It is not quite February yet at the time you read this, but it’s not as if February is some distant future that we can’t see. It’s tomorrow. And we don’t know much about Final Fantasy XIV in February beyond the simple reality that we will be getting a live letter in February, but it will not be the first preview of patch 6.1. Instead, it will be revealing other things about the future of the game, and that is… an interesting promise, to say the least!
A content roadmap
I’m trying to put these in no particular order, but I think this one is the most likely and the last one is least likely. The roadmap seems likely, even though I don’t think we’re necessarily going to see a major difference from what the game has been doing over the past several years, simply because over the past several years there has been a reliable cadence made so by knowing that there was always a “To Be Continued” waiting in the wings. There’s no more of that. The story is done, 6.1 starts a new story, and I could see a certain amount of expansion-wide sharing going on just to give players a sense that there’s a reason to stick around.
Technically, there’s nothing at this point tethering the game to a very reliable cadence of having five patches before the next expansion, of course. It could involve fewer or more and still be reasonable, although that seems like it’d be changing things up for no particular reason; the five-patch structure has worked in the past and there’s nothing particularly dragging it away at this point. But it’s still theoretically possible to have that on the roadmap. Or just knowing when Island Sanctuaries will be a thing.
Changes in the expansion model
FFXIV is something of a dinosaur in terms of its boxed expansion model. This does not bother me; I love that aspect of the game’s business model, I liked boxed expansions, I have absolutely no bitterness over the fact that it is something of an anachronism in that regard. At the same time, with the first major arc over, there’s no reason why the game needs to be beholden to it any longer. If there were ever a time to share this, well, now is absolutely the time to do so.
Now, the main counterargument against this is that we’re a long way off from 7.0 being announced formally, although we all kind of expect it as the game’s expansions have gone from strength to strength. There’s no real need to say it now, but it would certainly be reasonable and not hugely shocking if something along those lines were included, a change to how expansions are purchased or rolled out.
Changes in story progression
One of the big differences between how FFXIV‘s story worked compared to Final Fantasy XI was that the latter essentially had its various expansion stories segmented as their own ongoing sagas, with the last patch of an expansion wrapping up that one’s story and each individual expansion more or less taking care of itself first and foremost. FFXIV, on the other hand, has told one sequential story from the base game through each of its expansions, and thus it made sense that you couldn’t see the story of Shadowbringers until you had finished the story of Stormblood, for example.
But that plan only works so long as these stories are sequential things. As of right now, that’s not the case any more. Whatever story starts up in 6.1 could very easily represent a whole new entry point to the game’s overall storyline if the developers so wanted.
Of course, the main argument against doing that is that it kind of messes up the overall flow of the game and how it’s supposed to work: Shadowbringers isn’t just a fixed part of the story, it’s the game’s entire designed content for levels 70 to 80, and the game might start to get messy if you screw around with things too much there. So there’s an argument to be made against this particular thing being changed, and I don’t claim it’s necessarily likely. But I also think there is the possibility that it does change, that players can start in on new storytelling without necessarily catching up on all the story that happened before. I don’t think it’s likely, but it is possible.
Major system changes
This would kind of go hand-in-hand with the prior change, but that’s hardly the only major system change we might hear announced. For example, one of the persistent rumors I’ve seen is that the Main Scenario Roulette is going to be changed, and that’s a reasonable possibility. It’s a roulette that consists of exactly two dungeons, one of which is wildly more rewarding than the other in every reasonable fashion, and it’s kind of this weird vestigial element to facilitate a very specific story roadblock that no other expansion has to deal with. It really could use some changes and/or redesigning, and now is a fine time to make those changes.
Other system changes are the sort of thing I don’t know about yet but would make a reasonable amount of sense, like changes to how the overall leveling works, accessibility options for other roulettes, explorer mode additions, more trust dungeons, and so forth. Consider this a broad catch-all category for a whole bunch of major changes that could be made along the way, in other words.
“Wait, didn’t you say that you don’t see this happening to FFXIV?” Yes. I did. I still don’t. But when I think about big changes to the future that would surprise me, this is a reality that I can’t help but accept as a reality. And what does it benefit us, critically, from pretending that this isn’t a possibility? What do we gain from refusing to engage with the idea that this is going to be announced for the game?
Of course, this is also the point at which I would advise everyone to jump out of the game and stay out until this horrible plan is reversed promptly because I have spent a great deal of time talking about how NFTs are terrible on every level and I’m standing by that. I don’t think that this is a likely outcome or anything; I just think that it’s worth being realistically aware that there is a nonzero chance of this.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, I’m sorry, this one ends on a downer note and there’s not much to get around that. Instead, let’s make the next column somewhat happier by speculating about the content for the 6.x patch cycle.