Final Fantasy XIV has received a whirlwind of changes rivaling even A11S’s. Rather than decipher the specific discussions occurring all over everything, let’s lay out the most important info and player feedback, and what these changes mean for North American players.

First, some context for those that haven’t been following: On April 24th, 2017, Square Enix announced that it would be relocating the NA data centers, sending NA servers from Montreal to an unspecified space “equipped with more modern facilities.” Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida cited increased inventory spaces, cross-server communication and friend list capabilities, and increased field sizes for new areas as the primary reasons for this relocation.

NA servers were shut down between Monday, May 15th and Wednesday, May 17th. Square Enix added an extra day to each active player’s subscription time as compensation.

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A photograph of the new and improved server infrastructure, courtesy of Square Enix.

Towards the end of maintenance time, Raikki Zero of the Balmung server reported DNS updates that pointed to server locations in Sacramento, CA. Different tracer routes showed different locations, sparking speculation (some deleted as of this publication) over the precise destination of the data centers. Disbelief stemmed primarily from Square Enix’s lack of foresight: bring the data centers to Sacramento would mean moving them from one coast to another rather than to a centralized location.

As the servers came back online earlier than expected, speculations were confirmed. A server migration feedback thread started on Reddit to document subjective experiences of players’ new connections with tracer tests interspersed. The comments, with their overwhelming disappointment and sobering data, speak for themselves.

However, as players scrambled to adjust to their new ping times, Square Enix dropped an additional bomb. In preparation for the release of the next expansion, Stormblood, restrictions will be implemented to constrict character transfers to the highest population servers. Balmung and Gilgamesh, for example – the biggest servers for NA players, known for their roleplay and endgame scenes respectively – will be locked out of all character transfers and creations “until their active player populations have stabilized.”

Square Enix’s report on the server restrictions states that server transfers to high population worlds will be suspended, that “players who want to transfer to or create new characters on [soon-to-be] designated worlds across all data centers” will be able to at no cost, and the EXP, gil, and other assorted bonuses will be specific to those worlds for a limited time. In addition, the maximum amount of transferrable gil has risen from 1 million to 10 million, with retainers now able to hold 5 million per body.

While some of these changes have positive potential, they have sent moving ripples throughout the player base. Discussions about the “next RP server” have already cropped up – ironically echoing the sentiments shared during the community’s designation of Gilgamesh as the secondary RP server back in 2013 (which was soon overshadowed by Balmung). Criticism of the game’s netcode and overall responsiveness has only gotten stronger as people acquire yet another reason to invest in WTFast. And, of course, people now have to adjust to bizarre latency that could have been avoided had Square Enix picked a location in the middle of the country instead.

In the midst of all of this, Square Enix has at least managed to stay somewhat positive. Final Fantasy XIV’s developers’ blog released a sneak preview of some basic quality of life changes that would be introduced in Stormblood. Menu items, such as the “open inventory” selection, will be able to be added to hotbars by dragging and dropping the items to the UI. Targeting NPCs and in-game objects will automatically bring your flying mount down to your selection’s level, allowing you to interact with it. Sustained emotes, such as sitting, will resume when returning from an instanced server, and Esuna-able debuffs like poisons and silences will be visibly demarcated as such in the new UI.

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A test screenshot showcasing the new debuff UI designs.

Unfortunately, you can’t Esuna stupid – and the recent development changes have only exacerbated this fact. It is important to keep in mind that real-time reactions will always be sensationalized to a certain extent. However, even after rejecting those who firmly believe in the sky’s descent, serious questions should be raised.

Most importantly, why did Square Enix prioritize the west coast over the east coast, when there were already issues with the coastal location at Montreal? Was it simply business? Square Enix does have headquarters in California, after all, and it’s a much cheaper flight from there to Japan. But why shirk the possibility that everyone could have been afforded a better game experience overall by switching to Austin, Dallas, or Chicago? Level 3, whose terrible system was a hindrance to the game’s previous infrastructure, most likely would have been lurking in these central areas. However, Level 3 still has a peering agreement with the new server hosts, giving this issue no definitive closure.

Final Fantasy XIV
A quick glance at the cross-server Party Finder shows the Aether data center’s uniqueness.

Finally, though more as an aside, blocking transfers to Balmung and Gilgamesh specifically will have a noticeable impact on both communities. Gilgamesh will most likely be significantly less hurt because of the cross-server Party Finder implementation (though the ability to craft raid gear and food is nothing to scoff at for the hardcore scene present there). Balmung dreamers, however, will need to resort to other options to find RP homes. I have long been an advocate of fostering RP communities on other servers, especially those on Primal that lack the most basic communicative functions with Balmung. Now, these communities must be fostered for RP to survive and thrive over yonder – and the overwhelming populations associated with outside internet communities, like Tumblr and 4Chan, will need to find new servers to congregate on should they not already be there, lest they buckle down and level their throwaway Balmung alts.

In sum, for some, Final Fantasy XIV just got a whole lot messier. Questions of community, issues with business priorities, and the problems of future progression have arisen like never before in the last 48 hours. It hasn’t been fun for nearly anyone – although the California crew is living it up.

But I guess that works for ’em. I mean, after all, hasn’t California always been about progression?

Perhaps not horizontal progression, though… Maybe that’s why Square Enix is biased towards it.

Anyway, catch us all in Party Finder, dying to avoidable damage for the next two weeks! May your DPS be as high as your newfound ping.

EDIT 5/18/2017: A misreporting error was made at the time of this publication. Square Enix is not supplying server transfers for individual players, but rather toll-free travels to any to-be-announced worlds.

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A queer theorist by day and theorycrafter by night, Alec spends most of his time playing Final Fantasy XIV and being Balmung's most discursive, elusive dragoon. When he doesn't have his head stuck in a Sara Ahmed text, he's probably knee-deep in a Party Finder PUG, writing an art history paper about The Quicksand, mapping out The Wind Waker's high seas, or all of the above at once. Find his windswept rambles on Twitter @knightofwinds.

14 COMMENTS

  1. In the developer’s post they announced that there will be bonuses to starting new characters or transferring them to lower populated world’s on all data centre’s like bonus exp, Gil, extra sub days, and the like. However, it didn’t list which servers would be designated yet.

    • I misinterpreted the information the first time around. I am grateful for your eye; the article has been edited to reflect this. I will be more careful in handling the material next time! Thanks for your contribution.

  2. Great read! Thanks for posting. My only hope is that the server I’m on doesn’t behind the new to home of choice.
    Right now it’s perfect, housing is available, market is nice, plenty of people to run with. I hope the rp plague doesn’t continue to bring more of the Balmung players over.

  3. Oh no, now people on the east coast have latency that people on the west coast have had for 4 years! And as we all know, nobody on the west coast ever managed to clear Savage or any Extreme primals.

    And how dare they limit transfers to the two highest population servers. As we all know, having many servers with active communities is less important than having two servers with extremely active communities and login queues.

    I approve of all of these changes. Better datacenter and fixing the Balmung/Gilgamesh problem. The latency problem isn’t actually a problem and people need to sack up. (for the record, my latency has not changed in the move, so I’m not biased by benefiting from it)

  4. This article is poorly researched, shallow in discussion, and extremely short sighted. These are the ramblings of someone with no true grasp of the long term effects that Square Enix decisions will have for the game. An article like this belongs more on Reddit or a post by my cousin who has little understanding of good choices made for the better course of the game.

    If this is the quality of writing has to offer by mmoexaminer.com, I pity the future readers of this site. I expect more from someone in the position to discuss and research the topic than a article filled with opinions and little to critically discuss.

  5. salt much? i agree with what Dar said. it only examines 1 side of the argument, and rejects the other side in order to influence their own opinion.

    • What would be the “other side” in this case? People on the west coast? There have been plenty of players reporting decent speeds and ping times less than harrowing. They’re in the same threads that I link – a move demonstrating that discussion is currently taking place without the need to go too in-depth.

      Should we sum up the state of Reddit in the last 48 hours, you’ll see these sentiments repeated over and over again. “Thing is bad. Culture is changing,” with an emphasis on the knee-jerk. There is an overwhelming bias towards one opinion because it’s the majority one right now. And I demonstrated that. Was this article in-depth? By no means! Do I have a few articles in the works more critically examining the cultural impacts of these changes? Absolutely – but we needed an article covering the news itself and the most basic discourse surrounding it, which is wholly negative. But any and all feelings of “hey, this is fine!” can be found predominantly in the same places, so we’ll be covered there.

      On that note, however, I wholly welcome any sources you have demonstrating your aforementioned “other side” – and if not, if you could even only further elaborate, I would be very appreciative! Thanks!

  6. what a joke of an article. He complains about stuff just for the sake of complaining. Nothing that SE did within the last 48 hours is detrimental to the game. More EU servers? Good. Shut off the two most bloated, log jammed, over populated servers in the game? Sounds good to me. Seriously, unless you play on those servers you have no idea what kind of hell people go through on patch days, especially and expansion. My god it’s a mess. Oh and the move the Cali is fine, I’m in Washington DC and my ping and play experience has not changed whatsoever. Quit your crying.

    • As a Balmung player, I am not crying about the cut-offs themselves. As a matter of fact, I’m glad we won’t see a surge in population during Stormblood, as that will foster better communities on other servers! However, that doesn’t mean that the cultures won’t change contingently, which was the point on which I commented.

  7. The doom and gloom over the west coast server move is stupid.

    West coast players have been playing with 100-150ms this entire time.
    Not to mention SEA / Oceania players who don’t want to learn Japanese just to play a game have been playing and clearing savage with 300-400ms…

    The east coasters that are having a cry have no grounds to stand on. An increase from 20ms to 150ms worst case is nothing, and the majority of the population won’t even notice it when they go play their barbie doll dressup game.

  8. Having played with 90ms, cleared savage and seeing the BS “can’t double weave above 50ms” makes me believe if SE never mentioned a ping increase, no one would throw a fit. West Coast “couldn’t play optimally” yet did just fine so suck it up.

  9. Sorry excuse for an article. I live in New Jersey and my ping hasn’t changed an iota. It sounds like the author of this article is trying to discourage people from buying Stormblood or playing FF XIV.

    Shill.

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