Final Fantasy XIV has a bit of a bad reputation. When it was initially launched in 2010, it received heavy backlash from subscribers. Many players and media outlets that tested the game in beta pointed out a wide variety of critical bugs that could potentially ruin players' experience if it was released in its stage at the time. Square Enix gave it a shot and released the game on schedule over delaying it to work on the long list of tweaks suggested by beta testers. As a result, a lot of players complained that the game was not enjoyable. The PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIV was delayed "indefinitely"as the PC version went free-to-play in about two months of its launch due to the repulsive feedback the title was receiving. Perhaps some of you recall the shift in the development team that occurred at the time as Square Enix desperately tried to prevent the game from crashing and burning for good.
Almost immediately the company went to work on improving the game. An official forum went up to give players the ability to make complaints and suggestions for improvement. Updates started getting released that enhanced the game's mechanics alongside its visual appeal. With time, we began to see Final Fantasy XIV evolve into a more solid state - though rather you still enjoy the gameplay is purely up to personal opinion. The game was recently re-released on both PC and PlayStation 3 as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. It also returned to a full subscription-based MMO but has given players incentives to keep their subscriptions going and to thank them for their dedication to the game. Every 30 days players are given some sort of in-game item. Though even with more positive reception than before, it seems like Final Fantasy XIV cannot get cut any slack.
Players might have recently found it to be extremely difficult to log on, in particular players on North American/European servers. The high volume of users has caused horrendous congestion making it nearly impossible for some players (such as myself) from being able to access their servers. Square Enix has placed restrictions on many servers. New players are not granted admission to select servers including legacy servers (which makes sense since it was intended for legacy servers to be available to 1.0 players only). Yet even if you have a character made on one of these restricted servers, you are unable to create additional characters despite the game allowing you to have up to eight characters. Square Enix has claimed in their launcher updates that these limitations are set to scatter users so that servers do not experience too much overcapacity particularly in stating areas. By corralling new users towards less populated servers, they hope to cut back on the log in time on the higher volume ones. The idea makes sense on paper but in practice, it causes a lot of frustration.
The main issue that is arising right now is that paid subscribers are almost being denied the ability to play the game they paid for. It is also incredibly frustrating to try to invite new players to play with you because you might be on a restricted server. This means that if a friend did not take advantage of the beta and make a character on your permanent server they might not be able to play with you, especially if you were already on a legacy server. I hate to use the term entitlement but in this scenario the term is rather fitting. Those who have paid for the game and are considering long term paid investments to play it, we are entitled to being able to use the product we paid for. This is not an instance where a part of the game is purposely cut out for the sake of the developer profiting off of it by releasing it as downloadable content; this is an instance where subscribers do not have any access to their product without sacrifice.
Your options right now are to either wait out the long queues or get lucky to be able to play during down time, or constantly create a new character on one of the few available servers every time you want to play. The greatest work around people have found is to just play on a Japanese server since their traffic is a lot less. However, if you already have hours invested into a character, you should not be forced to start all over just because you want to use a product you spent money on
Neither of these resolutions really aid in fixing the issue at hand. By creating a new character every time, you are only increasing the amount of low level characters in high concentrated starting areas. The migration of North American and European players to Japanese servers are adding to the head count on formerly medium to low populated worlds. More worlds are finding themselves falling victim to restrictions because of current users just trying to feel like they are somewhat getting their money's worth.
Even worse, Square Enix has suspended the ability for people to purchase digital versions of the game. They ensure that this suspension is only temporary until they can get better control of the unexpected, massive amount of users. They say that they wanted to "prioritize the quality of service"current subscribers. A bold yet foolish statement because you know shit is broken pretty badly when you will not even let people buy it. They have promise that they are working on improving the log in process two ways. The first way is by introducing new worlds (or servers) for users to access. The second simply states that they will "enhance performance" for log in and matchmaking methods for both regions. They have not revealed how they will be doing this. I can only hope to see the addition of an instant queue that will allow me to wait and automatically be logged in once a spot opens; even if there's a few hundred people ahead of me. (Constantly playing the guessing game or mashing Num0 has gotten old very fast.) Square Enix states that all of these changes should be in effect by the early part of next week.
I think it is safe to say that the biggest mistake Square Enix made was combing North America and Europe into one group of servers. Square Enix has a total of twenty-five servers per region. So at the moment with only the Japanese and North American/European categories, we have a total of fifty servers for players to be able to access. If North America and Europe were separated, we might have seen less traffic since the player would have been a bit more dispersed on an additional twenty-five servers hypothetically. Instead, we have to now wait for Square to now give us those additional servers and hope this solves the problem. I personally remain a bit skeptically only because so many people already have characters on existing servers but I guess we shall find out what happens after the new changes are implemented.
So what should we expect from all of this? It is hard to say since Square Enix is keeping their bad news very short. Nothing currently points to any additional benefits or "we're sorry" gifts for those who have experienced inconvenience when attempting to play. World Transfers will be an optional service available at some point. According to A Realm Reborn's web site, this server should go live sometime near the middle part of September but restrictions may still apply. A price point has not yet been placed on this service though if you ask me the first transfer should be free in order to let people move their whole Free Company to a less populated server once all the log in issues are resolved.
Needless to say, the current status is not a good way to start off a re-release of a game that already has put a bad taste in some people's mouths. A fee of $14.99 is quite a lot to spend on a log in gamble. It is understandable that Square Enix might have underestimated the amount of active players, but at this point, it seems almost like an excuse for not being properly prepared. After all, this is the second time some subscribers played this game.
Update: The links to some of the images are coming up as a "404 Not Found" file. All the images are located in the blog's gallery in case you have trouble viewing them.