Ideas worth taking for A Realm Reborn

So what does the completely redone Final Fantasy XIV engine look like? I have no idea. I’m not in the alpha test. Considering I got into the beta last time only at the absolute tail end of everything, I am not really surprised. That isn’t the point; the point that I’m meandering toward is that the game could play like the previous version with quests and a lick of paint or it could play like a completely different animal altogether. I have to wait and see, as most of you do.

I will say this, though: I’m hoping Yoshida’s awareness of the larger world of MMOs is coming through strongly. Unlike his predecessor, Yoshi-P seems very aware of the fact that there are games out there aside from Final Fantasy XI, and that’s not even counting the existing love letters to longtime series fans. That having been said, there are at least a few things I hope he’s swiping from the industry for the relaunched version when it finally comes out. As I’ve said before, it’s not enough for the game to just be capable; it has to really stand out, and I think there are a few ideas to draw on in that regard.

Guild Wars 2 trait lines

I play Rhio in a lot of games.  She's got no cat ears here.Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that the game’s current system for customizing your character sort of blows. You’ve got bonus points, but they’re a bonus only in the sense that you can technically allocate them to stupid stats that make you useless in combat. You can use abilities from other classes, but those almost universally are either absurdly useful to everyone or completely useless outside of the source class. Beyond that, you’ve got nothing. Jobs arguably make this a little bit worse, as you have even fewer spaces to equip abilities and to make you different from another Paladin or Monk or whatever with the same equipment.

Whether or not this will be improved remains to be seen, and since the series as a whole has moved well away from heavy character customization, I’m not holding my breath. (Final Fantasy Tactics appears to have been the apex of that particular thought process.) But there is a good place to pinch some inspiration, and that would be the trait lines that Guild Wars 2 offers.

Obviously, an exact parallel wouldn’t work, but imagine if each class had three avenues of advancement, each focusing on a field of development that made sense for that class. Putting points in a given line unlocks new traits for use on any class while also unlocking some class-specific traits and improving relevant stats. So you could choose whether you want your Marauder/Fighter to focus on the tanking side of the class or the damage-dealing side, or perhaps you could even do something very unusual like splice in some magic use.

Likely? No. But it would synergize nicely with what we’ve been promised for hand-raised chocobos, so perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope after all…

Level flexibility of City of Heroes

Soar so far they cannot find you.Level sync in Final Fantasy XI was a spectacular system. City of Heroes did it even better, though, and that means that I’m turning to my sadly departed dear old friend as a source of inspiration for this. In City of Heroes, once you reached level 30 or so, your level ceased to have a great deal of meaning to you.

This isn’t to say that you didn’t get more powerful abilities as you continued to level. But most of those were situational, and none of them defined your character setup as much as the stuff you’d grabbed a little before the halfway mark. A level 30 character could group up with some level 50s and be quite effective in battle, lacking some tricks and some fanciness but still able to hold her own.

Final Fantasy XIV has not run with this idea in the past, and generally, the series as a whole has eschewed it. Outside of Final Fantasy II, the first set of skills you learn are obsoleted as soon as a second set is available. But FFXIV’s big overhaul of class abilities started moving in the other direction. If your early abilities are your most universally used ones, then you could easily replicate the feel of CoH’s ad-hoc parties where you didn’t have to really sync up to a specific area — you just all got together and went, and there was something level-appropriate you could all do.

Oh, and I know I’ve said this before, but there are a lot of hurt and angry CoH players out there who might shower love on a company that showed that spirit. Hint.

Reverse engineering of Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, FFXI…

I’ve talked before about how FFXIV’s crafting is at once brilliant and a seriously irritating piece of work. Part of that is because even after you navigate the labyrinthine requirements for crafting something and manage to craft it successfully… you need to craft more. Not to use anything you’re crafting, but just so you can level enough to use all of your other materials.

And then you run out of materials, and you have to go gather more, and for some reason zinc has to be mined a million miles away from everything else, then you have to go and gather copper, and… well, you get the idea. If I keep talking about this, I might have Goldsmithing flashbacks.

The point I’m slowly getting at is that this is a system that would greatly benefit from the reverse engineering found in many games. Star Wars: The Old Republic has a good system for this. RIFT has one that I’m not quite as fond of, but it’s very functional. FFXI allowed you to break items back down from a different synth. There are doubtlessly several other games that offer similar functions; I’m pretty sure EVE Online has something similar, just to name one.

Even if breaking down items were nothing more than a necessary evil that gave you no skill points or anything, being able to just rip these things apart would be immensely useful. You’d be able to spend less time worrying about making the wrong things for leveling, less time filling up your inventory with crap you don’t want and can’t sell, and more time just crafting. The crafting fundamentals in the game are so good that it needs something to improve the whole experience, and this seems like a step in the right direction.

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