Another Final Fantasy 14 post for this weekend.
Recently I’ve been getting caught up on the 24-person raid content in the latest expansion. It still amazes/amuses me that raids of this size are so easy to put together in this game. I recall us struggling to get 20 people together for Zul’Gurub raids in World of Warcraft years ago. The mindset seemed to be that you wanted to only raid with people in your guild or in allied guilds, and if you couldn’t cobble together your four groups, you had to spam general chat in the hub towns to pick up random players to fill the gaps. Finding a taker was difficult enough sometimes, and became even more difficult if you needed something that was in higher demand like a tank or a healer.
If memory serves, one of the problems involved with taking random players were that guilds usually had points systems to allocate loot to members over time, and strangers simply don’t fit into that system. If you’re a stranger, either you get preferential treatment as an enticement to join, which is unfair to 95% of the raid who have spent weeks or even months accumulating loot points, or you get nothing at all, which is unfair to you.
The other big problem is that each side is taking a gamble on the skill level of the other. A seasoned raider whose group has the night off would likely be bored with an inexperienced group that hasn’t (or simply can’t) clear things; and an experienced group would be slowed down by taking on a stranger who they have to train. It rarely works out for either side unless there is a mutual investment of time and training in each other.
Working with random players was considered the last resort; and yet, in Final Fantasy 14, everything except the absolute hardest content can be easily accomplished via matchmaking. It seems to me that Square-Enix was essentially able to solve both of the problems described above.
All loot is rolled on equitably (with players participating in the role a drop is designed for receiving higher priority), and in newer content, loot tends to be restricted to one drop a week to prevent players from hoarding the latest and greatest things.
At the high end, drops are even more restrictive – but with just eight people in a group at that tier, it’s much easier to manage getting a consistent group together.
In terms of encounter difficulty, the game tells you, one way or another, everything that’s coming at you – whether it’s an area attack, something your group needs to stack up or split apart for, there are different markers for everything. It’s always been explained as your character having been possessed with the ability to see a brief glimpse into the future. The markers usually display for 3-5 seconds, which actually makes it quite easy to “sight read” new encounters so players have a chance to complete something on their first attempt without spending the entire time face-down. All you have to do is pay attention and be ready to run.
On extremely rare occasions though, this ability just wouldn’t manifest itself and you’d have to read the boss directly to understand what was coming. It’s usually pretty obvious though, like the boss facing one way and raising an arm in the air with the intent to swing in a wide arc directly in front of it.
It seems like the raid content in FF14 has moved towards a middle ground between those two over the years; early on the markers were obvious and would last for quite some time, but as the player base has gradually become more experienced over time, markers in newer content tend to last for maybe a second, so you need to read the boss to understand what’s coming. What this means is that instead of serving as a warning, the markers serve as an educational tool for the newbies (“this is the range of this attack so you know for next time”) or a reminder for others (“this is what you missed”). This means you have to pay far more attention than before, which makes these raids quite exhausting the first few times you do them. But as with all things, once you understand the tells, it gets easier.
And as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, as the healer, getting more familiar with this stuff means I can allocate more bandwidth to helping others recover when they don’t do something correctly.
Here’s gameplay of The Tower at Paradigm’s Breach.