01 May 2011

[FFXI / BGblog] The Hallowed Version Update

(note: since I am writing for BG blogs now, this a a cross-post of my entry there)

Ever felt like a sucker for buying into the hype of a version update for a 9 year old game? I have. And it’s something that has me at the edge of my seat every single time the version update comes by.

If you’re like me, then here’s a question, have you ever asked yourself why this is so?

For me, I think it’s the anticipation of what might happen in the coming update, and it usually starts from as early as a month before the update with the teasers.

Back in the days before FFXI was on twitter and the official forums existed, the version update teasers followed a more structured pattern. Further away from the date, there would be something like 2 teasers a week, and as the date moved closer, it became something like 3 teasers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

It got to the point where it was like a science for some people, predicting the patterns for which the teaser notes would appear, and others would actually camp the website for update details (admit it, you did it before too, I still do sometimes), in anticipation for the next little morsel of news for them to discuss at length on.

Whether this form of baiting by the developers was intention is anyone’s guess, but it worked extremely well in my opinion. Fast-forward to today and we have a slightly different scenario playing out.

Since everything gets posted on the forums, people have been camping the Dev Tracker panel there instead. And for some reason the version update teasers no longer follow a set pattern of one per day, or 3 per week. When the info comes, it just does.

But just as before, we’re still pouncing on whatever new material they announce and speculating based on their vague wording time and again. The only difference now is that whenever something generates enough debate on the forums, a developer will come forward to clarify it. Oh how times have changed indeed, and for the better, if you ask me.

one of the most recent version update notes posts

Now, we all know the significance of a version update is fairly huge. Each time it comes along, which is typically every 3-4 months, there’s usually a host of tweaks and new things to expect. Unlike with other MMORPGs where it is mainly through expansions that they get a bonanza of content, the Version Update is our motherlode.

As such, Version Update day is like a holiday for the community. With the update’s manifesto details announced and implemented, players stop their regular activities to explore the many changes that take place in the world of Vana’diel.
Even before then, data miners are hard at work, sniffing out as much information on the new content well before it goes live. Such is the frenzy that occurs during every update. It may sound crazy, but I absolutely love it because of how alive the community feels during this time.

Now, I bring this up partly to celebrate the nostalgia of this time-worn tradition amongst FFXI gamers, and also because it might be something that will disappear soon. With developers hoping to release more frequent updates in the later half of this year following a different development cycle, this process of teasing and major updates will likely cease to exist.

Although details are still sketchy, it seems the version updates will move towards being implemented on a compartmentalized basis, depending on what is being rolled out, resulting in far more frequent updates, but possibly a situation where the version update may not bring presents for all the different kinds of players that we have.

I'm sure we're all familiar with this one...

So if you’re a fan of the current Version Update mayhem like I am, I suggest that you treasure this upcoming one as it may be the last of its kind. And if you never liked it, maybe you can rejoice after it’s over.

Understandably, different members of the community should have a different approach to the whole thing, so my question to you would be, do you enjoy the way Version Updates work in FFXI? From the teasers to the update itself and not to forget the emergency updates after the fact.
Also, do you anticipate the changes to the system to be better or worse for you as a player and also as a community?

Think about that for a minute and enjoy the upcoming Version Update.
I know I will, whilst mining for new data added to the game

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