So long ago I can’t remember when, interviews with Naoki Yoshida had him talking about Final Fantasy XIV getting addon functionality. To his credit (as are most of the things he does), he never gave a firm answer or a date for any of it; he simply said that he understood the demand and what addons could do for a game, and it was something under consideration so long as it could be done in a positive fashion.
That was before the relaunch. I’m pretty sure this ain’t happening now.
The why is probably easier to answer, of course. It’s DPS meters. Or more accurately, it’s the thing that DPS meters represent, and what effect that would have on the game to have them integrated. One of the consistent refrains that’s been put forth is that this is a game to play with friends, and I even did a whole article talking about the design philosophy that puts the game in a distinct space meant to discourage elitism as much as possible.
There are limits to what can be done there, sure, but DPS meters generally seem to be the overall red flag. Not that this has stopped third-party meters, of course, but it has at least rendered that the domain of people pushing for progression and otherwise leaving them alone, by and large.
Obviously, addons can have functions beyond that. Anyone who played World of Warcraft at launch would know that addons were downright revolutionary for the title and still provide a breadth of interface options that many games would aspire to. You can take the existing game and make it look like something completely different, displaying wildly different options and giving you access to features like outfit switching and roleplaying biographies and so forth far beyond any meters for your DPS.
Except… I feel like most of those functions aren’t just unnecessary in FFXIV, but actively planned around. And I think that explains some of the reason why the developers aren’t really rushing to get that working.
For starters, it’s a pretty fixed point that most jobs in the game require around 24 buttons for your actions, with maybe one additional bar for occasional abilities, consumables, and so forth. (Personally I really dislike layouts that have hotbars as a big 3×12 block in the middle of the screen, but to each their own.) However, the game gives you by default ten different bars to play around with, free to be moved, rearranged, rebound, and copied as necessary. People have made elaborate macro systems allowing you to have bars automatically shift as conditions are met.
Threat meters are baked into the base game very effectively; ditto indicators for facing, quest locations, dungeon objectives, and so forth. Your map tells you a lot about relevant points. You can already display enemy health in percentage format if you need to. The game lets you set yourself with tags like “roleplaying” or “looking for guidance.”
Heck, one of the most common modifications for WoW is a pack of notifications specifically for boss mechanics… and FFXIV handles that by teaching you the mechanics without a callout to be found. You learn to read the mechanical tells early enough that if you fail to stack for an effect or overlap a damage field or whatever, it’s a failure of execution instead of understanding.
Not all of these features were in at launch, either. Indeed, there seems to be a preponderance of features being added solely for quality of life, like the /gpose interface for taking better screenshots, the tagging for estates, more robust player tags, and so forth. Heck, while the Communities feature has thus far been something of a wash, it’s just awaiting some more work to make it truly sing, since it’s rare to the point of nonexistence to see something not get revised and improved over time.
Any given players might prefer that these features work a little bit differently, sure; you might wish that item trading to NPCs was more automated, or that threat meters displayed the next-closest player to see if someone was about to overtake your threat or whatever. But those are comparatively minor quibbles. At the end of the day, players aren’t consistently crying out for addons because the necessary elements of the interface are already there, and continually improved.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect by any means; it just is consistently a matter of the prospect of addons making for a mildly better experience rather than a transformative one. Compare the amount of work needed to make the game moddable, and it seems like a low-fitness investment, especially when it seems easier to just… ask for the features and see when they get rolled out.
Does this mean I don’t want addons? Well… no, that’s not right either. Sure, I might complain about having to update the dang things, but the fact is that I love playing with a bunch of modifications to make the game interface wildly different. I suspect it’s kind of a problem. I really enjoy having elements to, say, track my income and expenses, or include new art assets, or whatever. I can think of some tools that would make FFXIV more fun to play, sure.
It’s more that when you weigh what would inevitably happen and the work needed against those minor irritations… you know, I can build myself a tracking spreadsheet, I don’t need an addon to track how my overall leveling is going. A better mail interface would be nice, but I can work around it. And, hey, if enough people have an issue with this one it’s likely to be improved in the future.
I suspect that’s also why questions about addons have kind of quieted down and dried up, on a whole. Weighing the list of addons you don’t want against the ones you do and the stress of making a functional API could easily lead to a point wherein the easiest thing to do is just manually make the stuff players want… and yes, it might need refinement and support over time, but the return on investment is worth it just the same.
Much like having free-roaming primals, this seems to be one of those things that was discussed or floated early in the game’s development that just didn’t wind up happening. We went off in different directions. It might not be perfect, but you can understand why all the same.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, we’ll finally have a new live letter, which means that we’ll have a chance to talk about new drabs of information about the upcoming patch.