Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s schedule in the wake of pandemic

    
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My gut says maybe.

We have an official statement from Square-Enix now. We have a whole lot of panicky Final Fantasy XIV players who want to believe that patch 5.25 is already running late. And we also have a pandemic, which has everyone on edge already. So what’s the deal? How much is this going to affect the otherwise rock-solid schedule of Final Fantasy XIV patches and content? What’s going to happen to the fan festival? How will everything in the development pipeline be different?

The answer is, unfortunately, not terribly satisfying: I don’t know. The bright side to that answer is that you also don’t know and the development team also doesn’t know. And since everyone’s feeling jumpy and nervous right now, I wanted to take today as a chance to talk about exactly that issue, dispel a couple of myths (most prominently the one that delays have already happened or are happening), and hopefully take as calm a view of the current situation as possible.

Let’s start with the easy part, and I’m going to make it as emphasized as possible: No, 5.25 was not delayed.

There is a pretty predictable timetable for these patches to roll out, yes, but that timetable is not absolute. In fact, delaying the relic introduction until just after you can pick up your token weapon isn’t all that uncommon, just like how it usually takes a little longer for the weapon upgrade tokens to arrive on odd patches. The developers want to give you some incentive to challenge things. If the relic weapon dropped at the same time as the base patch and it was easy to just get your relic weapon at the same level as a Crystarium weapon, would you bother fighting Shiva?

Maybe. But why not split the difference and make it a sure thing? For that matter, why not make it an actual question of whether you want to upgrade your weapon for your main job or your alt job with relics close behind? It just makes more logical sense.

And ANOTHER goddamn thing!

But if you need to look at historical precedent… it still works, because we’ve gotten x.x5 patches at this interval before. It’s not as common, but it still does happen. And considering the general level of communication we get from the studio, it feels like if this were really an unexpected and unplanned delay, it would have gotten some actual acknowledgement and announcement instead of just a completely planned set of rollouts.

So no, the patches haven’t been affected thus far. Will they be? Well… maybe. We don’t know yet.

Let’s make it completely clear that the letter about delays does not say there will be delays. It says there may be delays. The team cannot make any more firm predictions than that, but given the entire history of FFXIV up to the present day, do you really think that the work isn’t being done to minimize those disruptions as much as possible? I don’t find that plausible.

But I also know that all of the prep work in the world can’t always predict or account for the future. Which, you know, is also something that the team working on FFXIV knows and accounts for. And it’s here where we enter a big morass of things that are just plain unclear at this point, because nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen next and everyone is making best guesses tempered by being safe.

The actual game community, of course, has been supportive. Basically every post I’ve seen by players has been something to the effect of wanting the team to be safe and if patches take a bit longer, we all understand. That’s the right attitude to have, and it’s one I share. But there is also a sense that no one quite knows how much this will affect overall deployment plans.

The broad-strokes answer is that realistically, FFXIV’s development no doubt has some slack built into its timelines to begin with. The 3.5-month rollout is not exactly how long it takes to make a patch and start working on the next one, but a reliable cadence to get content assembled, tested, ready, and deployed on a steady pace without undue pressure or a need for anyone to murder themselves working. The team works ahead a lot.

Heck, we’ve been told in the past that voice recording is handled months in advance, sometimes even all during the same sessions for patches as well as the main expansion. This stuff can hum along for a while comfortably with remote working without seeing any disruptions.

How long? I don’t know. The team has never had to answer that question. They don’t know either. They’re certainly not planning on it, but when there are some big question marks in place, you can’t respond to them with certainty except to note that there is uncertainty. And it’s hard to be sure exactly where or when that will spread or where things will end up.

Again, we have an entire team that loves developing this game and working on it. We know that the plan is to continue doing so. But we don’t know what disruptions, if any, will wind up being over the next stretch of development. We don’t know what effect, if any, this will have on the plans for the fan festival.

RIDE THE LOW RIDER

But I think there’s some hope to be had there, because at least right now, there’s not a sense that these disruptions are planned. There’s no announcement that something is definitely not happening, no surprise cancellations, none of the above. It’s taking some doing, but the team is working hard to minimize the disruptions and letting things pass forward. And when stuff has an uncertain end date, it serves almost like an anchor in the future to get a sense that things are still happening past the immediate and there is still a future to be planned for.

Right now, like many players of the game, my main social interaction is via FFXIV. Outside of taking walks in the woods behind my house, that’s the main way I leave the four walls I live within. To a certain extent, it feels like a lifeline, a stabilizing influence, that even as weird as everything else is right now I can still go take part in Ishgardian restoration and hunting and so forth. And I get the sense that the team behind the game knows that and is doing everything possible to keep continuity there.

When things were starting to slow down, one of the messages of support I sent a friend was, in part, “I can’t wait for things to move on and to hopefully thrill to an expansion reveal trailer with you in San Diego in November.” And I’m still hoping for that. And I still feel all right about that. Maybe it won’t happen for a variety of reasons, but right now is not the time to assume that it won’t happen.

So no, I don’t know if we’re going to hit some delays. But neither does anyone else… and in lieu of anything more than uncertainty, let’s stay hopeful and aware.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week? I’ll be talking about patch 5.25, obviously.

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.

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Diego Lindenmeyer

code from home, still possible to do things …

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Ruby Lancer

Barring any curve balls getting thrown, chances are the Fan Fests themselves aren’t going to get delayed. Its far enough in the future right now that it doesn’t seem like it will be disrupted, but again, a curve ball could change things.

I also don’t expect the patch cycle to be too heavily disrupted as it is. I don’t feel like 3.5 months is the time they give themselves to work on the next patch, and more the time they give the players to safely and adequately consume the content.

I seem to recall that Yoshi-P said in an interview once that roughly 2 weeks after Shadowbringers’ official launch, they would be starting pre-production work on the next expansion, or something to that effect. If they’re working on the next expansion overall over the course of 2 years, then it stands to reason that the major patches we get are in some form of work and completion already.

I would figure 5.1 itself would have been in testing by the time 5.0 came out, or very close to starting such as it is, with 5.2 in some manner of production and any final pre-production work on 5.3 being done, as I figure things like the plot and general ideas and themes of the Eden and Nier raids are done by the time 5.0 is ready to go (we did get Gaia’s artwork at the very least at the JP Fanfest just a few months before ShB’s release as proof of such being possible).

As for currently, I think 5.3 is most likely in the same state 5.1 was in at the start of 5.0, entering testing if not already there while they gather up footage and “film” the trailer for it. 5.4 is potentially in the middle of getting assets made for it while the voice actors are doing their best to get things done if they haven’t already (hopefully they’ve got it all good through 5.5 by now on that part). They’re most likely also looking at what feedback they’ve gotten so far on things like the Ishgardian Restoration and adjusting it, and are most likely holding off on doing too much till they’ve gotten more in on the Relic grind from the player base.

This also jives with some of the stuff that we’ve gotten from the team in the past about things, such as how Pagos was completed before they had any real feedback on Anemos, and why Pyros was improved.

So yeah, I don’t predict any major disruptions to things until maybe 5.5, but given the state of Japan’s… well mostly everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve still got folks working away at home on things in a reasonable fashion and the like. Like, I’m sure Yoshi-P has made sure to tell his team not to overwork themselves, and to handle things in a safe and smart manner.

And maybe relaying the messages from the fans of staying safe and the understanding nature of if things do get delayed as well, that we value them being alive to do the work rather than the work getting to us under a strict and uncompromising date.

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Dug From The Earth

Im just curious about 5.3, and if it will have the big changes to the ARR leveling experience they hyped early last year.

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Ruby Lancer

I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have some kind of “Live Letter” planned for next month, if not early June at the latest. They would have done a 5.3 info dump at E3 in some form or manner, but with that having been canceled, they are most likely looking into alternatives.