A Small Big Thing

Final Fantasy XIV‘s patch 2.38 went live this week and with it came the usual round of changes fitting a “minor” patch. Well, mostly, as XIV’s minor patches usually include a few things that are anything but minor. This one added Personal Housing (previously reserved for Free Companies) and a new step in the ever-going upgrade of your Relic weapon (a.k.a. the weapon that symbolizes your chosen class) – both important additions.

However it wasn’t a big change that caught my eye. It was something that some have deemed “useless“, and was hidden in the sea of patch notes. A new accessibility feature that displays “sound” as waves on the sides of the screen. Here’s how it looks:

sound waves ffxiv

The first thing it reminded me of were those visualizations that the old-school Windows Media Player used to have. What is happening is that those “waves” raise (sideways) according to the aural events on the game. Green represents the background music, blue reacts to sound effects (like swords or footsteps) while red stands for “system sounds” (menus, reminders, etc) – in this case, the Duty Finder had just popped which accounts for the long red line.

FFXIV sounds can now be seen by people with hearing impairments.

Sure it’s far from perfect. I imagine a raid or Odin battle would be a chaos of dancing lines. Great themes like the famous Prelude cannot be truly appreciated with waves. But you know what? There’s people in this world that can’t hear the cacophony of swords and magic; that can’t enjoy the sweet notes of the Prelude – at all. This system is a first step towards a future where this kind of options exist. Will it catch on? Will SquareEnix continue to refine this?

As an example, I took a screenshot with the red (system) lines beating to the clock that sounds when Duty Finder has popped but you haven’t accepted. It’s the game telling you (both aurally and visually) that it demands your attention.

ffxiv sound wave breakdown

I can’t claim to know about every game in the world, but I’ve never seen this before. Isn’t this awesome?

If you wanna check this effect, open the settings menu and next to the video, audio and control setting will be a new section, Accessibility Settings. Inside which you’ll find the option “Enable Visual Alerts“. Remember this is PC only.

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7 thoughts on “A Small Big Thing

  1. When i discussed this with Bel earlier I wondered how useful it would be knowing that music is happening in the background and he informed me that the changes in music can warn of upcoming events, eg boss about to do something big… like the water splashes as you said, i had never thought of it like that but did remind me of raids (not in FF 14 as i dont own that) when i sometimes see warnings from raid leaders to listen out for a certain sound. so, i am curious how the visual waveforms will warn me of stuff like that if possible, not just inform me that there is some kind of noise happening.

    ahh i want to check this out soon! I’m excited if you couldnt tell since i basically just repeated what you said in lot more words lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha 🙂

      Examples I can come up with, quickly and without giving it much thought:
      – Leviathan EX: Off-screen splashes to be ready for dashes.
      – Titan EX: Phases have different music, so depending on camera position, a switch in music waves could indicate phase change.
      – Twintania (Coil 5): Conflagrate marks and Divebomb marks have sounds. Particularly Divebombs, when all members are stacked it may be confusing to see the mark, or if your camera is too close.

      If I recall correctly there’s volume options for personal, party and global SFXs – think of the possibilities.

      And finally, haven’t checked, do player invoked alert sfxs trigger waves? If a player with hearing problems is a member of a helpful group/static, the others may create sound macros to warn him! Why didn’t I think of that before? If this works, it would be amazing! Hope I can check it during the weekend!

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  2. Thank you for blogging on this 🙂 I noticed this aspect and got excited about it. I plan to check it out soon and see how useful it is. Like you, I expect it to be confusing in a raid setting, thus likely to be distracting. Maybe I’m wrong? Still, cool to see a company is experimenting with stuff like this!

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    1. You’re welcome! Planned to do this sooner but with the XV chaos I saved it for today!

      I admit I’m not sure how “useful* it’ll be, as I haven’t had enough time to play with it on, but the moment I turned it on it was very interesting to see it work. It’s quite unique – never seen this in any other game before. I imagine in a raid, with dozens or hundreds of sound effects going off at the same time it will be difficult to say what is going on. Nevertheless, I did read someone mentioning Leviathan EX as an example: “Seeing” the SFX for the water splashes (before the dashes) could be invaluable!

      It’s also cool that the “intensity” of the waves depends on the volume you set. Have to test more but if you “mute” BGMs the green bar will stop dancing. It’s pretty neat!

      *Perhaps differentiating sources will be difficult, but even if it may be a new, experimental feature, I imagine it’s incredible for the intended audience!!

      Liked by 1 person

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