It was just supposed to be a minor patch for Final Fantasy XIV and it’s touched off a huge flurry of confusion. Someone in the French team is not having a good week.
Then a glitch in the French version appeared that accidentally listed every race in the game… which included not only Viera, but Hrothgar. And the community went nuts. Dataminers chimed in to assess that it was real. And player theories have run rampant… and basically every one has some major holes. So today I want to run down the five big “categories” of potential theory while poking holes in all of them.
There are two races in Shadowbringers with two genders
Based on all the evidence we have from this particular glitch, this is the most “textual” reading of the information. Both Viera and Hrothgar have gendered pronouns, and both also have various adjectival forms (there’s text about “la belle Viera” and “le beau Viera”), which would be a lot of work for versions never intended to have another gender. So this would indicate that we do have a second race in the expansion, and it’s been heretofore wholly unmentioned.
Here’s the problem: Adding two races is a lot of work. Heck, adding one race is a lot of work, which is why it’s not exactly a surprise that the repeatedly dubbed “probably last race” of Viera is a fan-favorite long requested. Doing all the complicated work of rigging and setting up a second new race is a lot to ask at any time, and it’s a lot to speculate on not one but two new races at the same time.
Is this strictly impossible? No. It’s even plausible that this is why male Viera took longer to be ready, because they’re revealing all of this at the same time. But it’s a whole lot of work just the same.
There’s also the reality that this has not been teased up to this point at all. Viera didn’t have the same sort of presence as Au Ra did before their reveal; people speculated about Yugiri for ages before she took her mask off just before Heavensward, but the race is also a known quantity thanks to the presence of Ivalice. Whatever Hrothgar are would need to be pretty well put into the game with the addition of patch 4.56, and even then it’ll have zero prior buildup. That’s an issue.
There are two races in Shadowbringers, both gender-locked
There are two elements here that people use as fodder. First, there’s the fact that there have been largely unsubstantiated “further leaks” claiming exactly this; second, it’s an obvious logical leap around the workload of developing two new races. The reasoning goes generally that this avoids the male Viera/female Hrothgar that Yoshida wouldn’t expect people to actually play, and that way people get two new races instead of just one.
Here’s the problem: This is courting player ire for no reason, because simply put, there’s no player demand for Hrothgar. Hrothgar literally did not exist until a name was found.
The amount of work needed to rig a single race with both genders or two races with one gender is roughly equivalent. (Not precisely equivalent, of course, but close enough for these purposes.) If the development team had one race that had always been presented as all-male and one that had historically been all-female, it could make sense to make each of them playable but in monogendered forms. It’d be a bad idea, but it would make sense.
But this supposition basically requires us to be getting a second new race to balance out an all-woman race when no one had actually asked for that second race. It’s repeating a mistake from the earliest development stages of the game while adding… well, nothing. And it’s impossible to believe that the developers wouldn’t know the ire this would bring, especially in wake of some controversy around the implementation of Blue Mage.
It’s hard to believe that the developers would invite anger from players with the exact same amount of work that would be required to not anger players. I’m not going to claim that the developers are flawless, but this seems like a dumb idea that would be going out of its way to invite anger.
There is one race in Shadowbringers, this is from early development plans
Since there’s no equivalent lines in any other localization, including the Japanese version, a lot of people have speculated that this is a holdover from earlier in the development process. The thought goes that originally the plans were to include two races, but implementing both proved to be too much work. While the plan now is to have just Viera, a minor error was introduced in this patch by mistake.
Here’s the problem: The big problem that this “it’s nothing” theory has is that it fails to provide any sort of explanation for why this has come up now. This doesn’t appear to have been in the game’s text as recently as December, and certainly no one seemed to find it with patch 4.5 in January. It’s new to patch 4.55, and while it makes sense to start putting in localized text now ahead of the actual launch, the timing feels odd.
Think of it this way: if this glitch didn’t happen, Hrothgar would still be in there for dataminers to uncover, including if someone, say, decided to go searching for Viera now that the race has been officially confirmed. So if this was just an early discarded term, adding it now would still be a mistake because it would prompt some interesting questions. It makes sense to not add Viera until the race was officially confirmed, sure, but the same number of opportunities will exist to pre-add race-specific text, and the text wasn’t there before now.
There is one race in Shadowbringers, Hrothgar is a term for something else
Here’s a fun and connected fact: There is one race in the game with two clans who actually have completely different models. Midlander and Highlander Hyur are almost two completely different races, since the latter was also monogendered until 2.0. What if the developers were going to rename that race?
There are a lot of variants on this theory. The ones that I’ve seen in general include the idea that “Hrothgar” is the name used for male Viera or for one of their clans, that it’s the name of a race we already know about but don’t generally recognize (like pureblood Garleans), or that it’s a term for a new spinoff in a similar sense.
Here’s the problem: Literally no other race works that way. Even within this localized text, there’s a very firm rule of picking out the character’s race, not clan; a miqo’te is just a miqo’te regardless of whether they’re a Keeper or Seeker. In other words, this would be creating a special case for exactly one thing when nothing else works that way, and it’d be an odd decision to say the least. (I’ve seen no one arguing that Highlanders should be spun out into a separate race from Midlanders, for example.)
There is one race in Shadowbringers, this is a red herring/hoax
Last but not least, there’s this option. What’s a Hrothgar? Nothing. It doesn’t exist. It’s a fake thing people have created to get the community wound up. Simple!
Here’s the problem: In this particular case, there’s no way to prove it’s a hoax until the final fan festival rolls around and the developers don’t even talk about it. But between Yoshida being cagey about Viera as the last race and the presence of male Viera, the aforementioned infamous leaks, and the fact that a whole lot of dataminers have gone in to confirm the data is there… if it’s a hoax, it’s one with a lot of moving pieces that appears to have convinced several people.
So which of these theories are right? Personally, I tend to favor either the first option (yep, two races) or the third (early development plans); they’re the possibilities that feel least wrong. But part of the point is that there aren’t any possibilities that feel right. Any of these possibilities could be true.
My recommendation? Be skeptical, but don’t dismiss it out of hand. Feedback is welcome via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or down in the comments below; me, I’ll be staying curious for the next… month? Oy vey.