FFXIV pacing, combat, and interface

I'm leveling my Thaumaturge and Graev is leveling his Archery in a cave on the outskirts of Uldah.

Now I want to talk about the interface/controls, combat, and pacing of FFXIV.  It’s going to be a little long-winded, but I think it’s interesting.  Before I begin I want to remind you guys that this is my attempt at playing FFXIV after my brother asked me to try it and play with him.  I really enjoy playing games with Graev and find that my enjoyment is quadrupled when I do.  My initial thoughts on FFXIV were very negative, but they were justified.  This time around I am purposely looking for the good and being extremely even handed, given the added benefit of Graev being my mentor in-game.   I will state now that I’m having fun.


This is a slower game for sure.  It’s much closer to EverQuest’s original pacing than I think most people even realize.  You absolutely do not log in with intentions to get a lot done.  It’s not at all like WoW where you’ll say “I think I’ll quest in this zone, run 6 dungeons, PvP some, and craft”.

I’m taking it slow, granted, but if I took it any faster I would feel burned out fast.  FFXIV does not cater to those with low attention spans.  Yesterday I logged in two separate times for a couple hours each.  When I logged in the first time, Graev and I ran for an hour to another city.  That’s all we did.  We explored.  When I logged in the second time I decided to try crafting, spent an hour figuring out how, then made a few things for a quest.  Logged out after realizing I had spent two hours doing that, yet I was extremely focused and lost track of time.

While I was crafting, Graev went off and explored his way to another city.  Realizing the other city was on an island, he expected to find some portal or a quicker means of getting there.  Instead, he found a boat that sailed up to the harbor and took him on a 15 minute EQ’esque trip.   Just another example of how you’re expected to slow down by spending time traveling on a boat.

It’s easily a game where you can log in and spend your whole play session in the city, yet not realize you just did.  There’s a lot more to the game and things are slowed way down and drawn out much more.  It’s also a lot more open ended.  There is very little explanation given and you’re not told what to do by anyone after finishing your “welcome to the city” quest.  It’s the same pseudo-sandbox feel of EverQuest where you do your own thing.  This is where most people begin having a problem because the game is really not user friendly at this point.  Many will ask what they’re supposed to do next and think the game is absolutely boring.

If I were playing alone, I would be bored.  Thankfully I have Graev who is making this a really fun experience for me.  He was there to show me what to do next — Graev is an expert at this type of game.  He just ‘gets it’ better than most people and has helped me to wiggle my way through the parts that will probably snag most and definitely snagged me when I first tried playing the game.


You don’t press “C” to open your character sheet or “B” to open your inventory.  Instead, you press the menu button, find the section called “attributes and gear” (or something like that), and your character sheet opens.  Not too bad, right?  Let’s add more to it.

To equip a piece of gear you click the gear slot -> a new window opens -> find the gear and click on it -> a new window opens -> equip.  Then mash the escape key to get back to the main menu.

It’s clearly designed like the standard Final Fantasy titles which are all designed for consoles.  Does that make it unworkable?  No.  You get used to it like you do any other interface.

Is the interface laggy? Yes and No.  It’s based upon your system performance.  When I turned down shadows to “standard” and AA to 2x, my menus became instant, aside from server lag.  The hardware mouse is much, much better and the controls are more fluid and less sluggish than when I played in beta.  However, it’s still the uncomfortable and wonky console style.


It doesn’t help that combat is somewhat aligned with the poor interface and controls, but it’s much better than I remember from FFXI when it first came out. It’s not menu or turn based.  I’m a spell caster, so I will give you my perspective on how a normal fight goes.

I unsheathe my weapon which puts me in combat state (takes 2 seconds).  I click on the monster I want to attack and my skill bar comes up with the spells I have pre-loaded.  I choose the spell (by clicking or pressing the # hotkey) and then I click with my mouse on the enemy again to confirm casting the spell.  This is where combat is slowed down for me.  There are a couple of extra steps and it almost feels turn based because you’re taking longer between actions, but let me assure you that if you it’s in real time.  If anyone can give me advice on how to streamline my casting I would appreciate it.

Since I’m specializing on being a healer, I’ve run into a problem figuring out how to target my group members.  I have list of group members but I can not click on their names to target them.  I have to either tab target through them or actually pick them out and click on them.  Is there any better way to do it?

Is combat fun?

It’s simple MMO combat.  I find a squirrel-like monster and I nuke it dead like any other game.  Do I find WoW combat fun? Honestly, nothing in particular about the act of killing monsters in WoW is fun but I enjoy reasons surrounding the act of killing such as the reward for doing so.  It’s the same in FFXIV since killing mobs gives me crystals and loot to use for crafting.  I also get two kinds of exp (which I’ll talk about in my next entry) which is fulfilling.  Real group combat will be the test, and I’ll let you know how I like that when I get there.

To sum things up:

Pacing: Slow, open ended, and like EverQuest where you log in and do what you want pretty much from the start.  It’s up to you to tell yourself what to do and not the game.  You are responsible for your fun.  Not quite sandbox, but what I call “Pseudo-Sandbox”

Interface: Lots of menus and windows needed to find or do anything and it’s really confusing at times, but functional with more being presented information-wise than many mmorpg’s.  If your menus lag, turn down your graphics settings.  It would benefit greatly from being streamlined.

Controls: Console/Final Fantasy oriented.  Overly complex at times.  Occasionally sluggish — perhaps server latency to blame.

Combat: Not so much an issue with speed as it is about extra steps and barriers created by the interface (for a caster).  Verdict is still out on whether or not it progresses into anything more or remains simplistic.

Coming up: What the questing and leveling experience is like and my thoughts on the class system.

  • It’s funny, it sounds what EQ2 would have been if they said ‘ok let’s make it for the next gen of hardware, ease up on the difficulty a bit, and, uh, make the controls kind of wonky’. Except for the third thing there, it sounds cool.

  • Been a while since I commented 😛 (I watch you through Feedly :))


    I just picked up FFXIV myself after experiencing the beta, I can tell you its nearly the MMO i have been waiting for since SWG. The Combat pacing is perfect for me. As you mentioned, the “do what you will” gameplay is exactly what I wanted. I just logged off after a 2.5h session with a friend and realized all we did was explore the distant mountains that looked interesting.

    I am thoroughly enjoying this game, but as you mentioned its multiplied with friends. I believe thats how the old MMO’s felt as well, and its a feeling I’ve missed.

  • Here’s what I do in order to help with casting in FFXIV.

    First and foremost, use the macro system! Using macros removes the “confirm your target” step of casting (if you use instead of ). Actually, the primary purpose of that intermediary step is not to confirm your target, but to choose whether or not you want your spell to be AOE or Single-Target. There’s a green “Area of Effect” button/toggle that appears… I bet you haven’t even realized that yet… most don’t until they’re directly told about it.

    You can further the macro system by using a gaming keyboard of some such that has programmable keys. I’m using the G15 Logitech keyboard and have programmed the G-keys to be “Alt+1”, “Alt+2” etc. That way, I don’t have to hold down the Ctrl or Alt keys while in combat, I just press a button. 🙂

    Here’s some example macros that I’m using….

    This one casts Fire on my current target.
    /action “Fire”

    This one Cures my current Target, ensuring that aoe is on.
    /aoe on
    /action “Cure”

    This one is my buffing macro. Great for party play, if you can get them to slow down and wait for your buffs! 🙂
    /p **** {Gather Together} {Stoneskin} in 2 seconds ****
    /wait 2
    /aoe on
    /action “Stoneskin”

    There’s a few clunky things about spell casting:

    First is that you have to either tab-target or use the mouse. Both are hard to quickly react to a dying party member. I find myself pre-planning my camera position to flank the action so that I can more easily target everyone and the mobs.

    Second, you have to be diligent in keeping track of whether or not aoe is on or off. I’ve accidently pulled more mobs that I wanted to more times than I can count. Even mid-combat as mobs tend to wander into your combat area, then get caught in your aoe.

    Third, I often find myself not able to get many abilities off during leve quests compared to the melee classes. Which means that I don’t get very much skill point upgrades (I do get the experience) because I can’t land a spell before things die. Part of this is due to the difficulty tuning of the leves (4-star is sometimes one-shottable, other times overly hard)

    I hope this helps. I’m having a great time playing the game despite all the UI clunkiness. Just think what it’ll be like if these things/issues get smoothed out.

    P.S. Your life as a conjurer will improve dramatically once you get Profundity at Rank 10. 🙂 It’s very pew pew!

  • I think that’s a very fair summation, Keen. My experience in beta was much like you describe. I spent a great deal of time just running around, looking at things, exploring, being in the world.

    All that I liked very much and I completely agree that it does have something of the feel of early Everquest. The problem for me, though, was that after a relatively short while I realised that in order to *really* enjoy FFXIV I would also need to give it the same degree of commitment that I gave EQ back in 1999. In other words, I’d need to live, breathe and sleep FFXIV.

    I think that for those prepared to devote that degree of time and energy to it, it could become a consuming passion. That’s really not what I’m looking for these days, though.

    And the UI, while always useable, really is quite horrible. Early EQ, even with the tiny window and the full-page spell book, was never anything like as pleasure-strangling.

  • Well at least somebody is enjoying the game by the sounds of it. Will certainly be interesting to see how the general MMO crowd react to this game. Not those of us who read blogs and forums but Mr Joe Average, who probably saw a screenshot somewhere and thought it looked cool.

    Still, at least SE will make decent money from box sales. This UI shows me that Japanese developers are very sadly out of touch with what western gamers are used to in terms of accessibility and intuitive design.

    As Keen is a serial game hopper (as am I), I do wonder at what point this infatuation will break? When is the next decent game beta anyone? Preferably one with a functional UI.

  • All of this confirms that it is just a rehash of FFXI with more sparkly graphics. From what it sounds like, they’ve kept -everything- from the original FFXI intact. Animations, textures, monsters, crafting system, equipment system, and even the flipping -font-.

    I loved FFXI to death, but to re-package the game and sell it to me again is just -wrong-. This was probably supposed to be an expansion pack until someone in marketing thought it would be a great way to pull their subscription and financial numbers back up if they re-branded it as a different Final Fantasy numeral. Ugh, I can’t see veterans of FFXI falling for this.

  • Glad you are enjoying it more, for me it’s still a huge MEH, I think I actually fell asleep playing it one time in beta.

  • Sounds like Vindictus and FFXIV should take the best of each other and combine. Vindictus for combat mechanics and FFXIV for the large open world. Obviously I’m only saying the because I am playing Vindictus at the moment and it just seems to suffer the opposite problem of FFXIV (to a degree).

  • press “enter” to confirm spell instead of clicking on target, some ppl suggest to give up on mouse and use keyboard only, it may for for some.

  • “I’m not going to steal any of Graev’s thunder, since he’s preparing a post for this week on his thoughts.”

    It’s quite an elaborate post for not stealing some thunder. But yea, Im guessing he will talk about other stuff then… 😉

  • sounds terrible…. i know you’re trying to be impartial and unbiased… but frankly the tone of this article makes me think someone had a gun to your head and was forcing you to say nice things.

    theres no excuse for the UI and controls to be this bad…

    it reminds me of your argument against free-to-play games.. where the business model forces the designers to design the game in ways that make it very difficult to play unless you spend money..

    well FFIV is similar except instead of designing the game to require a monetary investment, now it requires a time investment… they’ve made things overly clunky and slow to take up as much of your time as possible, not because it makes the game any better, but because it slows the game down and forces you to spend more time in it, and time = money.

    i’m not opposed to the large world and long travel times, but it’s all the other crap that slows down the game for no reason.

  • This sounds EXACTLY like FFXI the more and more I hear about it, I am a little bit disappointed.

    I recommend really mastering macros, assuming they have them, since I can’t really imagine combat without using the macros.

  • Hey Keen,

    I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the game. For targeting, you can get around the double-confirm by hitting enter beforehand. Usually, when I find a mob I want to attack, I tab target it and hit enter while I’m still a ways away. From there, you can just hit the action buttons and they’ll auto-execute. It makes it much quicker.

    I’d also recommend trying to “keyboard it” as another commenter mentioned. It’s a little weird at first but getting rid of the mouse makes the menus a lot easier to manage, in my experience (numpad – to open the menu, arrows to navigate). It gets you in the habit of confirming with enter and navigating the UI without the mouse, which will make you a lot quicker.

    @Lelu: Thank you for posting those macros! I’m so used to the convoluted language WoW uses that I thought to avoid it completely in FFXIV. That’s a lot simpler and now I definitely want to explore it.

  • yup i agree with the keyboard comments. If its the same as ffxi controls i played the game exclusively using only keyboard. left hand for all my actions and movement, right hand on arrows to control camera and obviously for chatting. you have to setup macros and after some practice its second nature. However this cannot excuse them for going this crazy non intuitive way again.

  • When at a wine tasting I will hear all sorts of creative descriptors thrown around; I cut to the quick with one question, would you buy a bottle for the price?

    So do you think this would be a worthwhile purchase for the average elite K&G blog reader?

  • No, not for the average reader. I have not decided whether or not I like it enough to start paying money yet so I’m not going to recommend anyone else pay until I do. If you can get a buddy key then I 100% recommend it.