There have been plenty of articles and Youtube videos comparing Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft. I’m not trying to do a comprehensive guide to the two games, but compare them on two key areas that I find interesting. I played Wow for many years. I finally left in December 2017 when Universal Level scaling was introduced. But with all the hype surrounding the upcoming Wow “Shadowlands” expansion, I’ve had some thoughts about how FFXIV and Wow compare and how I think Blizzard is messing up again with their designs.
I’ll talk about two key areas and compare the two games:
- Gear Upgrades and New Expansions
- Class Specs and Talents
There are some important differences between the games that World of Warcraft could learn from as they move forward to Shadowlands and beyond.
Gear Upgrades and New Expansions
Wow Expansion and Gear Progression
My first experience with the issue of Gear Upgrades with a new expansion was while playing Wow when the Pandaria expansion was released. I was max level in Cataclysm when Pandaria came out. It turned out that starting Pandaria with max level – Casual – or Quest gear from Cataclysm was quite a shock. The monsters were way too strong for the Cataclysm gear, at least the gear that I had from questing and dungeons. It turns out that the initial Pandaria experience was targeted to players who had the End Game RAID gear. So to make it possible to get going for those of us who did not have that end-game gear, the first quest gear rewards where about twice as strong as the gear that I had from the previous expansion. All MMOs have this problem if the End-Game gear is much stronger than the normal gear.
Wow has had this problem with each new expansion. The solution above was the solution that appeared with Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, and Legion expansions. But then they introduced “Level Scaling” where the monsters scaled to your level everywhere. I have not played across an “Expansion Boundary” since Level Scaling was introduced, so I’m not sure how this affects the experience.
Gear progression is a related problem. How do you get and upgrade your new gear as you progress in an expansion. In Wow, each expansion has introduced a new way to enhance your gear. Legion introduce Artifact Weapons, BFA introduced Azerite, and now with Shadowlands, they are introducing Covenants.
If all this seems confusing, join the crowd. There has been a lot of argument and contention about these schemes over the years.
FFXIV Gear Progression
With FFXIV, a new set of gear appears with each new expansion with a new currency for that expansion. But then all the previous currencies are collapsed into one “Legacy Currency” that can purchase gear for all previous expansions. The gear for each expansion is purchased for these tomes at a set of NPCs for that expansion. These tomes can be gotten in a variety of ways, but by far the best way is to do a daily “Roulette” “Main Scenario Quest” or MSQ Dungeon and a “Roulette” Dungeon run. Three of four of these runs are required to get a full set of gear for the max level of that expansion. RAID or Savage Dungeon gear is more powerful, but this Tome gear is powerful enough to progress to the next expansion.
With FFXIV a character is able to play all jobs, not just one class, so gear progression is not a “One Time Problem” for your class, but a problem for every job that you play on your character as you level all those jobs. More on that later as we discuss jobs.
The only downside of this method is the small number of choices for MSQ Dungeons to run. There are only two. So players tend to spam the Roulettes for for Tomes each day. The boosted tome and XP rewards are limited to once per day, although you can spam the dungeons without limit for the normal XP and Tome rewards. Special events sometimes drop other event rewards that cause folks to spam these dungeons over and over all day long for the Event Tomes.
Nothing Random About it
But it’s interesting to note that there is nothing Random involved in the rewards or the Gear Drops in FFXIV. No gear drops in the roulette dungeons. You take the Tome currency to an NPC and purchase exactly the gear or upgrade pieces that you need for the job you would like to gear up. There are random drops in FFXIV dungeons, but these are cosmetic or there are non-random ways to gear your jobs.
Wow Players have been annoyed for many years over the changing nature of Random gear drops in Wow.
Specializations and Talents vs Jobs
Wow Specializations and Talents
During the entire time that I played Wow, each expansion, and sometimes between expansions, the Specializations and Talents were changed, sometimes to loud outcry from the player base. Just to review, Specializations are changes to the Skills of a class to favor a different game play style. Talents are a set of choices that allow some player agency within the chosen Specialization.
The goals of both Specs and Talents is to make “No Advantage” to playing any particular Spec or Talent choice. Over the history of the changes, it became clear that if there is an advantage in DPS output or Healing ability, for example, for any particular Spec or set of Talent choices, then that advantage will be quickly documented and all informed players will adopt those choices. So these Choices of Specs and Talents become choices without a difference. Thus removing any real player agency.
FFXIV does not have Specs or Talents within a “Job” which is akin to a Wow Class. Rather, every character has access to all jobs to play. So player choice is the choice to play any job you like, and to switch at will. Anytime you are out of combat, not in a dungeon or other instance, whether out in the world, or in a city, you can instantly, for no cost of any kind, switch jobs. So, for example, if you are riding along as a Gunbreaker [Tank Job], and you see a player struggling along the road with a FATE [open world event], you can drop off your mount, switch to a healer job instantly, and heal that person or resurrect them on the spot. The only requirement is that you have adopted that job as something you would like to play and to have leveled that job to an appropriate level to play in the area where you are. Obviously you won’t be much help if you are in a level 30-40 area and your healer job is only level 5.
For each “Role”: Tank, Healer or Damage, there are several choices, as you see above. These are the “Specs” or Specializations that you can choose from, or play them all. Your choice.
Many times along the way, FFXIV has “Balanced” the various jobs and changed their play and skills. In general there has not been “outcry” from the player base. Usually these changes have been made because of input from the FFXIV player base.
World of Warcraft’s Problem, and the Solution
So, Wow has had this problem for a long time: Choosing Specs and Talents to give players choice. But make the “Choices” make no difference in power or the most powerful one will always be chosen. Well the solution is obvious and all this work has been a waste of time. Wow should adopt the “Play Any Class” point of view. Then eliminate all the Specs and Talents which are devoid of any real choice in any case, since none can be of any advantage, as we have seen.
This will be only slightly tricky for Wow, compared with FFXIV. In FFXIV, the choice of “Job” is made by swapping weapons. Also there is a “Soul Stone” that goes along with most jobs, but each weapon type is unique to a job, so swapping the weapon is enough to swap jobs. In practice however, one uses a slot from the “Gear Sets” list. By moving the button of the gear set to a short cut bar, the switch to a particular job is instant. This swaps the weapon, any soul stone, and all the rest of the gear that you have defined for that job slot. And you can have more than one slot for the same job.
So Wow would need to do several things to adopt this scheme.
- Since Wow uses the same weapon type for several classes, a “Soul Stone” or similar approach would be needed to select the class to play. Easily done.
- Enlarge the inventory, and probably provide a “Armory” just for gear sets for jobs, including weapons and Soul Stones or an other scheme to select class.
- Provide a Gear Sets List to choose the gear load out for various jobs. And to allow jobs to be instantly switched while not in combat or in a dungeon or instance, and at no cost of any kind.
- Upgrade class trainers to allow players to adopt new jobs. This would probably involve introductory quests to reward entry level gear for the new job.
- Provide a new means to have a “Level for Each Class” rather than a character level. Eden Eternal has both a Character Level and a Class Level, but I think this is overly complicated. I suggest to base the “Character Level” on the highest level of any class on that character. For example, if you need to be “60” to fly, then if your current job is “10” but you have a class on the character that is 65, then you can fly. Simple as that. Allow the character to fly if they happen to be on a class that has only level 10, don’t ground them if they have a level 65 class.
This “all classes” scheme would allow Wow to eliminate the problematic Spec and Talent system and give players real choice instead of just the “apparent choice” they have now.
Many MMOs Allow All Jobs
I’ve seen several other MMOs that allow playing all the classes / jobs in a game. A recent example is Eden Eternal, a cute little Anime MMO that provides a casual introduction to the genre. This game allows playing all the classes in the game. It is by no means recent or sophisticated, but it solves the problem that Wow has been struggling with for years now.
That’s my two cents. I encourage you to “Walk in the light of the Crystal”,
Update: 21 July 2020
Covenants are Increasingly Contentious for Players
The Covenants system has become increasingly contentious for players of Wow as the Shadowlands expansion looms. It seems that Blizzard is holding fast to the idea that once chosen, the player’s Convenant choice is essentially permanent. While many players are resisting this. This harks back to the base choice of Class in Wow vs Jobs in FFXIV. As we pointed out, Wow Class is Permanent, while FFXIV Job choice can be changed at any time. So it appears that Blizzard is so single minded on this dichotomy that they are refusing to consider the alternative.
Here is a Youtube video covering the current state of the discussion.
There have been other unpopular choices in previous expansions. And many folks are still not happy with those choices.