In the wake of the announcement that two new races would be coming to the popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV, some fans have taken issue with both race’s gender-locked restrictions.
On March 22nd, Final Fantasy XIV game director Naoki Yoshida opened the 2019 entry of the annual Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival with a 90-minute keynote detailing some of the new additions that players will be able to experience in the upcoming expansion, Shadowbringers. Alongside reveals of the new Dancer Job and two new cities, Crystarium and Eulmore, Yoshida also announced that players would soon have a new race to choose from during character creation: the humanoid cat-like race of the Hrothgar. It was also noted that the Hrothgar race would be exclusively male, to complement the previously-announced race for Shadowbringers, the all-female Viera.
The Viera were first introduced in the 2003 title Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and a Viera Warrior named Fran appeared as the only non-human character in the main cast. In Final Fantasy lore, a majority of Viera are born female and their society is matriarchal, and while male Viera are rare, they prefer to serve as guardians of the Viera people and remain in deep solitude.
The Hrothgar race are a parallel world counterpart to the Ronso race, a race of blue-furred, cat-like humanoids first introduced in Final Fantasy X. The Hrothgar’s appearance in FFXIV will mark their first appearance since FFX, where a male Ronso known as Kimarhi is both Yuna’s personal guardian and a playable character. Though there are female Ronso depicted in FFX, audiences have yet to see female versions of their Hydaelyn counterparts.
However, some fans were unhappy with the fact that these races would be gender-locked and demanded that both races could be played as both genders, even going so far as to accuse Yoshida and the FFXIV of homophobia and sexism. Numerous users on the FFXIV subreddit, /r/ffxiv, responded to multiple threads regarding the announcement of the Hrothgar race with disappointment and anger:
This sucks. Pretty much everyone expected at least a male viera and a healer dancer job. We got no healer, genderlocked races, and a limited job. The trinity of shit.
What happened to you FFXIV? You used to break the mold. Does 1.0 need to happen again for you to learn?
If I was at that fanfeast, I would have booed.
I mean for f*** sake they don’t even look good their textures are all muddy and they have no fur and their manes suck. Like seriously what the f***?
/u/Kokomaru March 23, 2019
“But lore blah blah blah blah”
Yeah I hate gender locked races. And pretty much everyone in my guild is trying to convince me that’s the wrong stance to take (yup, my opinions is wrong) by saying how it makes sense lore wise so I should somehow be happy.
F*** that. I don’t give a shit. I wanted male bunnies and female lions as well. Like, I get it’s difficult to do but we’re just going to end up like when they had female only Miqo’te and male only Roe. And that’s frustrating to me.
/u/Disig March 23, 2019
It would have been less effort to create a male Viera than a whole new race. But I guess Yoshi really was so personally weirded out by male bunnies that he decided this is what the devs should spend time on. Then no female Hrothgar because it doesn’t fit into their mold of sexy girls must look same. Despite male miqo being so popular and a fairly large female/lgbt player base.
Gg, I wanna say sexism.
/u/13ulbasaur March 23, 2019
Other fans took to the official FFXIV forums to voice their displeasure directly to the developers:
Give us male Viera and then I’ll start paying my sub again. This hurt and it hurt bad. This is a ragequit moment for me. Goodbye until they add male Viera. This is homophobic. Still afraid of adding male bunnies huh? Stop the pathetic excuses and start listening to the people who play this game.
Redcurrant18 March 23, 2019
Signed. This feels disappointingly retrograde, especially since it reinforces the “women must be pretty/men must be buff” dynamic introduced with the Au Ra, and amplifies it. There’s no buff bunny or pretty lion option, just gender role stereotypes that are tired in 2019.
Rosenoire March 24, 2019
SE, I am deeply disappointed in your reinforcement of the same old “bulky stronkman, smol sweetgirl” gender images. You know, in addition to there being no “old” face options for females, while there are several for males. I can promise you, more people than you’d think do not resonate with this kind of dynamic. This is a fantasy world, let us have what we all crave and are still paving the way towards in the real world.
You as a multi million dollar company hold the power and influence, and thus the responsibility to consider these things.
Honestly, besides this being detrimental to society, you missed an opportunity to earn big cred (and $$$), as topics such as not conforming, dysphoria, empowerment, lgbtq issues, etc etc (even the aesthetics of it) resonate with a lot of people right now. You have let a lot of people down and I can’t see a valid reason for doing so. I hope this isn’t some “do half the work now so people can complain and then we’ll “fix” it in later patches so they feel we’re listening” scheme, which can be an effective strategy but in the given context I’d doubt it’s morality. These options aren’t just some “niche” or “cosmetic updates” to be added later, they are just as valid and not adding them immediately carries certain implications.
Frogger2 March 24, 2019
The outrage over gender-locking even prompted a fan named Elys K to start a Change.org petition calling for the end of gender-locking, which as of writing has acquired 3,853 signatures.
However, on March 25th, YouTuber MrHappy1227 published an interview he had conducted with Yoshida. In the interview, Yoshida notes that discussions have occurred regarding the removal of the gender-lock for each respective race, but that limited resources present a roadblock towards implementation:
“Mr. Happy: Many western players were surprised when it was revealed that Hrothgar and Viera would not have both genders available, especially after the efforts the team went through to provide more options with Miqo’te and Roegadyn in 2.0. Why did the team decide to do two different races with one gender each instead of one race with both genders?
Yoshida: The timing of the game launch, the races needed to have each gender counterpart for ARR. When I took over for ARR [A Realm Reborn], I wanted to fill the missing gender to make those races seem complete. What is different now compared to then. After multiple expansions, the situation isn’t the same as when we released the base game. My answer will be quite long…
This game has been launched for 6 years currently. It has tens of thousands of armors available. We have to make sure every race can use every outfit correctly. The more unique the appearance of the race, the more difficult these adjustments are to make.
When we create one gear, we have to make adjustments so it fits all these different races. So when we add new races, we have to adjust how to approach this process. The development cost for making a new race is very intense because of how much work we put into the graphics of the game. We also have to make sure these things all work properly. That’s why we are saying these may be the last races because of how taxing it is on the development team.
We wanted to give players options and freedom to choose more races. We envisioned adding a new race, but people really wanted the Viera to play in-game. So if we add another new race that isn’t Viera, people might wonder why we didn’t do Viera, so we had to add them for sure.
We had a big discussion back when we added Au ra in Heavensward about whether to add Au ra or Viera. We knew we only had Female Viera for reference, so we had no idea what to do for the Male variant. We would have to use our own imagination for that. There was fear about how we would approach that. Perhaps an elezen body with a miqo’te face and bunny ears. Would this be the right way to add this race to the game?
When we create a fantasy game, especially for FF14. We have a good variety of races. We don’t really need any more cute or sweet looking characters because we have so many as it is.
Especially for FF14, we have many symbols of power or strength such as Highlander and Roegadyns. We wanted something more animal like. Its not that we wanted to create a wild west of characters, but we do need a good variety. So the simple answer is: Viera was sought after so we had to add those. To expand the game and its options, we also wanted to add Hrothgar.”
Mr. Happy: As a follow up, is the team considering adding the other gender for these two races in future expansions?
Yoshida: Short answer is we haven’t made a decision on that. The reason why we can’t say for sure. We need to optimize our work flow with the existing races and the new ones. After that, perhaps we do the other gender. But we don’t know right now.
We did consider Male Viera instead of adding an extra race, but we tried to take player feedback on adding a more beast like race as well as the strong desire to receive Viera. We did expect strong feedback on the gender lock. It was a tough decision, but we decided to do our best to meet both the player feedback and our development team’s vision. It will be very costly to add a new race or genders. So I won’t say no, but I would not like to set expectations high.
We haven’t had time to look at all of the feedback since this is our first day back at the office after the Tokyo Fan Festival. What was the general feedback from NA based on your experience? Were they upset about no Male Viera, no Female Hrothgar or both?
Mr. Happy: It has been a heated topic. Some players are okay, while many players are upset about the gender locking. Many are disappointed about no Male Viera, but with the Female Hrothgar I’ve seen some people be even more upset. This is because in The First Shard they are called Ronso, and in FFX there are plenty of female Ronso.
Yoshida: Thank you for the insight. Currently, we are putting together all the feedback. Depending on the feedback we are considering an official statement on the forums.
What do you make of this Final Fantasy XIV controversy? Do you think players are overreacting? Do you think genderlocking the races is homophobic?