I’m going to start off with a statement that should be fairly uncontroversial but could be otherwise and refer back to it: At this point none of us in the audience know what’s happening with Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion.
When it comes to making jokes about this, I do not have any moral high ground. I’ve been making jokes about pretending to be really surprised when Square-Enix unveils the title “Shadowbringers” along with everyone else. But that joke is, well, a joke. It’s meant to be silly. It is said with tongue firmly in cheek and a full understanding that it may, in fact, not be the expansion title. We don’t know yet! It’s still in the speculation stage.
The short version of the leaks that we’ve received so far are as follows: Before 4.3 and 4.4 were released, this person claimed, in order, that 4.3 would contain a segment in which you play as Alphinaud and players would fight against Tsukiyomi. (That’s not a typo; all of the leaks I’ve seen typed the name as “Tsukiyomi.”) In 4.4, the final boss sequence would go Chaos, Midgardsormr, Omega, and Adam & Eve. Then, for the next expansion we’ll get two new races, a gunblade-wielding job dubbed “Soldier,” Dancer, and Blue Mage.
Now that we’ve got 4.4 here, people are already arguing that it must be all true. After all, that is the final sequence of Omega bosses! Sort of. And it’s that “sort of” that’s worth picking apart in more detail.
Those of you who have actually fought through Omega know that the final boss is… Omega. Yes, the boss takes on humanoid forms, but there’s no vagueness about their identity; it’s Omega. They’re named Omega-M and Omega-F. The story is relentlessly clear on this point. Similarly, you probably know that the trial boss from patch 4.3 is Tsukuyomi, not Tsukiyomi. The latter spelling is seen sometimes, but Tsukuyomi is the generally accepted one.
Neither of these facts makes any of the predictions wrong, clearly, but it starts to suggest something that’s worth a bit of, if not cynicism, at least questioning. Because they suggest that the leaker has access to some information, but it is in fact a rather narrow field of information.
Consider what the leaks didn’t contain, for example. We didn’t hear what the next set of bosses would be in the Alliance raid, or the bosses of 4.4’s dungeons. (And one of those is a big Final Fantasy IV reference, let’s be fair.) There was no discussion about what the actual story would contain, just about the presence of an Alphinaud sequence. We didn’t know that the Savage mode of Omega’s final fight would include a “merged” form. And then, following the leaks about 4.4, the leaker promptly said he could reveal no more due to community members speaking out against him and stopped talking.
All of this is suspicious, right along with the “kitchen sink” nature of the promises for the next expansion. The leaker claimed Blue Mage would probably be released before 5.0, that it would be revealed at E3, and that it was basically done. None of these things came to pass. In addition, nothing was said about the actual content of the job’s abilities, no hints about what these new races would be, and twice as many races as we’ve ever gotten.
Does that mean it’s false? No. The point of this is not to say “you guys, this is obviously fake,” because that’s arguably little better than assuming it must all be true. Making a prediction that’s right means that prediction was right. It doesn’t affect your further predictions positively or negatively; it just means that one thing happened.
It’s good to look at both sides of things with a measure of cynicism. Clearly, the leaker had some knowledge of what was going on. Clearly, it was also incomplete knowledge, and that means anything we hear should properly be filtered through that understanding. I’m willing to be that there’s a solid dose of truth there, but we don’t have the full picture, just like people freaked out at the sight of certain UI elements they were certain meant Blue Mage and Dancer were on their way. Rhythm gauges? Blue vials? These must be connected!
Except that people then quickly mined out that the former is going to be part of this year’s winter holiday celebration, and the latter was explained at Tokyo Game Show to be part of the next Eureka installment. Which quite possibly is what the leaker saw that led to the conclusion of “this must be Blue Mage.” We don’t yet know enough about the Logos actions to be sure, but at a glance it certainly looks plausible. After all, you learn parts of abilities from enemies, you combine them to make new abilities, there’s a special setup for it… if you’re in the room and touching the elephant, so to speak, this is the conclusion you’re going to draw.
Two new races? Well, that could easily mean two tribes of one race… or it could be a misunderstanding of something like new races of beast tribes, which would require their own animations. Dancer? That could be tied to the aforementioned rhythm mechanics for the winter holiday. Soldier? Not sure, but it could be tied to new gunblade animations or something similar; my instinct is to guess this is someone who worked in a limited capacity on testing animations or database entries, or perhaps in playtesting.
Of course, right now we honestly don’t know. It is entirely possible that yes, we are getting exactly what was leaked. Perhaps the developers found a way to make Blue Mage work with its sole defining trait (get hit by ability, learn ability) while still playing in the structure of this specific game. Maybe the winter holiday stuff is just a preamble for Dancer. People have been asking for gunblades for ages; it’s not exactly without precedent.
The problem is that, again, it’s all still in the realm of speculation. There’s enough amiss with the predictions that nothing has actually become irrefutable or certain. When Yoshida walked out on stage in 2016 with a Scarlet Witch shirt on, that was pretty irrefutable proof of Red Mage being added to the game; by contrast, seeing his Spider-Man shirt wasn’t proof of Samurai, even if a lot of people did make the connection quickly.
But a lot of people also made the connection that it must mean Blue Mage, which it didn’t. And that’s the real danger with datamining or leaks or any of the above. It’s very easy to take bits and pieces of information and use that to shore up what you already want to see. It’s just that none of that falls into the category of real. It’s still speculative.
And what we’ve heard from the leaks? Equally speculative. There’s stuff that looks like it can support or refute the predictions further out. So if Yoshida marches out in an Eiffel 65 shirt next month, that’s certainty.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s talk about what has been mined out about a job already added to the data files without much information and what that might mean; we’ve got lots of possibilities.