Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is heading into December with high expectations on the upcoming massive patch 2.1, and Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida posted quite a lot of information across four different threads on the official forums, addressing several elements of the update and the design philosophy behind them.
First and foremost, he explained the state of the patch, asking for the players’ forgiveness for making them wait a few more weeks, since the update was initially scheduled for November, but had to be delayed due to the server problems that hit the game at the outset of its life cycle.
The Operation and Splitting of Patches for FFXIV: ARR
This is Producer/Director Yoshida here. We’ve been receiving questions about the release date of patch 2.1 as well as requests to split patches into smaller installments. I’d like to take a moment to inform you about our policy for patches and the current status of patch 2.1.
Patch Operation and Cycle
It’s been three months since the launch of FFXIV: ARR. If you’ve have been focusing on a single job and leveled it all the way to the cap, there’s a chance that you’ve hit a dead end in content. We’ve envisioned a two and a half to three month patch cycle for FFXIV, with patch 2.1 originally scheduled for late November.
However, due to my inadequate planning for the massive congestion that occurred at launch, we’ve had to allocate nearly all of the server team’s resources to adding Worlds and data centers, and improving the stability of instance servers. As a result, we’ve fallen four weeks behind schedule.
The FFXIV team employs a “branch” method of development. Simply put, multiple versions of the game are being developed simultaneously. For example, the development team is currently working along the following development lines:
(1) Patch 2.05 Public Testing（Current）-> The exact same environment as our players.
-> Bug reports you submit are verified in this environment.
(2) Patch 2.2-2.3/PlayStation4 Version Development（Future）-> The forefront of development.
-> Includes patch 2.2 elements and PlayStation 4 version data.
(3) Patch 2.1 Testing (Near Future）-> A separate line that includes elements from 2.1 through to (2).
-> Development of all content and systems for 2.1.
-> Debugging and balance adjustments for 2.1.There are even more test lines than above, but it would get overly complicated, so I won’t touch on them.
Basically, development work on (1) flows into (2), but in order to ensure that 2.1 is properly tested and balanced prior to release, we’ve created a dedicated branch for it, that being (3).
When a patch release date draws near, we create a master branch for that patch wherein the final touches are made (2.1 has already been branched, by the way). In so doing, we prevent patches from going live with unfinished and unstable elements from future patches.
Work on 2.1 has been in progress since the launch of FFXIV: ARR. However, due to the large-scale measures we’ve had to implement to address issues in (1), the branching of (3) from (2) has been delayed.
Moving forward, we will endeavor to stick to our original plan of one patch every two and a half to three months, and commence a steady patch cycle.
In a large-scale game with simultaneous development such as ours, the meticulous management of content and programs is critical. The branch method of development allows us to prevent data from getting jumbled up.
For a single patch, 2.1 features an unprecedented amount of content, most of which will add depth and variety to the game. As such, we judged that it should be released all at once.
While it isn’t impossible to release a patch in installments, i.e. 2.1a, 2.1b, and so on, 2.1 doesn’t lend itself well to this. This is because many of the things being planned either require a long time in development, or affect a broad range of game elements. For example:
If we were to release 2.1 in installments, the risk of unfinished elements accidentally finding their way in would be increased significantly.
It takes a number of days to cleanly separate a branch, and if you include the time needed for debugging and master testing, we’re looking at 7-12 days to prepare it for release. As a result, the time it takes to deliver all of patch 2.1 would be stretched out another 2-4 weeks. For this reason, we’ve decided to release everything in one batch—ultimately the shortest route in the long run.
Now, I’m aware of the requests to release minor tweaks first—improving existing functions and adjusting jobs, for instance. However, most of the functions being discussed are closely tied to the server code, and requires more work than it seems. And as for the jobs, time is needed to ensure that they are balanced, as well as test them in the context of new content. If we try to push these tweaks out too early, we risk disappointing our players.
Some of you have also expressed the concern that people will leave the game during this downtime. Naturally, we’ve also taken this risk into consideration, and have been monitoring the forums closely. But ultimately, rather than risk destroying balance by splitting the patch, we’ve decided to stay focused on the mid- and long-term enjoyment of our players. Releasing 2.1 in one batch, we believe, is the best way to do so.
2.1 will usher in sweeping improvements across the board, thus laying a solid foundation for the possibility of patch series in the future. We’ll continue to monitor the situation after patch 2.1 and review our operations policy as we go along.
2.1 is just a few weeks away, and we ask for your patience just a while longer. With countless additions and refinements to battles, crafting, and gathering, not to mention the introduction of PvP, housing, and new soloable content, I promise that it will live up to your expectations.
Secondly, he moved on to illustrate the changes coming to the Marauder class and the Warrior job:
I understand that all our warriors out there are eager to know what patch 2.1 has in store for them. While we’re still in the testing stages, I’d like to give you a preview of what we have planned. Please keep in mind that warrior is still being tested in all encounters available in 2.1, and the following information is subject to change.
The main focus of these changes—as the seasoned warriors among you have already observed— was Inner Beast and its HP absorption effect. With these changes, warriors will no longer be dependent on a single skill to recover HP, and have overall improved defense.
To put it simply, we want to ensure the role of warriors as durable tanks. This is why we’ve also adjusted the effects of Wrath and Defiance. As currently implemented, warriors are forced to lose their healing bonus when using certain skills. However, these changes will allow players to use their warrior skills without sacrificing improved healing, and also maintain the critical hit bonus of Wrath.
Although warrior will no longer recover immense amounts of HP in a single use of Inner Beast, these changes should improve the overall defensive capability of warriors and the ability to heal them using a support class or job.
Patch 2.1 may seem a long way off, but please understand that we have to test these balance changes not only in encounters to be introduced in the upcoming patch, but all existing encounters as well.
(Please refer to a previous post for details on why we cannot break up patch 2.1)
While I regret having to keep you waiting, I am confident these changes, along with the numerous additions we have planned for patch 2.1, will be well worth your patience.
He continued on with a third post, explaining the design philosophy behind the relationship between crafting and top end equipment:
Crafting and High-Level Items
FFXIV: A Realm Reborn Producer and Director Yoshi-P here with a few thoughts on crafting and high-level items.
As always, I appreciate the constructive feedback that many of you have offered on this important topic. In this post, I’d like to discuss our vision for the role of crafting in Eorzea.
Crafting of High-Item-Level Gear
As you all know, the item level cap in FFXIV Version 2.0-2.1 is item level 90.
(We will be implementing a slight balance adjustment based upon our observations of item distribution within the player population.)
There are currently two ways to obtain item level 90 gear: by conquering the game’s most challenging dungeon, or by collecting and exchanging Allagan tomestones.
In contrast, the highest-item-level gear that is currently craftable is item level 70. Looking simply at the difference, this appears to a very significant gap. That said, the materia system (including advanced materia melding) allows for the crafting of gear more powerful than its item level would suggest, gear that can—when augmented with effective materia combinations—serve players well even in the most challenging battles.
That said, it is impossible to craft higher-item-level gear, or gear that is completely equal in power to the highest-item-level gear available.
This is an intentional decision that we made for a few reasons, which I would like to explain in detail.
Preserving the Appeal of Dungeons
While there are a variety of ways to enjoy FFXIV, the desire to become powerful is a great motivator for many players. In particular, the impressive weapons and armor obtainable by triumphing in high-level PvE encounters attract many players to take on these challenges.
If the same items were made craftable, some players might find it easier to save up their gil, robbing them of this motivation to undertake the game’s toughest battles.
I realize this is a worst-case scenario. In a perfect world, it would simply be another option, and players would have the choice of either fighting or saving money to obtain their desired gear. Unfortunately, this remains a concern.
Ensuring Item Rarity
We also believe that the strongest gear available at a given time should not be obtainable by all players.
As of Version 2.0-2.1, this position is held by the Allagan gear that may be won by completing the Binding Coil of Bahamut. With only the most skilled of adventurers able to complete this challenge, many others must settle for obtaining high-item-level gear via tomestones while biding their time, waiting for the difficulty of this battle to be eased.
Crafted gear plays an important role in allowing players to triumph in battle and obtain the strongest gear. Furthermore, as the item level cap is raised in patches to come, new recipes for higher-item-level gear will be added, preserving the valuable role of crafters while maintaining this intentional gap.
As our first patch has not yet arrived, it may seem as if the current state of items and crafting is static, but rest assured that subsequent patches will introduce higher-item-level gear, along with many new opportunities for crafters.
The class/job level cap will remain at 50 for the time being, meaning that gear (including crafted gear) will play an increasingly important role in character growth in the months to come.
At the moment, players are striving to improve themselves within a relatively limited range of power, but this range will gradually expand as new content is released, and as the difference in play styles between players leads to greater disparity over time. As a result, even if they lack the ability to create the highest-item-level gear, crafters will always have an essential role in Eorzea.
“What if high-item-level gear was made craftable with materials dropped in the Binding Coil of Bahamut?” is a popular argument. As I alluded to in a previous section, we believe that the prices for such gear would be high, forcing players to choose between sacrificing time to earn gil, or taking on the battles themselves.
It is nevertheless an understandable suggestion, and one which is of course possible to implement.
However, we stand by our decision not to have the highest-level gear available for purchase. One of our primary reasons is that such a change would encourage RMT. Our team is working tirelessly to stamp out RMT entirely, closing thousands of accounts and seizing massive amounts of gil every week—this even in the game’s current state, where many believe that crafted items are in low demand.
Were the highest-item-level gear made craftable and available for purchase, it’s easy to foresee a problematic situation where RMT abusers would:
This would, in turn, lead to more players choosing to purchase gil, creating a vicious cycle that would feed further RMT abuse.
At one time, we considered the option of adding a more valuable, non-tradable currency that could be used to purchase these items on the market, but this idea was scrapped, as it made little sense from an overall gameplay perspective.
Existing Concerns and Future Plans
To summarize, in the game’s current state, the limited item level range for available gear means that many players are able to meet their needs with gear obtained in the course of leveling. Crafted gear remains useful for only a short period of time, resulting in low demand on the markets.
We are aware that this is especially true for weapons, with relic weapons becoming a sort of standard.
These issues will be eventually be dealt with by raising the level cap, but crafters need not wait that long for change. Patch 2.1 will see the addition of the Wolves’ Den and the Housing system, and the services of crafters will be in high demand for both PvP-related items and furnishings. Looking ahead to Patch 2.2, crafters will be able to alter gear designs using a “template” system (official name TBD), giving them yet another role in creating desirable gear.
Rest assured that we will not sit idly by as crafters go neglected.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that we will continue to look at the demand for crafted items in all aspects of gameplay, from PvE and PvP to housing, end-game content, and so forth. We will continue to explore options for expanding the role of crafters—if not by allowing for the crafting of the highest-item-level gear—with a close eye on that which is in the greatest demand in the ever-evolving world of Eorzea.
I hope all crafters will look forward to the changes to come!
Finally, he gave us a glimpse on the plans for offering new ways of progression and for improving the existing ones:
Upcoming Changes to Allagan Tomestone Acquisition
Producer and director Yoshi-P here.
Recently, we’ve noticed a number of threads discussing the weekly limit on Allagan tomestones of mythology. I’d like to talk about the reasons for this limit, as well as changes coming in patch 2.1 that will affect their acquisition.
Progression in FFXIV
As you’d expect, there are many more factors to consider when designing an MMORPG like FFXIV, compared to a stand-alone console game. These factors heavily influence combat design and balance.
Each encounter in FFXIV: ARR is crafted with a particular difficulty in mind. As players grow stronger by increasing their level, they will be able to complete early encounters. However, upon reaching level 50, players who wish to become even more powerful and tackle the hardest challenges must instead obtain better gear, thus increasing their item level. The time required to do so is dictated either by drop rates, or by the rate at which tomestones can be acquired, depending on the gear being sought.
Progression can therefore be described as follows:
Our ultimate goal is to give players the freedom to advance at their own pace. Having said that, the current design has room for improvement, which is why we will be implementing changes with patch 2.1.
Expectations for Progression Until Patch 2.1
From the initial release of FFXIV: ARR, we predicted it would take roughly a month and a half for the most dedicated players to reach the Binding of Coil of Bahamut, and roughly two months for the general player population. Furthermore, we wanted players to acquire gear using Allagan tomestones of mythology in tandem with clearing the Binding Coil. This served as the basis for determining the rate at which tomestones can be earned, which is currently limited to 300 tomestones of mythology per week. With the release of patch 2.1, this limit will be increased to about 450 tomestones per week, for reasons which will be explained at the end.
The Two Paths for Player Progression
One unique quality of MMORPGs is that, depending on how much time they have to play, a disparity between players can easily emerge. For example, let’s say player A plays two hours per day, and player B plays five hours per day. After a week, there’s a difference of 21 hours, after five weeks a difference of 105 hours, and after ten weeks a difference of 210 hours. MMORPGs are designed to be played over a long period of time, and as such, this gap between players will only increase as time goes on. This inevitably leads to several problems:
In an attempt to combat these trends, and also to encourage users to continue playing, most developers of the first generation of MMORPGs decided that items should only a fraction of the time. Because the chance of obtaining items was so low, it took a relatively long amount of time to obtain gear, meaning users would play longer.
However, when considering the lifestyle of users in today’s market, the freedom to play at a more leisurely pace is essential. With no option but to continue running through instances, with no guarantee that the desired can be obtained, users are more likely to become stressed and stop playing all together.
These concerns led to the birth of the token system, which we have adopted for FFXIV: ARR. The merit of this system is that, although there is a limit on tomestone acquisition, users are guaranteed to obtain desired items after obtaining a set number of tokens.
Because every duty in ARR offers a set number of tomestones, players can easily determine how many instances they need to clear and how much time it will take. They can then play at their own pace to acquire the gear they desire. Furthermore, the more difficult encounters also incorporate a more traditional system of drop rewards. This offers players two options:
Although these methods are different, each allows for the acquisition of level 90 gear.
In short, players who have ample time to play are free to collect tomestones, or challenge the Binding Coil, and those who have less time can still acquire tomestones at their leisure. Despite the difference in time available to players, the game is designed so that everyone can potentially obtain item level 90 gear.
However, please bear in mind that high-item-level gear alone may not enough to overcome some challenges. Because of the armory system’s design, end game encounters have been balanced for players who have not only leveled one job to 50, but who have also obtained abilities from other classes. That being said, we have no plans to make multiple jobs a requirement.
Providing Additional Paths for Player Progression
There’s one key problem with the encounters available in 2.0: the limited number of options leads to linear progression for battle classes, and essentially leaves crafters and gathers by the wayside.
To be more specific, players are being pressured to join a party to play through a limited selection of instances for tomestones; there are few, if any, options for those who wish to collect them leisurely, efficiently, or even alone. Patch 2.1 will serve as a means to resolve this problem, giving players many more options to collect tomestones and play as they see fit.
Here is an example of how the upcoming update will appeal to more players:
Patch 2.2 will introduce the next section of the Binding Coil of Bahamut, and we highly encourage players seeking a challenge to prepare for the new dangers ahead. To those of you have obtained all available gear in the Binding Coil, we hope you’ll give the Wolves’ Den a try and see how you fare against your fellow dungeon runners.
Raising the Tomestone Cap in 2.1
As I explained previously, because there are only a few ways to acquire tomestones, players have had no choice but to run the same dungeons over and over. While there are those who are fine with the current state of affairs, there are others who dislike the limit, as well as those who feel obligated to hit the weekly cap.
A. Players who dislike the limit:-> “Once I reach the weekly cap, there’s nothing else to do. If the limit was raised or removed, I would have a reason to play more.”
B. Players who feel obligated to hit the cap-> “If I don’t hit the weekly cap, I’ll fall behind. But having only a handful of dungeons is boring. I just want it over with fast.”If we were to increase the weekly limit before patch 2.1, players who fall under category B would increase significantly. To satisfy both types of players, we feel it best to prioritize giving players more options.
I realize patch 2.1 was originally scheduled to be released in November, but due to problems with server congestion, and the need for server and system improvements, we were forced to delay the release one month. However, I assure you that the wait will be worth it, as the upcoming patch will not only include plenty of new content, but also improvements to the user interface and additional system updates.
There have been several posts asking why we have not split patch 2.1 into several smaller updates, the answer to which can be found in a recent post here on the forum.
We’re working to have everything ready in a timely fashion, and we greatly appreciate your continued patience.
As an added bonus, we also got two new screenshots showing the /doze emote that will come in patch 2.1 and will allow players to actually use the beds included in the upcoming player housing feature.