The Mog Log: Apparently I enjoy receiving hate mail

The Mog Log header image by A. Fienemann
I like Final Fantasy XI, and not just because it was the game that introduced me to how awesome MMOs could be, although that's certainly a part of it. I like the game because it has a lot of things that are genuinely likable, several elements that are well-designed, and some really excellent parts that stand out even now. So keep in mind that everything I'm about to say is said on behalf of a Final Fantasy XI fan.

Specifically, the rant that's about to ensue about how the idea of remaking it is a terrible idea.

This suggestion crops up pretty regularly, largely among people still disappointed that Final Fantasy XIV was what it was at launch. There's some thought that somehow cloning FFXI with the models from Final Fantasy XIV would lead to a glorious revival. And I can understand the thought process, but there are two very good reasons why that shouldn't happen -- not won't, which is already obvious, but shouldn't.

Since I know there are certain folks that will go ballistic about this column, I'm going to post a baby chocobo here.Reason one: FFXI was a terrible game

Hold on a minute. Didn't I just say that I like FFXI? These things don't seem to go together.

The thing is that for all that FFXI had excellent parts, it had a whole lot of things in it that were dumb, annoying, or just flat-out bad. Sometimes those elements would combine into a single mess, like the fact that the game has never adequately addressed the fact that way more classes can damage stuff than are capable of healers. Other times they just stood on their own as being intensely bad choices.

Forced grouping is one of those design choices. Oh, it's an MMO; you want to be able to group with other players. That's not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about is never being able to play the game so much as logging in and hoping to play the game. It's easy to remember the fun parties that went smoothly. I remember times when playing a White Mage was the most fun in the world. I also remember times when I was the only person who seemed to have even a rudimentary understanding of how the game worked, and times when I just wanted to log in and do something instead of putting on my party flag. And that's not even talking about trying to level Dragoon.

The fact that half of the game's mechanics were hidden behind a wall of handwaving didn't help matters, either. Yes, it introduced an element of mystery into the game, but there are fun mysteries and annoying mysteries. Not knowing exactly where you're going as you crawl through a dungeon can be fun. Not knowing whether or not a piece of equipment is actually improving your performance without extensive testing and theorizing is not fun.

Both of those examples are just samples. Even once you knew what everything did, you'd frequently wind up with equipment for your class that improved totally irrelevant stats. Subjobs have always been functionally limited, so while you can theoretically sub almost anything, there are only a handful with any merit. PvP is a mess. Losing experience, a game economy that was horribly lopsided, broken classes, classes that have never worked as intended, lack of character customization... the list goes on.

FFXI wasn't fun because of all these issues. It was fun in spite of them.

Some of these issues are a product of the times when the game was designed, surely. But they're not merits, and they aren't what I look back on with fondness. Almost none of them has ever really been addressed (some of them have, certainly, like the loss of experience), and they're all a huge barrier to entry for anyone getting into a game or the genre as a whole.

Even if you consider all of these things to be awesome elements, however, there's still another major issue.

I'll build my own Ul'dah!  With blackjack!  And hookers!  On second thought, that's the same thing.Reason two: The remake would add absolutely nothing

Let's assume that FFXIV just ports over everything wholesale from FFXI and uses updated character models. Of course, in the process, we're screwing over anyone who plays the game on older hardware, since at this point there's no reason in the world to play FFXI over FFXIV. Unless, of course, you'd prefer to keep your high-level character instead of starting over from the beginning in the same blasted game.

Therein lies the problem, Timmy: A straight remake adds nothing. It's a sequel without anything that a sequel should have. Forget the wild experimentation that usually accompanies each new installment in the franchise; it doesn't even have the innovation you'd see between installments of Mega Man. It turns a sequel into, essentially, a graphical upgrade pack for the original game. You get the same experience both times around.

Oh, and that also means that anyone who was no longer interested in FFXI need not even look longingly at the new game because it's just the same as the old boss. Just cross it right off the list.

You can conceivably argue that obviously it wouldn't be exactly the same game, but at that point it's not a remake. It's a different game, a game clearly based on its predecessor without being obligated to make the same mistakes twice. Ideally, designers would look at the issues that said predecessor had and try to devise solutions to those issues, hopefully resulting in a game that's stronger all around.

You know, like what actually happened.

I'm not going to debate whether or not the game was successful in this; I think there's a lot to like in the game, now more than ever, but the initial approach didn't win it a lot of fans. But a lot of the dumber elements that FFXIV had at launch (fatigue, for instance) were meant to address issues that had plagued FFXI. Some of the cures wound up being worse than the disease, but the effort was there.

Wanting a straight remake means you want to create a game with a potential playerbase consisting solely of FFXI players who have the hardware to run a new game and don't mind starting over from the ground level. Wanting a substantial set of changes means, well, it's not a remake any more. It's a different animal altogether, and then we're right back to here.

Lots of people don't like FFXIV, and I can certainly understand why. (I like it, but there are a lot of moments in it that also fall under the "fun in spite of this" category.) But turning it into FFXI wouldn't be the answer even if it was on the table.

As always, feedback is welcome in the comments or via mail to eliot@massively.com. If the title didn't give it away, my hopes for responses in the vein of "I hadn't thought of it that way" are not high. Next week, considering the positive response to the previous two installments, I'm going to continue on a tour of the cities around Eorzea with a look at the single city with the most activity.

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.
This article was originally published on Massively.