Square has released details on the conclusion of its Playonline beta for Final Fantasy XI. The test is set to end on April 26th, and normal server function will commence three weeks later, on May 16th. Beta testers will be able to retain only the bare bones of their accounts; Square will allow players to retain their account ID, a Playonline email address, a handle name and profile, and a buddy list. These will only be usable, however, with the purchase of Playonline's full software version. Gone in the changeover to the full version will be received mail, email address books, and various other saved features, all of which are deleted immediately upon installing the product version.
A much more crushing blow to beta testers will be the effective elimination of their characters. Everything save appearance will be wiped clean, come April 26th; characters will lose items, money, levels, and all experience gained, returning to their basic state. Players will, however, be able to retain the race, sex, face type, hair color, height, main job, and nationality of their characters, and will be offered a greatly expanded variety of starting locations. The beta version offered only two possible starting locations: Chaos and Zande. The full version contains twenty starting locations, and friends wishing to play together need only join the same starting world to gather a party post-haste.
The launch of FFXI will mark a turning point in the series, as Square strives to change the way gamers think about Final Fantasy while retaining a core familiarity. The game costs 1280 yen (approximately $10.00 US) monthly to play, with an additional 100 yen service charge for each additional character on top of the first.