"A video game comic and blog that would have been awesome and relevant 10 years ago. Maybe." -Famous Website
When Pie and I were big into World of Warcraft, I would pine on and on about how much I wish I hadn't missed the game while it was at its peak. How I longed to somehow go back in time and live through The Burning Crusade expansion at release- to witness the glory of going through some of the old dungeons and even raids and see the content while it was fresh and challenging.
We stand at an interesting juncture where, in MMOs, content is continuously being invalidated be the forward march of the new. It's an insidious obsession; that the new is somehow better or more desirable than the old, an obvious societal fallacy, yet still it drives people toward the light in hopes that rapture lies in endgame content. How such an incessant jog on a hamster wheel designed to spur participation to acquire shiny gear with bigger numbers has not only been made palatable, but also desirable, is beyond me.
Certainly, Blizzard came to understand that there is value in the old as it was one of the driving factors for the Cataclysm expansion - to overhaul the world so as to be engaging for newcomers. Sadly, too many gamers, even society en masse, is in a race to the finish line; ostensibly certain that the shiny prize at the end is what they crave rather than the thrill and enjoyment of being behind the wheel...ah...but I digress.
The Final Fantasy XIV developers, however, took a very interesting approach with the introduction of their first expansion. Through a configurable party option, they allow old content to remain relevant and interesting while simultaneously not forcing people through it should they not care- yet more proof of their keen design sense. Most level 50 ARR dungeons and trials are level synced but not entirely item level synced. This means that players will only have access to level 50 skills, but are allowed very high item level gear that can be equipped at that level; an obscenely high threshold that can make the dungeons trivial. The reduced challenge does serve a purpose, however; to not hold players back from new content and catching up with friends (while also, arguably, not preparing them for harder challenges, but that's a different conversation).
However, with the minimum item level sync setting, every party member is set to the lowest item level required to enter the dungeon. What this does, in effect, is make it so that all old content can be experienced as if it were fresh, allowing for some truly harrowing encounters as some dungeons, even at release, were not meant to be tackled at the MINIMUM item level possible. Even at release, developers assumed that you would have to be extremely skilled to do this, or simply grind a bit in other areas to get better gear so you had a better shot at tackling the challenge.
While I can't say that every foray has been met with resounding success...in fact, often when Pie and I have done this it's been a crushing reminder at just how brutal the game can be, it has been incredibly gratifying to take on old content in this way. Making all non-starter dungeon content a) mechanic intensive b) engaging and c) gratifying to complete? All at the flip of a switch while also not creating content barriers for new players? Guys, I think FFXIV is becoming my favorite games of all time *cries in joy*