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Final Fantasy 14's 10-year plan: What the future looks like for Square Enix's unsinkable MMO

How Square Enix is future-proofing FFXIV with graphical updates, solo play and more.

Now that the buzz from the release of Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker has settled down and free trial players can once again check out the critically-acclaimed MMORPG it’s time to start looking ahead to what’s next for the Warrior of Light and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn.

In a recent Live Letter stream, producer and director Naoki Yoshida gave fans an update on what the future of Final Fantasy 14 will look like. Alongside the usual upcoming patch content updates, we also got glimpses of a graphical overhaul in the works and plans to make the game playable solo. After refelcting on what made Endwalker so good, and examining the intricacies of its success, the team is looking forward to the future with enthusiasm and excitement – and that's great to see.

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After a huge surge in player numbers over the last six-ish months, FFXIV is the most popular and successful it’s ever been – so it’s heartening to see the dev’s planning so far ahead already, instead of coasting on its current success. While lesser MMOs may wait until player numbers start falling to make any significant changes, it’s refreshing seeing a team so dedicated to evolving. FFXIV has nothing to prove, but it’s doing it anyway.

The most immediately obvious of the upcoming changes is a graphics update that’s planned for the next expansion (7.0). While you can expect any kind of photorealism or anything close to the likes of Horizon Forbidden West (or even high-end grapes) and development is still in very early stages the sneak peaks of player characters and backgrounds is already promising. It’s a significant upgrade for a game that’s been on-going since 2013, though.

Textures, shadows, lighting and the number of placeable objects are all being looked at and improved. Of course this will mean that minimum spec requirements will be raised, but the team is keeping PS4 players in mind as PS5s are still so hard to come by so there’s no need to worry about them dropping support for the console just yet.

However, arguably the biggest update is the fact that the developers are aiming to make it possible to play FFXIV solo, so if you’re a Final Fantasy fan that’s never played it because you’ve been put off by the whole MMO and playing with others thing that’s no longer going to be an issue. Starting from patch 6.1 (the next big content drop out in April) all of the 4-player dungeons will be playable using the game’s ‘Trust’ system which will fill out your party with AI so you’ll never have to worry about a queue again. If you're the kind of player that love soloing in The Elder Scrolls Online, then, Final Fantasy 14 will no doubt start to pique your interest.

To put this in place, the devs have also altered several fights and dungeons – The infamous Cape Westwind and Lahabrea fight are now solo instances instead of 8-player trials, and the Praetorium and Castrum Meridianum dungeons will now be 4-player ones instead of 8. Future patches will add more Trust dungeons for patch quests, Heavensward and Stormblood until the game catches up to Shadowbringers when the system was originally introduced. There is a caveat however – the Trust system currently only works for 4-player content, so you’ll still need to party up for 8-player trials and raids involved with the story… so basically you’ll need to party up for a lot of the boss fights.

The incorporation of better solo play is a real boon for the game. FFXIV contains one of the greatest ‘Final Fantasy’ stories of all time but is so often overlooked because it’s an MMO so hopefully this will remove that intimidating barrier for many. Some may be concerned that perhaps this will mean fewer people will want to play together and the game will become less social as a result or queues will be longer, but I’m not worried about that - the kind of people this is for are those that will play through each dungeon once for the story and then move on. The core playbase who replay things to level other Jobs, party up for raids or grind for relics etc will remain the same. The changes just open up more doors for people, and maybe by doing that a few more will be convinced to stick around.

I do have some concerns with this as currently this will mean that the first fight that you’re forced to play with other people in the story will be against Good King Moggle Mog XII – a hilarious, but tricky, first fight as the mechanics involve a fair bit of co-operation and direction to conquer. It would make for one hell of an introduction to playing with others, but given how many changes are being made to earlier quests to accommodate play, I imagine this fight will also be tweaked so no need to panic just yet.

In the more immediate future, we’ve still got loads of patch content to look forward to before the next expansion. 6.1, which will come out at some point in April, will see the return of everyone’s favourite inspector extraordinaire Hildibrand, as well as the first ‘Myths of the Realm’ 24-player alliance raid, story updates, Ishgard housing, and Hrothgar haircuts. Not long after that you’ll be able to travel between data centres in patch 6.18, while 6.2 (probably out sometime in September by current patch timings) will introduce the long awaited Island Sanctuary feature for those looking to add a touch of Harvest Moon to their lives.

All that is just a small taste of what the next few years is going to look like for Final Fantasy 14, and we’ll be getting more info about patch 6.1 on 4 March (please look forward to it). Seeing the dev team be so open with their progress and expectations while they continuously improve on what they’ve made is exciting to watch. With so much going on and a bright future mapped out ahead, it’s never been a better time to be an FFXIV player.

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