Wisdom of Nym: Coping with the Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker delay

    
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Nairs your Thav.

Sigh.

So by now even if you didn’t watch the live letter, you’ve heard the bad news. Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker was just in sight, getting ever closer, and… then it got delayed by another two weeks, so now it’s not coming out until December 3rd. All right, technically the release day is December 7th, but the reality is that everyone reading this who intends to play is likely to be playing during early access, so realistically the date of release is the day that early access begins.

This fills me – and I suspect, a lot of my readers – with emotions. And there are a lot of those emotions when you also consider the announcement itself and how it was communicated. So today I want to try to identify those, work through them, and take a bigger picture view of the whole thing. Because, well… there are no two ways about it, this is kind of a big disappointment.

Here’s the thing that I think we all need to consider: We are all in different places, and this expansion means different things to all of us. And two weeks can mean something very different depending on the place that you’re in.

I want to open off with that because, well… I think there’s a fault of perception that gets put through the community at times, and it’s the presumption that we’re all in more or less the same place with regard to what we need and so forth. My life is all right at this point, but there have been times in my life when two weeks might as well have been two months, and even now as I’m typing this I’m having a rough time with my brain chemistry and my overall mental durability.

For some people, it’s just two weeks. For some people, it’s a really devastating delay. And I think it’s important to note that spectrum of emotions because we all wind up in different places there. Especially since the community is full of people emphatically saying that it’s just two weeks: If you’re in the “devastated” camp, it’s important to note that your feelings are valid.

Sagacious!

At the same time, I think a bit of context is important. Me? I’m really upset about this delay. But I want to note something very important: I’m upset that this happened, not upset with the development team. The difference, broadly, comes down to who is at fault and who is responsible.

There are a lot of good reasons for people to be upset. Leaving aside the emotional issues that I talked about to start with, there are people with jobs where time off cannot be moved once taken, people who had scheduled other events contingent on the planned launch, and just… people who were really scheduling around this releasing on the announced date. It’s a delay. It’s inconvenient and it sucks. No argument there.

But at the same time, this is by far the exception rather than the rule. It’s really, really uncommon for an announced date to get moved back like this for the game. There’s a reason Yoshida personally apologized for it in both the formal announcement and on stream, and whether you believe that the man is genuinely sorry or you have the cynical belief that it was mostly about his image, the fact remains that it happened.

Delays happen. They suck, and good studios do everything possible to avoid them. FFXIV has a very solid pipeline and it generally avoids delays, but we’ve had to swallow three of them during this expansion cycle, two of them directly related to the global pandemic that’s altered the entire world. You know, the pandemic that Yoshida could have blamed but very specifically did not.

I want to draw attention to that fact. Yoshida could easily have said that the delay was due to issues with the pandemic. He didn’t. He specifically said that it was down to him and how he chose to prioritize development time and what effect his decisions had. The phrase “please forgive my selfish decision” was used. These are not the actions of someone who is looking to deflect blame.

By Yoshida’s own statements, the person responsible is him. But that’s not the same as him being at fault. Taken at face value, the facts we know are this: Yoshida wanted to do everything possible to make this expansion feel appropriately large and impressive, and that wound up eating into time that would otherwise be used for final balance checks. When given the choice between rushing the checks or doing them properly, he opted for the latter, and that meant a delay.

Is that fault-worthy?

And the rest.

I don’t personally think it is. I think we’ve all been in positions where we had to choose between doing the job right (and taking longer) or doing it on time (and cutting corners), and I think it speaks to what we already know about Yoshida in general and the team as a whole that they would rather accept the shame of a delay than put out something that hadn’t been fully checked. Heck, some people have even speculated that something Raubahn EX-style was found late in the checks, and I think we’d all prefer not to have that mucking up the experience.

So no, I don’t blame the development team for it. I’m not angry at them. I am upset about it, and for understandable reasons, but I don’t see this as developers doing something dumb or putting off a release so they can not really fix the actual problems that are going to be evident within about a month from launch. The benefit of the doubt has been earned in this case.

Heck, I’m glad that it makes crunch a bit less likely, something that Yoshida specifically addressed before but bears repeating. This team works hard on this game. We don’t want crunch overtaking them if it can be avoided. If the options were the delay, fewer checks, or crunch? We should be happy that crunch wasn’t on the table.

Ultimately, though, it’s not just all right but understandable if you’re sad about this. This is a disappointment, and for some of the people reading this it’s probably a big one. If this is the big game release that you’re looking forward to for the next few months, this is kind of a big deal, and if you’re in a fragile emotional spot and this helps you deal with it? Yeah, this just sucks. Your upset feelings are valid. You don’t have to pretend not to be upset about it.

But there is a difference between being upset about this and being upset at the team for it. I don’t think anyone should hold the former against you, but the latter is a different story. Not everything needs to have someone to blame, even if that might feel a little cathartic.

Plus, you know, I have more than enough side-eye right now anyway for the larger corporate side of Square-Enix looking into NFTs. Seriously, bad look, people. (Yes, I know, large companies are obligated to have people who look into these things and evaluate them to see if there’s money to be made. Still a bad look.)

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, let’s talk about the actual contents of the letter about, well… content. And about how the Feast was always dumb.

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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