It's a hard time to be playing Final Fantasy XI. On the one hand, it ought to be a great time -- a lot of neat features were included with the June version update (several of which I waxed poetic about in the recent developer tour), and there's quite a roadmap for the months ahead. But that roadmap also has an enormous bump that's shaped like a 14... specifically, Final Fantasy XIV. Or maybe it's just me. All I know is that the next thousand-plus hours can't pass quickly enough. (Although Going Rogue should really take the edge off.)

But this column isn't just about me and my hangups -- it's about the community. It's especially about community this week, as we're taking a look at all of the insanity running through various discussions far and wide. Square certainly has given us plenty to talk about over the past month, whether you're avidly playing Final Fantasy XI or just looking forward to Final Fantasy XIV. So let's look at some noteworthy threads while I stare longingly at the promised game.
The day everything comes down

The recurring joke I've been making is that I will be attending the midnight launch of FFXIV. If the facility where I pre-ordered does not have a midnight launch, then I will hold a midnight launch myself, courtesy of a crowbar and a healthy disrespect for statutes on breaking and entering. (To be fair, it's not robbery; I already paid them for it.)

Realistically, I'll probably be picking the game up on launch, installing it, and giving myself a little time until my girlfriend also gets a chance to come home and play alongside me. That will probably mean I don't log much time on the day of release, but that's OK. (I keep telling myself that.)

Everyone has his own traditions for when a game launches. This thread is a collection of what people intend to do on the day that FFXIV comes out to an eagerly anticipating public, complete with the requisite jokes about lagging for thirty minutes straight and trying seven different character names before getting one similar to your first choice. So very, very true. (I will admit that's half the reason I'm waiting a little bit.)

Casual vs. hardcore vs. what in the heck, people

If there's one thing about MMOs that sends me into a blind rage... well, it's probably people who claim to be veteran players but can't manage to avoid standing in something harmful. But if there's a second thing... actually, that would be the fact that so many people eschew their Shift key altogether. It takes half a second!

Let's start over. Among the many things that send me into a George Carlin-style psychotic episode is the seemingly endless debate about casual players vs. hardcore players. It's a ridiculous debate made by two sides that are nearly identical about an issue that isn't mutually exclusive against a strawman. The fact that it comes up every single time someone mentions allowing casual players access to the game or investing in hardcore gamers is just the final kick in the face on this topic.

Regardless, if you really want to flog this dead horse (which has been flogged into a muddy red stain on the ground, I would note), this is a thread all about which "side" FFXIV is catering to, and whether or not that's a good thing. I can understand where the debate comes from, but... you know, let's just say I'll talk about this in a couple of weeks and I'll shut up for the time being.

What is Abyssea?

As long as we're on this debate, let's go for broke. Or more accurately, let's take a look at a variant of the debate that has some merit and points out one of the glaring holes therein. Abyssea has some intensely difficult boss spawns coupled with a very heavy experience component, things built to reward both casual players and hardcore veterans. So which side of the coin does it fall on? Is it designed for people without a lot of time, or for those with nothing but time?

The answer -- which comes up very quickly in the thread -- is that it's both. There are elements that work very well for players who just want to jump in and enjoy the area for a bit, and there are others that encourage players to hammer their heads against a boss for the better part of an hour. It's really an interesting addition to the game as a whole, and I think it's a marvelous example of just how much Square-Enix has learned about designing the game's content and balancing it for varied rewards.

The speed of the deed

If there is a level cap increase, people will wish to arrive at the improved level cap, and they wish to do so in the most accelerated fashion possible. This is the eternal contradiction of players in an MMO: We want deep, meaningful content that we can blow through in an afternoon and then complain we have nothing to do. But as long as we're already admitting that we're a fickle bunch who can never be truly satisfied, we can ask the eternal question of how long it takes to get from the previous level cap to the new one.

The answer, of course, seems to be that Abyssea has thrown the entire idea of a leveling curve into a vast disarray, providing players an easy and straightforward way to level without spending too much time searching for a party or languishing as the group waits for respawns. Figures are being thrown around as low as five hours, which was the time to get from 74 to 75 if you got very, very lucky. It's going to be a very different ball game over the next few months.

Those are our community thread highlights for the week, and we hope you enjoyed taking a look at them as much as we enjoyed telling you to do so. Comments, questions, and promises of free hot dogs may be sent to eliot@massively.com, or left in the comments field as always. Next week is our usual question session, so now would be the time to send those in.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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