Importance of Polish

With playing Final Fantasy 14 at the moment  I’ve got to wondering whether innovation is something we truly want, or even need in mmo’s. By all accounts it’s a wow clone, and while a polished one with a lot of mechanics from elsewhere it really offers nothing of its own to the equation. By all accounts it shouldn’t be succeeding where many others have fallen; Wildstar and ESO just before it that both added nothing as well and paid the price for that yet Final Fantasy has continued to grow, grow to 4 million accounts lately which means box purchases… that’s reasonably impressive in this age.

Yet in spite of that, and with playing another mmo that is but an iteration on the same formulae I’ve become rather enamoured with it. Usually I get bored with these types of experiences quite quickly but I’ve been grinding out the levels and quests for my kitty zerker for a few days now. Playing for many hours at a time. Completing all the dungeons as I go multiple times and having a good time with it. I’m even excited about what’s to come even before I’ve gotten to the cap. I’ve been actively researching and looking at class and tanking guides too: ways to gear up, raid and dungeon videos.. all that boring stuff I haven’t bothered with since rift.

It’s silly but rather exciting to be wrapped up in that mmo goodness again. And it’s not that thirsty in the desert kind of feeling either, well, it was at first but now that I’ve settled in I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would and I think the main reason for this is just polish.

Yes it’s polished in the usual kind of ways now. Graphical purrty as all heck. Ability lag is a thing of the past and rivals that of blizzard making gameplay and combat feel smooth. And just the content and game run smoothly throughout play. It is a game that has gotten the attention it needs to fill itself out and run well… sadly a lot of games can’t say the same lately.

Anyway, it is more than that as well and by polish I also mean they have actually taken the time to figure out what it is they want to do. It is a game that actually seems to have planned itself out in regards to the pace of combat, the styles available, the types and methods of acquiring shinies. Just the way the whole game, each of its components fits together.

Mostly I get the feeling the engaged in a little introspection regarding mmo’s in general. They didn’t just blindly copy what the current zeitgeist is, the populist mechanics and they also didn’t fall prey to throwing out the perfectly functioning components just to appear “edgy”, and “innovative”. They seem to have actually sat down and thought about the usual mechanics of mmos: what works, what doesn’t and figure out why then mold these towards their own vision. There is a level of understanding there in how they’ve designed the components so that it becomes greater than the whole. Greater than the usual.

MMO’s don’t really need to strive to be different, it’s mostly just a marketing buzzword anyway and rarely keeps people around after they’ve grown tired of the same bull shit reskinned with the same mistakes. Innovation can be good too, dynamic events are something I think enriches the genre and were a huge departure from the standard but so many games use this now without really dissecting it mechanically and then integrating it within their game to be cohesive.

I just feel that mmo’s need more thought put into them first and that it seems doing so is far more important than aiming for some kind of new shiny appeal.

14 thoughts on “Importance of Polish

  1. Change or “innovation” for the sake of change or innovation is a waste. Unless there is a problem to be solved. Often it feels like games “innovate” just so they can say they are different. WildStar for example, was never supposed to have combat the way it did. Originally it was tab targetting. 75% of the way THROUGH their dev cycle someone decided it needed to change because it had to be different. I bet it does better designed as the game it was originally meant to be.

    • That was one of my thoughts during it, as well as gw2’s no trinity approach.

      Innovation can work though and is a great thing but it seems so many don’t take the time to really think about the implementation within an mmo.

  2. I have to disagree with the wow clone thing; if there’s a franchise that is very much its own thing and in fact, as direct successor of FFXI older than WoW, it is FFXIV. This is what is so refreshing to newcomers and so cozy for franchise fans. Sure, if having action bar combat or quests equals “being like other MMOs” then Final Fantasy is one too but underneath the surface, there is greater depth to this game, an oldschool approach to certain things and a plethora of fun features unheard of anywhere else. I am coming to appreciate this more and more and imho it is part of its secret and also, why its community is so great. 🙂

    As for polish and innovation: they’re nice-to-haves but the core gameplay needs to be engaging and fun first. Obviously MMOs are particularly pressured to innovate but there’s no way around the full package. Players are less forgiving when subs are involved especially.

    • I say wow clone to just mean the same theme park approach.. In saying that I also believe that 14, in its original incarnation was very much trying to be a wow clone, that’s not a bad thing at all as it is a very popular style of game play . I do agree that now it is very much it’s own thing though, it still has its roots in those same traditional designs but has changed around enough and made it all fit so well together.

      Polished has a big part in ganeplay/combat too. One of the original points that pushed me away from ff14 reborn was that it wasn’t as responsive, with a certain amount of skill lag for me. Now it plays far smoother.

    • It’s funny you mention FFXI’s age. I doubt it is apocryphal but I have no way of confirming. I remember when I was 10 or 11 reading tidbit in Electronic Gaming Monthly, this classic video game magazine here in the states. In it, a key person related to the Final Fantasy series expressed his love for a game I had never heard of and how he wished he could do something similar. This was at the precise moment in my history where I would do anything for a game with ‘Final Fantasy’ in the name, so it peaked my interest immediately.

      A year or two later I bought that MMO he had mentioned. It was Ultima Online and it led me to falling in love with MMOs.

      The roots of Final Fantasy as a MMO go really deep!

  3. As a FF(and SQUARE) fanboy I am not surprised that SQUARE cracked it in the end. Wish I could also play but I don’t really have the time, money or computer for it!

    I wish other publishers (TURBINE I am looking squarely at you) would apply a real hard look at game elements before implementing new ones…

    • I wish they all took this kind of approach but I think many of them are to stressed and pushed along by deadlines to stop long enough to actually plan.

  4. Well they did have an “advantage” that pretty much no other post- or pre- WoW MMO has had: they launched a dreadful, unfinished, failure of a game that was badly received to the point of being a laughing-stock. Then they continued to run that game for what was it, eighteen months? Two years. They gathered all the metrics and data from that period, because astonishingly they were still able to attract many thousands of customers to the “failed” version AND latterly charge them a subscription for the pleasure of being there.

    Having done all that they then re-coded, re-wrote and re-designed a heavily revised version of the same MMO, went through a second beta process and relaunched the game as though it was brand new. Given the unique circumstances its considerably less surprising that the current version seems more polished than we’ve been used to from MMOs. I imagine if Carbine had been able to do the same thing with Wildstar the second version might also have been rather better received than the first.

    Not many MMO companies are prepared to spend THAT much money to repair the damage one poor release may have done to their public mage. Square are Square. No-one else is.

    • I wish they all took this kind of approach but I think many of them are to stressed and pushed along by deadlines to stop long enough to actually plan. That would have been a lot of money though.

  5. I do indeed want innovation, but only if it works well and is preferably couched within a familiar context. Lasso the moon for me, but only if it doesn’t come crashing down on top of the earth. It’s a lot to ask and I feel like a bit of an ass for doing so, but this philosopher’s armchair is so danged comfortable. For as much as I wish that someone would innovate and find a way to “unexist” levels, for example, I find that approximating this state of affairs with meaninglessness (GW2, Oblivion) is a poor substitute.

    Final Fantasy 14 doesn’t exactly innovate, but the areas in which it does operate are polished to a blinding shine. Calling FF14 a WoW clone affords Blizzard’s flagship a level of centricity whose ascription cannot be purchased by even ten million subscribers. Square Enix undertook the herculean task of righting the Titanic with the majority of its passengers intact and succeeded. World of Warcraft, as I have said elsewhere, is nowadays the equivalent of a college professor with tenure.

    What we really want, I think, are the principles of social, constructive, inclusive, and progressive play whose principles were made wildly popular by early iterations of World of Warcraft – we want an updated version of all of this for the present day. This is where Final Fantasy 14 succeeds: it presents solid, accessible fundamentals in a system of moderately complex interactions with a fabulous graphical overlay and support systems configured and documented to the Nth degree, thus rendering a superior product which appears to reflect everything that anyone who is either new to MMOs or has been playing them for a long time would want to see in order to feel welcome or “at home.”

    It’s when innovation comes at the price of fundamentals and polish that things get out of whack. It’s when communication goes by the wayside in favor of secrecy or the pedestalizing of an internal design philosophy that things become frustrating. It’s when combat is a bit too frenetic and twitchy that players feel overwhelmed, left out, and lost. FF14 gets all of these things right and is to fantasy MMOs what EVE is to space/sci-fi MMOs, in my opinion.

    You, I, and many others enjoy the game because it’s well designed, well thought out, and well documented. Not to mention that they have some pretty damned good PR.

  6. I learned that many people didn’t really want innovation or something new and completely different a long time ago, when I spoke to friends that were tired of the MUD we were playing, yet refused to try completely different styles of MUD. They would only try new MUDs that shared the same codebase, the same rules and stuff they were familiar with, under a new wrapper – and shortly after, they’d come crawling back going “oh it was too small, the community here is bigger” or “this place does it better” because it was the first MUD of that codebase and thus more established.

    But for the few and proud who really do want stuff that’s different, I’m glad there’s some games out there now that cater to that, instead of cloning and polishing.

    • I’m definitely someone that enjoys the new but it’s more that what they put in fits properly with the vision of the game, and the people they’re trying to appeal too, and of course is polished and refined within that.

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