Final Fantasy XIV is due for release in less than two months, barring any of the unforeseen delays so common to the MMO genre. The developers of Final Fantasy XI are making another attempt at an MMO, hoping to maintain their old audience while simultaneously bringing in a new one. Oddly enough, Final Fantasy XIV's success is likely to be determined within the coming two weeks, or specifically with the coming of the Phase 3 Beta Patch.There are two patch notes in particular, notes that while ambiguous hold the fate of Square's game in their hands. Of course, XIV will undoubtedly be self-sustaining, even profitable, simply due to the sheer number of returning fans from XI. The new audience though, the audience that Square lost and some say ignored with XI, waits patiently for Phase 3's inception. A generation of MMO players who've grown accustomed to a post-World of Warcraft level of accessibility and excitement.
Patch note #1 is as follows:
Significant adjustments to mouse controls
How, you might say, could you mess up mouse controls? By not including them at all. Final Fantasy XI was built and designed to run on both the PlayStation 2 and the PC. Rather than create two separate control schemes, Square made one. One debilitating control scheme that forced PC players to all but ignore their mouse and focus on a series of keystrokes to control camera movements. It was archaic at the time, and applying the same scheme into Final Fantasy XIV is unacceptable.
What passed as a control scheme in an MMO in 2002 does not belong in 2010. Yet it remains, and so gamers already begin to ponder just how far Star Wars: The Old Republic is out. Perhaps though, just perhaps, Square Enix has taken account of what must be thousands of complaints. They're willing to make "significant adjustments" to the mouse controls. Just how significant? Time will tell, but if Final Fantasy XIV does anything less than make a simple and user friendly mouse+WASD control scheme, they've failed their players, and their sales will show it.
Patch note #2 is as follows:
Changes to animations, effects, and combat speed
It would be quite the understatement to say that Final Fantasy XI's combat system was a slow, frustrating grind. Beyond level ten you were required to group in order to progress, grinding the same group of monsters for hours on end only to die and lose the day's experience. With the announcement of Final Fantasy XIV Square promised this policy of induced masochism would not continue.
Yet again, their promise seems empty:
Slow, repetitive combat where party members feel inept and underpowered is exactly how I remember Final Fantasy XI. Perhaps XIV has managed a way for players to solo through the entire game; perhaps XIV just requires you to level a certain amount before combat becomes intensive. I'm saying here that most players will never reach that point. They will leave after their first day and never come back.
And so, we wait and see. These two ambiguous patch notes hold the future of Final Fantasy XIV hostage. Will Square respond to their community's plea for change? Or will they feign significant changes while instead making small adjustments to Final Fantasy XI's obsolete mechanics.
I want to play Final Fantasy XIV with my friends and co-Ranters. How can I argue though, when they point out these issues? Some friends won't play unless they can use their mouse; they're comfortable with that style and frustrated by Final Fantasy XI's. Some friends won't play an MMO with a lifeless combat system where being attentive isn't rewarding, where combat is a swamp sucking at your boots rather than an obstacle course.
And I can't blame them. In fact, I agree with them wholeheartedly. Yet I still have hope for Final Fantasy XIV, I hope that Square listens this time. Two patch notes Square, two patch notes will decide whether your game is bound for success or failure.