One of the biggest challenges you’ll encounter as an MMO player is the prospect of planning out your time effectively so that you can do everything you want to do.
I’m not just talking about in the MMO itself, either; if you’re anything like me, you don’t want just one game to take over every waking moment of your existence — you probably want to continue enjoying other stuff, too.
This is something I’ve been struggling with for some time now with regard to Square Enix’s wonderful MMO Final Fantasy XIV. After some reflection and some discussion with other people who are or have been in a similar situation themselves, I’ve come up with a set of effective tips to juggle your career in Eorzea (or equivalents) with a rich, fulfilling and varied diet of other games and media.
Treat the game as a regular social event
MMOs, particularly at endgame level, are dependent on social play — and they’re much more fun with friends. If you’ve stuck with a game like Final Fantasy XIV until the level cap, chances are you’ve made some friends along the way and probably even joined a Free Company to enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger group.
Out in “the real world”, we don’t just drop in on our friends to “do stuff” with them whenever we feel like it — not if we want to keep them as friends, in most cases — but instead, we make plans. If you and several of your friends err on the more casual play side of the spectrum, agree a regular time and day that you’ll meet to play the game. If you play alongside more hardcore players who are on whenever possible, let them know when they’re most likely to see you.
Establish a schedule and stick to it. That way you know that one or two nights a week are “Final Fantasy XIV time”, and you won’t end up spending your time worrying that you “should” be playing something else.
Don’t get hung up on trying to match pace with your friends
On the same note, if you do play with more hardcore friends regularly, don’t stress yourself out trying to get to the same level that they’re at. If they play more than you do, of course they’re going to have made more progress or have better gear than you. This isn’t something to resent; they’re in a position to be able to help you out more.
Unless you’re into high-level raiding — which if you’re a more casual player, you probably aren’t — then don’t worry too much if your gear isn’t bleeding-edge amazing. So long as you can safely handle the content you are doing, there’s no problem. Tanks and healers in particular should make sure their weapon is as up-to-date as possible; everything else can follow after that.
Set yourself small, short-term goals
“I want to finish my Anima weapon” is not a small, short-term goal. “I want to obtain another piece of Umbrite so I can add a few more stat points to my Anima weapon” is, since it has clear criteria for completion and could theoretically be done in a single sitting: obtain 300 Tomestones of Lore to get the Umbrite, then use the Umbrite to add points to your Anima.
Because there are so many different things to do at endgame level, it’s important to set yourself these goals and prioritise what you want to achieve. Do you want to make one class as good as it possibly can be, or do you want to level everything to 60 and then decide on a favourite? Once you’ve decided on your overall priority — and “a bit of everything” is a perfectly valid approach to this — start thinking of individual steps you can take to help realise these long-term goals, and focus on the short-term, individual tasks rather than the daunting bigger picture.
Get comfortable with one thing and don’t try to do too much
Since one character in Final Fantasy XIV can hold every single Job in the game, it’s tempting to level everything so you can fulfil every role in a party as required. If this is too much for you, though, don’t feel bad. If you feel like you need practice tanking, practice your tanking until you feel comfortable and confident doing it. If you’re worried about healing, practice your healing for a while until you feel like you have a good grasp of how to work effectively. If you can’t remember how a boss works, read up on it or ask your friends about it.
At endgame, for better or worse, much of the Final Fantasy XIV playerbase expects party members to have a decent understanding of the class they’re playing in any multiplayer content — as well as the content itself. To a certain extent, you can “hide” your lack of skills or rustiness in a 24-player raid, but in a 4- or 8-player dungeon or Trial, chances are any shakiness will be noticed. Most players would probably prefer you concentrate on getting a solid understanding of just one class than a mediocre understanding of all of them — though of course it’s always helpful to understand the party dynamic as a whole, and there’s no substitute for getting experience in every role to learn this!
Remember that you’re playing with other people, some (many?) of whom may be in a similar situation to you. If you haven’t done the dungeon you find yourself in for ages, say so. If you haven’t played the game for a while, say so. If you need a moment to remind yourself of how you set up your hotbars, say so. And if you need help or advice, for heaven’s sake say so!
Your friends, Free Company and Linkshells can be a good source of help, advice and adventuring buddies, but don’t discount the Novice Network channel, either. Open to both beginner adventurers and those who have returned after a substantial break, the Novice Network is a special chat channel staffed by volunteer player Mentors where anyone can ask questions and get advice. It’s a great resource. Use it!
Take a break
Most importantly, if you’re starting to feel burnt out on the game or the content you’re doing… stop! You’re not obliged to spend hours every day playing Final Fantasy XIV, so if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, stop doing what you’re doing.
“Taking a break” can be anything from closing the game down entirely to changing your focus or short-term goals. Perhaps you want to do some crafting or gathering instead of battle content. Perhaps there are story-centric quests such as the Scholasticate and Hildibrand that you haven’t gotten around to yet. Perhaps you want to fill out your Sightseeing Log or just try out a class you haven’t tried before.
Don’t be afraid to stop — completely, if necessary. The game, its players and your friends will still be there later, or tomorrow, or next week — so don’t end up resenting what you’re doing. It’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, after all!
Eorzea Diaries is a regular column based on enjoying the world of Final Fantasy XIV as a more casual player.
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