Whether or not you like Final Fantasy XIV, you can't argue that the past year has brought an onslaught of changes to the game. On the flip side, there's been less going on in Final Fantasy XI than in any of the game's previous years of operation. As a result, I've had a difficult dilemma to try to juggle: There's one game moving at high speed and one staying rather stagnant, but I don't want to give undue attention to one over the other.
The approach I've taken this year, determined mostly via vague concepts about how things might play out, was that Final Fantasy XI gets the lion's share of retrospective articles and discussion about lore. Final Fantasy XIV just gets more straight discussion about what the game is currently doing and how changes will shake down in actual play. Looking back on the past year of this precise approach, I find that results have been mixed.
On the one hand, going a little more freeform in my FFXI meanderings have given me the freedom to do stuff like one of my favorite columns, which I think I ought to revisit at some point. (Using fiction allowed me to get four or five separate points across with minimal preamble, although it was a bit vague at points.) On the other hand, even though I'm not really involved in the FFXI endgame any longer, it does still exist. And it's kind of a mess, from an outsider's perspective, since the skyrocketing level cap has basically sent an entire game built for level 75 and thrown it to the dogs in a mad quest for power.
But I can't speak to that from a tremendously active perspective, and that's been detrimental in some cases. The problem is both a lack of will to get back into that endgame and lack of time; I'm not in college any longer and simply can't devote the long hours to that particular cycle. Heck, even then it was a near thing, which would make for an interesting column on another day.
FFXIV, by contrast, has had plenty of stuff happening. The team has been making additions and improvements in quick succession, and I had the opportunity to cover a lot of ground in the game, ranging from system changes to ridiculous, pointless cheesecake. And make no mistake, the game's changes were uniformly good, the sort of thing that led to the game's dominating my playtime for quite some time.
On the other hand... focusing on more concrete issues meant that I didn't have nearly as much time to discuss things in a more freeform manner. If it hasn't been clear, I really like doing that. Judging by reader responses, people also seem to like when I write an entire article about how moogles are actually literary devices. And there's plenty to find interesting about FFXIV's world, but I've either ignored it or just given it a brief aside while discussing FFXI.
I don't mean to say that I don't think this was a good year for the column. I'm quite happy with how a lot of individual columns turned out. But I'm not as happy with how the column's overall focus played out, as it both felt meandering and lockstep in the wrong ways. I didn't have nearly as much freedom to do some things that I thought would be better ideas, and that was limiting.
And that's fine. One of the reasons I do these retrospectives is for a chance to look back, decide on what is or isn't working, and change things over the next year. And right now, it's a question of what needs to change.
For starters, I think I need to strike a better balance for FFXIV. It's not that I don't enjoy covering system stuff, even if I've long since given up any hopes of being first to market on it. It's the fact that with the pace of changes in the game, system coverage can get very dated very quickly. There's some interesting lore going on in the game right now, and while there's no doubt some of it that will be gone come 2.0, remembering what was there is a worthwhile exercise.
I also think that I need to try to lighten up on some of my more retrospective columns on FFXI. Not "I don't want to talk about FFXI," but when there are four things to talk about when it comes to FFXIV, I'd rather talk about those things. I don't want to keep harping on the same points over and over, and there were times when I felt like that was, essentially, all I had to cover. When and if the design team gives us more interesting things to talk about for FFXI, I'll happily do so, but I think it's best to not try to force them in.
So I'm going to keep trying to make this column the best it can be. And I thank you, the reader, for sticking with the column, giving me feedback, and pushing me to do a better job. I frequently say that I absolutely love my job, and being able to look forward to another year of a column I love makes it more than worthwhile.
Feedback is always welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, of course, but this week it's even more welcome than usual. Next week, I'm going to put my money where my mouth has very recently been and talk about the state of Eorzea in broad strokes.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.