Some people have taken this as tacitly admitting the game launched too early, that no one dares to have a holiday event when the game is in the current state. I think it's closer to tacitly admitting that no one is going to take time out from leveling in a brand-new game to check out a bunch of pumpkins. I admit that I'm a little disappointed, as Eorzea doesn't yet feel as vibrant as Vana'diel, but I'm glad the devs decided to pass on this year. Next year will be a different story, I have no doubt.
Blameiulle asks: We could see a new job on one of the new mini-expansions, right? Or is that not possible?
I tend to doubt we'll see a new job even in the unlikely event the game gets a new boxed expansion. It's not that Final Fantasy XI currently has the perfect balance of classes so much as a simple reality: very few people really want to bother leveling something new at this point.
In theory, yes, you have 20 jobs to bring up to max level (which will be 99 at some point next year). In practice, leveling every job to the cap is a very different experience than, say, leveling every class in World of Warcraft to the cap. Even if your class can handle soloing without too much difficulty (melee classes with /DNC, well-kitted Summoners, hybrid casters, etc.), levels do not come quickly in FFXI. Combat is slower, gains are respectively smaller, and all it takes is one accident and you're back to square one from experience loss.
And parties are only going to get harder to find, not easier. Assuming the ridiculous -- that everyone in the game said "screw Abyssea, Valkurm is where it's at" -- that's still only so many people leveling viable tanks and healers. And when those tanks or healers outlevel the areas... well, you're back to level sync as a solution, something that's a great way to group with your friends but not so great when dealing with strangers. (I'll deal with that more in a future column.) Long story short, leveling is only going to get harder and slower... and that means that a new class would have to be something truly spectacular and cool to be worth leveling.
We've got Dancers, Scholars, Blue Mages, Corsairs, Samurai, and Dragoons. I'm not sure if it's even possible to come up with another spectacularly cool class, unless we start bringing in ideas from outside the franchise with Wanzer Pilots and Mana Beasts.
Tim (along with many other people) asked: Why didn't Square learn a single thing from FFXI when it came to FFXIV?
Well, from a technical standpoint, it did. The launch of FFXIV's service wasn't perfect, but it went pretty well, and there was a notable dearth of major issues. From a content, balance, and tuning standpoint... it can be argued that lessons were not learned, but it can be argued that no lessons were forgotten, either.
Most of our readers are probably remembering the North American launch of FFXI, which was a year and a half after the initial PS2 launch of the game in Japan. Initial reviews were not entirely kind, and it took quite a while for the game to reach the state that we saw at launch. This isn't to say that the game was bad, but it was certainly underwhelmeing.
The approach Square seems to be taking with FFXIV is that of a marathon rather than a sprint. The reviews are in, and they are not kind, which is fairly unsurprising -- it's hard not to have a negative first impression when you have to start out by puzzling out the game's interface and how it wants you to play. (Yes, that's another topic that could be borne out for a column.) There are definite areas that need improvement, areas which are being improved, according to all currently available information. If those improvements haven't happened in half a year's time -- that is, the projected PS3 launch and the second chance for a fresh audience -- I'll be the first one slapping my forehead and asking what the hell is the deal.
(Not that Metacritic scores really mean a heck of a lot for MMOs outside of projecting the first month or two. Seriously, take a look.)
That's our column for this week, and I look forward to the burgeoning flamewar that will no doubt accompany it. Until then, you can feel free to leave comments or suggestions in the comments field, or in my inbox at email@example.com. Next week will most likely be one of the two topics I mentioned earlier, but I'll let you decide in the comments which one sounds more interesting. I've got Lancer ranks to get.
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.