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Friday, August 16, 2013

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta Review

Yeah, so far ... I can't say that I'm a fan.

Here's why:

This game wasn't really on my radar, to be honest.  I've never been a big Final Fantasy guy.  But I had heard about some people talking about it and one day I get a message in my PSN box from Square Enix inviting me to the beta (I think I entered originally by like downloading a video off off PlayStation Plus or the like).

Great.  So I click on the attachment in the message.  This is what this message looked like:

It downloads a 28MB launcher, which in turn sits there and downloads some untold gigs of actual game software.

Slowly.  OK, so there went using the PS3 for a while.  I go about and do ... some other Friday night thing for a while.  I come back.  Still downloading.  Wash, rinse and repeat about five times.  Finally downloaded.  It's late now, but I can stay up for a bit to smoke test the first few moments of the game.

Except, there's no play button.  Instead I first have to enter in my Beta Code.

What Beta Code?  I don't have a Beta Code.  I have a huge amount of software that got downloaded from a small amount of software that I downloaded from that ....

Oh, right - that message.  So I go back to the message.  The Beta Code can be found if you artfully scroll down a bit.  It's 20 characters long.  There is no concept of cutting and pasting on the PS3.  Thankfully I've got an iPhone with a camera and a USB keyboard.

OK.  Beta Code in.  Time to kill some ... I don't know ... bird things.  Whatever they kill in Final Fantasy a lot.  Seriously, I haven't played Final Fantasy since like ... well at least before they needed more than a few Roman numerals.  But now I can play - right?

Nope.  Now I get to create a Square Enix account, and then I have to tie that to my PSN account. Usually typing in a promo code isn't really needed if you get it through PSN because it just gets passed through - but OK.  And sure, I've had to link accounts before - but usually that can be done pretty smoothly either through my browser or through the PS3 - this was pretty much neither.  I had to create account information, confirm account information, follow my confirmation instructions, confirm my other account information and so on.

Usually "closed beta" means "exclusive rights to download", not really "fill out enough forms to get a new rate on your loan".   After about three more screens and a couple user agreements, though, I've got it.  I'm all signed up, linked up, and I have every single code I could possibly have entered in.

Time to kill some Cocoa Birds, right?

Wrong.  I just get a message thanking me for joining the Square Enix community and come back when there's a beta not already in progress.  Don't call us, we'll call you.  We'll do lunch.  So days turns into weeks and I get bored with having this downloaded beta I can't play ... so I delete it.

Fast forward to yesterday.  I get this in the old inbox:

Now, there's just one teeeeny tiny little problem here.  I mean, really, so insignificant that I hesitate to mention.  Really, it might not be worth your time.  I should just go, really.  I mean - oh, well, OK - here's the thing.

I don't own a PC.

And I really would have thought you would have known that from the thirty minutes of paperwork you forced me to do just to have the privilege of not playing your game.

Sigh.  OK, probably a simple misunderstanding. Whatever, no big deal - like I said.  I mean, I spent all that time registering with Square Enix, surely I can just download the beta again and then login and then we'll be fine.  I go back to my PSN inbox, click on the attachment.

I get prompted for a 12 digit promo code.  I don't have a 12 digit promo code.  I have a 20 digit beta code.

 I got to the support center noted in the email.  I log into my account (which at this point I assume that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn might just be the most subtle ARG ever made).  I fumble around until I find some forums in English.  I put a post there, and a fellow gamer tells me that I should have gotten a 12 digit code in my email.

You know, the email inviting me to download the beta client for my non-existent PC.

So I find Customer Support.  Square's concept of Customer Support seems to embrace the often used tactic of "fend them off with FAQ's and then ignore them completely".  I get past their measly FAQ's and submit a "ticket".

Of course, a "ticket" would imply that a) someone received it and that b) I could go back and check the status of the "ticket".  Only, there is no open tickets area in Square's Customer Support mindset.  So what they've really created is email.  And since I have no confirmation email, it might be email that goes nowhere.

So now I stumble onto the Technical Support forums, where I find the grandest of all the grand punchlines this little saga could have ... a thread entitled:

OK.  now we are getting somewhere.  Surely out of eight pages of Internet wisdom will be the answer, or at least some kind of response from Square Enix on the situation.  Right?


Oh, hell no.  There are, and I shit you not because I respect you as a person and would not do that you this late in a long post, eight pages of people posting their public email addresses to an international Internet forum in the hopes of someone sending them a beta key.

Because, I should mentioned, these forums do not have private messages.  So the thing is - I don't even really blame people for posting in the hopes of getting a code.  Several have.  Square is completely silent on the issue and have left them no other choice.

Eight pages ... and growing.  Of personal email addresses.

Nicely played, Square, you have managed to fuck up a process the gaming industry has been honing for like decades into a process where people are willing to forego their personal information for a 12 digit code.

So yeah.

First of all, if you are going to force me to jump through so many registration hoops - I should get some benefit of it.  That I had to create like three accounts, pinky swear four times and what not - but you have absolutely no way of giving me a beta code except email? Ludicrous.  Absolutely ludicrous.  This is like when the phone company asks you to put in your phone number so that they can put you through to a human whose first question will be what is your phone number.

Second - I am so tired of first rate game companies with third rate customer support systems.  I'm kinda glad I already played Tomb Raider - because now knowing that Square Enix basically has no customer support, I am far less likely to buy their games in the future.

And thirdly ... Square, if you are reading this - don't even respond to me until you have responded to that forum thread.  Like you should have done at least a day ago.

The Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta?

I am not a fan.

Not at all.