Advice Needed – MMO End Game Struggles

This is a difficult post to write, but one that I’ve known has been coming for a while. I’m looking for advice on what you do when you feel a MMO’s endgame really doesn’t match your playstyle, and it’s causing friction. I’m also using this to organize my thoughts and feelings on the matter some.

I know there’s folks out there who have more experience with playing MMO end game than I do. In fact, FFXIV is the first game that I’ve actually reached endgame on. Because I was slow at leveling and progressing, this didn’t become an issue until after Heavensward for me.

The Trouble

Up until the final patch of 2.0, I was still working to finish story for both of my characters, so the game was quite different – I always had story to look forward to, and I never cared about capping tomes, getting the end game armor, or Expert Roulette. I’d run Crystal Tower a few times a week because I was still earning rewards from it, but it was a pretty casual experience.

Once Heavensward dropped and that story was finished, the game became a different sort of beast. There were expectations of daily Expert Roulettes. There was the expectation of raiding Alexander Normal (which I’ve still not finished). I found myself struggling to try to keep up with friends and FC members so that I could group and do things with them.

But the truth is, I’m not a dungeon runner. I’m not a raid runner. I can do the content, but I easily burn out on FFXIV if all I do is run dungeons. I’ll never be a fan of these things, and only tolerate them so that I don’t get left behind too far. Sure, sometimes I had fun running things with FC people. But at end game, it feels like dungeons and raids were the only content people wanted to do for a while.

Still yet, I don’t have a full set of Eso armor for Tai, and not a single piece for Zuri. When Void Ark came out, I gave up on daily dungeons and just started filling the holes in my set with Ark drops.

Finally, so many months after Heavensward, FFXIV is releasing content that isn’t dungeon or roulette oriented (relic and beast tribe). The problem is, the calmer content tends to be strictly solo. I enjoy beast tribe quests and daily hunts, but due to their random nature, it’s not something you usually group with friends to do. I had hopes for the Diadem, but as it stands now, my FC doesn’t have a lot of interest in it, and running it in a group of strangers is the complete opposite of the experience I’m looking for.

What Was Lost

For me, a MMO experience is logging into a immersive world with lots of quests, lore, and story, which you can share with other people if you wish. But, strangely, that’s not the way people seem to play FFXIV – almost by design, story and quests are mostly a solo thing. And once they’re done, you can’t go back and experience them again unless you roll an alt. I don’t mind soloing to some extent, and prefer it over forced grouping of dungeons, but that doesn’t give a lot of options for when you want to do things with a friend. It’s pretty much dungeons or nothing.

Now, all that being said, there’s a lot that I still love about FFXIV and I don’t want to quit the gameI knew long ago that the forced grouping and endgame focus would eventually be an issue for me. I looked at it as something to overcome, but now it’s become the central focus of everything everyone around me does. I have no issue putting time and effort into earning things like gear (I’m actually happy about some of the Relic quest because people are finally doing FATES again), but it wears me out to log in to only do dungeons every day.

I feel I’ve lost sight of the immersive world I used to enjoy. I feel like it’s a struggle to keep up with everyone around me, doing content that I’d prefer not to… but giving up means that I won’t have the gear to do the things that my friends want to (which are usually more dungeons/raids). It’s a vicious circle.

Analyzing the Situation

Part of this is my own preferred playstyle. I don’t mind a 24 man raid once or twice a week, but dungeons every day is a fast track to burn-out for me. I need quiet time and immersion in my game world, or it comes to feel less like a world I come to be a part of and more like something I log in to just to earn tokens. While I like goals in my games, I don’t want my game to always be about goals. Maybe that’s why I love the building and creativity of sandbox games, but FFXIV is pretty lacking in the sand area.

Part of this is in the design of FFXIV. With a focus on forced grouping even through the main storyline and dungeons at end game, it really isn’t a fit for me. There aren’t a lot of options for someone who wants to group with people, unless everyone is seriously into grinding FATEs… but even I can only do that so much.

FFXIV really doesn’t offer a lot of group content aside from dungeons, which is what I think they were trying to do with the Diadem. I think they realize there’s a lack of content that doesn’t reside inside a dungeon roulette. Plenty of other games have introduced content in various ways to address this.

For example, I remember Skirmishes from LOTRO. While they weren’t the best system for everyone, they did offer duo and trio players small group content to do while still working on goals. Some of it was quite challenging. GW1 allowed you to group with people by filling in holes in the party with Heroes – and the storyline and missions were always replayable if you wanted to go back and help friends (something I miss in FFXIV).

Looking for Advice

For a while, I thought maybe leveling my crafting would lead me to the possibility of crafting the gear I needed to get by. Except, the new system allows you to only specialize in 3 crafts, which means I’d need at least two crafters to cover the variety of gear I needed to make. Also, I’ve tried and tried to wrap my head around the whole end game crafting system, and I continue to come away feeling stumped and overwhelmed.

And before someone offers the thought that I need to take time away, I have taken a break from FFXIV and dungeon content for close to a month, especially over the holidays. I logged in a few times to do holiday quests and did some FATE running, but I put some distance between me and the game in hopes that I could figure out why I’m feeling disenchanted.

I suppose that time away has told me that I don’t really miss the game and dungeon stress when I’m not playing it. I’ve already vowed to play less this year because I want to focus on creative projects and other things that got ignored due to nightly dungeon runs last year – I need a more balanced way of using free time. But now I want to figure out what I can do to enjoy the game again. I’ve put over 840 days of sub time into it, and I don’t want to leave all that I’ve built on my characters and FC.

I definitely don’t like the feeling of struggling to keep up at end game, and still feeling left behind despite my best efforts. Last year, I wasn’t playing as a casual gamer who was there to enjoy the MMO world and the people in that world, and it’s taken a noticeable toll on me.

So have you ever faced these kinds of feelings in a long-term game that you want to keep playing? What did you do? Any advice?