Memories of Vana’diel: Community Sites, Figures, and Podcasts
This week we’re sharing Final Fantasy XI memories from community sites, figures, and podcasts from back in the day.
To read more about our Memories of Vana’diel project, please see our previous post here.
You can see memories from the Development and Community Team here.
For many veterans of Final Fantasy XI, the forum community at ZAM holds a special place in their gaming hearts, especially for people such as myself, one of the few tasked with moderating the masses of Vana’diel’s Allakhazam contingent. It’s difficult to put into so few words what a community like ZAM’s was like, so I’ll just say that it was amazing, ridiculous, frustrating, and hilarious all rolled into one. And while many from other communities may have laughed at us, being a part of it was an experience like no other. From the insanely helpful members to the flaming waves of rage one tiny little rate down button could induce to the pages-long update threads, it’s hard to deny that the General Forum left its mark on the masses.
The strength of the ZAM community was in its members, and those that ventured out into the wilderness of the other ZAM forums often found yet another tight-knit community to join. Many of the infamous members of these other communities came from FFXI General, and many remain friends to this day, something that speaks to the value of such a varied internet community.
As the former Senior Administrator for FFXI, I hold many fond memories of the people I met—whether it be through the colors of their names, their avatars, or their signatures. And while I will not be there when this next chapter of Vana’diel comes to a close, I can say without a doubt that my experience would never have been the same without the ZAM community. For that, I thank them all.
-Crystal “Pikko” Watanabe
I started playing Final Fantasy XI at the PS2 launch. I had the game pre-ordered months in advance. I could not wait to play the next Final Fantasy title after finish Final Fantasy X. When I pre-ordered the game from Amazon, the Brady Guide was a suggested buy, so I got that too. The guide had come weeks before I got the game box, and so I began to study. I was sure playing a RDM/WAR was going to be great.
Most people know the history of FFXI BG, or what theyve heard via the grape vine or from a friend of a friend of a friend. What really stood out for a lot of people was some of the more interesting stories from way back in the day from people who were in BG or who simply claimed to be.
One of my favorite ones was Nikkeis, back when she worked at GameStop. She was a pretty hardcore gamer, played most JRPGs, and had taught herself Japanese just so she could play some of them sooner rather than later. One day while she was working there was a crowd of people around the FFXI section. This was back when FFXI was the golden game, lots of people bought it, most didnt last due to a convoluted setup process and a very high learning curve. But anyone who played endgame or knew of the hardcore tiers in different games knew about the difficulty of it. There was a guy there who was telling stories, smug and happy, he was pretty confident and going on and on about how he was a badass. Someone said “Hey you should join BG” and he, with a confident smirk, said he was in BG. Nikkei knew everyone in BG, because everyone who was in BG were all close friends. She stated “Oh hey Im Nikkei in BG, what is your name.” This quickly led to a quiet moment and an apology. Nikkei gave him a “thats right, dont do it again.” quick speech, and that was that.
Another time was my own experience in a GameStop. I was picking up an extra copy of Wings of the Goddess and there were some guys talking about FFXI, one random and one guy who worked there. They were talking about their relics. This was around the time BG had finally saved up to start massing our relics (we wanted to pop out multiples at once and had been doing the math on the best ones). So we were focusing on our Shield and Horn at that time. One guy was a red mage and had Excalibur, one was a bard and had the horn. I listened in on their conversation and joined in once they noticed my Wings box. They asked me about my experience with the game, stuff I had done. I said my LS was working on some relics and things were going good and we had been focusing on a lot of endgame and it was my day off (wednesday) blah blah blah. They asked me what LS I was in and I said BG. I was still newer in BG at the time and really didnt want it to affect the conversation but oh did it. These two guys with their relics were more excited that I was in BG than their multi relic linkshells. That conversation really set the tone for me in future events of how important BG had been to the growing FFXI community.
BG had its shares of ups and downs, it wasnt always roses. As player quality varied some people said we might have made some questionable choices in recruitment or even took people who were friends over skilled players. I cant truly deny that we did focus more on closer friends we could trust rather than taking a player who was arguably better but untrustworthy. BG had become a selling point for RMT characters. Many of us had to deal with seeing former BG members characters that had been sold to rich UAE players for hilarious amounts of money. While some people had decided to quit out of a necessity and didnt want to come back or had to leave due to financial reasons and needed the money, it still stung to see people we had put time into on the other side with a different pearl. We stayed strong though, with good people we could trust and honest players we knew wouldnt break out codes of conduct. Most people assumed BG botted, and to that I simply counter with how could we have botted if we didnt claim kings 90% of the time. Our best claiming times were after patches that changed the memory locations for those bots. So for that two weekish period before people had updated bots we reigned supreme. This was simply because of a few strong PS2 players and some very strong PCs, it certainly wasnt because of claim bots (that I am aware of, and I was ultra strict about reminding people constantly that botting was not something we tolerated).
We didnt even lose anyone for salvage bans, which was the thing that basically destroyed most linkshells out there. We focused on non camped content and it made the game better until Abysea destroyed it. Many old BG people have migrated on to families or some FFXIV experiences, and I keep in touch with a small portion of them. BG survives as a strong forum and good and bad memories. I choose to stick with the good and let go of the bad. If we dwell too much on the past it will affect our future, so always be progressing, any progress is forward, and forward is where you want to go.
My name is ElmerThePointy, and I played a TaruTaru BLM/DRG/PUP on the Gilgamesh server. My experience in Final Fantasy XI transformed my life. I remember one day, trekking through the snowy hills of Uleguerand Range, wyvern at my side, I came upon Jormungand and charged in, solo. I fell in two hits. It was good for a chuckle, and I readied myself to warp home… when I noticed the chatlog: Jormungand is intimidated by Elmerthepointy. Me, a tiny little gnome with a toothpick, managed to intimidate a greater wyrm. That single event gave me the confidence I needed to charge head first into life, and now, I’m the President of Outer Space.
All kidding aside, I was never big into HNMs, Dynamis, Limbus, Eugenics or whatever new endgame they’ve released since then. I liked jobs that made it easy to explore solo and take in the vast world of Vana’diel at my own pace. My favorite part of the game was, strangely enough, outside the game. Along with the Mithra Corinth, I ran a site called JPbutton.com, that translated articles and interviews from Japanese maganizes for FFXI fans. We also attended special events held in Japan to bring the latest news back to the fans. See, this was back before you kids got spoiled with your live producer YouTubes and up-to-the-minute convention access (Petasos off to the amazing efforts of the FFXI Community Team.)
FFXI helped me hone skills that I still use today. Easy access to a Japanese community provided great study opportunities and friendships while keeping a website updated with translated materials was also a huge boon for my language ability. For this, I must also thank the aforementioned Corinth, a FFXI friend, my translation partner on JPbutton, who helped me improve as a translator myself. It feels like a lifetime ago, but friends I met in Vana’diel still litter my social network feeds and memories of sitting with a linkshell buddy in Hall of the Gods, listening to the background music drone as we chatted for hours, feel just as real as lazy summer nights from childhood. Congratulations to everyone, dev team, community team, adventurers new and old, on 15 years of adventure.
-Bret “Elmer the Pointy” Mayer
My Life in Vana’diel
My Life In Vana’diel began as a video game blog in print (specifically in my magazine, GMR) in a time before video game blogs were really a thing. This was around 2003 and 2004, and was a way to 1. build a community around a hot new MMO, and 2. a work-related excuse to let me keep playing all day. After all, this was back in the day when everything about the game was hard and took forever, so being able to level up or hunt after cool gear during the day was a luxury that I to this day appreciate. It also let me forge a deep relationship with the development team, granting me often very exclusive access at FFXI events in the States and when I would travel to Square Enix in Tokyo at least once or twice a year. It was a great experiment that let me showcase the game in pseudo realtime to millions of readers, and give a fairly realistic view of one person’s progress in the game.
It also let my little family of static linkshell members (The Roundabouts) get a taste of e-fame, and I can say with some certainty that the column —which eventually moved online to 1UP.com after GMR closed— made its mark, thanks to all the people who still, to this day, tell me how much they loved reading it. I tried to write it in a way that would be interesting to people who not only played the game, but also to curious onlookers who were interested. My goal was to grow the community, and the way to do that was to get people interested in playing. If I managed to do that on any level, then it was worth the effort surely.
As the game nears its final content update (although I’ve been assured by my contacts on the inside that the game will continue to run indefinitely, especially as Square Enix prepares the mobile version) I’ve been asked by multiple publications to revisit the game, which I’ve done. Instead of reviving my legacy characters, I started completely from scratch, focusing on one character instead of the three I leveled back in the day.
I’ve connected with one good friend from my Ziff-Davis (publisher of GMR, EGM, 1UP, etc.) days, and with the introduction of trusts almost never need an actual party, except for some boss battles. So much has changed, and while it’s super easy to level now (I have like 16 jobs at level 70 after 2 months of playing, and one job in the 80s as of this writing) I find myself wondering if FFXI would have been more popular if it were a little easier in its heyday, and not the grueling grindfest the game was known for being. To this day I still think FFXI is a far superior game to things like World of Warcraft, but the success (and ease) of WOW makes you wonder. Of course the difficulty, and surpassing the challenges of FFXI is what often made the community bond together so well. To have survived FFXI meant you could share those stories with other survivors, and that is an effect that can’t be overstated.
I hope the game lasts for a long time. It’s almost scary to think I’ve spent a quarter of my life playing this game, but the memories are embedded in my brain, and the chocobo riding music will forever resonate. As far as I’m concerned, Final Fantasy XI is legend. Square Enix could —with some tweaking of course— release this as a single-player game, with Trusts as AI partners. For a single-player game, it’d be a tremendous amount of content and one that I’d enjoy playing almost as much as I did when the servers were populated with players. I like to think a lot of us will always consider Vana’diel home.
Pet Food Alpha
After Mega Elixir ended, it was suggested that I create a new podcast to keep the spirit of the Final Fantasy XI podcast alive. We thought it was good for the community to have a show that could relate to them. Someone to listen to while waiting for a dunes party. Someone who could relate to your level down experience. Since I knew him from regular posting on the Mega Elixir forums, I dragged Fusionx into the project, and we got started. The show was originally designed to be news and community based, where listeners could send emails and have them read on the show. The format changed a bit over time, to include a discussion topic, and having listeners on the show as guests. We also had a segment called Treasure Coffer, where listeners got a chance to answer a trivia question for a chance to win a real life prize. The show was supposed to be between 45 minutes to an hour long, but many shows were much longer than that due to our in-depth and off topic discussions. In addition to myself and Fusionx, we brought on Samigrace, Chinchilla, Duelly, Teila, Squigglicious, Kieran, and had Miroku and Iphigenia intermittently.
Though it was hard work to get together every week to do it, we all had an amazing time doing the show. We loved interacting with, and working with the community to put the show together. We the chance in 2007 and 2008 to attend the Fan Festivals, where we got to meet a lot of our fans in person. It was an unforgettable experience to get to interact with both fans and developers of the game we loved so much. The show started in 2006, and ran for 7 years. We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for the opportunity to just be a part of your lives.
To play the game with you, to joke around with you on the show, and just for letting us “bring you the biscuit” all of those years.
Limit Break Radio
Making Limit Break Radio for Final Fantasy XI was probably one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on. We were really able to flex our creative muscle and that was largely due to the incredibly immersive world of Vana’diel. It was a world that you wanted to take with you after you logged off, and that idea ran throughout the entirety of the show. The concept of Limit Break Radio was a “morning show that took place in Vana’diel” so it would allow our audience to be able to take a little slice of Vana’diel with them wherever they went.
He Says She Says
These comments were gathered ~October/November 2015.