Like many other players of Final Fantasy XIV, I can personally attest that it took me quite some time to understand the full appeal of the game. As a migrant from other MMORPGs, it clicked for me on a gameplay level quite quickly. The well-documented ‘rush’ that you get from levelling up or winning the roll on some delightful treasures dropped from a boss had already been planted within me by other games. Early on, I assumed that this feeling might eventually wane and that I would drop the game in favour of something else, and I couldn’t really figure out why I was still playing.
I had tenuously enjoyed the A Realm Reborn storyline, but it wasn’t until after that (in that somewhat mundane stretch of patch quests before Heavensward) that it started to truly ‘click’ with me. This had nothing to do with those patch quests themselves, but rather, I had begun to notice and acknowledge what was keeping me hooked. It was my player character — my Warrior of Light. As I know it is for so many others, my character was more than just the centre of the narrative of Final Fantasy XIV — they were also a chance to express myself in an exciting new world.
Everyone who plays Final Fantasy XIV has a distinctly different relationship to their Warrior of Light. Some treat their avatar as a chance to roleplay themselves in a fantasy setting. Others see their character as a chance to embody what they wish to be. For many, there’s an enjoyment in letting the events of the narrative play out while viewing their ‘Warrior of Light’ as an entity entirely separate for themselves. How much you choose to roleplay and express yourself through your character in Final Fantasy XIV is entirely up to you. In my case, the personal journey of my Warrior of Light was the anchor that kept me tethered to the MMORPG in all kinds of ways. Through the story’s peaks and valleys, my investment in Final Fantasy XIV ran parallel to my investment in what my character was doing. As their agency in the plot increased and the opportunities to develop and (perhaps crucially) customise them grew, I became more invested.
I designed my Warrior of Light Aru as a kind of aspirational reflection of myself: they’re not me, but more like an avatar of the things I value. I made them a monk as I have practiced various martial arts throughout my life. I picked the Au Ra race because I liked their aesthetic the most out of the multiple races, and I’ve always liked dragons. Although you don’t really tick a box for your character’s personality like with these other things, I decided that Aru would represent everything that I felt I was not — they had competence, confidence and were certainly going to have a look that matched these details.
Although some players of Final Fantasy XIV may scoff at the idea of even caring about these choices at all, I would be willing to bet that the majority of them do care. It’s something that becomes apparent every single time I encounter another player. As it’s an MMORPG and due to the nature of the Warrior of Light as a classic ‘blank slate,’ an aesthetic layer of creating headcanons and distinct looks for your character is woven into the fabric of the game’s design. The potential for accessible individuality in Final Fantasy XIV is one that I believe vastly outpaces any other currently available MMORPG and serves to support this aesthetic layer that many people view as crucial to the game’s success. This is partly due to that ‘blank slate’ way the Warrior of Light is presented and offered up for customisation, but also down to the huge variety of tools that the game gives you for customisation and ‘glamour.’
‘Glamour is the true endgame’ is a phrase you have likely heard if you’ve been part of the Final Fantasy XIV community for any period of time. In principle, it refers to the idea that many players get really into the style and fashion of their avatar once they’re up to date with the story content, sitting at maximum level and waiting. In practice, I think it points more abstractly towards the value Final Fantasy XIV players see in the glamour system — as a tool for making their characters who they want them to be and strengthening the link between character and player. Crafting the perfect look for your Warrior of Light adds an extra immersive detail. Whilst it’s something I already feel like I understand, I’ve always been fascinated by the lengths people go to get their characters to look exactly right within the boundaries of the game’s systems.
I know I’ve gotten satisfaction from crafting the ideal ‘gothic brawler’ look for Aru’s monk outfit. Early on, a lot of the pugilist/monk gear is pretty ugly, so alongside just a general interest in wanting to reflect their personality, the MMORPG pushed me to want to design aesthetic pairings. I’ve never done any particularly ambitious glamour sets, but I have developed a set of rules for what Aru would and wouldn’t wear — rules which take into account their class, their personality, and a colour palette that I personally enjoy: mostly black and dark blues. One of my favourite glamour sets uses items from the GARO collaboration set and a whole lot of black dye to give Aru a needlessly edgy but striking outfit. Beyond this, I have a few other monk-specific glamours and one for each of my secondary jobs. Each time I start a new job class in Final Fantasy XIV, I immediately get the urge to optimise aesthetics while levelling it.
As someone who enjoys glamour in Final Fantasy XIV but has never really taken it to an advanced level, I was interested in the opinions of the broader community. I’ve read takes on the history and intricacies of the glamour system, but I’ve rarely seen discussion focusing on why people care, especially from those who care a lot. ‘How much can one person care about what their character looks like in a video game?’ I hear you ask. The answers might just shock you.
Thankfully, I’ve recently started writing for this website that has a few glamour enthusiasts amongst its ranks. I knew if I was going to write about Final Fantasy XIV‘s glamour system and what it means to people in a worthwhile way, I needed more than just my own perspective to illuminate an interesting conclusion. So I asked fellow members of the RPGFan team to share their perspectives on the art of digital fashion.
When asking news editor Peter Triezenberg what he thought of the glamour system in Final Fantasy XIV, I was surprised that his thoughts seemed to echo what I had heard from many veteran players, even though Peter has only been playing for a year:
“I think one of the things that appeals to me about creating glamours for my character is it’s a form of personal expression. Aside from just showing off any rare or cool gear I have, it also lets me put my own unique stamp on the game world that we’re all inhabiting. It really makes me feel as though this digital simulacrum is an extension of myself.” The idea of using your player character as a ‘unique stamp’ in particular stands out as an almost universal concept amongst the players who engage with glamour to me. Given that there’s obviously a finite number of possible combinations of playable races, hairstyles, and body types within the game’s character creator, the glamour system, which allows your equipped gear to take on the appearance of any other equipment, becomes a saving grace for making your Warrior of Light look unique.
In the pursuit of fashion, players have to plan carefully around the resources available to them. For Peter, this involved constructing looks in advance, and in some cases, “before [he] learned how to play the class.” When asked about his glamouring habits, Peter revealed his systematic approach: “I try to pick a specific piece of gear and build around that, with the color scheme matching accordingly.” Offering up an example of his approach to structuring his character’s looks, which includes additions from the Mog Station store: “the main piece of my dark knight glam is the Neo-Ishgardian armor set, which consists of browns, blacks, and gold. I wound up using a couple of pieces of Mog Station gear that had gold highlights to really accentuate that. I chose the weapon because it’s really neat and also has these sort of bronze teeth along the edge that also fits with the outfit.”
Similarly, RPGFan’s Editor-in-Chief, Mike Salbato, was also drawn into the world of glamour from the very start: “I’ve been playing since one of the beta phases before the game launched, so since June 2013. I’ve been a fan of the glamour system since it was introduced, and more so when it was expanded with the dresser.”
For Mike, his interest in glamour intersects with his broad interest in aesthetics and visual design: “My day job (one of them) has been some form or another of visual/graphic design for 20 years. It’s just in my nature to want to tweak, adjust, refine, and make my character (or anything I can) exactly how I want.”
Enjoying the glamour system comes with caveats for many players, and Mike has his own criticisms: “I’m sure most people will say this, and the devs even know, but having to store gear to use for glamours in a capacity-limited system is something I hope they can overcome.” Mike also has some suggestions for retooling the system — “Either more slots, or, frankly, borrowing Guild Wars 2‘s system where you don’t even need to manage slots and store the actual gear. I understand it’s a nightmare to change from a code perspective, but removing the need to manage each thing would be an amazing change.”
Despite his suggestions, Mike is still a massive fan of the glamour system, having developed personal attachments to specific sets of gear: “I usually stick to a glam for awhile when I find something I really like. Sometimes I just happen to get a piece of gear and, if it clicks, I’ll immediately build something around it,” he explained. “Right now, my favourite glamour is the Edengate Fending set. When I say I main paladin, I mean that paladin is very, very dear to me in general, and especially in this game. So much of Shadowbringers’ gear is gorgeous, but very much more at home on, say, dark knight. The first Eden set screams ‘this is for you, paladins,’ with its pearl white sheen and ornate embellishments. It’s one of my favorite sets in the game.”
Of course, Mike has seen his share of amusing glamour on other players, too: “I was once in a party with a spot-on Ned Flanders (as a samurai). I also recently saw a Lalafell named Wind-up Alphinaud with the Mog Station Alphinaud hair and, of course, matching minion. I’m not sure if that’s more ambitious or amusing, but anyone who creates or changes their character name to fit their glamour is incredibly committed to the game.”
RPGFan staff writer Alana Hagues, who has been playing and glamouring in Final Fantasy XIV on and off for over a year, has a similarly methodical approach to the fashion system. She is committed to creating looks that match up with the established style of particular jobs while also taking inspiration from some of her other RPG favourites: “I’m not the kind of person who comes up with cosplay glams or casualwear glams. I like job-appropriate, but with a twist. And every job or glamour has a theme. All of my ninja glams have been mostly blue, whereas my dragoon glams are inspired by Riesz from Trials of Mana — not cosplays, but just slightly off-piste lancer outfits!”
In her words, the game’s glamour system also helped ease them back into the MMORPG after a four-year-long absence — “I was incredibly nervous coming back to Final Fantasy XIV after such a lengthy hiatus, and playing with new people too, so glamours allowed me to express myself where I was otherwise quiet. It gave me something to talk about and share with other players. Of course, now my friends joke about the amount of time I spend at the market board, or ‘gposing’ every time I come up with a new glamour.”
According to Alana, her fascination with the glamour system started as a general interest that escalated over time: “I always knew I wanted to play dress-up with my Warrior of Light. I’m the kind of person who collected clothes in Animal Crossing and who collects every non-DLC costume in every Tales game, and I like fashion in real life, so it seemed natural that I’d fall into it. I told myself to wait until I hit level 80. I didn’t.”
Clearly, Final Fantasy XIV‘s glamour system has an addictive quality that everyone I asked commented upon. But Alana also mentioned something that I could relate to in terms of my own interests in the game’s customisation options: “I love being able to tell a story about my Warrior of Light through the glamours in this game. How will Kisa change when she becomes a dragoon? What does that jacket as a gunbreaker say about her attitude when tanking? Why does she shun traditional Doman gear when she’s a ninja or a samurai? And what will she look like throughout Endwalker? I’m excited about future possibilities.”
To many players of Final Fantasy XIV, including myself, I think there’s something important within that idea of telling a story using your Warrior of Light. The look of them is an important part of that — it’s a way of using your own creativity to link the game’s aesthetic layer with the story and more actively inhabit the role of your character.
For those of us who are unfortunate enough to get into this sort of thing, Eorzea Collection is valuable. The website boasts a detailed catalogue of all the game’s gear and allows users to submit detailed profiles of their very own outfits and designs. It’s an excellent place to find inspiration for your own character’s look or just soak in the sheer amount of creativity that goes into some of the submissions.
I asked Eorzea Collection’s creator, Edeon, about the process of running a website dedicated to Final Fantasy XIV‘s fashion, starting with its history. They kindly gave me a very detailed account: “Eorzea Collection started back in March of 2016, during a gaming night with my friends, where we were discussing the lack of a website that showcased all the pieces of equipment you could obtain in the game. I had recently gotten a copy of the official physical catalogue for Final Fantasy XIV and I just had the idea and the motivation to turn it into a website for the community. Being a software engineer myself, it was easy for me to start and, after a couple of days of late-night programming, Eorzea Collection was born!”
Shockingly, Eorzea Collection wasn’t originally intended as a glamour-sharing resource. Instead, it grew into this role due to community demand. “It wasn’t until two months later that it became a resource to showcase glamours. Back then, a popular website to share glamours closed down and people suggested that the Eorzea Collection would be perfect to take its place.”
Answering the call, Edeon was happy to transform the Eorzea Collection into something that would be useful to the community.
“Being a player from 1.0, playing Final Fantasy XIV since 2010, I understand the frustration of losing a website dear to the community,and I’m happy to be able to provide that stability. So I ultimately accepted the challenge and spent some nights working on incorporating the glamour system on the website and released it shortly after.”
Eorzea Collection has existed ever since, and you would think that the act of organising digital dress-up in Final Fantasy XIV would get a bit boring after all that time. On the contrary, Edeon often finds themselves impressed by the inventiveness of the community’s commitment to clothing. As the RPGFan staff who love glamour made clear, there’s a lot to dig into — even more so when you add the extra step of taking the perfect screenshot to show off your new look:
“There’s really something incredible about people’s minds and creativity, where after so many years running this website, I still get impressed by so many glamours. There are so many factors to consider when creating a glamour. Besides the equipment used, some creators think about all the colors, types of fabric, and symbols or crests, head to toe. And on top of that, those creators think about the presentation, meticulously selecting the time of day, location, weather, lighting, animation, even which NPCs or enemies or minions that might help get the feeling of the look across.”
Edeon has an appreciation of the passionate craft that goes into a lot of the glamours they see submitted to Eorzea Collection: “There are a lot of things we can think about Final Fantasy XIV’s glamour system that could be improved, but I’m constantly amazed about how thoughtful the equipment design is to accommodate all the possible combinations. How well all the pieces go together is something you really don’t see in many games, where gloves and boots can alter the shape of other pieces just to fit properly. The equipment design is really varied, which makes for some interesting and unique looks. You can easily find pieces to create a look for almost any theme or style.”
Like others I spoke to, Edeon also has their fair share of criticisms of the glamour system. One of the more prevalent suggestions for glamouring amongst the community is to simply offer more space in the glamour dresser and armoire to accommodate those players who live and breathe glamour.
“We really just need more space! There are hundreds of pieces in the game that are unique for each job, or that are hard to get due to the content difficulty or the drop rate, and it’s hard to try and keep all the pieces we like and might use in the future. I’d like to see the armoire expanded to include a lot more equipment pieces, so players don’t have such a hard time managing inventory,” explains Edeon.
Beyond just running Eorzea Collection, Edeon puts in the effort to make sure the website responds to the needs of its users. “I promised myself to always try and stay as close to the community as I can, and really ask and listen to the feedback of others,” says Edeon, adding that “Balancing the time spent managing the community and actually researching and programming is something that is really difficult for me and something I’ve been learning to deal with.”
To help summarise my investigation of glamour, I asked Edeon what the broad appeal of glamouring in Final Fantasy XIV is. There’s obviously no easy answer to this, but I feel like they managed to sum it up fairly succinctly: “I’d have to say it all comes from the love the players feel for Final Fantasy XIV itself. The game is beautiful and appealing, and the lore is interesting and does a really good job of making each player feel unique and important. So I guess that flows over to the love and attachment people feel for their own characters. Then there’s the photography and fashion aspect of creating glamours as a form of art and self-expression, which Final Fantasy XIV accommodates wonderfully. It truly is a game where players can live their lives and their true selves through their characters, and that shows from the efforts of the development team to the incredible community we’ve built through these years. Final Fantasy XIV is certainly a game that will be remembered for life.”
As Edeon gestures towards, the appeal of Final Fantasy XIV’s glamour system is a multifaceted one. It’s all at once appealing to people who like roleplaying their characters, people invested in real-life fashion, and those who want to express themselves creatively using the game’s systems, amongst other possible appealing factors. The glamour system is but one strand in the wider tapestry of Final Fantasy XIV, but part of why it has grown in popularity recently is due to the detail the development team has invested into all aspects of the game. The glamour system — and by extension the communities that have built around it — is just one of the many ways that Final Fantasy XIV as a game flaunts its own unique style.