Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s Blue Mage is balanced right, even if you don’t like that

    
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Forty-six & 2

This extra this week entirely comes from me doing the intellectual equivalent of pouring a mixture of lemon juice and salt directly into an open wound. You see, after enjoying the wildly positive reception for things at Final Fantasy XIV’s Fan Festival in Las Vegas and having a grand time, for reasons which are still unknown to me, I decided to read the FFXIV subreddit, which is… let’s just say not great at the best of times. And a contingent of its participants were busy having an epic meltdown comparable to Chernobyl over Blue Mage.

There’s a lot of really bad logic in that thread, both hoping that the job’s limited nature will somehow be a temporary thing and putting forth really easily punctured logic about how the job could easily be balanced if the developers just did X. And since it’s Thanksgiving, now seems like a good day to just have a bit of fun puncturing the logic, as discussed. So let’s talk about why, yes, the development team has almost certainly thought of all your solutions and figured out that they wouldn’t work.

Let’s start with the first an obvious point: “This is a temporary thing! All of these limits are just in place until the level cap gets raised, then it’ll be just like any other job.”

And you’re probably right about part of that! Blue Mage will almost certainly be up to 80 during the run of Shadowbringers. But that won’t make it not a limited job, because the announcement specifically hit two points: Limited job, and initial level cap of 50. These were not presented as linked clauses.

If they were part of the same whole, the announcement would not have stated an initial cap of 50 and the “limited” job as two separate items. Furthermore, several of the “limited” restrictions have nothing to do with whether or not the job has a restricted level cap. Even if the cap was at 70, the lack of leveling roulette would still be there. No, the level cap being less than the current cap is entirely about the distribution for the various skills and making sure that everything is balanced correctly, it’s always going to be a limited job.

hey jude

“But it would be so easy to balance! If they’re worried about Level 5 Death, just don’t give that to Blue Mage!”

They, uh, haven’t. Level 5 Death is not actually a spell in the game right now. (Level 150 Death is, but no one is really concerned with learning that.) Yoshida was using a specific example of a skill that we know is classic to the job but has some pretty definite issues, but we can use a different skill with lesser problems: Bad Breath.

For those of you who have somehow never been hit by it, Bad Breath hits you with a lot of status ailments, including lots of ones that players normally don’t get to inflict (Paralyze, HP Down) and other ones that are pretty insanely powerful (Vulnerability Up). It is a pretty nasty skill, and for a lot of players getting tagged with it can seal their doom. We know that this is an iconic skill for Blue Mage, and we know Blue Mages get access to the skill.

“Why not just make all bosses immune to Bad Breath?”

Boy, that’s terrible design, isn’t it? Seriously, that’s giving you a really fun skill and then making sure that it’s not actually useful in any of the situations wherein you’d want it. Sure, it might work on trash, but that’s rarely if ever threatening anyhow and would be better served with an AoE damage spell.

“All right, but that doesn’t mean that the job can’t enter duty roulettes by itself, does it? Just make a minimum list of skills that Blue Mages have to learn to queue up!”

It sort of does, though. See, let’s examine two versions of that “minimum viable skill list.” In one version, Blue Mages have to know Bad Breath to queue up for a duty roulette. Which means we have to deal with that power problem again; the whole game absolutely has to be balanced around people using Bad Breath in roulettes. This is fine in the case of games like Final Fantasy XI, wherein all of those debuffs are available to players normally and the game is already tuned around the idea that players can and probably will try to interrupt every action a boss will take, but it’s a pretty top-down redesign of the game.

But what if Bad Breath isn’t on that minimum list? Then you get Blue Mages being kicked out of parties because they don’t have Bad Breath. Or Bad Breath is useless for the stuff you actually want to use it on, which is also really unpleasant; it’s bad practice to balance skills by working totally different in two different environments.

“Look, I don’t care about what is or isn’t good balance. Just make all of my powerful blue magic unavailable in roulettes so I can queue normally.”

So what you want then is a caster that hangs back and just casts spells as ranged DPS, with all of the “weird” Blue Magic spells excised?

That’s Black Mage. You already have that job. It’s been in the game since launch, even. Casting Aqua, Aqua Breath, and Void Thunder (those are speculative skills, mind) is not functionally different from casting Fire, Fire III, and Blizzard III. It’s just different flavor.

More to the point, it’s probably a lot more boring because all of the jobs currently in the game have a highly synergistic design. Black Mage doesn’t just have a collection of spells, it has numerous spells which interact in unique ways by applying Astral Fire or Umbral Ice, being castable only when under those states, and so forth. Monster skills, on the other hand, are not synergistic; they’re meant to provide individual unique tricks for enemies, not to work together in order to produce an overall mechanical identity.

It’s possible or even probable that some of these spells will get synergy from traits, as Blue Mage doesn’t learn abilities through leveling but may very well learn traits. But the point here is that this image of Blue Mage just using the most bare-bones implementation would most likely be underpowered and would definitely be boring to actually play.

“But all of this worked in FFXI!

First and foremost, it’s important to note that it sort of didn’t. Blue Mage is brokenly powerful at this point, although much of that is due to the way skills interact for new traits. So that may not be the argument to use in this particular case.

But more important than this is the fact that FFXI has a very different structure than FFXIV, including an utter dearth of anything resembling leveling roulettes and a skill setup that made things like Bad Breath work better. A Red Mage in that game already had access to most of the status effects inflicted by Bad Breath, along with several other spells for wider utility. Blue Mage had lots of versatility, but it could never access most of it at the same time; sure, you can just cast Bad Breath once, but that’s a spell slot you can’t use for anything else.

Nu Mou are natural Blue Mages, right? Sure.

“I still think you could find some way to set up a default set of skills every Blue Mage has to use in duty roulettes. Maybe you could find the right balance of synergy if you tried, right?”

If we suppose that’s true, for some reason, let’s take a next step forward. Let’s say there’s a 24-skill layout that’s totally balanced and works well enough for these purposes, ignoring everything else, and let’s even suppose for the sake of argument that it doesn’t just feel like Black Mage But Mildly Different. What are you going to use those other 25 skills for in this situation?

Even if you somehow change all of these other mechanics and make things work, which seems overly optimistic already, you still have the problem where this means most of your skills just aren’t useful. And as soon as you stop making it a very fixed set, all of those same problems rear their ugly heads all over again.

“But… look. Why is this the implementation of Blue Mage? Why couldn’t you just, like… have a fixed set of monster skills, and pretend to learn some of them in job quests?”

You’re just describing Black Mage again.

“The point is that maybe Blue Mage doesn’t need to have this much of a mechanical identity. They changed Red Mage a lot!”

Mechanical identity is all that Blue Mage has that makes it distinct. Red Mage is actually pretty true to the identity it’s always had, with two different versions of magic and physical capability merged in. Even its differences aren’t all that significant, seeing as you still have a cure and raise that often allows for Red Mage to be the most effective spot-healing DPS.

If you look at the history of Blue Mages, almost every single incarnation of the job has involved the same basic mechanics. Every time Blue Magic shows up, you’re in some way experiencing a skill and then learning it. The handful of exceptions involve draining the skill before the enemy died (FFX), killing the enemy with a special skill to learn it (FFIX), and learning the skill from an item the enemy drops (FFVIII). In two of those cases the Blue Magic was specifically a limit break and meant to be more powerful than normal spellcasting.

The actual look of Blue Mages has been different in every game wherein they’ve been present. The mechanical efficacy of Blue Mage has wildly changed between games, and when Blue Magic has been good it’s always because it offers spells that somehow break the curve of “normal” magic. The one unifying aspect, the one thing that gives Blue Mage its definition and identity? Learn your spells from monsters.

I am floored.

“I mean… maybe all of this is right. But I wanted this to be added to the game and to be my main.”

It can be! In the same way that Botanist or Armorer or Fisher can be your main. You just don’t have access to roulettes on it. In fact, that may not even be as huge of an impediment as you think; it wouldn’t surprise me if you can buy Blue Mage weapons with straight tomestones, since Blue Mage can’t actually enter the raids that would drop tokens for getting endgame weapons. And you can get tomestones from beast tribes, which seems pretty relevant.

More to the point, I feel like it bears highlighting that this is the same expansion introducing the important new Trust mechanic, so it would not surprise me in the least if Blue Mages would be able to use Trusts to take care of MSQ dungeons. We don’t even know how far the limits will stretch; it’s possible that BLU can’t enter normal raids with a pre-formed party, and Savage/Extreme probably is right out, but we don’t know just yet.

And let’s go back to that Expert roulette, where you can most certainly use your full range of skills. You can’t rush through a roulette using Bad Breath, Eruption, and other overpowered skills to make short work of enemies… but perhaps you can form a party for that, and maybe the speed you can use to clear through dungeons will actually outweigh the lack of a roulette bonus?

Blue Mage is something new and something different, and it’s not being shoehorned into a setup where it simply doesn’t fit. The developers have doubtlessly been spending a lot of time seeing if it could, in fact, be made to work. And they found a solution wherein you get to play Blue Mage in a way that feels like Blue Mage and is designed as Blue Mage. It’s a clever workaround for a lot of issues, and instead of assuming the designers just didn’t think of things, maybe it’s time to start enjoying that it’s happening at all.

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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Diego Lindenmeyer

“Let’s start with the first an obvious point: “This is a temporary thing! All of these limits are just in place until the level cap gets raised, then it’ll be just like any other job.””
Also know as: “we dont know what to do for now wait few more months”

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Eamil

I’ve felt for a long time that the endgame model is stale, and it hasn’t held my attention well in Stormblood. I need more side content, and Eureka would count if it let me play with friends easily, but it doesn’t.

They’re trying something different with Blue Mage, and it sounds right up my alley. I 100% approve. If, at some point, they decide they want to make the job “endgame-viable,” my preferred solution would be to give it a fixed skill list for “restricted content” and continue to allow full customization outside of that.

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William Millan

A small fix to your post is that Page 64 in the Great Gubal Library does rarely cast Death lvl5. I know outside the lvl cap but still is available in game, now the question is if you’d learn abilities from normal mobs or only from bosses/fate mobs.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

The entire argument in favor of this implementation of Blue Mage, from Eliot or otherwise, is 100% disingenuous. If you like the current FFXIV job design, then why are you arguing against BLU being implemented in a similar way (a la RDM)? If you’re not OK with FFXIV’s more straightforward version of jobs (including RDM), then why are you even playing the game?

EVERY job in FFXIV has been streamlined and doesn’t match the full breadth of its abilities in other FF games. Why is BLU suddenly this special snowflake? BLU could be a very satisfying and entertaining job in the current model of FFXIV’s job system, with a unique flavor that separates it from BLM. I think it would work best as a support DPS job like BRD/MCH, which the game could use more of.

Arguing that any further caster job will be too much like BLM shows a profound ignorance of MMO class design. I expect better from you, Eliot. This is such a reach.

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Xitra “LastFireAce” Lunrise

The thing is XIV want “V’s Blue Mage” the uses Rods/Sword/Shield… obviously PLD is already a thing… so they when with a brand new staff design.

XI went with Tactic’s Blue Mage that uses Sabers.

FF6 also used staff, FF8 was Wipes? FF9/10 was a mix of DRG/BLU.
FF10-2 Gun Mage ehhh

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Frédérique Gervais

You do realize they’ve already scrapped the traditional blue mage by making it a caster. In only 2 games were blues mages even Able to use rods and even then, they could use melee weapons(swords or maces). Blue mages have always been close range/medium range mages. Also, blue magic has always been either fast cast times or no cast times at all. They also pretty much always have weapons kills and don’t only rely on their blue magic.

As for certain abilities needing immunity to, like bad breath, bosses are already mostly immune to all status ailmebts, so bad breath could just be set on a high Cd and kept the same and it would basically be similar to ninjas trick attack.

Also, outside of ff11, blue mages had a very limited amount of learnable abilities, only reasons it can’t be balanced now is they made too many abilities or don’t want to balance it.

What would stop blue mages from learning abilities from monsters during class quests? You’d still learn from monsters in a more controlled scenario and allowing a more constant progression.

As for your claim that it would be too similar to black mage, which is complete bullshit, how are red mage and summoner different from black mage? They don’t have the same mechanics and no matter how blue mage turns out, it sure as hell won’t have the same mechanics as black mage since black mage is different from all the other casters, unless you consider them similar because they both cast spells which would be stupid. Or you think they’d be the same due to their weapons, which is entirely on SE fault for deciding to give them a rod unlike almost all other blue mages in FF history.

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Sariel

I think the main reason people want BLU to be playable in most roulettes/actual content is because there’s barely anything to do in the open world for a battle job as-is. That’s a pretty glaring flaw in this MMO, especially compared to GW2 and WoW. It doesn’t help that BLU can’t go into Deep Dungeon or Eureka, either.

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cosmic_kirby


“Why not just make all bosses immune to Bad Breath?”

Boy, that’s terrible design, isn’t it? Seriously, that’s giving you a really fun skill and then making sure that it’s not actually useful in any of the situations wherein you’d want it.
— –

The main problem with this counter argument is. As currently designed. You can’t use ANY BLU skills ‘in any of the situations wherein you’d want it.” And the proposed solution restricts this situation to only the problematic abilities.

Making select skills unusuable in duty finder/raids, or giving them a strict list of ones that are is infinitely preferable to just never letting them use any of them at all.

BLU can still be fun without raids sure. But this point is anti-logic, it simply doesn’t hold.

Neiloch Fyrestarter
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Neiloch Fyrestarter

“Making select skills unusuable in duty finder/raids, or giving them a strict list of ones that are is infinitely preferable to just never letting them use any of them at all.”
By that logic any blue mage is better than none. Any kind of ‘something is better than nothing’ logic always turns in on itself since things can be regressed all the way to the theoretical absence of all existence.

Making it so only ‘some’ abilities work in multiplayer and then having additional ones so they actually feel like a unique class and not a mash-up of caster DPS would make the class require more work than any other with EVERY class update until they abandoned one side or the other.

You can either have a blue mage that feels like a blue mage, or you can have a blue mage that works in grouping but is just a reskinned black mage. You can’t have both, the typical MMO formula/holy trinity prevents it on a fundamental level. To accommodate what people are asking for would require they add a 4th pillar of ‘utility’ while rolling some existing classes into it or severely changing ALL classes set of abilities to even things out.

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Nathan Vani

I’m seeing your comments in this article and i’m sort of baffled by your constant apologetics towards this topic.

“By that logic any blue mage is better than none. Any kind of ‘something is better than nothing’ logic always turns in on itself since things can be regressed all the way to the theoretical absence of all existence.”
See this is the kind of thing that sounds smart but makes no sense. For example having $5.00 is objectively better then having $0.

People want to play BLU mage in the core FFXIV game the way people play the game as it is today, it’s honestly that simple. People are upset for a reason, and they have a right to be

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Rheem Octuris

Actually I have an idea that can solve some of the issues about LFG (other than balance)
So lets say a BLU starts off at Level 1. Yes, level 1. And just has auto-attack for damage. He’s given a hunting log like any other low level class and in order to get new skills he had to learn the skill from fighting those specific monsters in the hunter’s log. When he learns the skill, he levels up automatically. Thus in order to even get to level 50, you have to acquire all the skills along the way. This also means we can save the more ridiculous stuff for higher level mobs and so forth.

As far as balancing the only thing I can think of to keep all the flavor and overpowered skills without actually being overpowered is split the skills into two group, normal skills which aren’t overpowered to fill a gauge, and then once the gauge is filled you use a random powerful skill (like bad breath) I’m not sure this is a great system but like I said these are just some solutions I can think of off the top of my head.

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Kickstarter Donor
Vunak23

I actually posted that idea on the official forums awhile back about the hunting log being how they should acquire skills. Went into a bit more detail and came up with an idea on how to do their unique job system

http://forum.square-enix.com/ffxiv/threads/378970-Blue-Mage-Ideas-Building-the-Job

boredlol
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boredlol

Yeah! Basic rotation to fill some job gauge mechanic that can be spent on crazy blue magic skills. I feel like this article is undervaluing the importance of flavor. Imagine FF14 relaunch game design in an original IP… No way it would’ve survived on merit alone, the flavor of Final Fantasy kept it afloat and bought squenix the time/confidence to flesh out FF14 into a unique MMO.

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Timothy James Briggs

Level 5 Death is in the game. You just have to be stupid to get hit by it. The book guys in Gubal Library use it.