While I remember, allow me to preface today’s column by informing you that if you’re on the Chaos Data Centre for Final Fantasy XIV, you can now join the Rice Digital Fellowship via the in-game Fellowship Finder if you want to chat with other members of the Rice Digital community and/or me — just search for “Rice Digital”. Come say hi and perhaps we’ll get the chance to do some stuff together sometime!
Today I’d like to talk a bit about a topic I’ve covered before in this column: Final Fantasy XIV’s community. It’s an interesting topic worth revisiting every so often because it’s something that is in a continuous state of flux, and which has very much changed its sense of “personality” as time has gone on — at times for better, at times for worse.
Right now, the community is in an especially “fluid” state due to two big reasons: firstly, the fact that several big World of Warcraft streamers have been giving Final Fantasy XIV a go for one reason or another — with varying degrees of enthusiasm — and secondly, the ongoing controversy over the legal case against Activision Blizzard, developers and publishers of the aforementioned World of Warcraft, has caused a lot of MMO enthusiasts to jump ship to Final Fantasy XIV.
Last time I talked about this, I talked about my positive experiences hanging out with VinCo, the Giant Bomb Free Company who call the Ultros server on the Primal Data Centre their home. I still poke my head in and chat to these folks now and then — not nearly often enough, if I’m honest — but I think one of the biggest things that led to my putting the game aside was the fact that my wife and I transferred to a European server — Cerberus, part of the Chaos Data Centre — when they became available, along with the small but close-knit Free Company we had joined.
Said Free Company was VinCo’s “neighbours” back on Ultros — literally; our guild houses were next to one another — so we spent a lot of time chatting and hanging out together, as well as taking on some of the game’s tougher content when we felt up to it.
My wife and I joined them not because we’d had negative experiences with VinCo — quite the opposite, as it happens — but rather because we were keen to spend some time with people who were a bit closer to home. Our new Free Company was primarily UK-based, after all, which meant it tended to be more practical for us to get together and do things rather than hoping that the mostly US-based VinCo would be around to help.
Our transfer to Cerberus went smoothly, but after a while it became clear — to me, at least, as a more casual player — that not having such a large Free Company around to chat with and support us made a marked difference to the overall atmosphere of the game. We’d all have to spent a lot more time partying up with strangers through the Duty Finder — and at the time I eventually called my first stint with the game a day, this was getting to be a bit of a hotbed for a bit of unpleasant behaviour.
Most notable was the tendency for random party members to insist on “speedrunning” dungeons as quickly as possible — pulling multiple groups of enemies without any regard for whether or not the healer, tank and/or DPS was ready to deal with that, and in some cases getting outright abusive if people didn’t play exactly the way these loudmouths wanted them to.
I get it, to an extent. You may have limited time to play each week, so you want to make as much progress as possible during the time you have available — and it can be frustrating if people who are less skilled or less well-geared than you are feel like they’re “holding you back”. But that’s the gamble you make when you jump into Duty Finder; you’re matched with people who need to run the thing you’re trying to run, and that means you might sometimes have to deal with newbies, or people who aren’t as skilled, or people who are still learning certain things about the game… or perhaps re-learning things after a break.
If you really care about efficiency, you get a group of friends together and you bash things out as quickly as possible — this is usually pretty easy to do for the 4-player dungeons but might take a little more organisation for 8-player challenges, though since these encounters rarely run for more than 10-15 minutes tops if everyone knows what they’re doing, you can usually talk people around fairly easily.
I eventually got so fed up with the negative experiences I was having with strangers while I was just trying to work my way through the game that I decided to stop playing. It’s not that I wasn’t skilled — I’d been playing since launch, had completed The Binding Coil of Bahamut and all manner of other stuff — but that sometimes, I simply wanted to take my time and enjoy the game rather than romping through it as quickly as possible. For a while, it seemed that simply wasn’t an option; I don’t really know why.
More recently, on my New Game+ run, however, I’ve noticed that this attitude feels a lot less prevalent. I’m sure it’s still there, but I’m also seeing a lot of people who are a lot more willing to admit that they are new to a dungeon or trial than they used to be — and a lot more in the way of understanding when things go wrong. At the time of writing, I just beat the Susano trial as part of Stormblood’s main story; it took us two attempts to clear it after a wipe at about 20%, and I was very surprised when absolutely no-one present got mad or ragequit the party after that first defeat.
I wonder how much of this is down to the community feeling like they need to be on their “best behaviour” to set a good example for the World of Warcraft refugees that have been flooding in since, and how much is the community as a whole generally moving in a positive direction as the game has continued to mature and advance.
Honestly, I suspect the latter. While my negative experiences around the time of Stormblood’s original launch were frustrating, they felt rather out of character when compared to what I’d previously encountered with Final Fantasy XIV’s community as a whole. Perhaps there’s also a regional thing going on here — while I haven’t experienced it myself, a number of people I know note that the “culture” on Japanese servers is very different to both European and North American servers — but on the whole, I like to think that things are settling down in a positive direction.
After all, the response to any of Yoshi-P’s public appearances along with events like FanFest and the like suggests that this is a crowd of people who genuinely love their game and want it to continue to flourish for as long as possible. That’s not something you achieve through toxicity and rage; it’s something you accomplish through nurturing the newer members of your community until they become experienced veterans too.
In a primarily co-operative game like Final Fantasy XIV, everyone wins if everyone treats one another well; there’s really little sense in being a dick to others. And judging by my recent experiences, I feel like the community has, on the whole, figured that out once and for all.
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