Turns out the true endgame is cleaning my hotbar
Final Fantasy XIV has no shortage of content. Raids, dungeons, trials, mount farming, or just good ol’ fishing, there’s always something to do. But between every activity, I find the one thing I keep on doing in Final Fantasy XIV is messing around with the interface.
Since starting the game back in December, I’ve managed to go from A Realm Reborn all the way to Endwalker, the most recent expansion. (Yes, that pace was pretty fast, though sadly not on par with Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.)
In the time since, I’ve learned a lot of lessons: eat food to buff your stats, use retainers to sell unwanted items, and know which ledges are not safe to Dragoon-backflip next to. But in all of it, I keep on messing with my hotbars.
A little fine-tuning
It’s not that the interface of Final Fantasy XIV is clunky; far from it. It’s actually incredibly customizable and malleable, able to do a lot with very little. Actions (read: abilities) can be set to your hotbars, and your hotbars can be laid out in a multitude of ways.
For a long time, I was partial to the long rows of abilities. It feels really good to look at a big lineup of sick moves, and watch them all tick away on cooldowns. It reduced the vertical clutter on my screen too, in exchange for some horizontal space.
While the default interface (on mouse-and-keyboard) puts the rows right dead center with big icons, I found myself slowly eking that lineup further to the right as time went on. As I got more comfortable with my combo timings and rotations, I made the icons smaller and shoved them off to the right, away from the precious center of the screen. Can’t have big buttons blocking the AOE markers, right?
Soon, I was using Ctrl- and Shift- modifiers to spread my growing arsenal of options out, and forcing me to reach across the keyboard less often. Eventually, my Dragoon layout looked something like this:
That was nice, with a good progression I knew. Core abilities that I used often were on the farthest left, near my WASD, while less frequent skills hung out in the 5-7 key range. This was the layout that got me through raids, trials, and Endwalker.
But then a funny thing happened: I picked up a new class.
New lease on life
With Endwalker in the rear-view, I thought it was finally time to shed my selfish DPS ways and learn to heal. Sage seemed like a rad choice: it’s a healer that uses lasers. Who doesn’t like lasers?
But while Dragoon was all about progressive combinations of abilities and sneaking long cooldown attacks into constant strings, Sage required a bit more awareness. My cooldowns didn’t just affect my damage, but the tank’s likelihood of living through that next big axe swing.
So I went online to see others’ take on their interfaces, and learned way too much in the process. Soon I was binding abilities to my letter keys, eschewing my pristine number line, and contorting bars to fit some Tetris-shaped monument to unnecessary buttons. Did you know you can just have a giant button sitting on the side of your screen, to help you know when that cooldown is off? It’s useful!
Anyways, here’s what my Sage bar looks like, as of this writing:
Cleaning the mess
I know that’s not a final product, but this journey sparked some curiosity for me. I started asking other players what their hotbars looked like, or how they organized their layouts.
Controller players largely scoffed, as they are committed to the special crossbar layout they get to use. But for the keyboard players, I found some interesting little nuances in the way people laid out their skills. What, for example, they kept close and at-hand, and what they could shift off to other keys. How they used special buttons, hardware-specific ones sometimes, to make their rotations a little more comfortable.
I’m getting closer to being more comfortable with my new healer layout (don’t ask me how the healing is going though). But I’m not sure I’ll ever fully stop nitpicking the bars. Across multiple expansions of Final Fantasy XIV I kept altering my interface to better optimize my Dragoon play. And now that I’m branching out even more, chances are I’ll keep on going.
Feel free to share your own interfaces, Final Fantasy XIV or otherwise, down below!