This is going to result in a bit of a downgrade for some players (if you're physical 40 and leveling something at rank 10, for instance), but by and large it's also going to help correct a longstanding issue that the game has had. We've got a lot more options for playing around with attributes and abilities when it comes to FFXIV than we did in Final Fantasy XI, but the downside of the breadth has been the simple problem that no one knows what the attrbute values actually mean. You know the number, but the number itself is pretty much meaningless.
Some of you are probably wondering what the heck I'm on about. It's not as if it's difficult to click "Reassign," glance at your Attack, and then look at it again after you dump all your points in Strength. Or check your HP before and after you stock up on Vitality. Of course we know what attributes are worth, we know what effect each attribute has in the long run, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the question of what the attributes mean in relation to one another.
In FFXI, we had a very clear picture of the stats for each given class. Take a Galka BLM/WHM and compare it to a Taru BLM/WHM, and you can tell at a glance that the relevant stats are way higher for the Taru. There's a reason that most Galka casters wore their race-specific underwear well into the levels of artifact armor: Casting stats on those pieces were hard to ignore. Because each job had its own growth, you could tell at a glance how much better an INT of 56 was than an INT of 49 at the same level.
Put more simply, you had a baseline of stats to compare it to. You knew how much INT a Black Mage should have at level 40, or how much HP a Paladin should have, or even how much CHA a Bard needed. The result was choosing gear based around those values, trying to shore up any weaknesses in your stats where you could. Galka Paladins wore hairpins because they lacked the MP of other races. It meant less defense and HP, but they already had enough of that.
FFXIV has never, reliably, had a stat curve to compare anything to, which has made the attribute point system just a wee bit silly.
One of the recurring themes that comes up in pen-and-paper games is the concept of giving standards for the various numerical ratings that you get. In White Wolf's system for the World of Darkness RPG, a Strength of 5 is at the upper bound of human ability and means a character is much stronger than an average Strength of 3. But in Dungeons and Dragons, a Strength of 5 is hardly any better than a Strength of 5, both are shockingly weak, and the human average is 10-11. Without understanding the numbers in relation to one another, you can't really understand whether the value is any good or not.
So for the past several months, we've been stuck without a good way of knowing how much of anything is a good thing, how much is too much, and how much is too little. You can make some broad assumptions, yes -- if you're never leveling a casting class ever, you can probably avoid putting points into Intelligence -- but you can't really know what your attributes ought to look like. All you can do is guess and hope that your Vitality is high enough for you to live or your Piety is high enough to have your casts actually connect. Furthermore, it makes the attribute reassignment traits feel like a workaround to avoid the Reassign button -- it's not like you get any extra points out of equipping them.
The automatic growth system will inhibit some amount of character customization, but it will also give some points of comparison. Sure, it's going to be a bit of a downer for a while when you look at your vitality as a Lancer and think of how much good those points could do you in Strength or Dexterity. But it'll also mean you have some level of Strength or Dexterity to aim for, something at which you can look and say, "OK, that's higher than average." It creates a baseline, and that means you can work from there in deciding how to tweak your build.
Stat-tweaking traits could also see some better use here, to boot. Before, they were just one way to knock a few points around and mostly replicated the reassignment function. With 1.19, they'll let you tweak your build a bit more than someone without access to those traits. They're useful at high levels to build hybrid setups, and they're useful when switching from War to Magic to help be even more magical or, well, war-like.
As for the return of the bonus points... well, they could go one of two ways. The first possibility is that we'll see a setup akin to the Merit Point system in FFXI, where players will slowly get bonus points that they can allocate for a little extra power. The second seems a bit more likely, where we'll have a hybrid system -- your stats improve on leveling, but you also get a small pool of additional points to fine-tune your build. Which one the devs go with will depend somewhat on class balancing and I imagine is already being debated with some vigor on the design team.
But I, for one, welcome the arrival of a stat value for comparisons. Because really, that's what we're getting, and it's just plain good.
Just like every week, you can offer feedback via the comments below or through mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'm going to look at one of the complaints I've frequently made about FFXI's current model and how it could actually be fixed... and why it's a horrible idea besides.
An aside for FFXIV roleplayers
Are you a roleplayer on the Besaid server in FFXIV? Are you interested in a linkshell? Do you like swarms of things? I can't help you with the third one, but by some great shock of fate, a new roleplaying linkshell is just firing up on the server dubbed The Everwatch. This is of particular note to me as I have apparently managed to become an officer in said shell. We're opening applications as of Sunday, so if it sounds up your alley, by all means, take a look.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.