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.
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.
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.
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.