The coronavirus pandemic has affected the games industry in all sorts of ways, but for Final Fantasy 14 fans it meant waiting an extra two months for the release of its next update. Patch 5.3, Reflections in Crystal, was originally supposed to launch earlier this spring, but due to local quarantines in Japan, developers at Square Enix were required to transition to working from home. Reflections in Crystal is now arriving on August 11. During an interview with game director and producer Naoki Yoshida last week, he explained that, given FF14's rigorous update timeline, this resulted in a pretty big delay. But the good news is further delays in the next update are unlikely.
"When we compare our output or productivity to before the pandemic hit versus where we are now, I think we're about to achieve about 90 to 95 percent efficiency with our current setup," Yoshida explained to me. "So, in terms of the upcoming patch schedule, we believe that we're pretty much on track to do that 3.5-month cycle, except for maybe the QA teams where they have to do large scale testing, that might be a little bit affected still with the social distancing guidelines that have been put in place, and efficiency might drop slightly, but even then we're looking at maybe a plus-one week delay. So we are hopeful that we are back at our regular place and we're in a good state with that, so in terms of the patch cycle itself, I think there's not much to be worried about."
While coronavirus-related delays for regular games result in having to wait a little longer to play, in FF14's case it can be particularly frustrating for players. New updates bring additional features, dungeons, raids, and activities for players to do, and having all of that pushed back two months meant a lot of veterans were left twiddling their thumbs. Yoshida acknowledged that, but said the team wouldn't be looking to catch up to the original schedule, but would instead just shift its original plans forward to accommodate for the two-month delay.
"We've actually cut our losses there," Yoshida says. "If we were to consider trying to catching up every two patches or something, we're worried that there might be a reduction in how much we are able to bring to the table and we don't want to sacrifice any of our major patch updates either because that will affect the storyline as well as reduce the quality of the rest of the content itself."
The good news is that Yoshida says patch 5.3 will be a big one that will hopefully satisfy those pining for more to do in the MMO. Its slate of story quests will, in large part, wrap up the story of the current Shadowbringers expansion while beginning to set the stage for what comes next, and the patch also adds another raid designed by Yoko Taro set in the Nier: Automata universe. For those who haven't tried FF14 yet, the free trial is being massively expanded to include everything up to the second expansion, Stormblood, and the main story of A Realm Reborn is being streamlined to be much less of a grind.
Patch 5.3, Reflections in Crystal, launches on August 11.