Final Fantasy XIV team gutted

Back in October, I bought a copy of Final Fantasy XIV on release day. I really liked Final Fantasy XI, but didn’t really have the time to dedicate to it, and since XIV was to be more geared to solo/casual players, I figured it was time to dip my feet back into the Final Fantasy MMO scene.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It turns out that the game in its released state was broken in so many ways (not including their baffling decision to not process credit cards domestically for us users in the United States) that it resembled alpha-level software. Features were incomplete or nonexistent, the game was unstable, and it was not much fun to play. I lasted about a week and a half before I gave up (logging in twice).

So the guys at Square Enix rallied, apologized, gave people an extension on their complimentary month of game time in anticipation of some big fixes that were around the corner, including implementing such features as “can scroll map with mouse in PC version”.

And, true to their word, a patch was released in mid-November that addressed some of these issues, free game time was extended again, and more big fixes were promised, though some major game-breaking issues remain. For example, the decision to not have an in-game auction house means that buying and selling items between users is so time consuming and tedious that you can spend all night looking for something that may or may not be available.

That’s not fun.

So, even with the Big Changes(tm) that were coming down the line, I had given up hope on this game ever being good. But, then I got an email update with some surprising news:

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of FINAL FANTASY XIV.

While more than two months have passed since the official launch of FINAL FANTASY XIV service, we deeply regret that the game has yet to achieve the level of enjoyability that FINAL FANTASY fans have come to expect from the franchise, and for this we offer our sincerest of apologies.

After thorough deliberation on how to meet those expectations, it was decided that the most viable step was to approach improvements under new leadership and with a restructured team.

To realize this vision, and in doing so, provide our customers with a better game experience, we have assembled our company’s top talent and resources. Taking over the role of producer and director is Naoki Yoshida, a passionate individual for whom customer satisfaction has always taken top priority. Not only is he one of our Group’s most accomplished and experienced members, Naoki Yoshida is also a charismatic leader possessing the skill to bring together and effectively helm a team which encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. We also welcome several new leaders handpicked from other projects to work with the existing talent on FINAL FANTASY XIV.

We realize time is of the essence and are fully determined to provide our customers with quality service. It is because of this that we ask our customers to be patient until we are able to confidently present them with a concrete plan outlining FINAL FANTASY XIV’s new direction. The free trial period will be extended until that time.

Regarding the PlayStation 3, it is not our wish to release a simple conversion of the Windows version in its current state, but rather an update that includes all the improvements we have planned. For that reason, we have made the difficult decision to delay the release of the PlayStation 3 version beyond the originally announced date of March 2011.

The FINAL FANTASY XIV team is working hard to bring our customers an unparalleled adventure, and we ask for your continued understanding and support as we march ever diligently towards that goal.

President and CEO, Yoichi Wada

You can read the rest of the announcement here, which includes an apology from Hiromichi Tanaka, the producer who is stepping down. I have to admit that I’m flabbergasted that this shakeup is being made so public. It’s clear that Tanaka is being made the scapegoat here for the mountain of problems this game has, but I don’t know that changing the programming and art teams is going to be enough to save this game. Once the free trial eventually ends, unless the game is radically reworked (and their payment system fixed) I expect a mass exodus no matter what they do.