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FFXIV Poll Raises Questions

The Player's Poll shows developers are listening, but do they know what to do?

In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, we learned new information about Final Fantasy XIV would hit the Lodestone Web site on New Year’s Day.

We were hoping for answers, but all we got were more questions – literally.

Players who checked The Lodestone on New Year’s Day found the Final Fantasy XIV Player’s Poll. The online survey asks players about their previous gaming experiences, their favorite pastimes in Eorzea and which updates they would like to see happen first. Posted along with the survey was a greeting from FFXIV producer Naoki Yoshida.

Reaction to the survey has been mixed, and for good reason. On one hand, continued communication from the development team is a great thing. In fact, communication is the one thing Square Enix can do right now to make the FFXIV experience remarkable. On the other hand, I would feel better knowing the development team was working around the clock toward accomplishing a clear set of goals – and how can that be happening if the development team is asking us for directions?

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Then there’s the opening of the third paragraph of Yoshida’s Lodestone post, which states: “As part of the new direction promised, we here on the development and management teams have adopted four new keywords for Final Fantasy XIV: fun, live, reboot and rebuild.” Then, the last question of the Player’s Poll asks whether players would accept changes that “drastically alter the way we know Eorzea.”

Is that cryptic, or is that cryptic?

When anticipating the New Year’s Day Lodestone post, I was hoping for another outline of upcoming updates for Final Fantasy XIV. I wanted to find out when new quests would be coming, and whether we would get any new events, battlefields or other features during the next few months. More than anything, I was hoping for confirmation that updates would come faster and sooner than originally planned.

All of those things were included in the Player’s Poll, but with absolutely no indication of when to expect anything – and with a vague hint that everything might change.

Also unclear is whether Square Enix plans to blindly follow the will of Lodestone users. The lack of an auction house in FFXIV has been the source of numerous online debates; I dedicated an entire editorial as to why an auction house should be implemented. Really though, implementing an auction house shouldn’t take precedence over adding content to the game. But if enough irate gamers checked the auction house box on their surveys, does that mean it could be another several months before there are more things to do in game? Will the development team be wise enough to take the Player’s Poll results with a huge grain of salt?

The Player’s Poll proves the development team is aware of the task at hand. If each issue on the poll is addressed in a timely manner, then this game can still be great. I also appreciate the casual tone of Yoshida’s message. However, I certainly hope this poll is followed by actual information. What is the development team’s plan for FFXIV? How does this survey fit into that?

And what is all this talk of “reboot and rebuild”? That doesn’t exactly encourage me to log in and spend hours a week playing. If there’s one thing that can deter me from playing, it’s the threat that everything I’ve accomplished in game could be negated by a version update. Everyone who has played this game since launch deserves to know the extent of a possible FFXIV reboot.

That said, I marked on my survey that I would welcome dramatic changes to the game. It’s not that I’m unhappy with the game in its current state. In fact, I’m quite happy with the gameplay and user interface. We must remember though that FFXIV was recently given a new development team, and this new team should have the freedom to take this game in the direction it sees fit. If that means making some wholesale changes to crafting, the battle system or anything else in the game, then now’s the time to do it, while we’re all still playing for free.

To say this game got off to a bad start is an understatement, but the November and December updates left me feeling confident about where FFXIV is heading. The development team was upfront about upcoming changes to the game, and then developers delivered on those promises. That, perhaps more than the updates, told players that Eorzea was here to stay.

Now, though, I can’t help but feel there are more questions than answers.