MogTalk: Episode 234 Digest – Experiencing FFXIV’s Story as a WoW player

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Over the past few weeks, Final Fantasy XIV has experienced a massive jump in player numbers due to many popular Twitch streamers starting their journey in Eorzea. This digest follows MogTalk: Episode 234, featuring World of Warcraft veteran Pyromancer and FFXIV lore expert Anonymoose. The guests joined Frosty in discussing the initial FFXIV experience as a WoW player.

FrostyTV: Pyro, what’s your history as it relates to WoW’s story and its lore? [3:37]

Pyromancer: When it comes to WoW, I’m one of the theorycrafting and lore experts. I started my YouTube channel as some of my colleagues were getting more into it. Then, lore exploded as a new meta of YouTube content for World of Warcraft.

Pyromancer began streaming FFXIV in May and is currently working towards the Heavensward storyline.

FrostyTV: How well have you avoided spoilers in the game? [6:46]

Pyromancer: Thankfully, I am a small enough creator that I don’t have to deal with the BS that Asmongold deals with when he first logs in. As far as Twitch chat goes, that’s definitely where most of the spoilers come from. From what I’ve witnessed, a lot of the spoiling isn’t malicious. It’s not even intentional. Many people just truly love the universe, and they’re excited to see what I’m going to see. Most of the time, when spoilers come in, it’s something along the lines of “Has Pyro done blank yet?” No, I haven’t, but now I know about the Coils of Bahamut. Thanks.

When someone drops a spoiler in Pyromancer’s chat, other viewers kindly spam smiley faces to shield him from the unwanted information. 

Pyromancer: When I first started going back to the Waking Sands and people were spamming “pray return” in the chat, I had no clue what was going on. Now, every time I go there, I’m praying. I’m returning. I definitely love the memes, as a lot of them are wholesome and funny. I’m definitely open to embracing them. [10:17]

FrostyTV: Everyone’s just excited to see you play the game. They want to see that experience they love. They remember these scenes in their head as really big moments for them, and they’re excited to see how you react to it.

Pyromancer: That’s what it boils down to when you expose yourself to the potential for spoilers through streaming. You have to realize the intent of people. Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious when someone’s spoiling others to be a jerk. 95% of the time, that’s not the case. It’s just someone excited and passionate who didn’t realize the implication of what they were saying.

A major difference between FFXIV and WoW is how new players experience the story leading up to the newest content. In WoW: Shadowlands, players were introduced to Exile’s Reach, a leveling zone where new players can learn the game’s mechanics while reaching level 10. Additionally, the expansion added Chromie Time, a feature allowing players to level from 10-50 in any previous expansion’s zones. In FFXIV, new players have the choice of buying a story skip or playing through all of the expansions to get to the latest content.

FrostyTV: WoW has been out much longer, but FFXIV is at the point of figuring out how to make its long story a playable experience for new players. WoW makes it not as big of a deal. You get to experience some part of the story, and then you hit max level. You experience the new expansion with everyone else. [16:19]

Pyromancer: Let’s say if you were to roll an orc, and you experience the storylines in Durotar and in the Northern Barrens. It has nothing to do with anything that’s been relevant in the last 7-8 years. A lot of the content you’re playing through isn’t linked to the content you’ll do later on in any significant way. Unlike FFXIV, where you have an initial world building and primary plot, WoW is much more segmented into different areas around the world. For example, as a Night Elf, you’re going to learn things about Night Elf society and about Elune, the goddess of the night. As a Blood Elf player, you’re not going to learn any of that. You lose so much by how segmented and fragmented the game is. That’s why many players don’t understand the storyline.

One of WoW’s main features is its faction system. Players can choose to fight for the Alliance or the Horde but cannot interact with any players from the other faction outside of PVP.

FrostyTV: It used to be overwhelming for me, too. Back in the day, I remember you picked your race, played through the beginning of that race’s story, and then joined the main Horde or Alliance story. If you’re playing Alliance, you get a different story than Horde. That was just WoW’s own way of storytelling, right? [18:52]

Pyromancer: The Horde and Alliance thing is another topic in and of itself. There’s been many times where we’ve united to fight for the greater good. We just united the remaining champions of the factions to fight death itself. How are you going to remain enemies after coming together and fighting like that? Historically, playing in the factions would give completely different experiences and points of views for events based on which one you were in. That’s cool for your faction and storyline, but you’re missing crucial information to the entire context of the situation. It leaves a lot of players feeling as though they don’t understand certain characters, actions, and events. A lot of value is lost there, and that’s why I think FFXIV’s approach is better because you can experience the story the same way, regardless of who you are, where you’re coming from, and what race you’re playing. That is something WoW doesn’t have, and it’s extremely detrimental to the story.

FrostyTV: FFXIV is all one funneled story. It’s refreshing coming from that experience, because you’re not trying to put all these pieces together to make the lore and world of FFXIV. Everyone is on the same path and can be on the same page in all aspects.

Anonymoose: WoW has incentivized people playing different races and classes and making lots of characters. In FFXIV, one of the selling points is that you can do it all on one character. They took a bit of the Skyrim approach, where you all start in the same place but can become whatever you want in one character. The only thing we really lose out on here is the city stories. If you start in Gridania, you don’t learn as much about Ul’dah. Even that’s been toned down drastically in A Realm Reborn compared to 1.0.

Pyromancer: That’s one of the things I love the most about FFXIV. My character is everything. I’m not bound by an initial decision that’s going to dictate the way I can interact with and play the game. I have the freedom to do any combat style at any time. I have to train those things independently of one another, but when I put in the time and make it all come together, my character ends up being anything I want. That’s amazing. Having to re-level a character for the fourth time because you want to use daggers instead of a staff sucks, especially with all the system integrations WoW has had over the years.

Another difference between the two games is how they approach their storylines and lore.

Pyromancer: WoW’s biggest story issue is that there’s far too much content that exists. One of the wars in the game, called the War of the Ancients, has over a thousand pages of literature. How do you expect people to read that? There’s far too much contextualization, personification, and internalized dialogue that exists in these books. [27:47]

Anonymoose: That’s not even the same approach as the lore books that we have. In FFXIV, everything in the game has something called a PR blurb. Whether it’s about a city, person, character, war, weapon, or an outfit, everything has a PR blurb that you can reference. When they make a lore book, they grab all those blurbs, organize and flesh them out, then connect them all together in a pleasing way. 

Like many WoW fans, Pyromancer is distraught by how Blizzard has handled the character of Sylvanas, former warchief of the Horde faction. 

Anonymoose: Humans are meaning-making machines. If we look back on a journey we’ve been through, we’ve already made meaning of it. It’s very useful for the developers to create a fork off an existing thing and write something new that’s not totally new. At the same time, it disrespects the journey we’ve been on and cheapens it. [45:49]

Pyromancer: That’s where my argument of the lack of integrity and continuity comes from. For people like me who have become so invested, it feels disappointing and to an extent, a little heartbreaking. That’s a big problem they’ve had with Sylvanas and why a lot of people are burnt out in the Warcraft storyline now. For the entire last expansion and a half, she’s been serving the Jailer, who is directly responsible for the Lich King turning her into a banshee. She carries out his will, abducts people, kills people, and in the very end, she turns to him and says “I will never serve.” Did you forget the last 8 months? Did you forget the last expansion? All you’ve done is serve. It’s such a disrespect to the people who have followed Sylvanas over the last 15 years, her character development, and players’ time and hype.

In contrast to his disappointment with WoW, Pyromancer is satisfied with the start of his journey throughout Eorzea.

FrostyTV: Can you tell me your first impressions and how you responded to the first part of the story? [50:40]

Pyromancer: The world building aspect of it is really good. You very quickly get a sense of what the atmosphere and characters are like. I love the amount of cutscenes in the game, and the story has been linear and easy for me to follow. The way they developed the primal threat early on was very nice. As you build more into it, you start to learn about the Ascians meddling and how they’re manipulating the Empire to do what they want and spread darkness over the world. Yesterday, I watched Asmongold’s video on his first thoughts, and he said something that I didn’t even realize I was responding to. In this game, when you come across antagonists, it is much more common for them to be heard, understood, and forgiven. In WoW, it’s not like that. You kill everybody. If someone does the wrong thing, you go and kill them. Initially, there’s a lot more redemption in FFXIV, and it’s on a realistic level. 

Anonymoose: One of the things I love about this game is that there are parts where you question the idea of being a weapon aimed at others. Then, there are other moments where you come around and think “Okay, I understand you. I get you. You make some good points. But you still have to die.” I really love those moments because there’s such a diversity of characters. Everybody makes their own choices, and we get to see that decision-making process and do something that’s consistent with our values.

Pyromancer: They have a level of emotional integrity and investment, which is what a lot of people struggle with in WoW. People just turn evil, and it’s not really elaborated on at all. There’s even characters in the game that call you a murderer, thief, and liar. They’re not wrong. In Warcraft, you’re very commonly just a weapon aimed at something else. There’s no questioning it, and there’s no moral compass.

Anonymoose: Yoshida has been extremely careful about how he wants people to see the Warrior of Light. You’re looking back on years of Final Fantasy history and what it means to be a Warrior of Light. He doesn’t want to alienate people who resonate with that. No matter what’s going on, when we kill somebody, they draw their weapon first or they’re a threat to someone we care about. That doesn’t mean it was always the best idea to kill them. Sometimes, we do come out of it feeling like a murderer, but we were attacked first or we thought we were protecting something in almost every case.

Moose, a frequent guest on Mogtalk’s story episodes, shared how he became interested in the lore of FFXIV

Anonymoose: I came into FFXIV straight from FFXI. I was here during early access. I played all of 1.0 like a sucker because I believed a golden patch was coming. It took two years to arrive, but we were right. In 1.0, there was so much that was difficult to enjoy. At the same time, you could see that there were all of these things about it that had so much love, care, and potential. Trying to understand that convoluted story was the reason I got into lore in the first place.

Pyromancer: Do you feel like it forced you into that because of how it was structured?

Anonymoose: You know how you do about 15 levels with your city state? There was something similar in 1.0, and we were still trying to figure out what those quests meant months after the game went dark. FFXIV came out in 2010 and went dark in 2012. We spent the six months the game was down trying to figure out what happened in the intro sequences. We had a 1000-page thread dedicated to this in the localization forum. The thread got so out of control that a lore forum was created to get us out of the localization forum.

Pyromancer mentioned that many of his viewers refer to A Realm Reborn as the game’s boring, sluggish content. Although he’s heard this sentiment often, he has thoroughly enjoyed playing through 2.0’s storyline and is enthusiastic about continuing on to Heavensward.

Anonymoose: When we came into A Realm Reborn, we wanted to figure out how the game was better, the same, different, and worse. When we go into Heavensward, we see how much A Realm Reborn was rushed, as they had to develop the entire game from the ground up in two years. Suddenly, in Heavensward, everything is improving. They’re using their graphics in different ways, and the voice acting improves by leaps and bounds. When you go back to A Realm Reborn, you get nervous that people are going to see the rushed game design, the iffy voice acting, and the combat that feels slow until level 50. You get nervous that people are going to quit on you before they see how good it is. [1:11:46]

FrostyTV: A lot of people come into the game to play with other people and not play the game. So they run through A Realm Reborn and end up skipping through the story because they just want to play with their friend. That might also be where this comes from. If you actually play the game to enjoy it as an RPG, it’s solid.

Pyromancer: That’s why I’m taking my time. There’s so many RPG elements here. I only just went to the housing district for the first time yesterday, and it was crazy to see that aspect in this game. There’s always things to be exploring and learning about.

While he has enjoyed 2.0’s story thus far, the WoW veteran shared a few criticisms he does have about his experience.

Pyromancer: I know they cut a lot of content to make A Realm Reborn’s storyline more fluid and faster. During 2.0, it’s sometimes very obvious. It’s also a little overwhelming how many names are thrown at you, especially with the diversity of the names in this game. They’re hard to say and hard to remember. [1:23:27]

Anonymoose: If you have some background in FFXI, it’s a little easier because each race is named with a convention of one of the languages the game was released in. The Elezen are French, the Roegadyn are German, the Lalafell are Japanese, and the Hyur are English. They don’t want it to be obvious that they fold in these old school rules like archaic French and archaic German. 

Pyromancer appreciates the unique jargon specific to FFXIV and noted that Urianger’s dialogue is his favorite.

FrostyTV: When I was going through the story at first, I still didn’t understand anything by the time I was done with A Realm Reborn. I understood the basics, like which characters were bad and good. It took me a while to dive into it. I started forcing myself to do these episodes, where we talk about story and lore. However, I don’t think I’ve had a single story or lore episode without a YouTube comment saying “I wish Frosty wasn’t there.” [1:37:49]

Anonymoose: I’m going to fight for you on this one because I feel like saying that is like hating on Minfilia. People don’t appreciate a good manager.

Pyromancer: Minfilia doesn’t do anything!

Anonymoose: She’s a good manager. You take her out of the equation, it all crumbles.

Next, our humble manager Frosty asked Pyromancer if there’s anything that has surprised him while playing FFXIV.

Pyromancer: It’s dark. It’s funny because I see people saying on Twitter that the game had too fluffy of an aesthetic for them. Did they do any quests?! The first time I was in Ul’dah, a woman was being sexually assaulted in the streets. What is going on here? [1:51:11]

FrostyTV: People see Lalafells and cute cat girl stuff and assume it’s a simple, pretty game.

Pyromancer: No offense, but back in the day, I did say that this was a weeb game. I started playing and realized it’s not a weeb game at all. It’s such a westernized eastern fantasy that it’s not even funny.

FrostyTV: The game has an art style that you can associate as being anime or weeb, but it’s actually pretty badass. I’m glad you mentioned that because I love dark storytelling.

Pyromancer: WoW has cutesy, woodsy quests every once in a while where you do ridiculous and silly things. Honestly, WoW is really a game of tragedy. There’s a lot of really terrible things that happen to people in WoW that don’t deserve it at all.

FrostyTV: If you wanted WoW to learn something from FFXIV, what’s the biggest thing it could take? (Besides everything.) [1:54:38]

Pyromancer: Something that this game has that WoW really fell flat on its face is player-owned housing. I wish WoW had any form of customizable player-owned housing. I would also say that the dyeing system in this game is sick, and I wish you could dye armors in WoW. Unfortunately, a lot of the armors in WoW aren’t even heavily three-dimensionally designed. They’re more like paintings on your character’s body, but the armor in FFXIV looks much more alive.

As far as areas that FFXIV could improve in, Pyromancer wishes the game had a client similar to Blizzard’s and that the game’s UI was less confusing for new players. Overall, he has few complaints and looks forward to continuing to enjoy Eorzea while remaining involved with the game’s community.

Pyromancer: Thanks to all in the community that have made an effort to be welcoming, inviting, and kind. The fact that I’m able to come on here and talk with two people who are well established in this community early on, along with the success I’ve had in streaming this game, is an experience I’ve never had in any other setting. Streaming and making YouTube videos for a long time was mentally taxing. I wasn’t feeling inspired, but playing this game and getting a fresh experience with all of you will become one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in gaming.

Click here to enjoy the entire conversation.

MogTalk is a weekly podcast airing every Saturday at 5PM ET on twitch.tv/Frosty_TV. The show is entirely focused on bringing the community together to discuss topics of interest regarding FFXIV, including patch notes, game mechanics, and raid insights. MogTalk Digests are now available thanks to Patreon supporters! If you are interested in supporting all of the content MogTalk has to offer, please visit our Patreon page.

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