Did anyone or does anyone still play this game? I have fond memories of playing it on its US launch (apparently this game is 15 years old???) but didn’t end up sticking with it for more than a year. That said, most of my guildies in FFXIV played it for years, including one who is still subbed to this day.
Playing FFXI today, in the year of our lord two thousand and seventeen, two things jump out at me. First is a point I made in the FFXIV thread: “old-school” MMOs have this amazing ability to provoke a ‘sense of wonder’. Even reading walkthroughs on FFXIclopedia to figure out what to do for the next mission, I get this unwavering sense of awe at the enormousness of the possibility space in this game. The virtual world in this game is positively littered with ambiguously named interaction points, many of which are simply ‘???’, that all hint at some greater inscrutable design. Obviously, the game had 15 years of development to get to this saturation point, but I also think the quest design encouraged it on some level. There are no objective markers. The quest log consists of two sentences at best, and doesn’t update ever. NPCs with quest relevant information can be halfway across the world and are not distinguishable at all. Hell, there’s not a single NPC with a glowing ! on their heads in the entire game. Figuring out what to do based on sly, obscure hints and a healthy dose of online searching is an undertaking in itself. In a world in which FFXI is the only thing I had to worry about, this would be amazing. Alas, I am an adult and as such, very time-poor.
Which brings me to my second point: they’ve actually streamlined a lot of the tedious elements of the game! The two major timesinks of the game, leveling and travel, have both been virtually eliminated, leaving behind the sandbox MMO wonder I’ve been looking for (mostly). Leveling in this game used to be an old-school grind—earning just one level was considered an accomplishment for a day’s worth of work and don’t even get me started on making a relic weapon. Now, leveling with Trusts is a breeze. I started a new character and hit level 99 in a matter of a few days, including limit breaks. I hear it’s even faster with a party, a couple of hours even. The other unnecessary timesink was the travel, which used to be agonizing. In vanilla FFXI, there were only 3 teleport points in the entire game. An airship allowed you to go between the major cities, but it only ran once every 24 minutes and it took 24 real minutes to get to its destination. There were entire webpages dedicated to finding faster ways to get around. Now, there are no less than 3 teleportation networks which cover the game world to varying degrees of saturation. It really makes those missions where you have to talk to an NPC in one city, deliver something in another city, and then come back again a lot less frustrating.
There are other areas that the game has improved that I won’t get in to. I came back last year during a free weekend to check out the Rhapsodies of Vana’diel missions, ostensibly the “send-off” for the game, but apparently there’s still new content being developed every month? And now I’ve been playing on and off to see some of the stuff I missed. To wit, Wings of the Goddess has some of the best writing in the game and it really ties into the original story in some fascinating ways that I struggle to believe it wasn’t planned like this from the start.
And finally, it behooves me to point out that there’s a free login campaign going on right now for another week, until May 29. These usually happen about once or twice a year so it’s worth checking out!