April 8, 2010

Bittersweet Memories

I was just reading over the various posts that I've made while blogging here, smiling at some of the memories and shaking my head as I remember the frustration I've had as well. I also notice that I really do bitch a lot about FFXI. There's a reason for it though. It's because I remember a game that I truly loved. No, it was never FFXI, and I'm not about to say that this once wonderful game is now shit because of [insert overused reason].

Let me give you a bit of history, and maybe you'll understand why I am always so frustrated here.

I've only played two MMOs in my gaming lifetime. This one, and a fairly unknown one called Horizons: Empire of Istaria. While I doubt that any of you played it, that is where the name Carinde comes from. So if you knew her then, Jacinda is one and the same.

Horizons was meant to be an epic MMO that would reshape the industry. Unfortunately, it never even came close. It feel into huge monetary and management problems during its development cycle. The beta was a downright disaster, with graphic lag worse than a combined Besieged/Campaign battle. Speaking of graphics, while the environment was very pretty for its time, today it looks like some of the free MMOs that are advertised on various websites.

The game was riddled was holes and was far from completion, but the owners' had their hand forced and had to try to recoup some of the money that was bleeding from the game. So, they basically released a game to the public that was still in the beta stage. As you can imagine, it didn't do so well. The game changed management companies several times, and if the company that bought it didn't go bankrupt, they dropped the project and gave it to someone else.

Sounds like a bunch of fail, right? From a business standpoint, it certainly was. To the people who played it; however, it was something special.

My first experience to MMOs was this game, so I had nothing to compare it to. I knew nothing of Everquest; WoW and FFXI hadn't been released yet, so I basically went into this game with zero expectations. While that meant I was completely oblivious to the things that were frustrating other veteran MMO players, it also allowed me to see some of the more meaningful things the game offered.

I've never seen an MMO use the players as a selling point for a game, but this one should have. Other MMOs laughed at us and said that we only had a strong community in the game because actual content was lacking. Maybe they were right. The content we should have had wasn't out yet, and in most cases it hadn't even been created because of all the crap the development house was going through. So in a sense, all we really had was each other. At the same time, that's what it made it so great. We helped each other. We all worked together to make that mess of a game work. Talking with developers, crafters establishing a real marketplace, adventurers helping people in was just wonderful.

Maybe we can't talk with the developers of FFXI like that, but we can talk with each other. Horizons had crafters just as FFXI does. As a matter of fact, the crafters of that game run circles around what's here. You want a spell with an additional effect: stun? Easy. Take the materials for a spell to a spellcrafter and they'll make the spell as well as add the effects. Need a damage boost to the spell? They can make that too. You want some armor with added STR? Not a problem. Hell, the crafters could even change the armor color for you. If you changed jobs and suddenly all that armor you have is useless, fear not. Take it to an armor crafter and have them de-construct it for you. It would be broken down into base materials that the crafter could use to create a different type of armor for you or someone else.

If it could be crafted; it could be customized. By the crafter, no less.

Everything could be crafted there. Even houses. You and your guild could buy plots of land and create a guildhouse, stores, crafting stations for the various crafts, storage silos, etc. etc. It wasn't relegated to a mog house that no one could ever see unless they were in a party and you opened your house to others. Imagine running around Windurst and the homes and such that you see belong to the people you game with, not just lifeless NPCs with scripted dialog. People added birdbaths, fountains, trees, stone columns...all sorts of things to make their house a reflection of themselves. I personally hate crafting. I didn't like it there and I don't like here, but if I had to pick a game to craft in, it would certainly be Horizons.

Standing outside of my guildhouse on a newly purchased plot we bought for our guild.

Myself and various others in the community, helping to put the finishing touch on our shop.

The economy there was also player-driven, just like here. The biggest difference being that people worked to benefit each other. Of course, there was greed just like anyplace else. However, when people noticed price surges and whatnot, we actually had a player-created Marketplace where those price surges were made public and crafters either explained and backed the surge or others worked to lower the price and make it fair for everyone. Prices were based on realistic expectations of income. When new items came out, they naturally sold for a premium, but this was eventually brought down to something more reasonable.

Adventuring is completely different. When I look back, I'm actually amazed at how much we trusted each other. It's almost scary. When we partied (grouped, as it was called there), it was customary to have one person to act as the assigned lotter. Similar to the person who lots coins in Limbus / Dynamis, but this person lotted everything that dropped over the course of the party. Rare items that were left on a body were simply asked for and usually there was never a problem with others letting someone have an item. When the party was over, the lotter distributed the items to the members and that was that. Ready for something mind-blowing?

We helped each other kill NMs.

Yep, we really did. We'd gather a group of people, and then we'd make an order of who got the item for that run. What's more, if the NM only spawned once a day or so, we all made it a point to remember the people in the run and go back the next day. If it was an NM that many people wanted, groups would take turns doing the fights. If one group was in trouble and another happened to be nearby, we didn't stand there and watch the other group die so we could take it. We helped them out. We fought the adds; healed the party if we could. Sometimes we'd even make an alliance and just take the damn NM down together. It was never a secret that an NM was up. Everyone knew, and everyone worked together.

Different guilds, friends and strangers...all working together.

We roleplayed in taverns; greeted each other in passing. People took off their armor when walking around in towns and just used their street clothes or "town gear". Sure, some people took the cliché route and used the medieval tone for their speech, but others created their own character type and went with that. The talks about pDif, fStr, M. Acc and all that jazz was done in forums. Istaria was our world, and we treated it as such. We even made up stupid events from time to time. Running through some of the toughest areas with heart-printed shorts and using level 1 weaponry. Having a player give clues through our marketplace and others scour the world to find them. Certainly silly, but it was enjoyable.

The "Special Pants Club." Killing the toughest enemies of Istaria in boxer shorts.

I realize that Horizons and FFXI are two entirely different games, but there are people behind the chatacters of both. Would it really kill this game to have a bit of heart in it? Is it so hard for people to lose themselves in the "game" of this and not treat it like a job or a math test?

I'm sure some people might read this and consider me to be an overt "care bear" or just someone crying, wait...I believe the expression is QQ'ng. Maybe I am. Perhaps I see this game a bit differently than some because I was "raised" differently in how I view an MMO. I don't bitch about this game because I don't like it; I bitch because I see people taking something that could be wonderful and turning it into anything but. Well there are a lot of things I don't like here, but that isn't the point.

I keep my experiences close to heart, and try to live up to them when I sign on to FFXI. I enjoyed what I was in Horizons, and try to be that here. I hope to make bonds with people in Vana'diel that are just as strong as those in Istaria. I don't want to become some smug elitist and start treating people like shit over their gear or play style.

Anyway. As I said, I do bitch a lot...but maybe now you understand why.