More often than not, I play almost every notable MMORPG at launch. My routine for trying out new online adventures is now so formulaic I've got it down to a few simple beats: character creation, enjoyment, and finally, quit at level 30.
And for the most part I put this down to modern games just not being as good as "they used to be". I'll stand on my soapbox, wax lyrical about EverQuest, and presumably mention Ultima Online despite never playing it in its heyday; but why would that get in the way of rose tinted rant filled with party balloons blown up with nostalgia and streamers that say "come back to '99!".
But this never stops me falling hook, line, and sinker for the next MMORPG to come along, and as it happens, my latest online beau has come along not once, but twice. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, aside from winning the award for the world's most convoluted title, is actually a decent, solid, and fun excursion into goblin slaughter. Sure, there aren't many punts at originality, but it makes up for it with copious amounts of content.
So while Eorzea is a perfectly fine place to virtually reside, I fully expected to resign my post as head of moogle activity and head for pastures new by the end of month. I rarely bother many "renew subscription" pages, and I expected this trend to continue well past my, upcoming *cough*, 23rd birthday.
I suppose nobody needs a billboard to spell out where this is going, but what the hell: FINAL FANTASY XIV HAS KEPT ME!!!!11!!
For the first time in a very long time, I've actually enjoyed a MMORPG with another person. For a genre that has the word multiplayer in the title, it seems ironic that myself, and many others, play these games without uttering a single word. It's a lonely experience, but one made infinitely easy to approach with modern design and the, fairly, recent introductions of fates, rifts, and public quests.
While those going Han Solo wouldn't have survived in older adventures, developers have made their worlds easy to surmount with a lone blade, magic bolt, or arrow. And this is where I have resided for the past few years; the weird guy at the party, circling the drinks, trying the dips, and staying just a little too long: apply that as a metaphor for my enthusiastic appearances in public quests.
And this isn't to say that I'm some sort of psychopathic loner - I have tons of friends, honest - it's just that rarely do my real friends have a PC to run the latest MMO wares. The type of people I associate with own those console things, or simply don't play games at all, parping on about this thing called "the outdoors" I can't see the appeal.
So when Final Fantasy XIV finally shuffled out of the naughty corner, fixed its uniform, and presented itself for MMORPG registration once again, it brought with it the same tricks as its predecessor - PC and PS3 can play on the same servers.
To cut a long story short, I've introduced a friend of mine to my world of virtual genocide, complete with, as Robert Lashley put it, salmon coloured robes, and a rather fetching moogle hat. While I expected some sort of Final Fantasy-themed public humiliation, or just a simple "unfriend" via Facebook, we've been adventuring through Eorzea night after night, opening up a facet to this genre I haven't experienced in a long, long time.
It seems like an odd proclamation that in a genre that holds the word "multiplayer" I have finally found out that you can play with others; but for many years I have lacked that human connection. These games are humdrum grind for the most part, as FFXIV undoubtedly is, but done with a friendship in the background, the activities become the catalyst for socialising, and even driving each other on through the upper echelons of the game.
At times, it seems as though modern MMORPGs have forgotten that the key to the experience is playing with others, and some have gone too far to accommodate loners like myself. I adore the free-for-all nature of public quests, and I also love the ease of group-finders, but somewhere down the line you forget that friends, acquaintances, and sharing these adventures with others, that speak more than "Hi" and "Bye", is what makes it all so worthwhile.
I remember the bad old days of looking for groups in deserted dungeons, and trying to solo through unfriendly zones. I'm not saying we should head back to the times when lone players couldn't catch a break, but developers need to push people like myself to say "hello" once in awhile, and forge relationships in-game.
Do you play with friends? Are you perpetually alone like myself? Does modern design lend itself to selfish players with no need to socialize and forge friendships? As ever, comments in the section below:
Adam Tingle / Adam Tingle is a columnist and general man-about-town for MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and FPSGuru.com. He enjoys toilet humor, EverQuest-themed nostalgia, and pointing out he's British: bother him at @adamtingle
Read more of Touchy Subjects: