I want to take a moment to talk about fluff in FFXIV.
When we call something “fluff” in a MMO, it usually refers to content that has no direct effect on a character’s progression. This can be cosmetic, like outfits or mounts, or extra content, such as housing or mini-games. Even though it’s called “fluff,” I’m of a mind that as long as the core game is solid and going in the right direction, fluff is content that a well-rounded MMO can’t do without. Which means, I don’t see it as fluff at all.
I’m not going to get into the long-time argument of how developing fluff takes away from developing the “more important” aspects of a game — such as raids, or whatever. I’m not a raider and I’m honestly not much of a group dungeon runner, so to me, fluff is more relevant than any 20-man raid will ever be. However, I repeat that a well-balanced game can produce both fluff and “real” content side-by-side, pleasing people on both ends.
That’s often what I see happening in Final Fantasy XIV as it develops. Big patches drop full dungeons, raids, primal battles and progression in Coil regularly. Those patches, and the patches inbetween, bring additional content, often in the form of fluffy systems, minigames and cosmetics. It’s the best of both worlds, and I feel it’s done well, overall.
Personal and guild housing is always a big deal when talking about fluff. FFXIV currently provides Free Company (FC) housing (at a premium price), and personal rooms for members of the FC within the house. So if your FC doesn’t have a house, you’re out of luck for now. In the future, full houses will be available for individuals, but I really hate to see how much one is going to cost (one room is 300K gil).
FFXIV indicates that housing is something players must work towards at end game. Your FC must have rank 6 and the gil required to purchase the plot and the house. If you want a personal room, you must be level 50 in at least one class and have max rank in your Grand Company.
Some folks are grouchy that housing is end game, and not something easily achieved at earlier levels. While I do like games that provide housing for everyone easily, I must admit that my FC overall values our house much more considering how much we had to raise together to get the house we wanted. It was a fun group project, and it has paid off. Especially considering the gardening and chocobo raising systems are directly attached to housing.
Gardening is open to FCs who have a house. You purchase a gardening plot (you can purchase more than one depending on your house size) and place it in the yard. From there, you just need the seeds (accumulated in different ways – purchase, botany harvesting, etc) and topsoil (obtained through mining) to plant your garden. You can fertilize your garden using fishmeal, which is crafted material. Anyone in your FC can also tend your garden at any time.
The fun of it is in crossbreeding seeds with specific topsoil in hopes of earning rare seeds and plants. I also like how tied to crafting and gathering the system is. It just makes sense.
My FC largely ignored gardening until chocobo raising hit the scene. In order to train and dye chocobos, your FC has to raise specific foods. This was the initiative we needed to find out more about gardening, and put it to use. While we haven’t done any hardcore crossbreeding or anything, we have worked together to grow roots for training and all sorts of fruits to change chocobos to desired colors.
Some people might argue that the whole chocobo system is all fluff. I disagree.
More than just a mount, you can fight along side your chocobo and train them in skills and stats. Being an open world soloist, especially on my main, my chocobo healer keeps me alive through events and fates. I don’t know what I’d do without him — I see him as a permanent member of my party at all times. While he’s not as good as having a real player in the party, he does his job well enough. I’m also patient and enjoy watching him level, as slow as it is.
There is a cosmetic element to chocobos that make them more than just your standard mount. You can earn and purchase barding, which your chocobo wears. Often, barding is a holiday event reward or a veteran loyalty reward for continuing a subscription. Sometimes, barding can be crafted from primal drops, like the Tidal Barding.
You can train your chocobo if your FC owns a house and has purchased chocobo stables for it. This allows you to give them a boost in experience every hour, but requires roots grown from the FC garden.
The newest fluff system introduced is chocobo dyeing. Feeding a stabled chocobo specific garden-grown fruits will change your chocobo’s color. It’s a very intricate process that players have enjoyed figuring out — I don’t think anyone has it down to a science, yet, though!
In the future, it’s been confirmed that we will be able to race our chocobos in the upcoming Gold Saucer. However, we don’t know when this will be released, or any further details about it.
What would an article on fluff be without talking about cosmetics? FFXIV is a naturally pretty game, and it does a lot to give the player control over how their character looks, even from the base character creation.
While there is no advanced wardrobe system, FFXIV does provide an armoire where you can stash cosmetic items from past events (as well as your artifact armor). Once you reach level 50, you unlock the glamour system through a quest. This allows you to overwrite the appearance of the armor you are wearing with a different piece of armor’s appearance. Glamour prisms are created by crafters, so there’s always something crafters can make that’s in demand. You can bet prism crafters love holidays and events!
When you reach level 15, you can unlock the aesthetician through a quest. This allows you to change your character’s hair, facial features and other cosmetic features. This does have some limits, but if all you want is to try out one of the new hair styles that you can’t access from character creation, this is where to go.
You get one free ticket to use the aesthetician the moment you finish the quest. It costs 2,000 gil for future changes.
As a first month veteran reward, you also get a free Fantasia. This potion allows you to go back to the character creation screen and change everything about your character, except their name. You can also purchase additional Fantasias at the Mog Station if you need further customization on down the road (though I’ve never seen a need for it).
The Gold Saucer (name pending) is in the works! We’ve had hints of this over the past year, and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to.
From a recent interview at MMORPG.com:
Q: When will we have the Gold Saucer, and what will it do?
Yoshida: First of all, it will not be in 2.4 patch; it will be sometime during the series, but before 3.0.
The gold saucer, the name itself is still to be confirmed, but let’s call it that for now. I can let you know that a chocobo race will be in there, and Triple Triad, the card game from FFVIII, will be in there as well. With the card game, you’ll also be able to try out with players and NPCs. Also, there will be a lot of minigames, like a basketball-type game as well. We’re also planning to have a dedicated Fate, which will happen in the Gold Saucer area. I want to make sure that there are many exciting things that players will love to stay in this area.
And about the chocobo race: we want to make sure that players can ride their own chocobo, and also race your own – it’s very close to the FFVII chocobo race.
Even before that, we’re already seeing mini-games sliding into FFXIV with the release of the toy chest in our inn room. Completing the anniversary event “The Rising” unlocked the very first mini-game: a number game that pays homage to the secret mini-game found in the original Final Fantasy.
It’s these little things that continues to endear FFXIV to me and confirms that there’s real FF fans working on developing this game and giving us things that are quirky and just plain fun.
The fluff in FFXIV is what gives it character. Without these things, it would still be a good game. But with them, it becomes an excellent game.