I'll admit to finding the benchmark a bit surprising, actually. The benchmark for Final Fantasy XI didn't come out until it was fairly close to release... which implies to me that the game is more finished than Square-Enix is letting on. That, in my mind, ties into the most interesting part of our interview with Tanaka, where he mentioned that this entire phase of testing was created for player feedback. I'm not saying anything, just speculating. But it's not my place to speculate this week, is it?
Setting the bar too high?
Square has had a long reputation of setting a high bar on graphics for their games... but their games have traditionally been developed for consoles first and computers much later, if at all. FFXIV hasn't been brought together with this mindset -- it seems from the benchmark that it was custom-designed to obliterate lesser PCs and take full advantage of the power of the desktop, by all appearances. But this raises an interesting question: Are they setting up the game to be too intensive for most computers to be capable of running it?
It's only fair to point out that a PS3 is only $300, sometimes far less than it would cost to upgrade a computer significantly. Of course, it's also only fair to point out that upgrading your computer will help you across every game you play on it, while getting a PS3 only allows you to play games on the PS3.
Personally, I'm on the fortunate side of things: My computer can handle the benchmark beautifully with no issues, and I have a PS3 as well in case I feel the need to break ranks and play an MMO on a console. I can't really feel too nervous about the prospect of the hardware causing a big population dip, but I think it might help push people on the fence toward the PS3 version. Am I suggesting a conspiracy? No, merely noting that there is something here with very similar plumage.
The stat gap
I understand wanting to break the mold, I really do. But breaking the mold goes hand-in-hand with asking to be less effective than people who just stick with the mold.
On rare occasions, yes, people have fallen into a habit of using X instead of Y when Y is actually just as effective, or potentially even better. But more often than not there's a very good reason why X is considered better, and when you decide to do something in a different fashion, you're aiming for failure if you want to match or exceed the standard. Or, to look at one of my personal heroes, Gweryc -- he demonstrates that the goal isn't to prove that you should do something, just that you can make it work.
While there are some people who adamantly feel that the current stat penalties for Taru and Galka are too extreme, by and large, the overall sentiment in the thread seems to be that it's what you do within those penalties. A skilled player can compensate for the lack of HP or MP, respectively, and there's no huge need to change how the game has worked up to this point. From all indications, FFXIV will be very different from Final Fantasy XI in this regard, so if you really must play a two-foot tank and don't feel comfortable with the current system, it might be best to hold on a bit.
The Art Vandelay dilemma
Time was, importing games was your hedge against a volatile market that didn't always care to cater to your peculiar tastes. (I'm speaking here as someone with peculiar tastes, among them the entire Front Mission series.) These days, most stuff gets released in both Japan and the US at similar intervals, if not identical ones.
On the bright side, this means that you don't have to worry about things like importing FFXIV so you can play it on release. On the down side, you lose a certain strength of community, which this thread is inadvertently lamenting. While it's not absolutely certain that the release will be globally simultaneous, it's only uncertain in the sense that the sun might explode tomorrow -- a minute but technically nonzero possibility.
Supply and demand
Things in Vana'diel exist in fairly limited quantities. The game is just designed that way, and you can argue over why for days on end. Unfortunately, it leads to serious problems when one of the quantities in severely limited demand -- a battlefield -- is also the current biggest thing going. Fiat Lux has been a particular offender of late, just because it is the only big new thing at endgame right now, and there are a lot of people who want to be taking part at any given time.
While I agree with the premise, I have to say that this is one of those times when the game would really need a serious redesign to change how these battlefields work. There's no alternative that isn't unbalanced in some way, no solution that wouldn't make it far too easy to chain battles together with nary a trace of slowdown. Again, this is one of those areas that FFXIV is going to address, and we can be thankful for it. This is why instancing is a good thing as an aggregate: As bad as it might be for immersion, all of the alternatives wind up being worse in gameplay.
Those are the community topics for this week, with the caveat that I've tried to avoid just re-discussing the revelations of E3. Questions, comments, suggestions, and death threats for my antipathy toward taru can be sent to Eliot at Massively dot com, just like always. Next week is our question and answer session, followed by the verdict on Chains of Promathia! There may also be cookies.