Meter-Minding in MMOs – My Experience with Advanced Combat Tracker in Final Fantasy XIV

Coming from WoW, one thing that immediately strikes you about FFXIV is that addons aren’t really a thing, and in recent rewatch streams of the old Producer Live Letters, Naoki Yoshida indicated that the team started and then stopped work on a framework that would enable addons.

For most of my time in WoW, I’ve played with a variety of different addons to deliver all kinds of different data to me in an easily digestible manner. Outside of the boss mods that define a lot of the game’s design challenges at this point in time, something that is nearly ubiquitous is a damage meter. A variety of addons, from Recount to Skada to Details, all exist to present a simple overlay in realtime of how much damage, healing, or various other actions are being performed in a fight.

I’ve played with meters for as long as I can remember, and while players who excessively meter-maid to the point of being assholes about it are repellent to me (see: many of my current guildies!), I generally find them useful tools for self-improvement.

FFXIV, because it doesn’t have direct support for addons, instead has to use unique third-party software to real-time parse and then present the information in an overlay you can show in-game, and the software in question I’m using is ACT.

Now, in the FFXIV community, there is a lot of debate all over about if ACT is a net positive or not. Primarily, because under a lot of interpretations of the terms of use of the game, using third-party software with it can be considered a breach and something you could, in theory, be suspended or banned for. In practice, it is well-established that there is sort of a soft-exception for ACT use – provided you don’t meter-maid other players and harass them over poor performance using in-game channels, it escapes scrutiny.

For that reason, I spent a large portion of my time in FFXIV not using a damage meter. However, as with WoW, I found myself reaching a point where I really wanted to validate my performance and seek improvements – I’ve been thinking about finding a static group for Savage raiding, and with that comes a desire to ensure my performance is as optimal as I can make it. Without the feedback of an objective parse, it is nigh-impossible to objectively gauge performance in-game.

Because of that, I downloaded it and took it for a test drive, and it led to a sort of interesting set of revelations about how it changed my outlook in game, my outlook on my performance, and my outlook on how other players interact with the game. Given all of that, I thought it would be interesting to discuss!

Knowing How Much Health Enemies Have is Helpful: A minor tweak I didn’t expect, knowing exact health amounts for enemies shows you a lot of interesting data and allows you to better match ability selections to moments in combat. Particularly, knowing how much damage each rank of the Limit Break does in a given set of gear allows you to cast it ideally, providing you don’t get sniped from it by another player!

Healers Can Out-DPS “Bad” DPS Players: I often do a lot of group content as a healer, since White Mage was my original job I wanted to play in the game. The most interesting (and sort of bothersome!) thing I found with ACT is that in most raids, I usually out-DPS at least one DPS player. Almost without fail, I get slightly higher above the bottom DPS of the raid. It illuminates the need for healer DPS that the community so often was up in arms about when I joined the game, but it also leads to another point worth discussing.

DPS Figures Reveal the Low Difficulty of Non-Savage/EX Content: I always felt like raid content in FFXIV was a smidge easier, and chalked it up to not needing boss mods or multiple reactions in a short window of time. However, you can see the tuning favors mechanics a lot over raw DPS. Provided you can actually execute most mechanics most of the time, the game really doesn’t challenge you on DPS throughput until you get to Savage or EX fights. Even mechanics like Eden’s Verse Refulgence and the Absolute Zero spam at the end of the fight aren’t hard checks – provided the healers can meet the damage output of the boss, the DPS could in theory take their time. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either – the execution challenges provided by the game are pretty good and tough! – but the tuning clearly favors execution over raw DPS, and it is at the Savage/EX/Ultimate levels where you then need to unify tight execution with high output.

Healing Breaks from DPS Is Low Efficiency (At Least Mine Is): My average overheal is around 55%-65%, and it makes sense given that I most often case Medica II to give the raid heal-over-time effects before resuming my DPS spam.

I Started as a Pretty Good Player Anyways: Humblebrag aside, when I got ACT, I was worried that I would be bottom-tier trash on the DPS meters, but when playing my DPS jobs, I’ve often done exceptionally well, better than I expected! My first time playing Machinist recently since leveling the job, I topped a raid chart, and when leveling and playing Ninja, I’m usually in the lead, which is a pretty cool thing to see and quantify!

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with the use of ACT and it has led me to some optimizations I wouldn’t have otherwise made, which is what I sought to find with it and getting there is satisfying!

2 thoughts on “Meter-Minding in MMOs – My Experience with Advanced Combat Tracker in Final Fantasy XIV

  1. Nice to hear you are enjoying your forays into Savage. Just to get this out there: I love SE’s “don’t ask don’t tell” approach to ACT, as they are never going to bust anyone for using it, but we are prevented from fostering an open culture of meter whoring.

    This goes hand in hand with what you mention about Normal level raiding not having a strong dps check.They want new and casual players doing the mechanics instead. I prefer this to WoW where even into the first 3-4 Mythic bosses the most common way to win is to ignore most mechanics and spam your 4 best dps buttons. I admit it gets harder after that. 14 has more focus on raid awareness and correct execution, punishing people with one-shots even in low content. I think this makes for a good introductory level of raiding and also fosters better team play. When I first noticed 14 players not dragging their AoEs on top of me and actually swapping to adds that had to die, my jaw dropped, as I was used to WoW where I spent more time dodging other players than I did boss mechanics.

    And although I like ACT I am very glad they never enabled the framework for them in game. One thing I do not miss from WoW is the ever-changing score of add-ons I needed to make that game feel playable. And the way WoW raids now have to be designed around the use of those add-ons.


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