The funny thing about Blue Mage in Final Fantasy XIV right now is that the only people still really mad about it are… the people who were really mad about it beforehand. Like, if you were neutral or actively liked Blue Mage on a conceptual level, odds are good to absolute that you’re pretty much done with the job by this point. You’ve learned what you’re going to learn and are content to mostly just… wait until the next update, which I have to admit I expected to have already been going live by now. A bit surprising it hasn’t, actually; maybe there were bugs with it or with the new frontline map due for the same release?
It seems like something that would really need to be broken up into a lengthy set of list items, but the actual answer is pretty simple: repeated activities.
See, here’s the thing about limited jobs. While I like the idea and what it gives the game in terms of overall design space, it does run into a serious problem when it seems like, at the very least, the nature of a Limited Job will always place it behind the current content curve. I understand the reasoning behind that, of course; if or when degenerate combinations come up, the designers want to make sure it’s not affecting anything that would alter actual endgame progression. You don’t want people to be gathering the newest tomestones with dungeon runs that take five minutes each, for example.
The problem there, of course, is that it’s hard not to feel like whatever rewards you’re getting are rewards you already earned. Sure, you get a nice shot of currency, but that runs into the problem that Poetics are not hard to earn in other ways just as quickly. Allied Marks were at least a bit harder to get, but the Masked Carnivale didn’t really have enough beyond that to keep you invested every single week.
So therein lies the problem. Blue Mage needs an endgame that feels like a meaningful one, like it’s accomplishing something. This, hopefully, can also extend to other limited jobs in the future.
Unfortunately, this endgame also can’t replicate the usual gear cycle that has long managed to sustain the game at the level cap. People need that easy Poetics gear to upgrade and use for leveling normal jobs, and so long as Blue Mage is using caster gear it’s going to be ultimately catching up to gear everyone already knows about. This means that it’s a bit of a tricky spot, since you need a sense of repeated new content while also providing rewards that feel relevant.
The Carnivale was a solid effort in this direction. It keeps up a weekly rotation to give you new challenges and also rewards you with a currency that is at least harder than usual to pick up without spending a lot of time farming S-ranks. But even that was kind of catch-up; all the rewards for it had been in the game for ages. Once you had what you wanted there, you could really kind of stop bothering.
Having the added Blue Mage group finder definitely could help, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk in and of itself because that’s what’s really going to ultimately make the job sticky or not. It’s not about having nothing to do so much as having nothing to do that feels relevant. And the developers know that’s an issue; that’s why we get new things to do on a pretty reliable three-and-a-half-month schedule. Relevant rewards are necessary.
So what can be done here? Well, I think there are actually some options here, but a lot depends on implementation. People will be having fun being able to play BLU as tank, healer, and DPS in random groups, I’m sure, but what’ll keep them coming back is feeling like doing so has some rewards.
The first possibility is the time-honored way that the game has long rewarded players for taking on optional content: cosmetics. Of course, just having a new cosmetic storefront is probably not enough, so I wonder if this will actually work out; then again, Ishgard restoration has already toyed with this a bit, and allowing new sorts of gear to be sold via Blue Mage unlocks would probably not go awry. It could even be a system allowing you to directly buy dungeon appearances, something lots of players would no doubt like. Or buying some now-unavailable Dated items, perhaps.
We could also that tied into or separate from specific currency for Blue Mage, which could be used for cosmetics or actually helpful items. One possibility, for example, would be allowing you to buy current tomestone materials with some sort of Blue tomestone or whatever, a boon for people who have lots of use for even the unlimited level 80 tomestones and thus have a hard time spending them on just materials
There’s also the (very unlikely) possibility of some form of progression tied to Blue Mage, or at least optionally tied to it. Ironically, if FFXIV had something akin to Merit Points, this would work pretty well; the equivalent of grinding Merits on a lower-level class would ensure that you’re still making progress even if there are other ways to make progress. Of course, that would be… a bit of a huge system to just casually add with no forewarning into this smaller patch, so probably not.
Last but not least, it could always sport new systems for cosmetic progress in some fashion. For example, imagine if Blue Mage ties into unlocking not new appearances, but the option to glamour stuff that normally cannot be glamoured. Want to get certain Egi-Glamours? Learn them via Blue Mage. Want a new cosmetic customization for your job abilities? Earned through Blue Mage. It’d functionally just be more cosmetics, but of a different category and thus justifying Blue Mage getting something very different.
Of course, I don’t doubt that the people working on the game have come up with better ideas than these (or reasons why these ideas wouldn’t work; that’s equally possible). Rather, I think the salient point is that Blue Mage needs to feel like it at least has an endgame with rewards that are… relevant to it and give you a reason to play this, rather than stuff you can get through other means.
Otherwise, that problem is going to just be coming back around for Blue Mage with players finishing it up and then being done, which would be kind of a disappointment.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, aside from hoping that we’ll be getting our next small patch sooner rather than later, I’d like to talk about how the various crafting jobs look in terms of relevance of product.