Spreading like...well, an infection M M O R P G A M E R  
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New Year's Eve is coming. If I were in charge of an MMORPG, I'd heavily advertise a huge special event with tons of neat in-game prizes and fireworks and stuff that would be going on at certain times in the game such as midnight Eastern time, then midnight Pacific, then midnight in Tokyo time and so on. Then, I'd see which players were logged in at those certain times, and email this to them. Hey, someone's gotta let them know. It's one thing if you admit it like some of us, but many are in denial. With your help and outreach, a nerd you know can take steps towards partial, if not full recovery. To save a nerd in your area, call 1-866-555-GEEK today.

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Freakin' Hot Rena Tanaka Picture of the Week

More Problems for Wish Beta

Wish, the game that developer Mutable Realms has labeled an "Ultra Massive Multiplayer Online RPG" because of its ability to handle so many players at once, apparently needs more time to level-up its actual "Ultra" stat. According to a letter sent to all applicants for the upcoming open beta test, an overflow of applicants has caused a problem. More specifically, not all accounts will be ready to log-in when the opening day rolls around. The letter itself explains,

"Because of the enormous number of beta applications that we have received (more than 60,000 at the time of this writing), we will not enable all beta accounts on January 1 at once. Instead, we will only enable a number of randomly chosen beta accounts every day, starting January 1.

"We require this transition period to better configure our one-world server. By granting access to the beta test in stages, we can better allocate resources where they are required.

"We will try our best to enable all accounts as quickly as possible. In any case, if you are not one of the first to be selected, don't worry! The live content we have prepared for you will allow you to join at any time.

"Please do not send us any inquiries about when your account will be enabled. We will send you an email notification once your account is active. The selection is completely random, and no exceptions will be made."

In other Wish news, Tom Blue, the game's art director, recently sat down for an interview with GamerGod. RPGamer has the full text right here.

Legend of Mir 3 Prepares for 2005 ...with Weapons
Mir 3

Many folks make resolutions to improve their lives at the turn of the year. This year, Quality Games has resolved to make some changes to Legend of Mir 3. In the very long letter containing the full details of the change, a company representative said, "The update will contain among many things a whole new snowy mountain world area for players to explore. The new area will open up a whole new world of storylines and quests to immerse you in the icy plains of Mir 3. The new snowy field mountaintop area will play a large role in upcoming branches of the game's storyline."

One new feature of the update enables players to gain ranks and badges through in-game actions. The ranking system allows insignias to be gained that will label the player with a title that will distinguish him for his heroism, nobility and pride. These titles will mark a player as a trustworthy adventurer, hailing bonuses that would soon become apparent. The letter from the managers goes on to say, "The new update heralds the implementation of the revolutionary new RIES engine, or the Real time Interactive Events System. This will allow players to trigger world events that will happen in real time across the lands of Mir 3, which could have a major impact on the world and the ongoing power struggles within."

Other features of the update include:

  • A powerful new Commander who controls the vast armies of evil encamped in the area.
  • The new "king" class monster that controls the lands around the snow field.
  • Nine new accessories to find and trade (which can increase the character's skills and/or credibility).
  • Three new weapons.

These new updates may excite active players, but what may be viewed as less exciting is that this previously free adventure has now joined the ranks of pay-to-play MMORPGs. The game will cost players eight British pounds (about 15 US Dollars) per month, with discounts for extended subscriptions.

 Seasonal Beasts Roam Fairy Land 
Fairy Land

A loyal member of the Fairy Land community going by the in-game name of "Ageha" has sent me a pair of emails about the game's holiday events. The Christmas event recap is covered below in the letters section, since it's in the past, but the New Year's event coverage is right here. She reports:

"Happy Year of the Rooster from your roving correspondent! Today in Fairy Land, the precipitation is heavy at times, consisting of red envelopes, firecrackers, lumps of gold and Chinese kanji. A strange beast that looks like a cross between Big Bird and a Chocobo--The Year Beast--has been spotted scaring players left and right and beating the everloving crap out of them. Its one weakness--FIRECRACKERS! Yes, the stores of Fairy Land have started a brisk trade in these explosive commodities.

"Defeating one of these Year Beasts will net you various prizes, including fortune cookies. But donít gobble them up. Instead, take them to one of the three newbie villages (Gion, Greenvile, or Ilium) and give them to the NPC standing near the village head to receive a special prize, including a money laden red envelope and the Year of the Rooster character title (includes rotating rooster above your head). Lucky Angels are also around, and for 200 coins they will give you your fortune for 2005.

"I had a few fateful encounters with the Year Beast last night. So far my record is 2-2. Attached is my character Ageha in her first fateful encounter. These things are TOUGHóIím not kidding when I say you need firecrackers to defeat it. It is always 5 levels above your PC, and without the firecrackers youíre reduced to doing 1 damage against it. And they HURT. People have been buying firecrackers by the 20ís to use if they find the Year Beast lurking around. Firecrackers arenít cheap, theyíre 70 coins each, 20 for 1400. A lot of unscrupulous people have been selling them in the marketplaces at almost 5 times the normal price for 20.

"The Year Beast appears from 7-midnight (Pacific Standard Time) until January 4th, and you can exchange fortune cookies until the 5th. Have a happy New Year!"

The screenshot submitted can be seen right here. Don't be afraid to be like Ageha and send in some screens of the goings-on in your favorite MMORPG.

Featured Games 
Tatsumaki Online

I occasionally stumble across interesting finds in my searching the internet for all things MMORPG. Among the most recent of such discoveries (at least the ones in English) is a game called Tatsumaki Online.

Currently in its development phases, Tatsumaki takes place in 15th/16th century Japan, and judging by the front-and-center pictures of ninjas on the game's official site, I'm going to go out on a limb and say they have a heavy influence on the game's world. Once the game is complete, combat will work much like a that of a fighting game or action RPG. Three main button will be used, namely, punch, kick, and Block. Hitting certain combinations and sequences of those buttons will form different attacks. Additionally, directional buttons can be used in combination with the attack buttons to modify the actions. One example of such is a regular front snapkick becoming a roundhouse with the pressing of the forward button.

Similar to the Grand Theft Auto series, it will be possible to kill many of the other characters running around in the world, but such things will result in bystanders wanting the killer's head. Tatsumaki Online features a "Punishment System," which gives anyone who spots a murder the option of reporting it to higher powers. The outcome of such things varies, depending on who was killed. In the case of a player killing a family member ("family" is the game's term for "guild," or "clan"), there may be wanted posters put up, with cash prizes of finding/killing/catching the killer. The killer's overall account "karma" will also decrease, which is coming after it already decrease for starting a fight with another player.

The world in Tatsumaki is as authentically Japanese as that of most any other game out there. One notable demonstration of this comes in the Family System. When naming a family, only Japanese kana can be used. Furthermore, any families that split off from an original must have at least one kana in common with the name of the previous family. After obtaining approval for the name of the family and proper Japanese writing of the name, family members can brand their equipment with their family seal (choosing either the Japanese writing or a romanized version of the name), create dojos, cities, buildings, and more.

Even more information on this ambitious title can be found at the previously linked official website.

Short Stories 

Phantasy Star Online: Episode IV's closed beta phase ended just days ago. Currently, the game is set to go on sale February 3rd, selling in a box that looks like this. The package will include PSOBB Eps 1 and 2, the new Episode IV expansion, and a soundtrack CD for early purchasers. Thanks extended to Adrienne Beck for the translation of this piece from the game's official site.


One man's sunset is another man's dawn. Likewise, one MMO's beta phase ending opens the door for another's to begin. Korean MMORPG Last Chaos began its open beta phase on December 28th. This game features a story and setting not unlike many other MMORPGs, following the classic "Here's the world: conquer it" scenario. But, since story isn't the main focus of an MMO anyway, players down for a new adventure can check out the information and media available at either of the game's two official websites, one being in Korean, and the other in English.

Media Place 

I asked for personal screenshots of players in MMOs last week--you know, stuff you can't see anywhere else. I was blessed to find a few in my inbox. Thank you very much.

P.J. Reed, who also sent in a letter printed way down the page, sent in some Final Fantasy XI screens:

Of the second screen, P.J. explained "Some yagudo n00b is probably thinking, 'omg do mithra whm aggro? this 1 keeps followin me!!'"

The second helping of screens comes from RPGamer's Christopher Beaupre, who gives us his some shots of his character in EverQuest II.

Well now that was just plain fun. Keep the screens coming, guys.

Readers Speak 

Now, I said I'd follow up on last week's Final Fantasy XI rant. If you haven't read it, don't expect to me to sum it up for you, because I can't do it justice if only a few sentences. Sorry, but you have to read the whole thing to know what's going on here.

Anyway, I will now provide one of very few stories to the contrary of the generalization I made. Not long after starting the game (I hadn't even figured out the macro system yet...then again, that game's menus suck anyway, but that's another rant) a friend and I were roaming around in places we shouldn't have been. On the side of my screen, I saw several goblins do the respawn thing and mob a player who was in their general area. Not yet knowing the power of the goblin, I charged in, ready to represent for whoever was getting attacked (team spirit, represent). Well, if you know anything about FFXI, I don't need to tell you I got thumped. I soon found out the those same enemies had beheaded my partner as well. No, seriously, his head was stuck in a wall; here's the screenshot. As is my normal personality, I was happy to go down fighting for my right to party, which is to say, attempting to stick up for a fellow FFXI player, but if one can avoid the negative consequences, why not try, right?

So we waited around a bit, hoping someone would come down and raise us. Just as I was about to return to my homepoint, a certain group entered the dungeon. I recognized them as being more powerful than myself. They surrounded me, explained a plan to kill everything in the dungeon so as to give me a clear running path, then raise me. They did just that, and repeated the process for my companion. After a series of interactions with these players, my friend and I joined their linkshell, known as The Gathering. These people stand out as some of the most selfless I have met in FFXI, and they deserve recognition for that. My helmet is off to you, Gathering.

Furthermore, The Gathering is a pretty tightly-knit group, which I've noticed to be uncommon in FFXI. Many people have said "oh, the quality of the community depends on your linkshell." Well, it shouldn't. The fact that many people belong to a handful of linkshells is a testimony that the guild system in FFXI is sub-average. It certainly helps to know a great buncha guys, but your own personal circle is not how a game's community is measured.

Since this section is called "Readers Speak" and not "Heath Hindman won't shut up," we'll move on to the editorial-like letters I received. Forgive me if my responses are fairly short in comparison to the long letters, but I've pretty much said my piece, and now I'm throwing the ball to you. Here we go.

Analyze This

For the most part, I agree with your FFXI rant. The graphics and environments are gorgeous, the gameplay is fun, and the sense of community is nonexistant. I played Ultima Online before the splitting of the lands, and I remember that people were always very helpful; when I first started playing, some random guy identified me as being new, and he just gave me a set of ring mail armor. Whenever I was out exploring, it wasn't uncommon for people passing by to strike up conversations with me or offer to help me out. I myself helped out new people several times by teaching them the basics about hunting and fighting, and then crafting any leather we found into armor for them. Even when I got PKed, the PKs were (usually) polite about it, and some of them even roleplayed.

Sounds mighty similar to my great experiences in Ultima Online. You're very right; even when you get PK'd or PK someone else, there's usually not much bad blood. That game has the best community of players I've ever seen, for the record.
People in FFXI are just more rude, in general. There are still friendly, helpful people out there, but it's harder to find them; I like to think that I'm a pretty friendly player, as I'm always willing to donate old equipment to new adventurers or help people finish quests, but it's pretty tough to get other people to help out. I think that part of it might be caused by the game system, though; FFXI's level grind is pretty tough, and the penalties for death are harsh. If you want to have a safe, effective leveling party, you pretty much *must* pick people with the exact job combinations you require. Picking somebody who is just "eh, good enough" will at best considerably slow the group down, and at worst, get you killed; at higher levels, being killed can result in effectively losing hours of work.

Yeah. I never factored that into my words. Oh, don't get me wrong, my feelings remain the same and I amend none of my speech, but a portion of the "pickiness" of FFXI's community can be attributed to its gameplay and harsh penalties for death. Good point. So now we can conclude that the players and the game itself are flawed.
On the other hand, while getting PKed in UO was pretty annoying, a decent set of equipment was very cheap, so even if your corpse got looted you could be back on your feet in minutes. That usually wasn't a problem, though; there were a number of times that I had people passing by ressurect me or offer to protect my corpse until I got back. Meanwhile, in FFXI, Raise costs a huge amount of MP, so asking a random red or white mage to ressurect you costs their group a considerable amount of downtime; even if you get raised, you still lose a lot of experience.

On another subject, I've been looking at Wish (and I've signed up for the beta), and the game looks like it could be pretty fun, but I currently have two major problems for it. The first is the selection of races. First, we have dwarves, elves, gnomes, and humans, which are all very generic fantasy races. I don't like playing generic races; I want originality. There are also cyclops, imps, and dragonkin, which are also present in most games, just not playable. So, they're a little bit better in the originality department, but then we have another problem; cyclops and imps are ugly. I figure that if I'm going to be staring at somebody for hundreds of hours, they should at least be somewhat eye-pleasing, so that leaves dragonkin as the only race that I'd really be interested in playing. Still, it would be nice if there were some races that looked, for lack of a better word, pretty. Or even some original races.

My second big problem is the graphics. Now, I'm not a graphics whore by any means, but if I didn't care at all about graphics, I'd be playing a MUD. Much like the races, the graphics look very generic. The landscapes look just like the landscapes in any other MMORPG, and the characters in the screenshots all look very shiny and emotionless. Games like FFXI and World of Warcraft both have distinct visual styles, and even when they're not doing anything, the characters have an expressiveness that the ones in Wish lack. Of course, I've read on the forums that they're planning to redo the character models completely and improve on the other graphics, so hopefully that complaint will be addressed.
Thanks for listening,
P.J. Reed

I've also signed up for Wish's beta testing...but haven't looked at the system requirements yet, so I hope I actually get to play it. The game looks and sounds amazing. I can pretty much assure that it will rock. Check out RPGamer's coverage here and the official site for more info.

Oh, That Silly John Madden

I just wanted to say that I completely agree with your stance on the MMORPG market, especially FFXI.

However, I just wanted to voice my opinion about the player community. I'm from the server Quetzalcoatl, and our player community is very tight. I know some people would argue with about this with me, but I believe we have an awesome player community in Quetzalcoatl. There are always people talking about this and that, and generally good people that want to help out. Even our Japanese and English groups have a good player base. I guess it's the server to be on right now. Sure we have our problematic people, not naming names, but generally everyone gets along fine. Hell, I once sent a tell to someone half way across the world for a Raise III & they came and gave it to me. Total stranger too.

I just felt that your rant showed a darker side of Vana'diel that is persistent in every MMO. You're always going to encounter stupid people, no matter what. I do understand what you were saying about the player community and you didn't offend me. Our low level community is like that, but once the dedicated players get out of their 30's, then everything is smooth sailing. I love FFXI, and quit a while ago because of GM problems, but I couldn't find a better player community than the one I was in while I was playing FFXI. ^_^;; Just wanted to let you know that not all the servers are horrible.

(Alyada RDM55 Quetzalcoatl)

Having played many MMORPGs, I am well aware that idiots are in all of them. If John Madden were here, he'd circle me and say in his obnoxious voice "Now here's a guy who knows what he's talking about!" Then he'd probably yammer about making sweet love to Brett Favre, but the point remains the same.

Your story as well as mine above show that there are plenty of team players in FFXI, but, just like boneheads, those people are also in every MMORPG. My beef is that there is far from a balance of the two in FFXI, with the slant pointing towards the stupid side of things.

Also, way to speak out against "nOOb" and "asshat." I freaking hate those terms.

Get Your Reading Glasses and History Books

This is my first time writing in, though I am a long time visitor and lurker on the site, and of course it was all this talk about FFXI and its... foibles... that prompted me out of my hermitage to trumpet my disdain. The extent of my journey into the vibrant but flawed land of Vanadiel was in the guise of a 53rd level Red Mage. My play time, though meager by I'm sure many standards, was 30 days, 19 hours, and 32 minutes, thus making it by far the longest I've ever played any game in my history as a gamer. My close friend continues to play the game, and I've observed him in the higher levels and how things never seem to improve but only degrade farther. He is a 72nd level Black Mage, by the way. What is nothing short of a rant, pent up from months of frustration at what I consider to be a travesty to all RPG's everywhere. So here goes!

I agree with every point you covered in your rant. People who play FFXI aren't people who play MMORPG's. I'd also like to add, they aren't people who play RPG's, either. Not anymore. They've mutated into something else, something, less, than what they once were. I'm speaking of a high percentage, not all, of the people who play this game, as I met many wonderful individuals whilst playing. The people who engage in FFXI, the vast majority, are from the Final Fantasy Generation, and I don't mean necessarily those who've been playing FF since the days of NES, I mean those whose first taste was when it became popular on the PSX, who are from the Final Fantasy Generation X. Age wise, those of the FF Generation are ages 22-27, are either in college or have graduated, do not yet have families, and are basically just swinging bachelors who have mediocre jobs but are trying to move up in the world, and have a better understanding of the "traditional" RPG. These players, typically, have a serious life in the real world of paying bills and undertaking responsibilities, and are, for the most part anti-social, having grown up playing early generation "traditional" RPG's and video games instead of making hordes of friends. They are tire salesmen, computer networkers, insurance salesmen, box movers, call center reps (yours truly), and starving college students. These examples are real, taken from people I met while playing FFXI. They all played FF in the SNES days.

Then there are the Final Fantasy Generation X'ers (sorry for the cheesy albeit fitting terminology). These are players ages 14-17 who think FFVII is the next messiah, who shun "traditional" sword and sorcery for a more cyberpunkish, post apocalyptic, high technology, angst ridden teenager type of RPG. They live at home with their parents, do not work serious jobs, and do nothing but play FFXI day in and day out when not in Middle/Highschool. They do not usually lean towards "traditional" RPG's, simply because of lack of exposure to them, and because they simply aren't as popular. There is a point to all of this oversimplified classifying of FF players, and here it is: The FF Generation view FFXI as an alternative to boozing when they are depressed because life is hard and unyielding. FFXI is a means for them to achieve greatness in otherwise lackluster and stagnant lives. Their characters become famous and successful, a reflection of what we wish to become someday. While this generation may appreciate "traditional" fantasy over "psychological" fantasy (ie FFVII, VIII, X), they tend to become very elistist in their views, almost obsessive, when it comes to leveling and achieving wealth. Woe betide any who stand in their way or slow their progression, hence we have the ones with a cookie cutter view of how every resident of Vanadiel needs to be and play to be "worthy" of inclusion in their XP parties, or their ecclesiastical Linkshells. They tend to be sensitive when insulted, are quick to anger, and generally make other people, who are paying to play as well, and are playing to have fun, like they are doing something wrong. Chumming up with these people is genuinely difficult, as they only allow a certain caliber of player into their inner fold. Players that have peacock charms and enmity earrings and scorpion harnesses +1 and Haubergeons, etc.

Then there are the players who are constantly talking down to others and flinging insults left and right, using such colorful inferences as "n00b" and "asshat". They form tightly knit Linkshells of gossip and chicanery, to emulate the highly judgmental and social environments of the highschool/middle school they attend. Immaturity and flaming runs rampant with these players. These players love and adore anything with the name Squaresoft branded into it, regardless of it's quality, and are quick to anger when anyone speaks out against the Online game or company they've committed their attentions to. They are also known unceremoniously as "fanboys".

Aside from these two groups, you also have two more major ones. The Natives and the Mafioso. The Natives of course, are the Japanese players who were there before anyone else, who tend to be a bit stand-offish at times, but who can blame them, given the average maturity level of the typical FF XI player, who falls into the FF GenX category. Not to mention the communication barrier. They are very efficient in their jobs, tend to stick together in a much more genuine way than the other FF "communities", helping for the sake of helping, which is why they are usually doing so well. That, and they control the economy, another matter entirely. The Natives are usually polite and often very funny, despite all the nonsense they have to deal with going on around them all the time. In the end, it's their game, we're just playing in it! ^_^

The Mafioso, these are the notorious gil farming organizations, the ones that have the Stroper Chyme in Ordelles Caves on lock down so no one else outside their group can get it, the ones who have names like Coollingling, Coolmingming, Coolxingxing, etc, and Person1-20, etal. They have all the NM's under their thumb, and they price fix all the items they drop, then sell the gil for real life money. Yes, this is their job, what they are paid to do, and they are generally civil and even decent players, but they bring a high level of corrupt sleaziness to the MMORPG world, and will Train Mob slay you if you stand in their way. Don't worry, it's nothing personal, only business! =P

It's interesting that you mentioned that this is the first and last MMORPG for many players, myself included. I had always avoided MMORPG's, due to the lack of an overall story and just generally hollow, repetitive game play. I didn't buy into FFXI either until two of my roommates picked it up, then we deluded ourselves into a fallacy of being able to party together and be hero's in the FF world. Conflicting schedules and the convoluted caste system combined with FFXI's horrible horrible, and flagrant exploitation of the "Grind" MMORPG's are known for killed that notion, yet I kept playing for 6 months, even enjoyed some of that time genuinely. Most of it was having to endure countless hours of conceited morons showering each other with vituperative left and right, barking orders and insults, and genuinely not exuding a feeling of community and warm welcome.

Vanadiel is a world fueled by greed, the selfish egocentric machinations of its majority of players, as well as the corporation that designs and runs this virtual world. As you can gather, I do not play this game anymore, nor, having had such a bad time of it, do I pine to play any other MMORPG. I do take some solace in the fact that not all online games are like FFXI, so I may keep an open mind in the future. FFXI is an epithet of corporate exploitation gone awry, a black hole that sucks up not only the precious moments of an already short life, but offers nothing but contempt in return. This game was turning me into what I hated most, someone who craved only recognition and wealth in a fantasy game. My life, my work, my attitude, all suffered from this ubiquitously negative environment which is less an RPG and more a place for peacocks to strut about showing off their "1337" gear and jibe to anyone who isn't as big a "fan" of Final Fantasy as they are.

Hrm...that last bit sounds applicable to any MMO, though. They are notorious for their addictive properties. EverQuest didn't get nicknames such as "EverCrack" and "NeverRest" for nothing.

This could go on and on, as I haven't even touched on so many things that would rate this game a 2/5 if it were a single player experience. Vanadiel deserves more than what is has now. It is a beautiful world with a rich history, a world with a beating heart, but wearing a cancerous skin. Farewell, Vanadiel. I shall mourn for what you could have been, and yearn for the Knights of the Square Table, who have fallen so far from grace they have Satan's pointed tail stuck in their eye... /cry

Wow. That was quite the in-depth look at not just FFXI, but Final Fantasy in general. I believe it is your civic duty to email your friendly neighborhood Editorials Curator with more of such pieces.

In response, I must say that while I understand most of your points, and there is evidence all over the place to support them (if we want to get selective), there are way too many exceptions to word such ideas in the way you did there. One example would be me :) I was financially restricted from owning game systems for much of my life. I got a Super Nintendo only after it had been dead for a while. My first RPG was Breath of Fire III, and shortly after I played Final Fantasy VII. I am certainly not an FF whore or "fanboy" of any sort, but I do hold a high place in my heart for FF7. I am not offended or anything by your rant, mainly because, as I said, I can see the support behind it (mostly on various message boards), but I don't think those FF series points are as accurate as the ones focused on part XI, mainly because the number of exceptions to them are so much higher.

Take Back....Well, No, Not Really

Hey there, Heath!

I was interested in your rant about FFXI, being an FFXI user myself (I've stopped calling myself a player as it's really just not fun anymore). However, I was irked by the bit about people on FFXI only having tried it cause of the FF label and none of them planning to play another MMO for that reason.

Whoa, slow down there, chief. I didn't say "none of them" would ever get into another MMO, or that "none of them" had played one before. I declared such statements as generalizations right in the disclaimer, to begin with. Furthermore, it is true. I have discovered that the vast majority of people I know well in FFXI are indeed playing their first MMO. Additionally, I can only think of two of them who plan to play others. Accuracy is accuracy.

Boom! Here's a guy who knows what's up!

While the former may be true for a lot of people, as it was for myself, as my only other experience with this genre was PSO for the Dreamcast and Gamecube (neither of which were pleasant experiences either, but that's another rant for another letter), the latter seems a bit prejudiced and presumpuous. OK, many casual gamers will fall into that category, I'll admit. However, for a huge chunk of people, myself included, the reason we'll never go back to an MMORPG is simply because FFXI is one of the worst first experiences ever. A lot of people went into this expecting a vibrant community of Final Fantasy fans. Instead, we're greeted with a kabal of the most pompous, self-indulgent individuals on the Internet. A lot of people will get bored and frustrated as I have, some people may even get their feelings hurt when "friends" on linkshells don't want to have anything to do with them for not being the right job. And really, how many people have actually gone on missions together, outside of the occaisional eco-warrior group that's going just for the EXP/Gil, where no one talks about anything with one another. To a good many people, FFXI will forever stain their opinions of MMORPGs. I can see people looking at World of Warcraft or Wish or what have you and not saying "Nah, it's not FF," but rather saying "I don't wanna go through what I did with FFXI again." Is it fair? No. However, when people have a bad first experience with something, of course they're going to be hesitant to go into that realm again. Think about it, if some RPG fan introduced you to the genre with Tecmo Secret of the Stars, would you be as excited about them? I doubt it. Just something to think about before you bash people for not picking up an MMORPG after FFXI.

Jesus Zamora

Good point, Jesus.

I'd say that would be a contributing factor to why some people won't move on from FFXI, but the people I was talking about when I said many of them would never move on are people who enjoy the game. As I've stated before, this is coming from people in the game--it's not even my own conjecture. didn't like PSO? For shame!

The Dance Continues

I'm writing this in response to the topic of Final Fantasy XI's community, or the apparent lack thereof. I've been with FFXI since the PC version was released in the US (Ramuh server), and yes, it was my first MMO. I have since also picked up World of Warcraft, and have been playing it alongside FFXI. I've also been on and created a number of MUDs and MUSHes (text based precursors to the MMORPG genre). I have indeed played every FF since Cecil made his debut in the US. I mention all this to give you a good context for my opinion.

I believe that FFXI has one of the best online communities available, as well as an extremely team-oriented playstyle. It's just not readily apparent in the Valkurm Dunes.

(The Dunes are the topic of much groaning among players who are past their 30th level, conjuring up horror stories of tanks who run away, pullers who don't communicate with their party, hours of being unable to find a group as a warrior, and mages who don't cast spells. Valkurm Dunes is the most uncoordinated area in FFXI for one reason: people there are trying, for the first time, to figure out how to work in a full party. Many players climb from 1st to 12th level in the beginning areas by themselves, or in the company of one or two others they've met along the way. What I'm building up to is that the Valkurm Dunes experience isn't typical of the rest of the game, socially. It's the proving grounds/melting pot, the baby's first lurching steps. The community of Valkurm Dunes is a hard reflection of this, screaming in the midst of its growing pains.)

Interjection: The number of such horror stories would be greatly decreased if the members of Final Fantasy XI's community had more MMOs under their belts than FFXI. Again, there are people whose first MMO is FFXI that are just fine, but those clowns that play FFXI the same way they'd play an offline game are all over the place, and cause these problems. Those Dunes wouldn't have such a bad rep if the community didn't suck so much to give it that rep.

Also, should I really have to wait till level 30 to begin enjoying my MMO? I enjoyed Ultima Online, multiple versions of Phantasy Star Online, Fairy Land, Priston Tale, the original EverQuest, and others pretty much right away. I don't walk into an MMO going "Cool! Only 50 hours till the fun begins!"

Once past the Dunes, or on the blessing that you've come across a good party within, you'll see that the community is very good. It starts at the friendslist I believe, and progresses into the game's linkshell (Guild) system. These are important because you want to stay in touch with those people who you grouped with previously who made the experience fun. Maybe it's that White Mage who never seemed to run out of MP, or the Warrior who was just plain fun to be around, or the been-through-it-all Dragoon who shares important tips with you in an almost sensei-esque fashion. While grouping, you should be noting these people down, and friendslist'ing them.

Once you have a good group of friends, or a good linkshell, or both, the community that I admire comes into play. (On a sidenote, just contributing sensibly to the various FFXI forums will also let you 'break the ice'.) FFXI players who make it into the community are on the whole very supportive, know each other on a named basis, and are just in general friendly. You just need to break the ice, because as we all know, social recluses dominate the player population. ;)

FFXI's community is also one of the most trusting I've ever seen, and I mean that in a good way.

"Not I," said the Heath. This one guy I met needed some armor for his new WHM job, so I bought him a full set, and he was dumbfounded. He couldn't believe that I was just stocking him up with whatever he needed and not caring. Such reactions don't happen in response to something that happens all the time. He couldn't believe it. Sure, I went a bit overboard for the purpose of giving the rest of the FFXI community the finger, but the fact remains little gifts such as that from player-to-player are far less common in FFXI than in other games. It always seems like "Find me the ingredients and I'll make you this, even though I freaking already have the ingredients right freaking in my mog house." Such little community love.

Because of the way the party system is set up, you have to rely on the others to keep you alive and gain you experience, just as they rely on you to do the same thing. This builds a lot of trust, and a look-out-for-each-other camraderie. There are many situations where this trust is vital, for example, the Burning Circle Notorious Monsters (BCNM) battles. In this situation, the entire party focuses on beating a nightmarish obstacle within a timed limit, using their best equipment, foods, and tactics. To activate a BCNM battle, one player must trade a large quantity of rare items in for a one-use key. Usually, this person has been saving these things for 40 levels, and still has only enough of them for 3 attempts. The key however allows the player to invite his entire party inside. If the party is successful, a score of rare, random expensive items is given to the party's treasure pool. These vary wildly in value: The BCNM level 40 battle drops items as expensive as a Scroll of Erase (300,000 gil value) and as inexpensive as a Survival Belt (2,000 gil value). The Survival Belt often times isn't enough to cover the cost of an individual's investment in a BCNM. The game allows for anyone in the party to roll for the items in the Treasure Pool, not just the one who paid for the key to the battle. Most times however, the party ends up trusting one person to auction off all the items, then send everyone the resulting profit in equal shares, since everyone contributed. This level of trust I cannot imagine happening on other games very often. And on FFXI it happens almost every day.

I'll contrast this to World of Warcraft. So far I've seen no sign of a strong community other than 'Alliance vs Horde'. I know that one will surface, but it's just not there yet. There isn't a remarkable level of trust in the community, and there isn't a strong 'look out for the other guy' movement either. Nobody really knows each other by name (FFXI: "Oh! Stabbycat's in your linkshell? I partied with her yesterday! Yeah sure, she can come, she's a cool thief." WoW: "A priest!" *random party invite message appears on priest's screen with no preamble*). I imagine the community will surface after a few months and the introduction of the Battlegrounds, but right now, WoW feels like Diablo II: A really good hack and slash with the occasional player interaction by necessity.

And it's not just WoW. I've been on many other online communities that have existed as long where the trust has not been as strong, the people as friendly, or the camraderie as vigilant.

Touching briefly on Thief, I'm a level 57 Thief currently, and I shared the frustration of pre-15th level. I recommend investing in a stack of mithkabobs and a good knife. With these, you can solo/duo to 12th with little trouble, outside the Valkurm Dunes. I recommend Ghelsba if you're of San d'Orian persuasion. 13th to 15th you just have to slog through, though it helps if you form your own parties. People are much more willing to join a pre-15th Thief in Valkurm than invite them.

Ah, now I see that community love you speak so much of. Oh, wait ;)

And on the subject of pulling, make sure you communicate with your party before pulling. Surprises are not welcome to an FFXI party. Once you have 15th, it will be easier. Sneak Attack means you can do palpable damage, while Treasure Hunter will help your party members find those elusive magicked skulls everyone needs for their subjob quest.

And finally, I'll touch on job/subjob combinations. The Party is the core of the FFXI play system. It is how you progress in levels, complete quests, and compete in the minigames. It's also the PE team selection system all over again. Do you pick the athletic kid for your team? Or do you pick the one that looks a bit weaker? Just like in this age old school tradition anchoring the angst of many young adults and filmmakers, party leaders want the best possible group they can get together.

Good comparison, because we all know video gamers have fond, fond memories of PE class.

On the player level, it's also about respect. You are contributing to a team. The other party members are depending on you to keep them alive. This is why there are 'appropriate' subjobs. A Paladin defends better than any other job in the game. If he doesn't have the Warrior ability 'Provoke' however, he can't save the White Mage who just risked her life to heal the badly injured Thief with an attention grabbing Cure II spell. This example is mirrored in the other jobs as well. A Warrior with the White Mage subjob will only be able to cast 2 or 3 Cures before their MP is depleted. A Warrior with the Monk subjob will have lots more hit points, and can counterattack if he's hit. That said, there's also some close-mindedness born from this. There are combinations that will be very useful to a party which aren't normally considered (like the Ninja/Ranger 'gun-ninja').

See, stuff like that shouldn't matter. I understand your point, and agree that the "okay, let's keep each other alive," feeling is exciting, but there needs to be more to the game than that. First, as pointed out earlier, the cost of character death is pretty high in FFXI. In any given MMO on any given Sunday, you *should* be able to pack in with a handful of strangers, discuss your general battle plan, and rock faces. There should be room for "one more" in most cases, regardless of what jobs he has selected. This is part of my main point--there is no respect for the individual in FFXI. People are only focusing on their own survival. Let me tell you what--if I'm in a good party, free of clowns that are only looking out for number one, and one of my homies bites the dust, I am glad to go down right next to him/her. It's the good old ideal expressed by punk band Pennywise as "If you die, I die, and that's the way it is." Word.
FFXI is far from perfect (you will hear me rant often in game about this or the other thing), but I look upon its community fondly, and with a sense of pride (I'm a part of this!). I also admire it as an example of great structured Party gameplay: the basic underlying FFXI game mechanic as I understand it is 'Coordinate well with other players to overcome challenges impossible to overcome as individuals.' It's the combination of these two aspects that keeps me logging back into Ramuh as often as I do. That and the tarutarus are too cute to stay away from ^^;
Hope this finds you well, and have a Happy New Year
-Tatianna @ FFXI Ramuh server

I appreciate the insights. Also, if you run into Grimnir on your server, tell him I said hello ^_^

On a more happy note...

Well the Fairyland Christmas celebration went off without a hitch. Weeeeeeeelll...Maybe.

First of all, about a week ago the Christmas trees went up in the three major cities (Rainbow City, Bluebird and Goldburg.) The Xmas Ambassador dispatched PC's to go out and defeat monsters for various decorations. At first, it was just flowers. Second, it was gold ingots. I donít know about any steps beyond that. (Fairyland does not own my soul; it is owned by a company known as R**** S****, and I had to work all last week.) Collecting decorations netted you points, and if you got 1000 points, you got the title of Merry Christmas, and a nice spinning Christmas tree above your PC's head. Yay.

On December 25 (or thereabout) Santa gave out presents. They ranged from Slime Potions (turn your PC into a slime for some length of time) to dolls that helped with work skills. My main PC, Ageha, got the much coveted Woodcutter Doll, which are selling for rather exorbitant prices in the Goldburg marketplace. (Thereís also the Power Work doll, which is more coveted, possibly because it is a cute kitty. Oh, and itís supposed to help with skill gaining. Iíve also seen a Mining Lizard doll.)

Bucket Mouse
[Fairyland USA: Ageha / Lvl 2x Blademan]

Thanks for the info, Bucket Mouse. I can concurr, Fairy Land is a trip and a half of an MMORPG. I personally know people of both casual and harcore gaming tastes who have found fun in that game. I personally admire the game's lively "Street Team," and I hope the game showing up here can help their cause. Good luck, and keep us informed.

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Wow. I knew someone would write in about FFXI, but didn't expect the overwhelming response above. My thanks go out to all who wrote in, or even just read the column and said "He's toally right" or "What a stupid jerkface." Either way, you are appreciated.

As far as reponding to the news, I don't mind if my jumping into Wish is delayed, as I've got other stuff to keep me busy, but I'll bet certain schoolkids are pretty jacked about not being able to play over their school vacation. Bummer.

Anyway, the debut of the screen section was nice, though it would be even nicer with more screens. Go ahead and send 'em in--you don't have to write a letter with them if you don't want to. Or, if screens aren't your thing, you can always write an editorial about Final Fantasy XI. Whatever the case, we'll see you next...year.

My name is Heath Hindman, and I think I missed the train to Mars. I'm out back counting stars.

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