Final Fantasy XIV Online
Since the local Australian server (Materia) launched, FFXIV has continued to welcome new players and now boasts a global player base of over 27 million. The Australian FFXIV community continues to have a highly active server population on Materia, despite the original game being released nine years ago and long-time players completing most of the content. We at Hooked Gamers sat down with veteran player Mark Withers to discuss the Australian server an how newbies (affectionately known as Sprouts due to the fact that new players get a little sprout icon next to their name) can get into FFXIV and what the experienced players do to welcome them
Hooked Gamers: Firstly, with an Australian server, how has this improved the game for the local fanbase? Has this increased the local numbers?
Mark Withers: The Australian server has been an absolute god-send. First logging in to Ravana and it felt like I was playing a completely different game. It’s hard to explain the difference but everything just felt so much smoother, I suspect the reduced ping made everything load faster and more responsive. It’s so much easier to enjoy on a local server.
As for the fanbase, I’m seeing a lot more people join the FFXIV ANZ Facebook group, and it seems a lot of community based Discords are bursting at the seams. There are a heck of a lot more people playing and trying FFXIV because of the attention and marketing that has been afforded OCE. Having local servers means lower ping which is very attractive when you don’t want to pay for a VPN or tunnel to access better ping.
But mainly I'd say the best part is that we are all able to unify, bumping into someone who plays FFXIV rarely regards you with the disappointment of discovering they play on an NA or JP server. It was a bit of a divide, having to choose which side of the world we wanted to play on while simultaneously cutting off half of our local players. It used to be a case of being separated by data centres, now we can actually play with each other using world travel. We have our own server and our own space that we can all call home regardless of the world we are on within it, and I think that this builds a bridge of connection between players IRL and online.
HG: What can Sprouts expect from FFXIV?
MW: Sprouts can expect a huge open world with so many different things to unlock and explore. You've got people ready to help around every corner for when you need to clear Main Story Quests or even side bosses. There’s even the Novice Network, an in-game system designed to connect new players with Mentors so that they are able to get the help they may need in understanding where to find or how to do things.
HG: Are there many aspects to learn?
MW: There are a lot of aspects to learn about Final Fantasy XIV, how to clear dungeons, bosses, crafting, gathering and that’s just the main mechanics. You've got Eureka, Bozja, Deep Dungeons, the Gold Saucer, Grand Companies, Glamours, Relic Weapons, Raids, Housing, The Island. There is a tremendous amount of things to learn, but the best part about being a Sprout is taking it all at your own pace and learning different bits as you go, there’s no need to rush into anything.
HG: If there was one aspect in particular that you would suggest Sprouts to focus on early, what would it be?
MW: It ultimately depends on what Sprouts are wanting to play the game for. The story? Focus on the Main Story Quests and maybe alternate between two classes as you do it, you'll get more than enough experience to do so. If you're really after the endgame and raids and such, then maybe grab a level skip to jump right in, but pleeease focus on learning how to play your classes. The story path eases you in as you level from one through to 90, but the skip starts you out later on.
HG: What sort of help do veterans provide for the Sprouts? Do they help with quests, with directions to locations, or simply guidance on the gameplay mechanics?
MW: Veterans of FFXIV are usually incredibly nice, I can’t count how many times some random player gifted me a random minion or even Gil just because I was a newer or returning player. The main thing is that they're not afraid to jump into the older content to help you catch up in the Main Story or Side Quests. If you ask, generally people will help, it's one of the coolest things about FFXIV. Ultimately understand there’s a feature called Party Finder, if you need help to clear something, start up a party and people will come join in. As a veteran myself I often scroll Party Finder and join in with Sprouts to help them get their First Time Clears and progress their Story Quests.
HG: How many hours does it take to become familiar with the various gameplay aspects of FFXIV?
MW: It takes a lot of time to learn EVERY aspect of FFXIV. But the beauty is being able to take it at your own pace. There are countless resources on the internet for new players; streamers, youtubers, forums, diagrams, discord groups. You can find a guide for every aspect of the game because some mad champ has gone and mapped it out. Yeah it will probably take some hours getting used to the game, but it will ultimately be different for everyone and can be very hard to quantify. The best way to find out is to just have a go.
HG: How long do you expect players to become proficient in each aspect?
MW: I learn by doing, I often just jump in and find out what happens. I expect players to improve by playing the game, further refinement can come from research like watching videos or streamers and even engaging in community discussions. You can get better just by playing the game, watching and speaking with other players.
HG: How many hours have the veterans been playing before they begin helping the Sprouts?
MW: There is no set limit. I have a few thousand hours in the game, but I started helping others when I started playing back at A Realm Reborn's release. I don’t think there’s a specific moment that veteran’s decide to help others, it just happens. That’s part of what makes the FFXIV community so great.
HG: What sort of activities will keep players coming back to FFXIV?
MW: The main thing that brings people back in an ideal world is community, and for the most part that’s true. But as it's a live service game, the main thing is content. When people complete everything, they find themselves bored and stop logging in so often. New quests, events, content, it all contributes to players deciding to return. But everybody loves events, whether it be community events, fan events, holiday events, those are the real kickers.
HG: What are some of the annual events that Sprouts can expect to see in the coming months? And how can they get involved?
MW: Sprouts can expect to see the Starlight Celebration coming 15 December, a Christmas event where you can get a free reindeer mount just from completing the event. Following on from that is an event for every major seasonal holiday, Heavensturn for New Years, Valentione’s Day for Valentines, Hatching Tide for Easter. There are a bunch of others as well, like Little Ladies' Day with cute outfits and The Rising to celebrate the game's anniversary. These all have a minimum requirement of being Level 15 which is incredibly easy to get to and they all start in the major cities so access shouldn’t be a problem!
Aside from all that, there’s usually community run events, like PvP Tournaments, Glamour Contests, Hide & Seek Games, Night Clubs and Cafes. The thriving heart of Eorzea is in its community and all the crazy things they get up to.
As you can see, new players are encouraged to join in the fun. New players can find more about Final Fantasy XIV Online and sign up here. And as always, follow Hooked Gamers on Instagram for news updates, reviews, competitions and more.