The fun part about being an observer is the slight chuckle you get when you see people's attitude change as the ostracized minority soon become the accepted majority.
It's become more and more apparent to me ever since level sync was introduced. However, this isn't solely about that. However; like Level Sync before it, Abyssea has now changed the expectation and behavior of the playerbase. Change is the only constant, and sometimes it's a good thing. Just not this time. I feel that this change is showing how FFXI is losing its luster and players are clinging on to frayed strands of hope as they wait for something better that, quite honestly, might never come.
Of course, I can only comment on what I've experienced, so let's start with the sync changes.
When it was first introduced, everyone loved it. Finally, people could make parties and not have to wait hours and hours for that level 54-56 Paladin to show up so they could go level in Wajoam Woodlands. Now the people who might have actually been new to Vana'diel could actually get parties even if veterans were much higher because they could just scale down if they were so inclined. The best reason, according to the advertisements from SE, were that now we could even hang out with friends who weren't the same level and we could still benefit from it.
That's how it was initially presented to us. Something to help bring people together so others weren't left out, regardless if they are the high levels or those just starting out / over. That's not quite what it became though, was it?
As more people used the sync feature, it was quickly discovered that when people who were higher than the sync target leveled, they didn't gain any combat or magic skills. This wasn't something people took too kindly. Leveling became easier, but with a price. So people began to scoff at those who did nothing but sync their levels all the time.
Then something happened. Those same people who were syncing all day found other camps. Better camps that rivaled the exp gain per hour of the standard camps. It started with the dunes, but quickly spread as people searched for ideal level sync spots. The most publicly effective areas being Qufim Island, Behemoth's Dominion, Altepa Desert, and East Ronfure [S]. Now there was no reason to even leave these areas. Just level until the exp gets low, find a new sync target, and keep going. Remember those people who were scoffing before? Well they wanted in on the fast leveling action too. What about those skills that were falling behind though? What would be done for that?
You guessed it. Skill up parties. Before, if people wanted skill up assistance, they were mocked for staying in a synced party for too long. Not anymore. Now there were several people who were in the same boat, and it wasn't looked down upon as much anymore. Gain all the levels you want, and just head to a skill up party to make things current. Usually people were only a few levels behind, so it wasn't a long process to get things back in order.
Then the biggest level sync discovery of all came along or, as some people say, just became public: Korroloka Tunnel and the Astral Burn. The Summoner population was inadvertently given the best reason to exist. They had Astral Flow, and could use that ability to gain levels exponentially faster than even the best level sync party of the same level. Astral Burns became of subject of huge debates for quite some time. You didn't even need a full party to be successful, and this knowledge was used to create a "burn economy," if you will. People would actually sell the empty party slot to players who wanted some quick levels or merits. It wasn't cheap either; sometimes spots sold for 200k or more.
With all this fast leveling, some people became upset that players were reaching 75 far too fast and weren't really learning to mechanics of the jobs they played. In the beginning, most people seemed to agree with that mindset. As more and more people synced their levels, this mindset gradually changed. Some of those same people can now be found saying things like: "get over it; game mechanics aren't hard." "Any idiot can read wiki and know how to be such-and-such job." Which I find interesting because they are the same ones who were willing to call GMs and scream all day about how these sync people were "destroying the game."
Now let's jump to present day and the alternate realm of Abyssea. It's a leveling opportunity like no other before it. Nothing comes remotely close. Campaign, Fields of Valor, and Level Sync seem like archaic methods of leveling in the face of an Abyssea party. You just can't beat it when everything is going right. Even a bad Abyssea party can still net you more exp than a standard exp party. It so good, that people are basically abandoning traditional methods of gaining exp. When's the last time you saw a message in whitegate asking for a PLD in Bhaflau Thickets? Hell, even the merit parties are a thing of the past now. You can go to any camp in existence and find it more or less deserted, save for people who might be doing Magian Trials.
With Abyssea, you can jump from 30-85 without doing a single thing except opening item chests. The same could be done with Astral Burns, but it took a lot longer and you had to constantly look for a new sync target, which meant that you had to pay the group to keep that party slot open for you. Now, all you have to do is buy keys with Cruor, and you can ride the free exp all the way to 85 with a capped buffer and merits by the time you leave (if the group lasts that long and you can stay awake.)
To hell with gimped skills. No one seems to care anymore. Doesn't even matter if you have no clue what your abilities do. As a matter of fact, nothing matters at all. All the people who were shouting and going on about how this fast leveling is hurting FFXI are nowhere to be found. Well that's not true. They're mostly still here, but they're busy leveling in Abyssea.
I won't say that Abyssea is destroying FFXI. I won't even say that level sync did it. I'm certain that pretty much everyone who has played this game is guilty of using level sync too much or possibly been that key person in a party. That would be unfounded and pretty stupid. I compare Abyssea to that extra dungeon in most RPGs. It's where you can go when you've pretty much done all their is to do in the game. You'll get kick ass gear and be the strongest you've ever been but, when it's all said and done, you'll have nothing to use it on. Unless you consider it a worthwhile endeavor to build up millions of cruor for a 3-minute potion so you can kill NMs easily and post some screenshots about it.
The sad part about that though, is some people actually do find that to be worthwhile.