Thursday, May 28, 2015

FFXIV vs. WoW: Content Delivery Comparison

I'm nearly finished the story content in FFXIV, and wow, it's been a long--but extremely entertaining--haul through it. FFXIV has a lot of content. I recently finished the Hildebrand quest line, finished the Shiva line (to the commenter previously who said I'd enjoy the music, good call that!). I still only have a single job at 50, Paladin, so I've been tanking it up through the group content.

Compared to WoW, where I'm literally only logging in once per week for 3 hours for our Blackrock Foundry raid (10/10 N, 4/10 H now, yay!). But I do admit I still really enjoy WoW's raiding content.

One of the things I've heard mentioned numerous times is that Square Enix is putting out content at a much faster clip than Blizzard is. Blizzard has also made mention numerous times they'd like to speed up the delivery of content. There's also a question of quality of content, but in a themepark MMO quantity is still pretty important. So I decided to sit down and make a comparison between the two games.

Types of Content

Both games are very similar from a content type perspective. As mentioned before, they both are heavily curated themepark MMOs, and therefore have a lot of the same features:
  • FFXIV's "Light Party" (4-player) dungeons, vs. WoW's (5-player) dungeons
  • FFXIV's LFR-style 24-player raids, vs. WoW's LFR 25-player raids
  • FFXIV's 8-Player difficult raids, vs. WoW's Mythic 20-player raids
  • Both have group-based PvP
  • Both have mini-games (WoW's pet battles vs. FFXIV's Triple Triad)
  • Both have story quests (Albeit FFXIV's are much more cut-scene and dialogue heavy versus WoW's sit back approach of just tossing a wall of text)
  • Both have rare monsters to find and kill out in the wild, including raid-level bosses
  • Both have treasure hunting of a sort
Some of the features of the games are unique, however, when compared to the other. Note that yes, other MMOs have a lot of these features; however, that's not what I'm interested in currently setting the stage for this discussion.
  • WoW's Normal/Heroic versions of the same raids are unique to WoW excepting one set of FFXIV's Coil of Bahamut, which has a "Savage" version; Also, FFXIV's version of LFR are entirely different raids compared to other raid content
  • FFXIV's Guildhests (4-player trinity training scenarios) and Trials (8-player bosses similar to WoW's Malygos where it's literally just the boss) are mostly unique to FFXIV
  • FFXIV's FATE system with dynamically appearing content in the world is unique to FFXIV, excepting a brief time during WoW's 5.3 Escalation patch
  • WoW's Garrisons are very mobile game-based, vs. FFXIV's player/guild housing which is primarily for looks, but has some functionality like chocobo training/ingredient farming
Clearly that's not all the features, but that encompasses a lot of the (current) primary game content, ignoring gathering/crafting because that is another discussion entirely. These are the things we're going to focus on in terms of determining what content each team is delivering.

I will be comparing FFXIV 2.0 through 2.55, and comparing it to Mists of Pandaria as well as Warlords of Draenor side-by-side. One thing which muddies this is that FFXIV prefers smaller, more frequent content patches, whereas WoW seems to prefer mega-patches. So let's take a look.

Patch Frequency

Below are two timelines, readjusted to the year 1900 because I couldn't find a generic timeline thingy (Flash objects, sorry!), which demonstrate FFXIV's major patch schedule versus WoW's MoP.

Two things are immediately obvious: FFXIV is like freaking clockwork at about 3 - 3.5 months per major patch, preferring smaller patches. WoW attempted this in MoP, and honestly I think it worked rather well. Except that as discussed previously they probably should have spaced out their patches a bit more. They were generally within about 2 months of each other: probably a bit too short, which led to the second observation: WoW's massive gap between content and next expansion. FFXIV clearly didn't suffer this issue.

So from a cadence perspective, ignoring the actual quantity and quality of content, FFXIV's team is amazing at keeping a tight schedule.

Patch Content

So what did each patch bring to the table? One thing to keep in mind is that WoW's expansion releases tend to have a fair bit more to them than FFXIV's 2.0 in terms of end-game, so FFXIV spent a lot of time catching up. But it's still not quite apples to apples, because FFXIV's 2.0 was basically a new MMO launch. I'm not quite sure how much work they had lined up before kicking off 2.0, but as an end-user, I don't really care. All an end-user cares about is, "Themepark MMO, where's my content?"

So it might be a bit strange to ignore the initial releases of both Mists and A Realm Reborn, but I see no other easy way to measure content delivery over time. Heavensward and the 3.0 patch schedule is going to be very interesting to see if the FFXIV team can keep things up.

You can find the details of patches here:

If we extremely arbitrarily assign a value of 1 to each boss, and perhaps a value of 0.25 for each difficulty added for a given boss, we can get a pretty good estimate on at least sheer quantity of bosses. But again, not an apples to apples comparison. As I mentioned previously, Blizzard's dungeons tend to be prettier and tell a story via environment extremely well. FFXIV's spaces tend to be utilitarian.

But I much prefer FFXIV's Hard Mode dungeons to WoW's Heroic dungeons. WoW's are just the same thing, but tuned a little higher. FFXIV's are entirely new bosses and mechanics; your starting point is altered and they'll often send you to different areas, so it's not really the same.

Also, whereas WoW uses zone-wide tunes, FFXIV has unique music for each trial, which as discussed before takes cues from the battle itself.

Basically, it's fascinating to see where each company puts its resources in terms of content creation.

Anyways, here's the high-level rollup of MoP versus A Realm Reborn patch cycle:

Mists of Pandaria
  • 7 World Bosses
    • (7 "Boss Points")
  • 12 Bosses w/ 3 Difficulties + 14 Bosses w/ 4 Difficulties + 1 Boss
    • (27 + 0.25 * 2 Extra Difficulties * 12 + 0.25 * 3 Extra Difficulties * 14 = 43.5 "Boss Points")
  • 9 Scenarios + 6 Heroic Scenarios (Repeats w/ Bonus Objectives)
  • 2 Raid Zones
  • 2 World Zones, 1 World Sub-Zone, 1 Altered World Zone
  • 3 Reputation Grinds, 3 Currency Grinds
  • 1 World PvP, 1 Arena, 1 Battleground
  • New Feature: Flexible Raids
  • New Feature: Proving Grounds
  • New Feature: Brawler's Guild (Something like 40 solo fights with unique mechanics)
  • New Feature: Pet Battle Stones

A Realm Reborn
  • 20 Raid Bosses + 4 Savage (* 0.25) + 12 Trials + 8 Diff. Difficulties
    • 36 "Boss Points"
  • 15 Dungeons
    • 5 Entirely New
    • 10 Altered Hard Mode versions
  • 5 Raid Zones (Might also be said 2, split up in piecemeal across patches)
    • 12 "Boss Rooms" in Trials, each significantly different
  • 1 World Zone, 0 World Sub-Zones, 1 Altered World Zone
  • 5 Reputation Grinds, 1 Currency Grind
  • 1 Arena, 2 Battlegrounds
  • New Class/Job: Rogue/Ninja
  • Significant Side Quests: Hildebrand, Delivery Moogle
  • New Feature: Treasure Hunting
  • New Feature: Guild Housing
  • New Feature: Aesthetician
  • New Feature: Gardening
  • New Feature: Challenge Log (Weekly Quests)
  • New Feature: Glamours (Transmogrification)
  • New Feature: Retainer Ventures (Similar to Follower Garrison Missions)
  • New Feature: Sightseeing Log (Similar to GW2's Vistas)
  • New Feature: Chocobo Training/Recolouring
  • New Feature: Private Rooms in Guild Housing
  • New Feature: Hunts (Rare Spawns)
  • New Feature: Ceremony of Eternal Bonding (Marriage Ceremony)
  • New Feature: Chocobo Racing/Breeding
  • New Feature: Triple Triad
  • New Feature: Assorted Mini-Games in Gold Saucer

Overall, if you like raid combat, WoW is your winner. WoW has more unique bosses (by 2) and way more difficulties, but FFXIV isn't that far behind. WoW's raid bosses tend to support much larger raids than FFXIV's. The grand majority of FFXIV's are 8-players, excepting the 12 LFR-style Crystal Tower raids which are 24-player. Note I say LFR-style, but the difficulty of those raids are probably closer to WoW's Normal difficulty than LFR.

That being said, my personal preference for bosses is still WoW. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy FFXIV's immensely, but WoW's been in the business for much longer, and they've really got that good raid fight down to an art. WoW just seems to have a much larger repertoire of encounter mechanics to pull from right now. Whether that's a technical issue or a design issue, I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet FFXIV will catch up pretty quickly given their pace so far. But FFXIV's music is way better. Also, new music for every trial is pretty sweet.

WoW's world zones, Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle, were amazing bits of content with an immense number of things to do. Where FFXIV uses FATEs to shore up the whole faffing about from a combat perspective, WoW's zones are fantastic. The interesting thing here is that this is probably informed by their different play models: WoW has alts, whereas FFXIV you just switch classes and start leveling that up, necessitating re-doing earlier content such as low-level dungeons and FATEs. This means that FFXIV gets way more mileage from lower-level content than WoW does, and therefore likely doesn't need to invest as much in max-level world zone content. But I really enjoyed WoW's new zones.

That being said, if you like smaller group content like dungeons, FFXIV is the way to go. Their dungeons are a lot of fun, and there's a lot of them. Mind you, as I've said multiple times, WoW's are prettier, but FFXIV's get the job done decently. Especially later dungeons. Their early dungeons are ugly and dull. Ones built later seem to exhibit a lot more craftsmanship from the designers, which is nice. FFXIV may eventually close that gap.

If you like story, FFXIV is where you want to be. They do major story updates with each patch, which ends up being a couple hours of questing with actual storyline. And not just big bad takes over the world, but with politics, economics, mystery, humour, and so on. FFXIV also has significant side-quests (Hildebrand, Moogle Delivery) which are hilarious, and literally hours more of awesome content. Whereas WoW focuses on grindable and repeatable content, FFXIV seems largely content to hand out very JRPG run-once content. WoW's story in Mists was quite well done--Landfall and Isle of Thunder in particular were quite engaging. It's tapered off since, however, and Warlords' post-100 story is nearly non-existent.

That being said, FFXIV has introduced an astounding number of content features throughout patching. Now, to be fair, it's way easier to add new features to a newer code base. Also, FFXIV has the "benefit" of playing catch up. A lot of their new features exist in other games, and they're just getting them implemented. But holy cow, the amount of content from entirely new features that we'd normally only see with an expansion in WoW is just nuts. Also, the Gold Saucer in general was amazing amounts of extraneous content. And they added an entirely new class during, to boot.


Overall, I think FFXIV has the edge when compared to Mists, and has a massive lead compared to Warlords. 6.2 promises an immense amount of content, though so it should be interesting to see how it holds up. WoW's generally been gameplay first, and after playing FFXIV, I wonder if that single-minded focus is doing it more harm than good at the end of the day.

WoW seems to like dropping mega-patches. 5.4 and 6.2 are ginormous, whereas FFXIV much prefers to space things out. If Blizzard were to do The Binding Coil of Bahamut, we'd have probably seen all 12 bosses at month 6 after release, whereas FFXIV was dropping 1/3rd of the raid every 6 months (every other patch), interspersed with a different raid in the 3 month intervals in-between. Honestly, I'm not sure which I'd prefer in the end with respect to raiding.

With WoW's precipitous subscriber drop, I think we're in an era where folks will be subscribed until they're satisfied, and drop the subscription until the next content that interests them appears. FFXIV may have the advantage here, because folks can't binge on everything and complete it in 2 weeks. It's being fed at 3 - 3.5 month intervals like clockwork. On the other hand, if they complete that in 1 week and then leave for 2 months? I guess they'll still get more subscriber money overall.

Oh, and FFXIV is managing to actually put out an entire new expansion 3 months after their final patch of the current version (and said expansion looks just as meaty as any WoW expansion in terms of content, if not meatier). WoW takes a year or so each time. From that alone, I give huge props to the FFXIV team. If this pace proves to be sustainable, they may just dethrone WoW as the Themepark MMO to beat. #FFXIV, #WoW, #Patches


  1. FFXIV is such a weird duck; it went from a release that was, to put it nicely, DISMAL, and turned it around to become a contender in the MMO world. Not to mention as a pure subscription MMO.

    The reason it lost me though is that while it does a lot of things very well, there are a few that feel...behind. Little things that get under my skin. Tank threat for example, as you pointed out in your last post, is heavily tied to damage which WoW figured out was not a good model a few expansions ago. Or how it's perfectly fine to mash a button for the most part, if you accidentally do that with ninja skills you'll screw up your Ninjutsu. Plus the detection and response on them is sluggish.

    Still you're right about the content release; they're very good about it, though I suppose one could argue about issues of quality over quantity (doesn't justify the crazy long break between SoO and WoD), but FFXIV's quality of content always seemed up to par.

    1. Agreed on the lag time from button press to action execution. WoW has at so right, with it being basically immediate. FFXIV's is "immediate", but you don't see the result until the animation completes. Anytime I use Rage of Halone, I can walk away mid-animation, and it's still going off. It feels weird.

  2. The interesting thing is that FFXIV minor patches also tend to have content in them as well. It was Patch 2.51 that the Gold Saucer or patch 2.28 had the next step in the Relic Weapon line and changes to the Daily Roulette so you could do them as a party.

    If that is calculated into it, in a span of 21 months, SE released 18 content patches.
    On an unrelated note, do you want the Shiva pony now?

    1. Yeah, I noticed that. I had to dive into the minor patches to get all the pieces. Seems like as a company they have a monthly patch train with a major patch every 3.5 months or so. If they miss a patch, they'll get the content in on the next one. Which is to say sounds like disciplined agile to me.

      I'd settle for any of the ponies, but the Shiva one is pretty. But since they recently added the primal music when you mount on a Primal Pony, oh my god I want the Shiva one yeeeessss. Or Garuda.

  3. I have played WoW off and on since mid Wrath. I dabbled in Rift, GW2, Wildstar and SWTOR but none of them kept my interest. I raided all of Mists and enjoyed that expansion quite a bit. But found myself greatly disappointed with WoD and unsubscribed. Although the leveling experience was wonderful the content seem to disappear past level 100. I hate garrisons and got burnt out on raiding.

    So about a month ago I decided to try out FFXIV and am loving it. Right now my highest job is a 42 ACN but I am trying out the other classes to see which one I want to stick with for Heavensward. I have never been an altaholic and enjoy being able to do everything on one toon. I am also find myself excited to log in which I haven't felt since I started playing WoW.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that right now I find FFXIV to be the better game. This is keeping in mind I haven't gotten to end game content yet. Personally I think the WoW vs FFXIV controversy will be better answered in the months after Heavensward is released. Since SE has been vague on the details I am very curious where they plan to go in the future.

    1. Yeah, I'm hoping that WoW's Mythic Dungeons will let 5-player content be relevant again, because it was pretty fun. I'm concerned it's just going to be the exact same dungeons, tuned a bit higher. At which case they'll last another week or two and then I'll be bored. Granted, weekly loot lockout means that running them each only once a week, but I'm okay with that. Otherwise, aside from raiding, there's very little max level PvE content that I haven't completed.

      I agree Heavensward is going to be an interesting transition, and I agree that FFXIV is giving WoW a kick in the pants. I just hope the WoW team sees this kick and runs with it. As consumers, we all win when there's healthy competition, and I'm happy to see WoW finally get some.