Love it or hate it, Final Fantasy Eleven has been out and going strong for eight years (six years for US players). The first MMO incarnation of the Final Fantasy series, Eleven had some major expectations to live up to amongst its legions of followers. Originally launching with only a limited number of classes, it has now expanded to a whopping twenty class system. The game has had its ups and downs like all MMOs of its time, however FFXI has always remained steadfast in its niche. With Square Enix now on the cusp of their beta stages we must ask ourselves, why a part two?
People have always joked that the series title was a play on itself, "How can they say it's a FINAL fantasy if there are so many of them?" Fans of the series will always argue, "Because each game is its own story!" This however, is becoming more of a convoluted statement with each game released lately. With endless spinoffs to popular games in the series now sprouting out of every direction, fans are hard-pressed to stick to their guns. The question now resounds, "Why not just make this an expansion to FFXI instead of calling it FFXIV if you are already using the same world?" Players have been debating this endlessly since fourteen was announced, but should we see this as a big deal? If we already saw games like FFX-2 become popular as spin-off, stand alone titles, then why should giving this game a new number be any different? It's all in the lore and game-play for me; if Square Enix can convince me that this is indeed a new world to explore, then I'm sold.
Just for an example, let's compare these two games to the Jurassic Park movies (one and two only however, we just don't talk about number three). The first movie is what caused people to become enthralled with the idea, it allowed audiences to become exposed to this new fantastical world. Viewers met interesting and quirky characters, and they developed their initial opinions on the movie itself. Then The Lost World came out, this movie was in the same universe but with key differences. First and possibly most noticeably, there was no Sam Jackson in the second movie! The other two main characters from the movie, Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ellie Sattler, were also missing in action. They did however keep the ever-awkward Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, and we also got to see Vince Vaughn as Nick Van Owen (we also got Julianne Moore but we won't talk about that either).
Here is where the debate comes into play. In almost every case, you will have people in your life that either love the first movie and dislike the second, and vice-versa. There will also always be people that have no preference and enjoy both. In the case of the Final Fantasy Online games, some players will stay die hard to Eleven even if they try Fourteen, and others will be the direct opposite. Some players will even keep both subscriptions active because they see the pull from both ends.
The games' developers have made it sound like they are working on tools to make the transition for FFXI players as painless as possible. According to a recent developer Q and A session in Dengeki magazine1, players will not be too overwhelmed with the changes that have been made to the game thus far. While they have tried to make improvements to the systems by changing some things around, such as their supposed switch to a hotbar system instead of their old macro system, they wanted to remain true to the soul of their game play. We are hearing whispers of subjobs still being in the game, but the validity of these statements remains to be seen. The new battle system that plays an intricate part of the game has been met with mainly positive reviews from all that have seen it. We have heard that it has managed to retain its sense of complexity, while making the flow of battle seem more fluid and natural.
All of us have heard the hype and by now, have read all that we can from what's been released from the developers. I wanted to get some player perspectives however, so I went to some friends for their opinions on the matter and asked them, "How do you think FFXIV will affect FFXI?" I received mixed answers from everyone; some thought that FFXIV was going to cater to more of a western audience being that it was rumored to be more solo friendly. Others stated that they felt FFXI was going to retain their eastern market being that they are more inclined to enjoy retro gaming. This to me brought up an interesting point; will players react to this new, more polished version of Final Fantasy Online in the same way that the community reacted to the 3D version of Ultima Online? Personally, I don't think that updating the graphics and the code are going to negatively effect this game in the slightest. Some players however feel differently; once a certain type of player has gotten used to their game and how they like things, change can be a difficult and sometimes impossible obstacle for them to tackle.