Having played around a bit with the Final Fantasy XIV beta, I’ve decided that Square-Enix has probably solved all their leftover problems from Final Fantasy XI except for the one where the interface is awful. I quit FF11, back in the day, because travel was excruciating and a solo player could never accomplish anything on his own. I quickly fell out of sync with the friends I was playing the game with, and became unable to progress. When you logged into this game you would literally spend thirty minutes getting to the grind spot, then another hour plus finding a decent group. I increasingly found myself in situations where I was about to log in for a while, remembered it would take at minimum two hours to get anything worthwhile done, and just said “screw it” and went to play Metroid again.
Well, FF14 gives you a variety of solo options, and it lets you pretty much teleport anywhere you’ve ever been to. So problems A and B have been solved, it looks like.
What they didn’t fix, though, was the extremely clunky interface. FF14 is still designed to be played with a gamepad, which is usually my preferred interface, but makes no sense to me as an MMO. Anyone who is going to (eventually) play this game on PS3 is going to buy a USB keyboard, because otherwise communication is next to impossible. I’m convinced a lot of these stupid problems could be solved simply by making the keyboard a requirement.
Every part of the interface is stupid. You have to click a monster three times to attack it. You have to push Escape twice to back out of a menu you only needed one button press to get into. There is a huge, multi-second delay between you typing a command and your character actually executing it. When you select any option off of any menu there is that momentary concern that the game didn’t hear you properly.
It took me an hour to get my keybindings about where I wanted them, and they were miraculously erased next time I went into the game. This one is probably a bug, and sadly is probably the only of my gripes that will actually get fixed.
My hope for FF14 was that it would be exactly like FF11, just with those three huge issues fixed. They’ve learned a lot about MMO design in the past ten years, and it’s clear that while they’re starting to be sensible about things they’re not just trying to ape World of Warcraft. I appreciate all of that, but I’m tired of feeling like I’m interacting with the game by making polite suggestions and crossing my fingers.