One thing I noticed that FFXIV had that WOW doesn’t have is that ability to change classes or jobs during the game. Where in FFXIV if you wanted to pick up an axe and be a marauder or pick up a staff and become a conjurer – in WOW you’re stuck with the class you picked in the beginning. This, in my opinion, makes being social and making friends all that much more difficult and I believe is one major factor in why I enjoyed FFXIV much more than I am enjoying WOW.
In WOW I am now currently in a level 30-35 area with a level 33 character. I can chat to other players in that area, but wandering around I am finding there are only a handful of people there. Of that handful, most of them are doing what I am doing – which is quest after quest after quest. When asking someone to join up and group with them, we’re never on the same quests, so we do not have an interest to group with each other. So the solo play continues. If I ask my guild if any of them want to join me they might, out of the kindness of their heart, join me for fun as a level 60 or 70 or 90 player. Not something most people want to do though, and not something that would benefit them any. The bottom line is, most of WOW is now geared for solo play and solo questing in areas that players have no reason to return to once they are beyond that level in character development. This makes the world areas feel very neglected, empty, and isolated. Outside of Stormwind I don’t see any end-game players or players of different levels wandering around and exploring.
Now let’s look at FFXIV. Here you have many players who are a variety of jobs. They might be a level 5 archer, a level 25 pugilist, and a level 50 white mage. If someone in the guild says “Hey, I’m a new player and need help getting to level 10.” That veteran player can step in and say “Hey, I’m only a level 5 archer, I can party up with you and help out.” Or odds are in a guild with multiple members, odds are someone from the guild can step in and help out and still benefit and have fun from doing so. If someone is around level 20-30, that same veteran player can step in and help out another time with his pugilist class he is working on. It really makes for better play and a stronger community.
Crafting jobs were also a great way to be social in FFXIV, which I do not see similar benefits for crafting in WOW. In FFXIV if you are crafting, you can sit anywhere and start making supplies and items from raw materials. This means you can camp out where people are and craft for a few hours, and have some really interesting conversations in the meantime with your guild or the other people in the area. This is also great if looking for other players to role play with on a slow day. I always found it fun to craft in Ul’dah (the main city) because I could interact with all the regulars who also hang out in town and chat and form groups and have fun. And that too was being put into a mix of other new and veteran players wandering around. On any given day just hanging around town in FFXIV it was easy to find someone to help or talk to. I’ve yet to find a similar mechanic in WOW.
Another great social aspect to FFXIV was just the layout of the world in general and how it sort of forced players to get to know each other. Outside of the main cities, the areas were divided into different camps which catered to different level groups and different leveled mobs. However it wasn’t just going from one camp to the next to the next never to return to the older camps or areas again. Every player who wanted to level more than one class always found themselves returning to the different areas as they leveled up a different crafting, gathering, or fighting class. This meant in general, no matter where you were at in the game, there was always a variety of players wandering around the same maps.
I know in part what made FFXIV so special was that there was also a smaller and more close-knit community involved. Everyone who played had a love of final fantasy and the lore in some way. I know going into the future with 2.0 we will get more of a variety of players and more solo and community-based activities to do, so that will make things interesting. I am looking forward to the housing system in 2.0 and the free company housing. I am looking forward to more areas where a mix of players will be gathering and socializing instead of always being off in segregated areas doing their own thing. I look forward to being solo at times, with strangers at times, and with friends I know and respect at times. Knowing a game will allow me to do this depending on how I feel and where the game takes me is going to be a valuable and rewarding experience.