Final Fantasy XIV
A Brief History of FFXIV
Final Fantasy XIV is a MMORPG game released by Square Enix. Originally released in 2010, the game was a massive commercial and critical flop, and the game was shut down and redesigned by new game director Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P). The new game, retooled as "A Realm Reborn," debuted to largely postive feedback, with many praising the game's new engine, gameplay, and story. As of 2021, FFXIV became Square Enix's most profitable game to date. The game runs off a monthly subscription model, as well as having a major DLC/expansion released about every two years. Their last major DlC, Endwalker, garnered widespread critical and commercial acclaim, winning "Role-Playing Game of the Year" at the 25th Annual D.I.C.E Awards and "Excellence in Narrative," "Excellence in Original Score," and "Video Game of the Year" at the 2022 SXSW Gaming Awards.
Although FFXIV was always popular, with a large and dedicated fanbase, the population exploded in 2021 when several popular Twitch streamers stopped playing World of Warcraft to pivot to FFXIV. This saw a huge influx of WoW players, who had long been dissatisfied with the direction Blizzard was taking the game, moving to FFXIV. These players were dubbed "WoW refugees." Why FFXIV and not any other game? Well, FFXIV expressly took inspiration from WoW when making FFXIv, so the games have enough base similarities that it's easy to move from one to the other. The other reason is FFXIV's generous free trial. Have you ever seen a copypasta that says...
Have you heard of the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV? With an expanded free trial which you can play through the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 for free with no restrictions on playtime.
Jokes aside, the free trial further lowered the barrier for entry. While most free trials for games are extremely restrictive and only last for a week or so, FFXIV's free trial lasted until... whenever the player hit level 60, and included the base game as well as the critically acclaimed expansion Heavensward. It shows off the best of what the game has to offer, both in terms of gameplay and story, and is very sucessfully at getting players hooked. That's not to say this free trial is perfect or has no restrictions at all; free trial players cannot send friend requests or invite other players to join their party (although they can accept requests from other players) and they cannot buy items from the Market Board (aka, they cannot engage with FFXIV's player-run economy).
The game ended up suffering from success. The huge influx of players coinciding with a major expansion release, paired with Square Enix's inability to add more servers due to manufactering issues (thanks cryptobros) lead to insane queue numbers during the month of December 2021. On Endwalker's release day, players sat through 20k queues that were very unstable and would frequently kick people to the back of the line with no rhyme or reason. The queues eventually stabilized, but people were still waiting for literal hours to get into the game. Thankfully, things subsided and went back to normal at the end of December, and in January 2022 Yoshi-P announced the opening of a new data center in order to hopefully stop something like that from happening again.
My Experience with the Game
That damn free trial...!
My experience with FFXIV started when several friends began playing the game because of the free trial. I was kind of late to the game and didn't download it when everyone else did, but rather later when my friend had already bought the full game and began talking about how fun it was. We play games together all the time, so I decided to sign up for the free trial and ended up really loving the game. I loved it so much I bought the full game before my trial was even up! This was a first for me, because I hate games that run off a monthly subscription model and have never bought one before. I've bought season passes for Destiny 2 before, which I guess is similar (and can be argued to be basically the same), but that game didn't start out with season passes, and I played it for years before I finally ponied up the money for a season pass. I quickly became attached to the characters, the story, the gameplay, and the endgame activities. When my I started playing shortly before Endwalker released, my friend was max level and I was a sprout (FFXIV's term for new players). By the end of December, I had not only caught up with her, but finished Endwalker before she had even started it! That's how much I liked the game! The game is prone to long periods of downtime in between post-expansion patches, so I typically stop paying my sub and take some time off, which helps me keep from getting burned out.
When I first started creating my character, I only knew two things: I wanted her to be a catgirl and I wanted her to have two different colored eyes (stemming from my love of the "a cat with homophobia in its eyes" meme). After fiddling around for a while, she was perfect, and a name came to me unbidden: Patches. It was cute and undeniably cat-like, which I found funny since most of the ingame "canon" names for the catgirls are very serious and fantastical (Y'shtola, Graha, F'lhaminn, etc). Then I just hit the randomizer button on the last name until I found one I liked and thought sounded good, and voila! Patches Jakkya was born.
I quickly became very attached to Patches, which was a unique experience. I'm no stranger to RPG games with character customization elements, but I had rarely felt so immediately attached to and obsessed with one of my own characters before Patches. Something about the amount of time you can spend looking at your character and the amount of ways you can customize them and dress them up, I guess. Patches went through many style and hair changes, going from pink haired and scholarly in A Realm Reborn, to black haired with blue tips in Heavensward, to pure black hair in Stormblood, and then going full goth in Shadowbringers and Endwalker. FFXIV is great at making you feel like your character evolves with the world. I even got into ingame photography and downloaded GShade, a program that applies different filters to the game, so I could get better pictures.
My friend who got me into the game has her own character, Aigs Boal, and we both quickly became obsessed with drawing each other's character and raiding together. Aigs Boal is the orange haired, pink wearing catgirl in the photos below, and Patches is the gloomy black haired one. I love them both!
My Favorite Characters
I'm not only obsessed with my own character, I promise. I think FFXIV is full of great and well-developed characters, but I do have a few particular favorites:
I liked him before it was cool. This boy is my son, and I don't care that he's "annoying" in A Realm Reborn, I think it's a necessary part of his character arc in Heavensward (I also think that most people only find him so annoying in ARR because of his absolutely awful voice acting, which is changed in Heavensward). I love Alphinaud, he is scrunkles. Alisaie too.
EVIL GIRLBOSS SUPREME. Yeah she murdered people and committed war crimes but she looked good doing it!!!! Anyways, Yotsuyu was easily the best part of Stormblood and her post-Stormblood arc is one of the only memorable and well written parts of that expansion. The only time I felt emotionally attached to Stormblood AT ALL was when her backstory was being explored. It also doesn't hurt that her English voice actress is Naoki Mori, who plays one of my favorite TV characters ever (Tosh from Torchwood). I think she does an amazing job and is actually better than the Japanese VA but gamers don't want to admit that...