Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 10, 2010
 
Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Imagine you suspect that a certain MMORPG is dying, but the producers are loth to announce it. What kind of announcements would they make instead, the kind of stuff which sounds positive, but is a sure sign of a game going down the drain? Well, restructuring the development team and firing the lead designer would certainly be high up on that list. Prolonging the free trial indefinitely also rings that sort of bell. And postponing the console version of the game indefinitely is something that might happen to such a game as well.

Final Fantasy XIV just announced all three of those. Of course you might be an eternal optimist, speaking about how Square Enix is turning the game around, for it to emerge stronger and with a console version some time down the road. But it is extremely hard to believe in a game when these signs are there that even the publisher has just about given up hope. A re-emergence of Final Fantasy XIV at this point would require a miracle. Us old cynics don't believe in miracles any more.
Comments:
Square-Enix does have the money to see it through if they commit to the risk, but I can't see myself playing the game unless they stop having every input go through the server first.
 
WAIT!!!!

Where is the MIRACLE patch?

LOL
 
I'm sure you're likely right, yet at the same time I can't help but to feel the same way as Jezebeau seems to.

They certainly have the resources to pull an 'NGE' (only hopefully a more positively received one) on FFXIV if they chose to. I wouldn't be blown-out-of-my-socks-surprised if they chose to go this route...

...Buuut I think you're more likely to be right than not. Firing of the management is certainly a rather poor sign. Have they been replaced at all? Or just whoever was left on the team being moved up and put next in line for the chopping block? :P
 
Odd thing about this is that now I'm quite likely to buy FFXIV.

After all, it's on Amazon for around £10 and it's effectively F2P until further notice.
 
"even the publisher has just about given up hope."

Seriously, this is dumb.

AoC and WAR were criticized for not doing enough to get back players support (as in: free playtime).

SE does exactly what they should do, and you criticize them for it? They do exactly what these other MMO's have done, and you criticize them for it?

Tobold, you have a lot of good things to say, but this announcement does not deserve the kind of attitude you have to it.
 
should have done*
 
Free playtime does not get you "support", it only gets you players not bothering to cancel their accounts.
 
"Free playtime does not get you "support", it only gets you players not bothering to cancel their accounts."

So essentially you're saying people don't care whether a game does or does not cost money to play?

You're also saying when people want to come check out the changes, they don't mind that they have to first pay a subscription fee to do so?

I stand by my words. I don't think you were this pessimistic about the other games that failed, even when they did less than what SE has done.

I sincerely hope there is no agenda here.
 
Pacifista,

Free crap is still crap. People tend to avoid crap. Since a vast majority of the people who actually bought the game appear to think that FFXIV is crap (disclaimer: this opinion is not based on actual empirical evidence) making it free until hell freezes over is clearly not the solution.

Would you play Enter the Matrix five times through if it was given to you? If so, I have a copy you can have. :)
 
"Pacifista,

Free crap is still crap. People tend to avoid crap."

That is besides the point. Even if the game is like that, should SE had just started gathering subscriptions? Both you and Tobold are acting like this is a bad thing for them to do.

Making it free is not the end-all solution, but you know what? The end-all solution takes time, and before they have managed to apply the changes and content to the game, this is the best thing they can do >right now<. The game wouldn't be any better if they didn't do this, but it sure as hell won't be any worse either.
 
but it sure as hell won't be any worse either if they did.*
 
Square Enix are very fortunate, as far as MMOs go to have a 2nd chance to get it right with the PS3 launch. If they somehow manage to pull a rabbit out of their hat I'm sure pc players will return with favorable ps3 reviews.

If they get the right people on it, I'm sure they can get it right. It's taken years to make ffxi into a game I don't want to quit every 6 months out of sheer frustration.

I /cheer for getting rid of the guy who allowed that ridiculous "auction house" to be created.
 
Pacifista,

If it's beside the point or not probably depends on what the point is. :)

This discussion is now devolving to the meta stage, turning to what was said and what not. It happens a lot, of course, but it's only very rarely productive. It is kind of puzzling that it happens so much in comment threads, since it's usually not very hard to scroll up and read what was said.

Anyway, if you do look back you'll note that nobody's arguing over whether extending the free trial indefinitely was "right" or "wrong". Instead, what I meant to say (and I believe Tobold too, but I won't make this worse by pretending to be his oracle) was that making the game free for an indefinite period definitely signals that the publisher lacks confidence in its product.

Noone, I think, is saying that it's easy to know what to do when you want to salvage a crap product.
 
"making the game free for an indefinite period definitely signals that the publisher lacks confidence in its product."

The question is, where does it say this period is indefinite?

They want to show us a concrete plan for where the game is headed, and until then they will not charge a subscription fee. As it would not make sense to do so with a new team in charge and people not knowing what happens, I wouldn't expect anyone to pay for the game before knowing where the game is headed.

We have seen now that the first step for them is to make the updates more frequent. If I had to guess, January will be free and maybe February, then they will held a fanfest during February that gives us a concrete timetable and plan.. and subscriptions start in March.

Either way, I don't think this is about the publisher as much as it is about the playerbase lacking confidence, for a good reason. There is no way of knowing what happens now, and it is only reasonable to let us play for free until we find out.
 
The question is, where does it say this period is indefinite?

It says so in the Final Fantasy XIV Lodestone, signed by President and CEO, Yoichi Wada.

Note that this is "indefinite", meaning that the free period has no defined end, not "indefinitely", as in forever.
 
"Note that this is "indefinite", meaning that the free period has no defined end, not "indefinitely", as in forever."

I think you need to point it out for me, because this is all I see:

"It is because of this that we ask our customers to be patient until we are able to confidently present them with a concrete plan outlining FINAL FANTASY XIV's new direction. The free trial period will be extended until that time."

This doesn't sound like a hard task to me. He is not saying anything about implementing said plan, simply presenting it to players so that they can see where the game is headed. That sounds reasonable to me, especially with the new leadership.

What strikes me as odd in your original post, is that you said they "fired the lead designer", which is false. The only guy that was fired was the man in charge of budget and schedule, the producer. The director of the game (the lead designer, in other words) is now officially given the position of "Lead Game Designer"- his job basically stays the same as before.

With all this said I don't see why this seems like a "death foretold" to you. Somebody was going to take the blame no matter what, and this time it was the producer. And seeing how he didn't quite succeed at his job, why wouldn't he be axed? Should they had just kept him in charge anyway, basically making sure the game will never get where it should be?
 
Can you tell me from the quoted statement at which date exactly the free trial period ends? No, you can't. So, by definition, it is "indefinite", not defined. I don't know what your problem here is.

Are you saying that FFXIV is in a good state right now? Are you saying that that you have positive proof that it will be in a good state in a few months time?

Square Enix can not run FFXIV for free forever, they'd bleed too much money doing that. At some point they'll have to make some decision, which could be turning subscription fee back on, going Free2Play with an item shop, or just closing the game down. My personal guess is the latter. You believe something different, and that is your right. But I have a right to my opinion as well.
 
"Are you saying that FFXIV is in a good state right now? Are you saying that that you have positive proof that it will be in a good state in a few months time?"

No. I am saying that your definition of "indefinite" is much broader than Square-Enix's definition, not to mention the inaccuracies in your post, showing that you did not even read the article properly.

These changes did not change the game's current state to neither better nor worse. The only thing this accomplished is that the future development will be more efficient on their end. The game may still die, but these changes work for the game's benefit, not against it. Simply not doing this would have meant that the game's death would be much more likely.

Did you praise Funcom or Cryptic for charging for their games in their unfinished state? Did you sentence them to death because they did so? SE is going one step further, and for that you think they are going to scrap the game, eh?
 
So now you are splitting hairs to attack my credibility, to make my opinion that FFXIV is dying look less valid. I can smell that sort of forum fanboi tactics up to here. I just don't know what you hope to accomplish with that.

It changes nothing of the facts: Square Enix announced that their game is so bad, they won't charge a monthly subscription for it "until it's better", with no date given. They "restructured". The CEO apologized. They postponed the console version. Those just aren't signs of a game in rude health.
 
"Square Enix announced that their game is so bad, they won't charge a monthly subscription for it "until it's better", with no date given. They "restructured". The CEO apologized. They postponed the console version. Those just aren't signs of a game in rude health."

And we all knew this from the very beginning. The reviews spoke their honest language.

This move doesn't make the situation worse, that's what I've been trying to say. It is how it is and this move is for the better. It is kind of silly to twist it in a negative way, when all is said.

At this point it sounds like you would say the same thing when a big patch hits and it doesn't fix everything about the game. "The game is going to die now".

You can blame me for being biased but you are no better. For some reason this game is getting all the hate from your direction. This is a new for me, or maybe I just haven't followed you long enough.
 
I personally think that it's a great move from SE. With no set date of the end for free play, and the fact that the game had gotten bad reviews leading to very cheap price, some of my friends are actually ordering the game to try it out.

@Tobold, if you were in S-E's shoes, what would you do to turn this thing around? I can't think much myself other than doing what S-E is exactly doing now.

They need to minimize damage which is done by turning the subscription fee off for a while. This move can also lead to actual new players (as shown by some of my friends, and Bhagpuss there) which might not be the main point but always nice to have on the side. This also allow them to buy some time while they (hopefully) try to improve the game to make it better.

Now of course you can be very right and FFXIV is just pure pile of crap anyway after console version is released, but I can't see what else S-E can do in the mean time to buy some time and work on the game other than making those three announcements.

Free playtime does not get you "support", it only gets you players not bothering to cancel their accounts.

This might be a winner for S-E actually. The first step to make players continue to play is to stop them from leaving the game. By the time they're bothered to cancel their account, S-E might've bought enough time to turn things around and make the game decent enough to make players willing to pay for the game.

The goal for S-E is simply to buy some time. IMO, that's the best thing that they can do for now. The rest, we'll have to wait and see whether they're able to turn things around or not.
 
Honestly, I do agree with Tobold here.

Really, the fact is that FFXIV has done so badly SE has basically made unprecedented steps when it comes to admitting their failure, which is commendable for the people in charge but reflects poorly on the game itself.

Because now FFXIV has gained a reputation as a gigantic failure, and that sort of reputation doesn't go away easily. Look at AoC or Warhammer, which have almost certainly improved since launch but are generally still regarded as failures. Now SE has the option of funding more development time to effectively remake a game where the only revenue has been from box sales, or letting FFXIV die.

Let's keep in mind, incidentally, that the free period is extended only until they can unveil a plan for what they're going to do. In other words, effectively they're saying "when we can say we're going to do, then you can fund us to possibly do it," which might sound reasonable until you remember that every other MMO on the market is going "this is what we've already put in, so pay us to play it."
 
@Mingdi, the difference between FFXIV and WAR/AOC is that FFXIV has the console version to be released (unlike AOC's X360 that ended up cancelled), and it's no secret that S-E loves their console as shown with FFXI initially being a PS2 game first.

The console release would be the key thing for FFXIV. This is IMO why S-E decided to somewhat give up on the PC version and take a loss by going for extended free period. This would minimize damage done, and at the same time lay the foundation for the console release.

If the console version of FFXIV turns out to be good, then things will turn around because the console version is essentially a second chance for FFXIV. If they screw up even then, of course they should die.
 
Why is this even worth speculating about?
 
I would have said the same thing of AoC after I quit playing years ago, but it came back and has a decent community from what I can tell. No, it's not as popular as WoW, but that doesn't make it "dead" or even a total failure.

As for Mingdi's comment "which might sound reasonable until you remember that every other MMO on the market is going 'this is what we've already put in, so pay us to play it.'"

It's called "innovation" or "thinking outside the box". Sometimes the steps taken in this may work and sometimes they may not. But trying to think differently than every other company is NOT a bad thing. None of us really know what the outcome of this will be.
 
I lasted in the game for a few days of open beta and 3 days after release. I really was awful. But now, given the situation, what are you really expecting SE to do? Should they have not made these moves? Should they have made them but not communicated anything to the player base? I suppose you can interpret these moves as a bad sign but only in the way that you might interpret a tactical retreat as a bad sign. How can a retreat ever be seen as a good thing? It can't in isolation but viewed from a high strategic overview, who knows? Unfortunately we don't have that view.

Yes, it is not a positive sign in and of itself but I have to disagree with the conclusion. Bad would have been SE pulling the plug all together. At this point, why bother continuing if you have no hope for the future of the title. You said it yourself Tobold, "Square Enix can not run FFXIV for free forever, they'd bleed too much money doing that. At some point they'll have to make some decision..." It seems pretty obvious to me that they have at least made the decision to explore some kind of redesign. Now, who knows if this redesign is given the green light but at this point someone has at least enough confidence in the possibility that they are giving the team the time to come up with something and pitch it.

I think the good news here is that the game didn't get sh!tcanned and it probably should have. Someone, probably the new lead design guy, was able to convince the suits that there was something worth salvaging. Personally I think FFXIV needs its own NGE/Cataclysm/"let's go back to the drawing board" thing. They have great graphics if you can see past the cut and paste. They have and interesting storyline. They have and interesting concept in the job system. Now they just need to create a "game" that is, something fun to do, to go in this framework. And then, of course they will have to pretty much re-market the game from the ground up.

Pretty tall order, and not an unreasonable assumption to say that it is unlikely that they will succeed in pulling it off. But I can't see what else they should be doing right now besides calling it a day and closing shop.
 
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The discussion of whether something is the right thing to do is entirely separate from the discussion of whether it is a sign that the game is failing.

When someone is terminal and with non-operative cancer, keeping them doped on morphine all the time so they don't constantly feel excruciating pain might be the best thing to do. It, however, can rightly be taken as a sign that they are not long for this world.

While FFXIV could certainly have a turn-around and stick around for a long time, the current goings on are signs that it is in danger of closing up shop completely, even if they are good ideas.
 
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