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The Mog Log: There's nothing to say about Final Fantasy XI

Eliot Lefebvre

At a glance, Final Fantasy XI is doing all right for itself. It's been running for over a decade and has had to deal with only occasional server merges. It launched another new expansion this year. It certainly doesn't have the population that it used to have, but the people who are playing seem happy enough with the game, and that's what matters. And yet for all that I ostensibly write about both of Square-Enix's online games, these days it's pretty much all Final Fantasy XIV.

Some readers have asked me why this is. Have I fallen out of love with Final Fantasy XI? Yes. And no. It's complicated. And I think discussing why I'm not writing more about XIV's more classic sibling also bears some discussion in the context of the game as a whole. So let's talk about why there's so little to say about Vana'diel these days, even while Vana'diel continues to be an active environment.

Some of the NPCs emotionally lock you out, but that's a different discussion.The lockout

The first problem is one that I've talked about before: FFXI locks new players out early on. I've discussed it so many times, in fact, that the only point I'll be discussing is the oft-raised objection that all you really need to do is befriend some veterans and get help on your way up. This is at once a true statement and utterly incorrect.

Yes, having some veteran players help you out will definitely enable you to do all of the stuff you have to do. Your level 99 buddies will get you your subjob items, then help you unlock some advanced jobs, maybe even group up with you when they're not doing other things. They might even drag you into Abyssea and introduce you to being flung up in levels for a bit. Assuming, of course, that you can either find or already know people at the level cap with a helpful streak.

I'm not saying they don't exist; I'm saying that logging into a game with the hope that you'll find some helpful souls is a really bad model. During my first week in the game I asked someone to spare a few gil so I could buy a sword, not realizing that what I was asking was incredibly rude. I was lucky that the person in question lent me money and then explained that it was sort of a social faux pas. Predicating your ability to play the game on finding someone with as much or more patience is a bad idea.

Even leaving that behind, though, all of this "get high-level players to help" talk just means that you can bypass these restrictions eventually. It means that you can get chores out of the way, but it doesn't mean that you'll have any idea whether or not you really like this game or want to keep playing. You're begging for help so that you can find out if you want to keep playing.

Short version: FFXI locks out new players. This is problematic.

Granted, stuff like Corsairs make a great case for being invested.Selling to the invested

For the people I know who are already heavily invested in FFXI, Seekers of Adoulin is pretty great, which is good to hear. These are the people who were level 99 well before the expansion came out. If they've taken breaks from the game, they have been brief, and they've been breaks rather than departures. They belong to shells and play regularly. This is either their only game or their main choice.

I am not one of those people. Yes, FFXI was my first game, but I've gone in many other directions, occasionally expecting to never go back. I don't have anything at the level cap. I am not, in short, rocking a whole lot of great stuff.

This is a pretty major problem at this point because the game is being marketed and sold to invested players. SoA focuses on the players who are already playing in this level of the game, and players below that are still looking at more or less the same game that's already existed for years. Not exactly the same, no, but certainly not a massive change. You don't get a sense for the expansion unless you're ready to get yourself up there, and uninvested veterans don't get much in the way of bonuses.

It's all about Final Fantasy XIV

Whether you like to think it or not, FFXI and FFXIV are tied pretty closely together. In a way, the best thing that could have happened for FFXI would have been FFXIV's relaunch flopping badly, encouraging Square to sink a lot more resources into the older game. (Or bowing out of the online business entirely, maybe. Who knows what that world would look like.)

It doesn't really matter, though, because that's not what happened. FFXIV's relaunch has been going well. No, it's not busting down doors, but it's attracting solid numbers, it's profitable, it's collecting accolades hither and yon, and the team is moving forward steadily. The game upped the company's profit projections, at that; that means that as far as Square is concerned, FFXIV is the online future for the MMO wing of the franchise.

So there's just plain more to talk about there. The company isn't going to abandon FFXI, but there's no major forward motion. It's meant to be fun stuff for the fans to play around with and just enough to justify that subscription cost, not huge new experiences. If you aren't already invested heavily in the game, you aren't the target audience.

And, hey, that's a perfectly workable model. It just also means that there's not much to talk about. Either you're in or you're out.

Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments below or via mail to Next week it's time for a 2.1 primer, and the week after that I'll be talking about my experiences with the patch.

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.

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