Last weekend was the 2016 Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest in Las Vegas and with it was the reveal of the brand new expansion… Stormblood. Also with it has come a brand new renewed interest in the game by folks who have yet to play it, or never really got a stable footing in the game. Yesterday a friend of mine started asking his twitter timeline a bunch of questions about the game, and it made me realize that a post explaining some stuff might be a timely thing. In traditional MMO terms, there are a bunch of decisions that you make at the beginning of any new game that can often times dictate your options later in the game. The most common of these are things like choosing a faction, or even sometimes a starting race. Final Fantasy has far fewer trip ups like this but those that do exist I thought I would explain a bit, namely from the perspective of someone who has played other MMOs.
One of the first questions you are going to be asked is to choose a Data Center. For those familiar with World of Warcraft as I am guessing most players who are interested in MMOs are… this relates to your Battlegroup. While the individual server you are going to play on is super important because that limits your day to day interactions… equally and sometimes even more important is the Data Center you are part of. Data Centers are the pool of players that you draw upon any time you queue for anything in the Duty Finder, meaning the population of the servers in your Data Center is going to greatly effect queue times. I personally play on the Aether Data Center which is one of the ones suggested for North American players, and it also happens to have a whole slew of high population servers to pick from. So this data center contains the following servers…
Inside of the Data Center you are going to choose a server. I for example am on Cactuar which seems to be a high to medium popultion server in the grand scheme of things. Square has a mechanic in place that keeps players from rolling on higher population servers during prime time. That means during the evening hours specifically servers often time lock down for new character creation. There is a thread on the forums that is updated every few hours with the status of these servers for new character creation. So at this very moment at 6:30 in the morning Cactuar is open for new character creation, but by the time evening rolls around it is likely going to be locked down. Still using Aether as an example, right now Balmung and Gilgamesh are already locked down barring new character creation. In World of Warcraft terms most players try to find a place on the higher pop servers, thinking they will have more options. However in FFXIV that absolutely means any time you have a major patch or the rollout of a new expansion, you are going to be locked out behind a pretty lengthy queue. With the launch of Heavensward Cactuar experienced some queues, but nothing along the line of the hour or longer queue times that say Gilgamesh did.
Sadly FFXIV does not offer cross realm play in the way that World of Warcraft does, so that means for doing FATEs or any of the raiding options that are not accessible through the duty finder, you are going to be limited by the active population on your server. I am completely biased about Cactuar, because I love the community there. However my ultimately suggestion would be to find a similarly medium to high pop server… rather than one of the “always locked” servers to play on. These communities still generally have active raid groups, but allow you to skirt some of the negative aspects of the end game community, as well as mostly allow you to skip the queues. Additionally the higher the population of the server, the less likely you will ever be able to own housing. Final Fantasy XIV housing other than apartment is non-instanced and has a limited number of houses available per realm.
In creating a new character you are going to be asked to choose a race. For anyone who has played a faction based game this is immediately going to cause some anxiety because generally speaking that locks you into a subset of the population. Races however in Final Fantasy XIV are cosmetic choices in nature, as is the “god” that you follow… and your characters birthday. These are all flavor options, that really do nothing to limit your ability to play with your friends. Final Fantasy XIV is a game with no firm walls that ever segregate you from parts of the population. In fact Races are pretty fluid in this game, given that most folks change race at least once due to the fact that the game gives away Vials of Fantasia at a few points in the main story quest. I started out a Hyur Highlander, before ultimately finding my true calling in life the Dunesfolk Lalafell. I could extoll upon you the virtues of playing a Lalafell… but then again I have friends who feel equally passionately about pretty much all of the races. This essentially is about finding your own groove in the game, because you are going to spend a lot of time looking at your character.
The other big decision you are going to be asked to make immediately… is what class you want to play. Normally speaking in MMO terms this is one of the more important things you have to decide. However in Final Fantasy XIV is is really not that big of a deal. This is a game where each character, can be every single thing in the game. I started the game as Marauder the class that ultimately becomes a Warrior… and I am still “maining” Warrior to this day. However I also have a reasonably functional Bard and Dragoon… and literally every other class/job combo in the game at least started. This is a game where it greatly benefits you to have a single character, that just happens to have a bunch of jobs because of cross class abilities, which are a sub set of class abilities that you can then use on other jobs. Of note a lot of this is changing, but it will still function in some form or another with Stormblood. Crafting works essentially the same way allowing you to be every possible crafting profession on a single character. The only thing that your class really does is lock you down to a starting city, because it takes awhile in the main story quest before you unlock the ability to travel between the three main capital cities.
- Archer – Ranged DPS
- Conjurer – Healer
- Lancer – Melee DPS
- Limsa Lominsa
- Arcanist – Ranged DPS/Pet Class
- Marauder – Tank
- Rogue – Melee DPS
- Gladiator – Tank
- Pugilist – Melee DPS
- Thaumaturge – Ranged DPS
At some point in the Main Story Quest…. you are going to choose to join a Grand Company. These represent factions within the three main cities of Gridania, Limsa Lominsa and Ul’dah. Unlike factions in other games… they don’t really lock you from freely grouping with other players, but they do have some ramifications. For starters they dictate the capital city that you are going to be by nature spending a lot of time in, as you interact with the various vendors associated with that faction. Secondly they dictate what the appearance of your grand company weapons and gear looks like, as each of them has a very specific style… that trickles down to even chocobo barding. Finally there are a few PVP modes that are Grand Company based. However at any point you can swap grand companies… for example I started off as Immortal Flames the company associated with Ul’dah and decided at some point to switch to The Maelstrom the company associated with Limsa Lominsa. Swapping essentially throws you back to the beginning ranks with the new company, but also saves your previous progress with the one you are leaving. That way if at any point you decide to swap back again… you can pick up where you left off.
Ultimately Final Fantasy XIV is a game with a bunch of flexible boundaries. The only ones that are “permanent” are your choice of Data Center and Server… and even then there is a construct in place for paid server moves. Once you have chosen a server however… literally every decision you make can be undone and changed pretty easily. This is a game that expects you are going to want to “be all the things” and ultimately rewards you for doing so. For those looking at getting started in the game, I am hoping this run down of the decision making helps.