Monday, April 11, 2011

Final Fantasy XI: Level Synching

Tom introduced me to a new feature yesterday which is so awesome it's amazing. I'm honestly astonished that World of Warcraft hasn't added some variant of this feature. (I was first introduced to this style of feature 6 years ago in City of Villains.) The basic idea is the party leader can choose a person in their party to synch up with. Then every character in the party who is higher level than the targeted person gets leveled down to the same level as the target. They lose any abilities learned above that level. They have their skills capped as if they were actually that level.

The party then gets to gain levels as though the characters were actually the lower level. This experience gain gets applied to your 'real' level, but you gain it by fighting mobs appropriate to the target. FFXI has a 'merit point' system so people at max level can keep gaining experience to buy marginal stat increases. If someone is max level and gets synched up with someone lower they still gain merit points! So there's actually an incentive for max level characters to help out their buddies. Not only is an incentive; it's actually possible. In World of Warcraft if I had a friend start fresh now they'd have no actual way to play with my main character in any meaningful way for months. With the synch system we can have actual challenges fighting level appropriate mobs the whole way up.

When I used to play FFXI there were level down effects when you fought level capped bosses. However, when that happened, you couldn't gain experience and your gear fell off if you couldn't use it at your new level. The gear falling off part has, thankfully, changed too. Now if you could equip your gear with your real level and can't with your new level your gear actually gets deleveled too. The stat boosts on your gear get decreased proportionally in a way that isn't 100% clear. I saw a post from Square saying it would be worse than optimal appropriate level gear but that it's better than the alternative which is naked. It does mean you don't need to carry around a set of level 20 gear if you want to fight the level 20 bosses. If a specific piece is awesome you can still store it, but it frees up a lot of bank space.

There are a few restrictions, most notably that the target has to be at least level 10 and you all need to stay within range of the target to gain experience, but it seems really incredible.


Sky said...

I both like and dislike this feature. I like it from a "I just joined the game, why can't I play with my friends for the next 200 hours?" but the immersion does seem like it will take a hit. Maybe Square doesn't concern itself with immersion as much though. The fact that a character can be all jobs and do anything suggests that characters are less of a vehicle for roleplaying than WOW and more of just an avatar to play games. That side of it isn't really good or bad, just different.

Sthenno said...

I actually think that FFXI characters seem to be way more of a vehicle for roleplaying than WoW characters. That's because the game has a lot of meaningful things to do besides killing monsters. I haven't actually played that much but I spend as much of my time running around showing off a new hat design for a hat store owner as I did fighting things. I'm not saying I loved this game play, but it felt way more like I was a character in a virtual world. In fact, that's probably what I didn't like about it, I know I'm not nearly as interested in interacting with virtual worlds as I am with playing games.

At any rate, this gives me an incentive to level up to level 10 so that we can make use of this system.

Ziggyny said...

As an example of how nice it is, a couple days ago Tom was level 26 Monk and level 12 Warrior. I was level 16 White Mage. Because your subjob level is capped at half your main job level Tom wanted to level his Warrior a bit and then his Monk. At current levels he couldn't party with me in any realistic way since having a White Mage 4 levels higher would just nerf his experience for no real benefit and he wanted to level WAR first.

But with synching we were able to downlevel me to level 12 and play as WHM + WAR/MNK. Then after gaining a couple levels (and killing my rare spawn) we wanted to go do some missions and he switched to MNK/WAR. Now we level synched him down to me and were able to play together as level 16 MNK/WAR + WHM. And when we ran into tougher mobs he just switched back to level 26 MNK/WAR and I leeched off of him while providing healing.

Ziggyny said...

I guess at that point I was probably 17, not 16. I certainly ended the night at 18 though we had a couple deaths trying to get to the capital city.