If you’re looking to get started in FFXIV, one of the first things you’ll need to decide is what server to play on. It’s easy to get bogged down in trying to make the ‘perfect choice’ here, but you might be thinking it’s a bigger deal than it actually is. I’m going to talk about the specific consequences of your server choice, and what you want to consider when deciding where to call your home.
Keep in mind that you’re not stuck on that server forever. You can visit certain other servers, or pay for a server transfer to relocate to a new home world. You can also create additional characters on other servers, or even on the same server depending on what kind of subscription you have.
Servers vs Data Centers
A server (also called a ‘world’) is effectively a group of players who can see and interact with each other in cities, the overworld, and residential areas. If I’m in the Gold Saucer, I can see every other player on my server who is also in the Gold Saucer. Players on other servers load into their own server’s separate instance of the zone.
The names of the servers (‘Odin’, ‘Bahamut’, ‘Shiva’, etc.) are pulled from popular Final Fantasy icons, but this is simply a naming convention to distinguish them more flavourfully than ‘Server 1’, ‘Server 2’, and so on. All servers still have the same enemies, bosses, and fights available, so don’t worry about that.
Players that are currently on the same server (either their home world or by the World Visit System) can join regular parties and linkshells, kill Elite Hunt Marks, and enter Treasure Hunting dungeons together. Since Elite Mark spawn timers are separate for every server, some players simply visit another server to join another Hunt Train when their home world’s train is finished.
However, there are a couple of things that are exclusive to your character’s home server. For example, players must have the same ‘home world’ in order to join the same Free Company, or attend each others’ Ceremonies of Bonding.
A Data Center is a cluster of servers which are connected and interact in the Duty Finder, Party Finder, and World Visit System. The Data Centers are physically located in different places in the world, so your connection to the game may be better or worse depending on which Data Center you’re playing on. There are 3 NA, 2 EU, and 3 JP Data Centers.
When you queue up for something in the Duty Finder, you’ll be matched with other players on your Data Center, even if they’re not on the same server as you. When you open the Party Finder you see recruiting parties from all over that Data Center. However, the Party Finder does also have an option to recruit exclusively on your server, which is useful for the FATE party or Treasure Hunting party sections.
You can also join cross-world linkshells and speak to other players on your Data Center, even if you’re not on the same server. This is particularly useful if you have a static for savage raiding, since many statics are made up of players from different servers on the Data Center.
Of course this means that two characters on different Data Centers will not be able to play together in any capacity. Some players with friends on other Data Centers will transfer their character, which usually costs real money. Some players create alternate characters on other Data Centers, and may also purchase a story skip and level boost since it’s not their first character.
World Visit System
You can use the World Visit System to travel to any server on your Data Center, remaining there until you choose to return to your home world. While visiting, you’ll be able to interact with that server’s players, marketboard, and overworld enemies.
To visit, simply go to the aetheryte plaza in one of the three starting cities: Ul’dah, Gridania, or Limsa Lominsa. Click on the aetheryte crystal and select ‘Visit Another World Server’. Note that you may be placed in a queue depending on current server congestion, similarly to a regular login queue when you enter the game.
While you can buy from other worlds’ markets, you cannot list items for sale on that server through your retainer, since you can’t interact with retainers at all (they’re still back on your home world). Some players will ‘world-hop’ in order to check different prices throughout their Data Center, looking for the best deal. This can be worthwhile for saving gil particularly if they’re buying expensive items or items in huge quantities.
You’ll be able to team up with players on these servers to take down Elite Hunt Marks, which are likely on a different respawn cycle than those on your home world. You can also go Treasure Hunting with a party and enter Treasure Dungeons like Lyhe Ghiah.
There are some notable limitations of the World Visit System. As mentioned earlier, you cannot summon retainers. You also cannot join a Free Company on other servers. You can’t purchase any player housing or be given any kind of residence sharing access. You can’t join or access any regular linkshells, but your cross-world linkshells are still available.
You cannot attend a wedding ceremony on other servers. However, many players have expressed a desire to attend others’ Ceremonies of Bonding, so players hope that perhaps the developers will look into making this possible.
While you can take advantage of the server’s Elite Marks timers, other important timed activities will be unavailable to you. You can’t world-hop to gather from legendary or unspoiled nodes, and you can’t get cactpot tickets either. Tournaments at the Gold Saucer are off-limits as well, for things like Lord of Verminion and Triple Triad. If you’re going to go for a high-score in a Deep Dungeon run, do it on your home world, because you won’t be placed on leaderboards for other servers.
I’m personally skeptical that you’re going to have a drastically different experience depending on your server choice. However, that could just be because of how little I chat with people on my server while I play. Obviously, any advice I would be able to give here comes with the disclaimer that I do not have personal experience on every server. My first-hand accounts are limited to EU and NA only.
If you’re an extremely social player, then having a Novice Network and Free Company of like-minded people might be more important to you.
You can likely find a Free Company that’s a good fit for you no matter which server you’re on, even if it takes a bit of trial and error. Common places to look for FC recruitment are /shouts in Limsa Lominsa, or browsing the ffxiv recruitment subreddit.
When it comes to languages, all of the NA servers are predominantly English speaking.
All of the EU servers are predominantly English speaking as well, but there are also significant French and German populations here. Moogle (on Chaos DC) has been dubbed the unofficial French server, while Shiva (on Light DC) is the unofficial German server. As someone who mostly plays on Light DC I can tell you that there are still French and German speakers on all of these servers.
Among the JP servers, I’ve heard Tonberry (on Elemental DC) is the unofficial SEA server and is where most English speaking people in those regions choose to play. I’ve also seen Kujata (on Elemental DC) and Masamune (on Mana DC) mentioned as alternatives for English speakers when Tonberry was a Congested World in the past.
The Important Choice – Which Data Center?
Since you’ll have access to the World Visit System, your choice of server is not as limiting as your choice of Data Center. There are a few important things to consider.
First, what region are you in? Your connection to the server will affect your latency and how responsive the game feels while you’re playing. This can be more noticeable while playing some jobs than others, and can be especially important in endgame content due to the more demanding mechanics and tight timings.
The NA Data Centers are all located in California, so if you’re in North America these will likely be your first choice. The EU Data Centers are in Germany, and the JP Data Centers are in Japan. A VPN can still help you with your ping if you want to play on a distant Data Center.
If you’re getting into the game because of friends who already play, you may want to simply join them on whatever server and Data Center they play on. That’s an obvious piece of advice of course, so for the rest of this section I’ll assume you’re flying solo, or looking to get started with others all at the same time.
First, a little background info. Around the release of the Shadowbringers expansion, two new Data Centers were added; Crystal in the NA region, and Light in the EU region. Servers were reassigned among the Data Centers in their region, and servers that were previously able to play together were split apart. To accommodate players affected by this, free transfers were offered for a limited time, and many people took the opportunity to relocate their characters.
Among the NA players in particular, there was much talk about how the new Data Center would not contain enough raiding-focused players to support statics and pick-up groups when savage raids came out. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy as these types of players transferred away from Crystal in fear that others would do the same.
If you’re coming into the game exclusively focused on raiding, then I would recommend Aether or Primal. Crystal continues to have the least active raid scene among NA Data Centers. However, you will always be able to find people to raid with, either in statics or in the Party Finder. New players continue to reach endgame content every day, and veterans still have main or alt characters on those servers.
If you’re big on roleplaying in game, Crystal actually has the biggest community for that aspect of the game, with Balmung having an active RP scene. Mateus also has an RP scene and used to be a ‘spillover’ server when Balmung was a Congested World.
Raiding in EU is not significantly different between the two Data Centers, and if you speak English you’ll have a similar experience regardless of choice. I suppose if you speak French but not German, Chaos DC has a chance of being a smoother experience, if only by a little. If you speak German but not French, Light would be my recommendation for the same reason (but to reiterate, there are still other languages, including French, on Light DC).
If you speak little or no Japanese but are looking at JP Data Centers, I recommend you create a character on Elemental DC (ideally Tonberry or Kujata). This way you’ll be able to play with the English community through Duty Finder, Party Finder, and the World Visit System.
In an effort to spread players out evenly among servers, Square Enix periodically reviews the server populations. If a server has a relatively low population compared to other servers on that Data Center, it may be marked as a Preferred server. You can view the status and classification of the servers here.
The icon in the right-hand column will indicate whether a server is currently open to character creation. Character creation becomes unavailable when too many players are online at the same time. A Congested server will always be closed to character creation.
If the server you want is currently unavailable, try again at a less popular time for people to be playing, such as early in the morning or late at night. You can still use the character creation tool and save your character’s appearance. Simply return later, load the data, and create the character.
There are four classifications of servers (also called ‘worlds’):
Standard World – No special restrictions or bonuses.
Congested World – Relatitvely high population server. You cannot create or transfer characters here.
Preferred World – Relatively low population server. Bonus for newly created characters.
New World – Recently created server. Bonus for newly created characters.
The primary bonus you get for creating a character on a New or Preferred server is an experience buff called ‘Road to 70‘. This doubles your experience gain on all jobs below level 70. If you level a job past 70, the buff will still be active when you switch to your other jobs below 70. This buff lasts for 90 days or until the server loses its Preferred status, whichever is longer.
A second bonus you’ll get is 10 silver chocobo feathers, which can be used to pick up some decent equipment at various stages of your levelling journey.
Finally, once you reach level 30 in any class, you’ll receive 15 days of free play time. This is a one time gift for your service account, so you cannot receive it again by creating characters on other Preferred or New servers. If the server is classified as New, you’ll also receive a bonus 1 million gil at this time (limited to once per Data Center).
If you are ever unhappy with your server, but want to preserve your character’s progress, you can purchase a server transfer using the Home World Transfer Service on the Mog Station. This is found under the ‘Additional Services’ button.
There is a fee of $18.00 USD for using the transfer service. However, it’s free if you’re transferring to a New World, or from a Congested World to a Preferred World.
Some notable restrictions where you cannot use the transfer service:
– Your character is less than three days old.
– Your character has used the transfer service in the last three days.
– Your character was transferred to or created on a New World and is still under the 90 day restriction period.
– Your character was created on a Preferred World or transferred there from a Congested World and is still under the 90 day restriction period.
– Your character has a pending name change.
– Your character is currently on or was logged out from a World other than their Home World (using the World Visit System).
– Your character is still in a Free Company, owns player housing, or has reservations or an invitation for a Ceremony of Eternal Bonding
You can read the full list of conditions here.
All in all, you don’t need to stress too much about your specific home server, as long as you’re on the Data Center that makes sense for you based on your location and languages. Hopefully this eased some anxiety you had about messing up this early decision. Let me know if there’s anything else that needs to be cleared up, or if you have any additional advice about choosing an appropriate Data Center.