Button Mash Bard
Last night during the podcast I piddled around in Final Fantasy XIV as I often do. The fact that I had to edit a section of the podcast out because of my rapid fire keyboard mashing… means I was piddling around on my bard. Of all of my classes… this is the one that I seem to give the least shits about actually playing correctly. I will leave good barding up to Shiana, Warenwolf and Thalen… me I just mash buttons and pray. One of the problems is that I have all of these characters currently sitting at level 50 that I got to cap last expansion. The bard, the white mage and the paladin among them. The problem being right now without quest support there is no real handy way to get to level 51, which is the level you need to be to hit the first dungeon. On my dragoon I have been pretty much living in dungeons, and as a result I have managed to make a significant push in level, as he is roughly half way to 55.
So last night I struggled to figure out just how to get my bard over the hump, so I could start doing the same with him. I wandered around a bit in Western Coethas only to remember that even with the armory bonus… FATEs in Heavensward are still pretty terrible. Then Ashgar mentioned that I should do what I did at 49… and just go to Northern Thanalan. So I zoned into that area and it took longer to load than either Ishgard, Mor Dhona or Idyllshire. It turns out that pretty much everyone is living in this zone, and I guess it makes sense. On average FATEs in Western Coerthas rewarded my bard 28,000 experience. On average FATEs in Northern Thanalan rewarded around 21,000 experience… and the zone is about a fourth of the size of Western Coerthas… and has just as many FATEs. This means that there is a constant train of pink marks showing up all over your map.
Northern Thanalan Problem
On the live letter this week they mentioned that they would be tweaking FATEs to make them a better value proposition for players, and I think this is a bit of an understatement in the level of the issue that is happening. One of the interesting things about the internet and mmos is that players will figure out the shortest route to solving a problem and abuse the hell out of it. Quickly players realized that they could simply level faster by living in Northern Thanalan… and that is quite literally what is happening. I would estimate last night during the podcast there were somewhere close to 200 players in zone fighting over the FATEs that spawned, and in a crazy game of whack-a-mole as soon as one dropped the next one would be up and the rush would begin across zone to get the first hits in on it. We experienced these same problems at release with the abuse of a very specific FATE in Northern Thanalan called “Dark Devices” and it seems like once again this zone is the king of the fast leveling curve.
The problem with this is that it makes the game boring. You stand in zone and hang out there until you are 60… and quite literally players are doing this on their alternate classes, riding this elevator to the top floor and then getting off just in time to gear for Alexander. The end result is that we are starting to see level 60 players who have not done a single class quest and as a result have NONE of their new class abilities. Time doing class quests is time taken away from the “super efficient” level mill of Northern Thanalan. Here in lies problem two… this zone is a fun zone to run FATEs in… and absolutely worth while for players post 45 when Central Coerthas starts to slow down. My biggest fear is that we are going to see a bit of an overcorrection that leads to Square nerfing the FATEs in this zone once again to try and prod players to leave it. What I want to see instead is that they incentivize the content in the new areas… to make it worth spending time there and doing the FATEs.
More Carrot to the Stick
Those first days after launch, the FATEs were getting run and every single major boss fate was dropping all sorts of awesome items. Then players realized, or at least Reddit realized that mathematically the FATE grinding experience was shit. I want to see players in the zones doing the content the zones have to offer. We long speculated that they purposefully under-incentivized the FATEs to get players to actually do quest content, because at the launch of A Realm Reborn… it was absolutely a problem with players completely ignoring quests until they hit the level cap. The issue here is that dungeons are gated through the storyline… and without players entering the dungeon system… the queues got more than a little out of whack. So I guess I support the notion of nerfing FATEs temporarily… but at this point something needs to be done to derail the Northern Thanalan train once again. I don’t think we can probably afford to wait until 3.1, so I am hoping that we see a minor patch that introduces a series of tweaks that right this ships course.
In the meantime I am guessing I will start running Levequests to get over that 50 to 51 hump, because after the madness of last night… I really did not find the Northern Thanalan experience enjoyable. I had way too many flashbacks of the way the dark devices grind felt. I absolutely rode that up on my Bard and then never touched it on another character again. The game has some really awesome FATEs in the new areas that each tell a story… some of which we ended up talking about last night. I want Square to find a way to add enough carrot to their stick, in order to convince players that staying in the zone they are currently in and running FATEs is a valuable option. Mostly I want to be able to knock out all of the different zone boss fates because there are interesting things sitting on their loot table if you manage to get to gold contribution. Two weeks into the expansion though I am still loving it in spite of all the minor problems we have complained about. We talked about this last night in the podcast, that it seems like we complain a lot… but it is more a case of us wanting them to iron out the rest of the wrinkles… because the game is really damned polished already.