The Next Fantasy

My history with the massively multiplayer genre doesn't go as far back as that Neverwinter Nights thing AOL put out back in 1991, or even as far as the EverQuest addiction that still plagues a couple hundred thousand people. Still, my background with these types of games is storied. I guess you could say that my gateway drug wasn't a game at all, but instead an anime called .hack//SIGN that ran for a while on Cartoon Network. From there I moved on to the games based on the series -- starting with .hack//INFECTION -- and found myself enamored with the entire concept. I tried to dive into EverQuest from there, but my crummy computer at the time just wasn't up to snuff for such a graphically intensive game.

Unable to reach into these persistent online worlds, I sated myself with Diablo II instead while also frequenting the forums of the Ziff Davis website that pre-dated 1UP (Gamers.com). Folks there were on about this Korean MMO that was in closed beta at the time, and I kept checking in to see what they had to rave about almost every day. The game finally hit open beta, but I was on dial-up internet. I couldn't download a 700 megabyte (!!) game client without clogging the phone lines for something like two or three days. When launch time rolled around, a friend of mine ventured to his aunt and uncle's house with a blank disk, and a few hours later I signed into my first massively multiplayer game: Ragnarok Online.

Ragnarok Online was something of an oddity for its time. Before it, games like EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot required players to enter into large parties and grind endlessly on monster after monster to level up. It was an arbitrary way to gain experience, but the one thing "forced grouping" instilled into games as a concept was a real and true sense of community. Ragnarok didn't have any of the forced grouping stuff, but it retained a healthy and friendly atmosphere. The genre was still in its infancy, a real niche, and Ragnarok Online wasn't exactly well known at the time. A niche of a niche I suppose you could say. The masses weren't flocking to Rune-Midgard, and so things remained civil. Even with the implementation of guild wars down the road into release, there wasn't too much butt-hurtedness going on between people. Things were good, and it was easy to make a lot of friends.

I abandoned Ragnarok Online in 2004 with the PlayStation 2 release of Final Fantasy XI. I know a lot of you just rolled your eyes and groaned, but hey, I'm going to shock you and say that it remains my favorite MMO of all time. Why? Final Fantasy XI was difficult. Many of the high level objectives were downright punishing at times, and much like EverQuest you were forced into a group of around six people to progress to any point past level 15 or so. This probably doesn't sound like fun, but it really was. Going up against a harrowing task with some friends and coming away from it victorious was so rewarding, and the game's focus on group dynamics made the forced grouping aspect worth it. The best part was, as I mentioned earlier for this kind of game, the amazing community. Final Fantasy XI is still filled with interesting, knowledgeable, and kind people. The tough learning curve drives out the trolls pretty quickly, and those that stick around are very light on the condescension. No one wants to be shunned by a server's community in a game completely centered around it.

And that's the problem I've developed with the World of Warcraft generation of massively multiplayer games. They're extremely casual friendly, which is awesome, but at the same time players are driven to accomplish only for themselves. The majority of veterans drive themselves from level 1 to 80 without ever sending or accepting a group invite. Crowds of people gather around quest mob spawns and compete for kills rather than bothering to band together for it. Trolls pollute every chat channel, and once they've exhausted the server's ignore lists, they transfer away or get paid name changes to start all over again. The random dungeon finder promotes anti-social behavior, making it nearly impossible to make new friends in the game without dedicating some serious time to a hardcore guild.

It's for that reason that I'm so looking forward to Final Fantasy XIV. Square Enix isn't shooting for the Warcraft crowd -- instead, they want the FFXI crowd. They want the folks that love to socialize and band together for challenges, level cap or not. They want the American and the Japanese to transcend language and cultural barriers to co-communicate just like in their previous online title. They want to inspire that sense of camaraderie that's been lost with the dawn of the solo-centric MMO.

I'm planning on starting a weekly Final Fantasy XIV blog when my collector's edition arrives on September 22, similar to what 1UP's James Mielke did with My Life in Vana'diel. I want to share my adventures with the Giant Bomb community, and maybe even reel a few of you in! I'm so looking forward to this game, and I hope to see you there once it releases.

I'm keeping the point of this post pretty short; I'm afraid if I go on to say too much more I'm afraid that I might break the non-disclosure agreement imposed by Square. But there's reason to be excited, and the closing weeks of September just can't come quickly enough. 

         
11 Comments
11 Comments
Edited by Kombat

My history with the massively multiplayer genre doesn't go as far back as that Neverwinter Nights thing AOL put out back in 1991, or even as far as the EverQuest addiction that still plagues a couple hundred thousand people. Still, my background with these types of games is storied. I guess you could say that my gateway drug wasn't a game at all, but instead an anime called .hack//SIGN that ran for a while on Cartoon Network. From there I moved on to the games based on the series -- starting with .hack//INFECTION -- and found myself enamored with the entire concept. I tried to dive into EverQuest from there, but my crummy computer at the time just wasn't up to snuff for such a graphically intensive game.

Unable to reach into these persistent online worlds, I sated myself with Diablo II instead while also frequenting the forums of the Ziff Davis website that pre-dated 1UP (Gamers.com). Folks there were on about this Korean MMO that was in closed beta at the time, and I kept checking in to see what they had to rave about almost every day. The game finally hit open beta, but I was on dial-up internet. I couldn't download a 700 megabyte (!!) game client without clogging the phone lines for something like two or three days. When launch time rolled around, a friend of mine ventured to his aunt and uncle's house with a blank disk, and a few hours later I signed into my first massively multiplayer game: Ragnarok Online.

Ragnarok Online was something of an oddity for its time. Before it, games like EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot required players to enter into large parties and grind endlessly on monster after monster to level up. It was an arbitrary way to gain experience, but the one thing "forced grouping" instilled into games as a concept was a real and true sense of community. Ragnarok didn't have any of the forced grouping stuff, but it retained a healthy and friendly atmosphere. The genre was still in its infancy, a real niche, and Ragnarok Online wasn't exactly well known at the time. A niche of a niche I suppose you could say. The masses weren't flocking to Rune-Midgard, and so things remained civil. Even with the implementation of guild wars down the road into release, there wasn't too much butt-hurtedness going on between people. Things were good, and it was easy to make a lot of friends.

I abandoned Ragnarok Online in 2004 with the PlayStation 2 release of Final Fantasy XI. I know a lot of you just rolled your eyes and groaned, but hey, I'm going to shock you and say that it remains my favorite MMO of all time. Why? Final Fantasy XI was difficult. Many of the high level objectives were downright punishing at times, and much like EverQuest you were forced into a group of around six people to progress to any point past level 15 or so. This probably doesn't sound like fun, but it really was. Going up against a harrowing task with some friends and coming away from it victorious was so rewarding, and the game's focus on group dynamics made the forced grouping aspect worth it. The best part was, as I mentioned earlier for this kind of game, the amazing community. Final Fantasy XI is still filled with interesting, knowledgeable, and kind people. The tough learning curve drives out the trolls pretty quickly, and those that stick around are very light on the condescension. No one wants to be shunned by a server's community in a game completely centered around it.

And that's the problem I've developed with the World of Warcraft generation of massively multiplayer games. They're extremely casual friendly, which is awesome, but at the same time players are driven to accomplish only for themselves. The majority of veterans drive themselves from level 1 to 80 without ever sending or accepting a group invite. Crowds of people gather around quest mob spawns and compete for kills rather than bothering to band together for it. Trolls pollute every chat channel, and once they've exhausted the server's ignore lists, they transfer away or get paid name changes to start all over again. The random dungeon finder promotes anti-social behavior, making it nearly impossible to make new friends in the game without dedicating some serious time to a hardcore guild.

It's for that reason that I'm so looking forward to Final Fantasy XIV. Square Enix isn't shooting for the Warcraft crowd -- instead, they want the FFXI crowd. They want the folks that love to socialize and band together for challenges, level cap or not. They want the American and the Japanese to transcend language and cultural barriers to co-communicate just like in their previous online title. They want to inspire that sense of camaraderie that's been lost with the dawn of the solo-centric MMO.

I'm planning on starting a weekly Final Fantasy XIV blog when my collector's edition arrives on September 22, similar to what 1UP's James Mielke did with My Life in Vana'diel. I want to share my adventures with the Giant Bomb community, and maybe even reel a few of you in! I'm so looking forward to this game, and I hope to see you there once it releases.

I'm keeping the point of this post pretty short; I'm afraid if I go on to say too much more I'm afraid that I might break the non-disclosure agreement imposed by Square. But there's reason to be excited, and the closing weeks of September just can't come quickly enough. 

         
Posted by MancombSeepgood

Interesting read. Ragnarok Online was one of my first MMO's and definitely the first one I stuck with.. I got pretty addicted to FF XI for a short while too but I didn't stick around for long because at the time I didn't have a lot of money to pay for subscription fees... but I'm pretty psyched for FF XIV... I'm gonna have to wait for ps3 version though, my PC won't run it >_<

Posted by pplus0440

Normally I don't waste time with stupid ass blogs. But you are right sir. FFXI was the best MMO i have played. I did stop playing for WoW then came back but found that the community on my server was very friendly but made grouping take hours. they need to condense those servers. However the design of the game itself made team work essential compared to wow which is a competition on the meters for dps and if the group fails VTK the healer or tank. FFXI on the other hand had a niche for all classes rather then putting ten classes into dps/heals/tank and giving each a different rotation to hide the simplicity. They said FFXIV isnt after the wow audience its after FF audience and that makes me stoked. FFXI was great though yeah i agree with you I was SMN/WHM and it was great.
Posted by AgentJ

I've never bothered with a true MMO, and I really wish Squarenix would stop making these part of the numbered series. I'm never going to bother playing XI, so I'm going to feel guilty when I skip from X to XII

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I think you've just sold Final Fantasy XIV a hell of a lot better than any promo or preview I've seen.  One thing I adored about Lord of the Rings Online was that it started off as a genuinely interesting community and social RPG.  It lost that charm for me (probably due to a server switch on my part), but I've been thinking about getting back into an MMORPG when I get some cash going again, and this very well might be the one to hook me in.

Moderator
Posted by Kombat
@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:
"I think you've just sold Final Fantasy XIV a hell of a lot better than any promo or preview I've seen.  One thing I adored about Lord of the Rings Online was that it started off as a genuinely interesting community and social RPG.  It lost that charm for me (probably due to a server switch on my part), but I've been thinking about getting back into an MMORPG when I get some cash going again, and this very well might be the one to hook me in."
I think that's one of the saddest parts. I've not seen a lot of coverage for Final Fantasy XIV in the American media, and I think Square Enix agrees with me there. They sent out some kind of call-to-arms a few weeks ago trying to get game journalists talking, but it doesn't seem to have worked. Granted, covering Cataclysm news is going to get every site out there more hits at this point.
Posted by Symphony

 Many of the high level objectives were downright punishing at times, and much like EverQuest you were forced into a group of around six people to progress to any point past level 15 or so. This probably doesn't sound like fun, but it really was.  

It certainly had it's charm but I think what killed it for many was the having to wait around for hours to find a group issue. I did enjoy the group dynamic and a lot of stuff, though world boss camping and fishbotting sorta killed it for me along with a few other things -_- I hope XIV fixes the issues that XI had but keeps the group dynamics strong (while at least allowing for soloing)
 
Fingers crossed that it turns out to be a great game.
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw
@Kombat:
That's true.  In a sense, MMORPG's never quite receive the coverage that WoW gets, but in a way, I wonder how much is the media and how much is Square-Enix just flat-out thinking that the American market is going to be non-existent.  It's irritating as a gamer immensely interested in XIV, because with stuff like Cataclysm and The Old Republic, the media nut themselves on every tidbit of news out there in order to get more guaranteed hits.  I'd certainly like to know a lot more about the classes of XIV, the world, and everything I can get my hands on before I make that investment when (and if) I can.
Moderator
Posted by Faint

im a bit interested in playing final fantasy xiv, having played wow previously rather than final fantasy xi. however, none of my friends want to play it so it sounds like i might have a hard time making progress :(

Posted by dragaroo

Well said. Having played FFXI and WoW, I completely agree with your assessment.   

FFXI certainly had it's issues, but in retrospect the 'forced grouping' nature of it really  turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things about the game. It actually gave you an opportunity to get to know other players and interact with them in meaningful ways, something (at least in my experience) I really never found in WoW. And the relative difficultly made succeeding in a group all the more rewarding. 
  
I'm very interested in seeing how FFXIV turns out. Not yet getting a clear idea of how the changes affect play in the beta yet, but I'm kind of tempted to put in a preorder...

Posted by SilverGalford

are people still playing Ragnarok online?