I’ve played through what is arguably the bulk of the current content in patch 6.1 for Final Fantasy XIV already – the MSQ, new dungeon, new Alliance Raid, did the capstone role quest, have done my Savage reclears after the job changes, and I’ve probably had something like 40-50 matches of the new PvP mode Crystalline Conflict. I’ve got a stack of Immutable Solutions and Thavnairian Corn in my bags to make fibers to start working on the new crafting and gathering gear, and I’ve got fresh glamours, a Makai Sage title from the returning Garo event – and I have opinions to share in subsequent posts about all of these things.
However, there is one set of interlinked features that came with the patch that kind of surprised me and shouldn’t have – Adventurer Plates.
For those not in the FFXIV know, the Adventurer Plate is a new feature added in patch 6.1 that lets you make what is, in effect, a business card for your character. You can pick your main job, list up to 6 gameplay categories you are interested in, put your standard hours of play on it, and then you get to customize a portrait of your character from a set of poses and with some options like backdrop, frame, and decorations over the top of the portrait. You can save a bundle of these, save them by job, and you can put one of these as your Adventurer Plate photo and use another (or the same one if you want) as your profile photo for the matchup screen at the start of a match in Crystalline Conflict.
It sounds…well, not much like content, right? Maybe utilitarian in informational delivery to people you play with, maybe a bit of fun with the portraits, but I know when I watched the patch live letters, I wasn’t really sure what to say or what could or even should be said about the feature. I didn’t really care that much, because it seemed like fluff that I wouldn’t engage with.
I was quite wrong on all counts on that one.
The portrait system and Adventurer Plates as a whole have really taken off, such that in a single day of the patch launching, there are 3 different subreddits where people share their plates and at one point, something like 80% of the posts on the game’s main subreddit were photos of either Adventurer Plates or of the portraits feature, whether someone’s personal portrait or a PvP matchup screen that was funny or interesting.
I spent, admittedly, a bit of time goofing around with the system myself. I’ve made a handful of portraits, played with my Adventurer Plate a couple of times, and I’ve spent more time on it than I have on crafting, gathering, raiding, or in the new dungeon.
Well, I think that with some small measure of thought, something becomes quite clear about the Adventurer Plate, portraits, and the system as a whole – it extends the social aspect of the game and reflects an identity.
A lot of us in MMO’s play characters that we feel are expressive of an identity. People spend a lot of time in character creation, meticulously crafting a character that reflects an ideal, value, or is just fun and interesting to behold. The same is true of gearsets and options to customize the appearances of gear. There are tons of motivations that go into character creation and it creates a lot of fun – it is little coincidence that the most universally well-received part of WoW’s Shadowlands expansion is the expanded character creation options.
Adventurer Plates take this concept in a new direction, one that has a utilitarian presentation (share your playtimes and preferred jobs and content types with people) but then allow players to infuse it with character, to say something about themselves without having to simply type the words. Are you a serious player? You probably have either a no-nonsense profile portrait or haven’t used the feature and have the default grey background and neutral face pointed forward. Are you someone who has a lot of glamours with the 2B pants exposed to show panties and enlarged ass? Well, this might be you:
As a feature, this kind of thing has endless replayability because you can keep coming back to it and messing with the feature. You unlock new poses? Go try a portrait. Got a new glowy weapon (whose animated glow will keep animating in the still portrait frame)? New portrait time! Is it a serious gameplay feature? No, of course not, but it is exactly what casual content at its best should be – something that interests all kinds of players in different ways and encourages them all to mess with it. I spent time working on mine, playing with the photos and creating new ones over and over, to the tune of a few hours of actual time. I took dozens of PvP matchup screenshots because every lineup had something funny to it and one of the highlights of the new PvP mode is that you see 9 other player’s photos each time, and when you start getting duplicate players, you can see people changing photos or playing with the feature between matches.
What’s especially funny to me about the whole thing is that I believe I may have said out loud, after the introduction of this feature in a live letter, that it felt like a waste of time, and yet, it really isn’t. In a social game, often the best return on investment for work in general is content that everyone can enjoy and that leverages player creation and creativity. You don’t need to balance portraits or Adventurer Plates, they don’t require a design team to come up with mechanics maybe short of how to make acquisition more interesting, and for the most part the system uses assets that are already in the game – stickers from Group Pose, backgrounds from character creation, your character that already exists, and the search info options from the game – and then adds simple 2D art assets for the plates themselves and an interface to tie it all together, which itself borrows a fair bit of G-Pose options and UI, and voila – new feature. It won’t in and of itself keep players subscribed and playing, but it adds a little bit of charm to the game that has an effect on player retention.
On a deeper player psychology level, it allows you to create a social identity in game without having to explain your ethos or ideal to anyone in words. I tend to be laid-back in game and like to crack jokes but also do hardcore content, so I select those modes of content but then have a photo that has my character being censored or one that looks like she is on a drug-induced trip, and if you look at it as a whole, it kind of communicates that. It was fun to create the photo and it is fun in the introduction of a PvP match to see the fun everyone else had creating their looks – their glamours, the portraits, and it adds this fun element to a PvP match. It is so funny to me that I want it everywhere I do matchmade content in FFXIV. Just got a dungeon pop? Intro screen, show me the party. Raid, stack 2 rows of 4 on screen and show me who I’m working with. Alliance raids? 24 players in 3 groups of 8, so flash 3 screens up with everyone’s pictures. Stranger waiting with me over the gathering node in Thavnair to make the new Hannish Fiber recipe? Show me his card, hell, why not?
With that said, here is my first take on my Adventurer Plate and some portraits I saved of my own, and some of my favorite PvP matchup intros!