The true heart of a role-playing game lies within the Final Fantasy franchise. This is true for many years of successful additions and expansion, sequels and prequels of the ever popular line of role-playing games created by Japanese video game and publishing company Square Enix. I’m not going to bore you with the details of who they are, if you are here in mmo-land, then you should know what Final Fantasy stands for, if not, then you have some homework to do.
Let’s go back to the beginning; I was always a gamer - played pong, Atari, Coleco etc. I owned every system up to the new PS3 and XBOX 360. Yes, even a Sega Dreamcast and its predecessor the Sega CD. I’m crazy like that. Along the lines I got heavy into the early online shooter games being Quake, Half-life Team Fortress and also the Socom games for PS2. RPG’s were always my guilty pleasure, something I would lie about when I logged off from my clan battles saying, “I’m taking a break.” Those “breaks” usually ended up with a few hour of me tooling around with a group of people with small bodies, big heads, huge swords and big hearts. “We need to save the world from ____”…you get the idea.
I ended up getting the new Final Fantasy XI Online from a purchase of the playstations hard drive for the ps2. Not a bad buy for a hundred bucks. After shooting my 100th guy in the face with a M14, I logged and really wanted something new. After HOURS of updating I was finally ready to play my brand spanking new copy of FFXI. I had no clue what I was doing, so I chose the biggest, meanest lead character I could find. Didn’t know what a Galka or a Mithra was and couldn’t figure out how come there is no male Mithras and female Galkas? Meet Madcow.
I was simply in awe of seeing all the people running around this place called San d’Oria. After 30 minutes of bowing and waving to no one I finally figured out the controls. I stumbled into an incredibly huge and expansive world, brimming with personality and possibilities. After dying at the hands of several rascally rabbits I decided to do some homework. I discovered not only was the world itself to be vaster than I expected, but the depth of the storylines, quests and missions began to intrigue me.
I quickly made some friends and ended up getting recruited by some high level linkshell named Chaostheory.
Now Chaostheory or CT were pretty hardcore as hardcore can be back then. They were all level 70+, which back then was a huge accomplishment, they have since then with patches and new content changed the amount of experience points needed and the rate to something I dare say, “easier.” I don’t want to pull any punches, there is nothing easy about FFXI. Joining them was a stroke of luck that made the whole new player experience so much easier for me. Just having the shell gave me some notoriety amongst my peers. I still thank them for that til this day. They are all on another game now, playing as hardcore as ever.
I will say it again, “There is nothing easy about Final Fantasy Online.” Yet its fun and engaging, filled with some of the most colorful characters and standout personalities: you. FFXI is not your typical mmorpg of the new age; it is based heavily on group driven content. “Oh, my God, did he say group? You mean I have to actually…talk to people…play nice…function as a party to get stuff? Do I actually have to … help people?” Yes, I did, and I can tell you that it works exactly like the past installments and just like other more modern games :::cough:::Rift:::cough::: that I won’t mention. There is no such thing as forced grouping, its just term that people created to hide their antisocial play style. The difference is there are really no instances unless it’s an event like Dynamis or a BCNM where you and a group fight high level mobs for “great justice!”
Ok, maybe I'm not all that special.
This made FFXI sort of a sandbox to me, back then when I had no idea what the terms sandbox or theme park meant in video game terms, I was just enjoying myself playing this great new game. I played it for 3 years on and off, with off being in the form of a woman and on being in the form of me lying about playing the game. Eventually the LS (linkshell) I was in left for another game…can I say it without a brick being thrown at my head? World of Warcraft.
I soon followed but not before trying my hand at starting my own LS and had a great time doing it. I met so many great people on Kajuta and wish I could get in touch with them to tell them that after all these years I am finally back to playing FFXI and try to coax them back like Raystantz did.
I played through the Rift beta from 2 to open. I had cool looking blue gear, fastest mount, tons of money, a fun guild, my crafting was all maxed out yet I grew extremely bored and ended up logging off. I decided to check out what ole’ MMORPG.com had to say and on the front page I see -> this thread, I was intrigued. I always thought about going back, especially after FFXIV turned out to be such a flop. I checked steam and pulled the trigger on the complete edition for $5. It’s still on sale and I would recommend it to everyone as a must own. Why? Because when all the glitz and glamour wears out, at the end of the day the new age of mmorpg’s are incredibly shallow.
OK, I have to admit, there is parts of FFXI that sucked back then. Waiting hours upon hours for a mob only to be grabbed by another rival group or waited hours for a group just to gain experience. Sometimes you needed over 18 people to get anything done at higher level and there is the grind. The graphics are dated as hell and the animations can be stiff as a wet sheet in sub zero temp. Square has made some recent changes that I can tell have been influenced by current trends in mmorpg mechanics. For example: they have quests to kill x mobs for y rewards, they are repeatable and give the player a goal instead of just grinding. I did the same thing in Rift except it was various different NPC’s instead of a floating book. They have also done some balancing on the mobs and you can solo if you're really, really into soloing, but all the harder stuff you need groups for.
Grouping is not a bad word.
The trick to group based games like FFXI is to actually use people skills to not just form groups, but form relationships. If I can look past the feeling of “hey, today I did not get much accomplished, but I had fun” is when I look past the downside and think about why I really play mmorpg’s. Being part of a well thought out game that is continually being supported by its devs and can be part of a growing community.
This new community that we are forming on Titan server is called Reformation. These are some new players and some old vets all coming together to be reminded of what a real rpg felt like, not like a slot machine, one that will not make us feel like pavlovs dogs waiting for our next reward.
Being part of the world and actually having an impact on it is what the worldwide mmorpg community has been campaigning for. Unfortunately, you can’t terraform here and it may be a while before you get to fight the big boss for phat lootz and ride around the main city on a sparkle pony to show them off. You might actually have to do a little reading of quest dialog, watch a cutscene or two, maybe visit the wiki for some information on the quest your on. You might actually have to do a little work for once.
Scared yet? I didn’t think so.
It’s been years of inactivity and Madcow is no more. With a new race, a new group, a new job and a new outlook on gaming in general it’s time for a fresh start. I feel as if I have come full circle and finally know what I want. Maybe it took years of gaining my own experience points to appreciate something that I formerly took for granted. But isn't that what we always do?
I play under my MMORPG.com name and send me a /tell anytime. Also don’t forget to put a shout out in the thread. I would also like to put a shout out to all the players that are joining us for this crazy run down the rabbit hole from other forums. If you are still with me and didn’t hit the tl;dr button then I'll see you in the in the Valkrum Dunes where we are fighting crabs and gobs FOR GREAT JUSTICE!