Live in a virtual community

a sociology study of MMORPG Final Fantasy XI


Written by Ocean
for the 170 days of my life

 

Introduction:

MMORPG
mud

Massively (or massive) Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, or MMORPG has become a very hot gaming style in recent years. Starting from MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) as early as 1977, there are more than 20 big online gaming communities and many more small ones today. Among them, the most popular MMORPGs in US are Ever Quest by Sony Online Inc, World of Warcraft by Blizzard Inc, Guild Wars and Lineage etc.

Thanks to today¡¯s internet technology, people from any corner on this planet can log in to a MMORPG game server, and start to play with other fellow players. With more than couple millions of active MMORPG players, online games create the biggest social and entertaining clubs in the human history.

 

Final Fantasy XI

ffxi poster

Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) was the 11th game in Final Fantasy series, and was developed by a Japan based game company, Square Enix. With decent story lines, beautiful graphics and sweet music, Final Fantasy series are the most popular Role Playing Games ever.

Unlike the previous 10 generations of single-player Final Fantasy series, Square Enix decided to develop FFXI as an online RPG. FFXI was started shipping in Japan in 2001, and soon it attracted more than 300,000 Japanese players. In Oct 2003, FFXI was introduced into US. It was also when Ocean, character name Lubu, joined this big community. In late 2004, the distribution region of FFXI was expanded into Europe. Today there are more than 500,000 active players ¡°living¡± in 33 duplicated FFXI worlds: Vana¡¯diel (33 independent FFXI host servers).

 

FFXI Game Play:

Similar to all other MMORPG games, players need to log in to host servers from their client computers. Credit card info is also required before customers create their characters when they start to play for the first time. The credit card then is charged by Square Enix (SE) monthly.

After a character is created, it's randomly assigned to one of the 33 servers. This character can not move between servers freely unless the moving is managed by SE.

A character then chooses to join one of the three ¡°Nations¡± in the world ¡°Vana'diel, and it can switch nationality by paying to certain NPCs (non-playable characters) in the game.

A character can also receive quests from many NPCs in any nations or outlands, and get various kind of rewards after completing the quests. Normally the rewards are in-game money: Gil, or some items with/without Gil value.

FFXI is designed in a way that no players are able to fight any other players, unless under certain circumstance (¡°Ballista¡± in this case).

 

Growing a character:

Similar to all other MMORPG games as well, a character grows up in FFXI by gaining experience points. There are 75 levels a character can grow in FFXI, and various amount of experience points are required to grow each level. For example, it only requires 500 experience points to grow to level 2, but 42,000 experience points to grow from level 73 to 74, and 44,000 points from level 74 to 75. For every level grow-up, status of a character increase a little bit, such as Health Points (HP), Magical Points (MP), Strength, Intelligence etc.

The most popular way to gain experience points is killing ¡°mobs¡± in game. Mobs are the non-playable enemy characters and have levels just like players. Players can check strength of mobs before they engage. One of the eight messages will show up if a mob's strength is checked:levelup

¡°Too weak to worth awhile¡±: mob¡¯s level is way too low to checker.
¡°Easy Prey¡±: mob¡¯s at least 3 levels lower than checker.
¡°Decent Challenge¡±: mob¡¯s not too low
¡°Even Match¡± mob has same level as checker
¡°Tough¡± mob¡¯s a little higher than checker
¡°Very Tough¡± mob¡¯s at least 3 levels higher than checker
¡°Incredibly Tough¡± mob¡¯s level is way higher than checker.
"Impossible to Gauge" indicates it's a Notorious Monster.

Various amount of experience points are gained after a player kills a mob. If the mob is ¡°too weak¡± to player, the player gains 0 experience points. For ¡°Easy Prey¡±, player can gain from 10~36 points. 50~72 for ¡°Decent Challenge¡±; 100 for ¡°Even Match¡±, 120~150 for ¡°Tough¡± and 200~300 max for ¡°Incredibly Tough¡±.

From this formula, a level 1 player just needs to kill 5 ¡°Even Match¡± mobs to grow to level 2, but a level-74 player needs to kill 440 ¡°Even Matches¡± to reach level 75.

Players can also form teams to kill mobs for experience points, but the point amount is reduced to a certain factor depending on the people in team. A max number of 6 players can form a team, and 18 players can form an alliance. For example, everyone in a 6-people team can only gain up more than 50 experience points after winning a battle, if the killed mob is checked ¡°Even Match¡± to the highest level player in team.

Normally it takes about 8 ~ 12 months to grow a character to level 75, assuming the player spends 5 hours a day on FFXI.

 

jobsJobs:

There are 17 jobs a player can choose. Each job is identical. A player can literally level up all jobs to 75, but he/she needs to gain experience points for each job separately. Therefore if it takes 8 months to grow 1 job to level 75, it can take literally 10 years to have all jobs reach 75. MMORPGs are really time-sinking!

Beside that, Square-Enix keeps adding new jobs in game expansions and updates. It seems impossible for a normal player to have a character with all jobs level 75.

 

 

 

gil

Making in-game money:

In-game money is an essential necessary to grow a strong character. Same as real life, everything in FFX requires ¡°money¡±: equipments, foods, synthesize materials, even transportations. FFXI ¡°money¡± is called Gil.

There are many ways to make money: doing missions, quests, killing certain mobs for gil drop etc. players can also kill mobs for item drops, and sell/trade them for gil.

Most players use in-game trade facility ¨C Auction Houses to sell their items for gil. Similarly, most players buy their needs from Auction Houses too. Serving as the most important trading place in game, Auction Houses charge certain amount of gil from sellers as process fee.

 

FFXI Game style:

excarliburEquipments:

Equipments are mainly referred as weapons, armors; accessories etc. There are also other minor equipments such as furniture. Equipments are used to boost a character¡¯s status such as strength, defense, etc.

Equipments can be bought from non-playable friendly characters (NPCs), from Auction Houses where other players sell them, and can be found on mobs after kill them in battles.

As of today, the FFXI game allows a single character to carry 60 equipments/items with them anywhere in the ¡°world¡±, and 80 to be left behind at ¡°home¡±. So literally a character can possess upto 140 items in total. If the number of equipments/items exceeds 140, the player has to throw something away.

 

Consumable goods:

Consumable goods include foods, medicines etc. they can be used to temporarily boost a character¡¯s status, such as strength, defense etc, or temporarily add some abilities, such as ¡°invisible¡±. Medicines can instantly cure a character¡¯s Health Points, or add some Magical Points.

The duration time of each consumable goods varies. And once used, they are lost forever.

 

Daily life in FFXI

After a player gets familiar with the game in one to two days, he/she¡¯s ready to explore the fantasy world.

However, there are not many places to go without a strong character because weak ones get killed easily by hostile enemy mobs. Therefore, similar to many single player RPGs, a character starts to gain experience points to level up. linkshell

Players can team up to kill mobs together to gain experience points. Normally players level up faster by teaming up. Partying together becomes more important at later levels too. Experience parties are also the main place people find their in-game friends.

As I mentioned earlier, it takes 8~10 months for a normal player to level up to max, level 75. And still, it can still be dangerous for a level 75 character to explore some places/dungeons.

There are also many missions and quests for various level range players to do. Players can enjoys story lines, or get equipments/items/gil by doing them.

Most missions can not be soloed. Players with common in-game interest usually gang up as guilds to accomplish mission/quest assignments. In FFXI, guilds are called ¡°linkshells¡±. ¡°Linkshell¡± is the basic social style in FFXI, where people hang around to find friends, chat, laugh, and form up teams for experience points, missions, quests etc. One player can join multiple Linkshells.

There are some extremely hard mission/quests that can only be accomplished by a group of high level players. So called ¡°High-level Notorious Monster Linkshells¡± are formed by high level players to achieve end-game goals, such as killing extreme tough mobs.

Almost every FFXI players have at least one linkshell that they social with. Interacting with Linkshell members and friends become the most important daily activity in FFXI life.

 

Enjoy the Game

Personally I believe FFXI is another successful episode of Final Fantasy series. It has beautiful graphics, music and the most important: same great final fantasy style story lines as its predecessors. The only difference is FFXI is MMORPG where thousands of people play together.

So far FFXI has 5 not-too-much-related story lines: 3 from each of the nations in Vana¡¯diel, and 2 more added in ¡°Rise of Zilart¡± and ¡°Chains of Promathia¡± expansion packs. It seems Square Enix plans to add the 6th story line with the latest expansion pack: ¡°Treasure of Aht Urhgan¡±. The world of Vana¡¯diel is just getting more and more florid and exciting.

 

FFXI today:

Unlike the first few months new players from Northern America ran around blindly without knowing what to do, there are hundreds of NA players have multiple level 75 job characters today.

Even this FFXI game was designed with Japanese culture background (ex. Jobs such as Samurai, Ninja), Northern American players adopted this game fair quickly, and most of them have been enjoying this game for a long time. With more than 100k NA customer base, Square-Enix really has a great success in NA MMORPG market with FFXI.


Problems in FFXI

Nothing is perfect. Despite the fact FFXI is another successful RPG, it has many problems still have not been solved.

Problems caused by players:

In FFXI, just like many other MMORPGs, supplies of good equipments are very limited. Players have to work hard to obtain good equipments they want, with luck.

Botting:
fishbot

When more and more people reach higher level, competitions for better equipments become much fierce. To beat competitors, some players come up many dirty ideas. One of the ideas is botting.

Botting refers to using computer automated tools to play games instead of controlling manually. The tools are usually written in computer languages such as C/C++ by players with profession in computer science. With botting, players gain unfair advantages over non-botting players because computers are usually faster and easier than manual control.

In FFXI, there are many types of bottings. Fish botting and Mob claim botting are the most commonly used. With fish botting, players can fish for gil while sleeping, so they are usually called sleeping fisherman. Mob claim botting helps players to claim mobs faster than manually controlled players, and get better chance for precious item drops.

Square-Enix has been trying hard to prevent players to use botting by adding program patches, but is not really successful. Players can always find new botting tools within couple days after an old one¡¯s blocked by Square-Enix.



mpk

MPK:

In FFXI, players are not allowed to fight each other. However players find out they can lure mobs to a position where other players stand, and the mobs will start attacking these other players. This is called MPK (monster player killing).

MPK is often used in mob camps, where multiple players try to kill same mobs for item drop. To reduce competition, some players play dirty and lure a mob and use MPK to distract competitors¡¯ attention, or just let the competitors be killed by the lured mob.

MPK is the most disrespectable action in most FFXI player¡¯s mutual agreement, but there are always some bad eggs use it to take advantages over other players.

 

RMT:gilsell

RMT means Real Money Trader, who is selling their virtual FFXI gil for real money. RMTs sell their gil on websites such as IGE (www.ige.com), where buyers can pay for gil with credit card or Paypal.

RMT creates a problem in FFXI society that a lot gil flow to a few players who buy gil with real money. Since the gil come relatively ¡°easy¡±, these buyers normally spend them on luxury in-game items, and cause prices of the items to sky rocketing.

When FFXI just entered Northern America, 10,000 FFXI gil could be sold for $10 US dollars. But due to more and more players join RMT force, $10 can buy more than 800,000 gil today. That¡¯s 800% inflation in less than 2 years. If this happens in real world, economy will collapse and government will be thrown over in revolution.

The latest new is Gil selling companies have been promoting their products since 2005 Christmas, so that players can buy 1 Million gil with just $4 dollars. The prices of a lot items have been tripled. Most players are very angry about outrageous inflation. Many quit the game because of this.

 

Uncoordinated Team Play:

MMORPG is designed for multi-players to enjoy a game together. Especially in the heavy team-oriented game FFXI, people can barely accomplish anything by solo. Players are supposed to work together to accomplish missions and quests etc.

If everyone work together for their in-game goals, MMORPGs are great to play. However virtual world is also a place people can hide their real world identities. People normally are not held responsible for what they do in these artificial worlds. There are no real laws to fight against fraud, cheating, contract breaching, and there is no credit system to check if a player¡¯s trustworthy etc. To protect themselves, players hardly trust any others online on anything.

help

 

 


For example in FFXI, a group of players decide to quest for a same equipment, so they form up a party to work together for it. These players agree to help everyone to obtain equipments he/she wants. After a few hours of fighting mobs, one player finally gets the equipment. Now, if this player decides to quit the team and breach the agreement, other players can do nothing to stop him/her. It leaves only one player accomplishes the goal, while the others are left behind helpless.

Players find out it¡¯s more effective to hold people responsible to help others in same ¡°linkshells¡±. Some people form special ¡°linkshells¡± called ¡°High-level Notorious Monster LinkShell¡± or ¡°HNMLS¡±, where players help each other long time for everyone¡¯s end-game equipments. However, it¡¯s still not guaranteed a player will continue to stay in the HNMLS after he obtains all he wants. Sometimes a player even steals equipments from other LS members, or steals gil from LS ¡°treasure box¡±, just for his own benefits.

Even very close in-game friends become untrustworthy in front of valuable goods. During the two-year play time, I have seen so many ¡°friendships¡± break up because one cheats on another.

It¡¯s said that you never know who you are talking with on the other end of internet line. People can do whatever evil online they dare not to do in real life, and are usually not held responsible. Players shall never give personal identity or financial information online, as well as no virtual properties such as in-game equipments or gil. It¡¯s not news anymore that players get cheated by other players on their rent out equipments and gil.

A society without real trust is the fatal wound of online virtual worlds, such as MMORPGs. Without trust, it¡¯s hard to build friendship with other players. This is the main reason I want to quit MMORPGs.

 

A ¡°Socialism¡± experiment in FFXI: HNM LinkShell ¡°Tempest¡± on Caitsith server:

A group of players in Caitsith server decided to change this unfortunate situation. They formed the ¡°Tempest¡± Linkshell, and the goal was to have all members help each other for items/equipments selflessly. While in other normal HNM Linkshells, players can only obtain items/equipments with enough points, which are earned by attending Linkshell events and helping other members.

One of the members talked to me about the ¡°Tempest¡± and my respond was it¡¯s a utopia style dream.

There are always interest conflicts between FFXI players. Not all players can get items/equipments they want, but only a few. The others must sacrifice and wait for their next turn.

Every FFXI players pay their monthly fee equally. Why does someone have to sacrifice for other¡¯s success? If only just a selfish thinking like this, the Linkshell will not work out as it¡¯s designed. When Linkshell members argue over their disagreements, it¡¯s easy to turn into internal fights, and players would no longer have good experiences in the Linkshell.

Not to my surprise, the ¡°Tempest¡± linkshell disbanded in a few months. Most its formal members joined back to point-based HNM Linkshells.

 

Rude players:

Well, no matter where people go, even in a virtual world, there are always rude people¡­ Rude people really is the major factor that ruins MMORPG experiences.

 

The root of above problems:

Greed drives all players and causes the problems listed above.
greed

Because of greed, people use botting to fish for gil while sleeping. This makes much more unnecessary gil flow into the FFXI vitural market, and causes inflation.

Because of greed, players ¡°kill¡± (MPK) each other to eliminate mob hunting competition.

Because of greed, players buy virtual money with real money, knowing the virtual money is nothing but a line of ¡°0¡±s and ¡°1¡±s. Gil buyers have excuses that buying gil save their time of working for in-game money.

Because of greed, players abandon their team members after they reach their own goals.

Because of greed, players don¡¯t return their borrowed equipments, gil etc.

Because of greed, players steal other player¡¯s equipments, items and gil by breaching agreements

Sadly, there¡¯s no cure for human greed, one of the seven natural-born and deadly sins.

 

Game design flaw, problems caused by Square-Enix:

Not only bad players ruin other¡¯s FFXI game experiences, there are other problems caused by SE¡¯s design flaw that make people unhappy. For example, Inflation is not mainly caused by players, but by Square-Enix¡¯s design flaws. Here is why:

inflationEvery player starts FFXI with only 50 gil. When the game started on its first day in Japan, with say 1000 players, there is only 50,000 gil in the whole FFXI world. The prices of items must be only few gil because people did not have much gil to trade.

Players quickly figured out how to make money by doing missions, quests and trading mob drop items to non-playable friendly characters (NPC) in towns. So the number of gil in the whole world has been increasing exponentially, with the 1000 players and their followers work together. For example, a player can already gather about 320,000 gil by doing all assigned missions for his ¡°nation¡± alone. There are also repeatable quests players can do for gil, such as trading fish to certain NPCs.

Players print their own "money" whenever they want just by doing some quests. This is the biggest game design flaw for this virtual economy.

On the contrast, there are not many ways designed to drain gil out of market. Auction house only charges 200 gil service fee in average for each trade. Transportation fees are faxed at 200 etc. With more and more gil trading between players, the value of gil drop, as well as buying power.

With this crazy inflation rate, it¡¯s not smart for players to keep any large amount for gil in their wallets. Instead, players shall invest their gil into some equipments or items just like people invest real properties and rare materials in real world.

Square-Enix realized this problem no long after thousands of NA players joined FFXI world. One of the solutions they came up is speeding up gil drain out of the market. For example they adjusted the auction house service charge, raised transportation price etc. To enter certain zones, up to 64 players need to pay 1 million gil (Dynamis). And in a recent update, it requires each player to pay 50k gil to enter Limbus zones.

However, inflation does not seem to slow down a bit after these adjustments and updates.

 

JP Only:

Since FFXI was issued in Japan almost 2 years ahead of in NA (Northern America), and all the game designers are Japanese, FFXI is considered a Japanese game with the majority of players are Japanese as well. According to a census report published in Square-Enix¡¯s website in Aug 2004, 3/4 of the FFXI ¡°populations¡± are Japanese players.

On the day NA players joined Japanese players in all 23 FFXI worlds; both sides have felt much cultural confrontations that they never met before: ¡°Culture Shock¡±.

jponlyNA players bring in new game styles. For example, NA players don¡¯t like to cast lot on drop items from mobs they kill, rather than let computer distribute the drops among teammates randomly. The Japanese teammates prefer to lot drops. Japanese players also don¡¯t like to use ¡°Shout¡± channel as much as NA players, whom find it is a very effective way to communicate. Japanese players feel offended when NA players use ¡°Check¡± function to exam their equipments, while NA players think their Japanese fellows over-react because ¡°Check¡± is a built-in function by the game. There are many more other conflicts between the two groups of players. After a few weeks, many Japanese players started to refuse to play with NA players by putting ¡°JP ONLY¡± in their search comments.

Because Japanese players are majorities, they don¡¯t feel any inconvenience by not playing with NA players. On the contrast, NA players feel very frustrating when they ask a Japanese player to join a NA party and get refused. Sometimes a party is forced to disband because the Japanese player who refuses to join NA party, is also the only key job player available at the time.

FFXI also has built-in language translators to help NA and Japanese players to communicate. Unfortunately this in-game translator is not effective at all. There are only about 100 daily dialogs and 300 words in the translator database. With limited translatable words, players always find it¡¯s hard to communicate with foreign language speakers. For example, there is no translation for the phrase ¡°are you interested?¡± There is a translation for ¡°Interest¡±, but it refers to loan interest rate when Japanese players read it. . It¡¯s very confusing when a NA player tells a Japanese player ¡°Are you ¡°(loan) interest¡±?

Some NA players believe ¡°JP ONLY¡± is a racist comment because it reminds them the ¡°Whites Only¡±days, although most Japanese whiteonlyplayers don¡¯t know there¡¯s anything wrong with it. As a country with only one race, Japan has no such thing as ¡°racism¡±. Most Japanese players don¡¯t understand how hard Americans have been fighting racism for more than 100 years, and it hurts them to see these ¡°racist¡± comments flying everywhere again now. At this point, some American players start to hate back Japanese ¡°racist¡± players.

Square Enix probably intended to use FFXI as cultural communication bridge by putting NA and Japanese player together in same servers. Unfortunately, with no effective communication tools, and cultural shocks, the deep gap between NA players and Japanese players can not be filled up easily. Instead, it creates more misunderstandings between Eastern and Western cultures.

I think it was a mistake to put both groups in same servers in the beginning, although it¡¯s probably more effective for resource usage of all 23 servers 24/7.

 

Unbalanced Jobs

There are 17 jobs in FFXI world, with more coming in new expansions. Among these 17, only 5 jobs are considered mage jobs. They are White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, Summoner and Bard. Only 2 jobs are considered Tank: Paladin and Ninja. All the rest 10 jobs are melee damage dealers.

looking4groupIn a normal FFXI 6-memeber party setup, it shall have one "tank" to cover other party members from mob¡¯s attack, a white mage or summoner to cure "tank" and others and one or two red mages and bards to support party. The other 2 or 3 party slots are left open for melee damage dealers.

If every player choose his/her job randomly, there shall be equal amount of players with each job. Tank, Cure and Support mage jobs are necessary for a successful party. So with only 2~3 slots open for melee damage dealers, players with 6 or 7 other jobs are left out. Sometimes a melee job player can keep looking for a party for whole day and never get an invite. This is very unfair to these unfortunate melee players because they are considered disposable and not core players for a successful party.

After a few months some melee players decided to switch to more demanding tank and mage jobs. They helped to balance the supply and demand of jobs in FFXI. According to the census in 2004, there are more than 30 percent of players have mage jobs, and 15% are in tank jobs.

What¡¯s Square Enix¡¯s doing to solve this problem? They will add more Mage jobs to the game to take away melee¡¯s party slot in the upcoming new expansion: Treasures of Aht Urhgan in December 2005.

 

Limited storage spaces:mule

One character can carry 140 items max: 60 items a character can carry with them anywhere in the game, and the other 80 have to be left behind in their ¡°houses¡±. Players can only have access to items in their ¡°houses¡± when they return ¡°home¡±. However, there are more than 1000 equipments and materials in FFXI. There are never enough spaces for a player to carry everything he wants with just one character.

To solve this problem, players usually buy extra characters from Square Enix. These extra characters that are created for storage purpose only are called ¡°mules¡±. Whenever there¡¯s any infrequently used items or equipments, players can send them to the mules through free in-game delivery service.

¡°Mule¡± storages are actually pretty inconvenient. If a player needs something from mule, he/she has to log off the current playing character, log on to mule first. Mule runs to delivery station and delivers the item to the other character. Then the mule logs off then logs back on to the playing character again to retrieve the item delivered to him/her from the mule. It normally takes 5 minutes to get an item from a mule.

The only reason I see why Square Enix gives FFXI players limited storage space is it can charge players for extra mules. Each mule costs $1/month to player¡¯s credit card. From the census data, Japanese players have 4 mules in average, while NA players, who just started the game at the time, have 1 mule in average. I believe the number of mules must increase a lot today.

Although playing FFXI only costs $12.95 a month, it can cost a lot more if a player has multiple mules. While other MMORPGs are about $15 a month with more than 10 characters per player account, FFXI is relatively more expensive than its competitors.

 

Unreasonable drop rates

In FFXI, killing a mob does not guarantee it drops items. The drop rate is decided by some sophisticated formula calculated by Square¡¯s host machine. A player may need to spend hours, even days to continuously kill same mobs for a drop he/she wants. I understand drop rate can be low for some really rare items, but why Square sets low drop rates on some items every player needs. For example, players need an item drop from skeleton mobs before they can level up from 50 to 51. The drop rate of this specific item is set so low that keeping killing skeletons becomes neither fun nor challenging, but boring and frustrating. I personally had been spending 8 consecutive hourskilling skeletons to obtain that specific item. I almost quit the game because I felt it was so stupid to continue the game where my fate was decided by a lottery machine.

 

Why are online games such as FFXI addictive?

Playing time in FFXI can be recorded. Personally, I have been playing for more than 160 days in FFXI in the past two years, since the first day FFXI¡¯s selling in Northern America. That¡¯s 160 out of 730 days, 22% of my 2-year life. It means I have been playing FFXI at least 5 hours a day, EVERY day! I have also seen record playing time of 340 days, which means the player¡¯s been playing 12 hours a day every day in the past two years.
playtime

Why is this game so addictive? I believe there are two major reasons.

First, MMORPGs give people opportunities to ¡°meet¡± others and communicate with them when they play the game together. This is also why many people are addictive to other online activities such as IRC (Internet Relay Chat), Newsgroup, Blogs.

Second, MMORPGs give people satisfactions by accomplishing things, and showing off their achievements to other players. For example, many FFXI players like to wear expensive or hard-to-get equipments and walk around in the most crowded areas. From the early day¡¯s ¡°Sub Job¡± quest to many ¡°end-game¡± quests, with feeling of success, accomplishment and excitement, some people would like to¡°live¡± in a virtual online world, rather than face their harsh real lives. No wonder I have heard players said:¡± FFXI is not a game, it¡¯s a life style¡±

As an experienced player, I have some advises to new player who¡¯d like to try some MMORPGs. Either invite some friends in real life to play together with you, or don¡¯t join. MMORPGs require groups of highly organized players to play effectively. Unfortunately, it¡¯s very hard to organize unknown people online because people don¡¯t really trust each other. For example, players usually take two hours to wait for a party invite in FFXI. People can do lot things within the 2 hours but they are wasted on waiting for party invites. If a group of real life friends join a MMORPG together, they don¡¯t have to worry about party invites to save a lot of hours from being wasted meaninglessly. Players don¡¯t have to worry that much about being cheated by real life friends either.

After all, FFXI is a great game to play where people can enjoy the storyline, beautiful graphic, music, and feelings of accomplishments. However, ¡°living¡± in the FFXI virtual society does not have much fun because it¡¯s a society without regulation, and without basic trusts between its citizens.

 

Lubu¡¯s Journey in FFXI

Lubu joined FFXI in Oct. 2003 when the game was just released in Northern America. Lubu was an Elvvan, and he chose Windurst as his native country. lubu

In the beginning, Lubu did not even know how to engage battles with mobs. It took him 10 minutes to figure out he could use the onion sword he carried, rather than fighting mobs with his bare hands. When he felt tired and wanted to log out the game, He did not know how. While he was wandering around town and trying to figure out the way, he overheard conversation between two players about logging out the game. That ended Lubu¡¯s first day in FFXI.

The first party Lubu joined was with a Mithra right outside Windurst Water. However after two players met, neither of them knew what to do. So the Mithra ran back to town, while Lubu ran the opposite direction. After the two players could not find each other anymore, they said good bye and the party disbanded. That was Lubu¡¯s 1st party experience.

One day while Lubu was killing mobs in the West Sarubataruba for experience points, he was invited to join a party to kill a Mandragora for one of the party members. The party member told everyone he was killed by a mandragora that he thought he could easily kill, so he wanted his revenge. They looked for the Mandragora around the place the member got killed, and located it shortly. So all 6 members ran to the mandragora and drew their weapons. They noticed the mandragora was different from others because it liked to sleep its enemies a lot. But the party finally managed to kill it and Lubu got 36 points of experience. Lubu felt kind disappointed because he only got few points for such a hard fight. Later Lubu found out it was not a normal mandragora, but a mandragora Notorious Monster in the West Sarutabaruta: Tom Tit Tat. It was Lubu¡¯s first NM experience. (^.^)

In the beginning Lubu saw a lot player had a color dot in front of their names and did not know what that was. It¡¯s not until Lubu joined an experience point party in Tahrongi Canyon, and was passed a purple color pearl. Lubu finally understood the pearl everyone wore right in front of their names indicated the linkshells they were in. That was the first linkshell Lubu joined, but he had already forgot the name of that shell today.

Since then, Lubu met a lot friend during his journey in Vana¡¯diel. He recruited his fellow Windurstians to kill the dragon in Rank3 mission, and joined his first alliance and raided to the top level of Delkfutt tower for Rank4 mission. When there¡¯s time, he and his friend kept killing mobs for experience points for more than 17 hours without break. Lubu¡¯s linkshell also liked to organized members with same level to form experience points parties so members can get to know each other better. Those were such precious memory to remember.

limit1The first real challenge in game Lubu met was when he hit level 50. In FFXI, in order to continue after level 50, players have to obtain 3 items drop from hard mobs. One of the items is called ¡°Ancient Papyrus¡±, which has the lowest drop rate. Lubu and his fellow players organized several raids to get the Papyrus but were unsuccessful. People died here and there due to misfortune and carelessness. Usually there were more than 10 people formed up alliance party and raided together to mobs for the Papyrus, but only 1 or 2 people can get it before the alliance fell apart. Some player just simply disbanded from alliances after they obtained their Papyrus. They did not want to ¡°waste¡± their time or even risk their ¡°lives¡± to help others to get the same thing, although the others helped them to get theirs. It was probably the first time Lubu saw the ugly side of online game players. Thanks to a high level player name Plastik who continuously helped Lubu 8 hours without break, Lubu finally obtained his Papyrus.

After that, Lubu fought hard to find all 5 pieces armor of Red Mage. Theaf quest involves killing some hard mobs in different dungeons for their rarely-dropped keys and open treasure boxes in these dungeons. After 3 months of hard working Lubu finally obtained the last piece: Warlock¡¯s Chapeau, and gained the title ¡°Paragon of Red Mage Excellence¡±. ^_^. These armors are basically end-game equipments for Red Mages.

The final challenge Lubu faced before he hit level 75 was the ¡°Limit 5¡±, where Lubu had to maatbasically solo an over-powered NPC Red Mage: ¡°Maat¡±. It was a very hard fight even for experienced players, especially for Red Mage VS Red Mage. The strategy Lubu used was just ¡°Sleep¡± + ¡°Magic Attack¡± and finally got his luck on fifth try. It¡¯s was a great relief that day Lubu won the hardest solo battle in game.

Not long after Lubu passed ¡°Limit 5¡±, he joined a party to do the missions in ¡°Riser of Zilart¡± expansion. Since Lubu and his teammates were in level 70+, it didn¡¯t take them long to obtain the pass to ¡°Sky¡±, a place where god lived. However, the party disbanded after all members got their passes, and none of the team members wanted to continue to finish the missions. I thought the reasons were the reward after beating Zilart missions were not attractive enough, and people were not interested in beating final bosses or finishing the story line. All people care were the reward they could get from killing mobs in the ¡°Sky¡±. Since Lubu could not find many comrade who were also interested in the ¡°Zilart¡± story line, his quest on beating the ¡°Zilart¡± final boss is still pending today.

rank10A couple weeks later, Lubu organized some of his friends and LinkShell mates to finish all Rank missions for the Nation of Windurst. Again, because of the high levels of all team members, they did not meet much difficulty to finally beat the final boss of Rank missions. It was a really fun quest for Lubu and his team mates to read through the story line of Windurst¡¯s missions and understood the history of the ¡°country¡±. Lubu finally became the honorable Windurst citizen with the highest rank.

Beside the ¡°Zilart¡± and ¡°Windurst¡± missions, Lubu also participated in many other interesting quests, such as Avatar fights, ¡°Dynamis¡± raids etc. So called Avatars are the elemental gods in Vana¡¯del, and ¡°Dynamis¡± is the place where 64 players can raid on mobs together like an army. I guess that was the real fun from MMORPGs where many players work together and help each other to reach their goals.

In March 2005 Lubu joined a new LinkShell ¡°Paragons of Caitsith¡± to pursue the missions in the new FFXI expansion ¡°Chains ofpromathia Promathia¡±. The missions in this expansion were known the hardest among all other missions. Players could no longer pass them by depending on their high levels. Instead, most of these missions capped players levels to as low as 30, 40 or 50. The bosses were much harder than the ones in ¡°Zilart¡± and Rank missions. Players had to develop strategies to beat them. The difficulties scared away many players from continuously questing after a few failed tries, while at same time, excited fighting spirits of many more other players, such as Lubu and his LinkShell mates.

It was a long journey for the ¡°Paragons of Caitsith¡± members. Starting with more than 17 members in March, only 10 people reached ¡°Sea¡± area in October, where the ¡°Twilight God¡± promathia_endlived. 7 people dropped out due to this and that issues. That achievement made all 10 of the members very proud because they were probably the first 10% among all players on Caitsith server obtain the access. A few days later, 6 of the 10 people finally managed to beat the Twilight God and finished all of the ¡°Promathia¡± missions. But Lubu and the other 3 were left behind because the other 6 were not that motivated to help after they beat the final boss. Since not many people had ¡°Sea¡± access, it took Lubu 2 months to find help from other people to finally kill the Twilight God. On December 11th 2005, Lubu got his end-mission reward, the ¡°Raja¡¯s Ring¡±.

After beating ¡°Chain of Promathia¡± missions, Lubu half re-tired from the FFXI game, since there were no more challenges he could see in the game anymore. Maybe it was a good point to quit the game completely as well. At this moment, Lubu has been playing FFXI for more than 169 real life days, since October 2003. To Lubu, they were great fun memories to treasure.