Wisdom of Nym: So, if there is a Final Fantasy XVI…

    
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Wisdom of Nym: So, if there is a Final Fantasy XVI…

It’s been about a year since I wrote about Naoki Yoshida’s mystery project, which still has not actually been announced in any way and is still, formally, just “a series of job listings.” That is, “job” in the sense of “gainful source of employment” rather than “classes but we all them something else because Final Fantasy XIV” like usual. But my wife and I were talking about this topic the other day, and thus unable to stop thinking about it, I decided to continue thinking about it.

Hey, we’ve got a little lull, so why not?

In lieu of any other evidence, I still remain fairly sure that this will ultimately turn out to be Final Fantasy XVI Online, for reasons I’ve outlined before. That’s far from certain, but let’s just assume for these purposes that we are indeed looking at the next online title in the series several years out, and it’s going to be overseen by Naoki Yoshida. What would this game look like? How could it be different from its predecessor?

My first instinct is to say that it’s going to start very different, and there’s an obvious point of comparison: It’s more likely to be set in a more modern world.

The overall Final Fantasy series has bounced back and forth between “modern-but-magic” and “faintly late middle ages/renaissance fantasy” pretty much since Final Fantasy VII came out. While every game has featured some science fiction and future technology elements (yes, even the first one), Final Fantasy VI pushed the series resolutely into the “steampunk” era, and FFVII, FFVIII, FFXIII, FFXV, and parts of FFX all relied much more heavily on a modern-looking world with the addition of monsters, magic, and people with swords running around.

Final Fantasy XI and FFXIV, by contrast, are both firmly into the older era. Some of this is no doubt because FFXIV was originally in no small part meant as an evolution of FFXI when Tanaka was overseeing the project, and so there wasn’t really space to change it when Yoshida took over. But it seems like the clearest way to state that this game is Yoshida’s from the start is to break that streak and make something… well, modern.

This is not exactly without precedent.

Of course, this also prompts the obvious question of which elements of FFXIV are legacy components and which ones are things that Yoshida himself wants in the game. This means that I think one thing we’re not going to see is the same five “basic” races.

I wouldn’t be surprised to still see Au Ra, but I imagine that the layout of overall races will look quite different and include at least one more beastly option, as well as an overall greater deviance from what had existed in prior games. Expect a lineup more like “Hyur, Au Ra, Hrothgar, Guado, and Dwarves” in contrast to what we got with FFXIV, which was already a short riff on FFXI’s racial options.

My expectation is also that the game would still carry forward some familiar online elements, though. Players will probably choose between three nations for their starting experience, for example; however, I imagine the allegiance would be more fixed. Your allegiance will likely not be part of a consistent open war, and you will almost certainly be able to team up with the other nations, but I imagine PvP would be more front-and-center in the game’s basic design.

Housing, meanwhile, would almost certainly be more instanced if not entirely instanced, since the open aspect of housing has been one of the most criticized aspects of FFXIV (and it seems in no small part a relic of legacy coding). I’m imagining a small plot of land within a city that you can expand over time, so you still get the outside/inside aspect, but that’s veering a bit further in to expectations over speculation.

On a fundamental level, I also don’t feel like the Armoury System would come back. Indeed, I feel like the system has, overall, kind of been a dead end; it’s not terribly flexible and has ultimately been a midpoint between more rigid class systems and a more flexible job system without adding much on to either. Something more job-based seems likely for a starting point for systems, although I tend to doubt it’ll be quite as open as the original version of FFXIV’s overall ability lineup.

That having been said, I also think it’s fairly likely that a follow-up would still maintain a lot of the things that have been consistently solid for the game. The overall content setup? Probably similar to how things are right now in FFXIV. Having a steady and ongoing story? That’s generally proven to be a point in the game’s favor. A distinct split between crafting, gathering, and combat classes? Many people (including me) have long praised the game’s crafting and gathering, so expect that to be more elaborate rather than less if they get to design it from the start.

This, of course, raises the question that if you’re keeping a lot of things the same, what would justify a new game?

Welcome to the desert of the real.

There are, of course, a lot of answers to that, starting with the fact that foundations are different from systems. While I fully expect a new game would still have, say, queued and regular dungeons, I would fully believe that it might have a wildly different role distribution, like making parties consist of Tank/DPS/Support/Healer instead of paired DPS. There’s also no reason to assume we’ll have the same old system baggage that we have in the current game, legacy code and elements that can’t be easily stripped away.

It’d also be a chance to potentially re-examine the principles at work and see how to make them work in a very different fashion. There’s nothing specifically saying that the game’s current endgame structure is how it needs to be, beyond the fact that it does provide players with several meaningful routes of progress in every tier of content without a huge power gap. That could easily be rearranged in terms of the different levels involved, rearranged for greater lateral progress, and so on.

Of course, I realize also that this is all still very, very early speculation. What we know about FFXVI at the moment is nothing, not even if the game is currently in development; it hasn’t been announced or even teased yet. (It wouldn’t surprise me if this had originally been planned as a tease this year for the fan festival, but I don’t really expect that’s going to happen as planned this year.)

So why spend a column talking about it anyhow? Because, as I said… unable to stop thinking about it, I continued thinking about it. I don’t want to get deep into the woods of speculation and dreaming about systems I’d like, but there are some grounds to ponder what has worked and what hasn’t. And if any of it turns out to be right… well, hey, that’ll be fun, right?

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, moving on from the grounds of wild and baseless speculation, let’s take a look at the Problem Jobs of Shadowbringers and where they’re at now.

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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Phluxxed

The only thing I want from FFXIV is better combat. Something that has weight, feels like I’m actually hitting things instead of just watching an animation play out. I absolutely adore everything else about FFXIV but the combat just kills it for me.

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Sorenthaz

It would be interesting to see what Yoshida and a team under him would whip up if they had more time/resources and weren’t doing insane crunch to get a game out from scratch while retaining elements of its previous version. XIV certainly seems to have issues with its design that have slowly been expanded and worked around.

I could certainly see a FF MMO that would be more moderny that more resembles FFXV and such. Question though is whether or not it would be meant as a spiritual successor to XIV similar to how XIV was a spiritual successor of sorts to XI.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

Players will probably choose between three nations for their starting experience, for example; however, I imagine the allegiance would be more fixed. Your allegiance will likely not be part of a consistent open war, and you will almost certainly be able to team up with the other nations, but I imagine PvP would be more front-and-center in the game’s basic design.

Maybe I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying but it sounds like you’re speculating that PvP would be fixed faction. I dearly hope not as that’s been an unmitigated disaster in every MMO that’s tried it. At least XIV has a “non faction” option. More telling that that’s currently the only option for Frontlines.

I also think it’s fairly likely that a follow-up would still maintain a lot of the things that have been consistently solid for the game. … Having a steady and ongoing story? That’s generally proven to be a point in the game’s favor.

I cannot and will not deny that 14’s story is good, even great. I will however call it a problem. MMO’s do best when they minimize the stratification of their player population. 14’s story is a major impediment to allowing friends play content that yields meaningful rewards for everybody (roulettes only get you so far). If you’re even remotely interested in the story it’s a four hundred hour grind.

B-b-b-but FFXIV is super successful! Everybody loves story!

It is very successful but if story were the be-all, end-all of MMO success then SW:TOR wouldn’t be the smoking ruin it is.

Unlike Bioware, Square does not ignore the various niches. Unlike Blizzard, Square’s release schedule works. Unlike Carbine (rip) Square’s development rarely suffers regressions.

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Syran

I share your frustration about not being able to play with friends, but story is not the issue here. Narrative design, however, that’s a different topic. The game is clearly designed with the “play together alone” mentality, which appears to be what most players want anyway. But there are many other ways to tell a story that are not about an individual player watching a cutscene or clicking through dialogue. FFXV would be a decent example of that, at least in parts.

Either way, you have to keep the audience in mind. Fans of Final Fantasy are fans because of the stories. If you release a main entry of that franchise without an epic story, the marketing team would have a very hard time indeed.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

I share your frustration about not being able to play with friends, but story is not the issue here. … . The game is clearly designed with the “play together alone” mentality, which appears to be what most players want anyway.

I disagree on the “most” part. Most FF fans? Sure. But most XIV players? I have much doubt.

Either way, you have to keep the audience in mind. Fans of Final Fantasy are fans because of the stories. If you release a main entry of that franchise without an epic story, the marketing team would have a very hard time indeed.

I have no problem with story. Or even story as the most efficient means of solo levelling. I do have an issue when it becomes mandatory. That just makes it a barrier to entry and 400+ hours of mandatory grinding is an insurmountable one.

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Syran

The story in FFXIV is not the barrier to entry, it’s the barrier to endgame. (And even that isn’t true if you’re willing to pay extra.) The majority of subscribers don’t care about getting to the endgame though, it’s quite the contrary – that’s when they often stop playing.

I know it doesn’t look that way at a first glance, but that’s just because the most active players who get involved in guilds/FCs are mostly the endgame crowd, while the casuals are happy with just going through the story at their own pace. They may not be as visible, but they still make up the lion share of subs.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

The majority of subscribers don’t care about getting to the endgame though, it’s quite the contrary – that’s when they often stop playing.

You want me to believe that you have metrics that prove this?

If this were true why would Square bother with 8-man or even 24-man raids? Why would they bother with the optional dungeons? Why would they spend the considerable effort on developing EX and Ultimates?

If this were true why would they come out and say that most people quit in ARR/7th Astral due to the less than pleasant levelling experience? I can’t even being to imagine the number of folks that took one look at XIV’s wall of mandatory quests and did not even bother.

But if you’ve got hard and verifiable evidence feel free to share.

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Syran

There’s only so much you can “prove” without breaking NDAs. ;) I have no insight into the actual numbers of FFXIV, but currently work on another major MMO and worked on two comparable mobile titles before that. Again, I understand that from the perspective of a core player, the “casual” player base is hard to notice. Simply because that’s not who you’re surrounded by most of the time. But if you look at monthly log-ins rather than daily playtime, they’re always there in substantial numbers. And for a subscription game like FFXIV, they generate most of the revenue, even if they barely play (or don’t play at all).

As for why SE would bother creating endgame content at all:

1. Casual players wouldn’t benefit from more early-game content, they already have more than enough to do. SE could try to improve it (which is exactly what they are doing with the next patch in XIV), but completely recreating it is obviously not an option for a variety of reasons.

2. “Casual” in this context does not necessarily mean that they only play an hour a week. It simply means they play this game at their own pace like they would any other. Many absolutely get to the expansions and even finish them, but their goal isn’t to reach the bleeding edge of endgame and go through the hardest content. “Too much to do to get to the end” is as much of a detractor here as it is for games like Xenoblade or Breath of the Wild.

3. The extreme/savage stuff in FFXIV is actually not that difficult to create, compared to their basic versions, main story quests or dungeons.

4. Hardcore players are important to drive the conversation. They are generally the most vocal part of the player base and generate “free marketing”. They are also quick to beat a game to a pulp if it doesn’t cater to them.

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Ruby Lancer

I had to dig around a bit myself to make sure on things, cause I had heard some talk about FFXVI back at the start of last month as it is, with most of it being just rumors or speculation due to various things.

To start with, Yoshida already stated that he feels that the next Final Fantasy game should be a high fantasy setting, so if he is working on XVI, I wouldn’t expect it to be a modern one, outside of him either trying to pull a fast one on folks yet again or people higher up than him outright demanding that it has to be a modern or futuristic setting.

Furthermore, Yoshida had said in an interview at Gamescom last year that, at the time, there were no plans for a new Final Fantasy MMO. Now, given how things have changed since then… if they had changed their minds about doing it, it might have been changed once again just due to everything that has happened.

The only other fairly hard thing I have is one more thing from Yoshida stating that the new project he is working on is a core title, but it wasn’t really stated a core title for what. It could just be a game for any of what would be considered the core series that Square-Enix releases, though the odds are more in favor of it being FFXVI as it is.

Everything else I’ve heard or seen since have been speculatory based on rumors or things that don’t necessarily have a connection to anything other than just looking like they could have been from the FF Series as it is. Even the most recent stuff is saying that we’ll get an official announcement of XVI with Sony’s PS5 game reveals, but a lot of it is also riddled with things that are fairly easily debunked, so yeah…

Honestly, it is nice to speculate on Yoshida heading up a whole new MMO for Square-Enix, even if it isn’t tied to the Final Fantasy franchise. I would love to see what he would and could do when he isn’t being tied back by legacy code and features that need to work.

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Syran

Pretty much all of this. The exact quote from the Siliconera interview:

“First, if you’re asking whether the Final Fantasy series will get another MMO soon, I think the chances are unlikely so long as Final Fantasy XIV is doing well. On that note, personally speaking, I’d like to see a Final Fantasy that is straightforward fantasy, one that doesn’t have much machinery, and with no mecha in it.”

I think it’s safe to assume that the next Final Fantasy will not be a full MMO, but could still feature a ton of “live-service” elements. Either that, or we won’t see a new Final Fantasy apart from VII Remake Part 2 for a long time.

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Java Jawa

I wouldn’t mind seeing it take a stab at science fiction, something like dune.