I was tired and bored.
It was about three weeks ago, and I was packing up the rest of the stuff in my room, preparing to move to a new apartment as soon as my lease was up. In a momentary lull I realized most of the work was done, and I could hop on my MMO of choice for the past 5 years: World of Warcraft. I had been playing since my freshman year in college, back in 2004-2005. Well, actually, I had played another MMO before that... Final Fantasy XI.
Final Fantasy XI had come on the scene in my senior year in high school, and all of my friends got hooked on it. We were all major FF nerds: we commonly had debates over the best games (my best friend still contends FF8 was the best; I loved FF7, but my favorite was really FF6; everyone secretly enjoyed FF9 but no one would admit to it; and to be honest, X did nothing for me but everyone else seemed to like it), and when an online Final Fantasy was announced, we all signed up.
Unfortunately, real life came in the way of virtual life. I tried to juggle both, but by the time I graduated, my highest character was a level 32 PLD/WAR (which I had leveled as a WAR/WHM, /facepalm). Some of my friends needed less sleep than I; one eventually got his BLM to 75, and another got his DRK to 64 or so. I was so jealous!
But waiting for an hour for a group was terrible and impractical. I had clubs, a part time job, school government, and class; once summer came, my parents wouldn't let me use the family computer for more than an hour at a time and I had work every day. I quit the game, deleted my account. When college started, I vowed to leave FFXI for the first few months and make some friends. Mission completed! Secure with a cadre of new pals, I started up again (with a new account) in October. My goal was to make a BST, the only class able to solo. Of course, first I needed to hit 30. For that, I need a good class to group with... a white mage! And for a white mage, I needed a good sub... BLM!
My WHM never even hit 20. Shortly before Christmas break, my roommate watched me playing.
"What are you doing?" He asked.
"I'm farming silk off these caterpillars. They drop it rarely, but it sells well." I responded.
"Why don't you go level?" He asked.
"I can't get a group without good gear. I need to farm like this for new items every time I level. And because I refused to buy money with real life money, it takes forever to farm." (Even then gil farming and selling was ridiculous).
"Dude... that looks boring as ****."
And he was right. It was boring, grinding, no fun at all. And over break I went home and one of my old Final Fantasy friends introduced me to a new game called World of Warcraft. I watched his baby druid run around Teldrassil, and was amazed. You could solo all the way to level cap! Check out this brand new world! It was all so new and shiny! I joined up and never looked back!
Well... almost never. I sometimes missed my old MMO. I missed the classic FF elements. Chocobos, mog houses, some random dude named Cid. I liked gardening, and harvesting my crystals for big cash (big to me at least). I enjoyed fishing! I liked cooking, and seeing the .1 skill ups (which would at times mess up), unlike the guaranteed skillups (and no +1s!) in WoW. I lamented that I never found out the mystery behind the Shadow Lord. I can still remember running around outside of Bastok, looking about and thinking "Holy crap, I'm the only person in this wasteland." I still remember having to run to a zone end with a trail of enemies trying to munch on me. I even missed the goblin bomb gankers that would bring the goblins to the zoning areas of both Jungle zones and massacre everyone.
And almost 6 years later, I've had enough of WoW. Until the new expansion comes out, I don't really have any goals. Soloing is great until you reach the level cap... then you have no real motivation any more (especially when you've done every quest). Sure, you can group with a guild, but running the same dungeon, week after week, gets old. Counting gearscore is agonizingly boring. I know the storylines in and out, and hardly anything new will be coming until the expansion. That's when I realized I had heard about about a new Final Fantasy online game... one that offered solutions to the common problems of its predecessor. You can solo! You get a whole new world to explore! Better graphics, a new epic story! And all the old FF things you love!
I gotta admit, I'm psyched for this game :-)
But... I have some misgivings. The main issues I had with the last online FF game were:
1. You needed a group to level. Oh sure, there were some exceptions... BST could solo (until it was nerfed?), and later they gave you NPC companions for a limited time to help solo. But the hard and fast rule was: you need other people. And for them, depending on your class, you needed to wait a LONG time to get them. An hour wait was common, even as a tank.
2. And for groups you needed gear. I've read some conversations on these forums, and heard people bandy around the term "elitism." A lot of what I have seen seems to refer to tactics. Don't know your role or the boss fight? Just ask and we're friendly! I guess the definition has changed. Back when I played there were two types of elitism: Japanese-only elitism, and gear elitism. I haven't seen gear elitism in WoW until the high-end raids... but even back in the leveling days around the Jungle (Yutunga? Something like that...), if you didn't have +1 or rare gear, you waited a LONG time to get a group.
3. And this rush for gear led to a proliferation of gil farmers. Which, in the year and a half or so that I played, was never dealt with. Later I heard of mass bannings, but I have no idea if this helped. I know that both of my friends who hit high levels bought gil - it was the only way they could afford the items they needed to level.
All of these things led to a "fact" oft-stated on the Allakhazam boards at the time: Square-Enix does not listen to their playerbase, and is out of touch with much of their desires. After hearing about FFXIV, it seems like they are listening more. However, looking around on these forums makes me unsure. Unlike WoW's upcoming expansion, FFXIV is a closed Beta. The only information being bandied around on these forums is what Square has put out; and a lot of it seems incomplete, unconfirmed, and just scarce in general. With less than two months until launch, I can't help but feel like the game is hardly in Alpha, let alone stage 3 Beta.
Compare this to the WoW forums, where I have to actively screen what I read to not spoil the best changes of the new expansion. Unlike FFXIV, I know the new abilities, the new zones, and the basic storyline. While things are still being completely switched around, I have a handle on how the game will play, without having to step into the Beta itself. Videos online show the changes to old zones, the new races, etc.
Whereas in here, Square seems to give almost nothing. It feels like they're relying on two things: the Final Fantasy brand name, and the love and loyalty of the former FFXI players. I cannot for the life of me figure out how combat goes. Despite reading about a day in the life of Leeroy (nice job taking a WoW meme there), I still don't understand the roles all that well (can you only be one of the classes in a disciple of war? Or all of them, depending on the weapon?). I know the monthly cost, but I don't know how many characters I can make. I've seen the official map, but almost all of the speculation about it was just that: speculation.
My biggest worry is that Square is doing the exact same thing here and the closed Beta is a symptom of it.
Either way, I think it's worth dropping the money on the game come the 30th of September. I'm not going to get the Collector's edition, because I figure like most MMOs, half of those first 8 days are going to be bogged down in glitches and problems anyway (and I'm not sure what a security token is?). But I will be on here, bumming around, so I wanted to say hello, and see you all in Eorzea!