The yearly glance at Final Fantasy XI

Ugh.. must.. resist.

I cannot understand how regularly every year Square convinces me to buy the latest exp pack, reactivate my account, patch for hours and then only look around for a couple of hours before unsubscribing again. I’m weak and hopeless like that.

But, come on, it’s soooo pretty.

There’s a new expansion (Treasures of Aht Urhgan) to be released around the end of April and looking truly interesting. But even before the features what really stands out is the graphic. Despite the engine is still exactly the same, it seems that Square artists and animators just keep surpassing their excellence. I love the screenshots I’ve seen, the new creatures and zones stand out compared to everything I’ve ever seen in a mmorpg. Square is the new “Origin”, they are the only one left that truly “create worlds” with their own consistency and depth. Each of their games is an unique world on its own, fully crafted in every detail and where you can immerse yourself completely. There’s an engrossing backstory that ties all the elements together and that is the true heart of the game, not just a generic theme used as an excuse. Noone does this better than them.

Stories, characters, worlds. Where are they in today’s mmorpgs? We just chase loot and have bland excuses to move through superficial content.

The features coming with the expansion are quite surprising. There are going to be new zones, monsters and missions that will follow a similar scheme of the content of the two previous expansions (the missions are consecutive adventures used to narrate the story of the game) but in one of these zones there will be a city, Al Zahbi, that will introduce two new gameplay modes: Besiege and Assault.

“Besiege” sounds like a dynamic scenario that could trigger at any time while you are around the city. Basically the monsters will start to attack and swarm the city instead of roaming quietly in the wilderness and it will be your duty and the duty of those caught in the attack to defend the city. If you die you won’t lose xp points so the assault shouldn’t be a major burden for the players we are surprised into one. The NPCs will defend the city and fight along with you and from the previews I’ve read it sounds as something really chaotic but also a hell of fun.

In our town, we took on hoards of giant lizard monsters that were out for blood. Think of Besieged as the battle for Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. The enemies just keep coming and they don’t stop.

“Assault” instead should be like a reversed besiege. You gather a group of players (from three to six) and grab an “assault mission” available in the town and then go to “assault” the lair of the mobs. It’s unclear if this will be an instanced zone but from the sound of it I believe these tasks can be taken just by one group and will be unavailabe to others till the group accomplishes it or fails. There’s a screenshot suggesting that there will be impassable barriers, and the official description says that the zone will be evacuated of players that don’t belong to the group who “tapped” the assault task.

EDIT: The two modes seem also related. From a dev note:

The strength of the beastmen that attack all depend on the players attacking the strongholds. If the players have beaten the beastmen back, their raids on the town will be weaker. The stronger the beastmen in the region, the harder their attacks will be.

Completing assault missions will grant you “assault points” and move your character through mercenary ranks that will probably give you the possibility to get some fancy, unspecified props. I love alternate advancement in mmorpgs when it lets you explore different parts of the game world and different gameplay. Both the Besiege and Assault sound absolutely fun and interesting. I wish other games would also try to add some new gameplay with the expansions instead of just bigger mobs and fatter loot. Can’t you see how it is awfully boring to be stuck in just the exact same, redundant gameplay as always? What are bringing to the table the new expansions of WoW, DAoC, EverQuest if not just more instances, mobs, levels and zones?

At least here we have a variation, an exploration of other possibilities to enrich the experience.

But the assault and besiege models aren’t the only interesting features in the work. The expansion will also intruduce three new classes: the “Blue Mage” who will mimic the attacks of the monsters, the “Corsair” who will be able to shoot at range with a gun and “elaborate luck-based abilities to alter the stakes of battle” (it should use a deck of cards randomly drawn) and a the recently revealed “Puppetmaster” who has a puppet following him around and will probably use it to deliver the attacks (that’s all I was able to find out).

And Chocobos! Yes, I know they are already in the game, but with the expansion you’ll be able to raise your own chocobo!

Not only, you’ll also be able to make it breed with other players chocobo to generate new ones, hinting (I hope!) the possibility to customize them and develop sepecific traits. Also because the most awesome features is what comes next: The chocobo circuit! You’ll be able to ride your chocobo in a race against other players and, maybe, win prizes. How awesome is that?

The last new feature in the expansion is the Coliseum, it is still in the dark but taken directly from the tradition of the series. It is unclear if it will involve directly the players or if you’ll only be able to bet on monsters vs monsters encounters but it’s possible that Square will continue to add more content after even this part is released.

It’s interesting to notice that all this new content won’t be available right away but it will be staggered along the bi-monthly content patches. So all the features will progressively dribble in the game as it already happened with the story-missions in the previous expansions, distributed along the year till the possible next expansion.

While looking around I’ve also read the notes of the February patch. Along with the new quests and content I noticed something that I would gladly see in DAoC or WoW:

In a previous update, damage taken during Conflict (PvP) by melee, ranged, and magic attacks was adjusted to an amount relatively lower than damage taken in regular battles with monsters.

Anyway, what really picked my interest about the expansion is the graphic that is truly amazing and without the need to use any new technology, which again demonstrates that tech is not art and that an engine is never a true limit for anything. Along with a feature list that for the first time isn’t limited to just “more of the same”, but that truly tries to explore some new possibilities and add to the variety of the game instead of drying it.

Maybe Brad McQuaid was right. Maybe it’s true that the fresh air into the genre will come from the evolution of the consolidated models we have now. What I know is that I like when these game introduces new possibilities and content that don’t just overlap with something else.

Vana’diel is easily the most interesting, original and detailed world between those I’ve experienced in this genre, it’s a pity that there are some structural design flaw that compromise its quality and undermine its accessibility.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Final Fantasy XI: A new expansion and a vague “expiration date” set

I always try to follow this mmorpg because I consider it one of the best, despite Square then breaks it on a good number of core features. One of those games that I classify under the “what if?” category. Potentially awesome games that could reach and expand on their success but that are then only sinking because of very bad decisions and inappropriate development.

In particular I was curious about the announce of the next expansion because it would have given me more precise hints about what Square wants to do with this game world. Everyone knew already the title (“Treasures of Aht Urhgan”), that it was going to be announced at the Tokyo Game Show and even a few guesses about a possible new class, the blue mage. All three were correct. And I’m not rejoicing. In fact I’m rather deluded. As I said, I believe in the potential of a game and it’s disappointing see the game moving in a direction that I really don’t find interesting or useful for the game. I was expecting (hoping for, actually) something interesting, some new ideas and developments, the developers becoming more self-conscious of the actual problems and needs of the game, addressing them properly. Instead we have an expansion that pretty much repeats the same, consolidated pattern that I don’t really see leading anywhere noteworthy. We have more zones, new missions and one new class that the game doesn’t really need considering its already critical LFG problems. More of the same without anything really important and relevant for the health of the game both in the short and long term.

Beside these few confirmations of suspects we already had, I find more interesting an interview that was published on a german website, which I believe complements the other informations:

– How many users Worldwide are playing FFXI now?

There are over 500,000 subscribers world wide. Also the number of active FINAL FANTASY XI (FFXI) characters total over 1.6 million, so on average, each player has 3 characters.

The subscription numbers are one of the most quick and direct ways to figure out the health of a mmorpg and that line pretty much confirms the same situation we had in March, which is already surprising considering that the game isn’t really moving from where it is and not trying to get more people interested. What is to underline here is the good retention of old players.

In fact I believe this data plays a strong role on the plans Square has about the game:

– The FFXI Graphical Engine is now 3 years old. Will you update the engine for PC users after the release of Xbox360?

We will keep working hard to improve and expand the game’s quality as much as possible, but we’re very careful to choose what to do regarding upgrading at the same time, as this might affect our development speed sometimes. Until now, we’ve improved our engine to accept wide-screen displays, 3D display function, options for upper spec PCs on the Windows version. But currently we do not have any plans to use next-generation technologies which may require re-creating all graphic data. If we chose to do this with FFXI, it would take a few years to complete upgrading. So we’ve decided to use our development powers to create a new, next-generation MMORPG. Until then, we will keep having version-updates and expansion packs for FFXI as we’ve always done.

Have you ever considered about doing this constantly and progressively? The reiterative development is what could make online worlds stronger.

If you usually follow what I write, you may know how much I hate the announce of new mmorpgs to “replace” old and obsolete game worlds. I always consider this the biggest failure possible and I just refuse the hype for a “sequel” as something good. It’s unacceptable how these game worlds are made to be disposable and get wasted as junk. I just cannot and will never accept this. It’s another game world sinking because of horrible marketing and development decisions and a huge potential once again choked.

I said I believe the data about the subscription numbers plays a role. In fact we have probably another expansion aimed to offer “more of the same” to that mid-to-high level players that are already subscribed. It’s just my personal estimation but I believe no more than a 10% of the subscribers has seen more than half of the previous expansion and I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual percent is way below that one. That’s my point of view. Maybe it’s good to try to retain those subscribers that keep the game active but this is also an implicit decision to NOT DEVELOP the game. Not appeal to new players, not grow it, not believe on the project and invest on it if not to confirm the consolidated pattern to rinse and repeat (exploit) till it’s commercially viable. And till the game is completely “dry” (draining life as from a set “stock”) and has nothing anymore to offer, compared with a game world that flourishes over time.

Maybe I’m just a silly idiot but I believe that these game worlds have their own dignity and a potential to respect. I refuse to consider them as disposable and I strongly believe that these stupid “life cycles” are a deliberate choice of a blind development more than an unavoidable destiny. Game worlds should never be replaced and they can grow along with the technology and their commercial success (instead of relocationg the resources elsewhere). This choice to build them with defined lifecycles is just an heritage of an obsolete attitude coming from single player games. It works but it doesn’t really tap and develop the potential of online worlds.

But who cares? This is once again just a subjective point of view without any concrete foundation. And I’m once again ranting against the wind mills.

Beside this, it’s interesting their position on RMT and gill sellers:

– Do you think SE will ever be able to stop Gil, Item and Account Seller and Buyer? Do you think it’ll be possible to stop them or will you go the way like Sony EQ2?

We don’t think it’s illegal to trade virtual data when there’re buyers and sellers. However, we think the problem is that there’re many criminal acts happening in the real world during those transactions. Also, FFXI is not created based on real money trading (RMT), thus, we believe this will make our title less enjoyable. This is why we forbid RMT with FFXI by user agreement. It will be easy to eliminate RMT completely when we remove economics from the game, meaning removing trade functions and making all items non-tradable. But this will also remove amusement from the game itself. As SOE has done with EverQuest II, there is a way to create a game considering trading virtual currency or items with real money. However, FFXI chooses a different way. Even by choosing different ways, we believe both EverQuest II and FFXI have the same purpose of protecting users from crimes in the real world such as fraud or scamming.

And a final note about the crazy backbone of the game. I suggest them to buy a Lum and spare on those resources:

– What kind of Servers are you using in background?

Each FFXI world has about 20 multi-core processor front-end machines (Solaris OS). As we now have 32 live worlds, there’re totally over 640 servers. In addition to those servers, there’re huge backend servers including DB servers, file servers, and log servers as well as billing servers, PlayOnline type servers, and monitoring facilities, using large-scaled data centre.

Oh, and it’s also sort of fun how the Xbox 360 seems to not be able to handle this four years old game that still runs okay on a Playstation 2 and on PCs:

Visually, Final Fantasy XI seems to be gradually making itself home on the 360. The characters look good; the environments the players moved through were predominantly dry, rocky canyons, flowering cacti, and stretches of deserted beach that the chocobos trotted through. One thing we did notice, though, was that the game’s frame rate took a noticeable, large dip when there was a lot of onscreen action. For example, certain areas on the Buburimu Peninsula blow up dust storms that drift across the arid landscape. These dust storms, in conjunction with a number of enemies spawning or popping into view, made matters sluggish during certain points in the gameplay. The draw distance didn’t seem to otherwise get in the way of matters too much, though, and seemed to occur at a reasonable distance out from the characters.

I mirrored the video if you need it. It’s not really that good, even Promathia’s video was more interesting.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

How to save and archive FFXI patches

This sort of guide explains how to archive and store safely the patches for FFXI so that you don’t have to download and reinstall 700+ Mb of patches in the case you have to format the hard disk. If you are on dial-up (ISDN, in my case) you know how *painful* this could be.

Now FFXI has already an horrible installation. Yes, the game is huge and has a lot of content but if we consider the low resolution textures and the reused assets there’s really no justification for an installation that arrives at 6.75 Gigabytes. It’s just insane. I’m not sure about the causes but my suspect is that it’s a raw, direct port of the PSX2 version, so that they can keep updating both client without double work. It seems that the PC version is more like an emulator that parses the data file and makes them work as they are on the console. The result is that we have this insane installation as the consequence of a data format that isn’t really appropriate for the PC.

A confirmation of my suspects came after I (successfully) tried to save and archive the patches. I reinstalled the game recently, I have the original american version with Zilart included, plus Chains of Promatia CDs. So I had the game client updated to September of the last year, when CoP was released. Basically about a year of patches to download and apply. Which translates to about 3500 files for a grand total of 700+ Mb to downlad again and install.

The surprise was when (after more than eight hours of download) I finally zipped those files to burn them on CD once for all. With Winzip set on “normal” compression the final archive was barely above 300Mb.

Now my question: why Square doesn’t send these damn patches compressed and then expand the files when they are already on the PC? You know, it would “just” hugely impact the server load when a new patch is released and it would be a positive improvement for all those players that aren’t on broadband and that do not like to spend hours waiting the new patch to download. In particular when for each update there’s the need to rescan all the files. A process that takes alone more than *30 minutes* on a Ultra-ATA hard disk.

I guess this comes along the other inexplicable, annoying quirks of the game I listed at the end of another article.

Beside these “pointless” disquisitions. I have a rather simple way to save those patches so that you don’t have to redownload them in the case you need to reinstall the game. Unfortunately, this is possible only if you “plan ahead” to build the archive since you cannot save the files after the client is patched successfully. So if you want to save those files you need to restart from a clean installation and go through the upgrade process at least once (or save only the most recent patches that will be released in the upcoming months).

If you do this (or will do when you’ll have to reformat/reinstall), remember to install the original game, Zilart and CoP. I underline this because the three installations don’t start automatically and if you leave an expansion out you’ll have to redo most of the patching. So install everything in the proper order, launch PlayOnline and the update to the game. At this point the client will check all the files one by one (the 30+ minutes scan) and then start to download those that changed (at this moment, with all the expansion installed from scratch, it’s about the 3500 files I pointed above).

Those files will be stored in the game directory before they will be actually installed. In order to catch and save them you have to *stop* the updating process before the installation of the files happens. So I suggest to stop the update when only 10 or so files are left to download. When you reach this point and PlayOnline is halted, you should go on Windows start menu -> Search -> For Files and Folders. Here you select “all files and folders”, then in the “look in” field you select the directory where you installed the game and in the name field you insert *.tmp2 which is the extension of the files downloaded before they are installed. And press “search”. If you followed the instructions you’ll get an endless list of .tmp2 files. You go to the “edit” menu, press “select all” and then right click on the files. If you have Winzip you’ll have an option saying “Add to Zip”. You select it, give a name to the archive you want and, most importantly, select the “save full path info” checkbox. And press “add”.

The archive will be built and once done you can burn it on CD or put it wherever you want.

When you’ll have to reinstall the game you’ll just need to decompress the archive in the game directory (pay attention so that the files go in the right place) and launch the update from PlayOnline. After the scan is over the client will see that the files are already available and will install them directly without redownloading them. Which is exactly the goal of this guide.

I didn’t test directly if it’s possible but I believe you can then work with Winzip to update the archive with the latest files when a new patch is released. So that you can keep just one archive instead of one for each different patch released.

I guess I could upload the archive on the site and make it public as I do with WoW patches, but for now I think I’ll avoid the option.

I lost the install CD 2 and 3 despite I usually keep care and store safely my games. Thanks to eMule that wasn’t a big problem. Speaking about the utility of P2P.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Stories from Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy XI is still fascinating and unique on many different levels despite some radical flaws that some players considered almost show stopping. One of these aspects is the unique attempt to build one community as an hybrid of different cultures. Mixing together japanese, american and european players. Something that was harshly criticized by many players and that I always praised as a valuable goal to pursue, despite the difficulties.

I wish I could find a very old thread on Grimwell where I discussed the merits of the approach while everyone else was trying to demonstrate me that it wasn’t a laudable attempt to chase an utopia but just a solution of convenience to spare the money and cut the risks by supporting just one centralized server farm.
(EDIT- found. See in particular Tobold’s comment on the last page)

Anyway, this is a post on FoH’s boards expressing an unusual point of view that I read and found worth archiving:

When I started FFXI it was right on the NA release, I’d come off playing EQ for a couple years and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I quickly outstripped all the other NA players on the server. There wasn’t any online sites with quests, at least in any language I could read, and there wasn’t anyone at my level that I could group with that wasn’t Japanese. But it was okay. The Japanese players, many who had been playing for almost a year, were very helpful, very friendly and when we couldn’t understand each other we usually got things figured out anyway. After a lot of bad experiences and few good ones in EQ I’d decided to keep a list of people in FFXI that had significantly helped me out, and in a game where monsters are more powerful than you and soloing is unheard of, this happened a lot. I filled up a sheet of paper in the first couple months of play, and many of them didn’t know much more english than “yes”, “no” and “ok.”

Sadly the days of people jumping off their chocobo because they see a low level playing with a non-Japanese name struggling to travel through a high level zone are over. Most of the Japanese players are still going to be polite and the vast majority who are still playing also speak English, but after experiencing NA players for the last year and a half they’ve taken to saying “no thank you” too. I know who I’d rather be playing with.

What is sad about the whole issue is how some of the awful mechanics of the game put the two communities one against the other. I believe that the divergencies came mostly as consequences of competitive PvE systems that just weren’t appropriate for the original goal of the game. I’m speaking in particular of the camping of the NM (Notorious Monsters). I don’t know directly the system but from what I heard different parties gather up around the spawn points and need to “tag” the monster before everyone else. This simple, awful (unfun) mechanic brought to many conflicts between the two communities, Especially considering how the system was perceived as unfair toward NA players. Being the servers in Japan, the japanese players could benefit of a faster reaction and so a sensible advantage over those playing from another continent.

It’s obvious how, when the cohabitation is already shaky, every little detail can break things beyond repair. In particular when a system is perceived as a “cheat” favoring the opposite faction. That’s the principle that can start a collision which can easily deteriorate from that point. It builds factions and hostility. It builds differences because the “other” is perceived as a stranger that is violating a competitive space.

After I read that post from FoH boards, I felt the curiosity to check again what was going on in the game and I was positively surprised when I skimmed through these recent fixes (1 August) to find a radical change that all the players were waiting from more than two years and that is now quickly dismissed in a couple of lines:

– Players will no longer be able to use spells or abilities to claim a monster as soon as it appears.
If players attempt to use spells or abilities to claim a monster before a set amount of time has passed since it appeared, they will not be able to use those spells etc. again for a certain duration.

Which means, explained through the words of a player:

The way I see it, this update fixes the JP latency advantage. As stated by an earlier poster, the JP advantage is *very* small. It is less than human reaction time. So that means, by the time a JP player would be reacting to a HNM on their screen, its already appeared on a NA player’s screen as well. Of course, this gives a JP player a huge advantage when spamming a macro, or using a turbo controller to spam voke. In that case, the JP player doesn’t need to react to the HNM appearing in order to claim it. This being one of the reasons why King Behemoth is one of the most JP-dominated HNMs across all servers. KB’s spawn is nothing but a spam-fest. The only other monster in the area is a lone Thunder Elemental. Much different camp than Fafhogg or Aspidochelone, which require a player to target the HNM through a field of other monsters to get claim.

So, the latency advantage give JP player’s a headstart in spamming matches. but thanks to the new update, you can’t spam anymore. A JP player can spam voke all window long, but then KB will pop, the JP will provoke, and…. oops! Nothing happens because he voked to early, and now his voke is disabled for a little while. (definately longer than it’ll take for KB to get claimed by someone else) Since spamming doesn’t work anymore, HNM camps will now be about which player has the best reflexes, not about who lives closest to the server or who can best ignore the pain of jamming the enter key for half an hour.

See? We are back at considering the development time and the absolute necessity to spend time in the community instead of being isolated from it. This was one huge flaw of the game that was almost trivial to fix. But the devs of this game are between those more out of touch with the actual situation of the game. This fix comes two years too late. Yes, the gameplay will improve considerably but it will be almost impossible to heal that wound that split the two communities apart and made them hostile (or that at least had a role, if you don’t share my simplified point of view on the cause of the hostility).

The other positive trait I wanted to point out is between those I already reported (in the edit). The players can now have access to personal henchmen that can be considered as “pets”. Not only they are supposed to help when the player cannot find a decent group, along with the modifications to the experience points from easy mobs (FFXI has huge LFG problems considering that it’s basically impossible to solo), but they became an extremely interesting feature on their own, even outside their specific purpose in the gameplay.

The fun of reasearching their (undocumented) complex behaviour and the possibilities of customizations brought to one of the most entertaining threads I’ve ever read. 460 posts (at this moment) progressively discovering the depth of the system and its possibilities. An investigation so fun (even to read) that quickly replaced the actual purpose of the henchmen to become one fun toy on its own as the new focus of the gameplay.

As a result, this is impressive. Squaresoft added once again an unique feature with an unparalleled depth and detail. Carefully planned to have different facets to discover and enjoy instead of becoming trivialized into a simplified and functional system without anything else to offer.

And that’s the “magic” of this company. They don’t plan their games just as functional systems that do their work and nothing else. Instead they add this depth and care for the personality, so that each little story and character presented has its own special role and flavor. Its own quirks to discover on multiple levels. This is what crafts a type of roleplay that makes the game so rich and unique compared to every other mmorpg out there. That’s also when a game can impose its originality and break the cliches of a genre without suffering from this estrangement from the common places.

All this brings to a game that you cannot easily trade with something else. When you leave FFXI you know that you won’t be able to find the same flavor and feelings somewhere else. This is why I felt always fascinated by this game in an unique way. But at the same time I was never able to accept its radical problems that just killed the experience for me. From the horrible patch process that doesn’t allow you to store the patches (and an insane install above 6Gb as result of an horrible port of the data files), the ridiculous billing system, the policy to delete the characters and account after three months of inactivity and the impossibility to play in a window without recurring to hacks. That’s already more than enough without even counting the actual game and the flaws of its design (in particular the insane group requirements).

FFXI is one game part of that “if only” group. It could be the best mmorpg out there… if only.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

FFXI patches the swimsuits and invites the players to cybersexzor

I’m reading too much into this?:

And now it’s time for the main event–“Azimuth Circle”!

Azimuth Circle has rather complex rules, so I’ll have to drill you beforehand, kupo. First off, the game can only be played in pairs–everyone must be in a party of two. So you must begin by searching for a partner. Coupling with a good friend would be ideal, of course. But even if you aren’t exactly the most popular master…no problem! Just ask around, kupo!

End game–the moogle will give you beautiful swimwear to beat the heat as a reward for your efforts! Nothing like going for a dip in the ocean in this scorching weather, kupo!

Anyway, I hope you and your partner become good friends while playing. Maybe you can even invite them to join you again later wearing the rewards you gained from playing. I wonder what games you could play with them then…haw haw… *cough* … *wheez*…!

Well, these sort of events are interesting and I believe a positive way to develop a game outside the psychotic focus on more powerful loot to acquire. This is what transforms a dull, repetitive game into something nearer to a Virtual World. This is also how you relieve directly the stress for more mudflation.

There are better ways to spend constructively the time of the developers. This is one, even if it could seem the exact opposite. It’s the game to set the expectations, not the players. If all you offer is about more grind, the players will ask more and more of it. It’s a vicious circle that noone should second.

EDIT- The last publish is rather interesting. They are finally tweaking some core points like the experience gained and they are also implementing NPC henchmen to assist parties. The fun part is that they seem persistent and will level along with the player.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

FFXI – Fifth Vana’diel Census

I didn’t expect it this year, but Squaresoft released the fifth detailed report (the second released to the american public) as they did a year ago.

The first thing jumping to the eye is that they removed completely the numbers from the charts. While the main focus of the report of the previous year was to flaunt the great success that the game was having, this year the approach is way more modest and quiet. As if the comeback campaign wasn’t enough of a demonstration, it’s rather obvious that the numbers of the game do not shine anymore as for the past year. Even FFXI is suffering the release of better games along with a “flat development” that isn’t really improving or addressing the problems of the game.

Another confirmation of this trend comes from the second page:

Based on data compiled at the end of March 2005, we conducted research on the main job levels of over 1,550,000 characters belonging to over 500,000 registered users.

To begin with, these 500.000 registered users aren’t specified as active. Secondly, from the last news we had in September I was estimating around 600k of active subscriptions or more. 550k confirmed for sure.

So it’s now fair to assume that the game is stalling and starting to see a slight decline.

To notice the number of level 1 characters between the total pool of 1.5M, rises from the 34% of the last year to 41% – Mules for the win!

And the dynamics of the power curve:
-3.93% in the 2-10 level range (38.94%)
-6.16% in the 11-20 level range (16.91%)
-1.06% in the 21-30 leve range (8.74%)
+1.33% in the 31-40 level range (6.02%)
+1.20% in the 41-50 level range (5.18%)
+1.86% in the 51-60 level range (7.47%)
+1.70% in the 61-70 level range (7.44%)
+5.33% in the 71-75 level range (9.30%)

Little kids are growing…

The parsed official commentary:

Excluding level 1 storage characters, characters up to level 20 comprise around 55% of the total population. Compared to last year, there has been a 1% increase in the number of level 30 characters, which can be attributed to the effect of level-restricted areas in the Chains of Promathia, and also to players attempting to quest for extra jobs. The number of characters of level 50 and above has increased dramatically to 24% from 15% last year, while characters of level 71 and above have increased by almost 5% to 9% this year.

The detailed power curve is also interesting to compare to the one of other games:

The second one is from World of Warcraft.

Final Fantyasy XI comeback campaign

One of the most awful “features” of Final Fantasy XI is that if you unsubscribe for three months (or something similar, I forgot the details) your characters are gone and even your account is disabled permanently. So if you ever decide to come back you’ll need to buy a brand new box+expansions and restart from zero.

Now they are about to launch a comeback campaign. They’ll re-enable old and deleted accounts for free (starting from the 14 April) and even restore old, deleted characters on demand.

The details aren’t actually so clear but it seems that you have up to 30 days of “free” play with your restored characters, then you’ll have to pay the normal fee if you decide to keep playing.

Now I wonder. If Squaresoft actually has all the backups of the characters, why they do not use this directly as a permanent feature? Why they decide to delete characters and account in the first place if they keep backups anyway? Just to be unpopular and prevent old players to come back when they choose so?

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Even FFXI patches HARD

Can I STOP writing today? (also considering that this site is a fragment of what I write everywhere)

Final Fantasy XI, also known as another painfully slow mmorpg to release relevant changes, has massively patched today.

Just the new Fishing System deserves a page on its own. Squaresoft is starting to do something about the farmers. Not only they began to take actions against them. But now they are finally also addressing the awful mechancs that *produced* that situation. So we have changes to the notorious monsters and this new fishing system that finally looks interesting. Probably superior to the timid attempt in World of Warcraft.

Now you have to actually “fish”, reacting to the movement and the stamina of the fish in order to successfully pull it out the water. I guess the default AFK-(macro)-fishing will be a bit harder now. A right step to deliver some more gameplay and address the farming problems.

I also noticed that these patch notes make sense and are more detailed. Maybe Squaresoft is also reconsidering the communication process. Maybe they saw as well the subscriptions numbers sinking.

There’s also a new, rather complicated, search system that allows the players to set categorized messages. It doesn’t sound so straightforward in how it’s integrated in the UI. Probably one of those features forgotten and abandoned by the players in two days.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:


Final Fantasy breaks more records:

The number of characters (currently active registered characters) living in Vana’diel has reached the 1.5 million mark! (As of September 28, 2004.)

The world of FINAL FANTASY XI is now home to more adventurers than ever before, with over 550,000 active players logging on during the same day, and a record 170,000 players logged on simultaneously on September 18.

– 1.5 millions of active characters
– 550.000 unique accounts logging during a day
– 170.000 players online at the same time

This is hard to compare because we are used to the number of subscriptions but I still have to point out that for each character you need to pay one more dollar and the game was at 500k *subscribers* when the population was of 1 million active characters and 140k users logged at the same time.

But there’s an even bigger aspect to consider. There are a max of 170.000 users logged into 30 unique servers. This means an *average* of 5.600 users on *each* server.

Simply awesome. And we are probably above 600k subscribers.

Blizzard, remember this when you consider your localized server of 2000 players and terrible off-peaks.