Final Fantasy XIV Mac Sales Suspended, Refunds Offered

What happens when you release a wonky version of a game with performance problems? Acknowledging its shortcomings and temporarily pulling it from sale is a nice start, and freely offering and encouraging refunds is a good follow-up.

Where Warner Bros. forgot the second part with the shambles of Batman: Arkham Knight, Square Enix have delivered with the Mac version of Final Fantasy XIV [official site]. There was a mix-up and they released system requirements suggesting it’d run better than it does, they say. It still might’ve been better if they hadn’t released it at all, knowing it still needed more work.

Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida said in a blog post on Friday:

“I believe that the biggest problem with the Mac version release was the significant discrepancy between the performance of the product our development team produced and the expectations our customers had for it, which was due to the lack of information available on our product when sales commenced, as well as other issues.”

They had been working up until release to improve performance, and “in the chaos leading up to the multi-platform launch of our expansion” they listed incorrect system requirements. Yoshida adds:

“Because of this situation, many of you purchased a product which your Mac hardware could not run at even the minimum system requirements, resulting in insufficient performance, for which many of you have expressed your dissatisfaction. Had we provided accurate information beforehand, I know many of you would not have purchased the Mac version, which is why we decided to offer full refunds. Once again, I apologize.”

Until they put together an announcement with more accurate system requirements and a better idea of the performance to expect, Square Enix have temporarily pulled the game from sale. While they’re continuing to work on improving Mac performance, they say it’ll never run as well as the Windows version. The post goes into detail on technical reasons behind that, if you’re curious.

It is a bit of a howler from Squeenix. The initial launch of FFXIV was shoddy enough that they suspended charging subscription fees while reworking it, and ended the world before relaunching the far superior new version with the new subtitle A Realm Reborn. It’s a shame this Mac launch has been wonky after such a strong recovery. Come on, you big sillies.

20 Comments

  1. rukimster says:

    Wait, what do you mean ‘forgot the second part’ I’m pretty sure WB openly encouraged refunds in one of their early community messages while the game was still on sale.

  2. zenmumbler says:

    Though they made a mistake at shipping time, the open, detailed and honest communication displayed in that post is very commendable.
    Ideally, as a company you don’t want to do retractions or after-the-fact apologies, but if it you have to then this one is excellent. Didn’t expect that from square-enix as they seem usually a bit stodgy (like their E3 presser)

    • Xerophyte says:

      They’ve been pretty honest about A Realm Reborn’s problems in general, due to how incredibly screwed up FF14 was at launch. The current state of the game basically stems from Squeenix saying “we’re sorry we screwed up the gameplay so badly, we’ve decided to Meteor the world and start over.”

      That said, I think that particular post by YoshiP quoted in the article is slightly disingenuous. I would be immensely surprised if a maximally optimized OpenGL implementation of their renderer (plus whatever changes in the engine would be needed to support it) would be 30% slower in the general case. The APIs just aren’t that different, although the driver implementations tend to vary a whole lot. I imagine FF14 is more than large enough for nVidia and ATI to have done optimized reimplementions of the shaders themselves (this happens for most “AAA” titles) in the drivers on Windows and I have no idea if that’s true on Mac, for instance.

      Of course there are entirely legitimate technical reasons for Squeenix to not try to do a maximally optimized OpenGL reimplementation of their renderer, since doing that would be extremely error-prone and take a whole heap of engineering resources they could get more general mileage out of elsewhere. Automated API call translation is a perfectly sane approach given the constraints of development. I just wish they were slightly more honest about that part. I guess “we decided your platform wasn’t worth the resources to optimize” isn’t generally something that goes down well with players, even when it’s true.

      • Janichsan says:

        I guess “we decided your platform wasn’t worth the resources to optimize” isn’t generally something that goes down well with players, even when it’s true.

        This especially does not go down well when a company like Squeenix that could afford to spent the necessary resources claims something like that, while much smaller developers do go the extra mile to produce native versions – and more often than not do a good to excellent job.

        • Xerophyte says:

          Those smaller developers are working on similarly smaller projects, often running a 3rd party engine like UE or Unity that already has cross platform support. Porting a smaller game can be (and usually is) done by a single developer.

          FF14 is a giant MMO with a proprietary engine and renderer that’s been in development for 10 years now. I imagine their codebase is relatively platform-agnostic what with the console versions but it’s still going to be a giant beast of a thing and any large scale restructuring will be a crapton of work. They might well not have much if any Mac expertise in-house either, so a native port would mean hiring new people who’d need to get up to speed on 10 years of code and so on.

          I’m fine with them saying “no, there are more useful things we can be doing for our players” and settling for API translation as a solution. It’s obviously not great but it’s the sort of trade-off engineers make all the time and — if it works correctly — it beats not having a Mac version in Mac-friendliness. I just wish they were more open about their reasoning and what Mac users can expect from the game.

          • Janichsan says:

            Those smaller developers are working on similarly smaller projects, often running a 3rd party engine like UE or Unity that already has cross platform support. Porting a smaller game can be (and usually is) done by a single developer.

            Neither of those runs on a third-party engine: Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Elite: Dangerous. And while certainly not from a smaller developer, so does Elder Scrolls Online.

      • Baines says:

        I want to recall that Square Enix did originally deny (or at least refused to address) claims that FFXIV had been outsourced to China, despite issues that included various words in the game being written in Chinese instead of Japanese. (“Chocobo” was the most telling. It was a word that Square should not be messing up in their own games, but FFXIV used the kanji for “horse bird” instead.)

      • Geebs says:

        Thing is, OpenGL is slower than DirectX, and the Mac OpenGL drivers are easily 30% slower than the Windows versions. Given how much most native Mac ports suck anyway, I can totally see why Squeenix went for a Wine wrapper.

        • Janichsan says:

          Bullshit! OpenGL can be as fast, even significantly faster than DirectX, when implemented properly.
          link to extremetech.com
          link to anandtech.com

          Only there lies the problem: most developers don’t bother with implementing OpenGL rendering properly, especially since Microsoft has every interest in pushing their proprietary DirectX in contrast to the open and multiplatform alternative.

          You are partially right that Apple’s OpenGL drivers are quite suboptimal, but a well-optimised OpenGL Mac port can have up to 90% of the performance of the Windows version.

          • Xerophyte says:

            The API performance overhead is heavily implementation and use-dependent. Remember that drivers are tweaked on a per-game basis: when nVidia are releasing drivers “Optimized for Arch Ham Night” that’s not just buzz, they have literally added specific driver code paths and settings for that one game. Which may or may not be considered a good thing, but it’s how the cookie currently crumbles.

            The theoretical difference in overhead is mostly academic, though. Every game you’ve ever played could’ve been at least 50% faster if the rendering were properly implemented, the draw calls properly minimized and so on and so forth. The problem is that rendering involves code and any nontrivial code will be buggy and suboptimal. APIs are chosen based on what its developers are most comfortable working with and what the vendors are most willing to support, both of which have a much greater impact on the end product quality than the potential overhead.

          • Geebs says:

            One benchmark, using an ancient engine which only uses a fraction of a modern graphics card’s feature set, produced by a company that at the time had a lot invested in proving that their shiny new OS would be good at games. API superiority very much Depends On What You’re Doing. It probably isn’t a coincidence that this is literally the only benchmark anyone provides these days as evidence for OpenGL’s gaming superiority.

            Disclaimer: OpenGL and GLSL are the only 3D graphics APIs that I have used, and I actually like using them. I’m just not convinced that they provide the best performance in actual games in the real world.

  3. Janichsan says:

    The linked post about the alleged technical details is actually full of shit and shows that this guy does not have any clue what he is talking about.

    Alone the logic behind their justification of the way the port was produced is plain idiotic: a native OpenGL version allegedly would already have performed much worse than the DirectX version (which is pretty much bullshit), so their solution is to use a Wine wrapper that introduces a much bigger performance overhead? And then they wonder why their Mac version runs like shit?

  4. Little_Crow says:

    If they committed to making a Mac OS version from the start it seems pretty boneheaded to then develop it in DirectX and gamble that WINE won’t charge too hefty a performance fee.

    I assume it was easier to repackage the PC version and run it through WINE, than it was to port the PlayStation version. It’d already be in OpenGL but then the UI would have to be totally redone and, ehhhh, why bother.

    It sounds like a purely economic decision to me – Potential Mac OS sales vs Windows and PS – Mac OS never stood a chance. With bootcamp making it so easy to boot to a Windows install on a Mac I can’t see gaming on the platform going anywhere at all.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Yep, bootcamp to Windows is my solution to successfully gaming on a Mac. Of course I can’t run the absolutely latest & greatest, but I like the slower stuff anyways.

  5. waltC says:

    OS X as a gaming platform is pretty much dead in the water–although it is certainly better than Linux gaming support to date. Still, if you think you want to run games you’re much better off just losing the Mac completely–or, you can use Bootcamp and run Windows natively–because today’s Macs are as “x86” as a Dell or an HP…;) The Mac today is just another x86 clone. Two things bootcamp users have going against them:

    1) Drivers…the device drivers come from Apple, and Apple has always felt the need to “demonstrate” that things are slower on the Windows side of the house…;) At the very least, Apple puts very little effort into it’s Windows drivers…and Apple has never been big on gaming and always been lack-luster in supporting it, even in OS X.

    2)Hardware…generally, most Macs–except the high-end, much more expensive Macs–have low-to-middling performance and aren’t really the best gaming platforms even when running Windows natively. More’s the pity. If you like gaming then stay away from a Mac.

    Frankly, I have no idea why developers bother with OS X versions of their games–seems like a huge waste of money, imo. Steam, for instance, could drop gaming support for the Mac (and Linux, too) tomorrow and they wouldn’t notice the difference. Drop Windows support and they’ll be traveling down the BK (bankruptcy) highway in no time at all.

    Buying a Mac for gaming is like bringing a Hyundai Sonata to a Grand Prix Formula One event…;)

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      I dunno, it’s relatively rare that I find a game I’d want to play that’s only on Windows and OSX but not Linux; generally it’s either all three platforms or just Windows. Which makes sense, since all that you do to port to OSX is 99% of what porting to Linux would entail (use OpenGL and OpenAL instead of DirectX, handle POSIX-style file paths instead of DOS-style, etc). It seems to be only really big projects that port to OSX but not Linux, and oftentimes then it seems like using WINE on Linux gets better results than the official ports on OSX!

      Part of it is what you bring up about Apple’s hardware. Back in the good ol’ days of Unreal Tournament 2004, apparently the number of Linux players was actually far higher than the number of OSX players, and a lot of that was that of the Linux-using population, far more of them having gaming-capable rigs than of the OSX-using population. So even if you go by official numbers (which are actually pretty hazy) and trust that OSX has a far larger install base than Linux, the actual install base on gaming computers may nonetheless favour Linux (they certainly did a decade ago, and that was before the great success of distros like Ubuntu).

    • Janichsan says:

      1) Drivers…the device drivers come from Apple, and Apple has always felt the need to “demonstrate” that things are slower on the Windows side of the house…;) At the very least, Apple puts very little effort into it’s Windows drivers…

      The drivers are the least of the problems with Bootcamp: except for some specific Apple hardware components (e.g. the trackpads), you can simply use the same drivers as every other Windows users. Apple’s Bootcamp drivers should only be seen as starting point. Unsatisfied with the GPU performance? Download the drivers provided from the GPU’s manufacturers, and you are fine.