At least they fixed the communication thing up nice.
It's been a week now since the start of early access in Final Fantasy XIV, and it's been a weird launch. Partly because it's not really a proper launch, it's a relaunch of a game that hadn't been playable for several months and is now back in a form that has changed so much that it's almost unrecognizable. And partly because the servers have sort of been a force of unfettered malevolence; that's definitely an issue as well.

Playing the game this week has ultimately been a verbal tug-of-war between two separate but equally important groups. There are the players who can't get in and hold very strong opinions about not being able to get in, and there are the players who can get in and are just playing the game. So it's impossible to talk about the launch week without talking about the launch issues and the servers... which also requires a bit of perspective on MMOs as a whole.

Let's just blame the Ascians.Error 1017

Let me start off by saying something that could be seen as bragging when it really isn't. I have sat through a lot of MMO launches.

Part of that is because, well, my job involves MMOs. You see a lot of launches under those circumstances. But I've been playing MMOs in some capacity for 12 years now, so it's also tied to the simple fact that I'm interested in the genre. The launches I have wanted to play have generally involved me sitting at my computer patiently, and those I didn't want to play still merited attention.

So looking at this launch, I can't help but find myself thinking that this isn't so bad.

I will be right there along with others crying that Error 1017 is beyond annoying. It simply tells you to wait for an opening with no indication of when that opening will come or what the status of further login attempts will be. It's not even entirely clear when the limitation eases -- has someone logged out? Have they upped the login cap briefly? It's a frustrating non-error and it feels doubly frustrating because you know the servers are up and someone is playing right now.

But flavors of this exact same thing have happened with every other MMO launch ever. Sure, everyone was tossed in a straight-up queue... maybe. Or maybe the servers were just down for everyone every couple of hours for another round of emergency maintenance. Or the queue is somehow broken. Or the servers are under so much lag load that they cannot function properly -- you know, exactly what happened right at launch, which is why 1017 got to shine.

And when the servers work, sometimes there's a totally different problem, like when Champions Online issued a launch-day patch that broke the game pretty thoroughly.

Veteran players like myself were going through server hell on the original Final Fantasy XIV launch day, even. Yes, server issues happened on the first day on a game which had such poor critical reception that it was completely remade.

Unfortunately, our perceptions and memories tend to get really spotty in these situations. I didn't get hit with bad queues when Star Wars: The Old Republic launched, therefore I don't remember it being so bad. That doesn't mean it was devoid of these problems, just that these problems were concentrated differently, which was even more luck-based. You were fine or you were completely boned with no in-between.

I say this with absolutely no ivory tower. I've sat at my desk trying to log in repeatedly, and I work from home. There is no special flag on my account that gives me priority login or something. Ms. Lady and I have both been frustrated as we've tried to log in, wishing for all the world that we had a counter saying exactly when we could log in. But based on the however many launches I've sat through, this is really not that bad.

Fact is, by all estimation, we'll be past all of this by this time next week. If we're not, then yes, this is a consistent problem. As it stands, we're in the midst of normal launch week blues. We'll largely forget about it by October and can look forward to the next game with issues on launch.

Coerthas is gorgeous, but it doesn't photograph well at night.Actually playing the game

Yes, despite login issues, I've gotten quite a bit of playtime this week. (And I do hope you enjoyed all the extras.) The last beta was nice, but it was still the training wheels. Now I can level as much as I want and as far as I want, and it just gets better.

As feared or predicted, the game does throw new group content in the middle of the storyline on a fairly regular basis. This is obnoxious, but the duty finder works quite well. As always, the trick seems to be "play a tank or healer," which is a concept I plan to expand upon further on down the line. Tanking is fun and responsive, healing is fairly standard but still fun enough, and the boss fights manage to be engaging without reinventing the wheel.

Beyond that, though, there's a whole world of things to do. So much so that a week out from launch I'm only up to around level 24 on the main story. I've been busy farming seals, catching my classes up to the individual class stories, re-running dungeons for leveling purposes, crafting, gathering...

The market boards have begun to fill, although part of me wonders what the long-term effects will be of having so much armor be available from vendors. Crafters can obviously provide the edge with materia... but that takes time to assemble as well. It puts crafters under the burden of having to either produce HQ items or undercut vendors, neither of which is ideal.

You could also just be in a convenient spot for players to find you, which is the other major issue -- finding vendors that sell what you actually need can be a chore and a half. Since higher-level gear is sold in higher-level areas, you can't go scope out what's in the future. And since things aren't marked with numbers in most places, sometimes you're guessing about whether or not this next area will or won't have an upgrade. Quest rewards help a bit but don't fully ameliorate the issue.

However, those are almost all of my nitpicks, and compared with all of the stuff I like it seems like an awfully small list. Matt Daniel's post about things we need is entirely appropriate, but at the same time some of those are features we already know are coming. I think we can wait a little while.

Servers, on the other hand, cannot wait very long. Let's snap that up, yes?

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massively.com. Next week, assuming the server issues have largely been ironed out, I won't have to say unhappy things about them. That'll mean I'm free to talk about what I really want to talk about, which are Grand Companies. You're thrilled, I'm sure.

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.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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