Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers made early access a luxury

Thoughts on Shadowbringers' early access pre-launch.

    
30
Oh my.

First and foremost, I want to note that this is not going to be my official first impressions of Shadowbringers because that’s going to be later this week. I note this as much for myself as anything, though, because holy crap this expansion is amazing. So, you know, Final Fantasy XIV fans who want to see me spend a couple thousand words explaining exactly why it’s amazing, stay tuned for later this week. But as usual, the point of this column is talking about the early access experience itself.

And… oh no, that was also amazing. So much so that it almost makes you wonder if there’s a trick or something.

I understand that there were people who were upset over data center splits or the movement of the playerbase, really I do. I know that some people dreaded the approach of the expansion launch because it meant queues to infinity, that you’d never get into your server again once you logged out. I especially knew all of that because, well, I play on Balmung and thus I knew I was rolling the dice by deciding not to use a different server with World Visit. So imagine my surprise when there haven’t been queues past two incidents.

Oh, there have been tiny queues in the double digits, but they’re the sort of thing that forces you to wait for half a moment before clicking through. It’s a speedbump, not anything to actually stop you. And I’m not relying on this by logging in only at off-peak hours or anything; I’ve been swapping characters even around prime times, even on the weekend of early access.

It’s the sort of thing that at first makes you think that there must be no one playing or something like that, but a look at the actual server population makes it clear that the zones are packed. Digging out the NPCs I needed to talk with was often difficult, and that was with the advantage of being ahead of the curve (most people are not finished with the entire MSQ at this point). Zones are packed full. This is not a problem of the game being abandoned or anything so cynical; it’s the result of the developers planning carefully to ensure that this launch would be much, much smoother than the prior expansion launches.

Shadow brought.

There have, in fact, been exactly two queues that I’ve hit. One was when I logged in right at the start of early access, when I had a queue in the high triple digits and had to wait for maybe five minutes. The other was recovering from the DDoS attacks noted, which took somewhere between five and ten minutes sitting in queue. Aside from that, still playing natively on a high-population server, it’s been almost unconscionably smooth.

Progress-blocking bugs? Avoided. Instance server overload? Unseen; the worst cases have been some minute-long waits for otherwise full groups. Serious bugs that ruin the gameplay experience? The most I can point to is noticing that for some reason the map and location text popped up as “north Silvertear” instead of “North Silvertear,” which I assume is a typo and made me briefly wonder if something sinister was going on in the story. So, no.

Instead, I’ve been free over the past few days to focus on the actual gameplay mechanics, like the weirdness that everyone needs healers and tanks are actually over-represented… in places.

See, the funny thing is that tanks actually aren’t over-represented in the top end; once I unlocked the Expert roulette option, we were right back to tanks being in-demand. But for all of the leveling roulettes, you’ve got people who are leveling up Gunbreaker… but that’s not really indicative of the overall tank population or the people who want to tank in the long-term.

One of the things Yoshida said in the past stuck with me, when he mentioned that part of the design behind Dark Knight had been to attract players otherwise less interested in tanking. He went on to note that it turned out the tank population didn’t actually see a particular bump from it; most of the people who were going to tank had done so before Dark Knight, and all that adding it really did was offer another flavor.

Down.I suspect Gunbreaker will be much the same. Yes, it’s unbalanced right now because we got one new tank and zero new healers, but the reality is that Gunbreaker, while fun, is still a tank with all of the attendant tank mechanics. If you haven’t liked that before, you are unlikely to really like that much beyond the effort to level it for a bit.

As far as actual balance goes, well, we’ll probably get a tweaking patch when Eden goes live, as usually happens. Right now it feels a bit like Ninja is undertuned, but it’s hard to be sure how much of that is a matter of the job really being underpowered, how much is a result of a new skill rotation, and how much of it is a result of my own atrocious luck at gear drops this expansion. So I’m reluctant to actually call anything worse.

The one job that has definitely lost out is Scholar, and honestly that’s also a job that needed to lose. Scholar has always been something of a mess insofar as it’s a job that spins off of a DPS job (so it had a lot of innate damage tools) and also has a healing pet (meaning that it could spent a lot of time not healing). While potencies and removed spells made Scholar a fair bit weaker going into Stormblood, adjustments brought it right back up to the top slot by the end of the expansion.

Something had to give here, and the result is a job that’s still very potent but also is no longer able to just let the fairy heal while you focus on damage endlessly. The class of Scholars who preferred things as they were seem rather miffed. The actual Scholars I wound up partied with reliably seemed pretty happy with the current state of affairs. Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

But there’s time for all of this to take root over the next few months. We’ll have time to get full breakdowns of actual job balance issues and examine everything. And we’ll have the space to do so in the wake of a launch that, by all indications, will be just as steady and reliable as the early access launch was.

Because that’s the real story here. Early access for Shadowbringers was a breeze. It made getting in to play the game and enjoy the expansion not just achievable but normal, and it meant that even as I mainlined the expansion to burn through the whole story in three days I still found time to level up gathering, explore the new delivery mechanics, level Gunbreaker and Dancer, arrange my hotbars, and even run people through a couple of pieces of content unsynced.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Feedback and your own anecdotal experiences are welcome down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I figure it’s still far too early to be talking about all of the major lore spoilers, so let’s talk about some of the changes to existing parts of the game and whether they help or hurt the game as a whole, hmm?

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.

30
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
PlasmaJohn
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

Right now it feels a bit like Ninja is undertuned, but it’s hard to be sure how much of that is a matter of the job really being underpowered, how much is a result of a new skill rotation, and how much of it is a result of my own atrocious luck at gear drops this expansion. So I’m reluctant to actually call anything worse.

Why are you depending on drops for gear? The story hands you full sets of HQ gear at 72, 74,76,78, etc. I didn’t replace my ilvl365ish set until I got the lvl74 chests. To be fair, I’m doing the story on MCH.

One of the things Yoshida said in the past stuck with me, when he mentioned that part of the design behind Dark Knight had been to attract players otherwise less interested in tanking. He went on to note that it turned out the tank population didn’t actually see a particular bump from it; most of the people who were going to tank had done so before Dark Knight, and all that adding it really did was offer another flavor.

I love tanking but only for a static.

DK starts at 30. The only content you can do at that point is dungeons and a few trials. I much prefer MSQ roulette for learning basic class mechanics due to lack of pressure. Alliance raids are good too but probably too much pressure for me.

However I don’t dispute your conclusion that the current queue situation is temporary. I do suspect there will be a few more tanks in queue but not enough to address the very poor DPS situation. Switching to 5-man squads would probably help. Tweaking the Trust to fill missing positions and extending it to all dungeons would solve it.

Reader
Reginald Atkins

as a SCH main I *somewhat* disagree…

fairy healing potency dropped off sharply after 50, by 70 they were nigh useless. Shadowbringers actually buffed fairy heals, I’m seeing 4k+ crits off the fairy now when before 1 – 2k were rare and that’s with no gear change from my IL 399 stormblood set.

DPS wise, while I didn’t really dps much cause I play a healer to heal, SCH DID have a lot more options than whm and especially AST. I think they took it a little TOO far, but I can’t really say I miss them though with the exception of energy drain but I used it as MP management more than damage. Overall it doesn’t matter.. means that healing downtime is more standing around gaining MP than actually doing much of anything, especially on trash pulls cause Art of War is hot garbage in a dungeon… WAY too much MP cost for near zero return AND you have to stand in the middle of everything, at least Holy stuns…. yeah, no.

Reader
blahlbinoa .

I had a quad digit que on Friday evening and that took me about 3 minutes of wait. I’m also on Balming, and it has been the smoothest launch so far for 14

Reader
Sorenthaz

TBH I didn’t have high expectations or anything coming into the expansion, but it’s already the best one by a longshot and I feel like I’ve only really scratched the surface. Monk and Mechanist look/feel so much better now, and I feel like this is going to be an expansion where I actually have a hard time choosing which I want to main between Redmage/Monk/Machinist. The story also feels like it’s at its best, the zones are beautiful, the dynamic with the light stuff is really cool… I keep wanting to see more of the story unfold and am getting annoyed when I hit the stupid level walls, lol.

Reader
Sean Walsh

Have you tried DNC yet? I’ve only just touched it lightly, but as a RDM main, I feel like DNC is just another delightful flavor of the RDM playstyle. The whole job felt so understandable and engaging even during my very first dungeon run.

JonBuck
Reader
JonBuck

I’ve played it for several levels today and I’m in love with it. I’ve done lots of dungeon runs to get good at it–a few percent from level 67 before I logged out for the emergency maintenance.

PlasmaJohn
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

The gating in this game is infuriating. Can’t do the roulettes because I haven’t unlocked the content. Can’t unlock the content because I haven’t gotten far enough in the story. Can’t progress the story because I don’t have enough xp. Can’t get xp because I’m out of roulettes.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Yeah, I feel like they should look to implement the option, likely at character creation, to decide whether you want to have your character be a story character (so you’re forced to go through all of it) or a non-story character. Non-story characters would be able to level up to the most current expansion without being restrained by the MSQ so they’d be able to go into Heavensward/Stormblood areas/dungeons right away after hitting the appropriate levels.

Reader
styopa

“all that adding it really did was offer another flavor.”
Fully agree. The barriers to tanking are not about a certain ‘approach’ to tanking vs another. IMO it’s mostly subjective: I don’t like/want the responsibility, I don’t want to ‘run the run’ or don’t know/want to know the instances well enough to do so, the gear is aesthetically unpleasing to me, etc.

It had been ages since I’d played my WHM, and my first gig in following the MSQ (I’d stopped as soon as I hit 70 and gone off to level alts, figuring why waste the xp when the quests/story wasn’t going anywhere) was Castrum Fluminis…I’ll be honest, I sucked terribly, even though I watched the video, etc. (Months of playing DPS had certainly taken off my edge of instance-running alacrity since the queues just weren’t worth waiting for in most cases…I do now have a little more sympathy for dps ‘bads’ that keep dying to mechanics recognizing that they simply have shit-tons less practice at cutthroat boss mechanics.)
It was bad enough that after the first group I was in blew up (I was doing my fair share of sucking the wind out of that grou, TBH) I was like ‘shit, do I just suck too bad to be a healer? To have these people depend on me being at least adequate?’…and I think that’s much less of a pressure on healers than tanks.

Postlogue: my next CF group got waxed on the first attempt, learned, and crushed it on the 2nd. I got 5 commendations so I must have (finally) learned something and put away the nasty gremlin of self-doubt.

cf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-EpQ_V5p1g

And as a WHM/AST main’er, I agree that SCH needed a beatdown. I actually disliked playing SCH as I was just being a bloody DPS with free ambient heals and an occasional top-off. I can understand why (essentially) DPS players who loved getting healer queues are disgruntled. I hope AST is given a little more texture…haven’t played it yet, but fear it was overhomogenized…if we’re just pulling the same buff off cards to try to get a set of seals set up, why don’t we just pull seals instead of cards?

Generally agree though: the expansion launch has been butter. Great job SE.

PlasmaJohn
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

I do now have a little more sympathy for dps ‘bads’ that keep dying to mechanics recognizing that they simply have shit-tons less practice at cutthroat boss mechanics.

Ding-ding-ding-ding winner!

Queuing into instances cold as a DPS is bad enough there’s no way I’d do so as a support role. OTOH I think the Trust system is going to be a game changer. I get to practice the mechanics on my own before inflicting my naive ass on others.

The tragedy is that command squads could have filled a similar role except their instance coverage sucks and (like most things FF:XIV) it’s a slog to unlock.

Reader
Koshelkin

I had it pre-ordered and, thus, early access but I celebrated the expansion by creating an alt(not a viera, but I prepared one for later) and leveling it to 30. I’ll sit the first couple of weeks out and, hopefully, bypass the initial rush of people and have a bit calmer time in the expansion areas. Might be considered odd, but I nowadays I hate launch and early access periods. Less player traffic has a positive effect on game immersion imo.

(btw EU doesn’t seem to have the same problem with queues like NA(and probably JP) has, my highest queue was ~70 @ EU prime time)

Reader
David Blair

THIS. I was so put off by the noisy flood of raiders during Stormblood’s early access (I call them seagulls). Squawking about every little thing they disliked with the MSQ in /shout and cluttering up the zones. I don’t think I’ll start Shadowbringer’s MSQ until the 4th at the earliest…

Reader
Kawaii Five-O

One of the first things I did upon logging in at the start of early access was turn off shout and several linkshells.

I also disabled player names outside of combat, which has made playing through the expansion areas a lot more immersive.

Reader
styopa

My highest queue so far has been 391 which sounds high, but it popped in about two and a half minutes, not bad at all. Actual public launch may of course be different.

Specus
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Specus

I’ve been gone for about four year and decided to come back for Shadowbringers. When I re-subbed, I also pre-ordered, but instead of jumping on my main, I rolled an alt and started over from the beginning. I’m in no rush; I never have been.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Nick Martin

I think you need to expand your sample size… you and I had vastly different experiences with the queues this weekend.

On Cactuar, the queues during the afternoons and evenings could spike over a thousand, and it took 30+ minutes to get into the game. Last night, I had time to do to run out and grab dinner, eat it, and clean up the table and only got about halfway through the queue.

Hell, I was seeing queues to do solo duties on the Dancer class of 10+ minutes just to get a spot at one point. The only reason I didn’t quit is because I had some other things to get done, but if it was an example of how it was going to work, it was a nightmare.

Reader
styopa

Exodus queues were usually <50, once nearly 400 but that took barely a couple of minutes to clear.

Andy McAdams
Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Andy McAdams

FWIW – I’ve rarely seen a queue about 20 to log into Goblin and didn’t have any instance queues as I was leveling up my dancer.

As Eliot said though, anecdotal evidence is anecdotal

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Pandalulz

The Crystal data center seemed to be the most empty. The Aether data center never once opened for character creation the entire weekend. There’s a reason Bryn, Goblin, and whatever the third one is are still Preferred with the level buff.
I made a new dude on Bryn but I’ll probably move over to Sargatanas on Aether whenever it opens up so I can play with my buddy. It’s my fault for not making a dude before the early access.
https://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/lodestone/worldstatus/

Andy McAdams
Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Andy McAdams

I would reframe your “seemed to be the most empty” with a most positive looking, “seemed to be the least congested” :)

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Pandalulz

Valid

JonBuck
Reader
JonBuck

Zalera queues have been a couple dozen at most, even at the busiest times.

Reader
Sean Walsh

I wonder how much the issues I see on Reddit about SCH are just from top tier Scholars. As a long time SMN player who plays on a controller, I was super happy to see all the SCH abilities pruned such that I can probably make it work (comfortably) now. I suppose the only way to find out is to try it myself, and I might as well strike while the Adventurerer in Need iron is hot.

DNC is crazy fun at first play/glance. It’s like SE took all aspects I enjoyed most about playing RDM, iterated on it, and made an even funner class. (Basically, procs, procs, and more procs).

Comparatively, GNB felt a little disappointing out of the gate. Using the Gnashing Fang combo felt downright bad without Continuation unlocked yet. Just so slow and uninteresting. Not having an AOE skill to use my gauge on led to some wasted resources. But the worst thing? The sound effects. Maybe it’s simply not the class flavor for me, but my blade felt so small and weak. Especially compared to my DRK.

Andy McAdams
Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Andy McAdams

I saw a lot of those threads too – and I think it was a lot of SCH who aren’t necessarily top tier, but who are invested heavily in a particular style of play that SE didn’t want for their healers (that being that they healer secondary to DPSing).

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Java Jawa

I’m sour about my scholar… unfun job for me now. Went from main from 2.0 to having to find a new job I enjoy.

JonBuck
Reader
JonBuck

The feeling I’m getting is that they went too far to “fix” the healers in general. So I imagine there’s going to be some further changes incoming.

Reader
styopa

I’m hoping it was pruning in advance of some serious evaluation on what they intend each healer class to be, because AST really got whitewashed down to dull too.
Hoping.

Reader
Jon Camp

I’ve got my Gunbreaker to 70 now. It’s…. another tank. It plays similarly to Paladin, IMO, and that’s not a bad thing since I main PLD. I’ve unlocked Dancer, but haven’t really done anything with it yet. I’m a recent returner, so I’m at the 4.3 part of the MSQ, so I’ve got a little bit to go before I unlock Shadowbringers for myself, but it won’t be long.

Tank queues have been 8-25 minutes on my server/datacenter. DPS queues have actually been a bit shorter. Cactuar login queues have taken anywhere up to 20 minutes for me to wait for, and I even had to wait 11:25 to get in to a *solo* instance to do my 1st GNB job quest. So my experience with queues hasn’t been as nice as yours, it seems.

But overall, it’s still not bad, and I’m enjoying being back in Eorzea.