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The Digital Continuum: Traversing the fantasy fantastic

Kyle Horner

This week I present you with something different. Over the weekend, I participated in an interesting New Year's gaming resolution thought up by the illustrious Phil Kollar. His reasons behind playing over the weekend were to finally finish Final Fantasy XII, but mine were wholly different. For me, it was an experiment to see if I could glean any useful information for what was to come in Final Fantasy XIV. Did I fail or succeed? Well, I'd like to say the latter was achieved, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

10:33am Saturday, January 2nd

Today I start playing Final Fantasy XII for "reals". I began playing earlier this week, but only got a few hours in before I was distracted by work and other life stuff. It's probably for the better, as this weekend is the "Phil Kollar Special New Year's Marathon Final Fantasy XII Session" that got me interested in replaying the game in the first place.

Why am I writing about a game that ostensibly isn't an MMO? Well, read on and see.

You know, it's an interesting thing, this game. It's most certainly a singleplayer game, but it has strong overtones of a massively multiplayer online game. The open world design, integrated combat system and "sidequest-ish" hunts all pull inspiration directly from the realm of classic online persistent gaming. The degree to which playing this game feels like Final Fantasy XI is quite amazing. However, there's probably a little World of Warcraft influence to be found as well.

I'll be playing through 12 and looking back on my experiences with Final Fantasy XI in order to develop some understanding of what we might expect to see in the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV. Granted, 12 isn't connected to 14 in the same way that 11 most certainly is, but that doesn't discount the fact that much of 12 speaks to what the online team has been and continues to work on. They must have been paying attention when 12 was in development. I certainly know I would've watched closely; especially to press and public reactions.

Curiously, 12 garnered a rather strong following for a main Final Fantasy game that strayed considerably far from the path previously laid by Square (Enix) alum. Fans of this series are undoubtedly familiar with repeated thematic and mechanical re-imaginings. Except that 12 represented a major shift in design and thematic philosophy. So, as I play through the game today and much of tomorrow -- before writing the rest of this week's column -- I'll be considering what's in store for us in 14. Hopefully, I can derive some semblance of understanding for not just that game, but other MMO design as well.

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