As a newcomer to the Final Fantasy series, I know as well as anyone that Final Fantasy XI can seem a little bit intimidating at first. Most avid MMORPGers are used to some sort of learning curve, maybe a tutorial to teach them about all of the different features that they'll be using throughout the game. It could be a small storyline-based mission, similar to that of Star Wars Galaxies, or a more straight-forward tutorial, that teaches you exactly how to do what you're going to be doing. Most MMO players are also used to quest markers appearing above NPC heads to tell us who exactly is needing what, and where to go. So, as you can imagine, dropping into a realm with no tutorial and no marked quests can be a little intimidating and even frightening for the regular MMOer.
FFXI, unlike most games of any genre, will require you to read through it's instruction manual. Whether you've bought it for the Xbox 360, the Playstation 2, or for your home computer, the manual will always be your helper. We're all used to using the WASD keys to move, and our mouse to click and select things, but there are a lot of things you'll need to learn, especially if you have no mouse, and you have no keyboard. Eventually the controls for your Console system will become second nature, but with so much to do in FFXI you'll need to learn what each button does for you.
Quests are one thing that can be quite intimidating to the average MMORPG player. Most mainstream MMORPGs contain quest markers above NPC heads to alert you that there is a quest available. These markers aren't very good when it comes to storyline, or keeping with the game's sense of immersion, but they're often time a godsend. FFXI, in its own contrary way, offers something different. They've made quests something more of an accomplishment. The developers at Square Enix have made quests more than just tedious and repetitive 'gather this' or 'kill that' missions. Each quest is an accomplishment toward your faction, or your own personal goals. Most quests offer some sort of entitlement, whether access to some area, or a special item to put in your Moghouse. Most quests don't even offer experience points to help you level up your character. There are Gil (Currency) and item rewards quite often, and are frequently the best source for money early on.
The game's class system is also something that newcomers might have difficulty with. You'll no longer have to worry about being left out of partying in FFXI. You'll never have to worry about what class you should be able to do in order to compliment your friend's choice. In FFXI, you have the ability to change your class at whim by simply going to your Moghouse. They're available readily in most towns and cities. If there's one party available, and they need a WHM (White Mage - Healer), you can easily change over to your WHM job and fulfill your duties as needed. And there are always sub-jobs, which should never be ignored.
One of the first major landmarks of achievement in FFXI is your sub-job. It's an exciting moment when you walk into your Moghouse, scroll through your unlocked jobs and pick a second job to play with, creating your own gaming style. You could go for an extreme tanking combination as a PAL/NIN (Paladin as a main job, and Ninja as a sub-job.), or go for a great magic based class by going BLM/RDM (Black Mage as a main job, and Red Mage as a sub-job). Every job has its own special task, and each task is just as important as the next.
The main terms you'll see to describe what a party needs will be: 'Healer', 'DD (Damage Dealer)', and Tank. This is the same with most MMORPGs; every party needs a good tank, a good healer, and some good 'DD' - damage dealers, that is. With the sub-job feature, you'll be able to mix and match different classes that excel in one area or another, that can make you the best [whatever you are] you can be. As a Healer, you'll need to be able to watch the party member health and mana bars carefully to make sure you deal out priority spells, while making sure you don't steal aggro from the tank. As a Damage Dealer, your job is to take down the mob as quickly as possible, and depending on what type of Damage Dealer you have chosen, you might be tasked with pulling the mobs to your group. As a tank, you'll need to use special skills and armor to keep your party members safe from damage and weakening spells cast by your enemies.
Mobs in Final Fantasy XI are quite numerous, both in amount and diversity. Where you start the game, will determine what type of mobs you'll interact with:
I chose Windurst, a town of Tarutaru, a species that lives in a vast river filled forest, bunkered in by mountains, hills, and walls. The Tarutaru themselves are powerful mages and are home to the War Warlocks. Starting out in Windurst you'll be able to explore your first lands, filled with Mandragora, wild insects, goblins, and Yagudo (An anthropomorphic avian race). You'll start out fighting the Mandragora and insects, and eventually move on to the goblins and Yagudo, as you get stronger. You'll be able to buy your armor and weaponry from the Windurst docks, and access your Moghouse from any section of Windurst.
Your experience in Vana'diel will differ from mine, and everyone else, but it's sure to be a fun experience. You'll meet many friends, and get to play through a wide variety of jobs and crafting skills, and you'll get to explore a fresh, beautiful world.