One year ago, January 25th, 2022, Final Fantasy XIV opened its Oceania Data Centre named Materia, finally granting players from Australia and New Zealand five servers of our very own. With much lower ping than US servers and an English-speaking player base that was difficult to find on Japanese servers, FFXIV players in the Australia and New Zealand finally had a place just for us.
Now, one year on, how are things on Materia going? What have the Aussies and the Kiwis done with our new servers?
Ravana quickly became the most popular FFXIV server in Australia, with Sephirot and Sophia not far behind. Bismarck is considered the unofficial New Zealand server — in the FFXIV canon, Bismarck is a whale and the ‘beached az‘ whale was from New Zealand. (Editor’s note: Extremely good gear, NZ. Very funny, 10/10 — David)
And then there’s Zurvan. Poor Zurvan has become the least populous FFXIV server in Australia, stricken with a crazy bot problem. In fairness, all of our servers have a bot problem because they’re not as populous as the other data shards. There are simply fewer of us in this part of the world. The population of Australia and New Zealand doesn’t come close to the population of the US, Europe or Japan, which leaves gaps for the bots to creep in. However, even bearing those numbers in mind, Zurvan is a standout. Hang out in the Gridania aetheryte plaza and watch all the alphabet soup bots get their “My Little Chocobo” achievements. It’s annoying, certainly, but at least it’s not harmful. There is often real money trading (RMT) advertising over shouts in the main cities, but at least they are easily dealt with. Report them and move on. Never involve yourself in RMT if you enjoy the game because Square Enix is very strict about it and it could lead to an account ban.
The other major complaint to do with the low population is the ability to chew through content quickly. Generally, if it isn’t current content or the treasure hunt for Tomes event isn’t happening, you can expect to settle in for long queue times. This isn’t an issue that’s isolated to Materia, but our overall lower player count exacerbates the problem. For things like older non-required Alliance raids and the 8-person raids, it can be hard to get a group. As a result, a lot of people are forced to rely on their free companies for help with completing this kind of content.
Eureka and Bozja are side content that has large-scale end-game raids and require quite a few people to get through the base content as well. This has necessitated the emergence of dedicated groups that willingly take others through the content like sherpas. Another of these specialist groups is the Materia hunt community. At one point, a single dedicated player was conducting all the Materia Endwalker hunt trains on his own (with help from scouts). Another area having some difficulty is the large-scale PVP mode Frontline. If players aren’t on between 6-7 pm AEDT, they simply won’t be able to play this mode. Luckily, it’s easy to get a Crystalline conflict match after 8 pm AEDT.
It’s not all creativity and calm to make up for the lack of numbers, however. Some members of the community have been incredibly vocal about the lack of local players. Some have decided to go back to their original data shards, and others have refused to move in the first place. I understand some players might have hesitations about player count, but to dismiss the local servers out of hand strikes me as a little unfair. We’re comparing a 12-month-old data centre to ones overseas that have had a decade to grow and flourish.
One of the positives of low-population servers is that there is ample housing. While other data centres have had to expand their wards to cope with housing demands, Materia still has plenty of room for all. So much so that my free company house is the only one in the entire ward. I can’t stress this enough: among other data centres around the world, that kind of availability is unheard-of.
So, a year later, what has Materia done for the local scene? It’s given Australian and New Zealand players a place to call home. It may take a little longer to get non-current content done, and people may need to rely on their friends and trusts a bit more than normal, but it’s that mateship that has come to define the servers. Despite the problems, Materia has become a small, close-knit part of Ethirys and we like it here.