The last of the Stormblood columns. Only a year behind now :v
#92: “Stormblood Development Tales – Part 5”
Published in 2017/09/21 issue
Five columns later, here are the last of my Stormblood development stories.
– FFXIV’s Battle-Related Sections –
There are several sections that are in charge of battle planning for FFXIV. The “Battle Design Team” works on new job systems, specification design, job balancing, EXP and Allagan tomestone payouts, and battle content rules. Sometimes they even create plans and specifications for content itself.
The “Level Design Team” designs and creates specifications for a wide variety of things, including field maps, all dungeons, boss battle stages, and raid maps. They also come up with new mechanics, and they were the ones who developed the specifications for flying mounts and underwater actions.
The “Monster Team” is in charge of basically everything that has to do with monsters: designing the monsters themselves, designing dungeon boss monsters and their movesets, and designing all raid bosses and their mechanics.
In FFXIV, these three sections are seen as separate entities. They coordinate with each other to develop maps, dungeons, raids, and boss monsters. Since they’re always working with each other, the desks for these sections are consolidated in one area. The main adjustments to raid difficulty are also performed by members selected from these three sections.
– Major Specification Changes in Stormblood –
In Stormblood, there were many, many system changes, such as the changes to the character growth system and job system, as well as the job-specific HUDs. On top of that, we had to balance the 13 existing jobs and implement the two new jobs, Red Mage and Samurai.
The system additions, changes, and removals were discussed by the people in charge of each one during the 3.X patch series. Then, the battle system team gathered their thoughts into a proposal. Finally, I reviewed the motives, advantages, and disadvantages of each one before we moved ahead with the implementation. And of course, for the changes and additions, since they would also involve UI changes and work from the animation team, we performed cost estimates at the same time to determine whether the graphics-related sections would be able to finish the work in time for 4.0.
The summarized intents behind the changes made in Stormblood are as follows:
1. A fundamental reorganization of job actions, because there are too many now and they’ve gotten too complicated.
This is also directly linked to ease of playing with a gamepad. We determined that we’d already reached the limit for adding new job actions, not just for 4.0 but in anticipation of future expansions beyond that as well.
2. Discarding the unnecessary elements of the character system that were inherited from 1.0.
Unlike other MMORPGs, characters are not locked to classes in FFXIV. The “armoury system” allows you to play all classes and jobs on a single character. This was carried over from 1.0, and personally, I really like the system itself. In other MMORPGs, you can generally only main one class. There are different branches available as you level up, but usually, if you want to change your fundamental role, you have to level up another character.
Along with the armoury system, there is an “additional actions” system. This system allows you to use certain actions learned from a class on other classes, and was originally designed to encourage players to play multiple classes. However, the number of classes increased and jobs were added that didn’t have base classes, and it made it so that players couldn’t simply play only the job that they wanted to. There were major disadvantages; for example, if you wanted to play a tank, you were forced to play Gladiator to learn the mandatory action Provoke.
Similarly, we kept the attribute point system (allocating points to STR/VIT/DEX/INT/MND/PIE as you level up) because we wanted to keep a semblance of a “stat build” system. But in the end, everyone used the exact same builds, so if anything, it was a problem because new players would forget to allocate the points.
– System Changes and Content Creation with the Future in Mind –
So, with the future in mind, we made as many system adjustments as development costs would allow, revising the role concepts of all jobs and normalizing balance within each role. All of them were worked on concurrently. The people in charge performed checks as needed and made fine adjustments while playing the newly-developed Stormblood content all the way up until just before release. Some of the jobs were particularly difficult to balance, and it caused trouble for the players. We reviewed player feedback post-launch, gathered play data, and made some adjustments for Patch 4.06a. Adjustments will continue to be made going forward.
Modifying several game systems and balancing jobs at the same time is a near-impossible task, and battle content had to be created alongside those. I’m sure it was an unbelievably difficult time for the battle-related sections. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to ruin the balance for the jobs that everyone is playing with pride. The three battle-related sections are working desperately to balance the game’s core systems while also making the game more comfortable to play. That will always be the case, so please continue to show us your support.
– Then Came Early Access, Followed by Launch… –
Those who pre-ordered Stormblood were able to play the game 4 days before launch, during Early Access. So for us, the real launch date was the first day of Early Access, not the official release date. This time, at the start of Early Access, the duty finder server went down and it soon became impossible to access any instanced content. We greatly inconvenienced all of our players right from the start. After those issues were resolved, many players were enjoying the game, to the point where FFXIV saw its highest active player count in all of the past 4 years. This is entirely thanks to the Warriors of Light all around the world who have always been supporting us, as well as the diligent efforts of the development team and management team.
It’s been a whole 4 years since ARR launched. We’ll continue to value our communication with the players, and I think we’ll resume our full-speed dash towards the 5th anniversary. Indeed, I have to start thinking about the next expansion, “5.0”, soon… *teary eyes*
 HUD stands for Head-Up Display. It refers to the information that is always shown on-screen.