Game Design Spotlight #1: From Spicy to Taming, Final Fantasy XIV’s Adventurer Plates Showcase What Players Want in MMOs

Welcome to the first installment of the Game Design Spotlight, a weekly piece where I examine the design elements of various MMO titles, from user-friendly inventory management to controversial limited-time systems. While explaining how these features originated and are used in the game, I’ll also touch on their impact on the player base in question and whether it reinforces the central themes of the game as an MMO experience.

Today’s story puts my focus directly on the Final Fantasy XIV Adventurer Plates! Somewhere between a “business card” and an adventurer’s corporate profile is the best way to describe Adventurer Plates, but it’s not that rigid in practice.

In the image above you can see that there are not many Company there, most go for a wacky, epic, or effects-filled shot of their character and a few toe the line as NSFW content. Whether it’s a spicy shot of a pixelated ass or a tame shot with sparkling visuals, the feature truly reflects what gamers are looking for in MMOs and magnifies FFXIV’s central theme of putting the player in the foreground. Here, I’ll take you through its history and explain why.

Adventurer Plate Origins

Game Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida teased in March of this year that a new profile display feature previously known as “calling cards” would allow players to customize character portraits. However, during Live Letter #69, Yoshida was unable to preview the feature as it was incomplete.

Fast forward to April’s Live Letter #70, and the now-called “Adventurer’s Plates” have unexpectedly resurfaced as a title announcement along with other miscellaneous additions. Before, the reception of the players was almost non-existent since no one knew what to think of it. Although finally seeing the potential for customizing character portraits among other customizations, it gained traction with players and surprisingly had some depth.

Players could unlock different decorations to adorn their Adventurer Plates, select periods when they will be primarily available in-game, jobs they primarily play, and the type of content they look forward to doing. The background, borders, and element placement of Adventurer’s Plates are also customizable, but players must complete quests and tasks to unlock additional designs. For example, players can trade trophy crystals from PvP for role-specific Adventurer’s Plates from the Crystal Quartermaster in Wolves’ Den Pier.

What stole the show was the Portrait feature, however. Players could take a picture of their character and adjust lighting, colors, angle, focus, etc., similar to the already implemented GPose function. Additionally, 20 portrait slots could be saved and bound to gears. These portraits would help players stand out whenever someone looked at their Adventurer Plates and ended up being used in the Crystalline Conflict PvP mode. At the start of a match, character portraits of participating players were displayed to teammates and the opposing team.

As sleek and user-friendly as the feature is, the first week of implementing it has been quite controversial through the community.

“Obscene” portraits entertained and created buzz

Along with the launch of 6.1, Adventurer Plates were released but gained notoriety due to the flood of photos of buttocks and horny profiles spreading like wildfire. A gamer took to Reddit to urge people to stop making lewd plaques/adventurer portraits lest “they’ll be removed or severely limited in scope”.

Outlets like PC Gamer remarked that it was an “absolute hit with gamers” on launch day, but noted that many of them had “compromising angles to make it look like the characters are accomplishing various sexual acts”. FFXIV content creators like Zepla weighed in on the absurdity of the portrayals of sexualized adventurers, but also conducted a Twitter poll to gauge where players stood in the face of the fiasco.

After more than 26,000 votes, the poll still indicates that the majority agrees that Adventurer Plates is “obscene”, with the halfway minority of 20% voting no. As you might expect, publisher Square Enix has banned NSFW Adventurer Plates and Portraits.

twitter user @runavanilla shared an in-game message from an FFXIV Game Master who confirmed that it was a banishable offence. “Any content that we deem to be inappropriate or sexual will be removed immediately and appropriate account action will be taken against the Service Account, pending account termination,” the General Manager said.

Despite the negatives that plagued Adventurer Plates in the beginning, I think it’s still the perfect feature for this community.

Your story, your portrait

The player’s identity is extremely important to the FFXIV community and its MMO experience. Even though everyone is having the same on-rails story experience, one warrior of light can be very different from another in terms of outfit or responses to events that hint at player choice.

Outside of the story, player housing, crafting, and even the bard with a harp in a town square dive into how players can customize their experience and character. The launch of Adventurer Plates in FFXIV only adds to the great atmosphere of the game. Of course, this increases the wild factor, but leaves it up to players to decide how they want to appear visually to others.

This is basically what many MMO players are looking for, a feature that tries to boost individuality. After washing up on the shores of FFXIV and continuing to receive future updates, Adventurer Plates may have started in a controversial place, but would never have reached its full potential anywhere else.

That concludes this week of Game Design Spotlight! Would you like reading? Feel free to leave comments as this is all fresh and new to both of us! Also, if there’s a particular design element or game you’d like me to review and discuss, let me know below!

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