"What's with people crying about huge system requirements [for the benchmark]?"
Not everyone has a hugely powerful computer, and there are a lot of fans of Final Fantasy XI who would probably like to be able to dive straight into Final Fantasy XIV. The problem is that the former has been around for eight years, and the latter is just now coming out. That's leaving aside the fact that FFXI's American release came a year and a half after the Japanese release, which meant that a computer that could run the game well was that much cheaper.
It is certainly true that all you really need to run FFXIV quite well is a reasonably priced set of components. However, it's equally worth noting that even just those components will run you about the same price as a brand-new PS3. If you're more into gaming than you are into computers, the latter probably sounds like a much better investment. And I can't blame anyone for feeling that way, as I'd often rather just purchase a new piece of hardware rather than muck about with a computer once again. Computers are powered by demons, and opening the case angers them.
By and large, I think people are complaining because they expected something that was a year or so old in terms of technology. They got something much more demanding, and if you haven't upgraded your video card in a couple of years, it'll probably hurt.
"[A] lot of people bitch about World of Warcraft and want to go back to the old days -- why didn't you come play FFXI, which is about as old days as any current MMO has ever been?"
In some ways, this is totally not true. People who long for the old days of free-for-all PvP, for instance, will be very disappointed with how Square-Enix essentially puts PvP in a zone box and lets it stew. But the crowd of people who want everything that game design was in the early days of the genre would be pretty darn happy with FFXI, which has stayed largely resistant to the flow of game design.
Am I happy about that? Well, on the one hand, definitely not. On the other hand, I look at games like Star Wars Galaxies that tried to change from what they actually were into something that they thought would sell better, and... there might be an upside to all of the stagnant elements of our beloved game. At least it's never tried to be anything that it isn't. Which sounds a bit like praising the fat girl for never trying out for the cheerleading squad, but I work with what I have.
"So if you change classes in the field for FFXIV, do you have to re-do your whole action bar right at that moment?"
We're not completely sure, but odds are low. One of the elements that the designers keep stressing is that you can really switch disciplines at any point as long as you're not in combat, and having to re-arrange an entire bar with skills each time might get a bit tedious if you're swapping a lot. But that would give you some incentive to pay attention and possibly equip off-discipline gathering abilities so that you didn't have to go through the process of swapping everything again.
Unfortunately, our hands-on at E3 (which I was sadly not able to take part in) didn't cover the switching of disciplines, instead focusing on using a single discipline to show off the combat. If I had to wager an overall guess, I'd probably go for a "no," but it's still very much up in the air. Expect to see more and more about swapping in the field as we get closer to release, I do believe they're holding out on making all the decisions just yet.
"How can Square consider their add-on packs as expansions?"
They expand the game. That makes them expansions. They don't have to adhere to the boxed model to qualify, and I'd argue that half of the battle here is simply in marketing terms.
Really, the question isn't whether or not they're expansions so much as what this means for the future of boxed expansions for the game. After all, we're unlikely to get an add-on pack that adds a new class or entirely new system to the game, both of which have been hallmarks of FFXI expansions since the beginning. Then again, Chains of Promathia did set the precedent for expansions that don't necessarily require an expected set of addition... but it's still dodging the question and the sentiment. Abyssea is nice, but it's not the Far East or another advanced job.
I don't think we're ever going to get another update on the same scale as Wings of the Goddess, which is both a blessing and a curse. It means that we're stuck with the jobs we have, and we're not likely to see any more large zones. On the flip side... remember how I mentioned that the game was dwarfing back at the beginning? Yeah, we really don't need to make the game a whole lot bigger at this point. If you're level 99 in every job, have completed all mission chains, and have nothing left in the game left to do... please tell me how you've had the eight years of uninterrupted free time to do so.
Those are our questions and answers for this week. Next week, of course, is the final verdict in our increasingly long trial for Chains of Promathia, as well as a compilation and response to reader comments on it. Let me know what you thought of this week's installment in the comments, or via email at Eliot at Massively dot com.