Heavensward Retrospectives

Heavensward Retrospective: The Level 60 Endgame

As Final Fantasy XIV’s first major expansion, Heavensward had a lot to live up to, and carried a pretty heavy burden, as far as solidifying the game’s foundation for the future goes, and now that it’s nearly over, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the expansion did well and what it didn’t. Sporadically over the next couple of months I’m going to collect some of my thoughts on various legs of the game. So far, I’ve talked about Anima Weaponsthe Diadem, the Main Scenario (spoilers!), and the expansion’s dungeons. On the heels of that last one, I’ve been thinking a lot about the overall shape of the game’s level 60 “endgame,” so I’m going to talk about that in broad strokes today.


For a good part of the last decade or so, when people talk about the “endgame” of an MMO, they’re often thinking of raiding, such as the Coils of Bahamut or Alexander in Final Fantasy XIV, or Molten Core or Sunwell from World of Warcraft. It was World of Warcraft, really, that popularized what we might call raid dungeons (along with a ton of other things that are more or less standard in the MMOs of today). Really, though, an MMO’s endgame is a lot broader than that—or at least, it should be, if it’s going to keep players entertained (and subscribing or spending money on cash shops) at the level cap.

Most MMOs tend to change once you hit the level cap—up to that point, your main focus is on gaining levels, new abilities, and growing more powerful in an organic sort of way. In the modern MMO space, it’s pretty common for gear upgrades to take the place of experience and levels once a player has reached the cap (though this isn’t ubiquitous). The ways you get that gear and progress your character after you can no longer gain experience can loosely be defined as an MMO’s endgame.

So when I talk about the endgame in Heavensward, I’m not thinking solely of Alexander (Savage), but also the normal modes of Alexander, level 60 dungeons, Relic/Anima weapon quest lines, Extreme Trials, Alliance Raids, Hunts, the Deep Dungeon, and Exploratory Missions. There are more things to do than all of these, of course, but it’s these activities that form the core of character progression at the level cap in FFXIV, which means some combination of them is going to make up a good part of a level-capped player’s time.

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In terms of progression, FFXIV more or less offers two paths to the maximum gear during each raid tier: Tomestone gear, which mostly takes time (with the highest gear only being available in the latter half of each tier); and high-end raid (Savage) gear, which is gated both by difficulty and time (though less so on the time front, since you can get the highest raid gear as soon as you can clear the content, even if you only get one set of drops per week). In many ways, these two paths are the core of FFXIV’s endgame. Most other meaningful content at the level cap serves primarily to prepare players who might want to raid to do so (or, to a lesser degree, help those who are raiding but have ceased to progress to do that instead).

Established Endgame

Some of the other facets of the endgame have been around since A Realm Reborn, so let’s talk about those first. It’s worth noting in all cases that rewards that aren’t valuable to one’s main job may still be valuable to alternate jobs, but at least for the purposes of this discussion, I’m focusing on how the endgame is structured for each player’s primary class. I’m also not going to dwell too long on each individual aspect here—I want to talk more in-depth about some of these things later, and I don’t want to retread too much ground when the time comes.

Dungeons

I don’t want to talk at length about these here, since I already spent a whole post on them, but they exemplify one of the weirdest things about FFXIV’s endgame better than any other piece of content. Quite frankly, endgame dungeons, outside of being one of several various Tomestone delivery methods, have very little reason to exist in terms of progression. Because all dungeons offer Tomestone rewards, they essentially invalidate their own rewards immediately—if you can buy gear that’s usually better with currency from dungeons than the drops that come from the dungeons themselves, why would you give much thought to gear that’s little more than fodder for Grand Company Seals?

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Dungeons are, at best, useful to a returning player for a brief period of time while they catch up to the most recent gear levels, and once that initial catch up period is over, the only meaningful dungeons tend to be the two most recent ones for the typical player, which provide the largest amounts of the weekly capped Tomestone. Since dungeons provide no real rewards outside of their Tomestone values, they quickly become more or less meaningless (and it’s quite possible to never need them at all if you get enough Tomestones to cap each week through other activities).

Alliance Raids

For the most part, Alliance raids largely suffer from the same problems that dungeons do—the rewards they offer, unique gear sets, are equal to baseline Tomestone gear, with occasional pieces being comparable to upgraded Tomestone gear or Savage raid gear due to itemization (though such cases are rare, and the differences between an Alliance raid piece with perfect itemization and another of maximum item level with less ideal stats is often fairly small).

To keep the Alliance raids relevant, they have all (since the time of 2.3) offered a way to upgrade Tomestone gear to the maximum item level (the very first Alliance raid, Labyrinth of the Ancients, didn’t have this, as Tomestone gear was already the maximum item level). In A Realm Reborn, the developers explored a couple different ways to deliver these upgrade items, and by Heavensward, the method revolved around token drops, with a system that limits the player to one upgrade per week.

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This has the benefit of making Alliance raids relevant to all raiders and non-raiders alike, much as Tomestone rewards make dungeons relevant to them, too. As is the case with dungeons, though, this ability for Alliance Raids to reward better gear divorced from their own loot systems mean that their gear is in a weird spot. Gear from Alliance raids is marginally useful for returning players and gearing up alternate jobs, but unlike as with dungeons, Alliance raid drops are on a weekly lockout: you can only receive one piece of gear per week (but unlike weekly capped Tomestone rewards, Alliance raid drops can’t be upgraded to maximum item level).

Alliance raids are a bit better off than dungeons in that regard, though; where a dungeon’s rewards are of low enough item level to more or less never be relevant to one’s main job (assuming one keeps up with the weekly Tomestone cap), the drops from Alliance raids can, sometimes at least, be useful in a more lasting sense. Heavensward’s final Alliance raid also saw the addition of maximum item-level accessories through a weekly quest—while this doesn’t do anything to alleviate the fact that the gear drops are of questionable value, it does make Dun Scaith much more relevant than it might otherwise have been (some of these accessories are even “best in slot” for various classes, which gives them the kind of value normally reserved only for Savage raid gear and upgraded Tomestone gear).

Hunts

Hunts have always filled a very strange role in the game’s endgame. They provide an open world alternative to catching one’s gear up to more usable levels, and, like Alliance Raids, they also provide means by which to upgrade weekly-capped Tomestone gear to the maximum item level, at least in the second major patch of each raid tier (and unlike the Alliance Raid method of upgrading Tomestone gear, the Hunt method is not bound by a weekly cap, though the grind is definitely very lengthy for each upgrade).

Unlike dungeons and Alliance raids, Hunts never really pretend to be anything more than currency delivery systems, though—they don’t have gear drops of their own. Hunts don’t even pretend to exist for anything other than offering a way for non-raiders to upgrade their Tomestone gear, which has the effect of making Hunts highly sought after in odd patches where they offer ways to upgrade that gear, and more or less meaningless in even patches, when they can only be used to buy gear relevant only to relatively freshly level-capped characters.

Extreme Trials

More than any other slice of FFXIV’s endgame, Extreme Trials have had a lot of various reward models.  Originally (way back in 2.1), they were on par with the Full Party Raids (the Savage designation didn’t yet exist) in rewards, offering top-level accessories and weapons (the latter through a weekly quest). After that, they’ve mostly served to provide intermediate weapons—not as good as Tomestone and raid weapons, but better than weapons from the last tier—and have occasionally provided relevant accessories, though that hasn’t happened with any of the Heavensward Trials. It’s also been long-established that Extreme Trials have a cosmetic reward (so far, it’s always been mounts with low drop rates).

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Since weapons are normally pretty hard to get, usually locked behind difficult content with weekly lockouts (Savage Raids) or easier content that’s far more heavily time gated (normal mode Raids or the Relic/Anima questlines), Extreme weapons have historically had more general applications than the rewards from dungeons and Alliance raids. For raiding players, these weapons are helpful for getting a leg-up in early progression, and for non-raiding but still “serious” players, they provide more difficult content to tackle and weapons that can round out alternate classes, who might not get more time-gated weapons until late in a tier’s cycle.

Various additions and changes to the endgame in Heavensward have diminished the value of Extreme Trials to some degree, but they’re probably one of the more relevant chunks of the endgame that isn’t Tomestone grinding or Savage raiding.

Relic/Anima Quests

As with Extreme Trials, the team took awhile to solidify what they wanted the Relic weapons to be. Originally, they served the same function that Tomestone weapons typically do now—by clearing somewhat difficult Hard Mode Trials and investing weekly capped Tomestones, you could get a weapon close to, but not on par with, raid weapons (this wasn’t initially the case, but original Allagan weapons were bumped up to item level 95 to make them better than the Relics).

Starting with 2.2, though, that type of weapon was instead locked behind the first half of the present Raid Tier, still requiring roughly the same amount of Tomestones, and also requiring an upgrade item from the Raids to unlock its full power. From then on, the Relic (and later Anima) weapons became an alternate weapon path for players who don’t raid, locked behind at times grueling grinds and also significant time gates (since each “stage” is patched in at some point after other options are available).

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I talked about the Anima weapons at length already, so I don’t want to dwell here. In terms of rewards, the Anima weapons offer an alternative to the heavy Tomestone cost of Tomestone weapons, and so far at least, they’ve always been the best in slot weapon for every class due to the quests allowing the player to customize the weapon’s secondary stats at some point in the process. This keeps them nearly always relevant, and they’re probably one of the most substantial parts of the “extra” endgame as a result. While the steps can often be grindy, the weapons are one of the few instances where non-raiders actually have a choice about what to pursue—normally, their options are to take the Tomestone path or simply have inferior gear.

Heavensward Additions

One of the development team’s stated goals for Heavensward was to expand the game’s endgame. Prior to Heavensward’s launch we were told that A Realm Reborn established the basics, and that in the future, things would be expanded. Heavensward added three wings to the endgame: normal/story mode Full Party Raids, the Deep Dungeon, and Exploratory Missions. Unfortunately, each of these new additions don’t really expand the endgame in meaningful ways—as with all other non-Tomestone vendor, non-Savage content, all of Heavensward’s new content only really adds to the pile of rewards that are mostly inconsequential.

Normal Mode Alexander

Originally billed as a story mode, when we finally got the first wing of Alexander in early 3.0, we learned that these new normal modes came with a convoluted mess of a loot system on a weekly lockout, involving weekly locked tokens with each actual piece of gear requiring 1-4 tokens (1 for accessories, 2 for head/hands/feet, 4 for body/legs). Most of the pieces can be acquired in 1 week, with legs requiring 2 weeks, and the body piece requiring a mind-boggling 4 weeks instead.

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There’s nothing too strange about that on its face (aside of the annoyance of everyone wanting these tokens and needing to win lots for them every week); however, the rewards from regular Alexander are weaker than Tomestone gear. They can be useful while filling out a class’s Tomestone gear, but they are, more or less designed to be replaced as soon as possible. Strangely, despite being of lower item level, it takes 4 weeks of tokens to get the Alexander body piece and only 2 weeks to get the Scripture body piece. As with most other content in FFXIV, these rewards are therefore most useful for alternate jobs and as a way for newer characters to catch up, since they have temporary value to one’s main job.

Starting with the Midas tier, the Tomestone weapon was locked behind an additional weekly token, requiring 7 clears of the final normal mode raid floor, in addition to about three weeks worth of capped Tomestones. This means that people keep queuing for the final floor well throughout a raid tier’s lifespan, though it does nothing for the rest of the floors. Since dungeons that reward Tomestones are typically tuned around the uncapped Tomestone gear from the last raid tier, though, Alexander’s gear rewards are mostly unnecessary, and its frankly annoying loot system can be more or less bypassed entirely without worry. Even progression raiders will typically be better off with crafted gear at the same item level (since it benefits from Advanced Materia melding, usually allowing for higher total stats).

Deep Dungeons (Palace of the Dead)

Introduced in Patch 3.3, the Deep Dungeon added an alternative to the weapons from Extreme Trials for players who don’t want to tackle more mechanically challenging content. Deep Dungeon weapons matched the Extreme Trial weapons in Patch 3.3 and Patch 3.4, though with the addition of Zurvan weapons in 3.5, no further update was made to the Deep Dungeon. This has left the content largely stagnant as a component to the endgame. It does, however, provide one of the most efficient ways to level new jobs, so it’s not exactly dead content (in fact, it’s still impressively active)—it’s just that, even moreso than other endgame content, its level 60 rewards are more or less insignificant in the larger picture (this might change if future Deep Dungeons maintain parity of rewards with Stormblood’s Extreme Primals though).

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Exploratory Missions (The Diadem)

The Diadem, like Extreme Trials, probably comes closest to being meaningful for one’s main job. Though the gear it rewards is not quite at the maximum item level (i265 versus i270), since the statistics are rolled for randomly, it’s possible for Diadem gear to be better than even the best-in-slot Tomestone and Savage gear for each class. Of course, that’s only really a theoretical possibility. Because of the high value of primary stats, the fact that Diadem gear can’t accept Materia, and the nature of random rolls, true best-in-slot Diadem pieces are fairly rare, and even if you get some, there’s a good chance they’ll be for an alternate job, rather than your main, just like almost everything else in FFXIV’s endgame.

Even the “game-destroying” Diadem weapons, despite being item level 280, need moderately lucky rolls to be as good as best-in-slot Anima weapons or nearly-best-in-slot, since they can’t be melded with Materia. While Weapon Damage is the most important factor, a weapon with only Parry for a tank or Accuracy for a DPS still isn’t going to so great. Throw in the rarity of the Exploratory Missions and then the fact that any weapon that drops for you probably won’t be for your main job, just like regular Diadem gear, and you’re not looking at a real leg of the endgame so much as you are at a lottery ticket.

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I said a lot more about the Diadem before, and while I like it, it doesn’t really contribute much to the overall endgame.

The End Result

What this all means is that Heavensward’s endgame has been pretty shallow. This was true in A Realm Reborn just as much, but for an expansion that was supposed to broaden the endgame, Heavensward has honestly come up short, at least for core players who keep up with their weekly “chores” (their Tomestone caps and their weekly “drops” whether from Savage raids or Alliance and Normal raids).

I want to take a look at how things shake out for a player who keeps up with all of the weekly caps and drops for a moment, as I think it plays a pretty big part in why it’s pretty common for dedicated players to feel bored long before a content’s given shelf life is supposed to be expired.

The Non-Raider’s Progression Path

Collecting a full set of weekly-capped Tomestone gear takes about 14 weeks, which lines up well with the normal 3-and-a-half-month patch cycle. If the player is particularly dedicated, they can map out which Tomestone pieces have good secondaries (usually about half of them), aiming for those pieces first, and filling in the weaker pieces with Alexander drops or crafted gear (if they craft, have access to enough gil, or have crafter friends), saving the less important Tomestone pieces for later.

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This means a few things for a non-raider. Firstly, Normal Alexander gear is main-job relevant for about 7 weeks of the approximately 28-week raid tier cycle (enough to get enough tokens for the Tomestone weapon—not very long, all things considered. That’s only about one-quarter of the length of a raid tier, and only about halfway through the point where Alliance Raids make Normal Raids even more irrelevant by offering higher item level gear for alternate jobs.

Secondly, it means that Extreme Trials are only main-job relevant for about as long as Alexander is. Both the Tomestone weapons and Anima weapons are normally pegged to become available at about 7 weeks into a given raid tier (assuming an Anima player has kept up with all of the steps anyway), so at best, a weapon from an Extreme Trial holds someone over for a few weeks until they can get their “real” weapon. Since Deep Dungeon weapons are of the same power level as Trial weapons, they’re never main job relevant (as they’ve so far been released with the step of the Anima quest that bumps it to Tomestone level).

Thirdly, assuming the player knows they’ll eventually be using max-item level Tomestone gear by the end of the raid tier and they do buy every Tomestone piece, it means that they’re already have a full set of gear (minus a ring) at the same item level as the gear dropped from the Alliance Raid that’s usually released about 14 weeks after the launch of a new Raid Tier. Because of upgrade tokens for Tomestone gear, this means the Alliance Raids are main-job relevant but not near as relevant as they could be with more relevant gear drops. Basically, in each odd-numbered patch, the Alliance Raids take over for dungeons as the main-job relevant content (which has the curious effect of making dungeons largely main-job irrelevant for players who have kept up with caps in the first half of the tier).

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In practice, this means that non-raiders need to do Expert Roulette several times each week in the first half of a raid tier, and the Alliance Raids once each per week in the second half of the raid tier. That’s not a whole lot of content for main job progression!

Dedicated non-raiders do at least have meaningful upgrades to work toward for the majority of a patch cycle—upgrade tokens from Alliance Raids take about 11 weeks to gather (minus the weapon’s token, which is normally held back). That time can be shortened if a player gathers these upgrade tokens from Hunts, but even then, there are probably 23 or 24 weeks of main job upgrades for a non raider in every 28-week raid tier.

The Raider’s Progression Path

For serious raiders, content stays relevant for an even shorter period of time, though. Normal mode Alexander is only really useful for a first clear, since crafted gear will normally be better, and most serious raiders want the advantage of extra stats from overmelded gear (and have the resources to get it). Alliance Raids will be relevant for them depending on how quickly their group can clear the Savage raid (which also rewards upgrade items for Tomestone gear prior to their being available through Alliance Raids and Hunts).

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Since raiders don’t need a full set of Tomestone gear (with their best-in-slot gearsets naturally being about half Tomestone gear and half Savage raid gear), they have only about 6-8 weeks worth of progression for Tomestones. Extreme Trials often only last them a week or two for main job relevancy, and content like Deep Dungeon is naturally of no consequence (at least reward-wise—the high tier challenge floors do offer something to do, which is a good thing!).

We’ve heard before from Yoshi-P that the Savage raids are designed to be clearable by the time the Alliance Raid is added—so like Tomestone vendors, the Savage raids have a “designed” shelf-life of around 3 months. Alliance Raids then exist in part to help struggling groups push further and hopefully clear before the next raid tier.

For players who have already cleared the raid by the end of its designed shelf-life, though, they don’t have much to look forward to once they’ve cleared the raid. It does take 8 weeks to get one’s weapon from the final Savage raid boss, so depending on when a group clears the final floor, they might not get their main job Savage raid weapon until sometime after the Alliance Raid releases, but even that’s more or less the only main job-relevant thing they need to do. If a group gets its clear right as the Alliance Raid is released, they’ve got about 22 weeks of main-job progression—but after the first 6-8 weeks, the only thing they have to do for their main job is raid, since they’ll no longer need Tomestone stuff.

“There’s Nothing to Do!”

So, whether a player raids or doesn’t raid, they’re going to run out of things to do for their main job at some point before the end of a raid tier’s length, and it’s become a common complaint that the game doesn’t have much to do after awhile. Most dedicated players therefore tend to have at least one alternate job, so they can artificially increase the value they get out of things like Tomestones and further raid clears. That doesn’t do a lot to really alleviate boredom, though: when you’ve been doing the same dungeons and raids for awhile, doing them again to gear up a second (or third or fourth) job often isn’t very exciting. It can easily get dull and repetitive.

Behold, the field in which FFXIV grows its relevant content. You can see that it is barren.

Truthfully, most players tend to favor one job above the others—that’s a big part of why the concept of main jobs exist in the first place. And it’s the upgrades for that main job (or role) that are going to be the most exciting and really drive players to complete content. So, even having alternate jobs really doesn’t do a lot to really make players feel like they have a lot to do. Alternate jobs are often something players do to fill in the long content droughts that exist between raid tiers—and while that can keep players engaged if they’re really interested in a secondary or tertiary job, in the long-term, it’s probably not sustainable.

Ways to Improve

But that doesn’t mean things have to stay that way, and I really don’t think they should, for the health of the game. Personally, I think the most reasonable course of action is to make all the other facets of the endgame actually mean something. In a game where it’s pretty easy to catch up to begin with, it’s really sort of odd that we have so many types of content that reward gear that’s not relevant to one’s main job of interest, since Tomestone gear and raid gear outstrip everything else available.  I think even without introducing new content, though, the team could do a lot to avoid burnout by simply making the other parts of the endgame more relevant.

If players have options for the gear they pursue, different content will be relevant to their main jobs for different reasons. Imagine, if instead of the structure we have now, the rewards for Extreme Trials, Deep Dungeon, Normal Raids, and Exploratory Missions were not temporary measures but meaningful alternatives, with Dungeons and uncapped Tomestones serving as the main catch up mechanisms. These last two already make it pretty straight-forward for someone to catch up to a good basic gear level, so why not polish up the gear rewards a bit to make them clearly meant for catching up, and allow other endgame activities to offer alternatives, giving players more options when creating best-in-slot sets and creating more incentives to run more than Expert Roulettes/Alliance Raids (just once a week) and Savage Raids?

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If there were a hypothetical raid tier after this current one, I’d like to see something like what follows. With these changes in mind, I don’t think the current 30-item-level spread would be really necessary, so I’ve mapped this out according to a 20-item-level jump instead, but with some modifications it could work for larger jumps too (I just don’t think those jumps are good in the long-term). Keep in mind, I’m experimenting with the design space that already exists, and I don’t know that these exact things are the best ideas (I’m not the developer here!)—mostly, I want to show that the existing content can probably support a more robust end-game than presently exists.

Hypothetical Patch 3.6

In this new imaginary raid tier, Patch 3.6’s Uncapped Tomestones and Dungeons would offer item level 260 rewards (including an easily obtainable weapon both from the Tomestones and the Dungeons). This would do a world’s worth of work to lessen the disparity between dedicated and more casual players, and also allow returning or new players to get back into the swing of things much more quickly.

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Crafted Gear would offer item level 270 gear, with varying stat arrays from the last tier. This would allow connected players to quickly catch up to the baseline established by the previous raid tier, allowing for a return to the old format where the last tier’s gear served as the baseline for the new one. Exploratory Missions would be updated at this point to offer i270 gear as well, with the same system as now (to more or less establish Exploratory Mission’s as a random, grindy alternative to max-level gear), with updates coming later (in hypothetical Patch 3.7).

Normal Raids and Capped Tomestones would provide i280 gear, with basically the systems in place now (including the Tomestone weapon tie-in to the last floor of the Normal Raid). This would allow for Normal Raid gear to have a much longer shelf-life, making it main-job relevant until the release of the Alliance raid in Hypothetical Patch 3.7.

Both Deep Dungeon Part 1 and Extreme Trial 1 would also provide item level 280 weapons, allowing players to have a few options for weapons, deciding the best one for their chosen job based on stats and their playstyles. Unlike Tomestone weapons, these weapons wouldn’t be upgradeable to item level 290 with Gobdips, but they would have upgrades later, in Patch 3.7.

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As one might expect, Savage Alexander would provide item level 290 gear, both from gear drops, and the upgrade items for Tomestone gear, and a weapon at i295 from the last floor. Nothing would really change for raiders in the first half of this hypothetical raid tier. It’s in a hypothetical Patch 3.7 that we start to see real changes.

Hypothetical Patch 3.7

Following those changes, the odd-numbered patch wouldn’t really be considered a catch up patch anymore—it would instead be a patch about adding to endgame options for everyone, built on the foundations set in the first patch of the raid tier. This might shake things up some—best in slot arrays determined in 3.6 might change (which I’ll get to in a moment), giving even serious raiders new things to work toward.

Patch 3.7’s Dungeons would reward item level 270 gear, catching up the most casual of players to the baseline established in Patch 3.6. Additionally, the relevant Gobtwines and Gobcoats from the previous tier would be purchasable with Uncapped Tomestones, much as the old Carbontwine and Carboncoats from A Realm Reborn’s final raid tier can be purchased with Poetics.

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Contrary to now, the weekly lockout on Normal Raids would remain, since the i280 gear is just as good as Capped Tomestone rewards. Coming into the fray in 3.7 would also be the Alliance Raid, offering another set of weekly-locked i280 gear.

The biggest change comes at increased availability for i290 gear. As now, Hunts and the Alliance Raid would offer relevant Gobtwine and Gobcoat items to upgrade Tomestone gear to item level 290. In addition to that set of 290 gear becoming available, in accordance with the higher difficulty of Alliance Raids seen in Weeping City and Dun Scaith, the gear from the Alliance Raid itself would also benefit from the upgrade items, offering another set of left-side i290 gear for non-raiders and raiders alike. The weekly quest to get a i290 accessory would also remain, rounding out the set.

As was the case with original Diadem, Exploratory Missions would be updated sometime during Patch 3.7 to also reward i290 gear, with random stats, at low drop rates, making it a real time investment to get gear truly better than i290 gear from other avenues.

For weapons, Deep Dungeon Part 2 and Extreme Trial #2 would offer i290 weapons, upgrades to the weapons obtained through that route in the hypothetical 3.6. As before, these are meant to provide alternatives to Tomestone weapons, allowing players who spend the time (in the case of Deep Dungeon) or the effort (in the case of the Trial) to bypass the weekly caps to some degree. Additionally, with these weapons in place, Gobdips could be offered much sooner through the Alliance Raids.

Anima Weapons

Alongside all of these, throughout both Patch 3.6 and Patch 3.7, the Anima Weapon questline would receive updates, keeping the weapons relevant. No real changes would need to be made to the normal pattern of item levels for the weapons, though with the increased availability of relevant weapons in general, steps could probably be released sooner, much like Gobdips from the Alliance Raids would be.

In Conclusion

Now of course, all of those thoughts were theoretical, and designed to work as much within the existing framework as possible. I think things could go even further honestly: Deep Dungeon and Extreme Trials could very easily reward gear as well, making them both full-fledged legs of the endgame. That requires more resources for gear design, of course, which doesn’t come freely.

Even without more gear, though, there’s plenty of room to expand the relevant endgame. I don’t really see much reason for so much of the game’s content to be main-job irrelevant to its core players, and I think just making more of the existing content meaningful would do a lot to provide things for players to actually do for their main jobs even late into a raid tier’s Patch cycle.

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Additionally, flattening the item growth curve a bit means there’s a much smaller gap between the haves and the have-nots in terms of item level, allowing for most content to be tuned around higher average item levels than we normally see, which should do a lot to make dungeons especially more engaging (which is something I spoke about briefly when I talked about them in the last Retrospective).

I think we might see at least some things along the lines of my imagined tier structure. Dun Scaith providing i270 accessories is a huge step in the right direction, and I’m crossing my fingers that it’s indicative of at least some change in the team’s design philosophies. With luck, we’ll have a better sense of what the team is planning to do in terms of overall endgame structure by the end of this month, and I’m hoping for some shakeups.

If things don’t change, though, burnout is going to continue to be a major problem for FFXIV, and it’s really one that should be dealt with now rather than 2 years from now. If things don’t change soon, it’s highly likely that the same core structure won’t be able to maintain interest long enough for the game’s population to be stable going into the next expansion. I just hope that the team realizes this, and in Stormblood we can spend a whole lot less time standing around taking pretty screenshots and playing fashion designer.

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Thanks for sticking with me this far. I know this was a long one! I’ve got a couple more Retrospctives brewing in the back of my mind, so I’ll probably be looking at Heavensward just a little bit more between now and Stormblood’s launch. The rest shouldn’t require anywhere near this much detail, though.

 

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