Final Fantasy XIV's two year anniversary celebration is a one-way ticket to the place where dreams become reality -- sort of.
If you're an active Final Fantasy XIV player and plan on completing The Rising event running through 7 September, stop reading this article and go play. As long as you're at least level 15 or so you'll be able to experience these magical moments for yourself, and I wouldn't want to deny you such joy. In other words...
In-game The Rising is a festival of remembrance for those lost in the Calamity, a nearly world-ending event that took place five years before the events of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Outside of the game it's something a bit more meaningful.
It's the anniversary of the release of A Realm Reborn, the all-new, all-improved version of Final Fantasy XIV that came in the wake of the disastrous first attempt. It's a celebration of game developers working with their player base to create a better game, rather than putting out an inferior product and expecting players to conform.
For those of you unfamiliar with how things went down, the MMO Final Fantasy XIV was originally released on PC in September of 2010. It was met with massive negative reaction from fans and press. The graphics were lovely, the music exquisite, but the gameplay, menus, mechanics -- the meat of the game was tough and inedible. Servers were shut down in October of 2011.
Rather than cut their losses, Square Enix gave the game over to passionate producer Naoki Yoshida, who lead his team in a massive revamp of the game. Relaunched in August of 2013, A Realm Reborn is widely considered one of the best subscription-based MMORPG games on the market.
That's widely due to the strong communication between the team and the game community, which all comes to a head during the culmination of The Rising's new quest. A tune is struck and the player is transported to a magical place known as the 18th Floor.
Yes, that's Naoki himself greeting the player. Note his garb -- he's a Machinist, just like my character Back. Yoshida and I also share the same birthdate (May 1st, 1973). We're like twinsies.
After a quick introduction the player is allowed to roam about the 18th Floor, speaking via text bubble with various members of the development team. There's concept art to admire, in-jokes to puzzle over and potential hints about upcoming content, as detailed by the folks over at r/ffxiv.
When the player is finished exploring they can head to Yoshi-P's office (cleverly outlined with the same purple field that indicates in-game boss areas), receive their final quest reward, the thanks of the development team and a promise.
For those of you video impaired, here's the exchange in image form.
And then tears happen, as they should. Final Fantasy XIV does an astounding job of making the player feel as if they're a major part of the game's story, but it goes beyond that -- players are part of the behind-the-scenes story as well, and silly little events like this drive that point home very well.
For those of you keeping track, I'm level 58 now. That flying whale was a jerk and a half.