Like every year, Final Fantasy XIV celebrates its relaunch in 2013 with the annual Rising event. And it is a good time for us to reflect on how far we’ve come since then and look toward what’s to come.
Welcome and Well Met
Today marks the 9th anniversary of Final Fantasy XIV’s rebirth as A Realm Reborn. Ten years of adventures for many, almost thirteen years for those of us blessed or cursed to be one of those few meteor survivors. Since then Final Fantasy XIV has shaken itself free from the failure that was its 1.0 launch and risen up to be the most popular MMORPG on the market today. That steady rise is odd. Because usually MMOs and any other live service game will plateau at some point. But not Final Fantasy XIV, it’s the kind of game that still hasn’t reached its peak.
And since we’re reflecting today, we might as well explore why it is that way. Because unlike other MMORPGs of today, Final Fantasy XIV never really wanted to cater to anyone specifically. Any expert on video games would now complain that a game with no focus audience is doomed to fail. But Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand found success by being itself unapologetically, by being a love letter to the Final Fantasy franchise, and being the kind of game players from any walk of life could enjoy together.
After 4 expansions and 10 years of content, you would expect them to slow down, take it easy. After all, Endwalker was the end of many of the game’s major stories. But with every end comes a new beginning and the two patches we’ve seen since Endwalker has been massive compared to what we’ve seen before. Ending things is not so bad after all — and the Final Fantasy XIV development team seems almost like they are just getting started. You only have to look at the new Raid tier or the Island Sanctuary to get a taste of that. But the future is still a little off, so let’s look back a little.
Yours is a Long Road, My Friend
Final Fantasy XIV launched on September 30, 2010. The original version we now call 1.0 was a product dead on arrival, a perfect storm at Square Enix had the team ship something that wasn’t really good. People hated it, but it was this different kind kinda bad game. Clearly, someone had put a lot of work and effort into every single aspect they had worked on but when it was assembled things broke. There was just a conflict of vision. While playing that original you could feel that the game was torn between the ideas of its creators. Even when it came to keeping it alive just to make the costs back or to take a bold new step.
Yes, those of you who have played through Shadowbringers and Endwalker will probably now realize that some of those story’s aspects came probably from a real place. To cut a long short, Final Fantasy XIV was given another chance courtesy of a man who would become synonymous with the game, its director and producer Naoki Yoshida. Words can not describe how important Naoki Yoshida is to the community, not to say that his team isn’t important to the development but Yoshida is Final Fantasy XIV. Always willing to take the hit when something goes wrong and quick to do his best to make everyone happy.
Somewhere in between all of that, I started playing Final Fantasy XIV back when the 1.0 subscription fee was disabled for a while. Maybe it was the people I played with or my lack of experience with MMOs outside of FFXI but I fell in love with it. There is just something about Eorzea that makes you feel at home, even if it’s a magical surreal place that decided to make you it’s champion.
It’s a love that has endured from the time I first arrived in Ul’dah and got lost in the Shroud, to the time when we sat waiting in Fallgourd Float at the Aetheryte for our healer to come home from work to clear Nael for the first time. From first stepping foot into Ishgard and hanging out in Idlyshire, to climbing Kugane Tower and grinding out Eureka for that butterfly armor. Going to the construction of a tank with a group of excitable dwarfs and fighting together with strangers on the Southern Front. To embrace that all good things must come to an end and greet a new dawn.
I have made a lot of memories playing this game, that’s the inherited power of an MMORPG. The journey goes on and on and even I start feeling estranged from the community. Many of the people I started playing with back then have long moved on to new pastures or we’ve just lost touch. But the memories remain. Final Fantasy XIV is aware of this, that MMOs become much more than just games. They are a gentle background hum to the days that make up our lives.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow
A new beginning, yes that seems to be the theme Final Fantasy XIV is going with now. After all Forge Ahead is the tacky catchphrase plastered all over an expansion that shares the same tragic finality of its franchise. But it doesn’t feel like the end. This year’s Rising event quest reminded me of that. While last year’s quest was themed around remembrance this year we get to relive the joys of setting off on a journey for the first time. Now the veteran adventurer and savior of countless souls, you get to help someone make their first tentative steps.
Final Fantasy XIV players are often overjoyed to welcome new players into their ranks. And I don’t know if this comes from just wanting more people to play with. It is this inherent joy of seeing something for the first time again through the eyes of someone else. It’s at least what I felt, some might brush this off as just fluff to get to their seasonal reward. But the Rising is always special to me. It’s the only event in the year I actively look forward to and it always manages to rekindle my love for this game.
I don’t know but there is something really special about getting a little one-to-one with Yoshida himself, giving you a little pep talk in these trying times. Reminding you that even if life is rough, Final Fantasy XIV is here for you to unwind and brighten your day. So I will probably try to get more people into playing Final Fantasy XIV this year, might try to stop myself from just doing content I like, and reach out to fulfill my mentor role. Our journey is far from over and new steps are best taken in good company. And that Solus Minion is ugly and I love him.
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