Well, gosh. That was sure a lot of news for Final Fantasy XIV over a weekend, huh? Expected news, sure, but therein lie some of my positive feelings, as the big announcement reveal on Friday was something we all knew was going to happen, with a title that we had found out months earlier, and with a dearth of actual details (as remarked below)… and yet we were all still on the edge of our seats when it happened. This was a master class in how to structure reveals and delight your audience, and anyone else trying to do so should be taking notes.
The third expansion is Shadowbringers
Oh, the hype. The hype for something we pointedly know almost nothing about. And that is not a complaint.
I put the trailer front and center because, well, the trailer alone is something that defies expectations. Not only does it feature a very different composition from the trailers before Heavensward and Stormblood, it also features a totally different feel. This feels raw, endangered, even broken. It’s the kind of pained energy we haven’t seen since the end of 1.0, and it has me rapt.
This makes it easy to forget that as of right now, we actually know basically nothing about the expansion. We don’t even know where we’re going; when I asked Yoshida if he intentionally omitted the name of the region, he had a smirk on his face like he was pleased someone picked up on that. For those of you following along, that means everyone concluding “we’re heading to Garlemald” is being misled, and intentionally.
This is not a bad thing. It’s playing that red herring and drawing in assumptions, but we can already draw some conclusions from the trailer alone, some of which I’ll be detailing in future weeks. For now, however, it’s enough to note that it seems unlikely we’re actually going to Garlemald.
In fact, about the only thing we know pretty much for sure about the expansion is that it will feature Viera, something that was “teased” in the same way as Dark Knight and Red Mage. We know that we’re getting multiple new jobs (but nothing about what they’ll be) and new areas (but not the new region), so we’re left in a place of wondering right now. The hinting about Thancred’s gunblade definitely opens the door for speculation, but it’s hard to be sure how much of that was Yoshida trolling people by saying there was a tease of a new job in the trailer.
It’s a bit of a bastard that we need to wait until February to find out more. Luckily, there’s plenty of stuff to talk about before then, including getting 4.5 in January. And hey, on that note…
Blue Mage, limited jobs, and perspective
Yes, we’re actually getting Blue Mage! That’s the good news. The bad news, of course, is that it’s not quite what some people wanted from the job. But considering the reaction on the show floor, this reveal was handled well enough that even the grumbles were minor. This was, in fact, treated as a good piece of news.
Long-time readers will know that one of the things I brought up repeatedly whenever Blue Mage was a topic of discussion was that this job didn’t work within the structure of the game’s jobs, barring a unique and different way of handling things. And you know what? That is exactly what happened. Yoshida’s description of the job even focused on the fact that Blue Mage, as known, simply doesn’t work in the context of the game.
The developers had two options more or less from the start. They could make a job called Blue Mage that wasn’t really Blue Mage, which covers most of the suggestions of “well, you could have job quests where you learn the ability!” that people came out with. Or you could have an actual Blue Mage that doesn’t work in the structure of the game’s normal jobs. All of that remains true; the developers found a solution by making a different structure from normal jobs.
Put it another way, this is a job that is also a new form of open-world content. This is not without precedent; Miners, Botanists, and Fishers are also jobs with their own open-world content. Blue Mage is another one that opens up that field to include combat jobs rather than just gathering. And that is fascinating. You level differently, you play differently, you get to explore the game in a whole new way and with new objectives.
No, you don’t get the existing endgame structure… but you get a different one in the form of the Carnivale, and that’s fun in and of itself. We don’t yet know what rewards will look like for that, and it seems plausible that those aren’t set in stone yet either, hence starting with a cap of level 50. But this is still a good thing; it lets players have the Blue Mage they envisioned and it’s still a Blue Mage, and the balance concerns are handled by producing a different sort of challenge. Some people will no doubt be cranky that the job wasn’t just turned into generic magical DPS using Aqua Breath instead of Fire III, but that seems like taking the wrong message away from all this.
What’s that? Talk about other matters of perspective? Well, all right.
Yes, this is good news for data centers
I was surprised to learn that some people were actually upset at the idea that Balmung was being moved off of Aether and onto the new Crystal data center, as if that was literally ever in doubt. The addition of a new data center was announced on Friday during the keynote, and let’s be real, that announcement was always going to involve two things: all servers having fewer neighbors on the data center, and either Balmung or Gilgamesh moving there.
That’s it. That was simply always going to happen. There wasn’t any alternative. These two servers are stuffed to the brim, and while it’s impossible to force people to move, I seem to recall mentioning back at the launch of Stormblood that they need to not be in the same metaphorical room. If you think the developers don’t know what they’re doing, well, note that Mateus is still on the same center as Balmung.
Yes, losing connections sucks, but that was going to happen no matter what. It is literally part of the assumption about adding a new data center. If you wanted to keep your connections with Balmung or Gilgamesh as a resident of one of those servers, that was never realistic; you’re getting free world transfers so you can hop about as needed, though.
It’s not confusing to me as to why there was some consternation about this; reaction to the announcement was mixed because of course it was. People wanted this in the vague sense of not having performance issues any more, not in the reality of putting fewer worlds on each center. But recognizing that the want was incompatible with the reality, again, means that you look at this as a matter of which want doesn’t get fulfilled. It was the right call.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s talk about Blue Mage, new jobs, leaks, and what happens next. It’ll be a while before we’re off this topic.