So, in my last blog post, as I started writing I was uncertain as to whether I would be returning to Vana'diel but by the end of the post I was pretty certain that my return to Final Fantasy XI was inevitable.
That last post was some time ago.
Final Fantasy XIV has been released twice since then, first to collector's edition pre-orders and then second to regular edition owners.
Blizzard have announced their 'Cataclysm' expansion pack is set to be released before the end of the year and pre-orders have opened for the collector's edition version of that.
So what have I done since my last post?
I sold all my collector's editions box sets of World of Warcraft on eBay - getting back the money I had spent in purchasing them (much to my wife's delight!).
I bought Final Fantasy XIV and created a character on day one - taking in the atmosphere of being there at the very beginning.
I also restarted Final Fantasy XI from scratch - not reinstating a previous account.
All in all, the MMO side of my gaming life has been completely turned upside down.
Firstly, why did I restart FFXI from scratch?
Well, I wanted the subscription discounts from running both FFXI and XIV at the same time as well as the in-game item benefits of linking the two to the same Square-Enix account. Having bought the XIV collector's edition, it came with an authenticator key ring so having the two games linked to the same account allows me to use the same authentication key for both games.
When I bought FFXI for the first time, I imported it from the US and so predominantly down the years I've been playing with a US account. Square Enix haven't been very quick to allow the transferal of accounts from one region to another - so fearing that I wouldn't be able to link my EU XIV and US XI accounts together - I opted to simply restart the game again.
(Actually, I've heard, as it turns out that S-E did allow the transferral of accounts to a different region during the launch of FFXIV - but how was I supposed to know that that would happen!)
So far, in XI I've taken my new character, 'Dhylan' up to level 18 as a White Mage, completed the sub-job quest and switched to Red Mage - of which I'm now level 14. I also levelled Black Mage and Thief for about 6 levels each just for a little diversion.
I've joined a great linkshell on Bismarck, TheVolturiTwilight, who have been very helpful as well as encouraging - when to all intents and purposes I'm a 'new' player.
(I've posted a few screenshots in my Picasa feed of Dhylan's adventures if anyone is interested..)
So, how is Final Fantasy XIV working out?
Since coming home from my holiday in France (which is where I posted that last post from), I rushed online and downloaded the FFXIV public beta as fast as I could.
Which wasn't that fast - because the patching system during beta was just a nightmare. I was forced to be downloading unofficial torrents for the patches so that I could manually inject the patch files to get into the game. This has all been sorted out since the public release of the game, I'm pleased to say, that I've had no problems at all with the patch system since starting 'officially'.
I created a Hellsguard Roegadyn (which were called Galka in XI) named Kennedy Forthwright on the Istory server when the game was released - though I played as a Hyur during beta, opting to switch to a more melee focussed character for XIV so that I can enjoy markedly different gameplay types between XI and XIV.
I was also pleased to notice that despite the warnings of the XIV benchmark, which claimed that the game would simply not run on my Macbook Pro, the beta of the game ran(!), very slowly, but it ran all the same.
With the release day version of the game receiving some big engine upgrades - it allowed the game to run relatively smoothly on my laptop. Now, I don't get anything like 30fps but the game is certainly playable with all the settings set to their lowest possible.
Where in XI the player chooses one race and then a job - switching jobs whenever they like, as long as they're in their Mog House - XIV allows the player to change their 'job' (it doesn't call it that) whenever they like, wherever they are simply by just changing their equipped weapon - as that is what determines what their 'job' is.
I've opted to play as a 'Marauder' class at the moment - in my mind a kind of cross between Monk and Warrior from XI - though I wouldn't stake my life on that definition as I'm only level 9 at the moment.
The crafting system is pretty enjoyable, certainly a lot more involved than XI's, where crafting isn't merely a side objective used to feed your main job with money or products - but is an entirely separate, playable, different job. I've been enjoying completing Armorer quests, taking the class to level 7 so far - but I do fail to see where the game is going.
I understand, I really do, that the game is still in it's early infancy and doesn't have anywhere near the amount of content that XI does - and not even what XI had available at launch in the US (There had already been an expansion pack released for it by the time it was available in the US) - but I do spend half the time wondering where I am, who I am, what I'm doing and where I'm going.
The general thread of plot through the game just isn't there yet, which I think is one of the major issues that people are having with the game, they don't see where they're going - I think players want to know what evil they're going to face and defeat and therefore be able to justify the subscription fees to themselves.
I don't think that this is a big problem for me personally as in my mind I'm playing XI as my main MMO game with a little XIV on the side. It's a very beautiful and intriguing game to be sure, but I'm happy with dipping in, levelling a little here and there and dipping out.
In eschewing the regular, and popular, systems of Final Fantasy for a completely new approach to classes, jobs, combat etc. I think that a lot of Final Fantasy players are going to be turned off. I'm enjoying a different approach - but I'm still not done with XI and am still in love with the lore, story and world of Vana'diel.
So, I've returned to Vana'diel once again - and decided to take in a little of Eorzea too on the side.
Having only been married for a little over a year, I'm a pretty busy guy. I spend two hours a day on my commute to my job in Liverpool, I need time to research modern computing in order to affect the growth of my career. I love my wife and love spending time with her - as I rightly should. The question has to be asked, 'do I really have the time for one MMO let alone two?'
I just don't know. I know that I love playing XI and it's a great diversion to just jump on during my lunch hour or for half an hour when I get home - it's XIV that really begs the question.
Every few days I step into Eorzea to look around - immediately annoyed by the game's slow user interface - to level my armorer class and step out again. I imagine when the PS3 XIV gets released that I'll be inclined to visit Eorzea more often but until then (next March) I think XIV is going to have to remain as a pleasant diversion to my real gaming love, Final Fantasy XI.