What if, after the ffxiv gil release of 4.0 and the supposed Ala Mhigo story arc instead of continuing past that the next series of updates (and perhaps even the next expansion) neither implicated the main character as Hero of the World-Changing Event nor made his/her actions necessary for the next addition to the “Hero of the World” story arc? Could we not have a -main- story arc, which every character must experience in order to proceed and which accompanies things like level cap and substantial item level increases, alongside any number of branching story paths that are largely inconsequential to the -main- or “canon” story arc but are nevertheless intriguing and worthwhile?
In terms of story and lore, I think the answer is an obvious yes. Of course we can place a marker at any point of the main scenario and implicate the main character in some important, interesting, and world-building series of missions that can aim to entirely avoid what may happen in the main scenario. Please be aware that I am not advocating a large dump of side quests as we know them in FFXIV when I explicitly mention the main scenario as a separate entity. What I am suggesting is something of the exact same quality – it could introduce new areas, jobs, dungeons, and materials – but that is not required by the next step of the “main scenario” by lore or by character progression.
The problem of character progression is what makes this a more interesting and difficult endeavor. If there were to be a branching, optional full expansion of the game – how could it be made interesting if my main job, say DRG, does not gain levels or a substantial increase in iLvl? I think there are solutions to this, but for some their introduction would be a notable departure from the current model. One of the easier and cleanest steps towards making the content progression-relevant would be to introduce BiS (or close to it) gear at the end of the story arc.