Choose My Adventure: Final Fantasy XI’s PlayOnline decides to not let me play online


This was not how I was expecting to return to Final Fantasy XI. I always knew about the completely goofball account system that is PlayOnline – this game was the one where I cut my teeth on the MMORPG genre, and I played on my PS2 for a number of years, but I was keenly reminded of everything awful with this system.

I probably should have known that this was going to go pear-shaped from the very start when I saw that I had to download and install five separate file bundles in order to even install the game. Large installs aren’t a big problem, of course, as pretty much every game out now seems to take up massive chunks of storage, and obviously I’m no stranger to manually assigning install paths. Still, the fact that this hasn’t been put together already was certainly a choice.


Another flag raised as the install process had similar levels of jank – namely, the fact that it wasn’t aiming a certain install to the desired SSD, defaulting to my hard drive despite giving me a list of choices of where it should otherwise go. Again, weird, but not insurmountable, since all I needed to do was to clear out a bit of space for the thing to bellyflop into.

Yet another red flag raised when I realized that I had to make sure my account was up and running. This involved the navigation to a help site that was designed with the express purpose of guiding new and lapsed players through the Daedalic maze that was the account registration site. I mean, seriously, this thing is very carefully designed and has branching steps and paths depending on one’s personal situation.

Space needed.

In spite of all of this, I wanted to press on; I have a column to write, after all! But the installation of FFXI had one last wall to throw up in my way: the PlayOnline launcher itself and the failure of registering an account there.

For those unaware, PlayOnline is the launcher that works as the bridge between you and FFXI itself, operating as both the account manager application and a place of information for game updates. This is, once again, nothing new to me (I remember every note of the song Dolphin), but nothing I did to register my game account to the PlayOnline launcher worked. Frustration built, the hour was late, and so I decided to step away for a time to try and attack the problem with a refreshed set of eyes.

Cue day two of this adventure, and either myriad other people ran into this whole problem or my Google-fu was failing me, as searching for a solution to my problem yielded a whole bunch of results. I tried to slice through the answers to find what was most specific to my problem, tried several different things, but kept on getting stalled, either with the original problem I had encountered or an entirely new error message.


After a certain point of personal patience, and with this column’s deadline looming large, I had to make a decision. I had to do what was right by both the readers and my own personal sanity. I chose joy. I chose to pick up the runner-up poll choice: CoH Rebirth.

Again, another weird install, but nowhere near as fussy. And hey presto, after just a few minutes, the whole thing was operational. Clean, cut and dry, and easy to do. Imagine that!

I repeat: None of this weirdness left my brain. It’s hard to forget a system as needlessly obtuse and overblown as PlayOnline and its related grinding gears. That said, as much as I wanted to play FFXI, both for this column and for my own personal nostalgia, I wasn’t willing to put myself through the wringer to get the game going.

I’m not sure why this hasn’t been addressed, but I suspect it’s because the gears that make this whole thing turn are jeweled at this point. They’re so inextricably linked together that trying to correct the whole thing would see every part of just logging into FFXI crumble into dust, and while this game is on maintenance mode that has never felt like maintenance mode, I appreciate that’s a lot of work.

Still, it sucks. And I shouldn’t have to seek the help of bespoke guides, instructions from fans, and the guidance of a very specific expert just to install a PC MMORPG. And sure, this game has its fanbase and I suspect the devs aren’t really keen on trying to inject new blood into the title, but hoo boy does this need to be corrected.

But I digress. Here’s what I propose for this month’s column. I will be following through with CoH Rebirth and will make FFXI next month’s focus. I will consult our resident expert on all things FF MMOs, Eliot, in order to slay the hydra hellbeast that is PlayOnline. He offered his aid and appears to be very intimately aware of the sort of garbage I’ve been slopping around in.

Get some.

I apologize to those who were looking forward to a month of FFXI, especially at a time when the game was going to do anniversary stuff, but time and PlayOnline were not on my side.

As for this week’s poll, it will be all about character creation. Rebirth has a couple of intriguing archetype wrinkles that distinguish it from both Homecoming and the original game, especially in the Guardian archetype, which appears to mesh ranged, melee, and healer abilities into one completely interesting-sounding stew. As such, this week’s poll is going to primarily feature that archetype, but there are a few other intriguing character choices on offer.

What archetype should I roll as?

  • A Wind Dominator. Insert your own fart joke here. (14%, 19 Votes)
  • Gun Fu Guardian. Enter the Matrix. (26%, 36 Votes)
  • Hellfire Guardian. Because flaming whips are dope. (27%, 37 Votes)
  • Umbral Guardian. Like being a humanform Warshade but not! (19%, 26 Votes)
  • Savage Melee Brute. Rip 'em up. (15%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 139

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As usual, polling is going to wrap up at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 6th. I also apologize once again for the utter faceplant failure that was even installing this game. I will make this happen, however. This whole process has made me mad, and I’m taking it very personally. And when things get personal, I tend to brute force things into submission.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.
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