I think I’m going to go for a M/W/F schedule for this (instead of the 2-day thing I had going on before which led to the days shifting every week).
#67: “Two Sides of a Paper-Thin Coin – Part 1”
Published in 2016/09/15 issue
FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn celebrates its 3rd launch anniversary on August 27, 2016. It’s already been six years since the 1.0 alpha test, and so much has happened since then.
This August, I stayed in the city of Cologne, Germany to attend Europe’s largest gaming event, gamescom. The event is five days long, from a Wednesday until a Sunday, and the first day is for industry and media only (as well as a few lucky gamers decided by lottery, apparently). One of the event’s unique characteristics is that the venue is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., much longer than usual. For the first three days, I was completely trapped in the interview room, answering questions from media outlets from many countries. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the third day that I could show my face at the FFXIV booth.
Since this year’s gamescom fell close to August 27th, it felt like a lot of interviews were about reflecting on the past three years of ARR.
“Are you satisfied with what you’ve accomplished in these past three years?”
“Did you think you could achieve this much success in such an unforgiving market?”
“What were the best and worst things that happened in these three years?”
“It feels like the patch cycle is changing. Will these challenges continue?”
And so on. An amusing situation was when the games representative from the Guinness World Records came, wanting to publish us under some sort of record. (It costs money to apply by yourself, but if they approach you like this, it’s free.)
For every media outlet I spoke with, “three years” felt like some sort of cut-off point for an MMORPG. Now that I think about it, looking at all of the MMORPGs that have been successful, three years does feel like a turning point.
The first year represents a daring start. We have to develop new content while juggling all of the little problems that crop up when the game launches. In the second year, we broaden our development regions and further enlarge the scope to our first expansion pack release. The third year is when the MMORPG’s operations have either stabilized or it’s time to establish policies. It’s highly likely that any MMORPG that’s progressing smoothly will follow this path, not just FFXIV.
MMORPGs that ride the wave of stable management will be forced to grapple with the aforementioned policy establishment as well as player tedium. Stable game management equates to a fixed rhythm—there won’t be any ups and downs or major changes.
The first year of operations benefits from the newness factor: the game is fun because it’s new, and during this starting period, the occasional instabilities that come up can also be seen as part of the fun. In the second year, you can see rapid progress with the release of the expansion pack. New maps, stories, and characters are added. However, from the third year on, there are gradually fewer brand-new experiences. Players start to think that everything feels the same. This is why people say they get bored of a game after they’ve become accustomed to everything it has to offer.
Everything develops tedium. No matter how much you love a certain food, if you eat it every day for every meal, you’ll not only get tired of it—at some point you’ll come to hate it. When you buy a new bicycle or car that you’re really into, after continuing to use it for 3-4 years, you’ll gradually start wanting a new one. You may even get tired of a sworn partner whom you love from the bottom of your heart if they’re always clinging to you every day (although there are some people who wouldn’t).
Of course, boredom is subjective. People who feel that every day is a fresh experience because they can discover new things and surprises on their own tend to not get bored of things; they can see everything in a positive light. Most people are not like this. Most people gradually succumb to boredom and then cannot escape its clutches. What’s worse is that this boredom comes even faster the more stable your lifestyle is, because there are no new stimuli.
It’s been three whole years since FFXIV’s rebirth, and now we’re drifting in the zone between stability, regulation, and innovation. New players have a huge amount of content ahead of them so I doubt they’ll be feeling bored, but I think the players who’ve been here for three years straight are feeling it to some degree.
At gamescom, I went outside for a smoke and a handsome gamer who looked like he was in his mid-30s posed me a question:
“Mr. Yoshida, I’m a huge FFXIV fan, but sorry, I’m taking a break from the game right now because I played it for so long and it was getting hard to continue. Is there any trick to staying with the game? Something that would motivate me?”
I thought about it for a bit before deciding to answer with what I truly thought. The conversation was in English, so I struggled to come up with the words.
“You don’t have to force yourself to play every day. It’s just a game, so if you’re not having fun, stop. If anything, there are so many games being released that it’s more stressful to limit yourself to just one. So, it’s fine to play through all of the new patch content in one go and quit before you get bored of it. You can then play other games and come back for the next major patch. That would make me the happiest, and I think that ends up being the trick to playing a game for as long as possible.”
The handsome gamer seemed astounded: “This is the first time I’ve seen a producer tell me to stop playing his game and go play other ones. But I promise I’ll come back for Patch 3.4!”
However, the advice I gave the handsome gamer was ultimately just a strategy for delaying boredom. A way of postponing it by not devoting yourself to one single person or thing that you love; by maintaining a moderate distance from it. This is a tactic for the player to use to stave off boredom. The real issue is that it’s our job as the development team to prioritize “not letting the player feel bored” above all else.
Of course, as Producer and Director, I believe the time has come for me to gather my thoughts on the tedium that comes from stability and regulation, and how we can challenge it. But on the other hand, stability is a form of continued happiness, while challenging it carries the risk of ruination. How will FFXIV balance these? Which direction will we take? …Find out next time!