We’ve got a little while before we get some solid answers about what’s going on with Final Fantasy XIV’s next major patch. At this point, I honestly don’t expect to get any firm answers about many pieces of content until the second producer letter, and maybe not even then. This is – in the grand scheme of things – absolutely fine, and it only becomes less fine in light of the fact that we’re now very near to the expected patch day itself by usual measurements and we still… don’t know anything.
No spoilers, hard enforcement
There’s a definite feeling running through the past year or so of FFXIV stuff that the developers are… let’s not say tired of spoilers, but cognizant of them. And increasingly, the approach to handling those spoilers is to just not give us anything beyond a very narrow scope.
Before anyone instinctively gets annoyed by this, let’s start by noting that it does actually work really well. Over the past year we have also gotten some pretty big and shocking swerves that work in part because we have actually had several facets obscured for a very long while. It was a big shock when we found out that we were going to the First, for example, even if the predictions about Garlemald had always seemed wrong.
It sure seems impossible to have such a major game-changer coming mid-expansion this time around, but… it’s not actually impossible. When I speculated the other week that it’d be very easy for the next patch to directly connect to the Void, for example, it was with the assumption that the overall pattern of patch content would remain the same as it always has… but there’s nothing actually stopping us from, say, getting a surprise new zone in the Void to continue the story.
Obviously, I don’t actually expect that, but the point is that we could have something that’s just such an obvious and all-consuming spoiler – or even close enough to one – that the team is opting to keep this one more thoroughly under wraps until the patch is closer to release. In its own way, the complete lack of speculation fodder itself leads to speculation because it’s so different from the norm.
This is a shift in paradigm
Another possibility is, well… we’ve been spoiled for a really long time. Eventually, that had to give.
The amount of effort put into keeping this game’s information stream going and showering us with patch features, with quality-of-life improvements, with information about same… well, it’s a lot. And no, I don’t think that’s ever going to stop, but it’s possible that several years in we van pretty well stop worrying that the game is on the rocks or that the whole relaunch experiment might not have worked. It worked. We’ve got our previews and our expansions and our fan festivals, the big deal has happened, and we can just… go a bit lower-key for some of these patches.
So the patch preview site is a bit light right now. So what? We know when it’s happening and it has the features, and the lion’s share of new screenshots and what-not can be added later on after the patch has arrived. Heck, maybe more of that time was needed for setting up the next expansion site or some other project that’s being worked on. Seriously, it’s not a big deal, is it?
I tend to think this one is actually the least plausible explanation just the same because it feels somewhat off-spec. Part of why players and fans have been so long willing to put a lot of faith in the game is because, well, the sheer amount of effort put forth is pretty unwavering. The blunting of that support may not be the best look.
At the same time… I would be remiss to not acknowledge that yes, it is possible for the explanation for a bare-bones preview site is just “it’s a preview site, you have your features list, chill out.” Not everything is a secret conspiracy, and while I do think that there are no sinister motives involved, I also think it’s possible that the explanation is mundane and we’re functionally rummaging in someone’s carry-on baggage to see if there’s a present for us hidden in there.
There’s a new experiment in the works
Anyway, let’s talk about that present we might be getting!
This kind of ties into spoilers, but it’s a bit more broad. Maybe whatever is coming next is not, in and of itself, a spoiler for a major story development. Maybe it’s more a spoiler in the sense of a different sort of content altogether, or just a different sort of update cadence outside of what we’ve generally accepted as the norm.
A new zone that’s meant for usual exploration, for example? That would be legitimately new and different; while we’ve had Eureka and we know it’s technically possible, it simply hasn’t happened thus far. Or maybe the new trial coming up aside from Ruby Weapon is something very different from prior encounters, more akin to the Rathalos fight or even different from how that fight is set up. Maybe there’s some new wrinkle in terms of systems or gear.
None of this would inherently require holding back information… but it might just be smart to do so anyhow because if we’re going to actually get the answers in the second live letter, why not focus all of the questions into a contained space? For that matter, it would just be more logical.
Think about it – if you post a picture that has a hint of some very big changes to materia, people speculate about it for weeks and then they have “the answer” when you officially discuss it. This way, no one says anything until it hits as one big surprise, and suddenly everyone is talking about it.
I’m not saying that is what’s happening. If I’m going to be honest, I think there are elements of all three in play – making a more sensible workload combined with spoilers and some new gameplay elements that are best kept under wraps. But it’s also plausible that just… the teaser site went up earlier than normal, and here we are. Nothing more to examine.
Still… if that’s what’s going on, it’s not really a big deal either way and doesn’t matter much. It’s just equally plausible that we’ve got something more far-reaching happening, and the fun of dealing with the possibilities is, well, the satisfying part of speculation. When everything might be meaningful, you pay a lot of attention even when there’s not much to pay attention to.
Actually, that might be the strategy in its entirety.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week? Let’s talk about add-ons.