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A linkshell is a recurring means of communication in the Final Fantasy series. Appearing exclusively in massively multiplayer online games, it primarily serves to explain the ability of players to chat over great distances. Any message sent through a linkshell is received by everyone equipped with a matching item. Non-player characters also employ linkshells within the context of their stories.
Linkshells produce linkpearls that enable basic communication. They can also produce sacks of linkpearls that allow trusted recipients to independently distribute access to others.
Linkshells are central to the adventuring communities of Vana'diel. Players use the command "/linkshell" or press "CTRL + L" to transmit chat messages to their peers. Though only one linkshell can be active at a time, adventurers may carry as many shells, pearls, and sacks as there are spaces in their inventories.
The linkshell itself is a unique item, given a custom name by its creator, obtained from various vendors for 8,000 Gil. The purchaser chooses a color scheme for the pearl icon that appears beside the names of players using the shell. This is seen by everyone unless it is overwritten by a higher priority icon, like the bazaar indicator, or the viewer disables the names that normally appear above characters.
The shell holder controls the distribution of pearlsacks. Those with a shell or sack can write a welcoming message that is displayed to all members when they join the pearl's channel. If the owner of a linkshell disposes of it, all the associated pearls break and no longer function. If the holding character is instead deleted, however, the linkshell will remain active but no new pearl sacks can be obtained. This limitation discourages players from sticking around. Given that linkshells are relatively cheap, a new one will typically be purchased and redistributed immediately.
Linkpearls are little more than an under-explained gameplay feature, and the manners by which they receive and convey speech are unclear. An NPC can be met in Jeuno who speaks aloud over a linkpearl as though it were a cell phone, but adventurers' words are not heard by those around them. Their range is seemingly infinite, spanning even across time and whole dimensions. Members in the main areas of Vana'diel can hear clearly from members in the past areas and in other dimensions like Dynamis and Abyssea.
There is also an item called a Signal Pearl or Tactics Pearl, worn on the ear. This allows players to call their Adventuring Fellow to them, allowing the two to act as a sort of duo party. The player must complete the Mirror, Mirror quest in order to gain the ability to call an adventuring fellow.
Many non-player participants in the Crystal War are depicted using linkshells. They sometimes hold their hands to their ears in a manner that suggests that pearls are actually inserted into the ear canal.
The quest Gifts of the Griffon involves the player delivering linkpearls disguised as good luck charms to various members of the military, so that the Young Griffons can find out details about the war.
Linkshells also make an appearance in the world of Hydaelyn. Adventurers are capable of giving linkpearls from a linkshell to other people, much like the system in place in Final Fantasy XI. Rather than a simple hue, Hydaelyn linkshells are given a shield-shaped crest, the pattern and colors of which are chosen at creation. This pattern can be changed at any time.
XIV players can see messages from all linkshells in their possession, but they are limited to 8 linkshells per character. The chat is distinguished by a number attributed to each linkshell in the player's list, and text colors can be adjusted for even faster distinction between them. The player can only have one linkshell active at a time to type into, but can switch freely between them with a quick text command.
Non-player characters are also capable of giving linkpearls to a player, appropriately named "NPC Linkpearls". These enable players to receive quest advice in the field. They do not take up spots in the player's linkshell list, and one player can have dozens for NPC Linkpearls in his possession.
A few rare glitches have occurred with linkshells in Version 1.0, probably due to the flaws of the game's current client and its interactions with servers.
- Leadership status might change from one player to another, or be lost entirely. As the GMs are not meant to intervene in linkshell matters, having leadership transferred back may appear as an attempt at mutiny via GM. Having it reinstated is not as tricky, however.
- After some patches, certain players' linkshell text appeared grey without names or numbers. The glitch could be fixed by logging out and back in.
Linkpearls are little more than an under-explained gameplay feature, and the means by which they receive and convey speech are unclear. An NPC can be met in Jeuno who speaks aloud over a linkpearl as though it were a cell phone. Likewise, in Final Fantasy XIV, NPCs such as Raubahn Aldynn and Minfilia are clearly seen talking out loud on their linkpearls. Contrary to this, adventurers' who speak over linkshells are not heard aloud by those in their vicinity. It is possible that linkpearls were meant to be prosthetic telepathy, but too little is known of their functionality to support this.
Their range is seemingly infinite, spanning even across time and whole dimensions. Members in the main areas of Vana'diel can hear clearly from members in the Wings of the Goddess areas and in other dimensions like Dynamis, Abyssea, Al'Taieu, and Promyvion. Likewise, linkshells can function all across Eorzea's wilderness, although in some story cutscenes it is shown that its signals can be disrupted in some exceptional circumstances (e.g. during Bahamut's rampage as the Calmity unfolded).