Some time ago I posted, in the wrong forum, a series of suggestions to the developers of FFXI. The first suggestion is one I thought about for a long time, and its the one that made the most sense to me. Its also the one that drew the most ire from the player community, but I think its because everyone misunderstood my reasons for suggesting it.
The suggestion was for SquareEnix to drop Playstation 2 support for Final Fantasy XI.
Despite what everyone thought, this suggestion has nothing to do with the graphics quality of the game. While there are areas that could use some improvement or tweaking, the reasons for the idea have nothing to do with graphics quality.
Its all about game content, UI improvements, and the future expansion of FFXI.
I can't count how many times SE has told the community that they cannot implement this feature or that feature due to limitations in the memory or capabilities of the Playstation 2. A few years ago there was nothing that could be done about this problem. The Playstation 2 and the PC were the only two platforms the game was available on, so the developers had to work within the limitations of the Playstation 2 hardware. They had no choice in the matter. That situation has now changed. The Playstation 2 is essentially a dead system. There is no further developer support for the console. SE is the only company that is still supporting a game console that has passed its end of life. Most recently there have been issues with updating the game due to space limitations in the PS2 hard drive. I think you're starting to get the picture now.
The PC version of FFXI is essentially the PS2 version running within an emulation layer. The Xbox 360 version of FFXI is the PC version of the game running in an emulation layer. This is why both versions have several issues. For one thing the graphics engine is very inefficient. Yes, I said this wasn't about graphics quality. This is more a technical problem with how the graphics engine works. All modern graphics engines only render what is visible from the player's current viewpoint. The graphics engine of FFXI is different. It renders everything, all at once. Back in the day this meant the game had performance issues on the PC, but PC technology has advanced since then. So much so that your average $300US bargain basement laptop from Walmart can run FFXI quite nicely. It is for this very reason why there was crippling lag issues in Besieged and Campaign. There is also the issue of the "light-flash" that occurs on the PC and 360 version when day breaks. I'm not suggesting SE move FFXI to the engine that FFXIV is on, I'm just suggesting tweaks that fix problems that have persisted for a long time. Fixes that can only be done if PS2 support for FFXI was discontinued.
Another technical issue with the game that could be solved by moving away from the PS2 is disk space limitations for updates and future expansions. As it is, unless SE abandons the PS2 we will never see any further expansions for FFXI because there just isn't any more room available for them on the PS2 hard drive. We'll never see the Far East, the Far West, the Far South or the Far North. We'll never see any of the other continents of Vana'diel that we know are out there because the game story says they are there, but we'll never get to see them. All of those new adventures, quests and missions that could be possible but will never happen because SE didn't drop PS2 support for FFXI.
There are many UI improvements that SE could implement if they dropped PS2 support for FFXI. Such as separating chat text and system messages into two different chat windows, allowing more lines for text in macros, adding a real-time mini-map to the screen, and I could sit here all day listing all of the things SE could do if their developers were not hamstrung by the limitations of the PS2 hardware. By the way, these were some of the suggestions the community has made in the past that SE said they couldn't do due to the limitations of the PS2!
SE could also do away with PlayOnline entirely. I know the developers really want to get rid of it, they don't really want to continue supporting it, and hardly anybody really uses any of the features in it. POL existed because back in the day game consoles didn't have any built-in means for gamers to chat, access the web, nor easily connect to the Internet. Online play was pretty much the exclusive domain of the PC. Xbox Live was in its infancy. Today, the 360 is the only console without a web browser ... for now (hint, hint, hint Microsoft). A game console that cannot connect to the Internet in some way for downloading games, updates, DLC, or for online play would never sell in this day & age. SE could easily put FFXI on PSN for purchase and download on the PS3. The game is already available for the PC on Steam, which owns about 75% of the PC game sales market.
All of this and more is possible, but SE needs to make the decision to end any further support for the Playstation 2. If they don't the game is going the stay the way it is and eventually stagnate. SE is in the right position to make this move. FFXIV isn't doing so well right now, and they've taken a bit of a hit to their image because of it. Yes, ending PS2 support for FFXI will indeed inconvenience some people. This is a given, but they by rights should be moving away from the PS2 any. There are a few good reasons why. One of which is the fact that the PS2 is over 10 years old now, when the hardware wears out you cannot buy a brand new PS2 or PS2 hard drive. You have to buy used hardware, which will have a more limited lifespan. Eventually, PS2 users will have to make the plunge for either a cheap PC or laptop to play the game, get a Xbox 360, or do without. This is a choice every PS2 user is going to have to face one way or another in the end. Setting aside all else, this is perhaps the #1 most important reason why SE should abandon the PS2.
I think now most of you can understand why I suggested SE end PS2 support for FFXI now. If they decide to do something to improve the graphics of the game IF they drop PS2 support, then more power to them. The game looks fine the way it is. It could use a few tweaks here and there, maybe a new lighting system which would do wonders for the game, but overall the graphics aren't at the heart of why I think they need to make this move.
In the end, discontinuing PS2 support for FFXI will benefit SE and it will certainly benefit the players. Its time to move on.
--Michael "TheZorch" Haney
aka "Katsuhito" Lvl. 63 BST/WHM
Hume - Citizen of Bastok