Mercifully brief, I did actually play the legacy version of FFXIV. I logged in for a night, met my friend, did some things, ran around outside, did a few of the levequests and it was an all-round awful experience. Incredibly, this was a few patches after Naoki Yoshida got on board and started fixing things by fucking up his neural oscillation. I can't even imagine how bad the game was before then and I frankly don't want to. I remember reading on a website I don't wish to mention that denizens of 2ch had come to the conclusion that the Japanese errors present were strong evidence that the game had been outsourced to a crappy Chinese developer. Whether this is true or not is up for debate but with how Square have acted in the past five years it's a miracle it didn't end up on Mobage with in-app purchase. Either way, it was trash, and the only other time I logged in a month later I couldn't even figure out how to get a "quest". I didn't exactly need much encouragement but that was enough to see me off long term.
Fast forward an indistinguishable amount of time later and I got a beta invite for A Realm Reborn. My expectations were understandably quite low but it was actually pretty good and I really enjoyed what I experienced. It felt like I was playing Final Fantasy XI HD within World of Warcraft's architecture, which is the game I felt it should have always been. The belief I've always held is that when FFXI was released it was built upon the foundations of EverQuest. It was a logical thing to have done and, to my knowledge, was pretty successful. World of Warcraft then released and set a whole new load of generic conventions and standards that any MMO released since has to use as it's foundation. This is where I think FFXIV originally went wrong. Instead of doing what it had done before and building upon the industry set foundation or, you know, just making a flashy new version of it's established and now niche FFXI formula, it released... that. What was that? Like, what were they thinking? It was so bad on every level and, again, I didn't even experience it at it's worst. I do recall the alpha and beta testers screaming at them about how abysmal it was too so it's not like the warning sirens weren't blaring.
As August 27th approached, a few of us decided to resub to World of Warcraft instead of beginning Final Fantasy XIV. We've all seen and experienced new MMO launches and after two months of convincing yourself that you're actually having fun you realize that you could has just had a better time playing WoW. It's the gaming equivalent of a comfortable old sweater that you know how to put on, how to enjoy, how to love, how it's going to treat you and how to put back in the cupboard when you're too warm.
I don't like Looking for Raid. There was a time where I did but it gets old, fast. It highlights everything that's gone wrong with WoW, namely a lack of accountability and community in exchange for instant gratification (which isn't even that if you're a DPS class) at the click of a button. The classic choice of finding a guild to raid proper is not an option for me any more. I'm old and employed now and I simply don't want to share the commitment that you get me gear and I return the favour ad infinitum. Sometimes I come home from work and I want to play something else. The new Zelda game that lets me relive my childhood is out next week. So I come home, excited to play it but, wait! Raiding commitment!! Too bad!!! I don't desire that in my life any longer and it's just not me to enter that spiritual contract half heartedly. The final alternative of a guild simply running normal mode has eroded away as that content becomes too easy and the obvious path to progress into heroic starts the spiral downwards.
Flex was our plan. It was sold to us that the pre-LFR method of forming a group together in trade chat would be possible again. This seemed like an ideal solution to all our problems. We could raid at at some sort of level with only the commitment between us as very good friends being flexible. So, here we are, six people with years of extreme raiding experience behind us, both tank spots covered, one healer, three varied DPS. We look, it takes longer than I expect week after week, problems finding healers, but we get there. The content was hard though. Like, really hard. If I'd stepped into a normal ten man and this is what I was facing, I would have no problem. But it was flex, and with that we were met with the dual problem of the expectation everything would be a one shot and the type of player that WoW has fostered for so long now - that if something doesn't die on that first attempt, the group is trash and it's acceptable to bail without a word. The notion that it was perhaps their fault that the wipe happened and they should perhaps accept some responsibility and improve isn't a trait held in today's WoW.
One week, we had trouble on Dark Shamans then one shot Nazgrim. The next week we one shot Dark Shamans then couldn't kill Nazgrim. The next day we spent hours wiping on Malkorok and never killed him. The week after that we couldn't get past Galakras, a boss we'd had no trouble with previously. It was infuriating. There was no consistency from week to week as to why we were wiping other than the mechanics were tuned far higher than I felt was acceptable for flex. This gradually did us in and we didn't log in the week after to do flex, no one said anything and the game fell away from us once more.
People might read that and think "lol ur bad l2p" or think I'm whining or whatever but I really felt we had a good plan and tried hard to make a go of it. We left our dead old raiding guild and levelled up Chefs Knife as a short term pain, long term gain type thing, I made us a subreddit whereby I kept track of every player we did Flex with and how they performed, we had consumables, usual raiding mentality. The idea was to get a portfolio of people to try and do Flex with each week and build from that but it just didn't work out. I'll always love WoW and know I will inevitably play it again in the future but I just don't feel like it has a place for me any longer.
So I move onto FFXIV. On a whim last night, my friend and I downloaded the client, synced things up and began playing it. I'm not going into this all guns blazing with a wondrous plan to execute at dusk. I'm not going into it as someone who was thinks they were King Opo in FFXI. I'm going into it as someone who wants to methodically go through a new experience and marvel at the world and discover new things for the first time. Things that you take for granted and find a pain the tenth time round. I don't know if this will work out and I honestly don't really care. I can live without an MMO in my life quite easily now but I do love having one to fall back on during droughts. It's that or Championship Manager 01/02.