The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV did not ruin your birthday party

If you were one of the many, many people trying desperately to get Square-Enix's account management page to work on Wednesday evening, you're probably not one of the people this week's article is aimed at. It's pretty clear that even amidst all of the recent controversy surrounding Final Fantasy XIV, there is no shortage of players who couldn't wait to get into the game at the first opportunity. So if you were also up until way too darn late hitting "Refresh" and getting sick of hearing that the connection was reset, you don't need to worry.

But there are a lot of things that have prompted players to call the premature death of Final Fantasy XIV. The fatigue system in particular did a wonderful job of making roughly nobody happy, spawning rage-filled comments that are still showing up in my inbox. Guildleve cooldowns are another big complaint, the one that originally prompted me to start planning this article. (Yes, well before Komoto tried to calm people down and accidentally did precisely the opposite.) But the sky isn't actually falling, and these systems do have their positive points... and there are very good reasons that we shouldn't be worried.

How bad is fatigue actually going to be?

Let's examine fatigue first -- both in the case of what it does, and what it's intended to do. In the clearest and most unambiguous language we have, fatigue does not care about how much time you spend playing. It's simply a throttling system for experience and skill gains.

  • Fatigue accumulates every time you gain experience points or gain skill points with a given class. The system gauges these points toward a threshold, in much the same way that gaining sufficient XP or skill points will increase your level.

  • The threshold is meant to represent the gains possible during an average hour of play composed of nothing but gaining experience and skill. However, said hour is simply a guideline. You are not actually time-locked in any fashion.

  • After you pass the threshold the eighth time, your experience or skill gains begin to be reduced. After you pass it the 15th time, you will have reached no gain.

  • For every moment that you spend not gaining experience or skill points on a class, your fatigue decreases. In addition, your fatigue counter will be reset completely after a week, no matter what.

  • Fatigue is not carried over between classes.

There are several interesting points to be deciphered here. First of all, we don't know if time spent offline will count toward reduction of fatigue, nor do we know the rate and speed of recovery. Both of those are pertinent pieces of data that we simply haven't been given just yet. (I'm tempted to say that offline time will not count, but I'd like to be wrong here.) Second, it's worth noting that several of the stunned reactions to the "time limit" are completely out of line -- there isn't any sort of time limit, just a hard reset point on a timer.

But the most relevant point is that changing your discipline fixes almost all of this. If you spend three hours leveling your gladiator, then spend three hours leveling conjurer, you will have lost a fair amount of your gladiator fatigue in the interim. This is the entire point of the system. Square wants you to play as multiple different disciplines, and if you have to get your arm twisted in order for that to happen, so be it.

Arm-twisting you into proper play

The guildleve cooldown -- which has been met with its own player-generated vitriol -- falls under the exact same category. The design goals for guildleves are to create content that you can explore at your pace and on your time, with the slight caveat that if you can get a group together, it's more effective to do that. But there are several other things to be done, not the least of which centers around the game's status as being a hybrid sandbox-themepark sort of venture.

We need a term for that, incidentally. Who likes "sandpark"?

Sometimes, your quest will be to kill 10 rats. Sometimes, your quest is as simple as determining you need new armor and going out and making yourself something that doesn't tear apart at the slightest breeze. If you had constant guildleves to do, the latter would feel like more of a chore, and you wouldn't necessarily be inclined to go out and find other activities.

Guildleves are fun, and they work best when shared with others. Everyone gets the rewards, and said rewards are increased because you're in a group and can crank up the difficulty. And while Square wants you to have the option to solo them, the company wants to encourage you to not just solo everything because it's faster.

Some people, given the option, would do nothing but hoard their guildleves, solo them until they reached the level cap, and then complain. Just as surely, some people would level a single class up to the level cap and then wonder why their abilities weren't sufficient to deal with most fights. They're herding you in the direction of proper play, whether you like it or not, and if there weren't a strong push in the right direction, it'd be far too easy to ignore.

On the other hand...

Do I actually think these are the best possible implementations of the systems they have in mind? Heck no.

I'm not thrilled about the idea of a two-day cooldown or diminishing returns on experience. I'm not defending them because I think they're spectacular ideas. I'm defending them because as bad as they might sound, I can see the logic behind the decisions.

They might very well just turn out to be bad. We don't know yet. We don't have a full picture of how things will play out with the systems, just bits and pieces from the beta. That might change a great deal now that we're in open beta and nearly at the launch version... but it might not. All we know is the systems that are in place, and we can get a fairly good idea of how those systems are meant to guide us.

Square has a long history of picking out systems and throwing them at the wall to see what sticks. These might stick and they might not. The ideas are still worth exploring, because both of them are in design territory that hasn't been mined out just yet. Perhaps there's actually some benefit to going up and requiring surplus. It's something worth trying, at least, even if the idea isn't charming on the surface.

But even if there isn't some good to be taken away from these systems, neither one dooms the game. In the time I've gotten to play, I've been having a blast, with or without some of the mild inconveniences. I can't wait for live release, with or without the more negative aspects.

As history has shown, people will likely disagree with me, so you can feel free to do so in the comments here or via email at (Civility is appreciated, however.) Next time, I do believe I'll be revisiting an earlier experiment.

A final postscript

For the members of my audience who are roleplayers, the RPC had its vote on the unofficial roleplaying server, and the ultimate result was Besaid as the home of roleplaying in FFXIV. If you like roleplaying, that's the place to go. If you don't, that's the spot to avoid. Spread the word!

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.