Mandatory Dungeons

During the discussion about FFXIV’s mandatory dungeons, MaximGtB said the following:

[…] Besides, having these dungeons are in no way a road block, at least when looking at it from an MMORPG point of view. If you can’t spend a few hours to clear a dungeon, maybe failing a few times before you finally succeed, then the game is not for you. What are you going to do at 60, then? Log in, do one or two levequests, then log out?

What I mean to say is that spending massive amounts of time, trying stuff for hours on end until you succeed, and/or suffering pants-on-head morons ruining your game are the bread and butter of the game. If you can’t stand it at level 15, you won’t stand it at the endgame either.

Here is my “much too big for a third-tier nested comment” response:

The mandatory dungeon aspect is problematic for several reasons. The first of which is economic: all that telling a player “this game is not for you” accomplishes is losing out on at least another month’s subscription (assuming they bought blind in the first place). Even if the game is not for you, what sense does it make to force the issue right away?

Second, sometimes what a game is changes for people. Maybe that player solos their way to endgame and leaves at that point anyway. Or maybe they intended to solo, but encountered a stranger that befriended them, and sucked them into the vortex of social gaming for 6+ years. Which is precisely what happened to me in WoW. Had I not been primed already though, I would have quit FFXIV at the “spend 20 minutes waiting for a boring dungeon with total noobs” wall. WoW opted for the carrot, not the stick, and thus captures both types of players while converting a special few.

And, bizarrely, FFXIV already has the carrot in terms of first-time completion bonus.

The third reason is because the vast majority of FFXIV (and most MMO) content is solo. Long-term players run the same dungeons for months grinding 0.2% upgrades, yes, but how much solo scripted encounters, quests, writing, world exploring, etc, is there on the way to level cap? All of that is content the solo player could be enjoying, if not for patronizing “ice-breaking” of these designers.

Fourth, it was just damn inconvenient at the time. The day before I actually cleared the dungeons, I wanted to log on and accomplish things, but I was also expecting an important phone call. When I logged on, I realized that I couldn’t really do anything. Grind FATES and get even further ahead of the leveling curve? Re-run the starting areas a half dozen more times leveling up alternate classes? I wanted to progress things, but couldn’t. So I logged out and played actual games that actually let me play them.

Finally, these mandatory dungeons were boring as hell. What kind of first-impression were they going for? They have to be easy for new players, but that’s no excuse for them to have close to zero backstory for a Main Story Quest. Back-loading all the good bits these days is just dumb. Most MMOs are guilty of this for some reason, but most MMOs came out before we as gamers knew any better (or got to experience the higher bar).

Clearly though, FFXIV is successful enough in spite of the way dungeons are handled. I feel like it would likely be more successful had they taken a different approach, but good luck to them.

Advertisements

Posted on February 16, 2016, in FFXIV and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. This is indeed my impression : this game is not for me. This game is not for the casual that play 3h-8h by months. And it seems that is part of the success of this game : a lot of more dedicated player seems to love the fact they have not to cater for the casual gamer that do not want to put the effort.
    The sad part is that this game seems to be quite interesting : from what i have read i would love the design the scenery and the gameplay.

    Like

  2. It’s true that these mandatory dungeons are a problem for people who just want to play solo and experience the main story, and that turning these players away at the gate may not be in Squenix’s best interests (which I’m not too sure about). It’s also true that the dungeons are boring as hell (bland environment, few abilities to use, few enemy mechanics to handle), and that mixing competent players with not-so-good ones is usually frustrating for everyone involved. And I see how, even if you planned to run these dungeons at some point (you did, right?), not being able to meaningfully progress until you can set aside 1-2 hours for them is an issue*.

    However, from the perspective of a player, I’d rather see up front what the whole game is about, rather than have the first 40-50 hours or whatever be about solo questing and then doing a full 180 turn and have me grind dungeons in a group full time. Also, introducing new players gradually to group play, with a flat difficulty curve sounds like a good idea. Again, I’m not sure they succeed in this, because most veterans no longer have any patience for new players after having been through an ordeal like yours dozens of times, and the stereotypical clueless but willing to learn new player can’t really learn much in that environment. But if the choices are the status quo or making dungeons optional, as a player, I’d rather have them mandatory.

    * Except not so much. You will need to level at least one alt class to 15 if you want to unlock your job (class “specialization” unlocked by having one class at level 30 and a second one at 15), so you could have started on that if you only had a few minutes to play. Or you could have done some crafting or gathering, or just leves/fates and to hell with the leveling curve, since solo content is trivial at level anyway. Hardly ideal, but you had options.

    Like

    • At the time, my character was already 20 ARC/12 THA, so while I could have grinded out those last three Thaumaturge levels to prepare, I also knew that there wouldn’t have been much of a point if I didn’t hit 30 before the end of my free month. I was also still waiting for the story to get good. Or even begin, apparently.

      But, yes, I did run all three dungeons back-to-back in a single session, spending 15-20 minutes stuck in a DPS queue for each one. And wiping 5-6 times in Copperbell Mines, of course.

      You aren’t the first person to state that they’d rather a MMO give some indication of what the endgame will be like before the endgame, but I fundamentally disagree. Does it sometimes feel like a bait-n-switch? Maybe. Then again, the entire rest of the game is solo instances and story quests and so on until cap. For someone wanting to play solo, in a game that has 50+ hours of solo content, reaching the end of solo content and having to either quit or grind dungeons/raids for gear upgrades isn’t really much of a ruse – they would have hit a The End screen in any normal game anyway.

      Like

      • To be honest, I’d be about ready to quit if I wiped 6 times in CM. *shudder*

        Anyway, 50 hours of solo content would indeed be enough for most single player games. But in this game it’s probably not enough to get one of the current relic weapons (which are only at their first step). Or to max any of the beast tribes factions. Or basically any endgame goal you could set for yourself.

        So, if you are in for the long haul, the leveling experience has little relevance in terms of play time (though it’s unfortunate that the game sometimes does such a poor job of keeping players’ attention at low levels). If you are not, and you just want the solo experience, then why are you playing an MMO? An MMO will almost surely be a subpar single player game, when compared against an actual single player game. All these other people will just get in your way in some form or another (queues, competition for mobs, the burden their mere existence imposes on storytelling, etc).

        I don’t mean this last part as a “shoo, get off my MMO lawn”. It’s just that I really can’t see people enjoying the single player part of FFXIV more than, say, the FFXIII series, even given all its flaws.

        Like

      • I will admit that I’m in a slightly strange headspace when it comes to MMOs, if that is not already evident.

        When I quit WoW for the first time after six years, I knew that “raid every Tues/Thurs at 8pm” was not something I ever wanted to do again. At the same time, I do generally, impossibly, enjoy the average MMO combat system. Or rather, I enjoy the incremental character progression at least. I don’t think any MMO will be able to recapture the “play every day for 5 hours” fervor I had, but I’m also not exactly going to rule it out either. Assuming I even want to be so obsessed again.

        As for the solo experience in an MMO, you might be surprised. I said three years ago that the growth in this genre was primarily from single-player gamers coming in, and I still stand by that post. Indeed, it is more true than ever: most MMOs make for great single-player games. The special sauce is the Show & Tell aspect of it all. Or “being alone together.” It’s like Minecraft in the sense that the base gameplay can be satisfying, but the possibility of someone dropping by and seeing your creations can easily double your time in-game. I wouldn’t want to be beholden to said strangers logging in and mining with me to progress, but I would like them to be able to see my castle in the mountain or whatever. If no else can ever see what I did with my Skyrim house, why would I do anything with it?

        Like

      • “You aren’t the first person to state that they’d rather a MMO give some indication of what the endgame will be like before the endgame, but I fundamentally disagree. Does it sometimes feel like a bait-n-switch? Maybe. Then again, the entire rest of the game is solo instances and story quests and so on until cap.”

        Actually… no, I’ll disagree here. A lot of the stories usually end up in a dungeon and the story itself (at least when I played) required that you did the 3 primals to progress (Ifrit, Titan, Garuda) which are in all circumstances low level Raid encounters but with a light party. This is the equivalent of experiencing vanilla-WoW Stockades and thinking that Scholo/Strat and Blackwing Lair would play the same.

        You got the indication that you’d be required to group sooner rather than later (which understandably put you off), you with the three dungeons you ran you got absolutely NO indication about the endgame.

        But I understand your frustration. The game starts off slow and you need to be somewhat invested in the Final Fantasy franchise to carry you through the cheesy main story (Hint: I hope you enabled the Japanese voices and didn’t suffer the horrible English VOs).

        Like

  3. Finally back on the internet so I missed the discussion from the earlier post, so here goes.

    The reason FFXIV is better off sending solo MMO players away early is it gets them out of the player pool sooner, meaning you are playing with like-minded MMO players (‘real MMO players’) when you queue up rather than someone who is solo-only minded. I think when you look at the community of the game as a whole, clearly this has worked, and IMO is a more-than-acceptable tradeoff for an extra month or so of subs (long term gain vs short term).

    You can’t call the class you picked a design mistake because its a slower-playing class; there are people who enjoy that. You don’t, which is fine. It’s extra fine in FFXIV because switching classes is very easy, and doesn’t cost you nearly as much progress as rerolling in most MMOs. Why you didn’t do this is a bit odd, almost in a “I want to dislike the game so let me play in the most sub-optimal way possible”.

    Connecting the above, why as an experienced MMO player would you EVER roll a (very sub-optimal) DPS class to go with first? You know the queue times will be longer, and you know you won’t be able to carry a dungeon when the queue finally does pop for you. If you rolled as a healer, and especially as a tank, you retain control. As a DPS, you know you are at the mercy of the RNG gods. Again, it’s almost to the point of intentionally setting yourself up to fail, which is such a weird waste of time IMO.

    FFXIV isn’t without flaws, certainly, but the stuff you have pointed out is almost exclusively all in your own control, at times specifically designed for even (class switching, short-term stuff like levys or crafting/gathering classes, etc).

    This whole thing reminded me way too much of Tobold ‘trying’ EVE, flying to the most popular gank gate, getting killed, and reporting that he was ‘right’ that EVE is just a gankfest. You picked a slow-starting dps class, stuck with it despite it not fitting you, and then complained that the first few intro dungeons were a boring roadblock. Again, just such a weird way to waste a month of gaming time.

    Like

    • The reason FFXIV is better off sending solo MMO players away early is it gets them out of the player pool sooner, meaning you are playing with like-minded MMO players (‘real MMO players’) when you queue up rather than someone who is solo-only minded.

      This really only makes sense at endgame, considering solo-minded players wouldn’t be queuing up for more than guildhests (which have < 5 min queues as DPS) up to the cap. And, again, it doesn't do much in the way of giving said solo players the opportunity to "convert" to social gamers. By most reports, the game gets tougher past 30, which would encourage more in-the-world grouping, but this dungeon wall is pre-20.

      Why you didn’t do this is a bit odd, almost in a “I want to dislike the game so let me play in the most sub-optimal way possible”. Connecting the above, why as an experienced MMO player would you EVER roll a (very sub-optimal) DPS class to go with first?

      The missing puzzle piece was that I wanted to be a healer, and looking at the various options, a Scholar seemed the best considering I’d be able to switch to Summoner for soloing (or raiding if it came to that). Both of which, as I’m sure you know, require Arcanist 30. It was, in fact, the most optimal character path if it were not for the fact that the Arcanist has garbage gameplay and design. The only worse class, as far as I know, is Conjurer, which was my alternate option.

      Now, it’s true I could have swapped to Conjurer and grinded up a few levels killing mobs just so I could get faster dungeon queues as a healer past this gate; that was not a workaround I thought about at the time. Of course, also at the time, I hadn’t realized there were going to be three dungeons in a row either. But I had zero interest in leveling Conjurer up to 30, either via questing or chain-running dungeons, so its ability to save me time would likely have ended in a wash.

      FFXIV isn’t without flaws, certainly, but the stuff you have pointed out is almost exclusively all in your own control, at times specifically designed for even (class switching, short-term stuff like levys or crafting/gathering classes, etc).

      It’s true I didn’t try crafting, but that was due to everyone noting how pointless the activity was in the first place considering the endgame revolves around farming badges (or tomes, whatever). I did try Mining, but again, what’s the point? Chain-running Levys similarly would progress me exactly zero in terms of MSQ, only to serve in making the MSQ even more trivial and/or causing me to skip entire zones of content all by killing the same mobs over and over. I was literally better off not playing the game. Which was my point.

      Your criticisms of my impressions here are a bit odd in any case. A class being “slow-starting” is, in fact, a notable flaw. Having boring intro dungeons that are required is, also, a flaw. Do MMOs still get a “the game starts at endgame” free pass in 2016? Can Blizzard just wave away levels 1-99 too? The genre scrubs out something like 80% of the people who try it for the first time, and this is precisely the reason why.

      I’m glad you seem to be enjoying game, and I don’t begrudge anyone else who finds it fun. I did too, for a bit there. For now, my game time has expired and I’m leaving it be. The friend I was going to play it with is waiting for a PC upgrade before doing his trial account, so FFXIV will get another shot at that point. Depending on the class he picks, I might switch to melee or I might finish the Arcanist grind. I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to it.

      Like

      • You say weeding out solo players isn’t important until end-game, but you yourself experienced group content long prior to end-game, so clearly that’s not the case in FFXIV, and the trend of dungeons and harder (more group-oriented anyway) Fates continues up to the level cap. It doesn’t start to matter in FFXIV at the cap, it starts to matter almost right away (lvl 15+ or so).

        What you are confusing is that FFXIV has solo content with it being a game for solo players. It’s not. But SE understands that even those who play MMOs to play with others often don’t want to do so 24/7. Now is the balance perfect? Maybe not, but I’d say its much better (for an MMO player) than a lot of other, way-too-solo themeparks that then do the 180 at the cap.

        Scholar is lvl 30+ though, and if you only gave it a month to test out, that’s a bad pick isn’t it? It would be like playing WoW for a week and picking class X because you read on a guide that at end-game raiding that class does the best dps, then wondering why that class seems to suck at lvl 40. Again, just seems to be a strange line of reasoning for someone familiar with MMOs.

        “A class being “slow-starting” is, in fact, a notable flaw.”

        Like I said, for some that’s a plus (its actually one of my sub-classes that I’m leveling, exactly for that reason. Nothing is as relaxing as running a dungeon or some fates and only having to worry about a few skills while still knowing I’m playing nearly optimally. I’d hate it if it was my main, and certainly if it was my only option, but that’s never the case in FFXIV)

        Like

  4. “The first of which is economic: all that telling a player “this game is not for you” accomplishes is losing out on at least another month’s subscription (assuming they bought blind in the first place).”

    Leaving aside the specifics of dungeons, I generally wish that MMOs would more often have the guts to say “this game is not for you” to segments of the audience. The drive to be all things to all people is how we ended up with the current underwhelming selection of identical themeparks. It’s okay for a game to have a niche and stick with it, even if it means not appealing to some players.

    Like

    • I would agree… if the game actually went all the way. All FF14 did was gate the perfectly normal single-player bits around mandatory MSQ dungeons that have nothing to do with the main story. If players were forced to group up to complete normal quests in the world, that would be a different story.

      Like

%d bloggers like this: