Collecting Ether Streams in FFXIV Is a Treasure Hunt Without the Excitement of Discovery

Welcome to the seventh installment of Game Design Spotlight, a weekly piece where I examine the design elements of various parts of an MMO, such as the overall design of a game world and intricate housing features. Last week, I walked us through Lost Ark’s Gunner class and how its explosive skill set amplifies the identity of the combat system. Today we return to Final Fantasy XIV to take a look at Aether Currents.

I’ll be one of the first to say that Aether Currents are excellent and painless for unlocking flight in FFXIV zones. However, I would be remiss not to say that it has lost its sense of discovery and excitement since its debut in Heavensward. Rather cleverly, its implementation as a treasure hunt in an area alongside the progression of the main story screams FFXIV as it serves up story beats. Add to that the ease of locating and adapting to those whipping gusts of ether, and it shines as a comfortable feature with less hassle than the likes of World of Warcraft’s reputation.

Ether Currents

But am I also the first to say that Currents of Aether lacks excitement and evolution outside of being a treasure hunt? With the multitude of areas that FFXIV has, which are phenomenal and expansive sets, is there room for experimentation?

I think there are many additions that can change how players earn Aether Currents. Whether it’s unique area events or a limited portion of out-of-gate flights that expand over time, developers need to consider ideas that fundamentally make sense for their environment and respect comfort. of collecting Ether currents.

find my wings

As mentioned, Square Enix added flight to Final Fantasy XIV in the Heavensward expansion in 2015. I fondly remember how the process of obtaining ether currents in areas and quests helped expand one drastic parts of the world and rewarded me with a nice feature to get around faster.

At the time, it was fresh and gave players perspective as they hunted down those wispy shards. Of course, the main draw was how easy it was to unlock the flight: complete the content and interact with some green currents from time to time. Square found a way to integrate the system with the story/content of the area, and it was as easy as reducing the fluff seen in other MMOs.

FFXIV flying

It still took a while to unlock. But the zones back then were manageable in size, and the story content was more focused on completing one zone before moving on to the next. No one was really looking forward to the wait either, as you could get it pretty quickly if you skimmed through the story. Frankly, his streamlined process was almost like a crutch for me because I always knew I could fly in the zone later.

Easy unlock = good times

The use of a magic compass is the only thing necessary to find currents of Aether in nature. A simple click-and-go type of maneuver; share details with the player about the cardinal direction of a nearby Aether stream and its distance from it. I briefly explained how these bits coincide with the main story, which opens inaccessible areas and zigzags around the map with breadcrumbs from Aether Currents.

Incidentally, the placement of the floating wicks doesn’t inspire exploration away from the story and is easy to locate as players hang around nearby. The system takes the path of least resistance to the player and has been drilled into fans now entering new areas to spawn that little compass and collect ether currents so towards the end of the area the flight is ready when the quests are completed.

I like to think of it as a mental checklist that Square reminds you of as you collect other shards through story/side quests. Everyone is generally happy and right to see the system as good for quality of life; however, for a game that arguably reinvented many aspects of MMORPGs, this feels more like untapped potential.

The thrill of the hunt

Amh

Shadowbringers areas like The Tempest and Amh Araeng are phenomenal areas that could have seen a mix of ways to earn Aether Currents. The former could have given players the flight initially, limiting their reach across the map to uncover secrets down the line. Amh Araeng has a ton of Lore Bombs I’d love to explore across the area, rewarding players with Ether Streams for defeating specific monsters or completing unique Sin Eater-related FATEs. With the way new areas are bringing more and more intrigue to the table, I think the systems that are part of them should also rise.

These changes would kick players out of that pocket of comfort with collecting Ether Streams and inspire developers to find ways to make the excitement behind earning them more substantial. I’m so often disappointed by desolate little nooks on the map or attractive landmarks with historical significance that might aid in this discovery of the currents of Aether. After years of the usual way of flying, a bit of experimentation in spicing things up and how they fit into the environment could make the process less of a mental checklist.

This wraps up another week of Game Design Spotlight! Do you think Square should ever change the currents of Aether? If so, do you have any idea? And if not, what makes the system as great as it is now? Also, leave any games or features you’d like me to cover for future stories if you have any suggestions!


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