I've only ever made it to the "endgame" of one MMORPG, and that was World of Warcraft. It took me several years of playing the same character from beta onwards -- I made slow progress -- but I finally got there.
Final Fantasy XIV will probably be the next MMORPG I make that trip in. I'm not sure how long it will take me to do so, or whether I will even make it, but given how much I've enjoyed what I've played of the game so far, I anticipate sticking with the newly rebooted game for a significant period of time.
As any hardcore MMORPG player will tell you, endgame content is an important part of any new game's design. If there's no reason for players to stick around once they hit the level cap, they simply won't; they'll move on to something else, quite possibly never to return to the game they "beat," even if expansions and significant updates come along.
Final Fantasy XIV's producer Naoki Yoshida is extremely aware of this, and his latest Letter from the Producer to Final Fantasy XIV fans old and new attempts to outline what his team has in store for high level players.
"Completing the main scenario will get players to level 50, but the adventure doesn't end there," he writes. "Being an online game, there'll be regular updates to continue the story. So even if you reach the level cap shortly after release, there's no reason to think you've hit the top. Considering all the plans we have for the game, you may want to get comfortable and prepare for a long stay in Eorzea."
Yoshida then gives a few examples of what level-capped players can expect to encounter.
One type of high-level challenge that you'll come across in your adventuring career is repeat encounters against bosses from the game's story. Yoshida gives an example of a battle against longstanding Final Fantasy summon Ifrit the fire demon -- when working through the game's main quest, this is a level 20 encounter, but his level 50 incarnation will pose a significant challenge even for skilled players.
Progression through endgame content will be relatively conventional for MMOs -- players will work their way through several "tiers" of increasingly effective equipment, and each endgame encounter is designed for a particular tier. Yoshida claims that the team has calculated the maximum possible damage per second for each of these hierarchical encounters down to the decimal, and notes that there will be "optimal" equipment for each character at each tier.
Yoshida then goes on to give some further examples of endgame encounters. Besides Ifrit, players can expect a tough battle against the earth-element giant Titan, and even against some iconic monsters from past Final Fantasies such as recurring boss beast Demon Wall.
Besides endgame content, Yoshida also notes that the game is being fine-tuned for gamepad play. This is an important aspect of the game not only due to the existence of the PS3 version, but also because the PC version supports gamepads. The PC version already rejigs its interface a little for gamepad users and has good support for Xbox 360 controllers in particular, but Yoshida and the team is keen to ensure that those playing with a gamepad will not only have a good experience in the game, but also be able to remain competitive with those playing with mouse and keyboard.
Final Fantasy XIV is set for release on August 24. An open beta, in which characters will carry across into the final release version of the game, is due to start soon, but specific dates for that haven't yet been given.