It’s easy to find a reason to turn a normal offline game into an MMO. I mean, who doesn’t want to play with friends in their favorite game? To me, that alone is enough to wish a game was an MMO. So, what possible reason could make an MMO a desirable offline experience? Well that’s what I’ll be exploring in this article.
What got me thinking about this topic is time in Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve never been a stranger to the Final Fantasy series, and with my love for MMOs, it’s only natural that I’m so drawn to it. However, in playing the game and meeting the people that I have, I’ve learned this isn’t always the case for everyone. Many players are just in it because it was the hottest MMO they could find - with no knowledge of the FInal Fantasy series. Yet, others are playing it solely because it’s a Final Fantasy game.
What I’ve personally noticed, however, is that the ones who are drawn to it because it’s a FF game generally struggle more with the game. They often quit before getting to enjoy it to the fullest extent. I’ve also experienced many people tell me how they’ve played every Final Fantasy game other than XI and XIV (the two MMOs), because they felt they didn’t have the time nor energy to devote to playing such a game. MMOs are still often seen as lifesucking, souldraining games that consumes one’s life. Which, to be fair, they do require much more dedication and time than other genres.
While I personally love XIV as it is and would much prefer to play it in it’s glorious MMO state, I can understand why some people may not want to, especially when it comes to hardcore fans of the series. But how?
Alright, so not everyone wants to commit to an MMO, but sometimes still want the experience and story of the latest entry into a series they love. Especially when those titles are considered “main entries” and not just some spinoff. So how could this be accomplished? How could FFXIV fair if it weren’t an MMO?
Let’s start with what I feel draws the majority of Final Fantasy players in. The riveting and engaging stories. Out of every Final Fantasy, I find XIV to have my second favorite story in the series (with my favorite being X). It has great characters with development and depth, plot twists, thought-provoking events, with just the right amount of comedy in it to help lighten the mood when needed. However, to make it single player friendly I’d say it could use some changes.
To begin, it’s very bloated. In order to keep the story around while leveling and progressing in all of the other ways that players often do in MMOs, there is what feels like random bloat with no other purpose than to remind you that yes, the main story does infact exist. It feels very similar to how fillers in your favorite show may feel. Now, while I do feel they’re necessary for the MMO environment, I’d say in an offline setting, they need to go.
Next, the story isn’t exactly finished. Generally when a game is released, it’s expected to have the ending already there (although, especially with early-access games, this may be a thought slowly leaving the gaming community). Well, since MMOs keep things developing for years, the story isn’t exactly released all at the same time. If everything released at once, what would players have to continually look forward to that could keep them for those years and years? But… when playing an offline game, I don’t generally expect to spend years on that one game.
One exception to this is story DLC. I think this would be the best system to go for an offline FFXIV. The game could release with the base story, then the A Realm Reborn story could be DLC, followed, of course, by each expansion reworked as story DLC. While it’s not a perfect solution, it is one we’re starting to commonly see and I think the only way a story as massive and constantly evolving as much as XIV’s could possibly work. I mean, when I bought The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I had figured that the game would end once I beat Ganon. Though, I’ve recently learned from Nintendo announcements that isn’t necessarily the case, as new story DLC is slated to release this year.
Battles & Mechanics
For the most part I feel as though the battle system in XIV would be easily translated into a single player experience. A lot of this probably stems from the fact that it is also on PS3 and PS4, rather than just PC, so it has a pretty nice feel on controller. I think the two biggest issues would be class/job balance; and dealing with mechanics and systems that are obviously meant for multiple players.
It might seem a little silly, and be a bit hard to balance, if a healer job could beat the game as easily and at a similar pace of that of a DPS or tank. It may also seem ridiculous that a DPS or tank could survive at all, with no healer. The monsters and areas would definitely need a major difficulty adjustment to allow for single-player playability, but, I think the way it could avoid having to have an entire rehauling of the system would be to expand on a system that is already in the game - the squadrons.
As is, when you get rather far into the game, you can start to build a squadron of different classes. You can recycle them until you find ones that fit your desires, as well as train them to be what you want. You can then send your squad on missions to bring you back various sorts of items. But, what if you could take your squad with you places? It’s already been discussed and hinted at during interviews with the producer, so it isn’t too hard to imagine getting to actually play with these NPCs that you develop bonds with.
Then, If this squadron system were implemented earlier in the game, say before your first dungeon, you could have some AI-Squad members to do content with. It wouldn’t be too far off how games like Dragon Age work. You play the main character, and have a team full of A.I. to back up and assist you. Maybe even throw in some commands to help guide them in their A.I. making decisions, such as “Focus attacks on my target!” or “Focus on support and healing!”
This way, someone wanting to play heals could do so and play that role of support while having the NPCs do the majority of the brute force. Likewise, a DPS oriented player could have the NPCs heal them.
Now, sadly it’s incredibly difficult and time consuming to make A.I. that is smart as all hell. Which is why I’d say that it’d be incredibly unreasonable to imagine the game could keep the level of mechanics and teamwork that it currently has. This is why not only would the difficulty of monsters need to be reduced, but of the environments themselves. In the current game, we see mechanics in almost every fight that require player A to be in one position and player B to be in another, and these positions even depend on the situation. These obviously would have to go, and focus only on the main player doing the mechanics right, and requiring the NPCs to only do their primary job correctly.
Though, even with the mechanics eased I could see how many of them would still be very confusing and frustrating to players. I mean, how the heck are you supposed to know you have to stop attacking when the move Blighted Bouquet is being cast? Props to whoever figured that one out. I think in order to help deal with these, it could have systems similar to what we see in Dark Souls and Persona 5. In Dark Souls, you have the option to take the game online and see messages left by other players - often warning you before a boss (at least when they’re not just telling you to “Praise the Sun!”). In Persona 5, you can see the events of other players for the day and even ask them for assistance should certain events occur, such as having a teammate taken hostage.
For this single player FFXIV, it could be nice to have a messaging board somewhere in the major cities where other players can leave their suggestions and comments on the various mechanics. It wouldn’t be a requirement, but could prove helpful for certain fights, while also providing a sense of community without all of the MMO aspects.
For the most part, if the battle mechanics and story were adjusted in a few (although major) ways, Final Fantasy XIV could a very fun and open world single-player entry to the series. Sadly, I do feel that the game would greatly suffer if it were not an MMO, but could however stand on its own and provide a way for fans of the series that aren’t up to playing an online game to still manage to enjoy the story and world.