least 2 new names to my blacklist. They spam RELENTLESSLY in the shout chat, literally once per second, every second, non-stop. Gilsellers are not only annoying, but they're also posting bogus links for unsuspecting cheaters to click on, which in turn is phishing people's account information and leading to hacked accounts. SE allowed this to happen in FFXI, and their lack of preparedness in FFXIV is already creating a rift in the community. A hardline approach needs to be taken; I shouldn't need to blacklist over 100 names in 14 days, and basic chat moderation would solve this problem. They're also probably booming in business, as it's nearly impossible to make gil once you've hit 50 and you've used up your quest rewards. Even worse, the gil-selling is so rampant and rapid, that if you do blacklist someone, there's a new person there to take their place within 5 minutes. It's as if SE can't ban them fast enough. Try and go to a main city without using the blacklist, and your chat log will be blacking out the sun with gil-seller spam.
Issue #8: The staying power is not present.
As I said, I'm an avid final fantasy fan. I love the world, the lore, the mobs, the characters, etc. I have a great community of people to play with. However, it's 14 days in, and we're nearly out of things to do. How can I justify subscribing month after month after month if there isn't anything new or exciting for me to do? I know that I am not alone in this feeling; peruse any of the online forums. People are concerned that they're going to stagnate at a rate faster than content is introduced.
I look at all these issues, and I probably sound like I'm hating on the game. I want to be perfectly clear that I am playing the game and loving it, but that these are serious fundamental flaws. I realize I didn't point out the good things about the game. It runs very smooth, it plays very polished, I haven't experienced hardly any bugs to date. Dungeons are entertaining and exciting, the world itself is awesome looking, and the crafting system is super cool.
However, I worry if the ease, the simplicity, the lack of depth and complexity related to both combat and the economy will lead to a loss of interest in players. I still have 16 days until I need to enter payment information... but I am only new becoming skeptical that I'll even continue to play beyond that. While this IS a good game, it simply isn't a long game, and it's in dire need of some challenge and timesink aspects, or even optional features. I DO realize that the golden saucer, PvP, housing, etc, are on the way... but if they are as simple as the base of the game has been, how long will those truly hold your interest anyway? A week? 2 weeks?
I'd like to read your opinions on this. Share your name, your levels, your server, etc, and let me know what you think. Do you believe FFXIV has the staying power of other MMO's? if so, why, and if not, why not?
Waiting for something fresh to arrive on the MMO scene...