Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Pretty lights and explosions

Williams Electronics flyer courtesy of TAFA
People play video games for different reasons. Some like the intelectual challenge of puzzle and strategy games. Others want a respite from reality, and like to pretend they are elves in a fantasy world, or football players in a big green field... There are some however, who just want to shoot things and watch the world explode in a cloud of multicolor fireworks. To quote Batman's butler: 

«Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.»

This became a possibility in 1980, when Defender came to the arcades. Defender is a game about protecting little humanoids from aliens who try to pick them up to eat them. If an alien succeeds, it subsequently mutates into an aggressive and hyperactive version of itself. If all the humanoids are eaten, the planet explodes and all the aliens become hyper and a lot harder to hit.

It is therefore smart to shoot them down as quickly and accurately as possible, and for doing so you are rewarded with pretty lights and explosions.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Final Fantasy XI, Part 1 - Introduction

Back in 2005 when I was a student and had copious amounts of spare time, I decided that it would be a good idea to play an online role playing game. «World of Warcraft» had just been released and it was tempting, but «Final Fantasy XI» had been on my list for a long time and was the one that I ended up playing.

It was originally announced simultaneously with «Final Fantasy X» (the greatest «Final Fantasy» EVER), at the Japanese Square Millennium Event in 2000, and it reached my attention in the form of blurry page-scans from the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu. It came out in Japan on May 16 2002 for the Playstation 2, for PC in the United States in 2003 and in Europe the year after. It was also ported to the Xbox 360 in 2006. It was the first MMORPG that allowed players on all three platforms to play together on the same servers, as well as across geographical regions.

«Final Fantasy XI» was quite hard to get into. I remember spending the whole first day just downloading the updates and completing the registration procedure. Initially I had trouble figuring out how to use the mouse and keyboard to walk around (a game-pad made it much better) and after that, I couldn't find the way out of the starter city. After I did, I was summarily executed by a killer bunny-rabbit. Under normal circumstances, this would probably be the point where I would discard the game as unworthy of my time. But I really wanted to like it... Because it was «Final Fantasy», and it was online. So I stuck with it.

A not so final, Final Fantasy update

Last month's Distant Worlds concert made me reflect upon just how much time I have invested into the Final Fantasy franchise. Recollections of years of adoration for the series crept back into my mind, and as a result I think that now is as good a time as ever to take the trip down that particular memory lane.

I would like to start with Final Fantasy XI. This is the online one, and a game that I played more or less exclusively for five years. As such, it will be hard to put all that needs to be said about it into one post, so I expect there will be quite a few before I am done. I will try to sprinkle in stuff about other games along the way, but in the mean time... Please bear with me while I reminiscence about airships, crystals, dragons and men with somewhat oversized swords :)