Wisdom of Nym: Examining Final Fantasy XIV’s refreshed PvP system

    
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This was only the start.

It has to be frustrating to be one of the PvP designers working on Final Fantasy XIV. Not because the overall team doesn’t support you (I doubt that’s the case), not because you’re a recent addition to the team (the game has had PvP for a long while), and not because the producer or the director thinks you’re superfluous (if anything, Naoki Yoshida seems to be a big fan of PvP). No, the problem is entirely down to the fact that PvP has long been a feature of the game that the majority of players just don’t seem to care much about.

As a result, it’s perhaps unsurprising that patch 6.1 had some major changes to PvP both in terms of job design as well as content design and overall mechanics. It leads to an interesting change of states in the game’s overall design, especially as I’m someone who never found PvP to be much more than a periodic distraction in the game’s overall lineup of content. And as with any large-scale project, there are some parts that work well, some parts that don’t work as well, and some general design elements that need to be cleaned up as the game moves forward.

First and foremost, I think it’s important to note the biggest element of the changed PvP that has indisputably and decidedly worked: The idea of having a PvP series that’s independent of ranking had some difficult lifts it needed to accomplish, but I think it’s fair to say that this first implementation is working. The biggest thing that I thought was going to be the deciding factor was how fast you can progress through the ranks… and yes, that seems to have been balanced well enough.

Case in point: Winning a Crystalline Conflict match gets you 900 Series XP. Losing gets you 700 Series XP. That’s a definite difference and it makes winning faster and more valuable, but it doesn’t feel as if every loss leaves you inching along while every win is a meteoric jump. You’re encouraged to keep going even if you’re having a bad stretch of matches.

That is, in and of itself, a major change and a notable element of how things have been rebalanced because the fact of the matter that short of having a pre-made ranked team, you are going to consistently have to deal with luck a lot. And that luck can go in a few different ways.

The actual mechanics of what makes PvP teams win or lose are pretty straightforward. Either your team focuses fire well on individual party members, takes out targets efficiently, and works to keep the group together and pushing the crystal… or it doesn’t. And there’s not much variation there. If one team does well at this and the other does not, the former team will win and the latter will lose.

The PvP series gives you a reason to keep queueing in even when that luck gets frustrating. That’s important.

Try and continue.

Of course, you have to also consider job balance. And that is… well, an ongoing moving target, not helped especially by the fact that all of the game’s jobs underwent a complete redesign with this update to produce a much, much simpler sort of rotation. A rotation that, in any sort of PvE context, would be immensely boring but works well enough in the context of “get the essence of the job working in PvP while removing most situational tools and/or gameplay tweaks based on specific kits.”

Some of these work better than others. Every job has a role of some sort, but not all of those roles are quite balanced yet. Tanks are clearly meant to be control and harassment of the enemy party, for example, but Warriors can do this with a lot of power while Gunbreakers are clearly tilted as the most DPS-focused tanks. It’s a theoretical good idea, but it doesn’t 100% work just yet.

The most recent set of balance changes definitely help this, tuning down some of the more egregious jobs and balance moments while giving underperforming jobs more options, but the emphasis definitely seems on making small tweaks rather than big ones to see how the jobs perform in the aggregate. The meta is still evolving, in other words.

At the same time? I think it’s kind of fine. There have always been meta issues like this, and pretending that it wasn’t going to happen with another redesign would be disingenuous at best. Plus, you know… it’s even easier to swap to another job if you’re finding your chosen PvP main isn’t working out very well. You don’t even need to gear up, just learn your new toolkit and what it delivers. Embrace the unsteady nature of the exercise!

I do think that the trimmed-down rotations definitely do a good job of delivering a lot of the job’s core ideals in micro. They’d be boring as heck as PvE rotations, and they play very differently, but you still get a lot of the core tricks that you expect to see for any given job and you still feel broadly accurate. It’s just all compressed so you fire your big abilities up front instead of building up through slower acquisition.

ROBOT ROCK - wait, can't play that song.

Of course, all of this comes with the usual accusations of win trading and hacking at the upper end of ranked. It also comes with the usual lack of actual evidence of these things, which is just depressing. Like, people always wonder why the team doesn’t intervene, but you’re asking why a team doesn’t intervene in a pot full of hearsay and conjecture. There’s nothing to intervene in there! You haven’t offered proof of hacks or named names or any of that!

It helps that one of the big changes with the overall series lineup is that you are, ultimately, more rewarded for participation than anything. Getting a high rank does indeed have rewards along the way, but if you never even break into Bronze, you’re still going to be able to access the armor rewards and most of the fun kit along the way. These rewards are about sticking it out more than anything.

And that, I think, is what’s really going to determine the future of how this new focus on PvP works out. It’s got the potential to be really bright simply because the addition of a full series gives you goals to work toward beyond just currency. Even if we can’t get a new set of gear to buy with crystals every patch (although I’d hope for more), the milestone rewards can still be new, and it’ll take you time to acquire all the stuff currently on offer. There’s motivation. There’s space to keep playing and keep earning.

FFXIV has been trying to get people to have a consistent interest in PvP for a while now. I’m hopeful that the team builds on the foundation here and keeps giving people a reason to queue up and enjoy it, because let’s face it, the previous rewards offered definitely weren’t doing it. I guess we’ll see.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I want to talk about Adventurer Plates, which are wonderful and also the first step in a longer process. And sometimes just wildly inappropriate.

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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