Massively Multiplayer

I hadn’t really gotten back into the whole ‘pay to play a game with other people on the network for a monthly fee’ frame of mind since the XBand folded, and I was torn between Final Fantasy and World of Warcraft. Both of them promised that they would keep me occupied for very nearly forever, and since Blizzard has this habit of taking 30 or 40 years to get a game ready, I decided to see what Final Fantasy had to offer.

Now I’ve never actually played a online role playing game, much less one that promised to be both massive and multiplayer. My experience with online gaming has mostly been in the form of playing Unreal Tournament 2003 against people who are much better than me, so I was intrigued by the premise of not actually having anything really defined to do. Just sort of existing. That sounded right up my alley, I exist multiple times a day!

To be quite honest, Final Fantasy XI isn’t really a whole lot different from this free online game in a couple of respects: nearly all of the quests that I have done are ‘go here, fetch/do that’ quests, and you gain levels.

That’s pretty much the gist of the game. There’s a lot of minutae that I could go into, but I don’t really need to.

There are only two real problems that I see with this game:

1. Playing with friends. I know why Square-Enix did what they did. I know that if you let everyone just pick what server they wanted to be in, there would be servers full of people and servers devoid of people. So things are balanced out. Great! But, if I buy the game and my friend does the same, there’s only about a 1/28 chance that we will end up in the same server. Now, of course, I have somewhat of an interest in playing an online game with someone that I know from Real Life. Square-Enix recognized this and let people buy World Passes that allow a player to be created in whatever server they choose. But that’s the thing. You can’t move your character, you have to create a new one (which costs an extra dollar a month). So one of you ends up playing a new character while the other one is cruising along with whatever one he was originally playing with. Not a real big deal, but if the level difference is too big between the players, then neither one of them will get a decent amount of experience, effectiely penalizing you for buying that world pass so you and your friend can play together.

2. Fees. There is a fee with everything about this game. Want more than one character? There’s a fee. Want to play a card game? There’s a fee. Want your significant other to play the game too? You have to buy two copies of the game and two accounts. Bleh. Well, at least I have the option of not paying for the card game. That saves me $0.25 a week!

One of the more interesting things is the auto-translate feature, letting North American and Japanese people play in the same server and, to some degree, communicate with each other. It’s kind of a pain to use, but it gets the job done, especially in a non battle situation. I wouldn’t expect to be able to carry on a conversation with someone like that, but certainly saying, “Thanks,” or, “Watch out!” is doable.

Now, admittedly, I’ve only been able to sink about a week into this game, so my opinion may change slightly as I invest more time into it. If it turns out that this game isn’t as fun as advertised, it’ll probably happen during my 30 day free trial, and then I can give World of Warcraft a try, assuming Blizzard releases it before the Sun goes nova, that is.