Wisdom of Nym: Why Final Fantasy XIV’s role actions didn’t work

    
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Dead on results.
Tucked away in the latest live letter was a bit of information that seems like it’s more relevant than its rather humble placement would seem to indicate. In the not-too-distant future, Final Fantasy XIV is going to remove all limitations on role actions. You can use all 10 of them at the same time! Goodbye, literally any remaining shred of character customization, you will not be missed.

Or rather, you will, but not for what you did but what you were supposed to do.

The big problem with role actions, simply put, is that they never actually accomplished their stated goal at any point. It’s part of the game’s complex relationship with character choices and actions I’ve discussed before, but seeing as role actions are soon going to be altogether yanked from their current state, it seems worthwhile to examine why they didn’t work and what (if anything) would be helpful in replacing them.

Know your role.We’re not going to spend much time on the cross-class action system because I’d wager that basically everyone currently playing the game remembers that clearly enough. For that matter, I don’t really want to talk about 1.0’s system. While it was definitely open for customization, you had basically none of what defines FFXIV‘s current mechanics within it; ever job was more or less a skeleton to fill with your best abilities rather than having its own mechanical quirks or goals or whatever. It’s not coming back.

For that matter, the main motivation behind yanking the cross-class actions still holds up because that system also did not work. Whatever good it accomplished by giving players a reason to level other jobs was wholly undone by the fact that it was fussy, only used a few classes, filled out lists with useless tricks in leveling, and so forth. That was not a good system.

But role actions didn’t work either. So why didn’t it work? For that matter, why did it so distinctly not work that it basically is getting murdered partway through an expansion? The answer, I think, lies in Protect.

FFXIV has a paucity of fire-and-forget buffs. Most buffs you use on your party members last less than a minute, often less than 30 seconds, and that’s part of the gameplay; you aren’t just choosing who gets the buff, but when. Protect, thus, is a rare exception in that it has a long duration and buffs something fairly passive. You take less damage from everything, and while it’s not enough to allow Black Mages to take tankbusters to the face, it’s enough to make healing more manageable.

When it got turned into a role action, though, the problem became notable because in a good run, Protect is useful once. It does nothing else through the whole run.

The whole point of having role actions and having to choose is that it creates some design pressure. You have to choose between being able to do X or being able to do Y, both of which offer situational greater utility. Esuna is a great example; there aren’t a whole lot of debuffs you can use Esuna on, but when you can use it that makes your life easier as a healer. But is it worth passing up Cleric stance for? Is the chance of removing a debuff that might not even crop up worth trading off some damage?

There’s no pressure with Protect. You always need it. And yet it’s never interesting past that first casting. Every subsequent part of the run sees it sitting there as a dead skill.

This is the same problem that ultimately stuck all through the role actions in general. You generally had 3-4 useful actions that everyone would want constantly, which was good insofar as it meant role actions mattered. But then you also had a pile of actions that were all useful only in narrow, specific situations, several of which were unlikely to come up often if at all. Has anyone ever had particular use for Rescue? Break? At least Drain can mildly improve survival for a couple of jobs, but not for long…

No amount of role actions can infringe on RDM utility.No one liked having to choose between the things everyone would always want and the “fun” role actions, but the choices presented were perfunctory. You needed to pick up Protect. Tanks need Rampart and Provoke. And while the system freed us from issues of leveling jobs we never wanted, it didn’t address the core problem of the cross-role system, which was that just picking from a bunch of actions was always going to have some things that are vital and some things that just aren’t.

Yes, you could theoretically not take Provoke for soloing or whatever, but the reality is that outlook doesn’t work either. It makes the choices feel more narrow, since it doesn’t take much to swap role actions. For that matter, what would you replace it with? What other choices would actually make your Paladin play differently?

On this matter, role actions are silent. And the reality is that it’s because the system doesn’t really work. It solves the problem of piling up actions in other classes when every tank needs them, for example, but it doesn’t actually change the way tanks play in any fashion. So removing the restriction isn’t actually going to alter anything significant either; it just means you have access to all of your situational tricks for your role at all times.

Of course, that raises another interesting question. If this was what we had for customization, what are we going to get to replace it? How will things change?

That’s a question we’re not going to have answered until the next expansion. I have no doubt it’s something being discussed and debated from months ago; the change to role actions was not something done on a whim but something planned back when it became clear this wasn’t quite working. Of course, that doesn’t mean we know what’s going to replace it yet, but it likely won’t be until the next expansion.

What we’d need, of course, would be something that accomplished the goals we’ve been sort of ignoring here for a while. All right, there’s a drive to have choices, to let players decide how they want to play their jobs. That means we can’t make these choices between things that everyone will want; we have to make these choices universal. Your White Mage isn’t choosing between four healing tools but four abilities that could all be useful, without a thought toward role.

More to the point, they have to be things that are limited in some way (presumably with longer cooldowns) to avoid seriously disrupting rotations. Ideally, it could be abilities that also cost either MP or TP for jobs that only use one or the other, so you could also make that intelligent decision. And something that would be limited by design, while we’re at it, providing useful benefits that are significant but not expected to be maintained.

And hey, if we want to really make smart use of the series elements, it ought to be something that will be familiar while also not fitting into a job that works well. Something players want in the game, but wouldn’t work as a job on its own because it crosses too many lines.

…say, didn’t someone mine out something about Blue Mage actions a while back?

Feedback, like always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time, we’ll see how this Monster Hunter World crossover event feels to actually play.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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socontrariwise

It would help a lot if you explained what “role action” are first or is the article only intended for players/insider?

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Suikoden

I love FFXIV and play it often. However this is a step in the wrong direction. What they needed was less skills with more customization within those skills. What they are moving to is more skills and no customization with those skills. That’s disappointing.

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Toy Clown

I dislike class bloat when it comes to useable hotkeys. I’ve spent several hours over the past week (accumulative) trying to streamline my White Mage abilities a bit better since my memory muscle wasn’t there to hop back into group content. I have 3 main hot bars for White Mage alone and I’m trying to chisel it down to two, then I get frustrated because I need Cure 1, 2 and 3 out. Then we have Aero 2 and 3 that stack, so I have to keep both of them on my hotbar, and 3 (I think?) abilities that increase healing, or take MP cost away, then there’s lucid dreaming, which is necessary, along with the other 3 damage spells, then all the instant heal spells and….

Ugh. No wonder I dread getting back into group content. I don’t need any more abilities or spells to try to remember. The way the FFXIV community is, I’m sure I’ll get asked why I don’t use obscure ability #8. That’s usually why I keep one hotbar full of stuff I’ve never used / rarely used for when that “one guy” asks about it.

Forgive my digression! haha

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Matt Redding

The role actions definitely had some problems but I think the underlying issue is that we have multiple jobs that do the same thing and they didn’t all have core abilities that were necessary to DO THEIR JOBS, but almost everything else they had was very close to cookie-cutter duplication. Protect is a great example of this. If you balance the game around everyone having Protect (which they did) then every healing class needs to have Protect or an equivalent by dungeon levels. So every healer has to spend a role slot to carry Protect. (Though I think it’s worth pointing out that you could in fact cast Protect and then change your role action slot after, provided you don’t think you’re going to need to re-protect someone in a fight. So it was fine in dungeons but a bad idea to do in raids, imho.) The conversion from cross-class to role actions was also deeply annoying to me as a summoner main because Eye for an Eye was removed from my repetoire (and I used it on my pet while soloing) and made a healer move; scholars similarly lost it as an arcanist core ability and had to take it as a role action because one of their job abilities is an AoE augmentation to it. How does it make sense to have a job ability that amps a role ability??

I did think some of the abilities that were added in the update were nice to have but a lot of times it was impractical to take them over reliable standard choices. I personally had my butt saved in a fight where I wasn’t in the right position when my ninja used Arms Length to shrug off a knockback move that should have given me a “ring out”. On my main I tried to help with casting the magic resistance up ability on the healer during raid wide hits, things like that.

I think that some of the abilities are totally skippable but honestly on most of my jobs I always wanted 7 or 8 of the abilities they were offering.

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Sorenthaz

Tbh most of the Role Actions feel like hotbar bloat and it’s one of those things where it sounds good on paper but executes poorly and probably could just be removed and no one will bat an eyelash.

Like the only Role Actions I ever really use regularly on my Redmage are Lucid Dreaming (ez mp restoration after I dump most of it on Verraises or just rez’d with ~2k mp; also serves as an aggro dropper) and then sometimes Mana Shift on healers if I see them needing it. Then others are similar where it’s like maybe 2-4 skills are really good but the rest are pointless/niche.

And in some cases unless I want to slap down another hotbar I don’t really have room for those extras so I just leave them off because they’re needless bloat. It’s really kind of bizarre to me how they thought this stuff was a good idea. BRD/MCH for example get like… 4 or so different types of soft-CC abilities which aren’t really necessary ever in this game, and it’s not even used in PvP.

They just need to cut down the system some more imo and probably remove it by the time the next expansion rolls around. It’s clear that they really don’t care about customization or differentiating in order to keep classes more balanced and the game feeling more predictable/stable.

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David Blair

All I’m saying is, I used to be able to resurrect players out of combat as a Paladin. I also miss having Protect.

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IronSalamander8 .

Ah! I wondered why I logged into my (mostly) Dark Knight and all my cross class stuff was greyed out! I went and looked up which role skills to take from a tanking guide with the changes.

I had leveled warrior/marauder, and gladiator/paladin back a few years ago specifically for the the cross class abilities based on the tanking guides I read but once I got those done I was playing Dark Knight all the time.

Now I’ve been tinkering around, tried Red Mage a bit, now Thaumaturge too which is the thing I love and hate about FF14; being able to play anything on one character is cool but it makes alts almost a chore, especially all the required raids to get through the story stuff when you start getting higher level, so its a double edged sword for certain.

I do want things to differentiate us across the same class so hope they come with something cool that avoids the feeling that certain abilities for certain roles were required. I really don’t want all 10 abilities at once though. It’s getting too many bloody buttons on my screen like EQ2 and while I don’t want too few so I feel strait-jacketed, I don’t want so many either!

Xijit
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Xijit

What the hell is wrong with doing multiclasses the same way FFXI did?

Xijit
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Xijit

What I really would like is more ability to put together diffrent class builds that give you more options on how to play your class than just the just the one set of skills the game spoon feeds you … Like when I am doing party missions with my archer, I typically do not use any skills besides the Poison Shot and Notch.

With the poison shot I just cycle tab through every target so that they all constantly have a DOT eating them down while the rest of the party goes after the weakest … It seems like the best way for me to contribute is cause as much as much small damage to the entire pack at the same time, since all the other attacker classes have far greater spike damage than any of my flat damage skills and kill things before I can contribute more than a few shots.

… So it would be nice if there was a way to set up a debuff archer build that focused on a bunch of DOTs and Drain skills instead of being stuck with a bunch of underwhelming attack skills that are pretty worthless outside of solo farming lower level mobs for crafting materials.

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Christopher Allcock

My guess is it’s the 1.X code, they fundamentally designed it so that it wasn’t XI – Yoshi-P has said many many times now most of the features they want they either have to half rig a system within a system to work (eg Chocobos as to be flagged as pets, not party members, took FOREVER to sort.) or it’s simply because the original database can’t handle any new data, look at housing, it’s flawed because 1.X’s data management.

Stormblood was meant to be a major step away from the original code, it seems like it only half worked.