Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of cataloging more than 10,000 electronic games for ICHEG. As a gamer, I’ve found this a great way to learn about the various genres and mechanics that make up the history of electronic games.
One of my favorite games is Final Fantasy XI (ファイナルファンタジーXI, or FFXI,), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) published by Square Enix. Like World of Warcraft and EverQuest, FFXI is composed of multiple online servers that enable players to interact in a virtual environment. However, unlike other games of its genre, FFXI’s servers are completely international, meaning they are not separated by region or time zone. When asked if they would consider adding servers for specific regions, the developers said no, citing their desire to foster international gaming cooperation.
To facilitate game-play, developers configured an auto-translation system that immediately translates in-game locations, weapons, armor, spells and abilities, along with simple phrases such as “Hello!” and “Thank you!” into a player’s native language. FFXI is also the first and only MMORPG published on multiple platforms, including the PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and PC.
The Japanese company Square, Co. (the predecessor to Square Enix) entered the video game industry in the mid 1980s, publishing racing games, early role-playing games, and side-scrolling platformers for the Nintendo Famicom. These games proved unsuccessful, and by 1987, the company was all but bankrupt. In a last-ditch attempt to save it, designer Hironobu Sakaguchi created a fantasy RPG with elements drawn from the acclaimed Legend of Zelda and Dragon Quest series. In reference to his upcoming retirement plans, Sakaguchi named the game Final Fantasy (ファイナルファンタジ ). Sakaguchi’s creation not only saved the company from ruin, it also became Square’s flagship game series. The company never anticipated a sequel, therefore all subsequent Final Fantasy games are connected only thematically and with similar styles of game-play, rather than by plot or characters. Currently, there are 12 main Final Fantasy games, along with several spin-offs and sequels. Two additional main series games are hitting the stands this year, including the series’ second online iteration.
The initial game remains one of the most influential RPG console games in history, and Final Fantasy VII is credited with being the first RPG to heavily appeal to the mass market instead of only hard-core gamers. Whenever I boot up FFXI, I thank my lucky stars that one man’s fantasy turned out to be anything but final.