I quit Final Fantasy XIV today.
I am sad about this. Really, genuinely sad. The game has been an important part of my life for quite some time now, and will always be special to me — hell, it’s where I proposed to my wife.
But I think I’m gone for good this time. I’ve just had enough.
Not of the game, mind you; the game itself remains one of my favourites, with an enjoyably rhythmic combat system, plenty of distinction between classes and some truly memorable encounters — not to mention an incredible soundtrack and a great story.
No, I’ve had enough of the people who infest it.
The community’s slide into unpleasantness has been a gradual but noticeable process. Whereas I described FFXIV’s player base in my USgamer review (circa 2.0-era A Realm Reborn) as one of the most helpful, supportive and friendly communities in gaming, these days I regrettably can’t say the same — though I find myself pondering whether or not it’s because at the time I wrote that review, I’d only been playing endgame content for a short period.
Let me talk a bit about the incident that drove me over the edge today, then I’ll talk a bit in more general terms about what I feel has gone wrong.
A short while back — like, earlier this week — FFXIV introduced a new type of content called Deep Dungeon. This was a completely new way to play the game, and involved descending into a 50-floor dungeon with up to three companions and clearing it out, one randomly generated floor at a time. The rewards on offer include tokens called “potsherds”, which can be exchanged for various valuable items, and if you fully upgrade the weapon and armour you use in the Deep Dungeon — these are separate from those which you use in the main game — you get a high-level weapon for a level 60 character that is not quite the very best in the game, but certainly very respectable and suitable for all levels of content.
Upgrading the weapon and armour requires that you find silver treasure chests in the Deep Dungeon. Opening one of these will do one of three things: upgrade your weapon, upgrade your armour or explode, dealing damage to you and anyone unfortunate enough to be standing nearby. The deeper you go into the dungeon, the more likely it seems you are to come across trapped chests, and your weapon’s upgrade level is also capped by your character’s level within the deep dungeon — also measured independently of progress in the main game. To put it another way: your weapon and armour can go up to level +30, and in order to upgrade them to this level your character must reach level 60 in the Deep Dungeon, though thankfully levelling up is considerably quicker than in the main game.
After completing all 50 floors once, it’s likely that your weapon and armour will be around the +10 to +15 mark, depending on how lucky you’ve been. This means you then have to challenge the dungeon again from floor 1 but with your upgraded gear, hoping you’ll get luckier on the deeper floors this time. As incentive to run it again, however, every 10 floors gives you a generous shot of gil as well as Allagan Tomestones of Poetics, Esoterics and Lore, all of which are used to purchase the best level 50 or 60 gear available, so it’s not as if running the upper floors again is a useless waste of time. Alternatively, if you enter the Deep Dungeon on a class you don’t yet have to level 60 in the main game, completing 10 floors awards you with a large chunk of XP for your character’s level in the main game, so it’s also a good means of levelling alternative classes.
You may have surmised from that description that this structure puts a lot of pressure on Floors 41-50 to get players up to the magical +30/+30 needed to take away a shiny new weapon into the main game. And indeed, this is where the problems arise, with players doing everything from skipping fights with monsters that they don’t feel the party “needs” to fight (despite some players not having reached level 60 at this point, and some enemies dropping treasure chests) to outright Vote Abandon-ing the whole dungeon if they don’t feel they got “enough” silver chests in the first couple of floors.
I ran into one of these people today: a white mage, which is to say, a healer, and so an important, useful part of any group. Deep Dungeon, unlike everything else in the game, doesn’t matchmake you into a party made up of one tank, one healer and two DPS, so it’s entirely possible you’ll find yourself running in a group with no healer at times, and as such having a healer in your group is something to be celebrated.
Unless it was this guy. Right from the very start of Floor 41, he ran off in completely the opposite direction to the rest of the party, leaving the remaining three of us to fight off monsters and get afflicted with various status effects that could have easily been cleansed if he had been there. But no; he had places to be, apparently, and finding those silver chests was more important than actually helping the other three people in there.
“Will you PLEASE stop running off?” piped up one of my companions halfway through Floor 42, obviously getting as impatient as I was with this git’s shenanigans.
“I’m skipping mobs,” replied our friend.
I then pointed out that not everyone in our party was level 60 yet — one was 56, one was 58 — and thus it would be in everyone’s interest to kill as many monsters as possible, particularly as it’s also necessary to kill a certain number to open the exit to the next floor anyway. He then complained about us being “slow” and “inefficient”, and took great umbrage at several of us accusing him of “speedrunning”.
Speedrunning is a bit of an issue in Final Fantasy XIV as a whole, particularly in dungeons, most of which are tuned more to the “casual” end of the difficulty spectrum, but nonetheless remain a good source of income for those valuable Tomestones. With a well-geared, confident party that knows what it is doing, most dungeons can be cleared in about 10 minutes or so, but this relies on everyone being both well-geared and confident in the speedrunning process, which usually involves the tank pulling as many enemies as possible at the same time, the healer working overtime to keep their HP topped up and the DPS doing area-effect attacks as much as possible.
It’s quick, sure. It’s also boring, because more often than not fighting like this means that you use maybe two or three of your complete suite of abilities, and fighting the monsters just becomes a case of standing in place hitting the same buttons over and over for ten minutes. Not interesting, and certainly not doing justice to the impressive encounters the Final Fantasy XIV team have created throughout the game. But no, at some point between 2.0 and 3.35, where we are now, someone somewhere decided that the de facto way to run dungeons was as quickly — sorry, “efficiently” — as possible, and woe betide anyone who slows it down for any reason, even if, say, the tank or healer say they don’t feel confident or geared enough to do it.
Now, the thing with Deep Dungeon is that speedrunning is largely pointless, because monsters respawn, everyone needs to level up, you need to kill a certain number of monsters to open the exit to the next floor and, as with any good role-playing game, if you split the party you’re probably asking for a bad time. With the levels being randomly generated, too, there’s no set route through each floor, either, so you can’t even work out a route that lets you avoid certain encounters as in certain fixed dungeons in the game, so it’s really more trouble than it’s worth.
That didn’t stop this obnoxious White Mage from arguing his case increasingly aggressively though, eventually descending to insults about his perception of the rest of the party’s skill levels. Hilariously, he even had a go at me on the grounds that I “wouldn’t last five minutes in Expert Roulette” (the current two highest difficulty level 60 dungeons, neither of which are very tough) — I chose not to engage with him by explaining that actually, I had been playing the game since its open beta and as such knew it pretty fucking well by this point. Instead, I just voted to dismiss him from the party; my companions silently agreed, and thankfully he was booted shortly afterwards, to be replaced by a much friendlier person who unfortunately wasn’t a healer.
This White Mage’s attitude is representative of a considerable proportion of Final Fantasy XIV’s player base as it stands today: the game, for these people, is about the relentless pursuit of “efficiency” so that they can acquire all the best gear, get all the achievements — achieve whatever they want to achieve, in other words — as quickly as possible then, in all likelihood, go on the official forums and Reddit to complain that three months is too long between content patches and that there’s “nothing to do”, despite smaller patches with additional features (such as Deep Dungeon, which was a significant addition) being added on a monthly basis.
I also saw this among a number of active Final Fantasy XIV players I used to follow on Twitter. There was a marked shift in their attitude over time; one person in particular that I started following as a result of attending an in-game “funeral” for a player who had sadly passed away in real life began as a very pleasant person to talk about the game with. But gradually over time he started caring more and more about parser figures — a parser being an external program you can run to see how much damage per second (DPS) everyone in the party is doing, a common means of harassing other players for “not pulling their weight” and technically against the game’s Terms of Service, though I don’t know of anyone who has been punished for it. He’d complain about parties he’d come across in Duty Finder; he’d post images of the parser figures; he’d shame people for not playing “well enough” or being “lazy”. That relentless pursuit of “efficiency”; your DPS must be this high to ride.
I just can’t stand it any more. It’s ruined the game for me. Dungeons that I used to love running, like A Realm Reborn’s final storyline dungeons Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium, lose all their drama by people skipping all cutscenes — and yelling at people who don’t — and speedrunning their way through as quickly as possible, even if someone in the group hasn’t seen this part of the story before. (Not coincidentally, those two dungeons were also the last to have lengthy cutscenes in the middle of the dungeon run.) If I decide I want a leisurely run through a dungeon rather than a stressful but boring speedrun, I get yelled at. If someone in the party makes a mistake and there’s a single death, everyone gets yelled at. And apparently not going fast enough in Deep Dungeon is now a cardinal sin, too.
Fuck all that. Fuck everyone who has ruined one of my favourite games of the last few years. And fuck this shitty behaviour being considered “normal” in all games, not just Final Fantasy XIV — indeed, I’m under no illusions, and am well aware that this sort of thing is a problem in all MMOs.
I just thought Final Fantasy XIV’s community was better than that. It certainly was once — at least, I think it was. But no longer. The buildup of this crappy behaviour and how not-fun this makes the game for me has led me to both cancel my subscription and uninstall the game completely for the first time ever since open beta. And I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.