Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Three Years Running.

This entry isn't as much of an update as it is a commemoration. July 24th, 2004 was the day I created Draconum and bought my Linkshell, TheSolonavi. Today is a birthday of sorts, reminding me of the times I've enjoyed in Vana'diel.

I had created about four characters previous to Drac. They were from various nations and were different races, as I got a feel for the game and figured out which settings I liked best. Draconum actually resides on my third content ID, with a couple of slots used by mules (storage charcters) in front of him. At the time I started playing FFXI, I was living alone in a house of my own. All I was doing was working and wasting time. I recall the weekend I went to see I, Robot in the theatre. I left the movie so disheartened that I dropped by where I worked, at Best Buy. I finally decided to go ahead and drop the cash on Final Fantasy XI and the required components to get it up and running on my PlayStation 2.

My brother came over and we installed everything onto the PS2. We've been FF fans since around 1990 or so, and the concept of Massively Multiplayer being injected into my favorite series left me feeling apprehensive at best. However, once I got in and saw what an MMO was all about, I was hooked. My brother created a character and loved it too, so I bought another FFXI setup and sent him home with it. Teepo was his finalized character on his own account, and when he started Teeps I created Drac and TheSolonavi LS for us to easily communicate with and establish a community of friends.

That's precisely what we did. TheSolonavi started out as a newbie haven of sorts. Many fun-loving guys and gals who learned the game's ins and outs, telling jokes and helping each other out along the way. This continued for until late October/early November, and at that time I went on a six-month hiatus. When I returned, I found that TheSolonavi had all but disappeared but for a couple remaining members. I continued on as ever, and slowly started finding new people as well as old friends who fit in to the LS.

TheSolonavi has never been a particularly goal-oriented Linkshell. We don't generally organize mass-raids or missions, or have scheduled times for anything in general. The LS has been quite large in population in the past, but eventually I grew to not accept strangers into my little world. Since I took breaks from FFXI for somewhat long periods of time, I found that most of the fringe weeds itself out. I also was burned enough times by people who would join, knowing my overly helpful nature, get what they wanted, and bail out. This is their prerogative and I don't hold much of a grudge, if at all. However, it became clear to me that what I wanted was a smaller, more intimate group of friends who all know each other. Y'know, Cheers-style.

Nowadays, I log in and know every name on the list. I keep track of much of my linkies' names, locations, job levels, mission progression, and personalities. It's a juggling act most days to keep myself happy as well as the group, but it's been entertaining throughout. We set up static parties, go on numerous Artifact raids, Notorious Monster hunts, quests, and just random fooling around. I love this LS and I would be remiss if I didn't take time out now and again to let the linkies know they're a great bunch of weirdos.

I look forward to seeing each person online during the week, some of whom I speak with on the phone, most of which I know on a first-name basis (rather than character names). I tend to give my linkies nicknames as they remind me of things or people or events. This has been a bit of a game at times, when I announce a person's nickname and they get to hear the story of why I arrived at such a moniker. The LS talks to me about their gameplay as well as their real lives. I reciprocate by being pretty open and honest about my life as well, and I believe we're constantly learning from each other.

If ever there was a "good environment" for my mind, FFXI has been it. I've had more fun than I could ever explain, over countless hours and many sleepless nights. I've wondered at times if I shouldn't just drop the game and find/revisit other hobbies, but every time I come close, something happens in the Linkshell that reminds me exactly why I'm playing after three years. I wouldn't want to trade in my time with TheSolonavi for much of anything, and I'm certainly happy in my free time because of it.

I do not know how much longer I will play FFXI. In fact, I've been on both sides of the argument; at times I've said I've had enough, while other times I've said they'll have to drag me kicking and screaming out of Vana'diel when Square-Enix closes down the servers. There is a new expansion pack on the horizon, called Wings of the Goddess. I will certainly plan to be there when the red carpet unrolls for this new addition, and with a little luck, I'll have the same friends to back me up who've always been here.

Hats off to Square for crafting an impressive, if sometimes frustrating, foray into Massively Multiplayer Online gaming. The atmosphere and adventure contained within this game has left my jaw on the floor at times, and my adrenaline pumping at others. I've met some of the best friends I could ask for, and put time into overcoming challenges both ingame and out. Art imitates life, as the saying goes, and I believe that holds true here. Many aspects of the world can be looked at with a similar awe or a mirroring viewpoint as those projected in Vana'diel. It's a great experience to have two "worlds" to live in at the same time, whereas it could be argued some people never take time to live in the world with which they're already accustomed.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has made my FFXI experience what it has been. Some have been challenges, some have been teriffic friends, others have become like family to me. At the very least, a cynic could say my linkies are a better form of an offline game's Artificial Intelligence. But the way I see it, at best, my linkies are my extended family.