Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
Developer: Division 5, Square Enix
Fishing, a returning player told me in Final Fantasy 14's chat, takes too damned long to level. He loathed how every fish took a different type of bait, how his perception stat wasn't high enough to get the high quality fish he needed for a quest. If he could have snapped his digital fishing pole in half, I think he would have.
He was just venting, but I rocked his world by telling him about the new ocean fishing trips, where stately vessels voyage to spots where fish all but throw themselves on your hooks. They feel like short vacations, and they drop a boatload of XP, to boot. He'd been struggling to hit level 30 in fishing for weeks or months, but with ocean fishing he hit the level cap of 80 within the week. Suddenly he enjoyed an aspect of the game he used to hate, and as one of the game's Mentors, I felt like I'd done my job.
All of this unfolded in FF14's Novice Network, which is basically a chat channel where players who've earned a status by putting ridiculous amounts of time into Square Enix's MMO (like me) impart wisdom and tips to new and returning players. Don't understand the Black Mage rotation? The Novice Network is a good place to learn. Puzzled about why there aren't any houses for sale? With some bitterness, we'll tell you why. Want to speed up a dungeon queue with a tank or healer? Ask, and you might receive.
Or at least I'm fortunate enough it works that way on my server. I've heard horror stories from other servers about Novice Networks crowded with mentors who insult new players and offer no advice beyond "Google it." They’re apparently only in it for the gold crown you get beside your name. Fortunately, in my case, it's been a reminder why Final Fantasy 14 has a reputation as one of the friendliest MMOs around. As it's always bustling with both Mentors and "sprouts"—the nickname given to new players for the icon they have beside their name—it feels like a guild that's always active, even in the quiet week between patches.
FF14 allows for different types of mentors. Becoming a battle mentor is the hardest, as it's saddled with crazy qualifications like completing 1,000 dungeons or earning 1,500 player commendations. I'm a trade mentor, which basically means I've leveled all eight crafting jobs and the three gathering jobs and made a ton of collectibles.
Some of the best MMOs would benefit from something like this system. Being a mentor is far from a huge obligation, but if you take it seriously, it gives some meaning to the weeks and months or years you've sacrificed to a virtual world. I love the optimism of the idea, even if it doesn’t always work out in practice: it's a way of letting players who are most dedicated to a game infect new players with their passion.
If any MMO needs that it's Final Fantasy 14, with its stunningly diverse range of content locked behind a horde of inconspicuous side quests. The first 50 levels still do a poor job conveying why so many players madly love the game. I've known players who were initially "meh" about FF14 completely change their mind once they learn about chocobo races, the glamour system, or even the long, goofy questline starring the bumbling detective Hildibrand Manderville.
Lately, I admit, I'm grateful for Mentorship for the enhanced sense of self-worth. I was one of the pandemic layoffs, and it's hard to go through something like that without enduring internal arguments about your skills and competence. When I log into FF14, though, players ask me for help and I can deliver. I can teach them about some of the best macros for crafting, I can heal trials and dungeons when someone needs, and I've got great tips for playing the Ninja class. In almost every case, they appreciate it. In almost every case, I feel useful. Few other games deliver that feeling.