One aspect that’s often praised in Final Fantasy XIV is that there’s always something for everyone. Some people are here to enjoy the story, while others prefer to chill nearby an Aetheryte with their friends wearing the best Glams they have. Some find pleasure in leveling their jobs and living up to their fantasies of becoming an expert marksmen or uncovering ancient arcane magicks.
But of course, there’s also the classic raiding environment for those yearning for a worthy challenge: the high-end duties, being those the Extreme, Savage, or Ultimate content. These are more challenging than your average Daily Roulette Trial and often require everyone to be on the same page regarding which strategies they’ll be using.
For that, we have the Party Finder at our disposal. Players can set up an instant recruit announcement for the desired duty and which strategies (often popularized through video guides) will be used, and wait while others can join. It’s quite messy, but it works in its own quirky ways.
Or at least it used to be, before some Data Center’s Party Finders became literal wastelands even on the usually most-convoluted days.
Open a Door, Close a Window
Back in 2022, a highly requested feature was introduced to the game: Data Center Travel. We could now visit and play with our friends in the nearby Data Centers. No need to pay a transfer fee! I can finally visit Balmung and… ehh, let’s leave that for later (and with later I mean never).
RP-ing aside, this was huge for the raiding community. Now it was possible to team up with everyone on NA. No parties on your own Party Finder? Try another Data Center! It only takes a few minutes to transfer, after all. Nothing bad would ever happen, right?
(You know that nothing good ever comes after that phrase.)
As any raider-to-be will quickly discover, Party Finder is always an interesting experience, to say the least. When raiding with friends or a Static, you kinda know what to expect in your progression/clear. But you never know what you’re getting into in PF. Reclear parties wiping on the first spread/stack mechanic is simply your average Tuesday here.
PF is almost a saline aquifer on its own. It’s almost “normal” to hear people saying that people in PF are downright bad, both in gameplay and manners. The raiding side of the community can be quite nasty sometimes, but Party Finder is still the best way to enjoy difficult content for those who cannot/don’t want to commit to a Static group.
But amidst the NA community, Aether has always been known as the “raiding Data Center where all the good players are”. So after we got DC Travel, it didn’t take long for the hivemind thought to occur: “My DC Party Finder sucks! Let’s hit Aether to raid with some real gamers!”.
People would do it once, then twice, then always. Aether is better anyway, so why bother with those imbeciles back in Primal who cannot solve a simple Limit Cut? Well, that’s how we started to see almost no high-end parties in Data Centers that aren’t Aether.
While it’s still possible to fill a group in other Centers, you need to be more patient than ever, especially if your group lacks a tank or a healer. But even then, most duties nowadays only have one or two parties up at a time. From those, none are for their prog point or don’t have a slot for their Job. So what will everyone think? “Eh, it’s Aether time for me”.
The Neighbour’s Party Finder is Always Better
To show how bad the situation has turned, here’s a comparison between Primal and Aether Party Finders on a Monday around 20:00 EST. This used to be a good time for filling parties quickly. Monday is also a day before the weekly reset, so expect lots of late fellas hoping for a clear.
It isn’t a big problem for things like older Raids and EX mount farming. But the difference between “High-end duties” (the purple icon) is just terrific. I wouldn’t expect over 100 different parties at once, but seeing such a low number as 14 makes you think that no one here likes to raid. Would you rather wait in your own DC or travel somewhere you know there are people willing to do the fights?
You surely noticed by now, but this is my experience as an NA player from Primal. When I noticed how bad things were, I started digging a little bit and found out that, to the surprise of none, more people are experiencing a similar thing.
This thread from the official forums points out that a similar effect is happening in other regions, with the “raiding JP Data Center” allegedly kicking out players from different DCs from their parties. While I cannot confirm these claims myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if Aether players started doing exactly that in a while.
It’s easy to see how this has affected the community in general. Just speak with a few raiders around here and they all complain about PF being slower in one way or another. The Ultimate Primal Raiding Discord icon is literally a gravestone now. People are just giving up at this point.
“Just travel if you want to raid”. Yeah, I’ve done that during that last weekend. And many of my parties during my P10S prog were mostly composed of Primal/Crystal peeps. I once had a party in Aether where literally everyone was from Primal. But I’m 100% sure we wouldn’t play together at our own home DC because no one even bothers looking at PF anymore.
Traveling is quick, but it’s also quite inconvenient. I cannot DM my friends or talk with my FC/Linkshells while I’m in another DC. I cannot take care of my Island Sanctuary. I cannot gather elusive nodes from another world. I cannot access my retainers. I was eagerly waiting for the Jumbo Cactpot results last Saturday only to find out I couldn’t claim them. The reason? I was in freaking Gilgamesh instead of Behemoth!
Those are just “minor inconveniences”, but they get on your nerves after a while. There’s something depressing about gathering around various <Travelers> waiting nearby an Aetheryte for a full party. I often feel like a stranger even though I can still do other things normally around the game. All of that because I don’t like losing my whole night waiting for a party to fill at Primal.
“But my Party Finder sucks!” My brother in Christ, you are the Party Finder! It’s not a “Data Center problem”. People lie about their prog points everywhere. You found some griefers in your reclear yesterday, I get you. But I’m 99% sure that you also griefed someone at least once in some other fight in the past. Does that mean you also suck and people shouldn’t be “forced to play with you”?
This is just me generalizing, of course, but people having this elitist mindset caused the whole situation to begin with. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and that won’t change regardless of your DC. Besides, even if Aether players were really that superior, what difference does it make now that 40 ~ 80% of your party is not even composed of Aether players? I would rather just raid back at Primal.
Devs Finding Themselves Between the Rock and a Hard Place
Notice how Square Enix was barely mentioned here, and that’s because they haven’t publicly acknowledged that issue yet. Things started getting really bad when the Anabaseios raid tier dropped, which happened quite recently at the time of this writing. They might simply not see it as a big issue yet. But I would say otherwise.
Endwalker has been a great expansion regarding Quality of Life updates. We had plenty of healthy changes to systems, glamours, battles, and various other things in the game. Data Center Travel itself is a great addition too. But that’s where the problem lies: They cannot remove DC Travel by now, but they cannot restrict parties either.
The whole point of traveling is to play with people all around your region. How bad would it be for that to be taken away from us suddenly? There’s no easy solution to this problem, and maybe that’s why they haven’t mentioned it yet. This is mostly a community problem, but something should definitely be done if it’s affecting their customers’ experiences in the game.
Maybe a Cross-Data-Center Party Finder? We can travel between DCs now, so that might not be impossible. But it would definitely not be as quick as regular PF. Another solution would be to restrict loot somehow if you’re not in your home DC, but that might be too drastic. In particular for Dynamis players.
The Dynamis Data Center was made to mitigate the player flood back when Endwalker was released, but players have been complaining about long queue times in Duty Finder and a slow Party Finder since its introduction. That’s because people would still make new characters where friends were playing, regardless of congestion. Oh, and that DC also came into existence a little bit past the initial EW hype train, so maybe it was just dead on release.
The introduction of Dynamis and DC Travel were good-intentioned solutions to really bad problems, but now they might be causing more harm than good. Square might have to intervene sooner or later. People transferring their characters to a raiding DC will cause them to be overflooded, which is exactly what Square wanted to avoid at all costs. But sometimes they fumble hard like when they added the Gaia costume, which wasn’t exactly what we expected.
But we shouldn’t forget that the community is also to blame for that. Everyone wanted an easy way to get their clears, and now the overall situation in Aether is not much different from any other DC. Was it even that better to begin with? I cannot be certain of that, but I certainly miss my retainers. I hope they don’t sue me for weeks of unpaid services when I get back from raiding.