Monday, August 23, 2010

Dear, Square-Enix: My rant on FINAL FANTASY XIV [Archived]

Updated: 8/26:

Once again, we would like to thank you all for your participation and support during the Closed Beta. We will continue to take your valuable feedback into consideration as we develop the game during Open Beta and even beyond the official release.

Now I would like to take a moment to respond to the many questions and opinions regarding the manner in and rates at which experience and skill points are obtained in Beta 3.

Firstly, the concept for FINAL FANTASY XIV was to design a system of character progression that offers meaningful advancement for those with limited time to dedicate to playing. We did not want to create a game that forced people to play for hours on end to see their efforts rewarded. To that end, in addition to the Guardian's Aspect and guildleve systems, we introduced a means of apportioning swifter advancement to shorter periods of play.

In order to achieve this balance, we calculated a value for the amount of skill or experience points that could be earned in a one-hour period. This theoretical value represents an hour spent engaged solely in combat, levequests, or any other activities that earn skill or experience points, and sets a threshold delimiting how many of these points can be earned in a period of play.

Based on this, we have implemented a “threshold value” concept. These thresholds are regulated by a one-week timer that begins counting down the instant you earn skill/experience points. After a week has passed, the thresholds will reset, and the moment skill/experience points are earned again, the timer begins counting down anew.

For the first eight thresholds during this week-long period, players will receive skill/experience points at the maximum rate possible. The actual amount of time spent reaching these thresholds is not significant. That is to say, a player who exceeds eight hours of gameplay will still be rewarded the maximum amount of skill/experience points, so long as the total amount earned is below the eighth threshold value. For the subsequent seven thresholds, players will earn skill/experience points at a gradually decreasing rate, eventually reaching a rate of zero.

It is worth noting, however, that the reduced rate will also gradually recover while players are engaged in activities that do not yield skill/experience points. In this manner, it is possible for the threshold value to reset completely, even before the completion of the one-week timer.

Any skill points earned in excess of the threshold maximum—that is, at a rate of zero—will be stored as "bonus skill points." These are specific to each class, so players limited to earning bonus skill points still have the freedom to change classes and begin earning skill points again at the maximum rate, allowing their reduced skill rates to recover in the meantime.

The experience point threshold, however, is unrelated to class, and switching classes will have no effect on the decreasing rate of earnable experience.

This is how the progression system currently works.

This system was not introduced in Beta 3, but has been in place since the beginning of beta testing. There are several reasons why many people believe that these features were only recently implemented:

- Leading into Beta 3, operation hours were extended, making it possible to play more often during the span of a week.
- To encourage players to form guidleve parties in Beta 3, skill and experience point rewards for guildleves were significantly increased.
- The process that reduced the amount of skill/experience points awarded for weak enemies attacking in groups was unintentionally removed at the start of Beta 3. (This issue has been addressed.)

That last reason in particular was the biggest cause for players running up against the threshold penalty, with characters earning far more skill/experience points than we anticipated. We also faced an issue where we were simultaneously unable to adjust the amount earned for guildleves as well as the effects of crossing each threshold.

We sincerely apologize for the lack of explanation and our failure to make the necessary adjustments in the game.

The threshold values are being reexamined, and we plan to further adjust the different rates of earnable points based on feedback from our testers. One of the top issues we are looking at right now is fixing the excessively rapid drop after crossing the eighth threshold. We also plan to improve experience point reduction rates, even more so than for skill points, considering the threshold is unaffected when changing class.

At the very least, we can promise that players won't be running into the threshold penalty in the same short time span as they did in the beginning of Beta 3.

We would like to take this opportunity to also explain the following issues.

The diminishing results experienced during gathering are a function related to that class alone, and have no connection to this progression system. We are in the process of adjusting this system, and plan to make changes based on tester feedback.

We are currently in the process of considering the means in which bonus skill points can be used. There have been suggestions for various types of incentives, but as encouraging people to play with that in mind defeats the purpose of this threshold system, we will be examining this issue very carefully.

These are not the only adjustments we have planned for Open Beta. As mentioned previously, we are looking into increasing the amount of skill points earned when fighting in a party, and we look forward to seeing your input on these changes.

Last of all, I would like to apologize for the delay in releasing a developer's comment due to my recent attendance to Gamescom. The article based on my interview during that trip, coupled with conjecture, outdated information, and some misunderstandings on overseas websites, only added to the confusion. In the future, I hope to avoid similar problems by responding directly through official developer's comments as often as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

See you in the Open Beta Testing!

Nobuaki Komoto

Updated: 8/25:

Square-Enix and Hiromichi Tanaka have recently responded to the worldwide outrage at this system that was introduced and they posted on their JP site explaining what the Surplus system is: This is what I got out of it. (Beware: Translation errors may cause this information to be misrepresented)

For the first eight hours of levelling a week, you get a bonus 100% (or double) the experience you get from killing a monster. After eight hours, the bonus drops to 0% over the course of seven hours after that leaving you with 100% of your base experience. The counter is reset if you change classes encouraging (but not forcing) players to explore and level other classes. So basically it's a free EXP ring from XI but it happens automatically.

Original Blog Post:

As you all know, I've been tweeting, posting, endorsing this game to every last breath, I really want this game to succeed. It has one of the most breathtaking FF atmosphere since probably IX.

Just check out the TGS/E3 trailers if you don't believe me.

I am very passionate about this game and I'd defend it to no end. But Square-Enix is going down the COMPLETE wrong path with development on this game.

I've played Final Fantasy XI for seven years and incurred over 779 days of playtime. I was very hardcore gamer in my earlier years, and when I heard this next Final Fantasy themed MMO was going to be much more casual, I jumped in joy. I don't have as much time to dedicate to this game as I used to. Despite me being a video game design student at a university, I don't have much time to actually play games during the week. I look forward to the weekend to play games and kick back.

But Square-Enix is coming up with this SILLY idea that is going to ruin the game before it even launches.

This idea is universally hated and I can't think of any sane person that likes it. People are cancelling pre-orders over it and Square-Enix doesn't seem to be doing a damn thing about it.

The issue:

At around level 15-20 if you continue levelling the same class, you get what is known as "surplus points" after defeating a monster. (Aka, while grinding, so to say.) And eventually the surplus points start taking a percentage of your EXP until you don't get any at all. The surplus goes away after you change classes and EXP on different monsters. (Or change to a crafting class)

Beta testers have been saying that this is a deal breaker. Not only does the surplus not wear off for an EXTREMELY long time, it almost forces you to level other classes. That's very unfair. If I feel like levelling a Gladiator for a weekend, I should be able to get significant progress without being hindered or slowed down because the game feels that I should be doing something I don't like doing.

Now I love this game, I played the beta and I am really looking forward to it, I want my friends to play as well. But what am I going to tell them if Square-Enix keeps this crap up? This isn't encouraging casual play, this is encouraging torturous, mind-numbing, class-changing nonsense! If I want to level other classes and abilities, I should do it when I damn well please.

Square-Enix, I really hope you're reading this. I tagged this blog post on my Twitter account and I really hope someone gets their head out of their ass and removes/edits this Surplus system to encourage rewarding the casual player rather than punishing the hardcore player. Please, do something.

I'm not threatening to cancel my pre-order of XIV, I'm not cancelling any subscription. But for a game I really hope succeeds in the harsh WoW-dominated MMO market, what you are doing to try and sustain a sufficient amount of subscribers is not going to fare well with the shyt you're pulling.


Grover Eyeveen
FFXIV - Kefka Server

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