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Final Fantasy XIV – One Bad Apple Spoils the Hunt

I have two major reasons I play MMORPGs.  The first is roleplaying; this is what keeps me in a game. I tend to leave MMOs as soon as the RP dries up, because writing a character is as interesting to me as anything else. This also extends to community, which is a big part of being on a roleplaying server. The second is the PvE content of the game. I’m not much of a PvPer. I offset my competitive side to fighting games and Dark Souls in that avenue. I prefer to work with the player base around me and collectively, we can conquer goals we couldn’t alone – which often ends up factored into my roleplay as well.

This is a lot of my difficulty with the hunting system implemented in Patch 2.3 of Final Fantasy XIV. This is not a system built with player cooperation in mind. This system is built to benefit those with the highest end machines and those who are willing to anger an entire group of people just to get their credit for an enemy.

To those who are unfamiliar, let me explain. In Patch 2.3, Square Enix added hunting to the game. A mob spawns at Level 50 anywhere in the world, and is worth a certain number of points for each kill. This is also a very fast way for one to get the seals necessary to get through the first block of end-game gearing. Certain mobs have certain spawn timers and prerequisites for spawning, and are ranked between B and S, depending on life and difficulty to kill. B Rank enemies are made for one group, A Ranks are one alliance (around 24 people) and S Ranks are multiple alliances.

So far it seems relatively simple, and if that were all it was, it would be. However, what should have began as an exercise in cooperation has instead become the most competitive event I have taken place in that wasn’t Street Fighter.

The hunting tends to offer significant rewards – so much so, that Square Enix is considering nerfing the rewards themselves. However, its greatest reward comes from the use of hunting marks, which can be turned in to obtain Blood-Spattered Mark Logs. These mark logs can then be turned into this:

The Sands of Time, eh...

Splattered with the blood of the players you killed to get it.

The item that my cursor is pointing at is a Sands of Time, which allows one to upgrade the second tier of equipment to a better piece of gear. These were originally only dropped in the Binding Coil of Bahamut raid, which is the ultimate end-game for FFXIV. They are some of the most valuable items in the game and now that the hunting system is released, they’re fairly easy to get. Around two hours of concentrated work is now worth a ten point upgrade for any piece of gear in your arsenal; even less if it’s a non-armor piece, which is upgraded by Oil of Time for two logs instead of three.

In essence, this makes hunting one of the most profitable ways one can spend their time in FFXIV, and that would be true, were it not for the differing capacities in which people play. Final Fantasy XIV is a multi-console MMORPG, playable on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC. This means that a wide variety of hardware is running this game, and as such loading speeds tend to wildly vary. Hunting on Balmung tends to follow a particular pattern. The mob is found, the initial people who found it call out its location and ask for patience. This holds for around a minute until one person charges in and launches a ranged attack at the mob. This launched attack causes everyone currently in attendance to rush the mob at full power, trying desperately to get their own credit out of it.

As a reference point, this is what a small mob of players looks like before a hunting mark is found.

Bloody Mary, that name'll be appropriate soon.

This poor thing has no idea what is coming.

No less than fifteen seconds later, that mark has been transformed into this.

Now the name's appropriate!

Yep. Had no idea what was coming.

Patience is something few on Balmung seem to have for the hunts. Inevitably, someone will launch an attack at the mob, everyone will kill it, and some people will be left out, having no return on the teleportation money they just spent. Now, it’s true we can’t accommodate everyone, but this has a negative effect on the community as a whole. Some people lash out at the attacker who cost their friend hunt marks, trying to publicly shame him. Some people make these attacks just to cause problems. Others are just sad they haven’t gotten anything in a while, because they’re on PS3 and they load slowly.

Regardless of the effects of the system, the hunting in FFXIV causes division and angst within the community as a whole, and that’s a problem in my eyes. As I’ve said before, you won’t remember all of the grinding and the stress of trying to get one damned Atma to freakin’ drop, but you will remember when it dropped. A persistent stressful situation, like trying to play catch-up to the mob mentality while others freely take what they can, will stay with you. The community of Balmung has seen a noticeable fragmenting since the hunts were released.  Guilds are becoming more insular, and your linkshells are now vital to your success as a player as they’re the fastest way to gain calls on hunts.  This has a worrying effect on me. An MMO is massively multiplayer, and while there is something to be called multiplayer at these events, it is much more competitive than it is cooperative.

That being said, these hunts are far from all bad. Oftentimes at night, when older players are up and the population has culled a bit, the hunt becomes very enjoyable. Pulls are done at the right time with a bit of patience involved, and players tend to be friendly and amiable towards each other as we invite each other to voice chats and spend the night joking and earning seals. This is the positive side of it all, but it doesn’t happen enough.

So then, what is the cure to the problem? How do we solve the problem of a greedy community? I’ve come to the opinion that the best way to do so is to encourage good behavior. Publicly comment when a pull goes off at the right time. Express your troubles privately with your fellow players if they’re playing against the system. If they refuse to cooperate, maybe head elsewhere for a bit, try doing something else.  It’s a big game world after all, there’s tons to do. They’ll eventually get tired of it and you’ll be able to rejoin the hunt. However, don’t let it stress you out. This was my initial problem, I let the small losses of points get to me. We’re going to be hunting points for the rest of our MMO careers though, so there’s no reason for that.

Relax, have fun, and try your best to enjoy the hunt. Ultimately, it’s a game made to be enjoyed, and it should be. If the hunt system gives you grey hair, like it did me for a time, then step back from it all for a moment. Those books aren’t worth the stress you have to go through to get them at times. Encourage the good players, confront the bad ones, and do the best you can to make sure that this feature, like the others in this game, is well-received.

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