Final Fantasy XIV Game Systems: Layers of complexity

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Game Play Systems in FFXIV:ARR

An Answer to the “It’s just a [insert game] clone” argument

When you begin your adventures in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (ARR), your character has a single class with a single ability.  Your game play in the first hours is driven by a series of quests provided by the non player characters (NPC’s) in your home city.

These quests can be found by looking for quest indicators hovering over the NPC’s head.  They are there to ease you into the game and prevent you from being overwhelmed in your first few hours in Eorzea.

This process continues throughout the first ten levels of the game.  Find a quest, complete a quest, find a new quest hub, etc.  For experienced MMO players it feels very familiar, this is by design.  It leads some of those players to conclude that ‘oh, this is just [insert a highly popular MMO] wrapped around Final Fantasy themed art.’

That, though, is an incorrect conclusion.

The often mistaken takeaway in the first few levels of the game is that this is a quest hub game.  This leads to the conclusion that the game’s progression is solo-quest to max level and then do dungeons and raids ad nauseum while waiting for the next expansion or the next shiny MMO promising to do something different.

Make no mistake, this game has quest hubs.  You can, if you choose, play those quest hubs throughout much of the game.  The quest hubs, though, are hardly the entirety of the game.  Rather, they are the tip of an iceberg and the only thing visible when you begin.

Every ten levels or so, Final Fantasy XIV: ARR expands and adds a new layer of game systems.  These new systems offer new ways to play the game.  Some of these systems are familiar to MMO players, others are familiar to FFXI players, some are unique to FFXIV.  By the time you are at the level 30 point, there exists quite a number of things to do.

You didn’t have a ton of them dropped on you at once, but here they are all the same.  You are going to like and show up to do some of these more than others.  You may find that you skip some of these entirely.  Indeed, I hate quest hubs, I absolutely detest them.  In Beta-3, I quested (out of necessity) through level 15.  I reached level 35 on my Gladiator and darn near that with an Armorer while also knocking off a couple of dozen levels on a few other classes.

I didn’t complete a single quest hub after 15th level on my main character (I could have, I just didn’t).  Instead, I took advantage of other game systems that opened up.  Sure, I completed the story line arcs for my classes, but I don’t mind story line quests (for those curious, I absolutely enjoy epic item quests).  I also ran a ton of dungeons, participated in FATE, finished guildhests and just generally played the game in a way that felt fun.

Game Systems as Layered Content

In this post, I want to depict what we know about the game systems in FFXIV by showing when they open.  I find myself discussing layers whenever I talk about this game and there are clearly layers in the content system.  Over the remainder of this post, I discuss the game play systems available in each ten level layer.  Some of this (the 30+ piece) is based on developer discussions, everything from 1-30 is based on game play in the Beta-3 sessions.

Game systems by level

Level 1-10, Solo All the Way (aka “this feels like a [insert game] clone”)

The first levels of the game are designed for solo play.  You can cooperate with other players and you can jump into parties for some of the game play during the starting hours.  Class and City Duty quests, though, necessitate solo play.  During these levels you are introduced to important NPC’s in each city as well as making your initial contacts with the overarching band of good guys (and gals).

ffxiv 2013-07-05 09-51-20-67


Since you spend a good portion of your first ten levels proving yourself to the Adventuring Guild in your hometown and the Class Guild for your starting class, it’s largely a solo trek.  There are three game systems open to you in the first ten levels of the game, quests, FATE, and hunting log.

Quests are the standard MMO quest hubs that I discussed at the start of this article.  The world around your starting city has dozens of NPC’s each needing help.  Helping these people provides experience points, gil (the currency in FFXIV) and occasional items.  Some of these quests also introduce yourself to, and entrench yourself with, key NPC’s in the game world.  It’s very standard MMO content, fetch quests, delivery quests, kill quests, etc.

ffxiv 2013-06-28 13-44-41-35


FATE, short for Fully Active Time Events, are the FFXIV take on dynamic content.  FATE events pop up around the world, your compass updates you when they appear and points the way to them.  Completing FATE provides xp and gil.  Early on FATE are quite simple, typically of the “hey there’s a swarm of [creature], go kill them.”  FATE events become gradually more intricate, with fort assaults and village defenses occurring in some of the level 30+ FATE I witnessed.

You will very likely encounter FATE within your first moments outside your home city.  These events happen frequently near the city borders as well as near the starting quest encampments.  Following the progression of FATE in a zone will help pull you off the roads and beaten paths and help you find some of the more tucked away parts of Eorzea.



Your Hunting Log becomes available around 5th level.  From that point on, you get a new hunting log every 10 levels.  Each log has 10-pages and each page requires you to explore the world and kill certain monsters.  Completing a page rewards you with XP and gil, completing the 10-pages in the log awards you with yet another bonus.

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12 Responses to Final Fantasy XIV Game Systems: Layers of complexity

  1. Zavier says:

    Just wanted to let you know it’s Dzemael Darkhold, and the D is silent which should help with spelling it in the future, I know that helps me. This was confirmed by Fernehawles in a lore podcast , .
    Just looking out, this article is really good, so I just wanted the spelling to reflect that also, so don’t see this as me criticizing you! Just trying to help out.

  2. golfmike says:

    Really nice job on this rundown of what is and is likely to come for FFXIV:ARR!

  3. Dark Vincent says:

    “Once you join a GC, FATE starts paying seals for completion”
    This is false guys… It was only like this for Phase 3, because other content was restricted and they needed a way to test out the GC mechanics.

    We’ve been discussing this on reddit as well:

    • Ryahl says:

      At the moment, the removal of seals from FATE is speculative.

      In Beta-3 there were conflicting messages in the client, one when you joined your GC and one in the help menu related to your GC (one says its temporary, the other suggesting its a normal feature). I’m working on getting a clarification on this as I have seen references to lowering the rate of seals for FATE. So, for the moment, we’re leaving the Fate/Seal link in place. As soon as it’s confirmed for removal (or if B4 starts and they don’t) we’ll drop the references.

      My hunch is that it was done as a temporary thing, but may be gaining some headway as just being a good overall idea. Seals make FATE more interesting and make sense thematically as well.

    • Sindele says:

      It’s also worth noting that the in-game tooltip that said this said it was only for phase *2*, and yet it was still in P3 from start to finish.

  4. Eye says:

    FATE events = Full Active Time Event events

  5. Solus Isbjorn says:

    Fantastic read. Great write-up!

  6. Zhronne says:

    Really interesting article, very well written and useful for future references or just to introduce friends to the rich world that is FFXIV:ARR
    If I may add to that though, it’s also very (and unwillingly/unawaringly) biased.
    You step into FFXIV with a great level of detail saying this game is completely different from other MMOs and blaming those people for being superficial, which is ok and I concur with that.
    But then you do the same mistake by doing your best trying to show how FFXIV ARR is so much different and better than everything else. In doing so, you are being too hasty and “superficial” in judging other MMOs.

    To the question “is FFXIV ARR a WoW Clone?” my answer is both a Yes and a No at the same time, depends what you mean.
    The game is of course very different in the end (luckily!) from WoW, but it follows the same exact model created by WoW and complies to the same standards.
    So while FFXIV adds a plethora of JP culture-inspired things to that layer, the core underneath it’s exactely the same and this too is by design.

    This is the main difference that’s creating the debate between FFXI, old FFXIV and FFXIV ARR.
    FFXI did things on his own, it didn’t follow any model.
    FFXIV tried to do the same and utterly failed.
    FFXIV ARR didn’t even try to do that, tried to comply as much as possible to nowadays standards to appeal the largest audience possible and get players from other games, making them feel “home”.

    It’s a different “philosophy” compared to FFXI and original FFXIV, but the final result is undoubtely much more successful.

    • Valnaire says:

      “FFXI did things on his own, it didn’t follow any model.”

      They specifically tried to recreate the feeling of Everquest with the world of Final Fantasy.

      “FFXIV tried to do the same and utterly failed.”

      FFXIV tried to follow FFXI’s model, with updated graphics. Unfortunately, the EQ-like slow grind of leveling has decreased in popularity due to mainstream MMOs like WoW revolutionizing leveling with an overflow of content from start to finish.

      A Realm Reborn, from Yoshi-P’s own admission, is shamelessly taking the best of what people have enjoyed in other MMO’s and combining it with the deep story and game systems of Final Fantasy.

      I applaud this man for his design intentions.

      • Ryahl says:

        FFXI absolutely was an attempt to recreate EQ in the FF universe.

        FFXIV didn’t try to do FFXI with better graphics, which was what I suspect a number of people hoped it would do. XIV originally attempted to be a casual MMO to XI’s more hardcore model. The leve system, fatigue, and other in-game mechanics were designed to avoid grinding.

        That said, when I argue that FFXIV:ARR isn’t just another WoW clone I am arguing against that as a pejorative. Often when that phrase is invoked, it is done negatively in a “just” model. Checking the beta boards, where some of this has finally quieted down, that term was a frequently used derisive term. It also often boils down to treating the game as a quest-to-max, then do dungeons game model.

        That’s not what FFXIV:ARR is. Although to ignore that WoW has an influence would be nearly as bad of a sin. In that I agree.

        • Valnaire says:

          It would be a sin, but it’s not a bad thing… 14 million subscriptions at its peak does not make WoW a bad game. WoW did a lot of things right, a lot of things wrong too, but a lot of things right.

          The important thing is that they seem to be taking ONLY the good from WoW, just like they are every other game they’re bringing inspiration from.

          This is why the game is so damn fun… They took the best of what people loved from dozens of other MMOs, even the ones that failed.

  7. Ryahl says:

    Often, the mistake people make when thinking about borrowing from WoW, GW2, or any other game is the assumption that borrowing one idea means borrowing the whole thing.

    WoW and GW2 each did a number of very good things. You don’t have to like either game to see that. Some of the things each did well appeal to a very specific audience, others represent things that very easily should become industry standards.

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