Developer Appreciation Week is here! For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster. The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios. As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better. That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole. So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there. If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.
I knew sooner or later I would end up needing to do Square Enix because at various times during my life they played a huge role in shaping how I looked at games. Lets go back to a time and a place where the only gaming news I got was through Nintendo Power magazine. In one of those issues I was first introduced to a game called Final Fantasy. For ages I had been looking for the personification of Dungeons and Dragons in game form, and while the gold box games did a decent job of doing just that… there was always something missing. Final Fantasy bridged the gap and gave me precisely that, along with a story line that made me care about all of the dungeon crawling. I remember being so insanely excited when I went to a nearby Walmart and they had this game in stock. The only negative was that within a short few days I would be heading to Boy Scout camp for an entire week. While I normally loved camp, this was quite possibly the most miserable week of camp I have ever experienced. All that I really wanted to be doing was playing Final Fantasy from the comfort of my bedroom… and instead I was making campfires, and hiking up sharp flint rock strewn paths. When I finally got home, firing up that Nintendo and playing Final Fantasy was quite literally the best feeling ever. Regardless of how exhausted I was from a week of camp, I still ended up pulling an all nighter and getting through that damned Marsh cave.
When Final Fantasy 2 was released… aka Final Fantasy IV for the rest of the world… it once again dominated my life for a period of time. I was completely blown away by the graphics at the time, and also amazed at how much more complex the story line of that game was. This was also the point at which I learned the hard lesson of save at every single save point, because of a bad mishap with the Magus Sisters. The game also introduced the term “Spoony Bard” into my vocabulary and for that I will always be grateful. This was also the first game that gave me characters I had no interest in playing… I am looking at you Edward and your inability to do any real damage. The game also gave my quite possibly my favorite goofy archetype of character… the Dragoon, with its amazing but also sometimes frustrating jump attack. I was completely hooked on the notion of having this huge cast of characters that I could switch between at will… but then ultimately only ever seemed to play with the same party ever. For the most part that party was Cecil, Rydia, Kain, Rosa, and Edge… with that last spot being highly variable as I went through the play session. This is really something I do even today when I play for example a Bioware game. In Dragon Age Inquisition, my party is pretty much permanently Cassandra, Dorian, Sera and my character.
It wasn’t until High School that Final Fantasy 3 was released… or Final Fantasy VI for the rest of the world. I remember it coming out around Christmas break and at first I rented it… which was a truly dumb idea given that the Super Nintendo didn’t have memory cards. The main reason for this was because the game itself was something stupid like $85 when it released, which was an awful lot of my limited resources at the time. However after a few days of playing the game I was making a trek to the big city to try and find a copy. After searching a dozen different stores I finally found a copy at Target, and much to my shock it was on sale for only $65. I am not sure exactly sure what it is about Final Fantasy VI, but for whatever reason I think this game will always be my favorite. I tend to love games that pull a bait and switch on me, when you think you are nearing the end of the game… only to realize that the world just got much larger and instead of being nearly done… I was just barely starting. I also have a soft spot for a lot of the characters in this game, because it managed to make me feel things that video games had not really succeeded in doing up to this point. Ashgar and I have had a conversation about this… and for me the game that did all of these things was Final Fantasy V. However for me… that game was not available and didn’t even receive a fan translation until I was well into college. The two games do a lot of the same things, I just happened to experience six first.
Over the years there has been a string of Final Fantasy titles always in my life, and several non-FF series games that I loved as well. For example I love beyond love Vagrant Story, and I remember playing the hell out of it when it came out on the PSX. I also spent more than my fair share of time playing Chrono Trigger, and the subsequent follow up games. Then there are games that I wish would get a reboot like Parasite Eve that were so amazing for the time in which they came out. Essentially there has always been some Square Enix game somewhere in my life, be it Bravely Default that I am slowly working my way through on my 3DS downstairs on my bedside table, or the Kingdom Hearts collection I have sitting beside my PS3 ready to start in earnest. All of these are in fact great experiences, but the one I feel like I really need to talk about is the miraculous rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV. This game was released in 2010 and was essentially universally despised. I remember getting into the beta for it and finding it just largely uninteresting more than anything. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t really feel anything about it. So I was more than happy to return to World of Warcraft, and forget that the game existed.
However in August of 2013 the game relaunched as A Realm Reborn, and I have to say I was shocked at just how much I liked the title. We played for a handful of months until our group ran out of content that we could realistically complete. Then July of 2014 I decided to fire the game up again, because I wanted to see how it had progressed in our absence. Final Fantasy XIV was one of those games that our group left on good terms. What I found waiting on me was this rich cache of content that laid untapped. Over the next several months we had what could only be termed as a renaissance of MMO gaming all centered around this game. I was happy to raid once again, and happy to be doing pretty much all of the tropes of a MMORPG. What made all the difference was the loving way in which this game was being crafted. I have to give huge shouts to the localization team and namely Koji Fox. Final Fantasy XIV is so amazingly well written and is packed full of more feels than most games ever manage to muster. There is content that will make you painfully belly laugh, and other times infuriate you for all of the right reasons. Then there are moments that will make you cry… and there are certain cut scenes in this game that even the mere thought of will summon up the waterworks.
While I am currently on a break from the game after burning myself out again with the launch of Heavensward, I know sooner or later I will return and be happy to do so. Heavensward was quite possibly the expansion I have looked forward to the most from any MMORPG that I have played, since maybe the launch of Trials of Atlantis in Dark Age of Camelot. Unfortunately much like ToA… I got my expectations up way too high, and the content drought that followed the launch ultimately ended up with me stopping playing. However as a couple of patches have built up for me, I plan on returning soon… probably after I get the upcoming Diablo 3 season out of my system. I am happy to know that there is still a very thriving guild presence in this game waiting on me. I have a feeling that sooner or later we will all return for yet another renaissance of MMO gaming and when it happens… it will be in huge part to just how great Final Fantasy XIV turned out.