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FFXIV November Megapatch Mini-Pression

Final Fantasy XIV is attempting to recover the lost ground of its largely lackluster release by releasing a couple of hefty megapatches while extending the free trial a couple months.   Having given the November Megapatch a spin, I see it was mostly Graphical User Interface related.

The GUI is your portal into the game, and with its optimization the game feels much more accessible.  For example:
  • It now seems to present a lot more information up front rather than forcing you to go a screen or two further to find it.  
  • Many unnecessary pop-up confirmation prompts have been removed.
  • Customization is easier as well: I was able quickly reorganize the central GUI controls to feel more compact and present information where I wanted it. 
  • The GUI feels a lot quicker and more responsive in most places - there's still a necessity for server updates but the impact is greatly mitigated now.
  • You can actually autosort your inventory (and retainer's inventory) into categories now!
To play Final Fantasy XIV now, it feels very much as though a formidable barrier between me and the game has been obliterated.  However, the GUI is only skin deep.  I feel more keenly than ever now what is in the game is lacking, what turned me off from the game in the first place, is the content, or rather the lack thereof.

Right now, the whole of the player's available activities could be summed up like this:
  • Perform main quests at combat job rank 1, 10, 15, 20.  Different quests available for different cities of origin, but that requires starting new characters, and each character carries an expense of time and money.
  • As you earn combat job ranks through combat with monsters, you're going to need to upgrade your equipment.
    • You can craft your own equipment, which involves dabbling with the rather extensive player economy.  The greater bulk of existing content can be found here, as there's over 2500 things to craft, contrast against a rough guess of 75 different kinds of attackable mobs in the game (allowing for upgraded versions of the same mob) and it's clear that there's a ton more crafting content than adventuring content.
    • You can buy equipment from other players, which mostly comes from earning gil, which mostly comes from performing Guildleves or selling what you find.
  • Guildleves are likely to be your main activity.
    • You can do 8 "local" guildleves every 36 hours.  These involve crafting something.
    • You can do 8 "regional" guildleves every 36 hours.  These involve either collecting resources or defeating monsters.
    • Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of variety to the guildleves, and so you will be repeating this same task often.
  • Behests are started at the top of every real life hour in camps and up to 15 players (a full party in FFXIV) can participate.  This is basically a hunting guildleve involving a reasonably large number of mobs followed by a stronger "boss" encounter.
  • Outside of that, you can certainly just go out and hunt stuff, but there's no real context to it.
The main trouble is that the only genuinely interesting thing to do in Final Fantasy XIV is the main quests because this is the only part of the game that really tells a story.  The narrative contrast between this and the other activities is so great that these sub-activities feel like artificial and unnecessary toil.

Unfortunately, the pacing to reach the narrative content of the game is way off. It will take you many, many hours (perhaps days or weeks) to attain the necessary combat ranks to unlock the next main quest.  Each leg of the main quest itself can be resolved very quickly, in a matter of an hour or two.  So, for the most part, you're left with the activities in Final Fantasy XIV that leave it feeling like a story-barren grind.

The December mega-patch should help as it promises to introduce more quests (including "class" quests) and guildleves.  However, time will tell if this will really inject adequate soul into the game.

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