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Final Fantasy XI

The Mog Log: 2013 for Final Fantasy XI and XIV

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Expansions, Patches, Previews, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
I'd like to say that 2012 started out with a lot of promise, but it really didn't. Looking back at my predictions for Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV a year ago, I see they weren't perfectly accurate, but they certainly fit well within the margin of error. Very little happened over in Final Fantasy XI's development, and Final Fantasy XIV managed to continue not wowing anyone, albeit partly because of the several delays to version 2.0 that now have it releasing around the middle of this year.

If you haven't noticed a theme yet, here it is: I'm worried that by the time it does launch, no one will care any longer. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

While I've split things up between recaps and forecasts in the past, in this case it's virtually impossible to do so. A lot of what has been done this year is banking entirely on the strength of what will be happening next, so Square was selling 2013 in the midst of 2012. So let's look at the past year for both games and the year to come, with an extra helping of hope and speculation for 2013.

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The Game Archaeologist's top MMO stories of 2012

World of Warcraft, Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, City of Heroes, EverQuest, Final Fantasy XI, Meridian 59, Culture, MMO Industry, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Shadowbane, Everquest Online Adventures, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist seals up 2012
As another gaming year spins to a close, we here at the Institute for Digital Interactive Entertainment have been holding our archaeological department hostage with a trained buffy-tufted marmoset until it delivered a final report. After hours of begging and infected monkey bites, the head of that department, Prof. Justin Olivetti, Ph.D., handed us a scrap of urine-soaked paper with the following article inscribed.

While the Institute strongly suggests that you ignore this report and instead work on your button-mashing exercises, the board of directors stated that all such papers must be posted for the public to see.

This report is presented in the Yetbari typeface and contains a sequential series of items that number between 11 and 13.

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Final Fantasy XI: Seekers of Adoulin releasing in late March

Fantasy, Trailers, Video, Final Fantasy XI, Expansions

Final Fantasy XI Seekers of Adoulin releasing late March
The long silence over Final Fantasy XI's newest expansion has been broken, as Square Enix has finally announced that Seekers of Adoulin will be coming out in late March of next year. The game's fifth expansion will go live on March 26th for North American players and on March 27th for European fans.

In addition to the release date news, the studio unveiled an updated website full of Seekers of Adoulin information. The expansion will include a virgin continent, additional enemy types, and two new classes: the Rune Fencer and Geomancer.

Seekers of Adoulin will be sold on both PC and XBox 360. Fans will pay $29.99 for Seekers of Adoulin alone or $39.99 for the core game and every expansion and content pack to date. There's also a two-minute trailer for the expansion; consume it after the jump!

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Jukebox Heroes: Christmas music

Final Fantasy XI, MapleStory, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Miscellaneous, League of Legends, Jukebox Heroes, Music

Jukebox Heroes Christmas music
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the staff at Jukebox Heroes! When it comes to the season, I have to admit that I'm a bit of a Christmas music junkie. Not nearly as bad as some I know, and I'm totally for a ban of hearing such music in public spaces before Thanksgiving and after New Year's Eve. I just love how it's so cheery and makes me feel warm in my tummy.

A couple of months ago when I realized that this column would fall on Christmas day, I entertained the notion of just featuring MMO Christmas music. That seemed a bit silly to me; there's no way that there could be more than a scarce handful of tunes, right?

It turns out that there's quite a bit, actually.

So whether you're celebrating, taking some time just to game, or bored out of your gourd, why not hit the jump and see how MMOs have contributed to the enormous library of Christmas music?

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Square Enix confirms layoff rumors, denies any impact on MMO operation

Final Fantasy XI, MMO Industry, News Items, Final Fantasy XIV, Miscellaneous

In hard times, the vendor NPCs are the first to go.
It's an unfortunate reality that layoffs are somewhat common in the gaming industry, and more often than not that means that games get cancelled or shut down. This weekend, Massively has been inundated with rumors that Square Enix has become the latest studio to suffer that reality. Tipsters suggested the company had laid off several people from its office in LA, people whose termination might impact the game's online offerings such as Wakfu and the upcoming relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV.

Only part of these rumors appears to be true. Senior Director of Public Relations Riley Brennan has told Massively that the layoffs did occur for restructuring purposes but that the workforce reduction will have no impact on the company's online titles, though we don't still don't know which titles or departments were affected.
In order to ensure it is operating effectively, the Square Enix Los Angeles office has reduced its workforce. This was a difficult decision and we wish the best for those affected by these changes. The decision will not have any impact on the operations of MMO titles. Customers can expect those services to continue, including the upcoming launch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
While we're certainly happy to hear that our games will continue to operate without incident, our best wishes go out to those affected by this round of layoffs.

[Thanks as always to our anonymous tipsters!]

The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XI's future might just be bright

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Consoles, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
We might not have another roadmap for Final Fantasy XI just yet, but we have the next best thing: a letter from producer Akihiko Matsui talking about what's at least being gingerly planned for the next year. More accurately, it's about delays in the existing roadmap, the state of the game, and what Matsui plans to do about it in the near future.

While the letter itself is a little old at the moment, I'm going to be honest and say that I keep re-reading it amidst a mixture of disbelief and hope. I've been getting up on the same soapbox for almost three years regarding Final Fantasy XI's biggest problems, and Matsui's dispatch by and large seems to indicate that the team in charge of the game right now is aware of exactly these issues and actively wants to correct them.

This is kind of staggering. It's the good sort of staggering, but it's the sort of thing you don't expect to see, especially not from a game with a lot invested in gleefully ignoring the rest of the world. But this could mean that despite FFXI's age, next year could be the best one for the game in a long while.

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The Mog Log: Consoles and the online Final Fantasy

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
You could be forgiven for losing faith in the prospect of Final Fantasy XIV ever coming out for the PlayStation 3. Yes, it had been a promised platform, but it wouldn't be the first MMO to abandon console promises. Heck, the development team is still working on fulfilling some of the promises made by the original team; it could be forgiven for putting that one on the back burner.

But it's a real thing. We've seen the screenshots, and we know that two years after the game's initial launch, we will finally get to play around in Eorzea on our televisions. (The "we" in this case refers to fellow PS3 owners.) This is sort of a mixed blessing.

This isn't a column about console gaming compared to PC gaming; I really don't care which platform you prefer, and it's also not the point. This is a column about the fact that Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV are both going to be console games as well as computer games, and that introduces some interesting wrinkles.

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The Mog Log: Where in the world is Seekers of Adoulin?

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Expansions, Opinion, Consoles, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
Square-Enix has long had a very different approach to MMOs compared to the rest of the world. In some ways, this is understandable; I know that every company operates in its own way. But where American and European companies are playing the electric guitar and Korean companies are playing keytar/acoustic duets, Square seems to be bringing out the xylophone to do a heartfelt rendition of Long Distance Runaround. (For those of you not willing to click the link, that song is not normally played with a xylophone.)

As a result, on one level I'm not surprised that we know virtually nothing about Final Fantasy XI's next expansion beyond the upcoming jobs and the fact that it's not going to be released for the PlayStation 2 here in America. I am also completely baffled that in the time since the expansion's announcement we have heard nothing about it. We first found out that the expansion existed in any form back in June, and we've learned pretty much nothing new since... and that's not a good sign.

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The Perfect Ten: Worst expansion names of all time

Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Final Fantasy XI, Lineage 2, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Humor, RIFT, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

The Perfect Ten Worst expansion names of all time
When SOE announced that EverQuest's 19th expansion would be titled Rain of Fear, I instantly found myself tripping over the name. I shouldn't have -- it's a few simple words that are first round picks for spelling contests -- but it defied the traditional naming conventions for MMO expansions. Many people I talked to kept wanting to write "reign" instead because "rain" seemed like a deliberate misspelling by some intern in Smedley's empire.

Homophones aside, Rain of Fear is hardly the worst expansion title I've ever seen. The industry has had its share of bad names, from the confusing to the downright unpronounceable. Sure, we get used to these titles, and perhaps it's nit-picky to lug them out at such a late point in many of their lifespans, but petty is my middle name. My first name is Tom. And these are 10 poorly named expansions. Deal with it.

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The Mog Log: Final Fantasy and free-to-play

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
Subscriptions are dying. There's no two ways about it. Star Wars: The Old Republic is switching over, and whether or not they liked the game, fans of Final Fantasy XIV have no room to throw stones about the game's success. That leaves a handful of holdouts in the normal subscription space, and that doesn't include the next major release on the horizon, as Guild Wars 2 is under the same buy-to-play model as its predecessor.

Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XI are two of the holdouts. And in a world increasingly dominated by games without subscription fees, that's pretty significant. So the question becomes whether or not the games will embrace the free-to-play option, whether or not they should, and how this sort of option could work in the game's favor rather than against it. After all, there are some roadblocks to making the system work quite right, but there's a lot of pressure on the market for a change.

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The Mog Log: Final Fantasy's bargain bin villains

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Lore, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
The Final Fantasy series has always had some spectacularly memorable villains. Sometimes that's been a challenge; this is a series in which your main antagonists have included an evil tree, a general who dresses up like a clown, and an adult version of the creepy kid from grade school who can't breathe very well. But for some reason, this has never carried over into the online installments. And with Final Fantasy XIV's first major villain debuting in the current patch, it's worth talking about.

I don't mean to say that Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV haven't had antagonists or anyone to step into the role of "villain." They certainly have. Final Fantasy XI has an entire rogue's gallery with Eald'narche, Promathia, the Shadow Lord, and whatever we were fighting in Abyssea. (I think it was the dread monster Apathy, but I sort of clocked out for a while there.) But compare it to the villains of Star Wars: The Old Republic or the single-player installments of the franchise. Heck, compare them to the villains of World of Warcraft. The villains here just don't quite get to a memorable level, and I think there are a few good reasons.

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The Mog Log: The zone design of Final Fantasy XI

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Opinion, Consoles, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
Gustaberg is one of the ugliest zones in Final Fantasy XI. For better or worse, it's a bunch of bland plateaus swarming with vultures, worms, and bees. It wasn't a visual treat when I first saw it, and the years have certainly not been kind. But the fact of the matter is that even after several years, I still get a little smile on my lips when I walk into that dessicated husk of a land. From the waterfall near the Wadi to the narrow pass to the Highlands, Gustaberg is painfully nostalgic.

Final Fantasy XI created a lot of magnificent regions for players to explore right from the moment it launched, and every subsequent expansion has added new areas without making them feel redundant. Considering that the game's next expansion is on the way, I thought it was apropos to look at what makes the zones so wonderful as well as what mistakes the designers might try to avoid when making the new areas in the west.

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The Mog Log: Distinct linked games

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Consoles, Final Fantasy XIV, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header by A. Fienemann
By early next year, the environment will be an interesting one for both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. Both games will have a major update out, whether that update is a large-scale revamp or a trim new expansion. (Speculation on that last one, yes; munch on a grain of salt as we proceed.) They'll both be poised for players to enjoy, each with its own distinct flavor... possibly.

See, there's a definite problem with all of the coming updates in the online Final Fantasy space. Both games need a distinct identity, and yet they're also both overlapping in several core areas. Square-Enix clearly wants players to be able to enjoy Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV as two different experiences, but is that really possible?

I'd like to think it is. I think that both games can deliver a rich experience for players of all stripes without becoming mirrors of one another, even disregarding superficial elements like jumping. I think both games also need to come together on certain points of common ground, so players of either can enjoy certain shared features that would otherwise be taken for granted.

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The Mog Log: Unabashedly squealing about Seekers of Adoulin

Fantasy, Final Fantasy XI, Expansions, Previews, Opinion, Consoles, The Mog Log

The Mog Log header image by A. Fienemann
It seems almost unbelievable, but it's here. It's coming. Seekers of Adoulin is the fifth expansion for Final Fantasy XI, the first one in what seems like an eternity, a genuinely new experience for players above and beyond the many recycled bits that have dominated the game for years now. It's a new region, a new set of challenges, all sorts of new. It's what players have been asking for for years on end, and as surreal as it seems, this is a reality. That it's not coming until next year almost seems like a footnote.

Needless to say, I'm excited. I think that if handled correctly, this is a great opportunity for Square-Enix to revitalize Final Fantasy XI in the wake of Final Fantasy XIV's relaunch later this year. It's a chance to give the game a new audience and let players come back to enjoy it on their own terms. Most of all, it's a chance to show how much life the older game really has, possibly to players who would never have seen it otherwise.

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MMO Blender: Eliot's self-made legend

City of Heroes, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Final Fantasy XI, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, Warhammer Online, Opinion, TERA, Miscellaneous, MMO Blender

Yes, I sort of had a Greek thing on my mind with this one.
I like games that make your characters feel legendary, but sometimes I think they've gotten the whole formula wrong. The problem is that the only thing important about your character is what he or she has done, not what he or she is. World of Warcraft has a lot of quests and raids that seem to imply your character is a big deal, but how big a deal can you really be if you're learning all of your tricks at the local trainer?

What about a game where your personal history has as much to do with your future development as anything else? A game where your accomplishments aren't just backstory but an integral part of your character's abilities? A game where every new encounter is a chance for your character to learn something unique? I'd love to see a game where your accomplishments are not a list of things that you've killed but a clear litany of skills learned and scars accumulated -- a game where the path to power isn't necessarily clearly marked.

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