I've been reading the lodestone information and have tried to mash it up with what has previously been said and then read between the lines. It looks like the new development team has some serious stones, and I think they are going to do a full NGE of this game. Given that, the only promise that we have is that they will not do character wipes. How do I think they will pull this off? It is simple, really.
What we know:
- They want more job differentiation
- They want more content
- They are looking at introducing classic FF jobs
- They are looking at changing how levels and ranks work
- They are looking to change skills
There is only one real way to accomplish all this without a character wipe: a full NGE.
What I think will happen is that everything that we are leveling now (aside from hand/land) are simply going to be the FFXIV version of subjobs. These will also be the introductory classes for new players (similar to the six classes in FFXI). When a player gets one of these to a certain level, they will have the option to do an advanced class quest similar to those in FFXI and gain the ability to level an advanced job.
This is where the job system will fundamentally change from where it is now. An advanced job will have a set weapon selection (such as swords, shields, greatswords for paladin) that has no respect to anything except that specific job. Each job will then have either a set amount of AP or one that scales by job level so that they can use these slots to pick and choose skills from their leveled war/magic subjobs to form their own custom subjob for that class.
In doing this there are probably going to be a number of skills that get extremely nerfed (punishing barbs?) or might even disappear altogether (ancient magic would be removed to BLM, etc). They will also undoubtably shorten the SP curve to make leveling the disciple jobs much easier. In doing this it makes the work we currently have in the game meaningful and preperatory for the "next stage", but also allows a customizable job system like in FFXI without the pitfalls that game faced.
The beauty of a system like this is that it corrects the broken subjob system of FFXI in that it doesn't force players to pick one of the "mandatory" subjobs for any given primary (i.e. no more /NIN situations). It also allows them to really differentiate the advanced jobs without having to worry about what that will do with subjob situations (i.e. no more /NIN situations). Having similar skills between the war jobs now allows a player to custom tailor their job to match their personal flavor (circle slash vs. brandish? red lotus vs. trunksplitter?) and keeps player customability high. This system would also fix the current system's inevitable dead-end: how many more weapons can they add in without it becoming little more than a palette swap? Right now there is little difference between the classes, how bad would it be if they added in another half dozen weapons?
This system would be a real coup on their part: they get to NGE the game in a way that doesn't break anything the players have achieved to that point, they get to introduce a tremendous amount of content to the game without a whole lot of deep development time, it meets many of the demands that players have given to date (regarding class differentiation and whatnot), and it is something that the majority of players would probably accept gladly. Furthermore, it allows them to make a massive PR push as if it was an entirely new game ... and good PR from that would help reel in new and prior players to see what all the fuss is about. Without an event like that, this game is probably going to fail: lets not kid ourselves any longer. S-E is bleeding right now keeping its full development team running while the game is seeing low sales and no monthly income.
I suppose the way to tell if this is going to be coming down the pipe would be for them to extend the 1-20 SP curve (ease of leveling) all the way through 50. This massive nerf will probably come a couple months before the NGE hits to keep the current players in the game while they implement the NGE. You'll probably see the PS3 port hit the shelves three months after this riding on the PR wave. Further, my guess is that while it may take, say, level 30 in a disciple job to unlock an advanced job, the advanced jobs will probably start at a higher level (in the 15-20 range) to prevent flooding of newbie zones and they will probably have the same level curve that our current disciple classes have. Even though they will be harder to level in terms of SP, though, they'll be easier to level at each stage since their abilities will be more powerful than the generic war/magic ones and will be much more geared toward party play. Disciple jobs will be easy to level and allow casuals to see endgame, while advanced jobs are more hardcore and fully unlock the game's content.
Other thoughts: the stat allocation will probably be for disciples only (subjobs). The primary jobs almost undoubtably will have set stats. The physical level system will also, accordingly, be for disciples only to assist in leveling those to later support your advanced job(s).
My crystal ball just went dark ... anyone think this scenario is unlikely?