Late last week news came out of Square Enix with Final Fantasy XIV's producer Naoki Yoshida announcing a revamp to the icon of an upcoming class. This change was prompted by feedback from the community about a lesser known phobia that the original icon could have been seen as triggering to those who suffer from trypophobia. As a result, the FFXIV quickly revamped the icon to assuage those concerns. It's this type of action, looking out even for the smallest subset of players who support the game, that is something every game studio should learn from.
Let's face it: the vast majority of players would never have made the correlation between the originally proposed Sage logo in the upcoming Endwalker expansion and a phobia people do suffer from. The original icon featured a small cluster of holes, seemingly innocuous to most, yet could trigger an episode for those who suffer from trypophobia. The phobia itself is the fear, or disgust, of closely-packed holes according to Healthline, and it's not that well-known. Things many people look at daily with no issues, from honeycomb to strawberries, can cause a distressing attack from those who suffer from the phobia.
Admittedly, I first heard about this it was from my 12-year-old daughter. She, like some, feels squeamish when she sees closely-packed holes. It doesn't happen all the time with her, but I do notice it more now that she made me aware its something that bothers her. So upon seeing the original logo, my first thoght too was how people who suffered from the phobia might take the design.
The original icon being showcased heading into the November release of Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker wasn't seen as anything harmful or offensive by the vast majority of people, seemingly. Yet a small subset of the player base expressed some concern, both those who suffer from the phobia as well as those aware of the condition.
And the team behind one of the most popular MMOs at one of the largest game studios and publishers on the planet listened and acted. This to me can't be overstated.
It's true that changing the icon of something may not seem like much. The original and new icon share much of the same design philosophy, according to producer Naoki Yoshida who announced the change last Friday. We won't post the original in this article in order to save those who do suffer from the phobia the trouble of seeing it, but the new icon looks sleek and still holds to the philosophy behind the original icon.
Yet the fact the team listened to even a small number of fans who could find this distressing says a lot about the people behind the MMORPG.
With the ramp up leading into the fall and eventual launch of Endwalker, internally the team could have easily pushed this to the backburner, relegating it something they would get around to "eventually." Instead, resources were diverted to make the new icon and help those fans who might find the original triggering be able to enjoy the MMO without worry.
Changing an icon is not nearly as major as redesigning a boss fight or monster type to address other real phobias out there, but it is something.
Final Fantasy XIV is celebrating a huge surge in popularity right now. Servers are full and the team is handling that as well as they can, given the server tech and the unexpected boost that a myriad of factors are contributing to the popularity of the MMO. Decisions like this earn goodwill with a community, even though they might now always agree with a dev team's design philosophy, or think other changes come too slowly. However, moves like this to ensure even the smallest number of players can comfortably enjoy their game is something other studios should learn from when listening to their community concerns - whether great or small. Treat every concern as something that could be learned from and, if feasible, improve the experience for people willing to pay money to play your game.
It doesn't take much, and Final Fantasy XIV's team proved that last week.