Tobold's Blog
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Cancelled Final Fantasy XIV preorder

After taking days to get into the Final Fantasy XIV beta, I finally made it and had the opportunity to play for several hours. And as I have it from a reliable source that the NDA is lifted (trying to find any information on the Square Enix site is an exercise in frustration), I can tell you about the game. My first impression was a good one, the game is truly beautiful, and the opening sequences are well done. Unfortunately that good impression ends the moment you have control over your character. Because saying you "have control" is somewhat stretching the truth. If you would study the best practices of how to make a user interface for 20 years, and then DO THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE, you probably still couldn't design a user interface so completely horrible, unintuitive and user-unfriendly as Square Enix has designed for Final Fantasy XIV.

Thus my "playing" session is better described as a "struggling with the controls" session. The UI is apparently optimized for the PS3, and trying to play it with a mouse and keyboard is like trying to steer a car with an outboard motor and a rudder. Worst of all is combat, where everything feels so unresponsive that it isn't fun at all. But the horror isn't limited to that, everything else is also done in the most complicated and least intuitive was possible. Want a quest? Well, you first have to get the quest description in the city, only then can you go to the quest hub, start the quest there, and then go to the actual location where the mobs are. And that's the kill quests, which have the huge advantage of actually working, I repeatedly failed an escort quest because the escorted NPC had pathfinding problems. And if you want to look up information on the beta tester site, the game crashes when you alt-tab out.

I would like to tell you how to improve your gear, but fact is that I already made several levels and did a number of quests without yet getting any gear upgrade. My loot up to now consisted of strange stuff like a "walnut +2". Maybe its crafting material? At least if you try to sell it you only get 1 gil per item, which makes me think that selling isn't what you are supposed to do with it. The starting quest leads you to a crafting guild, but if you haven't selected a crafter to start with, you can't do any crafting before you learned how to switch classes.

While I did like the graphics and the cutscenes that open liven up the quests, I couldn't get myself to like the combat system. And if the basic activity which you need to repeat over and over isn't fun, there isn't much use in playing the game. Thus the first thing I did after ending my play session was to cancel my preorder for Final Fantasy XIV. I'll still try the beta for a bit, trying if the controls get better if I install a gamepad, but right now I don't have high hopes for this game.
Cancled the preorder as well, after reading half the blogosphere about FFXIV.

Sad, but necessary.
Strike one for the next-gen MMOs doing well.
I have enjoyed my time in the game so far. However, I made it a point to setup a gamepad first, remembering mouse and keyboard controls in FFXI. It think SE designed the UI of both games with gamepads in mind.

That being said I did find combat controls unresponsive when playing a caster class. Controls seemed more fluid on the two fighter classes I tried (pugilist and gladiator. I also had some screen tearing but I am using a 8800GTX. I may pick up a GTX460 to see how it improves things.

I think I will be subbing this game and see how it evolves. It is a bit different, but I like the casual nature so far.
This is a prime example why I hate it when a game is published for PC and some Console simultaneously. Something is going to suffer and curiously its always PC controls. Is there actually some console-game out there that really sucks because it was designed with mouse and keyboard in mind?
The worst part about the Console/PC is that it isn't coming out for the PS3 until next year some time.

I'm torn on FF14. I fully expected it to be horrible. It's not. It's not good either though.

To me FF14 reminds me alot of what EverQuest was, not user friendly. You have to go to your C Drive in order to change the video settings for example.

FF14 wont be any sort of Western success, that I can guarantee. The game is to difficult to learn for people. You can figure out the controls to the point that you can control your character with a mouse and keyboard but it takes alot of work.

A friend in Skype summed it up best last night. He said he is use to picking up a MMO and knowing exactly how to control his character and navigate the UI, he doesn't have time to figure this one on. He already wants to go back to SC2 and just wait for Cataclysm.

I think FF14 is a good kick in the pants to pop that EQ1 nostalgia bubble people have had lately. If FF14 is to un-user friendly and you would prefer a different MMO then that is what would have happened to EQ had it launched with any sort of competition.
Failed to get the beta to download its patches so I think I conclude that my PC prolly can't run it.
Never having played a FF game i can only comment from a software developers perspective. The UI is very often the hardest part of any piece of software, not only in design but also in the actual execution. Ideally it should not be present as a recognizable layer between user and function. Self explanatory, intuitive. The amount of work to get there from scratch (including all the lowlevel 'under the hood' stuff) can be utterly intimidating though..So when you have a functionally proven and (almost) universally liked UI, like in WOW for MMOs, you copy.

Now with the above in mind, it can only be absolute developers hell trying to cater for multiple, vastly different input devices/systems AND not use the standard. In such cases failure is not an option, it is a certainty.
Yeah this game is not for most people. I don't know why the developers think it will be very successful with final fantasy fans who haven't played mmo games. Casual elements are great for people with little time but it requires lots of time reasearching or talking to others to complete quests. I would say the core audience for this game is people that liked Final Fantasy 11 but didn't have the time to dedicate to finding a party. So I am the only person I know of that likes this game. All my friends and everyone who played Final Fantasy games and WoW would definately not like this game.
I bought a game pad to see if that would make a difference. I spent well over an hour trying to configure it because there is absolutely no instructions or walk though on how to do that. I had to find on a forum that you have to use their out of game config tool. you are given 12 buttons and 3 joysticks to configure but the ps3 styled controller had only 10 buttons and the left joystick and the dpad both gave the same signals so you were basically missing 2 buttons and a stick. It is surprising to think that it is actually being targeted to the ps3.

There is no default settings either. If you don't configure it the controller does nothing even after enabling it from the config tool. you have to set what each button does. Which is frustrating when you don't know what anything does in the game and what "normal" might be.

Then after an hour of fiddling with it, it doesn't work. When you hit buttons and move joysticks multiple things will happen like turning and getting a menu to pop up at the same time. then when you turn back you don't turn but move the menu selector.

Ultimately it is much easier to play the game from the key board.
So far my two gripes about controls have been the inability to remap controls (UI is there, the functionality is not) and modal windows. Fixing those two should be easy enough.
Really? We're comparing EQ and FFXIV in terms of UI competency? EQ came out twelve years ago when the only MMO competition was 'here's a giant black space, you can keep all of your windows open here... oh, and your inventory is tiny icons with no way to auto loot or sort, have fun!' I'd say, given what you expected from a 3D RPG even, EQ was pretty damn fine for the time. Sure, if you released WoW at the time it would've slaughtered EQ, but that's a bit like saying if rifles had been invented at the same time as bows nobody would've bothered with archery.

Conversely, FFXIV had a huge amount of inspiration and experience to draw from in creating their UI. In fact, every problem plaguing the game is one that plagued FFXI because they're essentially carbon copies. What did they do? They completely shagged it. They said, "Japanese people play with controllers, so why bother with making minor efforts to be user friendly for keyboard/mouse users!"

I was pretty bloody excited about FFXIV, going so far as to upgrade my computer (it needed it anyways, but this was the excuse to the wife), but at this point the open beta has put a ton of doubt into my mind as to whether I'll give this game a shot at release, which is a big difference from a week ago when I was trying to talk myself into the Collector's Edition.
The amazing thing about the interface is that when you click on almost anywhere in the environment it does nothing. you don't move, you don't select something, nothing. Would it have been terribly difficult to have made it like lineage 2 or ATITD where you simply move to the spot where you click? It is an unused click. The gamepad/keyboard used like a gamepad fans wouldn't have even noticed since they don't use the mouse. It is like square when out of their way to not put in basic mouse functionality. There is absolutely nothing that this addition would have impacted.

And just like other games you can click on a person and they get selected, click on them again and you either talk to them if they are npc or you attack them if they are a mob. But if you are too far away you have get nothing but a message and have to use the wasd keys or a joystick to move close. Would it have been difficult to have the character path to the npc or the mob?.

These two features alone could have save the game for the mouse users. To go one step further they could have simply had keys, like say the I key open then inventory directly IN ADDITION TO being able to use the menu. Again, the game pad folks would have never had to know.

I am also not sure how the game pad folks were supposed to choose targets and select hotkeys. I couldn't find anything in the game pad config that allowed for "tab"ing around targets but you can from the keyboard. And I don't know what the equivalent of 1-10 for the hot bar skills would have been. presumably you would hit a button to bring up the hot bar and then use the menu joystick to select one and then hit fire. But I couldn't find how that was done even when I was trying the game pad. So I was still using the gamepad and the keyboard during that short time.
I have yet to read the first blog that argues in favour of the reintroduction of the EQ1 user interface :)

I have written repeatedly that the user interface is one of the reasons WoW became what it .. was.

There is no reason whatsoever to not just copy/paste the WoW interface 1:1. I would not even call that cloning. It is just the smart thing to do.
The positive side of FFXIV is that it tells a great story and puts you in it very effectivly. and the keyboard controls are more usable than FFXI. So if you are willing to put the effort into learning them you may well enjoy this game even if you were unable to play the previous one.

The problem is that I want to play FFXIV, not "Learn to play the MMO with a game pad." That is not the game that I ordered and so far it sucks.

I feel like there is this really awesome game hiding behind all this crap and a part of me still wants to give it a chance, to fight through the interface. But what is finally tipping me over the edge is:
First the questing, too much work for a timed killquest that you can only do 8 of in a two day period.
Second, way too much talking with people and reading. Great for setting the story but perhaps not a good thing to give people a three mob taste of combat and then let them talk with people and aimlessly wander around for 2 hours before getting to fight again.
And third, no tutorial, no pointing people in the right direction at all. Nothing. You are in a room with people. That is it. You don't even know that you need to talk to all of them until you find your journal but it was never clear that you even picked up a quest. Nothing. and even then you only get a feel for what is going on, you never get a real clear indication that you spoke to the right person other than one hinting that you could go up on deck. Even EVE explicitly points you to some career agents. Here you get the sense of wandering around wondering if you are still on track.
I don't think they even have to go as far as modeling it off of WoW and possibly that would be hard based on the way they handle the hotbar and skill points in this game.

But the very very least they could have done was simply make it so when you clicked on the environment it would move you to that spot. It would have been familiar to the Korean and Chinese pc players since it is just like lineage 2 and PWI. And it would have been something that a wow player could get used to. Though it would be frustrating at first.

One tiny, tiny interface difference and it would make all the difference in the world.

No, they went out of their way to not even attempt to go out of their way for the pc audience. Not even an east/west thing. They shrugged off the whole pc player base.
Tobold, did you play FFXI online at all? I'm wondering if FFXIV is very much different from the design of XI.

FFXI was the first MMO I played and it was sort of brutal. Forced grouping, gear upgrades scarce, risky crafting, etc.
Game developers are starting to get lazy. Knowing that they will release a game for the "next gen" consoles and PCs, they often take the easy way out, and design the games to look and play exactly the same whether on PC or console.

As you've found, controls are often the most immediate problem you'll find with this type of game. Gameplay can and often will be another casualty of a game being designed for PC and console.

Good luck with that.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I didn't get far in FFXI because the UI was even worse but from what I have seen here and read on the forums, they still have a lot of grouping but they made it a bit better for soloing, now sure by how much though. The jobs are apparently a good deal different but the job system is otherwise the same. Gear seems scarce but I haven't gotten far yet. They do only have 2 magic casting classes and promised, in a dev interview, to do more but they choose to do all the crafting and gathering classes first which are about half of all the classes total. The emphasized that this was because a stable economy is very important from the beginning. It could be, with the emphasis on crafting, that they intend most gear to come from crafting so the economy moves well. But I haven't tried crafting so I don't know if it is risky.
I don't think it's quite THAT bad. It certainly has a deeply irritating UI with the endless, unecessary nested menus and the floaty mouse is just infuriating, but once you get used to it it's not actually unplayable.

The design decisions behind it are completely incomprehensible, though. Even if the interface worked fluidly and intuitevely, it's still not clear what you are supposed to be doing or why. They are supposedly withholding most of the quest content for launch, but I don't believe it's going to be a quest driven game even then, from what I've read. And if it's a "grinder" then the heavy throttle of surplus xp, which prevents grinding from giving you any reward, makes no sense.

The weird thing is that from all the interviews, even the recent ones, Square Enix seem to think they are making a casual-friendly MMO. How that's happened is beyond imagining.

I'd still bet on it being a pretty good MMO 6-12 months down the line, though. I'll come back to it next summer and take another look, maybe.

This is kinda my experience with the "beta" of Cata.

Granted Cata appears to be far more polished that FFXIV appears to be... STILL what is up with pushing more testing onto potential customers???

I think this is a TERRIBAD trend in this industry. If these studios keep doing this nonsense they are just going to lose customers trust.
To Quote Nils

"There is no reason whatsoever to not just copy/paste the WoW interface 1:1. I would not even call that cloning. It is just the smart thing to do."

hear hear! - I too believe that Wow has set the standard in game interfaces. But remember that even the diablo ui years ago was awesome.
It seems pretty clear that FFXIV is being targeted squarely at the Japanese playerbase with only the barest nod towards the rest of the world.

I'm not sure if that's a particular conceit of Square Enix itself, or endemic to Japanese developers, as many Japanese games have crazy nested menu interfaces that seem like more trouble than they're worth.

I haven't been able to dredge up enough interest in this one to even try the open beta, and the general impression I'm getting from blogs is that I shouldn't even bother.

Which is a shame. Square used to make really impressive RPGs. These days they seem more renowned for pretty graphics, nested menus, and empty gameplay.
Yeah, this is kind of terrible. The nested menus are horrible for computers, while the gamepad controls don't have enough buttons for all the functions necessary to play adequately. I have no idea how they intend to have this on PS3.
would you believe me if i said that the current state of the control system is a vast improvement on what it was?

i thoroughly concur with all tobold's points.

it's bad.
a bad game is just bad but this is infuriating because it seems that they're blithely ignoring that fact that people have been working in this genre for a few years and have come up with some decent ideas on how to do things like controls.
this is FFXI-2. a graphical upgrade but a time capsule as far as the genre is concerned.

i'd call it obsolete in the current gaming climate.
The downside to MMOs is we play them for a long time and get used to individual conventions. Having played ffxi for years I prefer using a controller on my pc than kb/m. I dont have a problem with the interface or controls but I'm finding the game in general quite confusing.

FFXI might not be the easiest game but it does start off pretty limited and has a sense of order. XIV I'm finding quite confusing over knowing what ought to be doing.

Since I have plenty of things to do in xi and knowing what order I'm doing them in I see no reason to ditch it for a game that I'm having trouble making sense of.
I used to play FFXI and loved the control by using keyboard. No need to use mouse at all. I don't know if it's just because I'm Asian and it's an Asian thing or not though.

I find it quite weird that people are so unwilling to get used to a different way of controls. Granted that the opposite is also true (why Square-Enix didn't make a good mouse/keyboard control), but I've constantly learned different controls on many different games.

Not only controls, but also battle systems. For example Resonance of Fate which has steep learning curve at the start with never-before-seen battle system in any other RPGs. Yes, learning the battle system and understanding it might be difficult and inconvenient, but once you "get it" then you'd enjoy the quality game that it is.

If FFXIV is baaaad beyond just the controls and UI, then yeah it's bad. But if controls and UI are something that you can get used to, then you might find a gem that others don't know about.
Actually, this is my exact biggest issue I had with FFXI

The game felt so horribly constrained. The UI was horrible and the control felt...bad. I felt like I constantly had to fight to go anywhere. The tiniest ledge prevented movement. You could not swim. You can't jump! It's kind of funny, but something so small as the fact you can't jump made the game less enjoyable.

Maybe I am weird though. I loved the freedom of movement in wow
just to address the idea that different control systems aren't bad but just different, i played a lot of FFXI. it didn't work on the WASD system but used the number pad. it was weird but had internal logic and you could get used to it very quickly (as someone else said, you never needed to use a mouse and it actually worked nicely).

FFXIV is still shunning WASD and that would be fine but they also seem to be rejecting the FFXI system in that you can't move your camera with the arrow keys and other frustrations.

bad controls. bad game. me sad >.<
The patcher does not like to finish the last 1 percent or less. I have had to go to a secondary site for the last two patches.

When I enter with a character or switch between cut sceanes I usually just get a black screen with Now Loading... displayed for a long time. Sometimes game will finally display after 5 minutes. Other times I just cancel and restart to get into game.

I have found several ways to crash the client.

My problems are not because of old computer. I have a ATI 5870 with Intel i7 930 processor and SSD drive.

You have to really like Final Fantasy or be all about the Pretty to want to buy this game.
Why does everyone assume that the UI in the BETA is going to be the same in release?

Remember that this is BETA and that as such every UI command, combat action command, etc are all being processed in full on the server! There is no client side processing happening yet!

This allows the developers to see exactly what is going on and when problems crop up they get all the info they need to fix it.

At release, it will likely be a completely different story... with much of the UI being moved the client side processing, thus improving the UI responsiveness.

To say that you're cancelling your pre-order over such an ignorant assumption is just ridiculous.
The game is beautiful. No doubt about it. But what really turns me off is the control. I mean... WTF is this? You've really got to try it for yourself and you will definitely get what I mean. This game is not even meant to be played on a PC. It's meant to be played by PS3. For example, to access my quest journal using my keyboard and mouse for any other mmorpgs, I just press an alphabet(isn't this suppose to be a standard feature for mmorpg??). But in this FF XIV, I've to press "Home" to bring out a menu and then scroll to "Journal". Same as for inventory. Normally you would press "I" to see your inventory. But in this, you have to press "Home" to bring up a menu and then scroll down to "Inventory".
And it's not a matter trying to get used to it. You just feel like a noob trying to play this game because of the controls that's meant for consoles. Why can't there be different sets of controls for PC users? Hello SE. We gamers pay for a PC version for you to accomodate us. Not the other way round. If they want to be in the market solely for consoles then be it. Don't come and make a PC version with console controls. FF XIV maybe one of the best game in terms of graphics. But in terms of gameplay, you are like talking to a toddler. I do not mind bugs in the beginning of the game. Which game doesn't at the beginning? That can be improved in the future. And I'm also thinking since communications is crucial in mmorpg, how on earth the players can use consoles to chat (not voicechat) and control the joystick at the same time.
After playing Open Beta and and having such a horrific experience that I can't take anymore, I've cancelled my pre-order. I won't be playing this game even if it's free.
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool