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My History with Gaming: Final Fantasy XI

September 19, 2010

With the impending launch of Final Fantasy XIV this week, I felt it would be a good time to look back and reflect on my time with its predecessor, Final Fantasy XI, for my second My History with Gaming entry.

Final Fantasy XI

January 2004. Despite having an inadequate computer, and a horrid dial-up connection I waltzed into a local Gamestop and picked up a copy of Final Fantasy XI for PC after hearing my friend Greg telling me how cool it was. After a lengthy install, I entered the world of Vana’diel as ‘Aqualin,’ a Tarutaru Black Mage of Windurst. My first hours in the game were filled with confusion, disorientation and wonderment. Over the next five years, I would eventually play Final Fantasy XI on every system it was released for and enjoyed almost all the expansions.

This was my introduction to Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), one of the gaming industry’s biggest acronyms. Without a doubt (currently), Final Fantasy XI has been one of the biggest games of my life. Mostly because I played it on and off for over 5 years. My total time logged into the game (of which I wasn’t always playing), ended up being just over one year. One year of my actual existence was spent playing this game. It is a year I wouldn’t want to trade for anything.

While playing I forged friendships with people I had never met from places I’d never been. I would eventually meet one of these people face-to-face. It is a very strange feeling to meet someone that you already know. It’s kind of cool, actually. The game was fun, if not annoying in some areas. What I really managed to obtain from my time spent on Final Fantasy XI was not only a lot of enjoyment, but also a sense of community.

I remember befriending one player named ‘Squishie.’ We met at a very early level, and soon we made friends with two other players and I then had a little group of people that I would hang out and level with that weren’t real life friends I already knew. I had a blast doing it. Eventually, the group fell apart. It was sad, but I had a lot of positive experiences during those times. Every so often, I would stop playing for a few months, and then eventually go back. Every time I returned though, Squishie would be on and see me in his Friend List and be certain to welcome me back once again. Even though we never really talked that much or even did things in-game together by that point, he still would greet me as a friend he had not seen in ages. These were the bonds I had formed with some people while playing this game.

Even when I left the comforts of home and went on my merry way to school at Full Sail, I found classmates who had played Final Fantasy XI. Even though World of Warcraft had become the juggernaut of MMOs by this point, Final Fantasy XI was fresh in minds, or still actively played amongst a few of my classmates. I even managed to convince my roommate, who had previously quit the game, to start again for a while. Through this, I found camaraderie in other people, not simply through having played the same game, but by having had experiences and stories to tell of our individual endeavors in the game.

However, Final Fantasy XI was not without out its faults. Whether it was waiting for parties, difficult battles, full wipes in Garlaige Citadel or whatever random challenge awaited you that day, there were days I just wanted to give up because somethings were just so excruciatingly difficult. However, these challenges made the game fulfilling and rewarding when said challenges were completed. To date, this remains the only game to actually induce physical tremors of joy in me from when I finally beat Maat after months of trying to surpass that last level limit (fellow players will know what I talking about). It was difficult, it was annoying and it was frustrating. The sensation of victory when I finally beat him was amazing. I dropped my controller because my hands were shaking so badly. It is easily among, if not THE, top moment of my gaming life.

In the end, I stopped playing as a Level 73 Black Mage. Just two levels shy of the level cap. It wasn’t to any fanfare or a decision I just reached one day. One day, I logged off and I just never returned. I’d been tempted as I had in the past to return, but each temptation reinforced the idea that this time I knew I’d never step into Vana’diel again. In a way, it was sad. Here was a game I had spent 5 years loving and playing this game. Even in the midterm, I tried my hand World of Warcraft for a good while. I also played City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online. I enjoyed those game, but none of them ever made me feel the way I did playing Final Fantasy XI.

The new Square-Enix MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV, launches this week. I’ve already posted my opinions about the game from my time playing the Open Beta Test, which closes today. I look forward to the launch this week. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy XIV the same way that I XI has impacted my life. After all, a lot has changed in the last 6 years. I’m now a working professional, I no longer live with my parents and I now have an awesome girlfriend who is more deserving my time and attention than a silly old game. Either way, I will look back fondly on my years with Final Fantasy XI, and look forward to whats to come with Final Fantasy XIV.

The Short and Sweet of It

The Game: Final Fantasy XI
Platform: PC / PS2 / Xbox 360
Why it was important: For 5 years, it was a major part of my life and in it I found enjoyment, community and friendships that I will remember fondly for a long time.

Eorzean Adventures, Part 2

September 12, 2010

So, fresh server, new city and a new lease on life for Aqualin. Game play wise, I’ve really come to enjoy the game once I figured out what the hell I was doing. Leveling up is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics where you have two separate levels, your physical level and your class rank. Your physical level determines your stats and resistances (which you assign yourself), while your class rank determines the skills and abilities you can use.

You can change classes by simply equipping a new weapon. Use a cane and be a Conjurer. Equip a spear, and bam you’re a Lancer. You can then assign what actions you can use from any class you have leveled. So if you’ve leveled Conjurer to Rank 4, you have Cure. Then so long as you have the requisite Action Points, you can equip cure on any class. I really like this method better than sub-jobs in Final Fantasy XI. It allows you to be able to customize your character greatly, without potentially having the ‘you need to have this sub-job to make your main job effective’ issue. Also, I’m not yet sure how armor between classes really works at the moment, but I’m not at a high enough level for it to matter.

The crafting and gathering in this game are now also part of the class system. So you earn physical level exp by doing stuff in these classes, in addition to the class skill points you earn. Rather than simply being a simple command or synthesis window, each one has a small mini-game to play in order to get your end result item. This takes more time, but makes the process more involved and interesting. However, currently the only method of selling goods is to either sell them to NPCs, or set them up in a Bazaar on your character or your Retainer in a city market. There is no Auction House style system. This is rather annoying because it makes finding the things you need or want rather difficult by the fact you have to search any character individually rather than being able to search for them.

Another gripe comes from the game’s performance. The mouse for the game is a software mouse, and is tied into the game’s frame rate. So, if you’re like me and the game is running at 10-15 frames, the mouse is really bad. I use a wireless Xbox 360 controller to play, but the interface still has lag issues. It can get really frustrating at times.

Combat is nice and quick paced. There’s no auto-attack, which if you’re used to melee classes in other games can be a major shift as you need to be constantly using your abilities to attack. As a player of mages, this isn’t too big of a shift for me so I find no problems to complain about yet. Overall, I enjoy the combat thus far.

Questing is interesting. You have storyline quests which as far as I can tell open up at certain levels. If you’re a World of Warcraft player and looking for the big exclamation point indicating a quest, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. The game others ‘Levelquests’ which are short missions of ‘kill x of y monster,’ ‘collect items,’ etc. They come in various categories for combat, gathering or crafting. There are only a limited number of levequests available to you, and you can only get new ones 48 hours after you first collected the quest. The limitation is annoying, but overall I find levequests highly enjoyable.

All-in-all, I’ve enjoyed my time in Eorzea quite a bit. I’m going to get my Collector’s Edition, and play the game despite the fact my current machine is not quite up to snuff. It has its issues and I really feel like the game isn’t exactly ready for final launch, but what MMORPG isn’t these days. It has its issues and could use a few more months to simmer and settle I think. I’ve stuck through with worse stuff in other MMOs and if my time in Vana’diel is any indication, I’m really going to enjoy my time in Eorzea.

Eorzean Adventures, Part 1

September 12, 2010

As most who know would recall, many years ago I started playing Final Fantasy XI. A game, that despite many annoyances, I enjoyed playing on-and-off for several years. Eventually, at the near-cap level of being a Level 73 Black Mage, I left Vana’diel one last time that just sort of sputtered out. It was uneventful, but sad none-the-less.

If you follow the MMORPG scene at all you should know that Final Fantasy XIV is the new MMORPG from SquareEnix and it launches at the end of September, or perhaps a short bit earlier if you’re like me and ordered the Collector’s Edition version of the game. I, however, have been playing the Open Beta of FF XIV for the past week or so. I’ve come now to share with you my adventures and thoughts thus far. I’m going to do this in parts, so bare with me for the time being. Also, this post carries some hefty-sized images, so you’ve been forewarned.

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