One of the things that can make or break a massively multiplayer game like Final Fantasy XIV is the community.
You can have all the great content and regular updates in the world, but if your community is largely made up of obnoxious morons, you’ll end up driving away the passionate but thinner-skinned players, leaving behind only the aforementioned obnoxious morons. And thus the problem continues to compound itself.
For the most part, in my experience, anyway, the community of Final Fantasy XIV has been a mostly very helpful and supportive place. And I think it’s important to keep it that way.
Final Fantasy XIV has a player vs. player (PvP) element, but it’s restricted to a dedicated area, and progress in PvP doesn’t affect your progress through the rest of the game. It’s primarily a player vs. environment (PvE) game, in other words, with a solid mix of solo-friendly content and challenges that require anywhere between four and 24 people to complete in a cooperative manner.
For those less familiar with the game, a significant amount of the content on the way up to the level cap is four-player. All the dungeons you’ll crawl as part of the main story, plus the additional dungeons for sidequests, require four players — usually one tank, one healer and two damage-dealers. Similarly, the Trials you undertake as part of the story — large-scale boss battles against a single, powerful opponent — are four-player in nature. It’s not until you reach level 50 and take on the main story’s final two dungeons that you have your first encounter with eight-player challenges. But from that point on, you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in these larger parties, and if you choose to take on the Crystal Tower raid dungeon, you’ll be thrown into a group of three eight-player parties for a total of 24 people fighting alongside one another.
Now, you’d think in an inherently cooperative game that people would mostly be looking out for one another and wanting to help them out. And for the most part you’d be right. I’ve only really had one bad experience in the game in the hundreds of hours I’ve played since launch, and that was in the aforementioned 24-player Crystal Tower raid dungeon — with that many people in one place, egos seem to inflate somewhat, and certain players like to show off and attempt to prove that they’re somehow “better” than their 23 peers. (They usually aren’t.)
For the most part, then — and particularly in the four-player content — most players are very supportive and helpful, particularly if you’re open about communicating with one another. For example, when I was levelling up my tank class recently, I would always make sure to mention when I hadn’t tanked a particular dungeon or boss fight before. The response which I was worried about — “get the hell out of here, noob” — never happened once; in fact, I more often than not got a response along the lines of “don’t worry about it; we got your back.” It’s a pleasure to be a part of parties when there’s that sort of mutually cooperative atmosphere — and the in-game Player Commendation system, which allows you to anonymously show your recognition for another player’s awesomeness after you finish a dungeon, is a good means of encouraging such behaviour.
As always, though, there’s a dark side. You don’t tend to run into it unless you go looking for it, but it most certainly is there. And it largely takes the form of elitist players. Fortunately, the rest of the community seems to have a fairly healthy attitude towards these jackasses, which is to avoid them, point them out and shake your head disapprovingly at them.
One of the best places to go hunting for elitist players like this is in the Party Finder system: a “looking for group” tool that allows players to designate what kind of party they’re after — multiple runs on a single piece of content in an attempt to score a nice piece of loot, for example, or perhaps a group to complete a piece of story content without skipping cutscenes — and the lineup of classes they’d like in their party. It also provides the opportunity to designate which of the game’s many challenges they’d like to take on with their new party, and space to write a short comment explaining what they’re after.
It’s this latter part that tends to bring out the worst in people, as the Twitter account FFXIV Party Finders will happily attest.
To be fair to the people who tend to post the most obnoxious types of Party Finder messages, I can sort of understand their frustration in some cases. The content they’re generally looking to complete — the “Extreme” difficulty Trials and the immensely challenging endgame dungeon The Binding Coil of Bahamut — requires intense cooperation and often features highly choreographed fights in which everyone needs to know their role in order to succeed. It is likely frustrating for people who just want to grind their way through this content in order to get the best loot to be saddled with people who might not know what they’re doing… but that doesn’t really make rudeness and arrogance acceptable.
Common threats in the Party Finder tend to include being blacklisted if you are a “bad” (i.e. a bad player) or “1 death = 1 kick” (i.e. you’ll be booted out of the party if you have an unfortunate accident during whatever it is you’re doing). These threats are presumably supposed to provide some sort of incentive for people to do their best — or perhaps simply to discourage those who are less confident in their own abilities — and it’s possible they work, because even the most aggressive, rude Party Finders seem to fill up eventually. But it’s not the sort of behaviour that’s conducive to building a cooperative community, all of whom are able to make it through the game’s toughest challenges in cooperation with others.
Instead, what’s really helpful to see is when people deliberately and pointedly say that they don’t mind if people die, that they don’t mind explaining difficult things — so long as the newcomers are receptive to the advice they’re given. Or, in the case of when my Free Company and I decided to try Garuda Extreme for the first time, “Learning party. Please don’t know the fight, don’t worry about gear, be prepared to die, lots.”
Ultimately, as the FFXIV Party Finders account says in its bio, there’s nothing wrong with having certain standards in the players you want to group with; the bit that some people forget is how to communicate those standards in such a way as to not alienate, belittle or just be a jerk to those players who might fall outside of your high standards!
Eorzea Diaries is a regular look at the world of Square Enix’s MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. If you want to come play with me, you can find me on the Ultros server cleverly disguised as the Hyur female Amarysse Jerhynsson.