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Personally, I would have never stuck with Xi if it wasn't for the forced party mechanic. Still, there are certainly times when I find the inability to solo certain things irritating. I think they need to find a good balance. XI is currently better in that regard than it used to be, but still isnt there.
"Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Give a man two fish, and he'll eat for two days."
FFXI started off as an extremely forced-grouping MMO. You generally needed a group of 6 to gain significant experience, and often groups of 18+ to get the rare items. But over the years soloing has become more and more viable, and it is obvious to SE that the solo-friendly and low-number-group content is very popular. Where FFXI is right now, the absolute best items generally still require the 18+ groups (they're called linkshells in FFXI, the equivalent of guilds) but a lot of the best items are obtainable solo or by small groups, and plenty of 2nd or 3rd best are easily obtainable as well. Groups of 6 still get the fastest experience points but soloing is viable now.
I would guess SE has learned a LOT about MMOs as FFXI has transformed and I expect FFIV to be similar to the later stages of FFXI where solo content and small-group content is extensive and rewarding.
I hope they learned some kind of lesson with the woes of early FFXI where you would wait around for hours for a group and have no other options of progressing. If the game doesn't have the ability to solo at all or at least a good way to find quick groups, I'll be upset.
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I hope they keep the party aspects of XI, (Dynamis, gods, sea), but make it more solo friendly. Playing together with friends and my linkshell was one of the reasons why I played XI for years and the solo oriented WoW only got 2 months of my play time.
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I wouldn't be surprised if all this new stuff they've been introducing to FFXI lately, isn't some kind of testing phase for FFXIV. They'll probably include some sort of equivalent to things like Campaign, FoV, Nyzul Isle, etc from the start this time around.
Hopefully they've learned from the disasters of MMM, chocobo breeding/racing, Pankration, etc, that people like the idea of this stuff, but that they want decent rewards for doing it, and that they despise passive participation.