Man, I did not expect this. When I started writing the first one of this series, I actually wondered how much I’d be able to squeeze from the topic. After all, it’s only a single game I’m talking about. Then I started a Google Doc with a list of my ideas, and let’s just say it’s a lot longer than I had originally thought. It’s great though, I’m excited. I’ve had some good feedback about the first article so it fills me with vim and vigour to keep going.
This time I’m interested in talking about Wondrous Tails, and everyone’s favourite miqo’te kitten, Khloe Aliapoh. Introduced in patch 3.4, Wondrous Tails is content based around receiving a weekly book, filling it with nine stamps from running various pieces of older content and getting rewards based on how many lines you complete.
The point of this content on Square Enix’s side is pretty easy to see. It exists to get players to run old content again, but it also shoots itself in the foot for the same reason I spoke about with Palace of the Dead, and that’s because of the Path of Least Resistance. People who do anything, and this is especially easy to see when it comes to gamers want to do things the quickest, easiest way possible; it’s just human nature. To break this down even further, it’s important to ask the question “Why does Square Enix want me to run old content again?”
It’s all about the new player experience. Final Fantasy XIV is a pretty strongly story driven game for an MMO, and keeping those wait times to a minimum for players so they can keep progressing seems to be at the core of what drives content. The problem is that Wondrous Tails tries to help ease those burdens, and its heart is in the right place, but players ‘ruin’ that by wanting it done quickly. If you gives players the option to help others but take longer, or to steamroll it and get it done fast, they’ll do it fast. Unsynching content, meaning players can run it at their current gear and level, rather than getting it decreased to the original level of the content. Players doing this means that new players don’t get ‘picked up’ by these queues, and even if people do use Duty Finder to clear it, they have the expectation that people are doing it for their stamp and have a certain level of competency.
SE were quite smart about even this problem though, and gave an extra reward in the form of a “second chance” point every time you clear content with a new person. These points are used for shuffling your stamps so you have a better shot at completing more lines and thus receiving better rewards. The chances are always pretty clear for anyone with good math skills, or access to one of the calculator websites, and bringing up the book shows the rewards each week (of which you have the choice of one of two for each line), so you know what you’re after. Rewarding players like this is the balance to unsynched content, and I know people who have been farming “newbie farms”, helping push players through. Admittedly, the Party Finder for these is all about unsynching content with newbies, which completely sours their first experience with content, which sucks but hey, it happens. All of this only works when the two and three line rewards are actually worthwhile, but it’s still a good start.
I’m actually quite fond of this content though. It taps into a primal urge that many people have, and that gambling is based upon: the urge to win something. There is chance involved in the stamp placement, only a very limited amount of places it can go, and shuffling only works up until you’ve placed seven out of your nine stickers, so you’re never going to have 100% chance at getting those three lines. The rewards for three lines is often pretty cool, ranging from twenty pieces of Grade V materia for combat classes, or a handful or Grade V materia for non-combat classes, to the cream of the crop: “ornate” gear, which is the same as the best crafted gear, but with five open materia slots, meaning all of your melds have no chance of failing, saving a lot of money.
The other thing I love is that it encourages people to just run content again, of all sorts. Stamps are given for all the Realm Reborn Extreme primals, standard dungeons, PvP, Crystal Tower (and Void Ark saga), and either Aquapolis or Palace of the Dead (specific floors). Path of Least Resistance comes into play again here where people will just do the nine things that are easiest for them (usually ARR primals, and unsynched dungeons, maybe Palace) but the option is there and gives players plenty of opportunity to re-discover content.
If you’ve read all of this you’ve seen there’s a lot of focus on battle content, and yeah, it’s true. For those pacifists of the animate, in the upcoming patch 3.5 you’ll have the opportunity to massacre plants and rocks, as Square have announced Zhloe (really?) will have a non-combat focused version of the Wondrous Tails.
My issues with this content is pretty small, and it’s only that it’s the best source for Materia, but spiritbonding is a system the developers have mostly dropped like crazy (more on this another week), but I’m not going to argue with cheaper crafter/gatherer materia, especially coming into a new expansion. I think this content will die down in time, but right now it’s a good distraction from other weekly grinds, and a good source of some extra, cool little things.