The story of Final Fantasy XIV is a story of two games. In one reality, a well-crafted game with plentiful support from the community and staff offered a wealth of content for the discerning MMORPG player. Nostalgia for the previous thirteen odd titles, balanced with a strong focus on an ongoing story with a powerful mythos. Constant feedback from the developers with a touching sense of humility, bringing major changes through constant updates to remain relevant, and strong writing to engage the player in the wider world.
In the crapsack of a world that we live in, however, that game was the second version, and we got Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 instead.
Pride has been the name of the game for these little retrospectives so far, a pride completely unjustified by the resulting product. The story of Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 is one of hubris, however, pride plus one, dire pride, Pride Plus: Pride Harderer. I can say with something that resembles smug self satisfaction that I never got around to playing 1.0, but I can certainly remember the promises that were being made at the time. The visionary behind Final Fantasy XI, the series’ other venture into the realm of the MMORPG, was placed in charge of the new project. So with a successful MMORPG, what could go wrong?
Well, everything. Everything could go wrong. You should always assume that with that kind of leading question.
The story is as follows. The realm of Eorzea is in dire need of a champion. On one hand, the beast tribes (humanoid monsters) are summoning their Gods to fight against the spoken races (the player races). Each one is a Summon from Final Fantasy history (Ifrit, Garuda, Titan etc.) Merely by existing, they cause the world to die. This is bad news to the extremely technologically advanced Garlean Empire, who decide that all things being equal, the solution is to invade Eorzea and kill all the beast tribes, while occupying everyone else for the greater good. You and you alone (along with every other player in the entire world) are the Warrior of Light, who has journeyed to Eorzea to be embroiled in the conflicts of nations and gods alike.
Did I make that sound suitably epic? Great! I’m sure you’re all fired up to fight against those gosh darned Primals, yes? Well, the game would like to remind you that you can in fact take a long jump off a short pier. You couldn’t actually fight Primals until release version 1.18. Okay, so, you could fight the Garlean empire, right? Well, the grunts, yes, but nothing of significance happens with them until after 1.18. Okay, so, you can’t fight any of the main threats, but you can prepare yourself by fighting and levelling, since the system allows you to play all classes simply by changing your weapon? Yes, about that, and regarding that whole pier thing the game mentioned earlier. The longer you were logged in on a class, the less experience you would earn. That’s right, the game was so devoid of actual, meaningful content that the game itself discouraged you from investing your time in it. So what could you do in this game?
I mentioned that I never played 1.0, but I made the mistake of soliciting people I know in game for their 1.0 experiences. They were eager to respond in the same way that rabid hyenas are eager to rip prey limb from limb. From what they told me, the primary activity in Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 was to wait for the comforting embrace of death itself, to usher in the end of a long, timeless purgatory where there was nothing but the endless void of infinity on all sides. Either that or pet the Aldgoats. The horror stories that they regaled me with are not suitable for general consumption, but one outlined the main problem of the game. This player, involved in the original betas, made note of a number of glaring flaws, such as a broken combat system and a number of other, rather crippling flaws. Come final release, all these flaws were still there.
The most glaring positive I could find was ‘the game looked prettier’, which was because plants had the same level of model detail as actual player characters. The game was such a broken mess that Square Enix, a corporation that released Final Fantasy All the Bravest with a straight face, felt compelled to send a message to reviewers asking them to not release reviews until they had had a few months after release to sort things out, a process you would think would happen say, after a Beta of some sort. And obviously, everyone complied with this request in the land of fairies and unicorns.
FFXIV was in fact such a blot that the company actually fired the team in charge, bumped up some nobody who had been saying things like ‘maybe this game is utter bollocks’ to the lead position. This man was Yoshi-P, and he proposed a simple solution. Have a God Dragon from the moon nuke everything.
So we have yet another humiliation for Square Enix caused by a degree of hubris that would make Lucifer himself blush in shame. Honestly, it’s like shoving the Final Fantasy name on a thing isn’t enough to ensure a quality product, a thing that Final Fantasy XIV has taken to heart, resulting in a quality product that connects with its players. It’s strange, though, I could have sworn that Square had learned this lesson before.
Yes, in fact, it’s somewhere back in the mists of time. Something lurking in the shadows. The lesson of pride that devastated everything a prestigious company stood for. A lesson unlearned. A moral ignored. I really wish I could remember…