We know it as that because that’s its title, yes. Work with me.
Oddly, we almost incidentally found out one of the big revelations of next year before the year even arrived, but it’s going to take us most of the year to actually get there. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself. Let’s start looking at 2016 for the game with a mix of speculation, certainty, and smug certainty that we won’t be eating crow about these predictions in five minutes.
The patch schedule
Let’s start with some obvious and straightforward predictions. Patch 3.2 is probably going to be hitting the live servers in late February; we’re already getting some previews and early February would be just about three months, but the patches are never quite on a perfect three-month schedule. By extension, I expect patch 3.3 to be dropped in early June and patch 3.4 will be in early October. That sounds like a reasonable set of predictions, yes? I think so.
Outside of obvious predictions regarding the patch content (expect Hullbreaker (Hard) and Snowcloak (Hard) in the mix, I say), it’s hard to be sure what the patches will actually bring beyond what we’ve been shown. There are a few obvious aspect and a lot of space left to be filled in over time. We also know that 3.3 should bring more housing options, so that should be good for everyone, because boy we could use some. I don’t expect new jobs along the way like what we got with Ninja, although I do expect we’ll start seeing the seeds for jobs with the next expansion as well as some idea about where that next expansion will be.
But when will we know about that expansion? Well…
Yes, there will be another expansion
I’m not saying that the fanfest announcement is itself an expansion announcement, but it functionally is. We all expected that the game’s first expansion would be announced at last year’s fanfest, and it was; the fact that another fanfest was announced before 2016 even rolled around certainly sets up expectations. Combine that with the fact that everyone already expects another expansion, and what you have seems like a pretty open-and-shut situation.
My personal suspicion is that the expansion is bringing us to Ala Mhigo, complete with a lineup of new jobs, another level cap boost, and the requisite new set of quests and areas. What those jobs will be I can only speculate about, although I imagine we’ll get a trifecta of new options and I’d be kind of surprised if Red Mage wasn’t in the lineup there. (I’m not going to speculate about its role; I can make several convincing cases.)
I do imagine we’ll see some new flight as well, but I also know that there was talk about making the first expansion underwater-focused rather than flight-focused. Might we start swimming in this one? That’d be pretty awesome, really.
But, of course, patch timeframes and expansion dates are the easiest stuff. Let’s move on to some wider predictions.
Wave farewell to classes, hello to customization
I honestly don’t think base classes are going to survive much longer, but I’ve said before that we really need some sort of customization options in the game. What we currently have are bonus points that only have one right answer and classes that are entirely irrelevant after the very early level, especially when you consider that jobs increasingly define what you’re able to do even while solo.
Classes, in short, have become a mandatory chore for a small set of shared abilities rather than an option for players. They serve no purpose. And as much as I’d like to see more branches for weapons based upon playstyle, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
I am hopeful, however, that we’re going to see more options for customizing our characters and tailoring our playstyle just so. You can argue that more choices just give people more opportunities to be wrong, and you’d be technically right, but that assumes that people make no “wrong” decisions now. I’ve seen far too many tanks running around with +STR accessories instead of +VIT despite having the different styles clearly labeled; unless the designers personally come into your house and build your character, there will always be bad decisions possible.
I can’t say what form this will take, although I have my speculation, But I wouldn’t be surprised if the next expansion adds something in that vein and rumbles of it start showing up beforehand.
Something big with the Grand Companies
Remember when you cared about Grand Company seals? I sure do. At this point, I literally keep a supply of 40,000 on me as a bare minimum, I have a full stack of Grade 6 Dark Matter for my repairs, I have a huge number of engineering manuals, and I still search for things to spend the seals on. They are not hard to come by, they are not useful for anything, and membership has become more or less irrelevant.
Lots of players speculated that there would be new ranks when Heavensward launched, but we were told that wouldn’t be the case specifically because the next set of ranks required something a bit bigger than just handing in another pile of seals. I get that and I agree with it. The extra ranks seem to be programmed into the system, but they’re not accessible at this point.
There’s an obvious avenue and space for expansion here, and I suspect it may be held in the wings until there’s another option for players to explore. I’ve been speculating about the possibility of Ishgard having its own technical Grand Company, which is definitely hinted at by the ending of the expansion storyline. And wouldn’t that serve as a charming new bit of content to surprise everyone along the path of updates? Something new to do with the game’s companies, new content that puts a new spin on the existing dynamics that have grown rather static?
I don’t think that any sort of active conflict between the city-states will break out; there are bigger problems to be addressed. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something done with the companies before 2016 comes to a close.
As always, feedback is welcome via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d also love to see your own speculation down in the comments, since we all have guesses about the next year with just as much evidence. Next week, I want to get back on the subject of elitism, playstyles, and “proper” play, which I had originally been planning on doing before the anima weapons arrived and forced a bit of a derailment.