A little under a year ago, I wrote a column about how Final Fantasy 14 Gold needs to generate a wow factor. It needs to surprise people, have something unique and special to offer. There was a lot of stuff that felt distressingly rote, and that wasn’t good.
So what’s changed since then? Well… not a huge amount, honestly. There are several features in the beta that feel like rehashes of things we’ve seen in other games, like FATEs and quests and instanced dungeons and so forth. Yet the game is clearly generating a wow factor, something that I’m happy about.
This week, I want to throw that previous article out completely. Just kick it to the curb. As I’ve been playing the beta weekends and seeing what the game has to offer, I’ve realized that there was something I was completely failing to embrace and consider. It’s the power of the buffet.
If you’ve never been to a buffet, congratulations on not being fat. But beyond that, you’ve never had the experience of dropping a fixed amount of money for as much food as you can toss on your plate at any one time. And you’ve never understood why a good buffet place is wonderful in a way that a regular restaurant isn’t, even though regular restaurants actually serve you a plate of distinct food instead of trusting you to shuffle over to steam trays and spoon in whatever you want.
The thing is, normal restaurants rely upon serving you something unique. The management isn’t rolling out the Double-Wide Super Southwestern Nacho Burger just for the heck of it; it’s because this is the only place you can get a Double-Wide Super whatever. Hopefully these unique offerings are actually good, since a restaurant can’t live on selling Bleach-Infused Chicken with Broken Glass Breading, but the core is serving you something new.
By contrast, the buffet doesn’t care if you’ve had it before. The core is variety and combination. You’ve had french fries, you’ve had pizza, you’ve had mashed potatoes. You can’t usually get all of them together. Yes, all the meals are familiar, but you can combine them however you want, and that is also valid.
I mentioned back when talking about the early beta phases that the questing in Final Fantasy XIV is fairly standard. It’s nothing bracingly unique, familiar to anyone who’s played an MMO in the past several years, without any particular novelty. You click on things and kill things and talk to NPCs, and aside from incorporating minor bits of brilliance like not making you fight over clickables, it’s pretty straightforward.