How do world progression raiders compete differently in WoW compared to FFXIV? This digest follows MogTalk: Episode 237, featuring world progression raiders Maximum, Sfia, and Layla as they join Frosty in discussing recruitment, differences in the games’ mechanics, raid mentality, and more.
Maximum is the raid leader for Complexity Limit, a top-tier WoW guild that achieved world first in the game’s most recent raid, the Sanctum of Domination. Sfia is a caster who has competed in FFXIV world races since 2016 and is currently a member of Thoughts Per Second, the world first team for The Epic of Alexander. Specializing in tanks, Layla is another well-known raider who has been involved in the game’s world prog community since 2014. Although he took a break from world progression during Shadowbringers, Layla is planning on returning to the world race during Endwalker.
FrostyTV: Max, you’ve played Final Fantasy before, right? [3:13]
Maximum: Very briefly. I boosted my character to 70 and leveled through dungeons up to 80. I’ve done dungeons and have the raids unlocked, and I killed the first savage boss. That is my entire experience with FFXIV. [3:17]
FrostyTV: You’re huge in WoW’s world race scene. What is your knowledge of FFXIV’s raiding scene? [3:46]
Maximum: I don’t know too much about it. If I actually knew when world races were going on or knew more about the game, I probably would have watched them in the past. I’ve never actually watched the FFXIV world race, although I don’t believe it’s fully watchable. I know a lot of teams don’t stream. There’s no one who has competed at a world first level in both WoW and FFXIV, right? That resource does not exist, which is why we are having this conversation today. [4:06]
Currently, Maximum is completing the game’s old savage raid tiers to experience progression in FFXIV. He described his team as a mixture of casual players, hardcore players, and content creators.
Sfia: The good thing about doing this is that you can have the gear that we had during our first time, and the tuning is going to be exactly the same. The only thing that’ll be different is minor changes to job power. [5:45]
Layla: Secondary stats scale very weirdly down to lower level stuff, and some of the DPS checks are not as big of a thing anymore. For all of the modern content, you can make it as similar or not similar to a week one experience as you want to make it. [6:27]
FrostyTV: One of the huge differences between WoW and FFXIV is that when the raids are released, there’s usually not much patched in the fights. [6:45]
WoW raids feature three levels of difficulty: normal, heroic, and mythic. The world race focuses on teams pushing to kill the last mythic boss first. In comparison, FFXIV releases three raid tiers an expansion, and each tier has a normal and savage difficulty. Ultimate raids, first released in Stormblood, are a newer challenge to the game and feature gauntlet-style battles that must be defeated in a single attempt.
Layla: When you’re doing an ultimate, you can expect a lot of the pull count to come from the learning curve, blind process, and execution. With savage fights, if you’re given a walkthrough or guide to all of the mechanics, you’re drastically going to reduce your pull count. You can just lay down markers, and the healing and DPS checks aren’t super tight. For ultimates, it’s all about the song and dance of the execution, which is very fast paced. You may have a 13-minute pull and wipe to the last two songs and dances, then you’re back to square one. [11:00]
Maximum: In WoW, a lot of the difficulty comes from pushing bosses at the right time because they push at certain health percentages. I believe that in FFXIV, there is very little of that. In most of the end fights in WoW, you must hold DPS and wait until your cooldowns come up. [12:08]
Layla: Over on the FFXIV side, we had a problem for many years in which we went through the farm process, hit max iLvl, and eventually killed bosses before they do the really cool mechanics the whole fight was designed for. SE had to find a weird balance of not having the bosses die before they do their coolest mechanics in max gear while also not requiring percentage pushes. [14:12]
Sfia: Based on a limited experience of playing and watching WoW, WoW has more player agency than FFXIV. As a player in WoW, you control more of how the fight plays out. In FFXIV, the fight dictates what you do. That creates tuning issues much more egregiously in WoW compared to FFXIV. [15:13]
One of the most obvious differences between raiding in WoW and FFXIV is group size. WoW raids are known for requiring a larger number of players, while FFXIV raids have always required 8. According to Maximum, many players are nostalgic for the 10-man group size available in older WoW expansions and hope for its return in the future.
Maximum: People loved 10-man groups because it’s much easier to find 9 other people that have the same passion level, want to play the same amount of time, and are of relative skill level than it ever is to find 20 or 25 at the same time. That’s in a microcosm why 40-man groups are bad. Imagine wrangling 40 people to play a video game at the same time. 20-man groups are a good balance, but WoW should potentially look back into smaller sizes. [16:29]
FrostyTV: On the world race side of things, smaller groups allow accessibility. You can get 8 people together to contend in a world race versus 20 people. [18:19]
Sfia: There’s a barrier to entry. The number of things you need to do to be able to compete in WoW is astronomically higher than it is in FFXIV based on the systems of the game. [19:21]
Maximum: I know that a lot of the stuff in FFXIV is streamlined as the raid tier comes out. You craft gear, and you’re good to go. In WoW, you put in a lot of time strategizing for the raid with the information you know from the Public Test Realm (PTR). That’s time consuming, along with the systems that are in WoW. It’s much better now, but imagine spending 16 hours a day doing a simple, repeatable task for the smallest character power increases. [19:50]
Throughout WoW raid tiers, it is not uncommon for groups to cycle out players depending on what jobs are needed in different fights.
Maximum: What is it like in FFXIV regarding the roster you keep and the trialing process? [32:07]
Sfia: There’s never been a team that I know of that’s cycled players. During a tier, you take 8 to the end unless someone is forced to drop out for external reasons. There are crafters and gatherers that support the team, but the 8 people you bring into the fight are expected to be there from start to finish. I think it’s a pretty underutilized area of the game, and it could get way more competitive, but many teams aren’t willing to take that jump. [32:15]
In WoW, some raid spots are taken by jobs that have required raid buffs and debuffs. Teams are also not penalized for taking multiple of the same job, something not practiced in FFXIV due to the Limit Break gauge filling faster when all 8 party members are on unique jobs.
FrostyTV: In FFXIV, players also have to be good at multiple different jobs in case of job balance changes. For example, one player will know how to play every single tank. [35:25]
Maximum: In WoW, there’s a mixture. You have one-trick players who play very popular classes, such as mages, hunters, and warriors. You also have a bunch of multi-class players who swing to whatever is good. [36:23]
Sfia: There are definitely jobs in FFXIV which have defined strengths. There are target jobs that find hot swaps during progression. Identifying when these hot swaps should happen is one of the skills that comes with being on a world progression team. The caster spot is a good example of this. If you’re going into a fight which you think is going to die in 50-100 pulls, you want to bring a Red Mage. If you’re going to be seeing over 100 pulls, Black Mage brings more value once you get past the point where Red Mage raises are needed. If you see a two-target phase, you’re swapping to Summoner to blow that phase out of the water. These switches are all done by one person. [39:35]
One of the hot topics for the episode was player recruitment. All three of the world prog players noted that word of mouth was the only way to find new teammates.
Layla: Hopefully, your group doesn’t fall apart because that’s one step forward and one step backward. NA had a really bad turnover rate for a couple of years. You need to go through a tier to see if a team fits well. We’re not actually going to know until we try a tier together. Teams need to stay together because when you have turnover, you go back to square one of that awful situation where you don’t know how well you’ll perform together. At the beginning of expansions, you can at least rush the extreme primals because the raid doesn’t launch until two weeks later, which is not how the later patches in the expansion work. You can take a new group to those and see how you prog and problem solve together. [48:21]
FrostyTV: Player attitude is also huge. How you mesh with each other is pretty important, right? [49:31]
Maximum: Yeah, player attitude is huge in MMOs. That’s something where 8-man raids are probably a lot easier than 20-man raids because you have so many personalities. All it takes on a hard raid day is for someone to sigh openly or say “I’m not feeling it,” and it kills the vibe. It’s hard to find a group that is on the same level. I think the most important thing is for people to instantly move past mistakes and understand that they were made. If I’m ever asking a question to someone, it’s to solve a problem, not call them out personally. If you’re playing with a good player, they know when they make a mistake, and you don’t need to berate them. It’s more that the person acknowledges they messed up. We talk about it, then move on. If you can get into the habit of doing that, there’s no issues, and you can have a really good time. [49:43]
Maximum’s group places an emphasis on having fun. They have their best pulls when they are joking around while playing at the highest level.
Sfia: The people who tend to stick around are typically those who have a much more level head. At some point, everyone comes to understand that things aren’t personal. Calling out mistakes is an identification of a problem, which is for nothing but the betterment of everyone around them. I think the players who tend to stick to the top are typically people who are the hardest on themselves as opposed to having to be berated themselves. Anyone who takes ownership of their mistakes is intrinsically going to better themselves in their play. [52:23]
Maximum: The people who end up rising to the top and being the best of the best are usually those who have a lot of humility. They look at the mistakes they make and apply it to problem solving. I don’t know if this is true in FFXIV, but in WoW, the people that are perceived as toxic in the high-end community are never usually at the top. They’re usually right under the top because they’re very talented, but they don’t have the right mindset to get better. If you can’t admit to your mistakes, you’re directly holding yourself back from getting better. Those people usually rob themselves of that. They get close to the top because of talent but never above that because they don’t possess the right mentality to go to the next level. [53:48]
FrostyTV: To be honest with you, a lot of them end up in Party Finder. You see that toxic attitude because they can’t deal well with their group. They find random groups in Party Finder and shit on them. I’m in Party Finder, but I’m not toxic. I’m a great person. [55:01]
During world progression in WoW, top teams have to dedicate some of their pull time to getting gear from the heroic difficulty. This can be compared to extreme trials in FFXIV, which some teams spend progression time on to acquire better weapons.
Maximum: You can go back and farm the previous difficulty during the world race. Mythic is the main progression for world first, but you can go back into heroic and get really good gear during the week. So you have this super anticlimactic, very annoying thing that happens about 2-3 days into every raid cycle where you stop mythic progression and farm this content for almost the entire day. That kind of boils down the difference between how gear works in FFXIV versus WoW. I don’t necessarily think this difference is a bad thing, but there’s pros and cons. One huge con is the entire day out of mythic progression where you have to farm gear. [1:08:17]
The guests then moved the conversation towards differences between the games’ loot systems.
Maximum: During the current raid, there was a situation where the amount of gear majorly impacted our ability to kill it. Echo, when they killed it, had 2 more iLvl than we did when we almost killed it. I don’t know if that’s a thing in FFXIV, but that’s a lot of damage. Is there a situation where you don’t have the gear to kill something? [1:09:58]
Layla: In modern FFXIV, no. That was only a thing way back in the day that they deviated away from. Almost all fights are tuned for the crafted gear released every cycle. The fights are tuned around a world first team having full crafted gear because they don’t want people to feel gear gated in the race, which I think they have acknowledged in previous interviews. [1:10:20]
Sfia: I did do Castle Nathria on heroic, so I know that the weapon token exists and that goes to someone to trade in. In FFXIV, every single piece of raid loot is a token for that slot of gear. Whoever you give that to can then get a piece of gear in that slot. You can choose exactly where every single piece of guaranteed loot goes in progression, which is very cool. [1:11:39]
Maximum: WoW players would lose their minds about that. We had the ability to give gear to whoever we want removed from us. If you have enough iLvl, you can run an instance filled with people of the same armor type as you, and you can trade different drops to people only if you already have an item of that iLvl. When we’re doing mythic progression, the items that drop on our hardest bosses cannot be traded, and they’re randomly looted to people, which is horrific. There’s two reasons for that. For world progression, it was obviously more optimal to always gear DPS because damage enables everything. You would absolutely never give a piece of gear to a tank or a healer if a DPS needed it. They then developed this weird personal loot system that’s really bad. [1:12:18]
Recent FFXIV savage tiers have taken world prog racers 1-2 days to kill at max. In WoW, the world race lasts at least a week due to the precise level of play required from 20+ team members.
Maximum: A lot of people don’t understand how hard the end bosses are. Normally, they’re not killable week one because of the amount of time it takes to kill the bosses before them. Most of these end bosses are killed in a shorter amount of time because we get that second reset of gear. They’re truly not given their full test of how hard they would be by trying to do them week one. One of the cool things about this raid was that we were given enough time to fight Sylvanas week one and actually had to strategize to find the damage. [1:23:17]
Sfia: When you compare that to FFXIV, the way they challenge world progression teams isn’t necessarily in the tuning. FFXIV fights are conceptually difficult to break down and solve but mechanically easy to execute. So you have a ton of puzzle mechanics, debuffs, and gauntlets, but coming up with how to resolve them is the most difficult part of the fight and progression. [1:24:09]
Maximum: That’s why I think your game can’t have testing, because it would fundamentally remove that. In WoW, you can have it all laid out for you, but the ability to do it would be so difficult and take so much time. The mechanical checks are extremely difficult, and the personal DPS and healing requirements are extremely high. I would be living in a dream world if I could wake up on Tuesday and learn the name of a boss when I go in and know nothing about it. [1:24:46]
FrostyTV: Max, preparation for your team is going to be completely different from FFXIV preparation. Your team is more like an organization or a company versus what we’re doing, which is almost like groups of friends going to the world race. What does your preparation look like before you go into a tier? [1:33:34]
Maximum: We do PTR testing, which includes one hour tests of every boss on heroic and one hour tests of every boss on mythic, except for the end boss. That’s around 19 hours over the course of 6 months. We have strat meetings before the mythic tests. These are very bare bones versions of the bosses. They’re mostly broken, but it gives you a look into the bosses and what they might do. It also gives you an idea of potential classes you’d bring. The patch comes out, and while we’re farming weeks until the raid is released, we usually have 3-4 hour meetings 3 times a week right before heroic comes out. There’s probably about 50-60 hours of preparation before the actual raid comes out. [1:34:07]
FrostyTV: Sfia, how do you prep with your team? [1:35:16]
Sfia: It’s a little different from the first tier compared to the second and third tiers because the first tier has normal mode, which is essentially like heroic but easier. You can see what the boss is going to do, but it won’t have all the effects. It’ll have AOE indicators, the pacing will be mega slow, and the boss will have no HP. It’ll be missing a whole bunch of mechanics, but you get an understanding of what will be there. The first tier is staggered out so that people don’t feel pressured to rush to level cap and can enjoy the story. For every tier after that, normal mode and savage are released at the same time, so you are learning everything in normal mode then going straight into savage. The only experience you have is a quick pull of normal mode, which is needed at least once to unlock savage. A lot of the preparation is in learning how to adapt your group to better suit virtually every situation the game can throw at you. [1:35:24]
Maximum explained how his raid team once only consisted of the players and raid leader. Now, Complexity Limit includes an entire group of behind-the-scenes players dedicated to helping with add-ons and optimization outside of the battle arena.
Frosty is an integral part to FFXIV’s world races. The last world race was a 24-hour event streamed live until the tier was cleared. Frosty gathered around 40 volunteers to handle streams and conduct live commentary over groups competing from NA, EU, and JP. Compared to FFXIV, WoW world race events are costly, and multiple organizations host their own streams instead of having a third party organization run the show. In WoW, the top teams always stream. In FFXIV, some teams like to stay off the air to keep their strats to themselves.
Maximum: If the world first race was not a big thing on Twitch, there’s no chance we would stream. It’s a massive disadvantage to stream your progression. The only reason it’s worth it is for dollars, and there’s no dollars in FFXIV right now. If that becomes a thing, then you’ll see more people start to stream progression. The reigning world first guild had to decide to stream for this to ever be a thing. Method started all of this, and it would not be a thing if they didn’t do that. Much of why people enjoy watching us play is because they think our guild is hilarious. They want to see our guild be absolute idiots while progressing. Method didn’t even know our name when we started. We first decided to join the world race with two days of preparation. [2:02:25]
While competing for world first, teams in both games must often decide whether they want to prioritize more pull time or sleep. During the most recent FFXIV savage race, Sfia’s team raided for 20 hours, slept 8 hours, and killed the final boss the next day.
Maximum: How long do you raid when you do ultimates? [2:11:17]
Sfia: It’s momentum based. On the first day, you want to get a good lead. Sometimes you push 20 hours. [2:11:32]
Layla: A while ago, we did 24 hours, but we prepped for that. The entire week leading up to it, we would have team meetings at 3 a.m. to get everybody’s sleep schedule on track. [2:11:58]
Maximum: If we knew we were going to raid for a week, staying up for 20 hours except on the day we were going for a kill would basically throw the whole race. We would lose. You don’t catch up on that sleep, and every single pull you do in the next couple of days after that is going to be so inefficient due to people being tired. It would never be worth the extra hours. You guys are trained to go super long hours because savage tiers can be cleared before you sleep. In WoW, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. [2:12:32]
Near the end of the show, Frosty asked Max if he had any additional questions regarding the FFXIV world race scene.
Maximum: What is your break schedule like during a typical savage progression day? [2:23:58]
Sfia: Breaks happen when someone says “I gotta use the bathroom,” and then everyone goes to heat up food before eating at their desks while playing. It’s a little different in ultimate, where we’ll take 15. [2:24:14]
Maximum: How important is acquiring people of better player skill as opposed to keeping a team together for cohesiveness? In WoW, your recruiting pool is very small because there’s such a learning curve at the top and a steep falloff in player skill. Is there something similar to that in FFXIV, and how often do you make roster swaps? [2:26:25]
Sfia: No successful team I’ve ever been in had a super cutthroat mentality. That said, I’m fortunate enough to have played with the type of people who are always self-improving and never complacent. WoW has a much higher skill cap of pushing buttons, which plays a smaller factor in FFXIV, where you reach that ceiling much faster. It’s all about the soft skills. When people do leave or you need to replace them for whatever reason, the process is usually done by word of mouth. If you don’t know them, it’s going to be someone you’re taking a gamble on. [2:27:17]
Maximum: I wonder what it would be like if you did an ultimate fight and think “Man, this group is great, but this one guy really held us back.” If this ever happens, we have to consider replacing them but also consider committing to trying to make that player better. [2:28:31]
Sfia: That’s incredibly relatable. There’s always going to be mechanics that specific people don’t get. One person will be terrible at a mechanic in this fight, and one person will not conceptually understand a mechanic in the next. It’s on everyone around them to battle through it. In those situations, you’re never going to find a person who is perfect at every single thing in the game. What you can do is cover other people’s weaknesses and help people understand their shortcomings so that they can improve. [2:29:09]
Maximum: It also comes down to the general mentality of the group. As a problem solver, if you view those around you as equals, it’s very easy to have good morale and to not get upset with people. There’s a lot of less-experienced groups that view the person messing up as an obstacle in their path rather than a person they need to solve a problem with. That’s what leads to toxic mentalities and people wanting to leave. [2:29:46]
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.