Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, for as long as I’ve been playing it, is an MMORPG like most: you get most of your experience from questing, your equipment quality heavily relies on instances, there is a role you fit into when you start and there are multiple correct and incorrect ways to play them and the community’s attitude often dictates a lot of people’s playing experience. In its base, Final Fantasy XIV is like a lot of other MMOs out there. It differs, though, in how it trains you for what’s to come: a lot of quests are unbeatable unless you learn how to play your role right, a lot of instances are painfully simple if you just pay attention and anything you get wrong in the meantime can often be solved by just asking the community, especially if you’re part of a good Free Company. This isn’t always the case, though, and a lot of that comes from the community; while it’s one of the best I’ve seen in an MMO thus far – you have to understand my trial membership ends in two days so I’m still, very much, a newbie – it still has its sour apples and there are a lot of them out there, like with any experience that’s social; I had to learn that one out the hard way.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face in-game didn’t really have anything to do with the game itself: it was dealing with the criticisms that came from playing closer to the mid-game to the end-game, especially when it came to dungeons and trials. I don’t always deal well with criticisms, especially when I’m trying hard to do my best. This caused a little slice of gamer “crisis of conscience:” I was starting to take people’s criticisms to heart a little too much and it caused me to avoid dungeons and trials altogether because it would just ruin my entire experience every time someone messed up or tried to blame me for a group wiping.
I decided to go through videos and text to see if there was something better I could do to play my role more efficiently and more skillfully. I did pick up a few tricks but some either didn’t add to my skill or didn’t mesh well with my play style, which, in the case of you running into me on the Marlboro (NA) server under my current ‘toon, Kenichi Aileron, a paladin, is a well-prepared chaos: I take my time marking, if the mob isn’t all the same enemy or requires focus fire, make the initial pull, throw down a flash spam and settle into my combos to hold enmity. If you messed with that process or jutted out ahead you screwed with my entire routine and you screwed everything for everyone. This happened quite a lot through the course of me trying to get through dungeons and trials, for story questing purposes, and it was grating on my nerves. Either the healer or myself, the tank, would take the brunt of the blame in almost every instance of this kind of thing happening. It felt as though there was nothing to add to help me become the player that a lot of people were telling me that I should be.
However, though, through the course of playing through some of these runs, I began to realize something that no video or plain advice would be able to offer me: one of the greatest skills a tank could have – or, arguably, any role could have, in this game – is the ability to adapt to any situation. I had spent too much time trying to control every run and trying to make sure things went a certain way. Sometimes, things get out of control and things go poorly; you can’t overdo those situations to try and prepare for them because some people don’t care and, sometimes, shit just happens. Through these kinds of experiences I found that I grew as a player – having been forced into situations that were way less than favorable, I had to come out of my shell and stretch my role’s full potential. I’ve found that, as a tank, you’re given a very specific set of skills that are meant to be used in a very specific way; that doesn’t mean that I feel restricted or limited by them, however. I find myself able to adjust for everything happening around me and I think my crowd management skills have also grown for that as well.
When this realization came to a head, it felt a little like enlightenment. I was lining myself up for my first Garuda run so that I could complete the related story quest and move on from that and I got some help from a fellow member of my Free Company, Materia Breakers. We started the run and it felt like it was going well, we were passing tips around because it was my first run and it would seem that not everyone was as experienced as I had initially thought. We wiped three times but, damn it all, we got through it, without a problem, on the fourth try, and I believe it was because I adjusted our gameplan on the fly and that kept everyone alive. Our healer, the fellow Company-mate, did a great job of guiding me through and being a big part of our survival, too.
Given, there will be situations that are overwhelming, there will be times where my group is less than stellar, there will be times where I’m having an off day, an off week, or otherwise, but I feel like I can take just about anything on, now. There’s still a great lot to learn but the point still remains that had I not been put into positions where I would have to learn to how to adapt for imperfect situations… I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as ready for endgame as I am now.