I don't often fall prey to the whims of my crowd, but I'm beginning to suspect that's what's happened here. I've returned to FFXIV, and picked up the new expansion. Everything is exciting and new, and I should be happy as a clam. Except.. it isn't, and I'm not. So.. what's going on here.
As you know, I've been bouncing around a bit from MMO to MMO, once the shiny wore off of Draenor, and I found was feeling hemmed in by my own garrison. And it really wasn't so much of a I'm searching for the next best MMO kind of thing, but really more of a there's a lot of cool shit going on in many MMO's right now, and I want to check that out! thing.
And all the time I've been playing, I've also been eyeing FFXIV. See, FFXIV is an excellent MMO. This much I know for fact. I played it a little at launch, then came back last summer when they had a free weekend, and stuck with it pretty much all summer, leveling a Bard all the way to 50. So it was, just about the time I reached 60 in SWTOR and finished the main story, FFXIV officially released the Heavensward expansion. Oh my.
Now, if there's one thing I've learned from experience, it is that if you're thinking of returning to an MMO, the time to do it is when they're having a major event - such as an expansion launch. Many people will be returning, and they'll be a great uptick in population - and that uptick will likely only really substantially last a month or so. You want to ride that wave of returning pop. Queues will be faster, group events work better - and everyone is experiencing the new content at the same time you are. It's like a partial reset of sorts, and it's best if you experience it with everyone else. So I decided - HEY, you've reached the level cap in SWTOR, there's a new expansion coming out for FFXIV - now's the time to check it out! So I did.
Now, I was aware of the Heavensward expansion, and had watched a few of the teaser videos, but that was just about the extent of my knowledge about it. I did know you had to have a character at level cap to experience the new content, but I had that, so I wasn't too worried. Shortly after logging in and running around a bit, I went ahead and navigated the maze of Square Enix account sites to purchase the expansion, so I could patch it in, and start leveling my way to 60. And of course, all the best in game goodies came from the collector's edition, so nothing would do but to get that edition!
So I set about leveling rogue, and remembering how to play the game. It wasn't really grabbing me, but I know that leveling low level alternate jobs is pretty a pretty grindy affair of running fates and bland side quests, so I wrote it off to that. Also ran a few low level dungeons, had a pretty good time, and before I knew it was 20. Time to switch back to my Bard and start in on that expansion content!
The thing was, the whole time I've been playing, I still hadn't really recaptured that feel. I couldn't explain it, but the game just wasn't grabbing me. I felt kind of a malaise at running fates, and working my way through the story missions felt - bland. More than anything, I suspect it was a matter of aesthetics over mechanics. Coming from SWTOR's excellent, fully voiced in-game story cinematics, to FFXIV's mostly unvoiced cinematics, where the full extent of your character's interactions with the NPC's is to nod in the affirmative, felt - well, a bit anticlimactic.
So, just out of curiosity, I logged back into SWTOR. And had more fun in 30 minutes of play there than I had in the last 2 weeks of FFXIV. And that was when I thought - What are you doing? Like it or not, a mistake has been made here. Whether it's just the difference in presentation of the missions, or maybe it's just the thought of the weight of fully re-engaging in another MMO right now, when I just got well engaged with my previous one, was too much to bear. But right now, the thought of progressing through all of those FFXIV missions to see the quote-unquote new content (let's be honest, it will all be new to me) isn't compelling me. So I think you'll be seeing a return of the SWTOR screenshots in my morning game sharing time on twitter.
You'll forgive me if I wax parent-ish a bit here, but it feels like there are two lessons that I knew already, but clearly needed to be re-reminded of. The first, is to remember to not throw good many after bad. I was feeling compelled to force myself to play FFXIV because dammit, I did just spend money on the expansion, and by god I need to get my money's worth! But the money's gone, and if you're not having fun, are you really getting good use out of it anyway? And the second - and far more important, is for the love of god, research an expansion before you buy it knucklehead!