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An Escape into a Virtual World of Adventure

As my habits demand, I check on older MMOs periodically to see what's new and to possibly download a new trial or even restart an old account. I do it with EVE Online, Ultima Online and other games that just scream nostaglia. Normally I find that the games have aged well but do not change so dramatically that I feel like I am playing a brand new game.

My first memories with the IP come from the PlayStation console and playing -- if I remember correctly -- Final Fantasy 7. I dug some of the graphics and the turn-based combat was OK, but the characters and stories were so convoluted and strange that I just never got into it. Final Fantasy XIV gil. I don't remember having much to do with the IP for years after (I was heavily into playing drums and making art at that time) until I came across Final Fantasy XI, the first MMO version. All I remember about the game (including recent run-ins with it) is that it can literally take all day to install and patch and that it is grindy, overly complicated and so, so strange. I remember being yelled at, even while in lower levels, for not playing correctly. The IP, up to that point in my life, felt like a surrealistic day-job, one that you worked your tail off but didn’t get paid for.

When FFXIV came out, I was happy that the developers might have learned the lessons of the market and made a game that was actually fun to play, while being relatively easy for newbies to start in. I don't care how immersive, hardcore or tough a developer thinks their game should be; making it no fun for newbies is a mistake, plain and simple. Unfortunately, FFXIV initially felt just like a better looking, harder-to-run-even-on-a-gaming-pc version of FFXI.

I enjoyed some of the initial newbie stages in first version of XIV but my enjoyment was pounded out of me after I came across even basic quests -- like getting a group of children to perform emotes -- that could only be resolved after looking them up online. After all, the community seemed to be in no mood to help a newb. I came into that version with much hope and left disappointed. If you look at the relaunch’s many issues since initial liftoff, it's obvious that I wasn't the only one feeling that way.

This week I decided to give this new, relaunched version of the old relaunched version a trial test run. I clicked on a trial pop-up that came across my Facebook page and downloaded the game. The instructions on the page were simple enough but led to disappointment; the game wouldn’t load. It turns out that if you have ever had a previous version of FFXIV on your PC, the trial will not let you have another go at it for free. Ancient thinking, but OK. I deleted everything and re-downloaded and there I was in-game not so much later. I was shocked at how easy I got into the game (that is, after discovering the fact that I couldn't have previous versions on my hard drive.) Normally, installing and playing Final Fantasy is, well, a joke.

This led me to lesson number 1 of this journey: make your initial game download and account creation easy as pie.

At some point, the game asked me if I wanted to use a controller. Why, yes, yes I would! It's much easier on my old man gamer wrists and arms, so thanks for asking! The control scheme, probably due to its popularity on the console, worked like butter. The old version menus were silly in their complicated nature, but now everything seemed to work perfectly. Yes, using a controller means pushing a few extra buttons here and there, but holy moly does it feel natural in this game.

That brought me to lesson 2: always have a controller option for those who need it!

I watched the amazing trailer, made a character with the beautiful character creation screen and was soon in game. One of the complaints that I have heard from many older gamers is that this new version is too hand-holdy. Sure, I can see that… but I am new to this world. Immersing me in the game by explaining not only mechanics but also the lore is a brilliant move. Somewhat ironically, this new (to me, at least) intro to FFXIV reminded me of the fantastic EVE Online trial intro; you get plenty of lore and can walk through mechanics without feeling like you are being asked to go to work in a cold, barely-lit office or being pushed through with no hope of taking a breath.