Final Fantasy XIV: so, what about races? Two gender-locked or one completed?

final fantasy xiv

Alright. It’s been almost a month, and I have some thoughts about why Final Fantasy XIV is creating two gender-locked races for the game now when the devs know much well that it’s not a smart move. But we’ve had three weeks to put up with that idea, but people are still in a huge anger, which as strong as it was when the announcement was placed.

We have also been assured that feedback is important, and it’s not too late to add other genders to the game. Actually, I could assume we’ll get this in 6.0, so no surprises for me here. Well then, the question appears: why we wouldn’t receive one race now and the other race then. And why do we need these things to be splitted? I consider, we can find the answer, asking database management.

Let’s take a step back and look at one of the more amusing parts of the race unfold. Yoshida kept talking the same things about the further races, that this is probably the last time. At one point the translation even came out especially to say that this was the last chance to add a new race.

Well to be exact, that affirmation makes no sense at all. And this is of course not the last addition for the Final Fantasy XIV. There’s no reason to tell that developers got no more budget. Also there’s no rule about how many races you can play with. The poor translation maybe? But it was made by the head of localization himself, someone who’s aware about how things go with developments and know something about reasoning behind decisions.

Let’s get straight to the topic, If we’re being told that this is the last chance to make these changes, perhaps there’s a cause why it’s being said exactly like that. There’s a reason why Yoshida didn’t tell that: developers don’t think it’s worth investing when some little amount of people will race-change or anything. So this is probably the last opportunity to do this. Why?

How the database works (answering that “why” question)

First of all, consider that I don’t have these programming knowledges, which developers have. So I can’t explain fully, how game coding works, that is a bunch of examples based on my dilettante thoughts and will have some imprecisions. Is everything alright? Good.

When something happens during the gameplay, it’s the game’s data duty to translate that information into a visual format, so the game client relies on it. When you’re just walking around, the server tells your computer that another player character is approaching. It proceeds to tell your computer the other info, like race, height, equipped gear, facial features and etc., so the game has the information to pull that information and put all of it together.

This sort of back-and-forth relies on having certain bits of data segmented off. For example, any time your computer looks for “What race is this player character,” it’s pointed to an index consisting of six entries. This is how a lot of bugs can happen if a computer is told to “retrieve the information for X from the database” and there’s no actual entry there to retrieve; it has to grab whatever it uses as the default. So if a texture is missing and it’s told to retrieve that texture, it throws up the default texture because it doesn’t know what else to do.

So if devs add a new race that means they add another entry here. Instead of “what race is this character” having six valid entries after Shadowbringers launches, it’ll have eight. And that should  be called and referenced a lot.

Entering a cutscene? The game needs to reference your race to figure out where the camera angles are placed, how the animations work, and so forth. Generally a lot of things need to be adjusted according to your race, like trying on a piece of gear, mounting up on something, entering dialogue and even more.

It wouldn’t be so tedious to do this if you had to add this for every future expansion, but in fact, you must do this for every expansion which was released before. Creating new races simply means going back through the whole game base, Heavensward, and Stormblood to make sure that the game will run properly, or else you get glitches that could even crash the servers, not mentioning ruining your character.

What’s the choice?

Okay, let’s go back, what we know from interviews with Yoshida, is that the team wanted to add Hrothgar for a different beastly race in the first place. Viera were also being constantly requested, and he knew for sure that was going to strengthen with the Ivalice series of raids. But, how we already concluded, adding a new race need a huge amount of work to account for three previous additions of the game. It might not work with the code for four versions; it also might require too much time and effort to be worthy. So you have two races to give to craving for it fans, and thereby you have three options:

  1. Abandon Hrothgar and add the Viera in both genders and some players can be happy; however, this means that you won’t get your beastly race ever since you can’t do this with database again. So instead you get another race and people wouldn’t be satisfied, grumbling about “too much fanservice”.
  2. Do vice versa, add the Hrothgar. So the people expected Viera will give you some complaints, and you can’t even claim you’re not coping the old material because the Hrothgar and Ronso are very alike. And perhaps you’ll never get to Viera in that case too.
  3. Add in one gender of each race, it may cause a lot of unsatisfied players. In fact, the majority of them, since no one likes gender locking. But what’s good about this, you can set up the database nowto handle those two additional races, even if all the information for the non-playable gender is now empty; if there’s a lot of demand, you can do the art work without having to overwhelm your database.

To be honest, every choice is bad. The third one looks least bad, though. You can play both races, and possibly add lacking genders in the future. That option will may get you to what you want, but you’re going to make disappointed to much people.

Of course this might be not what happened. As I’m aware, the team didn’t even have the idea, that someone needs the other gender. It’s a credible enough reason for hearing that this was the devs’ last opportunity on more than one case. Maybe it really was the last chance for all new races… and Yoshida chose the path that at least gives a hope for two full races in the future.

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