In an industry where World of Warcraft unquestionably dominates the MMORPG market, even a reputable company such as Square-Enix struggles to make their online venture profitable. Add a plethora of complaints from players at Final Fantasy XIV’s launch, and the RPG giant may have been better off just creating another single-player game.
When Final Fantasy XIV was released, many players complained that it simply was not user-friendly. There was no quest-tracking feature; the crafting system was difficult and unique; the process of leveling was innovative and obscure; and the user-interface was particularly confusing. Despite Square-Enix’s attempt to break out of the Final Fantasy XI shell of catering only to the hardcore, they successfully created a game that was meant to be played casually but understood only by hardcore players. This was an absolute formula for disaster.
It did not take long for Square-Enix to learn that their game had to be fixed as quickly as possible. An immediate “apology” was issued in the form of an additional 30 days of free game time for anyone who purchased the game before October 15. This decision gave players an obvious message – Square-Enix made an error and they were pulling as many strings as they could to resolve it before their game become just another name on the MMORPG market that would be forced to change to a free-to-play model or shut down before even more money was lost.
Not long ago, FFXIV core, the well-known website for everything Final Fantasy XIV, released a huge list of changes that were to take place within the next couple weeks as well as the tentative notes for an early 2011 patch. It was announced that a major issue that was to be resolved was the lack of concrete in-game tutorials so that players may better understand what they are doing:
“Together with the aforementioned improvements to gameplay, the availability of ‘goal-oriented’ content and items, and the need for comprehensive and clear tutorials are issues that will be immediately addressed.”
In the hopes of providing players with opportunities to engage in such content as soon as possible, the November version update will see a reduction in the amount of skill points required to reach rank 20. By effectively reducing the amount of time necessary to reach rank 20, players will sooner be able to gain access to class quests and high-rank guildelves.”
For someone who played Everquest since the early days and World of Warcraft since launch, my personal interpretation of this is: “We are making the game easier.” While I do believe the user-interface changes as well as some tutorials are necessary in order to explain the more innovative features of the game, the lowering of skill points necessary to reach ranks was – in my opinion – a cop-out to appeal to players more accustomed to the easy-to-grind World of Warcraft progression.
While every game experiences patches and changes to better suit their communities, not every game gets the same amount of community service that Square-Enix gives. While Square-Enix initially gave 30 free days of game time to appease the community during changes last month, they also just announced they will be giving players yet another 30 days of content.
Hopefully we’ll see some positive movement to this game by the end of December. If not, I would imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more free time from Square-Enix.
See the official announcement here.