Square Enix doesn't need you to make
style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy XI
a success. If you believe href="http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart2.html">everything you
read on the internet, Final
Fantasy XI (FFXI) has around five hundred thousand
subscribers. What's unique about FFXI is that its subscribers are
scattered across various platforms and continents with players sharing
the same servers. The mixing of myriad demographics creates some
interesting interactions for the players and uncommon challenges for
the development team. Nevertheless, EnixSquare Enix does want you like target="_blank"
Murphy wants ice cream (Warning: Not safe for work), and
everything done to FFXI since launch has proven it. I recently had a
chance to tour the latest content updates for FFXI to see these
like cosplay is a bad thing. This Yuna is looking pretty good from
where we sit.
But First Some
While I may consider myself something of a style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy buff,
begin to touch the level of fanaticism displayed by many Japanese fans.
Yes, I have played Final
Fantasy I, IV-VIII,
X-XII, style="font-style: italic;">Tactics, style="font-style: italic;">Tactics
Quest and maybe even a couple of the
games on the Game Boy. Yes, I have seen some of the anime and
the first Final Fantasy
movie. Yes, I have a Cloud Strife action figure
(And Aerith. And a chocobo.). And maybe I laminated an image of the
Sphere Grid from FFX for easy reference. And possibly the License Board
from FFXII. But never mind all of that because I have never engaged in
cosplay (see image at right). Whatever geeky level of
insanity I may have achieved, there is always a Japanese gamer whose
zeal for the franchise tops mine. And that is a problem.
See, the Japanese FFXI gamers at launch tended to be hardcore.
They enjoyed the difficulty of the game. The relished in the fact that
players could easily become lost and that no one was holding a newbie's
hands. They didn't mind that players needed to grind for XP and cash.
By contrast, the American gamers who would come to FFXI months
were expecting something a bit different. The fans of Final Fantasy
console games were used to lengthy tutorials. The American console
release of Final
Fantasy II, which is really style="font-style: italic;">Final Fantasy IV,
is the perfect example of the "dumbing-down" of the series to please
American audiences. Meanwhile, the EverQuest
expatriates were used to playing in a sandbox; their world let them
explore as much as they could, but Vana'diel presented many restricted
areas. The story-driven plot of FFXI forced a few "on rails" elements
that did not sit well with an audience used to exploring vast chunks of
land at whim.
into the game was the first hard part. Then there were the deadly
I remember well the launch of FFXI in America. I cautiously
waited to hear from my friends who tried the game. The first complaint
I heard was the convoluted login system. I won't try to explain it, but
the system is still in place. At least your account is safe--even from
you. With multiple logins to access PlayOnline (the launcher) and then
FFXI itself, players feel like they need freaking href="https://www.cia.gov/" target="_blank">CIA
clearance just to play the game they paid for. The next
complaint was shard crystals. Players were randomly placed on shards
(or servers) unless their friends bought a special pass to get them to
the server they wanted. People had to roll and reroll characters just
to get the shard they wanted with their friends. Of course, this
heavy-handed population distribution technique is no more, but it was
another restrictive element American players faced. The third complaint
was the limit of one character per account. Extra characters required
the purchase of an additional slot for $1/month. This system still
exists because the theory is that you can just change jobs to
experience the other classes in the game, but it feels a bit more like
target="_blank">China's One Child policy to an
audience that is used to freedom to dabble in alts.
Once the American players got in the world of Vana'diel, they
encountered all of the adversity cataloged above, which was bad enough,
but what made matters worse is they also had trouble communicating with
their Japanese counterparts. A few of the Japanese players were even
rude to Americans, treating them as style="font-style: italic;">gaijin, or
outsiders, in their Vana'diel. The over all experience--the frustration
with the limitations, the harsh edge to the game, and foreign neighbors
in the same sever--made FFXI a tough sell for many American gamers.
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