Awwwww dam... this is going to be one **** of a nostalgic rant of a post. Like, totally.
First off, rate up to Jayenel for the contents and the timing of your post; reason being that I actually started deleting a couple of my mules today on PlayOnline & FFXI Content ID page (it's the first stage of me fully quitting ffxi for the third and last time). While deleting them, there is a page on the Content ID area that shows you the dates you purchased all your additional Xters etc. I had just scrolled down to the last Xter on the list which is my main and my very first Character; and stared for a long time at the date: April 4th, 2004. The day I started playing my very first MMORPG.
And the memories just started flooding back; how I saw the advert
on TV for ffxi and headed out to Best Buy the next day to get the whole ps2 bundle (they had a whole special eye-catching display stand for FFXI). Got home, spent well over an hour configuring the whole setup, connected to PlayOnline and then saw that the system had selected Garuda server for me. Then spent almost half an hour trying to decide what kinda Elvaan I wanted to be... and then connected into North Sandy.
I too, was in complete and utter awe. It was visual overload for me for the next three hours.
There were all these other people running round with names above their heads. There were NPCs that actually had very engaging dialogues. There were these awesome looking buildings. There were consistent chatlines flooding my screen (I had NO idea what chat filters were at the time, so you can imagine). I didn't even make it into the next zone (Port Sandy) until like an hour later because I had no idea how to pop open my map and therefore kept going round in circles speaking to various NPCs over and over again. And even then, I found port sandy only by sheer luck (I had zoned thru that archway and remember feeling that panicked anxiety when the screen went black with "downloading" at the bottom corner of the screen. I thought I had messed up somehow and was hoping there wasn't some button on my gamepad that I had to press. (Yes, please laugh at me cuz right now even I am laughing me for those memories).
More exploration of port sandy ensued and then I saw an airship land... and I was like "Whoaaaaa!". Then I had to log cuz I had to turn in an overdue assignment to my professor in the morning plus I had my parttime job. Next day when I did manage to log in, I saw a Galka Monk in full AF standing beside me and I was thrilled when he tried to answer my questions in English (he was of course Japanese). By my third or fourth day, I had bought the Brady's Guide (I'm still demanding a refund from the publishers, dammit!) and I had one of those "Aha" moments when I found out stuff like crystals could stack.
Over the next few more days, I explored more of this new and fascinating world: I saw DRK AF for the first time and drooled; I saw carby for the first time in Ronfaure and joined a bunch of new players who kept running after this strange creature with a bluish glow. I got to level 5 and met my real first friend (a TaruTaru named Leverate), and with another new Elvaan friend named Jobrant (my second friend in ffxi) we took it upon ourselves to protect the campfire spots in Ronfaure from the Orcs and Gobs. We took this task so seriously that even as at yestarday, I still went back there on my level 75 Paladain to perform this duty for a few minutes. For some very crazy reason, this trivial, unremarkable, obscure duty still marks itself as one of my greatest and important achievements in ffxi. Yep, till this very day.
Anywayz, I got to Level 7 and tried on my white and grey Leather armour set, of which I was exceptionally proud of. I became even more proud when I hit level 10 and myself plus our group of now eight new friends all scraped gil together so we could all wear the reddish scale armour (just so that we could now look awesome like the npc guards). Heck, and when my friend's wife insisted that we all got matching berets to go with our new scale armour (were they like 300 gil each at the time?) we all jumped at the idea. And by Altana, how we all laughed so hard at being totally owned when we braved Ghelspa Outpost.
Heh, and I remember yelling "OMG!" at my screen the first time I saw how much exp could be earned within a full party at the Dunes (ummm, when you aren't dying of course). And who can forget finally making it to jeuno for the first time? I still remember waiting in front of the palace at level 20, waiting for my friends to log on so we could attempt our (second or third?) hike to jeuno and suddenly a group of level 55-ish to 60-ish japanese players offered to take us. They all subbed /whm so they could cast inv and sneak on us, and thus was my first experience of an alliance. They were so organized, paired each one of us with one "protector" (I was paired with a level 55 THF/WHM named Jein) and away we went. Dam, the excitement of finally making it thru Jugner and Batallia was a headrush!). BTW, making it to jeuno was another bout of information overload: everybody was like level 50+ and almost everybody was in AF. To my friends and I, all these players seemed like demigods. It was just sick!
Ahhh yes, more reminiscing: Getting the Chocobo licence was like getting your real driver's licence and I rode to Bastok and Windy for the first time. I got my first advanced job (which was actually Dragoon). Then I did some Sandy missions and was so impressed with Prince Trion's character that I wanted to become a Paladin so I could help protect San'd'Oria just like him, so I unlocked Paladin and began leveling it. I got my airship licence and spent a small fortune once again visiting all the cities. I did more missions and quests, some of which struck a chord in you so strongly that you wanted to help other people get through them JUST so they could experience the story as well. I did my first limit quest and had a blast marvelling at the horrendous drop rates for exoray and the almighty "paper". I did the second limit quest in Xarcabard with the help of none other than the great Pikko... she had been sending shouts in Lower Jeuno for people to join up so that she, Parsival and some other higher level players could help out people who needed to kill those bloody tigers. From that day on, I always knelt to her anytime I saw her in town.
Life continued, I got stronger, I did more quests, I explored more places, I met more people, I got into two very fun linkshells and one of the shells used to meet near Maat in Ru'Lude Gardens. And don't even get me started on the hillarious jokes so many people on the server had about why so many players liked to hang out in the Archduke's bedroom. Then there were the dozens upon dozens of dancing Tarus in Lower Jeuno that always brought life to my screen (I really do miss having like twenty Taru players mob you for gil after they had performed a routine). Oh yeah, and when you got bored in Port Jeuno, you put "/follow" on Red Ghost join like 30-40 players who would be marching behind him. And naturally, there was always a serious scramble by players for doing the "lighting the lamps" quest in Lower Jeuno.
I got Rank 10, I joined my first HNMLS and I think somewhere inbetween I saw the "greed" emerge in some of my later friends. Some quit and some become excessively arrogant. I shrugged and played on... but now it became harder and harder to find exp parties and statics were not as reliable as they should've been. The game suddenly wasn't fun anymore: it had become heavily materialistic and a scramble for who could get their hands on the best stuff. No sense of loyalty, no sense of true friendship, and definitely no sense of honor when I saw the first wave of RMT swarm thru the game. Besides, almost all my original friends had quit or no longer played regularly, so what was the point? So I quit for several long months, thinking "Yeah, I've played heavily for over a year, let's quit for a while". So I tried Lineage II.
I think I came back about six weeks after Treasures release but the game had lost it's magic. I leveled Blue Mage for a bit, did Dynamis just because I wanted my PLD to be (how should I put this?)... "fulfilled"... in being fully clad in AFv2; and then did a few bits and ends. However, nothing I did could bring back the magic. I found myself sitting at the palace gates more and more often cuz that's where my old friends and I used to hang out. Yeah, I'd help a few new players with their missions, give advice and once in a while do an avatar run. When I get tired of that, I ride out to the campfire spots in Ronfaure, kill gobs and Orcs for like 10 minutes in memory of Jobrant and Leverate, then OP warp to do "Mob-Police" in Qufim... but I'd still be bored and wouldn't really have any sense of fun.
Eventually, I quit again but this time my playtimes were much more erractic than just staying away for months unend. WoTG brought me back full time and I was excited about that expansion, but when I found out that there was no Tavnazia, I felt a weird sort of quiet disappointment with Square Enix. And I've been considering quitting for good but would like to play on because I actually want to see how the Crystal War story unfolds. More often than not, these days when I do log on, I'm half-heartedly doing Campaign, playing the AH, and just going for extended afks in front of the palace in Sandy (yeah same spot, yet again huh?).
And now with FFXIV coming, I realize that I'm truly done with ffxi and it's time to gradually start "liquidating" my assets. Heck, right now I've recently chosen to start wearing the starter's gear on my main (maybe just so one last time, I can recapture that magic sense of wonder I felt when I first arrived in Vana'diel). I couldn't agree more with Jayenel and all of you that there's a certain "something" about ffxi being your first mmorpg that no other mmorpg will ever surpass. However, here's hoping (seriously hoping) that we can all recapture at least some
of that awe we first felt when we walked into Vanadiel when Haiderin opens it's doors to us.
I'd like to believe there will be a campfire somewhere in Eorzea for all of us to defend.
*Heh, toldja this would be a very nostalgic rant.*