Wisdom of Nym: The experimental nature of Final Fantasy XIV’s Blue Mage

    
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Never seen a bluer sky.

One of my half-serious predictions during the initial batch of predictions for Final Fantasy XIV’s big reveal showcase was that we’d learn about a new limited job. Obviously, that didn’t happen. This in and of itself is not exactly a shocker; I hadn’t seen it as a certainty by any means, but it did get me thinking about the current state of Blue Mage and the overall limited job experiment thus far.

And let’s be clear, this is still something of an experiment because it’s sort of an open question if something like Blue Mage can actually work in the structure of the game and be fun enough to keep people going back to the gameplay available with it. It’s a limited style of play, and that raises questions of what else can even be done in the style successfully and what sort of gameplay there is left to mine out of limited jobs in general. Does the lack of a new one right now mean that Blue Mage is the last in this particular experiment?

Let me be clear about something – I don’t think there’s any scenario wherein Blue Mage ceases to be a limited job. That’s kind of its whole reason for existence. Rather, I think there’s always been a certain question about whether or not developing other limited jobs is a worthwhile venture, and I think that’s still an open question. If you’ve somehow managed to miss all of the contentions around having Blue Mage be limited in the first place… well, it’s there.

Let me also be clear about something else – the fact that to this point there’s not even so much as a whisper about another such job indicates, at least to me, that the verdict is still out to some extent. Adding more such jobs is going to take time and resources, and not adding one in 5.5 after we did get one for 4.5 means that they’re definitely not going to be coming out in quick succession. It’s possible that no more of them will come out.

Or possibly not because this year kind of threw a wrench in development plans overall.

Gleam.

One of the things that Yoshida was quite happy to tease people about when Blue Mage was first announced was the simple reality that the job was being deployed mid-patch, something that we’d been led to believe wouldn’t happen again after the challenges involved with Ninja. The main reason this was acceptable, of course, was that Blue Mage had a very different sort of development needed from what Ninja did. It didn’t matter if it was going to deform the endgame a little; because of the level cap, the game could shift around it just fine.

But the addition of a new job is still a lot of extra work. And while the game has kept up with its reliable patch cadence ever since its initial patch delay last summer, the reality is that some of that is no doubt due to prioritizing stuff that the team was more willing to let slip. Case in point, we know another Ultimate was planned for this expansion, but because of the workload involved it got bumped, probably until 6.1.

If you’re thinking that this doesn’t bother me in the slightest, you’d be right. But it does indicate that despite what we’ve been told in terms of patch delays, there have been additional knock-on effects in terms of what’s been prioritized in development thus far.

Do I think another limited job was in the cards at one point? That one’s a little harder to be sure about, but I think that it does mean that we can’t necessarily use the lack of one to be certain it wasn’t planned. There are, after all, a lot of Beastmasters running around in Bozja, and certainly there’s some space for the job to have a one-handed axe and a shield. (It’d make those shields usable by more than one job, too! That’d be nice.)

At the same time, though, FFXIV rarely teases new jobs that way. In fact, most of them are usually teased through NPCs or regions rather than by fighting enemies with that particular outlay. So it’s an open question if Beastmaster was planned at one point or not – especially when you consider that the job, limited or not, would not have the same structure as Blue Mage by its very nature.

Blue Mage learns spells from enemies, which means that having special dungeon dives for spells makes perfect sense. But Beastmasters tame monsters in the field. You wouldn’t be accumulating the same sort of thing. Sure, you could have tames you unlocked by harder content, but it wouldn’t be a matter of learning skills and then having them available universally.

This is not the same as stolen power.

Regardless, it all circles back to the same question: Has Blue Mage actually worked? Has it been considered a success as a new way to explore old content and contextualize things differently? And that… is hard to say without access to metrics!

If you go by a lot of angry threads still resentful that Blue Mage is a limited job, limited jobs are the worst idea ever and no one will play them. If you go by anecdotal evidence, I always see people doing Masked Carnivale stuff and it’s not hard to assemble a group of people via Party Finder to hunt down some of the more obscure BLU spells. If you go by raw power… well, Blue Mage is a different form of self-contained content in and of itself.

I think there’s a definite value in the experiment whether or not it’s been considered a success no matter what. If Blue Mage is going to be the only limited job in the game, that seems a bit reductive to have exactly one job that works differently from all the others, but a similar thing happens with gathering jobs (look at Fisher compared to Botanist and Miner). There’s a decided value in the developers trying something very different with how a job interacts with the game’s existing content.

At the same time, speaking as someone who likes Blue Mage a lot, there’s also a ceiling to how much can be done with the job and how much can even be explored with it. The Masked Carnivale is a fun idea, but it’s similarly limited in various ways. They’re fun puzzles, but once you’ve figured out the puzzles they don’t really change much. The old solutions still work, and for several of them there’s only so much to be played with.

So I’m glad that Blue Mage is in the game, and I’m glad it works the way it does. I suspect we will get another limited job at some point, probably. But I don’t think it has quite been the wild success a lot of the developers were hoping for, and I think the limitations it has have led to at least a little lower priority for making another one happen all that quickly. Or, at least, not without some re-examination of what limited jobs can do and what they can be.

Feedback, as always, is welcome via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com or in the comments down below. Next week? I’ll have a new live letter to chew on, so that’s what we’re going to be talking about, naturally.

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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axemtitanium

The BLU savage achievements are by far the most fun progression raiding I’ve experienced in this game. Figuring out which mechanics can be cheesed, figuring out which mechanics are *harder*, coming up with unorthodox strategies to meet dps and heal checks. Regardless of what was initially intended, BLU is clearly not a solo-oriented job anymore and anyone still trotting out that canard can be safely ignored as not putting in the work to understand what they’re trying to complain about.

BLU is in a good spot and I’m excited for what spells they’ll add next to shake up how it feels. I struggle to imagine how they’d make BST feel as good and mechanically distinct as BLU but luckily that’s not my job.