Why Is MMO Still A Better Option for Final Fantasy XIV?
Few, if any, stories of self-improvement and redemption can compete with that of Final Fantasy XIV. Square Enix’s second MMORPG went from being one of its biggest flops to becoming a cornerstone of its future. With the arrival of A Realm Reborn and the farewell to the original game, a lot changed for the better, but whenever we look back, we remember that there was one particular aspect of its predecessor that is as little known as it is amazing when seen in motion.
The first version of FF 14—which we will never be able to play anymore—was so disastrous that Square Enix had to go to desperate measures. With technical issues, a massive lack of content, and a very messy interface, it’s clear that the transition to Naoki Yoshida’s team was for the better. Ironically, it was precisely this inability to balance all of its elements that brought about some of the best action scenes we’ve seen in an MMO.
Final Fantasy XIV was ambitious, perhaps too much
Unlike its peers, Final Fantasy XIV places a heavy emphasis on plot—so much so that some gamers insist it’s an RPG first and an MMO second, not the other way around. With many hours of video scenes, it is difficult to find a balance between the narrative and the playable, especially when we talk about budgets. Final Fantasy XIV cutscenes typically use a ton of pre-made poses and animations, but did you know that wasn’t always the case? The first version of the game had an extremely ambitious motion capture.
If there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s that the game’s original team lacked a crucial key point for an online RPG to succeed: experience with the genre. Being one of the most complicated and laborious types of video games to create, doing it without following any of the already working schemes of its peers led to a lot of design flaws and extravagant decisions. Using motion capture for all of his video scenes was one of them.
More usual in the “of a lifetime” Final Fantasy than in an MMO, Square Enix’s clumsiest project since The Inner Force had several hours of videos with highly elaborated animations and frankly spectacular camera work. If you’ve played the current FFXIV, we recommend taking a look at the video we’ve added above to compare. Around minute 2:40 you have one of these sequences, and it won’t take you long to realize the difference in quality compared to the game we enjoy today.
But why isn’t Endwalker like that? It’s been 10 years since then and we still haven’t reached the same height as the resounding flop that was version 1.0 of the game. The reason is, in fact, very simple: money. Motion capture is titanically expensive and, as we said earlier, MMOs are huge games, absolute budget pits where not balancing the bills can lead to disaster. This is exactly what happened with the first Final Fantasy XIV. Naoki Yoshida’s team opted to be less ambitious in their cinematic presentation by taking the reins to balance spending, and it’s a winning equation that has worked like a charm ever since.
Even so, looking back and taking a mental walk through Final Fantasy XIV is a more than satisfying exercise in digital archaeology for MMO fans. There is a lot to unearth there, and we still have stories to tell about this game that wanted to break the mold of the genre.