Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Postcards from digital worlds: the beauty of Final Fantasy XI

Despite recently creaking into its 10th year of life, Final Fantasy XI is still quite a memorable game for players to experience.

While its current incarnation is a far cry from its "glory days" (~2006 - 2010), the game still possesses a rare aesthetic and musical beauty that evokes a sense of deep nostalgia in anyone who has ever set digital foot in the world of Vana'diel.

Swiss blogger and {long time} Final Fantasy XI veteran Miingno began cataloging the beautiful vistas of the game five years ago in a series of posts entitled The Beauty of Vana'diel. These posts provide a bit of information to contextualize the screenshots, but mainly exist to show off some of the more beloved and striking environments in the game in glorious, uncompressed HD screenshots.

Sadly, the graphics of Final Fantasy XI have not aged particularly well. A look at Miingno's highlight page from the series shows telltale pixelation and repetitive environmental textures that are a pale shadow of what what most modern games can turn out.

I still think they're beautiful!

Despite the aging quality of the graphics, Miingno's pictures are an evocative and beautiful look at a world that doesn't really exist. Or, at least it won't once the servers are finally shut down...

Thankfully for fans of the game, or those looking to take their first steps in it, that shut down will likely be a long time coming. While it's true that Square Enix has sunk a ton of money and hours into revitalizing Final Fantasy XIV (the online successor to FFXI), they have also put time and money into developing a brand new expansion for Final Fantasy XI which is scheduled to launch next year.

Whether or not the upcoming expansion (Seekers of Adoulin) will bring anything new to the game remains to be seen, but it's understandable why the core fanbase of FFXI is excited about its release. Seekers of Adoulin will be the first full expansion for the game in over five years, and the previous expansion (Wings of the Goddess) took a full three years to release all of its content, missions, and side-quests.

It's unlikely that this old hand will ever log back into the world of Vana'diel, but it's nice to know that Miingno will be around to catalog the beautiful landscapes and cities of the new areas for me.

Now, I'll just have to remember to find the new soundtrack online when it's released...

All images courtesy of Miingno.ch