Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s 2019 in preview

    
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So... we cool, huh? We cool?

It’s the day before the last patch of the Stormblood series in Final Fantasy XIV… technically. Yes, you can argue (correctly) that we’ll actually get more patches in this sequence to fill out this patch, but they don’t change the fact that 4.5 is where our second expansion comes to a close. So that’s going to dominate our January, and probably players will start thinking about the future a bit more once we get into late February and have gotten through most of this content.

Which is around the time when the next fan festival is happening. Gosh, they sure do plan these things.

Of course, we can look forward over the next year without having perfect knowledge of what comes next, which is the bright side of doing columns like this. So let’s take a peek at the future, not just in terms of what content we can expect but also in terms of what issues the game must needs address over the course of 2019, both from history and moving forward.

Good, no controversy.

4.5 and selling the concept

The part of 4.5 that has the most riding on it is Blue Mage. The rest of it can be mediocre, but Blue Mage needs to land well. Not just for itself, but for the very concept of limited jobs and future such releases in this style of content.

Saying that Blue Mage has inspired some controversy would be understating the issue. It went over great at the fan festival, went over badly on Reddit, and subsequently has involved a whole lot of back-and-forth speculation about its implementation and whether or not it was worth adding it to the game if it had to be limited. Obviously, I’m on the “pro” side, but the point here is that the job needs to work and demonstrate its relevance in the overall scheme of the game.

We’re going to see how the learning, open-world hunting, and spell mechanics feel when the patch goes live, and I don’t see Blue Mage itself changing. But if the developers want to do another such experiment (which seems likely), Blue Mage needs to prove its worth and its fun right from the start. This is a bit of a tall order, but it has six months to take care of that.

The reason I’m stressing this is that beyond that, 4.5 needs to do nothing more than to provide a coda to the game’s current expansion for half a year or so. It’s got a staggered release and plenty of things to draw the eye over time, so it’s definitely reasonable; it isn’t a taller order than what has happened pre-expansion before now. Blue Mage is something that hasn’t been done before, and thus it’s an experiment.

HYPE

The Shadow fulminates

Of course, one of the things that’s going to help make up the difference between now and the launch of Shadowbringers is the fact that we’re going to have plenty of time to get hyped. The actual scheduling is pretty solid; about a month after patch 4.5 comes the second fan festival, and the third is in late March (which means the second half of 4.5 will probably be slightly before or the week after). So up to the start of April, we’ll be getting at least one new piece of “and now, here’s a new exciting thing to look forward to, please!”

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I doubt we’re actually going to Garlemald proper, given how evasive Yoshida has been on the matter; my personal suspicion has long been Meracydia, but there are an awful lot of references to the western continent cropping up in close succession lately. The section header image always reminds me of Angkor Wat, for what it’s worth.

One of the interesting elements of the first fan festival was just how much of it was built around subverting expectations, so I think a lot of what’s going to be needed for the next two fan festivals is to keep up that playful aspect. Not outright denying expectations, but still messing with them to a certain extent, letting us think we’ll learn something when we won’t or vice versa. Obviously, you can’t replicate the surprise of the new race and Blue Mage, but we could get a reveal of one job and our destination at the European festival, or two new jobs, or… you get the idea.

Judgement walks your world.

And the fine details…

I’ve been saying for years now that FFXIV really needs to give us some options to actually put a personal mark on our characters, but it keeps not actually happening, and role actions failed to fulfill that need. It’d be nice to hear about that as a feature of the expansion, even just some basic talent-ish options or Merit Point-style customization, but I’m not really holding out hope.

That having been said, with the new level cap there is the opportunity to do something with that, if for no other reason than because we’ve got a new level cap and thus the usual adjustments to leveling.

Oddly, as much as the story needs justifying, it’s the part of this expansion I’m least worried about learning about in more detail. We’ll no doubt hear more about it and more teases, but more important from the standpoint of what the expansion will need are features and mechanics. I’d expect to learn about the new raid we’ll embark upon and the new 24-person content, as well as the new Deep Dungeon; I don’t see Eureka moving forward into the new expansion, honestly, although I suspect it’ll become fodder and feedback for a new form of content.

Equally important, of course, will be what’s going to go wrong. That’ll coincide with the expansion launch in June, and let’s be realistic, the expansion launch always has something go wrong. We’ve hopefully learned from the Raubahn debacle and avoided that particular hurdle, so I doubt it’ll be that bad; at the same time, there’s probably still going to be growing pains for a bit. Like there always are.

Our first patch will be in October, of course, so there’s space for the team to adjust and address issues as we all start playing the new content, get up to the level cap, and start working on our weekly tomestones. I would expect that it’s going to follow a familiar format in that regard; as always, the format works, so there’s good reason not to rewrite it. But I suspect and hope that the expansion will, like before, offer something new and unexpected. And we’ll get to learn about it together.

At this point, though, the stakes feel higher because we’re entering the third expansion. The base game and two expansions have gone over well and proven that the team can do this, but this is a time when it’s easy to feel the temptation to just change everything for the sake of changing things. Yoshida and his crew have experience and wisdom; let’s see what we’re getting as we get closer to the launch proper.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week? Why, reactions to the patch, of course! What else would it possibly be?

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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Dagget Burmese

I just noticed in the Shadowbringers teaser that it appears Zenos killed a Bangaa, suggesting we might see Fran and her resistance group in the MSQ and not just hidden in a raid! Would be more in line with how Yugiri was part of the MSQ for everyone to see ( albeit all covered up).

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psytic

Feels like such a cop out by Square. You look at other mmos druids and paladins can play all 3 trinity roles. All they had to do was make you choose an affinity and BLU could have been a normal class. Can’t balance it my butt.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

The rest of it can be mediocre, but Blue Mage needs to land well. Not just for itself, but for the very concept of limited jobs and future such releases in this style of content.

God, I hope it doesn’t, just so they won’t ever do this again and no other developer ever, ever thinks this is a good idea.

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Syran

I hope it does, just so there’s a good chance they’ll release other limited jobs and other developers follow in their footsteps.

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Vincent Clark

Agreed. The knee jerk (negative) reaction to Blue Mage is a bit puzzling. I find it curious when people complain about FFXIV for not stepping out of the box and trying new things and then suddenly when they do…gasp!…people complain about it (before it’s even released, no less).

Time will tell. It could be awful. But, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

Or maybe different people have different opinions and complain about different things? Maybe the entire player base isn’t a monolithic single being with a conjoined hive mind?

Bereman
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Bereman

Why isn’t it a good idea?

Is keeping every job ever released within a specific “must be balanced relative to all others” cage, just to access a specific (and increasingly smaller proportion of the sum total of the game) set of content at a current level cap, really such a “good idea” that a developer can’t deviate from that?

For once, they’re going “Hey, what if we aren’t bound by this ‘level-cap and raid or bust’ mentality that’s been the bread and butter of the themepark MMO for over a decade now?” and exploring where that might take them.

It may land with a dull thud, or it might turn out to be an awesome feature, introducing ideas to further explore that likewise aren’t bound by the same “has to be able to do current tier raids or its not relevant” ass-backwards mindset that’s been far too pervasive in these kinds of MMOs.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

The BLU they are giving us could have made for a great concept in a single-player game. It doesn’t belong in an MMO. To flip the analogy, it’s like creating a Zelda game where Link is overpowered but locked out of 90% of the overworld. What’s the point?

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Vincent Clark

What is the point of anything? What a silly argument. You don’t like how they have implemented the job…cool, don’t play it. Pretty simple.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

I guess nothing? Since apparently “What is the point of anything” is a better argument to you than trying to give a specific analogy.

Nihilism isn’t the answer, kids.

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Vincent Clark

Stop being so dramatic. It’s a single job. SE has spent considerable resources into implementing this specific job the best way they know how. Based on their track record you can take that at face value and move on or you can continue to complain about something that isn’t going to change. Your call.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

has spent considerable resources

That’s my problem right there. They spent all that time to create a job that, by design, makes no sense in an MMO.

Bereman
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Bereman

Only if you’re keeping your definition of a class/job limited (heh) to a rather narrow set of criteria.

It engages in combat. It uses abilities/spells. It levels up. It can access fights in dungeons and defeat bosses. It wears gear.

The main difference between it and other normal jobs in FFXIV is that the other jobs can access more instances, and are pretty well set in exactly what abilities they use at any given time, and those abilities are held to a fairly tight window of balancing to avoid tilted synergies.

BLU is the result of the devs saying “Ya know what? What if we didn’t constrain ourselves on this?”

More developers SHOULD try this stuff, where they work on stuff for the game that isn’t held down by having to fit within the narrow “raid or bust” mentality that has been the themepark mantra for way too long now.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

So in your opinion, more MMO developers should add more single-player-only content to MMOs. If that’s your opinion, I won’t try to talk you out of it. But man, why do you even play MMOs then? Plenty of single player games offer the experience you want. Why waste the limited resources of an MMO dev team on things that single-player games already offer in spades, and can probably do better besides?

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Lily Cheng

The point is your analogy is actually nothing like what they are making at all. Surely it is evident enough to you now there are plenty of people excited to try this out. If you want to bash on it then do it after you actually get to try it, you are essentially like people who don’t eat stinky tofu or durian, not because you actually tried it and don’t like it but because the smell is too much for you to even give it a shot.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

I don’t need to try it to know I hate the concept, and criticizing it after I’ve tried it is too darn late. Everyone said, “Oh, don’t criticize BFA. It’s just a beta.” Well, look what we got.

Criticize early and criticize often is the only way developers hear us, if at all, these days.

Bereman
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Bereman

You’re not criticizing, you’re whining. There’s a distinct difference.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

I’ve left plenty of criticism on other posts on Massively, on the official 14 forums, and the subreddit.

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Sorenthaz

The point is that they’re trying to experiment with multiple new types of content including singleplayer-oriented stuff. There already is plenty of solo player stuff in the game (DoL/DoH content, Gold Saucer’s robust side-activities with Doman Mahjong being another one added to the roster, Squadron Missions, etc.), so why not make a War/Magic job that solo-oriented?

It’s not like it’s going to pull everyone and their mother away from doing group content or anything. It’s just another type of activity to do.

And Shadowbringers still has two? other jobs coming so it’s not like BLU’s existence means they aren’t able to do other new jobs.

WrathOfMogg
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WrathOfMogg

So why not make a War/Magic job that solo-oriented?

Because that’s what single-player games are for and can do this type of gameplay infinitely better than an MMO, so why waste dev resources on it? If we could have gotten an entire playable job instead, wouldn’t that be 10 times better?

Also, crafting is not solo content in an MMO. The goal is (usually) to sell stuff to other players and make a profit.

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Syran

I don’t really get this type of argument. The majority of the game, probably close to 90% of the content, is single player stuff. Maybe not from the perspective of y’all hardcore players who grind the same raids and stuff over and over. But for us filthy casuals who make up the majority of the player base? We can barely keep up with the main story, and that’s mostly single-player stuff. Other activities like crafting, gathering, squadrons, Gold Saucer? Mostly solo content.

I’m actually not a big fan of it either, but that’s been the direction for MMOs for a long time. You don’t really play with other players anymore, they just happen to be playing in the same world at the same time. Even party content is mostly designed to require no communication at all. Endgame is the exception, but that’s only relevant to a (vocal and important) minority of the player base.

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Dagget Burmese

The basic game content they will probably a good handle on at launch however:

They need to have their instancing code polished for expansion launch, other MMO’s do it much better. If I zone to an instanced copy of a zone, I expect my whole party to land in the same instance, for example.

They also need to do a much better job of quickly flushing out the bots/rmt chars, who will likely be a significant % of the attempted logins when the expansion arrives. Current bots often stay ingame spewing rmt msgs for hours despite multiple ppl reporting them, and don’t get me started on the hordes of worker bots (BLM’s/WHM’s typically) that flow thru each day. I hear there are far fewer bots on the Japanese servers but they should have plenty of data on the volumes in EU/NA.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

They also need to do a much better job of quickly flushing out the bots/rmt chars, who will likely be a significant % of the attempted logins when the expansion arrives.

They can easily do that if they wanted by adding better chat spam detection and bot detection code (especially for teleporting bots, which was huge problem in WoW but was permanently fixed many years ago), however it doesn’t seem like they care about them (if bots are non-trial accounts – they bring money to SE just like paying customers), so yea, I don’t see this changing any time soon…

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Vincent Clark

They took action and terminated over 18,000 accounts in December alone. I’d say they care about them.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Yesterday I was sitting at Limsa and watching Gil sellers spam in /shout and /say, the lines were appearing every 10-15 seconds. I went into dungeon, finished it, got teleported back, instantly saw same lines from same persons (which are sometimes teleported below the ground next to marketboard, or just stand around the first area you’re teleported into after completing first quests for Marauder/Arcanist).

If you would rather believe numbers generated by SE – that’s up to you. But I would rather rely on things I can personally observe. And from what I observe – I see absolutely 0 decrease in amount of Gil spammers as well as farming bots (which I can frequently see teleporting at main aetheryte in Gridania and which sometimes get into dungeons with me, such as very bad PLD bots with names like “hdhhahhdhh fjjeuyhhsh” which keep using Flash every few seconds even with no enemies nearby).

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Vincent Clark

I will believe numbers generated by SE because they’ve given me no reason not to and I don’t consider monitoring the chat channels for bots to be a very productive use of my time while in-game. To each their own.