Yesterday I posted this picture and said that the person dancing with Sagacyte and I was a friend of his. Turns out that apparently this was not the case. The way she waved and immediately started dancing with us, made me think that she must have known him. So yeah… complete and total stranger came over and started interacting and now she is another person on my friends list. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked since this sort of thing happens all the time. There is a community spirit that infuses Final Fantasy XIV, and I am still not entirely used to just how prevalent it is. There are lots of quests that involve you walking into an area and a bunch of mobs spawn on top of you. The mobs that actually belong to you are marked but you can help out with any of them. It is a rare occasion that someone will move on after their mobs are dead and not help you kill yours. There was this one tank the other night that I swear “tanked” five sets of these mobs as new people walked into the spawning area.
This sort of thing is absolutely commonplace now, but the strange thing is… it wasn’t. What is strange about Final Fantasy XIV is that my friends and I played this game seriously at launch for roughly three months. Then we wandered off to do other things, and upon returning were shocked and amazed at how much the community had improved. At launch it felt like every other MMO, with folks doing the same kind of selfish actions that are so common place in other games. Running a random dungeon, likely meant that you would have one person complaining that you were pulling to slow, and another person complaining that the dps wasn’t somehow good enough… even though there are no meters for that. Basically the community had the same rampant asshatery that we’ve all experienced in “modern mmos”. Upon returning however we found that this negative element was almost completely gone. Sure you will encounter an abusive player every so often, but the community as a whole seems to have done a drastic turn around.
Bribing Good Behavior
One thing that we noticed quickly that had been added to the game since we last played was the player commendation system. What makes the system interesting is that at the end of every duty, each player gets a single commendation that they can award to another player from that group. Now normally when a game has a system like this, you can queue exclusively with guild members or friends and cheat the system. However in this case you cannot reward commendations to your guildies, but have to instead use it on a stranger. The other half of this equation is that you are rewarded both your giving commendations, and greatly rewarded for receiving them. Each week there is a challenge log entry for handing out commendations that gives the player a bit of experience and some gil. As far as the receiving side they have set up a system of increasing rewards for 10, 50, 100, 300 and 500 player commendations. The final reward is the golden colored Magitech armor that you see in the above screenshot… something that pretty much everyone I know universally wants.
What has happened as a result is that players are actively trying to win commendations while in dungeon runs. As a whole they are far easier to work with, and more willing to stop and explain mechanics if you simply speak up and let them know you are new to a fight. In fact I have seen entire raid groups come to a grinding halt just to explain the mechanics of a fight to a new player. Often times another player will mentor the newer player through what they actually need to pay attention to on a given fight. The only thing I have seen much frustration really is when a group wipes because a player didn’t understand the mechanics… and didn’t speak up about it at the beginning of the run. This leads players to be more willing to speak up about things that confuse them, or things they are having issues with… which then get solved as a group. Admittedly there is some content that is the equivalent of WoW’s LFR… but even then inside each individual team there is usually some camaraderie as the run goes on.
I have long been one of those individuals who have stated that the addition of the dungeon finder to World of Warcraft made the game a significantly worse place. Sure it made getting groups easier, but it changed the way we ran dungeons permanently. The “push a button, get a group” nature of the tool had a ton of unforeseen consequences, the worst of which is it dehumanized your interaction with other players. Instead of people that you had to communicate with in order to get a group in the first place… they became roles that enabled you to get your loot Piñata at the end and nothing more. The first thing to go with the dungeon finder was discussion in dungeons other than screaming at other players for not living up to some set of standards. Folks stopped talking while running dungeons, and most players just kept their head down and tried to make it through the dungeon all the while trying not to be called in the carpet for being “bad”. It was during this era that I stopped running with strangers, because every time the experience was just so damned maddening.
With Final Fantasy, I restarted the game a few weeks ahead of the bulk of my friends… meaning my only option was to do random dungeons or either do no dungeons at all. The first thing I noticed when I set foot into a dungeon was that players greeted each other, and once that happened the communication started flowing again. Players seemed more willing to talk about what was going on with fights, what they needed help with… and even things completely unrelated to the current dungeon run. Granted all of this might be some elaborate act in an attempt to earn player commendations… and being the friendliest in the group usually earns you at least one… but whatever the cause it is a drastic improvement over the standard MMO environment. I think we have a case of “fake it until you make it” going on here, where players might start out faking a friendly attitude, but over time of doing this over and over… something changes inside you. I find myself not getting upset at the mistakes of other players, and not dwelling on what went wrong… but focusing more on what needs to happen for things to go right.
So I think all of these little things add up to an atmosphere that rewards the player for being helpful and showing community spirit. So much in this game cannot be accomplished without other players, and the constant fiddling and tweaking with systems always seems to air on the side of supporting collaborative play rather than competition for resources. Granted Final Fantasy XI and XIV 1.0 had really interesting communities, and to some extent the XIV 2.0 and beyond community is standing on their shoulders. Even in the midst of all the rogue zergy nature going on with the release of a new class… players are still far more polite about everything than they were at launch. At this point I don’t care if they essentially have bribed us into being nice passive team players, the end result adds up to a very positive player experience. It had been a really long time since I had felt a sense of pride in a game community, and I am damned proud to be a Final Fantasy XIV player and even prouder to be a member of the ever amazing Cactuar server community. For years Azeroth was my home base as I wandered out to explore other games, but I think at this point that new title belongs to Eorzea. There is so much awesome stuff coming down the pipe, and I cannot wait to experience it all.