Friday, 17 July 2015

Have I been wrong all along? #GW2 #FFXI #FFXIV

I came to Guild Wars 2 from Final Fantasy XI around August/September 2012. My relationship with FFXI was always mixed. I played with a bunch of great people (that I miss even today) and had a very strong bond with my character (Dibble). I'm not a huge FF franchise fan but I loved the world of Vana'diel too. What I didn't love was that the mechanics of the game never really changed with the times, development was slow and communication from the developers was terrible. It was also unforgivingly hard and anything worth doing needed a group.

But looking back at my blog from those times I'm overwhelmed by how positive most of what I wrote was. I did things in FFXI that I am still proud of today. An anecdote about how we were once pursued across a whole zone and slaughtered by an angry sheep even made it into my speech at my brother's wedding. Yes, really. It was subtle but it was there.

Hindsight is a great thing. When I switched from FFXI to GW2 it was if the lights had been switched on. Frustrations that I had had with FFXI vanished in GW2 and I wondered why I ever spent a good 5 years playing it. Admittedly my personal circumstances and expectations changed a huge amount over those 5 years of play and I think, ultimately, it was the birth of our first child that really put the nail in the FFXI coffin for me. The need to group, the gear treadmill, the sub: none of these things gelled with having a new baby. But as we approach the third anniversary of GW2 I'm starting to wonder if I did FFXI and Square Enix (SE) a gross disservice.

When I started out with GW2 buy-to-play seemed like the greatest thing in the world. I didn't have loads of play time so the amount of content was more than enough to keep me busy. At one point I was evening complaining that we had too much content. However, we've now been talking about an expansion for about a year and when, seven months ago, it was confirmed the content all but dried up. If GW2 had kept it's Living Story model I think I'd probably still be playing it. I never wanted an expansion and as soon as one was announced there didn't seem much point doing what I'd been doing as it would all change come release. That was a pretty astute prediction on my part.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I'm starting to wonder if B2P is suddenly not actually all that. I'm looking over in the direction of FFXIV and thinking the same as everyone else: it's bucking the subscription model trend. It's not just bucked it, it's out of the corral and over the fucking hills. From a distance it looks like SE has addressed most of my FFXI bug bears and assuaged my greatest concerns about FFXIV: that they weren't responsive enough to the player base and that they didn't communicate what they were doing at all well. They've not only sorted that out but they're a strong candidate for MMO PR done right. I guess they did have that blip with the housing...

This has all made me look back at FFXI and the time and money I spent in a different way. SE may not have gone about it in the best way but they RELENTLESSLY delivered more of exactly what people wanted. The amount of content in FFXI today is mind-blowing. The contrast with GW2 is stark and the most obvious difference is business model. Subs (should) mean content.

But then you have WoW. Millions of subs, zero/shitty new content (apparently). I think Blizzard's problem is plain greed. They're so used to having all that cash that they'll do anything to tap new markets and I just don't think it's working out for them in the long run. FFXIV seems happy to have a small player base that the devs completely understand and can meet the needs of. By necessity GW2 is in the same situation as WoW; they want new players. The new Adventures detailed yesterday? I don't even begin to understand who they're trying to appeal to with that.

Looking at it all from a distance I'm starting to see the huge benefits of the sub model and the obvious weaknesses of the Guild Wars 2 B2P model. I daresay The Secret World's B2P model would have been a nice fit for GW2 but it's too late now.

I've dabbled with the idea of re-subbing for FFXI for a month (especially now I have 37 "meg" broadband) but the barrier to entry is colossal even for me not just in terms of content and gear but the interface is actually archaic. Instead I'm content to look back today and realise that, far from being a disaster, FFXI was a great gaming experience and I have no regrets.

Well, not many.

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