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

The other side.

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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