From Kariri: Please forgive the upcoming wall of text. I promise the next posts will be pithy and picturesque. ^^
What's important in an MMO to me? The story and how it makes me feel, ease of use, and the people I play with. I have to make a connection on one level or another. The connection on all three levels is what I think makes an MMO exceptional. Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 was not any of these things for me. So far, it feels like Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn might have what I am looking for.
The old game left me feeling like my contribution to the world was unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I was in no way special. I would in no way be saving the world. I was just one in a large, faceless mass of adventurers trying to make a name for themselves, and I would have very little impact on anything. It lead to me feeling like I was unnecessary. And if it's not important for my character to be here, I, as a player, have no reason to show up. Between mud classes and generic storylines, I couldn't make myself stick around.
This changed drastically from the openening video of A Realm Reborn. Dalamud, Bahamut, memories missing, the echo, and a plot line that we follow through an amnesiac public. Why are we special? Why do we see what happened, and why doesn't anyone else remember? Now I work with the archons, Louisioux has been missing since he saved the world, and I have actual value to these key players in the story. I can make a contribution. In short, I matter. To the small group, to the city, to the region, to the planet. It's quite a difference.
That aside, the world itself seems to have more life. Yelta and I discussed at length the fact that there are NPC's around everywhere doing many different activities, and it adds a greater level of reality to the game. There are lots of guys lifting some heavy boxes and women dancing and children playing and guards sitting around. There are men flirting with the whores in one area. They've also played with the environment a bit; a tree dropping snow in Coerthas comes immediately to mind. So while the graphics engine may be less powerful than the old one, what they are doing with it is much more powerful; they're adding another connection to the world.
Another area that the game was lacking before was the user interaface. After playing FFXI for several years, this was one upgrade I was truly looking forward to in 1.0. Imagine my astonishment when it was practically the exact same UI. The clunky, awkward, ugly, lagging horror of a UI. We had seen a decade of new MMO's come and go with superior UI's since FFXI, but they kept that antiquated wreck. I was both baffled and disappointed.
I was relieved by the new UI in ARR. It's updated, sleeker looking, and less clunky feeling to me. I was a bit concerned that it might be too much and I'd feel like I was playing the UI instead of the game world, but it's not so. With the ability to add, remove, and resize practically anything, I can make it as cluttered or clean as I want. Menus are easy to navigate and finding things is a lot less of a problem than it was in the past. This is not to say that there aren't improvements that could be made; there are, and a number of them. However, compared to the older version, we are definitely moving in the right direction.
My third component is the people I play with. To be completly honest, I would still never have tried an MMO if it weren't for Yelta. She literally taught me to walk in FFXI, which was my first MMO. She taught me the role of a tank when I freaked out because all the monsters were hitting me in the dunes and I didn't know why. Yes, I was that noob. She let me whine and vent and ragequit until I understood how these games worked, and she put up with my complaining until the euphoric day I finally got a chocobo and rode into Jeuno and was hooked for good.* I never enjoy a game as much without her, and I'm a happier person when we play together regularly, to which my husband will attest. :P
That being said, I wouldn't have even given Final Fantasy: ARR another thought if she hadn't stuck with it all along. She's got a couple of good, solid groups of great friends, and I am lucky enough this time around to feel like I can tag along. The duty finder has been helping me quite a bit too. I despise tanking if I don't know what I am doing, and refuse to make an ass out of myself with my linkshell or free company until I get the hang of things again, so I've been using the duty finder to test my skills and shake the rust off. I'd rather run with linkshell or free company members, but to get rid of my terrible tanking paranoia, it's been invaluable.
So there you have it; why I quit and why I'm back. I just want to say thank you to Yelta for keeping this going without me. I abandoned her early on and have felt terrible about it ever since. Hopefully we can get it going all over again. Together this time.
*This made Yelta cry at her desk at work. I've missed my sister ingame and am so happy to have her back.