I'm not pretending that I have a picture-perfect roadmap for the game over the next year, but I do think there are some pretty obvious things to be addressed. There are gaps to be filled in, systems that could stand to be improved, and more systems that would have a positive effect on retention and play. So let's look at what the next year will hopefully bring other than equine headpieces.
For a game that's been out for about four months now, it's hard to be too harsh on Final Fantasy XIV's endgame, but it's worth noting that item level 90 is increasingly a deal. You get level 80 rewards from Crystal Tower, Artifact +1 is easier to acquire, and Binding Coil of Bahamut is a thing that exists. Our average item level creeps ever upward, and this could cause problems down the line.
If you need proof of that, go glance at World of Warcraft's issues with ever-escalating item levels.
I don't think that going much higher is really an ideal solution; I think that we're going to need to really see the game's endgame horizons expand a fair bit over the next several months. Naoki Yoshida has said in the past that the goal is to alternate between patches meant to make the endgame more accessible and those meant to expand it upward, but pushing too far upward will cause issues in the long run. There's already a world of difference between a fresh 50 and someone decked out in a full set of 90 gear, after all.
The solution, obviously, is broadening over straight power climbs. Give players more options, more things to do at the end rather than simply making gear ever more powerful. Adding Crystal Tower was a nice step in that direction, and I'm sure there's more space to fill out content and more rewards available than simply jacking us all to average levels over 100.
Better weapon options
As it stands right now, weapons are limited to one of two acquisition methods. You buy one of the high-quality crafted level 70 weapons, or you fight a bunch of Primals. Your only way to actually work at a specific weapon is to fight your way up through Titan, and Titan is still tuned extremely high for the required item level of the fight. This means that whether or not you're going for a relic run, your options are "get lucky or get used to Darklight weapons."
I'm not convinced that being able to get a level 90 weapon for clearing all the extreme primals is an improvement to this state of affairs. Put simply, we need some options for getting new weapons, or we need a way to ensure that you're not simply left to luck or massively outgearing a fight to get anything.
I'd suggest possibly using a token system for the Primal fights coupled with a dropped weapon that has higher stats, or possibly even a limited number of tokens that have to be rolled on. If Ifrit dropped 65 weapons and tokens that could be exchanged at a rate of, say, 10 tokens for one level 60 weapon, it would alleviate a lot of the issues.
This one is obvious. People like having more options for play; let them have those options. Give us more jobs to play around with.
And here's a close cousin to the last point. In fact, I would be happy with no new jobs or classes or whatever for a while if we had a few more options about how our existing classes and jobs play. Right now the only difference between my character and another Scholar in the same gear is character model and whether or not that player chose the handful of cross-class skills that actually matter or not.
Yes, you can allocate your attributes differently, but that's pointless as well. At best, you're looking at 30 to one stat -- enough to help but not enough to make a huge difference. And by "at best" I mean "of course" because there's no reason to sink points into anything other than the obvious stat. The only class that makes you actually think is Arcanist, and even then it's not exactly a brainteaser. I'm relatively sure you could even buck all conventional wisdom and drop all 30 points in Piety without anyone noticing.
The PvP system offers some interesting ideas about expanding specific classes to have some customization; imagine ranking up on classes as you run dungeons or higher content and picking out new abilities based on that. But I think we really need to see some options for differentiating one player from another. Right now there's very little player agency involved beyond leveling your other jobs and picking out the obviously superior cross-class skills, and that's a little sad.
Free company housing has been a complete was thus far. There are a handful of companies that have houses, most of which have no need of crafters providing furniture because if you can afford the house, you have people who can make that for you. The prices will be lowered after a great deal of waiting for people who apparently made the very wrong choice to continue playing on servers with invested players. The point is that this whole system has been handled badly from day one.
Personal housing needs to come out soon, and it needs to be handled well. It needs to be handled in such a way that the numerous people who decided that free company housing wasn't worth the bother will still be even remotely interested because right now the game's housing is in a bad way, and there are several releases storming along that have housing for players right in the core feature list.
There is, of course, room to debate whether World of Warcraft's Garrisons or WildStar's housing plots will compare to Final Fantasy XIV's personal housing or even its free company housing. But right now, both of the above have a major advantage over FFXIV: They are actually accessible by players without a great deal of hand-wringing. We've been given a figure of around six months before personal housing is available, and I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of those titles is already released within that six-month window.
My point is that this needs to be high on the priority list if it wants to be even remotely relevant. Price decreases and land availability are issues that should have been addressed before the last patch was released, not in triage after the fact. The game got its first attempt wrong; it needs to get the second attempt right, and it needs to do it soon, full stop.
No, I don't actually think we'll see the first expansion this year. That would be insane. What I do think is that we'll see a lot of news about it, probably around the time that 2.3 comes out. I think that by this time next year we should have a release date and a solid idea of what we'll be looking at when the expansion is added.
What do I expect? New classes, new areas, new levels, new story stuff. I'm thinking we're not getting Musketeer until the expansion, and while it might seem obvious, I'd love to see Ishgard open the gates and let people in for the first time since launch. Another 10 levels, more regions in Coerthas and Mor Dhona... there's some obvious space for expansion, but for all we know that could be explored before we get the first expansion.
But there will be one. And I think we'll be feeling a bit slow if we don't know about it before the year is out.
As always, you can leave your comments and your own wish lists in the comments below or mail them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'm going to go back to speculating about jobs and classes for the future. The week after that, I'm going to look at the Crystal Tower as a whole, which objectives it hits perfectly, and where it falls down a bit.
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.