My first thoughts on seeing the screenshots for the second version was that it might as well be an entirely different game. It's familiar elements ported into an altogether unfamiliar setting. I've been looking forward to it before, but I think this was the first time that I truly believed that this was going to happen and that it would be awesome. So if you've been following along with the game's E3 coverage across the web -- and I know you have -- let's just dive into reaction.
New crafting mechanics
I've said before that the Final Fantasy XIV crafting system is brilliant, and I'll say it again. Unfortunately, in the mid-to-high-level band, it does get pretty repetitive. Unlike the combat classes that just started getting all their cool toys, crafters already have most of the cool toys that they're going to get. That means there's less cross-class pollination as well, which eliminates some of the fun behind the game's class system.
In other words, for all that I like the crafting system, the crafting classes haven't always felt like they pull their weight. And when they make up nearly half of all the classes, that's problematic.
It looks like we're getting more options for crafters both in crafting and on the field. I can only hope something similar is coming for gathering, but knowing Yoshi-P, I'd say that's a safe bet. I think this is a spectacular idea, and I'd love to see some more cross-discipline abilities, period. If wanting to level your Carpenter to improve your Lancer is wrong, I don't want to be right. (And the reverse is true, too.)
But even if that crazy dream never materializes, I'm still looking forward to more meaningful crafting decisions because hey, it's just awesome like that.
When I read up on this, my first thought was that Yoshida found a spectacular way to take the most annoying parts of Final Fantasy XI's HNMLS culture and make them even worse. My second thought was... OK, it was exactly the same as the first thought, but it included more curse words.
I'm not saying there's nothing cool about this idea; it's a neat idea, certainly, and it keeps things dynamic. But the idea that primals are wandering randomly and are very limited means that outside of very high-end content, you'll never see them around. That will definitely preserve their nature, but it also means blocking a big portion of the playerbase from enjoying a big nostalgic element. There are no summoners under this model, and that's kind of sad.
I do like the idea that the summoning will be a worldwide event, though. It doesn't make up for the several parts I find annoying, but it's still cool.
No, really, yes. This is just clever all around. It sounds like every positive aspect of chocobo-raising from previous games is being taken into account. The only annoyance is that it sounds like chocobos will have more customization options than individual characters... but do I really need a talent tree on my Thaumaturge?
Actually, that would be pretty awesome. Maybe we'll get a little more fine control over our individual disciplines.
What hasn't been mentioned one way or the other is how vital your chocobo will be in combat or how reliable said chocobo is. It's certainly possible that the developers could go for an Adventuring Fellow-type system, in which you have only limited use of your bird early on. Giving you free use might be better, but it might also change the design of areas to require a chocobo at all times if you're not in a group, which seems contrary to the game's existing design. We need more information.
High-end instanced raids
I've said before that I'm not a big fan of huge groups for endgame content. This sounds really cool -- the group finder and everything will be a welcome addition -- but the whole idea of 24-person content strikes me as just plain not fun. I'm sure someone will find it really neat, and hey, that's great. I am not that someone.
Beta, alpha, and the live servers
What we know now is that the alpha should be running in late September, with a beta starting not too long after that. This might seem a bit short, but the biggest changes are just the maps and some elements of the crafting system. The mechanics of most of the game should be fairly steady, so it's not as onerous a testing cycle as a new game would need. Yoshida is keeping in mind that the beta does need to be more flexible than the game's original beta, however.
Based on further statements, we also know that once the beta starts, the live servers end. So we've got a rough timescale placing the end of the world as we know it somewhere around mid-October. That's a while off, but it's also distressingly close. If you have any major goals to accomplish in Eorzea-That-Is before it becomes Eorzea-That-Was, you might want to hop to 'em sooner rather than later.
And there's more...
I know that there's stuff I'm missing at the moment because there's a whole lot to digest from the revelations at the show. So feel free to share your own favorite moments or personal impressions in the comments below, or mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the record, I'm very sad that we saw catboys but no Highlander/roegadyn girls.
Next week, I'm going back on track to talk about useful cross-class skills. You know, like I was planning to this week but wound up missing. Ah, I love the news cycle.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.