Mostly due to the social experiment involved
Square Enix has been running Final Fantasy XIV trial (read: boss fight) challenges for years now. They held them for multiple Primals, as well as Odin at the first Fanfest in 2014. But this week at Fanfest in Vegas I experienced my first one — an exclusive trial featuring Proto Ultima, a different take on an existing enemy centered around a 24-person alliance.
It was a relatively straight-forward encounter, but the thrill of getting together and planning a strategy with 23 other people in roughly 10 minutes is what really made it special for me.
The first roadblock came during the party composition phase (in which three teams of eight queue up as one alliance), when everyone was free to choose whatever job they wanted. “I main Tank,” someone typed. “Hey me too!” came three more responses, myself included. “Uh, maybe we can handle it with a DPS-spec tank then and we’ll be alright” was the consensus. Except for one thing — we had to queue up with the traditional “one tank, two healers” per group setup to get in. Drats! More interaction, more planning, more having to learn a new class or role from an instant crash-course taught by the person next to you.
Except, you’re not just this all by way of angry tilted messages to faceless people. Everyone here at Fanfest loves the game — they’re here just for it — and they were happy to cooperate, get out of their comfort zone, and help their team out. It’s basically a 180 from the typical boss PUG (pick-up-group) setting, and reminded me of the ’90s and early 2000 PC LAN scene before online play started to take over.
As for the fight itself, it’s not worth flying out for but it’s a good slice of what makes Final Fantasy XIV so enjoyable. It’s mostly “stay out of the fire, and dodge [x]” type of stuff, but since our group was so coordinated it really just came together (we did have one really close call where both our healers got smacked down, and popped a level three limit break after being raised by another party — which elicited a panicked Hallowed Ground from yours truly). Proto Ultima had stacking mechanics, meteors, and one simple add phase, and mostly just looked cool as hell. I might not have gotten a t-shirt out for beating it like folks did for Odin, but I came away with an even better opinion of the community than I already had.
I spent the next 30 minutes talking to my party before we headed our separate ways, and I went back to the reality of playing in the comfort of my own home. The online era has its benefits, but getting out and meeting people and sharing our passions first-hand can’t be beat.
[Square Enix provided travel for this event.]