Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV and evergreen options against new ones
Odds are good that you dd not start speaking out loud, because you are a rational person and don’t verbally respond when an article tells you to do so. (If you just started saying the answer out loud in your office, I’m sorry.) But you probably mentally started listing stuff. “More MSQ, obviously, and it’s an odd-numbered patch so we’ll get one dungeon and the next part of the Ivalice raid… no new tomestone gear, maybe another beast tribe for crafting. Oh, maybe Namazu. Probably updates to Eureka…”
Now, I’d like to remind everyone that we haven’t had the first preview about what’s coming out with patch 4.3. There have been a grand total of no announcements or discussions about it yet. But we know the game well enough to know that odds are it’s going to feature certain reliable additions. There’s some stuff that just comes out reliably for FFXIV, all the time. And there’s some question about how much stuff is really evergreen.
What do I mean by that? Well, we have yet to get any confirmation about more Deep Dungeon content coming in one of the future patches. We’ve all speculated about it and assumed that it’s coming, just like we all assumed that Eureka was going to be The Diadem But For This Expansion. Except, realistically, there’s still plenty of space and reason to upgrade the existing Diadem to just have a queue for people at level 70; we already have good reason to go there as crafters or gatherers right now, in fact.
We were never promised more exploratory missions. It seemed like Eureka would be that, but it’s not; Eureka is a totally different style of content. However, it’s content that might not quite maintain the evergreen nature of Diadem. Similarly, the fact that Palace of the Dead caps our combat options out at level 60 is significant when the game as a whole has moved on to 70. And yet we’ve never actually been told that we’ll get more in this vein.
This is simultaneously worrying and understandable. Because if you look at the game as a whole, there is a lot of content that winds up being evergreen in various ways. At the level cap, literally every dungeon in the game is still relevant in some fashion. Sometimes it’s not very relevant (I cannot imagine someone running Leveling Roulettes regularly to cap the weekly tomestones), but that isn’t the point here. The point is that it’s not irrelevant.
Our endgame model has remained pretty solidly in place for a while now. It’s been refined and improved over time, but the core cycle hasn’t changed since the end of 2.5. There’s a system for getting endgame gear, running challenging content, leveling up, and so forth. Lots of other content offers lots of other rewards in varying degrees of importance, but at the end of the day you are still taking part in the same basic gameplay loop.
What changes back and forth is which parts outside of that core gameplay loop are relevant and why you do them. Do you chain-run FATEs to level? Do you do the occasional FATE? Are allied raids relevant when content moves on? How many leveling options do you have?
Systems like the Diadem and Palace of the Dead introduced whole new systems to the game, but we don’t know if they’re going to be reused yet. They could be reused in the next patch, they could be reused in the next expansion. Or they could just grow moss and never be used again.
On a whole, that last option is something that FFXIV seems to have consciously avoided. Mechanics and systems that are relevant now are still relevant later. But as the game keeps going and more content is introduced, there are always going to be some content styles that do work and some that don’t.
A good example of this was the original version of the Diadem map, which no one was terribly happy with. It got gutted and redone, and I suspect that part of the reason why Eureka was not another exploratory mission was that the original one never really worked out quite right. I did enjoy the “remade” version but never cared about the original, for whatever that tells you; even the remade version mostly appealed to my gathering side rather than being full of interesting dungeon mechanics.
But does that mean that exploratory missions are gone? Or does it just mean that they’re gone for this expansion? Or will they in the future occupy a similar spot in the content hierarchy to Diadem’s redone version, something that ends the expansion rather than starting it?
The spread of evergreen content models that we have right now is pretty great. There are a lot of different fights that we’re taking part in regularly, and more of them than you might expect show up on a regular basis. That’s not to say that all of the systems work together perfectly; I’m hopeful that the addition of an alliance roulette means that we’ll no longer have to run three raids in a week to upgrade the latest batch of items, although I tend to doubt we’ll be that lucky. But the point is that we have a lot of content that shows up reliably in each expansion, and the endgame from this expansion remains the endgame that people enjoyed in the last expansion.
And yet that’s also where some discontent and feeling of “sameness” comes from. For that matter, the game’s wide-open structure means that it’s possible to have assembled an endgame at one point that’s incompatible with the game now. If your big enjoyment in endgame is chasing hunt marks, you can manage to get all of your upgrades and tomestones from just that gameplay; if your big enjoyment was Palace of the Dead, your endgame no longer exists.
There’s a lot to be commended about the way that FFXIV rolls things out, and one of the nice parts of the game is that a lot of the content does run in reliable cycles while still providing new stuff on a regular basis. Eureka, whether you like it or not, is something new to the game; there’s always the sense of changing and recombining parts of the game to provide new ways to play.
But three expansions in, we are reaching the point where there are content options we’re not seeing pop up again. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens for the rest of this expansion as we learn about the next one in November; by that point we’ll have another patch and a clearer shape of what’s moving forward.
As always, feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I have a couple of different options, so I think we’re going to see which one wins out. I wouldn’t mind doing a mailbag column, so if you’ve got an abundance of questions you’d like answered, mail them along or leave them in the comments down below; if not, I think it’d be fun to take a gander at the jobs we’ve brought in from the other online entry in the franchise and how similar they wind up.