Wisdom of Nym: Why Final Fantasy XIV fans look for messages in tea leaves from trailers

With strong eye contact.

If you are not on the sinking ship that is Twitter Dot Com at this point, you have, objectively, made a good decision. But it does mean that you have not seen the controversy and analysis surrounding a very simple yet very complex topic in the Final Fantasy XIV fandom on that social media graveyard. Specifically, the answer to one question being asked since the start of the Dawntrail media blitz: Where is Alphinaud Leveilleur?

When the first trailer arrived, we could very clearly hear Alphinaud’s voice narrating the first lines. The extended trailer, as well, features that same voice. We see Estinien, Alisaie, Y’shtola, G’raha, Thancred, and Urianger in the trailers. But we have not seen a scene with Alphinaud. We know he’s there on the boat because of that voice line. So where is he?

Has Alphinaud changed jobs to the new caster DPS? But this would mean that his role of Healer had changed, which means that we’re going to have a new healer companion. Does that mean a new Trust? Who could it be? Is Alphinaud in some kind of competition with the Warrior of Light? Why are the developers hiding Alphinaud? Where is Alphinaud Leveilleur?!

All of this may seem extremely silly to you, especially because if you watch the video at the timestamped moment, you can in fact very clearly see Alphinaud standing behind the WoL and then see him equally clearly in the wide shots. He’s still wearing his Sage gear, just as everyone else has the same outfits on, and that makes perfect sense because he just changed outfits this expansion and it’ll be a while before he changes again. Where is Alphinaud? He’s… on the boat!

Now, if this were a column about solving that mystery, well… mystery solved! There’s Alphinaud. He’s on the boat. He probably has a longer scene talking with a lady Hrothgar or watching someone in a new job do something cool, which is why we haven’t seen him, and we know the woman’s voice probably belongs to the mystery person Erenville brought back at the end of the MSQ. We’ve solved the mystery, and in just under 400 words, to boot. This isn’t a column; it’s a long news post. Good night.

But this is not a column about where is Alphinaud Leveilleur. This is a column about the Lady in Red.

If you’ve forgotten about this as well, at the start of the first trailer for Stormblood, we see the WoL sparring with a mysterious woman in red with an armblade and a seeming ribbon weapon. Wow! Could this, in fact, be our hint of Dancer? Or is Red Mage (which was hinted at that fan festival) going to be a wild deviation from what we know?

“No,” you say, “that is Lyse Hext, she is a Monk same as before, and the only new information that was actually held back here was her identity because at the time we didn’t know she was impersonating her sister Yda.” And that’s true. But this was such a back-and-forth debate at the time that I wrote a whole article about that, and while I ultimately came down on the side of “she’s probably a Monk,” it was still hotly debated right up until the last fan festival!

Why are FFXIV fans like this?

The obvious answer to that question is that we are all crazy people, which is probably true, but it’s not much of a column. The second-most-obvious answer is, of course, that everyone wants to be the first person to look at available data and come to an outside-the-box conclusion because you can wear a badge of “I predicted things correctly” basically forever if you want to.

As someone who repeatedly points to my own predicative abilities as evidence that I do have some idea what I am talking about this, I understand this urge. But it is also worthwhile to note that I repeatedly say my predictions are right only about 65% of the time. Better than a coin toss, but I am not precognitive; I have pretty good aim for reasonable outcomes. And I own my misses as well as anything else. But the question isn’t why do people want to predict what happens next; it’s why people are doing so in such a weird way.

Like, if you want to predict the next job, Yoshida has told you what bits of information can be used to derive that information. But those hints are, quite frankly, not very substantive. And in many ways FFXIV is resistant to providing a clear line for predictions. Oh, sure, we could tell we were getting Red Mage as soon as Alisaie turned spellcasting into having a sword, and it seemed pretty clear that guns and greatswords were major weapons that had no corresponding job moving into Heavensward.

But past that point? There were some vague hints of Astrologian probably being a thing eventually, and Samurai seemed inevitable. But Dancer hardly seemed like a sure thing ahead of Shadowbringers and Gunbreaker was wildly out of left field. Reaper and Sage weren’t foreshadowed at all. Blue Mage was a gigantic curveball. What foreshadowing people guessed at for Viper was, by one standard, entirely wrong… and the correct part was just the broad strokes of something else using Scouting gear.

Combine that with a lack of public test servers and a very limited pool of information to datamine, and things get… tricky.

But where are the Transformers?

People come to FFXIV with a certain amount of background in the franchise as a whole and a certain set of things that they want. This is understandable. You may or may not have wanted Viera added to the game, but there were people who did, just like there are people who want all sorts of other historical races from the franchise added in as playable options. There are expectations and wants, but there is also a generally impenetrable air of mystery regarding what those options will be now or in the future.

You have people whose faces are pressed against the glass, eagerly looking for more information, and there is no more to be had. And some people are content to sit there consumed by lust for the rest of the evening, some want to figure things out and speculate and try to derive the correct answer from the available data.

But when there aren’t many data to begin with… you wind up reading tea leaves.

This isn’t a problem or an indictment. There’s nothing wrong with spending a couple months of your life trying to speculate about where Alphinaud might be hiding in the trailers so long as you accept your attempts to speculate are not under any obligation to be correct, and “treating speculation like it was a promised reveal” is a problem as old as video games. It’s just a curious trait of this particular fandom, and at least from where I sit it’s an interesting one. There’s something interesting about people reading a whole lot of information out of what is, ultimately, just noise instead of actual data.

Unless, of course, it turns out that Alphinaud is holding his sketchbook which is well-established at this point meaning Pictomancer is confirmed, don’t @ me.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I’m going to go a little more personal and answer a question: How do I find a topic to write about this game every week, and what keeps me motivated to come back?

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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