FFXIV's Endless Patience

These days, with time as precious as it is, it's nice to have an MMO that respects what free moments you have.

FFXIV's Endless Patience
A foggy, rainy day, doesn't stop a nice little pose from me and my trusty companions in FFXIV.

Back when I was a younger gamer, with perhaps far more free time on my hands than I probably should have had, I had serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) energy when it came to games. I had to play all the latest, most popular titles right away, and if I read or saw someone else had played one of these games I got this craving, this itch that I needed to experience it myself - not unlike being served a bunch of ads about a certain food and having it invade your mind.

Anyone really miss the Volcano menu for Taco Bell by the way? No? Ok then.

Anyway, I just couldn't wait to get my hands on a game and play it, and when I started getting into MMOs, long since known for feeding into this sort of frenzy, it got a bit worse. In WoW if I wasn't hitting that level cap within a couple weeks I felt behind, and if I wasn't raiding the hardest content, even if it meant countless wipes and deaths, it didn't feel like I was experiencing the whole game.

person using computer on brown wooden table
Photo by Robert Bye / Unsplash

But then I just got busy. Life happened. I got more involved in organizations an interest groups, got invited out to have a drink or two rather than a raid or two, and did the dating (and eventually marrying) thing. I just didn't quite have the bandwidth to handle a game even at release, and thankfully, my many IRL obligations kept me from that FOMO feeling, simply because missing out was not just a choice, it was an inevitability.

brown tabby cat on green and white textile
Photo by WTFast / Unsplash

Yet MMOs, I think, didn't quite get the hint for the most part. Now don't get me wrong - I worked for an MMO, so I know that this is, in part, baked into the business model of a persistently online service. You want to maintain that concurrent playcount, those subscription numbers (before those for the most part got to be deader than disco), and you want to make sure that the average player who plays casually and, to a certain extent, the hardcore one who plays obsessively, don't get bored. This is because a bored MMO player is not a present player, and not-present players are obviously the death of most games in this genre.

I remember being bombarded with mails and ads and deals to come back to an MMO I'd unsubscribed from. I recall tons of press releases about patches that promised critical fixes and brand new content and in some cases, revamps or consolidations that would make the game and its population feel fresh. And I remember, in most of those cases, being pressured to return, as if not doing so would put me behind in the inevitable rat race to be Best Online Player With Shiny Gear (tm). It's like they can't wait for me to log back in, and it seems like if I did, I wouldn't be the only one grinning like an idiot who'd taken a bite of their favorite food.

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Somehow, however, FFXIV seems to be the outlier here. Oh, it's not like they don't do the same thing other MMOs do - they send you notices about things that are happening (I see you, beginning-of-the-year festival with cute emotes for a certain percentage off, you dastardly devil), but there's never a sense that they're pressuring me to come back. In fact, there's a kind of patience, a sort of "sitting in a room with your hands bridged" kind of waiting that knows, eventually, that I'll come back. And if I don't, then maybe that's ok too.

It's not a surprise it feels this way. Years ago, FFXIV's director, Naoko Yoshida (popularly known as Yoshi-P) said that it's ok not to play every day, take breaks, and even play other games. It's a very refreshing outlook on the often dog-eat-dog world of persistently online games, and it might just be part of the reason why in what was essentially the MMO Hunger Games of the 2010's, FFXIV managed to survive.

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And while the game's cadence of releases matches that of any normal MMO that tries to entice its players back, there's always an ease by which that can happen, and is encouraged to happen. I've found that logging back into FFXIV, as I did lately after a couple months off, is a refreshing experience. I can check out all the story and side quest stuff I've let pile up and not have to wait for cliffhangers, experience brand new content (or quickly grab the gear to do so if I'm not at that item level), and generally feel like I never left. Being added to the game's Novice Network if you're a returning player is just a nice bonus, allowing you to ask the silly questions about what happened while you were gone while not looking like a big doofus doing so.

If other games before have been like that friend who continuously texts you wondering why you haven't responded yet, FFXIV is that buddy who is content and secure, even if they don't hear from you in a while, that you can pick up right where you left off with your friendship. Because FFXIV remains one of the most stable (perhaps even growing) MMOs out there for its age, it is, like those patient friends IRL, taking the right approach - especially with someone as busy with things as I am these days. I can appreciate that a lot.

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