Thursday, November 29, 2012

And the producer speaks... sort of....

Quick note:

One-day fee vacation.  Gotta reset, as the money comes in on Friday, so BG gets a one-day jubilee in-game from my sorry you-know-what...  :)

Anyway, to the point of all this:

Yesterday (Wednesday) on the Japanese forums -- translated soon after for English-speakers, Akihiko Matsui, the director of Final Fantasy XI, basically took to the forums...

... basically to apologize for all the official silence.

Basically, the impression I got from the official translation is that Matsui is overwhelmed by the amount of necessary work on the game he has had to encounter since taking over for Tanaka this summer:

I think that Matsui said it best (in the translation) when he said:

"I'm at a point that I'd really like more time for all of this, but I can't just keeping saying that."

And, with that, he immediately addressed the roadmap from earlier this year.

All but confirming that Seekers of Adoulin was probably a desperation move on the part of Square-Enix, he said:

"I apologize for the delays with the currently released roadmap. There are two reasons for this.

The first reason is that since the schedule was released before the announcement of Seekers of Adoulin, the effects of the development load for the expansion were much larger than anticipated." 

The problem with that is that it really appears that they felt either that they could half-ass the expansion, or that they never anticipated how much work they would have, so to say that they never really expected to have a fifth Final Fantasy XI expansion.

Then, basically about the one large announcement from this post:

"While we looked into a revised version of the roadmap to release, instead of redoing everything that was up until March 2013, we feel it's necessary to take time to build out a proper development plan from next year on, starting with redefining development plans and then deciding on the practical work content so that we do not disappoint all of you."

Emphasis mine.

They're basically going to change out of what they've been trying to do for the last who-knows-how-long -- probably up to about the five years since Wings of the Goddess hit the table.

Here's the problem:  The community needs at least a soft date on Seekers -- and it needs it now.  From announcement to release, Wings of the Goddess was six months.  About Christmas Day will be six months from the announcement of Seekers, and the facts are that almost NOTHING has been said about the new expansion, which leaves the possibility open that the plug might get pulled before Seekers ever sees release.

But it's basically being decided that, if Final Fantasy XI is going to survive (see the blog post below (Yoshida's comments about the damage XIV has done) for one of the reasons it may not!!), major changes in the development of the game and what's going to be worked upon it are probably going to have to be made.

After (and he knows this is a problem) asking for a little more time, he goes into further detail:

"For example, there's the concern with content and that the necessary content is not reaching the necessary people."

Well, that is part of the main problem (a larger part being that Seekers needs to at least be seen as coming soon to keep people interested), the fact is that a large reason this is the case is that many of the players on the Test Server are using the same illegal third-party add-ons and programs they use in the game proper.

Hence, by committing illegal acts on the Test Server, they skew the content harder than it would be if all players were forced to abide by the rules and license limitations of the game.

By the time the content goes live, the content is actually not balanced, and, if anything, needs to be balanced AGAINST the players who cheat their asses off -- many of them contributing to the testing.  Of course, when this fails, these players get exactly what they want:  Many of these players DO NOT WANT the "necessary content" to reach the "necessary people".

They believe they are the ONLY "necessary people" entitled to be involved, and that players who do not RMT and/or cheat have no place in Vana'diel.

Matsui again:

"Currently, due to the fact that there's a lack of low-difficulty and casual content, a majority of players are focusing on high-difficulty content, and there has been a lot of feedback that even though they log in they can't do what they want (nothing to do). Also affecting this is that things have become more complicated since adjustments have been made to drop rates and item stats."

There's two parts to this.

One, even with all the stuff that can now be soloable at level 99 from the former content, Matsui admits that there is actually very little casual-level content.

Again, this is what the predominant (at least North American/English-speaking) game population wants.  They abhor casual players, believing they take up space and are an unnecessary evil (at best, if not simply contrary to the continuance of this game as an MMO!) which should be shunned, if not eradicated.

In fact, as I said five months ago when Seekers of Adoulin was announced, I think it clear that they would love to block all other players but their elite (and cheating, almost exclusively) selves.

Second, "they can't do what they want"/"nothing to do".

The problem here is two-fold:  One:  You have a system of levelling, at this point, which is contrary to the Terms of Service.  The predominance of players will basically book-burn a job to 30, get into Abyssea, and then basically Fell Cleave/RMT (though not all Fell Cleave groups are RMT, they all are illegal, and the vast majority of the people involved in putting them together and announcing them ARE RMT...) their way to get whatever jobs to 99 that they want.

Two:  The fact is that either the players are of the class who wish to dominate the game over all the other players (and disgrace the other players in so doing), or they are shunned by that same first class of players.

Under "Development Plans", Matsui lists the following:

"I'd personally like to see players that are below level 99 reach level 99 quickly (we will be looking into whether we can make adjustments so that the level 95 limit quest can be completed solo), and for players that have reached level 99, I’d like to create separate elements such as solo, group, casual, hardcore, and provide game play after defining themes for new elements and adjusted elements."

Actually, in most cases, people are reaching level 99 FAR TOO QUICKLY.  I think I know why Matsui wants players to reach level 99 -- Seekers, if the game survives long enough to get a release, will be the level 99 expansion.  Zilart was a 50ish expansion, CoP was a 50-75, ToAU was basically a 75 expansion, Wings even more so, and now, with the level cap of 99, there needs to be more 99 content than just rehashes.

The problem, again, is with the illegal Fell Cleavers, etc.  99 is a matter of gil now, not time nor skill.

More promising the idea of separate elements.  Far too much in the 75 Vana'diel required large groups to attempt the material.  The Vana'diel of level 99 has blown up a lot of the power structure allow the elitist cheaters to basically rule the day, but not all of it.  Perhaps the creation of separate tiers of the game for solo, group, casual, hardcore, etc., might actually blow the rest of the power structure up.

"It's necessary to make adjustments to increase the win/success rate for content that has already been played out by the top groups so that players that come later can catch-up."

You can't think BG likes this one Matsui said.  The entire reason many of these people exist is to humiliate other players or basically force them to pay for illegal clearances (Neo-Nyzul at 10,000,000/win is a good example!).

Before any of that can take place, Mr. Matsui, you need to determine if the tactics and programs used by these "top groups" are legal and allowed.  If they are, you have a serious rewrite of the rules of the game ahead of you -- BEFORE you can do any of what you state.

If Windower/Spellcast/etc. are legal, then the scale of the game changes completely, as the Windower/Spellcast/etc. players will openly attest to.  It's either illegal to play with these implements under License Limitation 2.1, or it's illegal (if the player has the equipment to do so) NOT to play with these implements, as the level of play is demonstrably lower, disrupting the game experience of the other players, and creating an illegality under License Limitation 3.2 .

And then, at that point, would you really need to increase the win or success rate, if the programs once declared illegal effectively become the legal/preferred/only way to play the game?

"Also, in regards to existing content, we will be redefining the number of people required, the level spread, and reward difficulty, and look into making adjustments to fit the needs of the current Vana'diel.

(I feel it would be best to work on the paths to these various types of content for adventurers that are coming back after a long break.)"

Give us a date for Seekers first, at least a soft date, or NONE OF THIS matters.  You're not going to get a serious uptick of people on the game again (you're basically at the point that, if there were no Seekers on the horizon, you'd have to force another set of server merges -- Leviathan is routinely under 1,000 players during much of the weekdays) until Seekers is 3 months, 6 weeks, 1 month or so away.

These goals are correct, as you are intending to bring adventurers back, but none of this happens until we actually get real news and a date for Seekers of Adoulin.

"Additionally, there are a number of things that need to be decided such as aspects of battle that are not balanced up to level 99. For example, I believe the workings of the entire enmity system needs adjustment and the problem of TP given to enemies is an important issue to look into."

Basically, you cap emnity far too easily.  And if you want to see a good example of TP problems, watch some of the reasons that the Voidwatch fights often turn into Fanatics Drink spam-fests.

I just don't know.  He says a lot, but then he says nothing.  We need some idea of how long we are going to have to continue to wait (and probably finance your FFXIV boondoggle) before we get what we really want -- and that's a fifth expansion I'm still not 100% sure we see!

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