That first, terrifying run through Buburimu as a level 10 Tarutaru white mage ....
What XI excelled at, and why its aging graphics are still satisfying in a way, is atmosphere. I'm chilling in front of the AH in Southern San d'Oria right now, occasionally working on kaginawa to level up clothcraft. My linkshell is having a raucus conversation about SE trolling us with lacy pink subligar in the future. (Everyone agrees if they had +50 STR on them, they'd wear them.) It's 1AM - the sky is dark and cloudy, the walls are cool and gray. And yet I feel protected in these fortress walls. I've "lived" in Sandy for five or six years now (emigrated from Windurst :P) so this place just feels like home.
SE needs ARR to capture that same kind of magic. Ul'dah never really felt like home to me, even though it was the only placed I ever lived in 1.0.
Edited, Jan 10th 2013 9:52am by catwho
Unfortunately for many reasons, personal and general, I don't think ANY MMO (let alone game) will match the "magic" of FFXI.
The areas in FFXI were not only well designed, they had great music, or no music in some instances. They, like Korraloka Tunnels had cool mobs like Gigas and Spiders and Jelly. There were a lot of ??? for things like the Ninja quest and the tunnel led to a totally different area. Granted it was from the expansion, but that was the version we NAs started out with.
Running through the tunnel or other tunnels like Gustav you heard just the winds through the tunnel with your footsteps. Simple. Yet effective.
These areas helped with the pace of the game. Slow. But effective.
Next to Bastok there were 6 different zones you could explore before you started leveling in Valkurm (level 10-12) and 3 of those were big zones. This made you want to progress, so that you could explore and reach more of the zones!
Ul'dah was too much like Jeuno right off the bat. And quick teleportation killed the sense of a "World." At least make a quest to obtain teleportation. Then other quests to expand the ability.
Anyway, yeah, there was a sense of atmosphere in FFXI that in FFXIV just didn't exist. Other MMOs like WoW touched on it, but even it never felt as "magical."