Happy Valentine's Day! I've now been playing on the FFXIV Japanese server (Ramuh) in an all Japanese guild for around the past 7 months and haven't gone back to my original English server (Leviathan) very often. I'm now decently capable of basic communication with the people I play with, although I still break into english too often. It's actually taken me a couple of months to get part 2 together, because here's where folks are going to be able to disagree with my assessment of the playstyle and cultural differences between Japanese and American servers. I want to be as respectful to both cultures as possible. There are significant cultural differences between Japan and America just in general - I think I blew my guild leader's brain up when I talked about getting so much food eating out that it lasted for 2 extra meals at home. And we wonder why Americans get fat...
On the other hand, guys seem to get a lot of chocolate for Valentine's Day in Japan whereas the Americans seem to go all out for the roses. I'm just going to dress up in game so I've got a picture for this article...
I do believe that there are significant playstyle differences between the Japanese and Americans and I also believe that the game is tailored towards the Japanese playstyle. This makes sense because the game does originate in Japan, but feel free to disagree. These are the differences that I've noticed over my 7 months of playing in a casually-oriented guild and so these differences might not apply at all to those that are in more hardcore guilds. I have also done a lot of duty finder (around 500 player commendations worth) during my time on Ramuh and I've been invited to a few pre-formed raids that extend beyond my guild boundaries. I still stay away from the party finder mostly because I don't trust my communication skills too much (I can always go back into english if I'm in a guild group and need to know something).
Ok, so about the differences...
American Tanks On Average do Bigger Pulls than the Japanese Tanks
So I started out thinking that I was going to try and capture this on video. You have no idea how boring it is to watch pull differences over the scope of a whole instance like Pharos Sirius (Hard). I then had the thought that I was going to put X's on a map where tanks pull to in the instance so that I could narrow it all down to 2 images (one for Japan and one for America). I actually was partially through this exercise over many, many runs when it occurred to me that as people become better geared and more used to the instance, they also start to make bigger pulls in general. So the pulls that I initially saw on both American and Japanese servers were over time just getting bigger until they started to overlap each other just because the tanks on both sides were so used to running the instance that they could just max out pulls.
The difference comes down to this - in an area where there's a 2 monster pull followed by a 3 monster pull, the Americans will just run through and pull both groups consistently. The Japanese will commonly do the 2 monster pull separately from the 3 monster pull. This varies a bit - as the Japanese tanks become overgeared, they will run through and pull multiple groups of monsters. Sometimes the Americans will actually run through and pull 3 groups where possible. On average though, the Americans appear to be greater risk takers when pulling than their Japanese counterparts.
A pull of 7 mobs will be noticeably slower to kill that a regular pull of 4
So initially I assumed that the American groups were running instances faster than the Japanese groups due to this difference, but on average my Japanese runs tend to be shorter than the American runs by a few minutes. It appears that the game favors a slower pulling strategy by just a bit. There are a few possible reasons for this:
- Large pulls lead to more wipes on average. This is especially true of old level 50 hard mode content where sometimes you enter a duty finder run only to see an ill-geared tank try to do a speed run and fail miserably. This also ends badly if the healer isn't overgeared. I've seen tanks try pulls on the American side that I've just never, ever seen on the Japanese side. And I hope to never see those pulls again.
- There's a limit to the amount of aoe damage being passed around when there are more than 4 or 5 monsters that have been pulled. So the tank is taking extra damage, but there are too many monsters that have been pulled to adequately damage them all at once. So they have to be killed in groups anyway.
- On large pulls the healer must be in healing stance rather than cleric/damage stance. I spend a good majority of my time in cleric stance (WHM) in Japanese groups and even though my damage is not that great, it's better than what I do when I'm not in cleric stance and healing like crazy in an American group.
- Organizational differences (see next item below)
The Japanese Self Organize without Conversation
This one took me a while to figure out, but after you first notice it then it becomes very obvious. A great example of a low level dungeon where this happens is Haukke Manor. Each party consists of 4 players - tank, 2 dps, and a healer. On the end boss there are 4 lights with one light in each corner of a rectangular room. These lights turn on and have to be turned off or else they pulse damage. In my Japanese runs it's fairly common to see people spread out towards the light they are going to get naturally (usually somebody will get the 4th light for the tank because the tank is busy with the boss). It's almost like clockwork when the lights come on and then all get snuffed out at once since everybody is getting "their" light. The Americans tend to keep dps on the boss with one party member running around and getting lights. More damage is taken when doing the lights in this manner.
Haukke Manor Lights
There are a decent number of instance mechanics that seem oriented towards this Japanese organizational ability. There are quite a few instances where it's beneficial for people to spread out and take "their" damage from an orb or other element. I consistently see the Japanese groups doing this effortlessly while the Americans are running around randomly and acting like individuals that don't want to get stuck with their damage pill. I know that everybody wants to be damaging the boss, but that's not always the most beneficial thing to do when you're in a party.
Do More Social Activities in Guild
Maybe I've just been in really bad guilds for my 10 or so years of playing MMO games, but darn... I've done so many more things together in this Japanese guild than in any of my American guilds. In my American guilds we'd get together to do things like raids, but mostly everybody played separately and just talked in guild chat. In my Japanese guild. I'd certainly never thought that I'd ever be in an 8 man party where everybody had a treasure map and we just went around and did them all together in the open world. And I've done all the old content like Syrcus Tower in guild groups. And our guild is very small with only around 13 active players. Everybody's pretty much happy to help any guildie do old content when they're leveling up alts too.
In FFXIV, this group-oriented nature seems to be rewarded in both gardening (which is per guild house and not per player) and with airship building and exploring. I've been really lucky that my guildies have been ok with allowing me hog the garden. Of course, I am doing this for the benefit of the guild in that I'm growing everybody in guild minions in the garden. It's been kind of fun crossing plants and then growing minions that will be given away to my guild mates.
I Keep Our Guild Garden Quite Busy and Always Protect It
Oh yeah, and there are the spontaneous guild crafting sessions out near the market board in our guild housing location. We share space with other folks from local houses that are also crafting...
The Japanese Crafting "Thing"
Ok, so my friend Sardoni is a weird player that got involved in maxing out his crafting classes on the American side. And even he didn't get through them all... but there are a lot of folks in both my guild and the nearby guilds where our house is located on the Japanese server that have every single craft maxed out. And they will sit and happily craft for HOURS. They are much more patient than I am in terms of leveling and gearing out a crafter! I just don't see that on the American side.
Maybe crafting is more worthwhile on the Japanese side because of the lack of gold farmers?
Japanese Passive Aggressiveness and American Vocal Expressiveness
The Japanese are known for their politeness and it's usually a very positive experience to be in a Japanese group because of this. In an American group you will know immediately if somebody's unhappy - Americans are very up front and straight with you when they are not having a good experience. I can recall a particular moment in Alexander 4 where some random American player somehow managed to get himself killed before the tank got aggro (which I didn't even know was possible, but apparently it is). There were a lot of harsh words and the duty finder party disbanded in record time.
The Japanese will not usually be up front when they're unhappy and they will also tend to try and try and try even when there's an obviously bad player that's causing wipes (yes, there are amazingly bad players on both the Japanese and American sides). In Extreme mode trials like Thok ast Thok it's pretty common to see a duty finder group go in and work towards success with new players learning along the way. The good part is that when the players are OK, this means that the instance gets done and everybody learns. However, sometimes there's a bad player (like somebody that kills the Spiny Plume in Garuda Extreme so that everybody wipes - yes, this happened in one of my Japanese groups multiple times) and the Japanese group will take much longer to disband in this situation.
Sometimes you'll find out when a Japanese player is unhappy in a very passive aggressive manner. An example of this happened when I was forming a group to do end game duty roulette. I got a full group and then tried to queue us only to be told that somebody in the group hadn't unlocked that roulette mode. I incorrectly assumed that somebody was in crafting gear waiting for the roulette (which happens), but what had really happened was that one of the people in my group just hadn't unlocked that roulette mode yet. That particular person asked for party leader (I was so confused that I gave it to them) and then queued us for a completely different roulette. Which made everybody else in the group unhappy, but nobody would say anything publicly.
This happened to me twice (and led to a lot of confusion on my part) before I figured out that I was apparently expected to ask what people needed rather than to ask people to form a group of a certain type with me. It's a live and learn sort of situation.
Why are We Different?
You'll notice that I talked about the average differences (and there are always folks outside of the averages), but I really have little idea of why the differences exist. I know that when I played the Korean mmo game Aion on a Korean server I noticed that the Koreans would pvp immediately in the Dredgion instance whereas the Americans on an American server would often avoid pvp until almost the end of the Dredgion. I don't actually know if that's because the Koreans like to pvp more though - it could just be a different way of organization and gathering points that leads to a different time for pvp engagement in that instance.
It's probably best to avoid blanket assumptions. I don't know why the Japanese appear more organized or the Americans appear to take more risks. It is something interesting to think about and I'd really like to play more games across Japan and the USA to see more of these differences.
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