There’s a wave of nostalgia going on in the MMO blogosphere at the moment with a new Everquest progression server (or even two) taking people back to that game’s early days. I tried logging into Everquest 2 and Dungeons and Dragons Online recently for a quick play session and both didn’t inspire me to play for very long, the graphics are dated but more importantly there are features missing that I expect to see in more modern MMOs that I miss when they’re not there. They are certainly characteristics that I have appreciated greatly so far while playing Final Fantasy 14, in no particular order:
1) Public quests/content
FFXIV’s Fate system of public quests is a real bonus while leveling. They reward experience, money and grand company seals (used to buy new gear and other items). I do not use them to level exclusively as some have but rather as an additional fun side-activity to questing. The large-scale ones have the same ‘shared experience’ feeling that I enjoyed so much in Rift and in Guild Wars 2’s early months.
2) A predictable XP curve
Admittedly I’m only level 40 in FFXIV, but so far the leveling speed started fast and then got gradually slower, as I would expect in any MMORPG. I’ve not hit massive speed bumps as in EQ2 at arbitrary levels. Nor is the leveling speed so fast that I feel like I’m being pushed into the current end-game (a la World of Warcraft). FFXIV also offers a good variety of one-time and repeatable content to allow you to level all those other classes on one character if you so desire.
3) Encourage grouping/downplay competition
This could be my favourite actually. I really dislike the excessive emphasis on competing with other players in open world normal leveling content in so many older MMORPGs. Quest mobs, quest items, mining nodes, you name it your heart sinks when you see that other player racing past your current fight to ‘ninja’ the thing you’ve been working towards. In some more modern MMOs the designers actually thought we should encourage a different playstyle – one where players cooperate more willingly. Guild Wars 2 arguably started this but FFXIV does a very good job of it too. From what I’ve seen all monsters do not tap; if you hit something a few times it’ll count for any quests, hunting logs or other purposes you might require a kill. Likewise in the duty finder dungeons you have a commendation to award at the end for good play, regardless of the potential politics of such a system, it’s nice that the emphasis built-in is on playing well together. Gathering also is entirely non-competitive since the nodes you are gathering are only visible to you.
4) A variety of travel options
There’s plenty of controversy at the moment about Blizzard’s apparent decision to not enable flying in the newish Draenor zones of the game. FFXIV has had teleport since the start as well as the chocobo porter routes (if you want to see the world as you travel around). The expansion Heavensward will add flying to the new zones as another travel mode. The Secret World has recently added Anima porting as a way to move inside zones at a faster pace and will shortly be adding mounts for the first time. I know there are very strong opinions for and against travelling around the world as ‘content’. Personally I like a variety of options in the games I play. We spend a fair amount of time riding around Eorzea in FFXIV since you get to do FATEs and other content as part of that travel. Yes we do use teleports as well but usually as a fast way to hand in quests or to literally cross the game world when some crazy NPC sends us back to the place we just left!
That’s the four main characteristics that I currently appreciate most about the more modern games I have played or am playing. Maybe you can think of other things you like about these games that I haven’t mentioned?