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  1. #1
    Hydra
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    FFXI: An Examination

    I've worked on this for quite a long time, and I believe it's finally reached the point where I want to get it out to the community. If you agree with it at all, in part or in whole, please feel free to take what you like and send it to SquareEnix. With Bercus conducting the interview in a few months, and the recent ascertion of the GM staff to use the comments and suggestions e-mail, now is the time to let SquareEnix know what we think and how we feel.

    Now... on to the show.

    The itemization in FFXI needs an intimate examination and subsequent reworking. An assessment, adjustment, and re-itemization of many items in the game would create a domino effect, resolving many concerns that people currently have with the game, whether they know the reasons behind their dissatisfaction or not. This might seem rather abrupt and alarming, so it must be clearly explained as to why this is necessary.

    The definition of itemization, with regards to the MMO genre, is the planning and implementation of how players obtain items and the specific statistical qualities of these items in regards to the breadth of content. Naturally, players will pursue what they perceive as best (items) and enjoy the most (encounters). A majority of the player's enjoyment from the game is derived from the successful victories and resulting treasure obtained to improve their character. When they're unable to achieve this, they instinctively pursue the next best alternative. It is then the responsibility of the game designers to dictate the quality of the items acquired, accurately reflecting the invested time and subsequent risk involved in obtaining them, in a reasonable and balanced fashion while providing worthwhile alternatives defined under these same conditions. However, such is not the case with FFXI; the time/risk/reward ratios for the vast majority of content in FFXI is unbalanced, inescapably creating a problem with itemization and further enhanced by a lack of acceptable alternatives.

    It is this lack of acceptable itemization alternatives that inherently allows RMT to find their niche in FFXI. The presence of RMT is the result of the unbalanced time/risk/reward ratio previously explained, which describes quite clearly why they've found themselves at home with FFXI and it's myriad of problems in that area. One only has to make a trip to the Auction House in Jeuno to find that the majority of available player gear across the levels is devoid of beneficial statistics, causing the playerbase to disregard their potential use in favor of rare items that actually offer statistics. In general, RMT unabashedly ignore the rules and ToS of the game without fear of repercussion, using MPK and 3rd party hacks, cheats, and bots to monopolize highly sought after items, forcing players, due to the lack of other favorable alternatives, to pay the higher prices of said items that they control. If the players feel they have an adaquete number of worthwhile choices available to them through a varying amount of accessible sources, they will no longer feel as compelled to fervently pursue the multitude of items under harsh RMT control.

    The RMT presence can not simply be tolerated, unlike the way SquareEnix has haphazardly approached the issue before, hastily implementing new game mechanics which made little sense and did more damage to the legitimate players than the RMT they were trying to combat (such as the MPK adjustment which all but destroyed the Beastmaster job and its community of loyal players). Solely focusing on the investigation of individuals and groups involved with RMT, whether they are gilsellers or gilbuyers, is a moot and cyclical "chicken-and-the-egg" argument. SquareEnix, while still pursuing and reprimanding individuals and groups involved with RMT-related activities, must realize that they can do much more to combat RMT by adding more content and slightly altering what is currently available, instead of forcing their outsourced GM staff to undertake the disastrous effort of enforcing an apparently unenforceable ToS. By cutting off the desirability of their monopolized commodities through properly designing and implementing alternatives, the designers would create options for the playerbase in regards to a new selection of desirable items, effectively destroying the roots of RMT and severely reducing it's presence.

    To further analyze the itemization dilemma, we must rewind back to when Abjurations and the Zilart HNM system were introduced. Ignoring the fact that the Abjuration armor and items gained from HNM are still some of, if not the best, from over two years ago, the bigger picture needs to be put into focus. Specifically, the number of players desiring and capable of participating in these activities has steadily increased, while the frequency of theses encounters has not scaled up proportionally to account for the growing endgame population. After achieving 75, most players will spend the majority of their time at the cap, wanting to take full advantage of the apex of the power afforded their job while seeking out gear to improve their performance.

    A great number of players find no thrill in standing or running around monotonously for hours waiting for the opportunity to claim a monster as it mysteriously appears and, if you and your group are lucky enough to beat other players to the claim, partake in the challenge of the battle and bask in the glory of the treasure. These final rewards (weapons, armor, and crafting materials) are the impetus for people to endure the frustrating and boring ordeal of such content. Combined with this severe lack of desirable alternative items, the overly restrictive access to the HNMs and their limited treasure has tainted many players against each other, forcing them into the position where they feel the only viable way to improve their character is to take drastic measures, backstabbing their friends and subjugating their rivals using RMT, MPK, and 3rd party hacks, cheats, and bots, all of which are a result of this itemization and population imbalance. This has lead us to the current state ingame where legitimately obtaining these items often becomes an exercise in futility, as the majority of FFXI players can testify.

    Therefore, when the outcome of certain design decisions, such as the Zilart-style HNM system, result in the destruction of the core foundation of the game, the player community, it is then the responsibility of the developers to adjust the way the players access and participate in these encounters to compensate for the increasing population at the level-cap while still retaining the challenge of fighting these monsters.

    This is why Limbus and Assault are such great additions and are enjoyed by almost everyone who has the chance to participate. The reason is fairly clear; SquareEnix managed to achieve the right balance. They're fun, active, and engaging; the time required is reasonable for players with differing restrictions and the encounters are entertaining and challenging, rewarding the perseverance and skill (for the most part) of players with a wide variety of highly desirable items. Limbus and Assault gives the players options across all fronts that are easily adapted depending on a variety of criteria. While Assault is not as well polished as Limbus, hence the adjustments coming in July, it still gets most things right and does a wonderful job of giving the players content to enjoy with respectable rewards for their endevours.

    The overwhelming evidence declares that the players need more itemization options. Limbus and Assault are a taste of this, but sadly more content is not similar. Driven by the desire to obtain the best they can and instinctively disregarding potential use of volumous amounts of statless gear, the playerbase is forced by the current game design to either endure content they don't enjoy, or turn to the RMT infesting the game in order to acquire the handful of worthwhile items they seek for their character.

    Therefore, two things are needed in order to fix the itemization problems within Vana'diel:

    #1 Allow alternatives ways to acquire Abjurations and equivalent HNM items.

    It's already been explained how, due to the power of the items and abjurations dropped by the current Zilart HNM, the rarity and challenge presented by such fights must remain intact. However, the current endgame situation, with its overabundance of players with jobs at 75 desiring the items they drop, and the incringing presence of RMT capable of claiming, fighting, and defeating (and eventually perma-camping) these HNM, demands that something be done. SquareEnix has already added a progression system within the game which I believe would remedy the current abysmal endgame scene if applied to the Zilart HNM and their treasure pools. The progression system I'm speaking about is that of the Cloud Evoker and Monarch Orb. A certain number of ENMs have the chance to drop a Cloud Evoker, allowing the chance to fight Ouryu, who drops Monarch Orbs for the Bahamut v2 fight. Allowing players to access the Zilart kings and their drops through a similar progression system would keep the time/risk/reward ratios in balance with the ever growing endgame population. Adding an item similar to the Monarch Orb to the treasure pools of the KS99 fights which would allow access to either another BCNM fight, this time with their respective overworld counterpart, or, in addition to their current timed pop conditions, making the Zilart HNM force-popped by trading this item to newly added ???s to their respective zones, is one such solution. This has the double benefit of introducing old content to more people, keeping it viable and worthwhile to participate it. Regardless of the exact method, something must be done to remedy the current problem with the Zilart HNM.

    The endgame areas of Tu'lia and Al'taieu are interesting case studies of how players (and thus, RMT) react to the content available from the monsters and encounters in these areas. Even after two years, Tu'lia still remains one of the most active and competitive areas simply due to the fact that the rewards available from the Shinra are still second-to-none for many jobs. This has allowed RMT to invade the zone and lockdown the progression of entire linkshells by maintaining near total control over certain key NMs required for the completion of the final item set allowing the fight with Kirin. Al'taieu, on the other hand, does not have an RMT problem, not only because of the difficulty in accessing it through the CoP storyline missions, but because not even legitimate linkshells fervently pursue the available rewards from the NM in the region. Considering that the Jailers, which in many cases are more difficult than their Tu'lia counterparts, are fought through a tiered system similar to those in Tu'lia, without the consistency of progression or the desirability of items that the Shinra provide, and you find yourself confronted very quickly with the reason why the content in Al'taieu is not pursued or enjoyed. Both of these regions must be examined and slightly redesigned if SquareEnix cares about keeping their playerbase active and intact, while routing out RMT.

    #2 Reinvigorate crafting.

    With the release of every expansion, the crafting community is given new items to create. CoP added many JSE armor sets which were crafted from ingredients obtained through varying degrees of difficulty, but did not provide such a set for every job. The Alumine/Luisant armor set is one of the more recent examples of where the FFXI team attempted, but ultimately failed, in adding new, highly desirable items by severely limiting the number of sources for it's ingredients and only making the HQ worthwhile. ToAU added two beautiful armor sets with mixed statistics and utility, but did not provide many other options for jobs besides the melee capable of wearing the Sipahi and Jaridah armors. Looking back at the gear available to players as they progress through the levels, it is quite clear that the vast majority of items in the game are nearly devoid of useful statistics, allowing RMT to easily pinpoint and exploit the natural impulse of players to obtain gear they desire by monopolizing the sources of, and ingredients for, said items.

    Therefore, I would propose the addition of a plethora of new ingredients and crafting recipes which use the current less-than-desirable gear as a basis for the new items. If enough new recipes were implemented, it would not only create more options for players (a problem that has been outlined and detailed as in need of remedy), but actually help crafters broaden the library of items they regularly synth for skill up and profit. Spreading out desirable items in such a way keeps RMT from monopolizing areas of the market, especially if the sources of these ingredients come from a wide variety of places, such as new NMs, BCNMs, ENMs, Assaults, and so forth.

    The ingredients for cursed armors would also need to be made more accessible if the Zilart HNMs and their loot were to be redistributed, since many RMT monopolize this market, too. BC99's could be added which drop these ingredients (angel skins, siren's hair, etc) along with other items that are currently under RMT control (Serket's Ring, Strider's Boots, etc). So long as the supply of crafting ingredients for cursed armor was balanced to match the acquisition of abjurations and bypassed the possibility of RMT to control that supply, the method of implementation would not matter.

    With the recent addition of gear with set bonuses, SquareEnix has afforded themselves the opportunity to create some unique and highly sought after armor. In addition to the Amir, Pahluwan, and Yigit armor sets reasonably acquired through Assault, this could be expanded upon to introduce more armor sets designed in a similar fashion, whether they are obtained through crafting or activity (Limbus/Assault/etc) rewards.

    As a tangent, when FFXI is currently presented with a vast amount of diverse characters, the client assesses and decides which characters to fully render, overcoming the PS2 memory limitations in highly population zones without degrading the quality of the overall gaming experience. Not taking the actual statistical itemization into account, the FFXI art department at SquareEnix has consistently shown with almost every update and expansion that they can design and create new, unique, and visually desirable equipment. Therefore the PS2 hardware limitations, while presenting certain technical hurdles to overcome, are an invalid excuse for not adding new content, specifically visible items such as armor and weapons.

    While it pains me to say that I'm fairly certain the FFXI designers at SquareEnix are too proud to admit their mediocre design and lack of foresight created the inevitable need for such a radical overhaul, that doesn't disqualify the fact that something needs to be done to address the current itemization (and subsequent RMT) problems negatively effecting the game.
    (Congratulations if you made it through!)

  2. #2

    too much reading.

  3. #3
    Hydra
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    Quote Originally Posted by aurik
    too much reading.
    too much lazy!

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  5. #5
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    omgawd cop sux!!! toau rulz!!! more zilart king drops mkaay!111

  6. #6
    Relic Weapons
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    no mention of dynamis in all that text - i'm offended 8)

  7. #7
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    Deme, sarcasm aside, and while I have absolutely no right to complain about how much one is able to obtain from zilart you're experiencing the game in a much different manner than a lot of us are. Even those of us coming from the most affluent of shells don't quite have as tight a lock on things like fafnir as your shell to sort of take it for granted at this point.

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    that is a good wall o' text of bitching. Making new similar items of HNMsin DA,BD and VoS dropped from anywhere but NMs.
    Adding new sets of armor that is usable by a great number of different jobs.

    I agree with most of that to make it short..

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    Good, but nothing will happen anyway. The PS2's memory limitations.....

    I know, I know. It's like beating a dead horse....

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    how about cursed armor v2 that requires your base cursed armor and the hq cursed armor becomes cursed armor v2+1 o.O;;

    ridilliru +1 (more defense) defending ring +1 (+3 attack +4 ranged attack) black belt +1 (magic damage -3%) OK!

    we can make the synth items for upgrade from besieged too!wwww


    edit:

    omg dual wield ridill + ridill +1 and 2x defending ring o.O

    it gives me a whole new reason to play ffxi, GET A SECOND RIDILL AND D RING =D

  11. #11
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    Pretty solid and well written. I agree to a lot of the points. I just wish it would happen some day....

  12. #12
    Old Merits
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    Good show and sent.

  13. #13
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    Fix the grammatical errors such as this one before sending it to SE.

    Limbus and Assault a taste of this, but sadly more content is not similar.

  14. #14
    Ridill
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    I think I encountered this thread in Lebros last night.

  15. #15
    Relic Horn
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    Some of the stuff he writes there is insightful. Just one minor correction:

    You say "Shinra" in reference to Byakko, Seiryu, Suzaku, and Genbu -- I believe it's "Shinjin", however.

    As for alternative drops, it is rather curious how the Zenith set has two mobs it can drop from..though no other abjuration set's the same.

    The idea of using some of the rather useless armor without stats to upgrade into better items is also a neat idea.

    While it pains me to say that I'm fairly certain the FFXI designers at SquareEnix are too proud to admit their mediocre design and lack of foresight created the inevitable need for such a radical overhaul, that doesn't disqualify the fact that something needs to be done to address the current itemization (and subsequent RMT) problems negatively effecting the game.
    Eloquent way to say "You have your head too far up your asses to realize that this game has a shitty design, but here's a way to fix that.".

    Either way, it's worth sending in.

  16. #16
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    Nice wall-o-text from an Armchair designer.

  17. #17

    Quote Originally Posted by Vinen
    Nice wall-o-text from an Armchair designer.
    I agree, and is that possibly a Phantasy Star 4 avatar you're using.. or am I mistaken?

  18. #18
    Mr. Bananagrabber
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    I think it's from a Suikoden game

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Khamsin
    I think I encountered this thread in Lebros last night.
    Sad that I just got that <_<

  20. #20
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    http://www.devmaster.net/articles/mmorp ... /part5.php

    As mentioned in the previous parts of this article, the players are usually unhappy with any changes, unless of course, the change simplifies things or makes things easier to do. But whenever the change requires them to change their strategies, there is widespread complaint, cries that the developers don't listen and want to ruin the game, threats to leave the game and so on. The mere announcement of future changes makes them very nervous, and they usually don't bother to read the full announcement, but rather immediately jump to [wrong] conclusions. There are, of course, some players that do like changes, and there are some players that don't care. But the bulk of the replies to any "future change announcement" is usually "Omg omg teh devs want to ruin teh game!11!!". Often times we just gave up modifying some stuff that we believed would be good for the game, but the players cried about it.

    While the players usually play the game more than we do, most of them only care for their best interest. It is up to an objective 3rd-party to carefully examine the implications of any game system modification. That 3rd party is us, the developers, who unlike what some players think, want only the best for the game. It takes someone with a global vision of the entire project to decide what would make the game better for everyone.

    A while ago, I was reading an article written by some web-based MMORPG developer who was dealing with similar issues. I can't find the URL to that article (I did try to google for some keywords, with no success). Basically what the author said was that after a while they just ignored the complaints and went forward with the implementation of those changes. And with time, the players actually liked those changes, despite of their initial overreaction. Reading that article was very informative and encouraging to me, so I vowed to do things in a different way from now on.

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