After several patches, we're on the verge of seeing SE's vision for Final Fantasy XIV.
If Naoki Yoshida were a sculptor, then Final Fantasy XIV would be a giant block of marble. For the past several months, Yoshi-P and his team have been chipping away at the large piece of earth, hoping to bring forth the MMO equivalent of Michelangelo's David from within.
Clearly, Yoshi-P has a vision for this game. However, despite all the work by the development team, many players still look at Final Fantasy XIV and see a giant block of stone. Some say the improvements aren't coming fast enough, while others say the improvements don't go deep enough. Perhaps we feel a sense of entitlement after sticking things out for the past eight months, even if we are playing on Square Enix's dime.
Make no mistake though -- soon Yoshi-P's vision will become much easier to see.
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In his ninth Letter from the Producer, the man in charge informed us that the first of the large changes will be implemented into the game as early as mid-June. Unfortunately, he said, we may not see any content additions until then, although there's still the possibility of a small patch in the meantime. That's a small price to pay though for what Patch 1.18 is expected to bring. The first battle system changes, new instanced dungeons and encampments where players can find more quests are all slated for this larger-than-average update.
We've known all along that big changes were coming. We also knew those changes would be preceded by numerous ticky-tack tweaks to lay the groundwork for more sweeping adjustments. As promised, those smaller tweaks have come in droves; among the more notable changes have been newly added side quests, the addition of guild tasks, the optimization of party sizes and the rescheduling of behests. The targeting system was also perfected. Once a lightning rod of frustration among players, the targeting system of FFXIV is now virtually identical to that of FFXI, as long as you use targeting mode A.
As I write this, I'm watching my daughter play on her character, Rue. She hasn't played in awhile. After 10 minutes of running around Ul'dah, she's already picked up a couple of quests and found more on the task board in the Adventurer's Guild. Now she's in the market wards, using the search feature to optimize her gear. She's literally playing a game that didn't exist at the start of this year.
In addition to the user interface and content adjustments, other changes have crept into Eorzea as well -- and these changes seem to set the stage for the imminent threat to Eorzea that Yoshi-P has been hinting at for so long.
I'm talking about the heavy rains over the Black Shroud, the eerie silence over Thanalan and the new reports of aggression by the Garlean Empire. At Camp Black Brush, the NPCs now tell adventurers of an Ul'dahn ferry that was sunk by a Garlean airship. Equally odd is the mysterious appearance of an NPC GM by the name of Urianger Augerelt, who appears at camps throughout Eorzea and delivers a cryptic message to adventurers. Translated on the official forums, the arcanist GM says:
"Hear my words if you are in search of truth...
The noose is tightening around the disaster Hydaelyn...
The time of awakening has come for those who are preparing to tackle the chaos in motion...
The future is not immutable... You can still change...
When the sixth sun will have set and the seventh moon shine in the sky, the ocean of clouds poured a rain of faiery flames and shadows fatal burst forth from the depths of the earth...
The 'Seventh purification' predicted by Mezaya approach...
You who are in search of truth... Wake Up and Make yourself against an imminent threat..."
If you look hard enough, you'll find plenty of well-constructed speculation threads with theories about what's about to happen. Even without seeing the big picture, you can almost feel a dark, sinister force at work just beneath the surface of Eorzea.
Still think Final Fantasy XIV is the same block of stone it was when Yoshi-P took over?
The improvements to this game have never stopped coming. The world now is populated by numerous quests and notorious monsters. We have a targeting system that works, and several parts of the user interface have been streamlined. The lore of the game is building, and the storyline suddenly seems meaningful. Just like the dark force at work beneath the surface of Eorzea, Yoshi-P and his development team have been steadily working on bigger, more important aspects of this game. All we've seen so far were the quick, easy fixes. The large-scale revisions could be here in six weeks.
It could be several months before we see the full extent of Yoshi-P's vision, but I believe we'll have a much clearer understanding of what Final Fantasy XIV will become once these first large changes are implemented. When the dust settles, will this game be the MMO equivalent of Michelangelo's David, or will it be just another statue carved from stone?
Only time will tell, and June can't come fast enough.