I’ve been doing a lot of Alliance Raids in Final Fantasy XIV since 4.1, so I’ve seen the loot window a whole lot lately. This is a 3000-word screed on everything that’s wrong with the UI in this window.
This is probably not unique to FFXIV, by the way. But it’s the one I personally see most often.
First let’s go over how it works in case you haven’t experienced it. At the end of the raid or dungeon or whatever, after defeating the Big Bad, someone finds and clicks on the shiny loot chest (an unnecessary and antiquated step in the process, but let’s just go with it). A window then pops up on everyone’s screen that shows what’s in the chest. You then have an opportunity to choose whether to “roll” on each piece of loot in chest. The game then randomly selects a “winner” for each piece. It’s pretty standard for an MMORPG, though I might argue again that it’s a bit of an antiquated system.
But I don’t have any problem with the concept of how the loot is given out. I don’t even mind the Need or Greed system, although once again I think it’s a bit antiquated these days. (I think there should only be “Roll” and “Pass” options and the game should internally select Need or Greed automatically. Or even better, just give every player a piece of loot, like GW2 and some other newer games do.)
My problem here is with the UI of the loot window itself. It’s so onerous and frustrating to deal with.
I should explain that I’m a software developer. Our kind (in my opinion) prefer computers to do things for us, so we don’t have to. I’m a big fan of Larry Wall’s famous quote that the three virtues of a programmer are laziness, impatience, and hubris. I don’t want to do anything manually when the computer can do it for me.
So let’s talk about that UI.
It’s possible there are keyboard shortcuts for the buttons in that window, but I don’t know what they are. FFXIV is not particularly good at shortcuts for window buttons so I’m skeptical. You certainly can’t tell one way or another just by looking at the window. If they added keyboard shortcuts, that would be a good first step in the right direction to solving my issues, but it wouldn’t go nearly far enough.
So we have to use the mouse to move all the way over to the window. We have to click on every piece of gear in the row, then click on Need, Greed, or Pass, one at a time. So it’s a bit of a clicker puzzle, like a weird version of a Simon game, or an RTS. Click up there, then click down there, then click up there again, then click down there again, again, and again. And it’s not unusual to see a large number of items to decide on, as in the screenshot above.
One odd characteristic of this loot window is that it’s very easy to move it around. You might think that clicking and dragging the title bar would move it, but in fact clicking and dragging anywhere in the window will move it. Including clicking the loot icons. If you happen to accidentally hold our mouse button down a little too long when selecting a piece of loot, the window will move. When that happens, I have to visually refocus and find the new position of the buttons. It’s annoying.
Now keep in mind, often you have to deal with this window while you’re fighting monsters, or running to the next location. It’s not like you can just stand there for five minutes carefully going over everything in this window, carefully clicking in the right spots, carefully assessing whether or not you really need these items or not. Assuming you don’t want the rest of your group to yell at you, that is.
There is a timer on the loot window. If you don’t want anything at all, you can simply ignore it and eventually it will go away. But that takes a solid 5 minutes. That’s a bit rude to your fellow players, who might be anxiously awaiting that one piece of gear in that window. It’s polite to roll on the loot as soon as it’s convenient (at least I think it’s polite). In the case where you don’t want any of the loot, that means playing the clicker mini-game of selecting each piece of gear to Pass on it. Click up there, click down there, click up there, oops, moved the window! Now click down there in a slightly different place.
One simple suggestion might be to add a way to Pass on everything all at once. But that wouldn’t help without other, more dramatic changes. Given the number of people who would accidentally lose their loot, FFXIV would undoubtedly add two or three confirmation dialogs, which would effectively negate the benefit of passing on everything in the first place.
One other quirky problem that I think is specific to FFXIV: While you’re running to the next boss, making your decisions in the loot window, you might encounter a transition to another zone. (In the alliance raids, for example.) If you do, that loot window closes and once you’re in the new zone, you have to re-open it to continue where you left off. It’s very irritating. I try to stop before I get to those transitions, but sometimes I forget.
You might think that would be all there is to complain about in that loot window. We are just getting started!
Obviously the game won’t let you Need on a piece of gear for another class, which is why the button is disabled in the above screenshot. I believe I was playing Dragoon at the time and that’s probably a tank chest piece. If I had been playing a tank, though, I could have clicked on the Need button to roll on it against other tanks. But if I was already wearing that chest piece, or had it in my inventory, after I clicked the Need button, the game would tell me that I already had it and couldn’t roll on it. After I clicked the Need button. (This applies to Greed as well.)
Why does it have to wait until after I click the button to tell me I can’t roll on it? If it knows after I click the button, how does it not know before I click the button? The Need and Greed buttons should both be disabled with an explanatory message to say that I already have the item. For bonus extra credit, the entire item should be disabled so I can’t even select it, so I don’t need to click on the Pass button either.
Now after playing FFXIV for four years or so, your inventory is probably a bit full. You probably moved a lot of gear from your inventory to your retainers for safekeeping. You might not be able to use that tank chest piece now, but if you happen to get it in a Greed roll, you can put it away until some day when you’ll eventually level that tank job to 50. The problem is, once you move that gear to your retainers, that loot window can no longer tell whether you have that gear or not. The game is fine letting you Need on an item that you already have sitting on a retainer.
If you’re a nice person, you can find out if you really need the item or not. If you right-click on a loot item (and this applies almost anywhere in the game), the game provides a Search For Item menu which will search your retainers to see how many of that item you have. So you can use that feature to determine whether you already have one or not, but it’s an extra step.
You might ask, why do I care? What’s the harm in rolling on a piece of gear I already have somewhere on my retainers? I can just throw away the one I don’t need (I don’t think you can sell or trade it). Basically it comes down to not wanting to be a jerk to other players in the group.
Here’s a fairly common situation: Right now I’m leveling my Dragoon from level 50 to 60 by running Alliance Raids. I’m already wearing most of the full set of Demon gear from World of Darkness (the highest tier raid), because last time I played my Dragoon, World of Darkness at 50 was the endgame. I replaced my gear from Labyrinth and Syrcus Tower (the lower tiers) and moved them to my retainers.
Now I’m working on leveling my Dragoon, and often I get Labyrinth or Syrcus Tower in the alliance raid roulettes. After a boss, sometimes I see a piece of Dragoon gear come up as loot. I’m playing Dragoon, so I can roll Need on it. But do I really need it? Maybe, maybe not. I have a lot of the Labyrinth and Syrcus Dragoon sets, but I don’t know if they are complete or not without going through the extra step of using that Search For Item feature. It would be nice to finish the gear sets just for completeness’ sake. I could roll Need on it and throw away the piece if I don’t need it, but what if there’s another Dragoon in the group who just got to 50 and really does need it? It would be rude to deny him his loot.
(I actually just found out that when you reach level 50, the game now gives you a complete set of item level 90 gear, so these days nobody technically “needs” a piece of gear from Labyrinth except for cosmetic purposes.)
There is also the issue that my Dragoon is already wearing the better Demon gear, so technically I don’t “need” the older gear at all and really shouldn’t have the option to roll Need. I have actually been yelled at before for choosing to Need on an older piece of gear to complete a set that I clearly didn’t need, when somebody else in the group wanted to Greed on it so he could use it for an alternate class. I think he was wrong to make that demand, but I can sort of see his point. The game should have forced us both to roll against each other for that piece, because for both of us it was a “want” and not a “need.”
Looking so far into the minds of players might be beyond the capabilities of a loot window, though. The game would need to know a lot about the gear sets we have and don’t have and be able to compare it to the gear we’re wearing.
For now, I would just like the loot window to be able to look at what’s in my retainers’ inventories so I don’t have to use that Search For Item feature.
(Search For Item, by the way, is better than nothing, which is what I thought we had for a long time. I only recently discovered that Search For Item feature, and this might have been a much longer rant without it.)
Surely that must be all there is to complain about in the loot window? Ha! Read on!
After the chest piece, there’s four items in that loot window above which are used for “augmenting” gear to make them better. I only know that because I’ve looked it up before. The first time I encountered them I had no idea what they were. And even now, I don’t know any of the specifics about which gear it augments or how much it augments it. Since that’s a loot list from Syrcus Tower, I know it’s not going to be much use to me in leveling up my Dragoon, but again, it’s possible some of that could be useful to an alternate job. It’s possible the augmented gear looks really cool and I might want to use it for a glamour.
The point is, I have no idea whether to roll on those augments, and there is literally no way to find out within the confines of that loot window whether I should or not. (The popup item descriptions of augments are notoriously unhelpful as to what they are for.) I suppose I could alt-tab out and go to a wiki page, but that’s going to take a while, and it’s not something I can do while running to the next boss. I just have to guess whether I think I might need them or not. I still have the option to be a bastard and roll Need on them whether I need them or not, but again, I don’t particularly want to be rude to someone else who might genuinely need them.
In reality, if you don’t roll Need on those kinds of things, you’re not going to get them anyway. I honestly don’t know why I still cling to this notion of trying not to be rude about loot in the Alliance Raids. I’m pretty sure everybody in PUGs automatically rolls Need on the augments, minions, and orchestration rolls no matter what, and I’m the only one struggling with this moral dilemma about accidentally denying other players a chance at the items. To be honest, it’s more of a concern to me in FC groups.
Next in the loot list is the Onion Knight minion. I don’t always remember whether I’ve gotten a minion or not. In the Onion Knight case, I thought for sure I already gotten it from countless runs of Syrcus Tower, but I didn’t. I passed on it for a week before I finally wondered what it looked like, went to summon it, and found I didn’t have it. And again, the game doesn’t tell me if I have it already or not. I feel it should disable the minion icon and automatically pass on it if you already have it.
(Somehow I had it in my head that the game would let you roll on minions you already owned, but it turns out it doesn’t. But it does the same as with gear: It doesn’t tell you until after you click the button.)
Now you can open your Minion list and sort of eyeball it to see if you have that minion in your list already. It’s better than nothing, but again, it sure would be nice if the game would automatically figure this out for me.
There’s more?? You betcha.
The last two items in that loot list are a pair of Orchestration Rolls. In Final Fantasy XIV, you use these to play music while you’re in the inn or presumably in your house or whatever.
As you might be able to guess, I never have any idea whether or not I’ve already unlocked an Orchestration Roll, so I typically have to guess on whether to Need, Greed, or Pass on them. As I mentioned above, I would have to Need to have any chance of getting one, because everybody Needs on them. But again, I don’t want to deny somebody else a chance to get one if I already have it. There’s a good chance I would already have it, considering that I’ve run these Alliance Raids a hundred times before, but sometimes they add new loot to these windows. Like, for example, Orchestration Rolls, which I think were added to the game after the Crystal Tower raids.
You have the option to open up your list of Orchestration Rolls to look up whether you have one or not, but the Orchestration window is poorly organized and you have to first find the “category” that the music is under. In this case, we assume it would be under Raids. You have to hover over the item in the loot list to look at the tool tip, which tells you the name of the Roll. Then you have to look through your list to see if that name is already there. It’s better than nothing, but it’s a laborious searching process and something that I feel like the game should be able to do automatically for me.
In this case, you can’t use “Search For Item” to find them, because that only looks for physical items in your inventories. Once you unlock the Orchestration Roll, it “consumes” the item, which disappears, so you can no longer search for it.
Unless the Orchestration Roll is a “Faded” Orchestration Roll, it turns out. I didn’t even know these were a thing until the past week. I kept trying to double-click on them to unlock them, and I would stare dumbfounded at my screen when nothing happened, over and over again. It turns out these are crafting components used to make Orchestration Rolls. I don’t know how to craft with these things, so they sit in my inventory. Conveniently, this allows me to use the Search For Item feature in the loot window to determine whether to roll on them or not.
Okay now I’m tired of writing about this, and will end here.
I love Final Fantasy XIV but there are some areas where the game’s UI is a primitive mess, and this is one of them. They created yet another one of those “generic” window UI systems which should be more specifically tailored for the specific needs of the game. A whole lot of games do this, and it’s annoying.
It’s on the rise, too, because of the rise of games using “generic” game engines, like the Unreal Engine or Unity, and “generic” middleware components. The developers spend their time on the models and animations and sound effects in their game and ignore the systems that are “built in” to the game engine, which results in awkward UIs that people “just get used to.” I say enough! Power to the people!
P.S. I happen to be available right now if anyone wants to hire me to fix their game’s UI design. :)