By Joshua Temblett (Dontkillmydreams), Onrpg writer
What, why, when, how, where and who? These are the fundamental questions when looking at history, and video game history is no exception. What inspired the idea of Final Fantasy XI and who took on the challenge of conceiving and creating it? How did this giant MMORPG get its first foot off the ground and into the door of a giant, ever expansive world? Join us, as we take a brief look at how this game got started and how it became a legend.
With an emerging MMORPG market that showed the world it could certainly pack a punch (with games like Ultima Online and Everquest becoming ever popular), Hironobu Sakaguchi, the mastermind behind the Final Fantasy series, managed to convince Square to test the waters of the new genre in the year of 1999. The developer who was given the task of creating the online world, was the team behind Chrono Cross, but of course little did they know what would lie ahead of them.
Final Fantasy XI is described by its producer Hiromichi Tanaka as the “most [representative] Final Fantasy of all the instalments”, strongly influenced by the early Square release Final Fantasy III, and one can easily see its influence in Final Fantasy XI. FFXI’s first MMORPG featured a huge amount of features new to the genre, whilst building and improving on most of the staples set by other MMOs.
One of the most well known features of the game is the multi lingual servers which, instead of giving each region a server, meant that players could play together from all over the world. Not only did this create a truly worldwide community (there was a multi-lingual chat system so players with different languages could communicate with each other), but also reduced costs of the development of the game by 66%. This did create some small problems though as Final Fantasy XI did not have a worldwide release which meant that once it was released in North America (one year after the Japanese release) most of the players had already completed the majority of the quests and the game was generally unbalanced. To solve this problem though, Square created new servers which didn’t feature an already evolved economy and community.
Another feature that played heavily to Final Fantasy XI success was the ability to change class at any point during the game, by just going to see your own personal moogle (a series staple) in your home. Unfortunately you could only create one character; you’d have to pay if you wanted to create more. This wasn’t really much of a problem though, considering you could change your class at anytime.
Whilst most MMORPGs are fairly light on storyline, FFXI was not. The game features a deep lore and an engrossing story, with cut scenes to boot. However, one complaint at the time was that you’d really dig your teeth in to level up and play through huge bits of the game in order to get to the next story sequence, which did of course create a hook for gamers, and meant that they had to keep on playing in order to find out what happens next in the story of Vana’diel. The story was vast, with your character meeting many other unique characters along the way. In short the storyline in Final Fantasy XI was epic.
Final Fantasy XI was directed by K?ichi Ishii, the creator of the Mana series; however Hironobu Sakaguchi and the great artist Yoshitaka Amano also contributed to the title. Nobuo Uematsu (the composer behind the large majority of the Final Fantasy games) worked on the giant score for the game. Naoshi Mizuta followed Uematsu’s excellent work on the original game and worked on the scores for the expansion packs.
2003 saw the release of Rise of the Zilart, Final Fantasy XI first expansion in (in America and Japan) which included the level cap of 50 being lifted along with the new areas available to explore. Final Fantasy XI finally got a release in Europe in 2004 with the inclusion of the expansion packs Rise of the Zilart and Chains of Promathia.
To include all of the history of Final Fantasy XI would make this article several pages long and a tiresome read. If you wish to find more about the history of the game, or more importantly, where the game is now, give it a whirl, as there is no better time to enter the world of Vana’diel. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history.