[Translation] FFXIV Yoshida Uncensored 2 – #53

I haven’t forgotten! This one is actually about XIV :)

#53: “Rose Gold”

Published in 2016/02/18 issue

Photo by: Naoki Yoshida

Photo by: Naoki Yoshida

My iPhone is shattered into pieces. Before, I would sometimes see people with cracked phone screens and ask them how it happened. It was always hard for me to believe how they could’ve made such a mistake, so I’m really embarrassed now that it’s happened to me. A few days after it snowed in Tokyo, I was going home late at night, and as I got out of the car, my iPhone slipped out of my hand and fell. I simply dropped it. The sound it made when it crashed to the ground was foreign to me at the time, and well…

I’d always assumed that an iPhone screen wouldn’t break so easily. It was an assumption based on my subjective values, and these assumptions of mine are similarly shattered whenever I look at player data for FFXIV. In particular, the stopping point[1] data is often baffling.

FFXIV uses a monthly subscription model, so it’s crucial for us to know where and when players stop playing. Since the game isn’t free, we use things like the 14-day free trial[2] to invite prospective players to come, and we rely on them getting attached to the game. Things like boredom and lifestyle changes are inevitable in people’s lives, so when taking natural attrition[3] into consideration, we’re faced with the challenge of bringing in a constant stream of new players.

FFXIV’s opening is deliberately slow-paced. It carefully explains each and every system, to the point where experienced gamers call it boring. For example, we have quests that teach basic RPG functions like buying items from NPC shops and equipping purchased equipment. Some people might insist that players can figure things out on their own, but there are cases where FFXIV is someone’s first RPG, so there’s no such thing as being too careful.

After that, we have a quest that tells you to talk to an NPC after equipping a full set of gear with item level 5+. Right next to the quest issuer is an NPC that sells gear, and the previous quests provide you with gear for every slot except for “legs”. Basically, all you have to do is buy leg armour from the NPC that’s right there, and you can complete the quest.

However, this ended up being the #1 early-game quest where people stop playing FFXIV. Looking at all of the data trends for players who quit by level 14, you can see a clear spike in the graph at this quest—a whopping 7%. Even though the NPC tells you that you can become stronger by equipping new gear and that you can buy gear from NPC shops, there are so many games to play these days that people skip reading the text. Then, they stop playing for one of 3 reasons: they don’t know how to change their equipment, they don’t know what “item level” means, or they don’t know where to get the equipment that they need.

Additionally, near one of the starting cities of Ul’dah is a pub called “The Coffer & Coffin.” There, we have a quest where you help out the busy shopkeeper NPC by taking people’s orders. This is the #2 early-game stopping point. There’s nothing special about it—it’s just a lore quest that provides some background on the pub, and yet 6% quit here.

For this quest, you have to talk to four NPCs to take their orders. Two of them are inside the building, one of them is outside in front, and the last one is up on the observation tower on the roof (the building also serves as a watchtower). The reason why people quit here is because they can’t find that last NPC. FFXIV’s map shows quest NPC locations in real time, but the map is 2-dimensional, so we can’t indicate the altitude of that NPC. So, for a player on the 1st floor of the building, the map marker makes it look like the target NPC is also on the 1st floor, even if they’re actually on the 2nd floor.

The fact of the matter is that the NPC is on the 2nd floor, so the player doesn’t find them where the marker is. Players who are accustomed to 3D games can think “The shop has stairs, so maybe he’s on the 2nd floor?”, but gaming experience varies, and this is a complete blind spot for those who don’t figure it out. By completing this quest, players learn to search above or below when they can’t find the quest target at the marker’s location, which will help them in future quests. But those who don’t figure it out right here quit the game because they can’t finish the quest.

Games are interactive forms of entertainment, so exploring and strategizing are part of what makes them fun. But on the other hand, gaming has become a form of culture, and the increase in free-to-play games has ushered in a new generation of gamers. The meaning of “playing a game” has changed. You could say that gaming has lost one of its values.

It’s difficult to balance stress and exploration. The quests I just talked about have already been slightly modified, and now the quit rates for those two quests have dropped significantly. It’s unbelievable how much variance there is in what causes people to stop playing. From now on, we hope to continue addressing all of these different perspectives so that more players can enjoy our game.

Going back to the subject of my iPhone, it was a company-issued work phone, so I agonizingly had to request a replacement from the equipment management unit. The assistant there asked me what colour I wanted, and I said “Black, white, silver, anything’s fine.” A few days later, the same assistant informed me that my replacement device had arrived… but what I received was a rose gold iPhone…

Assistant: “It must be hard for you to come to terms with rose gold, Yoshida-san.”

Yoshida: “I did say that any colour was fine—it was my fault for dropping it and breaking it, after all. But this…”

Assistant: “I thought that this colour might suit you.”

Yoshida: “What are you seeing me as…”

Everyone has different perspectives.

[1] This is an industry-specific term that refers to the point where a player stops playing the game.

[2] Currently in 2018, the time limit has been removed, and you can play for free up to level 35 on every job.

[3] There are many reasons why people will stop playing that have nothing to do with the game itself; e.g. marriage, childbirth, going to university, getting a job, or just boredom from playing for a very long time. These are what we call natural attrition.

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