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And So It Begins

Ryahl Smith Posted:
Columns The Eorzea Prospect 0

Hi, I’m Ryahl.  I am one of the creators of the Secret World guide site, TSWGuides.com as well as the new Final Fantasy XIV site, Eorzea Reborn.  I am a long-time MMO fan, dating back to vanilla EQ1.  Over the years, I have played most of the major western MMO’s and a few of the eastern MMO’s.  I am primarily a group oriented player who prefers time in dungeons and raids.  Even so, I’m far from a hardcore or bleeding edge player.  I am the type of player who generally knocks off all or most of a game’s content just prior to the next big expansion pack.

My Goals for Eorzea Reborn

I have to admit, I am quite excited about the opportunity to pen a regular column for MMORPG.com.  With Eorzea Reborn, I hope to provide a digest of what is happening with Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn. 

FFXIV is a bit of an oddity in the MMO universe.  On the one hand, it’s an attempt to relaunch and rebrand an MMO – something rarely attempted in the industry.  On the other hand, we are in many ways looking at an entirely new iteration of Final Fantasy.  It might be more apt to refer to this as FFXIV-2 than to simply think of A Realm Reborn as the second launch of FFXIV.  This makes writing about FFXIV a bit complex.  It is simultaneously the story of an existing game’s evolution and a new game’s development.

A Realm Reborn So Far

I am a fan of the Final Fantasy IP, but primarily a casual fan.  I have not played all (or even most) of the FF games.  I am, though, familiar with early Final Fantasy (FFIV, or FFII in the US) as well as some of the other single-player entries in the product-line.  I think there are a number of core elements to Final Fantasy which lend themselves naturally to the MMO genre.  I have a good bit of time logged in Final Fantasy XI and many of my favorite MMO features can be found in FFXI.  I also am one of many who had high hopes for FFXIV – hopes dashed by a subpar product with a subpar launch. 

Final Fantasy XIV was, to be generous, a train wreck.  It reviewed at a 5.1 here at MMORPG.com where it was panned both for its gameplay and polish.  Despite the rather innovative ideas in the armory system and the treatment of crafting and gathering classes as full blown professions, FFXIV failed in every meaningful way.  It featured an interface worse than the controller designed interface of its predecessor.  Game play was oriented around a poorly conceived and implemented levequest system.  The world itself was bland, with many elements created via simple cut and paste.  Most of us who played the game at launch expected to see FFXIV land on the dustbin with other failed MMO launches.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to that dustbin.  Square Enix installed a new leadership team headed up by Naoki Yoshida, extended the no subscription trial period, and posted an apology from the departing producer Hiromichi Tanaka.  This new team set about on a massive rebuilding process. 

By the time Square Enix turned on monthly subscriptions in January 2012, Yoshida’s team had spent roughly fifteen months of revenue free build time and released 20 major updates.   Yoshi-P, as he is fondly referred to within the FFXIV community, also dramatically changed the nature of fan-developer interaction, publishing nearly 40 “Letter from the Producer” posts over his tenure.  There are few MMO developers as transparent, or candid, with what they are trying to accomplish.

Ultimately, Yoshida determined that there was only so much fixing possible given design limitations of the initial FFXIV system.  Square Enix ultimately approved scrapping the entire game in favor of an entirely new client, with entirely new game systems.  This decision led to the FFXIV team co-developing the legacy FFXIV client and the new A Realm Reborn Client.  Final Fantasy XIV ended its existence in November, 2012 with an epic battle involving the release of the primal Bahamut.  While the legacy servers are still online, they are only available for those who were subscribed to the game at the end of the era.  I can be found there, from time to time.  If you happen upon a lowly pugilist named Ryahl on the Masamune server, that’s me!

The real news has been the launch of the A Realm Reborn alpha.  Initially released only in Japan, the alpha went global in November.  In fact, we are now on the fourth wave of global alpha invites, with yours truly still on the sidelines.  Consistent with the level of discourse throughout the fixing period, Yoshi-P’s team has been quite open in sharing information about the current alpha status as well as plans for the future.

Looking Ahead

The alpha testing process has, to date, focused on stress testing the system.  This has necessitated a significant restriction on starting options.  So far, there have only been two playable races (Hyur males and Miqo’te females), three adventuring classes (archers, conjurers and lancers) and two non-adventuring classes (carpenters and botanists).  Zone access has been restricted to Gridania and the Black Shroud forest.  We have had five alpha videos released:

Personally, I’m impressed by what we have seen so far.  The new UI looks like what I’d expect from a PC based MMO.  Character creation balances nicely between customization and functionality.  The world (at least the Black Shroud) is more open and vibrant, in many cases creatures seem to blend naturally into their habitats.  Further, there is an interesting “living” feeling to the world.  It’s a high-fantasy, Final Fantasy, world – yet it seems like a plausible world (not a zone box you play a game in).  I detested the Black Shroud in Final Fantasy XIV; I think I might enjoy spending a lot of time there in A Realm Reborn.

At present, the alpha is expected to end in mid-December, although the alpha client with its limited playability may remain available for some time afterwards.  We don’t have a definitive date on the beta at this point, under the original road-map we would already be transitioning through the beta period.  At present, I would look towards a beta in early 2013 with a potential open-testing period by spring.

While a number of A Realm Reborn features were already released in the Final Fantasy XIV client, there are a number of things we know little about as yet.  Dynamic content via the FATE system, party maneuvers via Limit Break, advanced jobs like the Summoner and combat-usable chocobo mounts are among a number of features teased for A Realm Reborn.  As development continues, keep checking in on the Eorzea Reborn column to see a recap and digest of everything we know about this exciting second launch for Final Fantasy XIV.

Have you been watching the re-development of FFXIV? If so, are you intrigued to try it? Let us know in the comments!


Ryahl Smith

Ryahl / Ryahl is a columnist for MMORPG.Com. He is also the host and primary author for Eorzea Reborn and TSWGuides. He has been playing MMO’s since 1999 and remembers when the holy trinity didn’t involve DPS. You can follow him on Twitter @EorzeaReborn or just argue with him in comments anywhere he posts.