On September 22, 2010, game developer and publisher Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV), the latest addition to one of the top-grossing video game franchises ever created. This marked the second game in the series to be part of the massively-multiplayer online (MMO) genre. Almost immediately, negative responses from gamers and critics poured into the company, citing the game’s clunky interface, poor player economy, restrictive quest lines, and many other bugs and glitches that made the game nearly unplayable. In less than two years, Square Enix declared the game a failure and removed it from the market.
Several months after ending support for FFXIV, Square Enix brought in a new producer and development team to redesign the game. They chose to keep the basic structure and plot of the game, but they redesigned the interface, created a new graphical engine, developed a new online server system, and improved many in-game mechanics, such as the battle system and economy. On August 27, 2013, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Fans of the Final Fantasy series raved about the new release, which included a revised storyline. The developers incorporated the original Final Fantasy XIV’s destruction into the gameplay with an event entitled The Calamity. The original plot of FFXIV involved a feud between the technologically advanced Garlean Empire and a realm of independent city-states known as Eorzea. The developers of the revised game created a new twist to the story by adding a final battle between the two enemies. This event appeared across all servers during the last moments of the original game, and was also depicted at the beginning of the revised version.
During The Calamity, the Empire attempted to crash a moon into Eorzea’s realm. The moon shattered during its descent and revealed its true form as a prison for the ancient dragon Bahamut—a familiar face to Final Fantasy fans, as he had appeared in every game since the 1987 original. Unleashing his trademark attack, Megaflare, Bahamut began to decimate Eorzea. Louisoix Leveilleur, a powerful mage, called on the powers of prayer from adepts around the world in and attempted to re-imprison Bahamut. The dragon proved too strong and broke free at the last moment. Though he could not save the realm, Louisoix used the last of his power to transport the Eorzean Alliance, including the player’s character, five years into the future. A Realm Reborn begins at this exciting point.
The idea of developing fictional storylines outside of gameplay to affect in-game plot development is not new. Perhaps the most famous example involves the unexpected death of the nearly-invincible Lord British during the Ultima Online beta on August 8, 1997. Creator Richard Garriott, who controlled Lord British at the time of the death, had forgotten to turn on his “invulnerable” status during the game, which allowed the character to be killed by a simple fire spell while giving a speech. During the game’s seventh anniversary, this event was integrated into the game with a special piece of armor entitled “The Royal Leggings of Ember.” The armor also included the following description: “When Britannia was founded, the king was attacked with a fire spell that nearly killed him. (Rumors of his demise were highly exaggerated.) Ever since, he kept a pair of Royal Leggings of Embers nearby.”
Square Enix had a multitude of options to deal with the failure of the original FFXIV, but their choice to integrate this failure directly into the game’s plotline made many fans, including me, more than willing to give it a second chance. After all, if you’re going to destroy the game, you might as well go out with (mega)flare!