Saturday started off with a bang as at least a thousand people were gathered for the initial Keynote Address. Naoki Yoshida entertained the crowd and gave the gamers a hint of what was in store for the next patch as well as the next big expansion. This alone got the crowd going wild as he showed us the teaser trailer for "Heavensward", which the name of the first expansion. We'll be seeing new classes, jobs, new areas to play in, a new race, the ability for Free Companies to build their own Airships, new Primals, and evidently a Primal new to the Final Fantasy mythos is being added in future expansions. There was talk of the upcoming Patch 2.4 "Dreams of Ice" where we got more detail on the Rogue class and Ninja job as well as info on Shiva and even a release date of October 28th. It was A lot to take in that first morning, but really, it was just the beginning of all the hints and reveals to come.
After the keynote you had various activities you could do. Now I want to point out that the Fan Festival was held in one of the Rio Casino's convention rooms that could have expanded to accommodate more people and more activities. I mean, the sheer, overwhelming number of people at the Fan Festival was astounding. Every walk of life was represented there from every age range and from all over the country. In other words, lines for days (or hours), everywhere. There was even a line to get in a line. I know I may be overwhelmed pretty easily, but this figuratively, kind of blew my mind. There. See? Grey matter all over the floor.
I decided the first thing I would do was hit the merchandise line before everything was sold out. Sure, I had no idea something was already sold out two hours into the festival, but that's because I wasn't willing to pay the extra $80 to become a VIP and get in the front of the line. Also, little did I know, that getting in line to buy things would be a harrowing adventure. I believe the staff for this Fan Festival did not anticipate the sheer magnitude of people there for a single game. I mean, it wasn't a gaming convention for a bunch of Square Enix games, it was just for Final Fantasy XIV. And Theatrhythm Final Fantasy if you count their little booth. Every line in the place was packed full to the brim with people. You could see people spilling over the side of the cup. Luckily, we gamers are a polite lot, as the chaos was quickly turned into organized chaos. Let me just say, I spent three hours in the merchandise line. But luckily there were things to keep me occupied while I waited for my goodies.
The Music Panel just happened to be where I was in the line, which happened to be the line to get into the merchandise line, and I was pleasantly regaled with stories and the processes of making the music in Final Fantasy XIV by Masayoshi Soken. It was almost like talking to Dave the Drummer about music, but instead of Noise, they were theme songs. Soken even played an impromptu piece from his little keyboard. He shared with us the music that did and did not make it into the game, and he even hinted on what to expect in the future. But that was only my first stop in my long trip to spend money.
At the Fan Festival there were computers set up everywhere. I guess this is to be expected, because I honestly didn't know what to expect when I got to the Fan Festival. I've only been to comic book conventions, so this was all new. Back to the set up. Hives of computers and monitors were set up beside the merchandise line and it was the Odin Primal Challenge. Odin, a boss like monster based off of the Final Fantasy summons, was a challenge to be taken by anyone and everyone and your prize was a coveted "I defeated Odin" shirt to show off to the other players. I was witness to the first wins of the day as people cheered each other on and screamed with excitement as they took the beast down. The comradery was infectious and I applauded for the players who earned their loot.
Beyond that was the shooting range, where people got to take on the persona of an archer, and use actual bows and arrows. People got to keep their holey targets as a symbol of their victory. And just beside that was an artillery range where people shot cannons to knock down targets. These two games felt like they kind of came out of a carnival and that's not a bad thing. It was so interactive, and it brought people together, and required teamwork to complete. Mind you, this was two hours into the Merchandise line, so I got to see a lot of people successfully play both games.
One cannot just stand in line patiently, oh no. I don't have that kind of will power. For a moment, or two, I was a creeper. You see, two individuals in front of me was a lovely woman with tattoos along her arms and a pair of "One Up" glasses. I was polite-ish, and did not stare, much. Now, also note, my creeper status was purely curiosity, as I tried to figure out what it said on her Ultros shirt. Then her tattoos just brought on a bit of nostalgia as I saw the cast of Chrono Trigger on their as well as the original Warriors of Light. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of ink, but that was art I could get behind. As a matter of fact, should I ever be cut and muscular, I would get some 8/16/32-bit tattoos on my personage. Moving on, another hour passed, and I finally had my items in hand. Check out the gallery to see what I hauled home.
I was finally free of the clutches of that absurd line and I paid a visit to their art gallery. Now, I suppose that's a bit of an exaggeration as it was art displayed in a small 20x20 space...probably, I don't know lengths and widths, where the attendees got to vote on their favorite pieces. I think I took video or maybe just pictures of everything there. See the gallery or the attached youtube video to find out.
The next stop was a wall where people could sign their name under their server. It was almost like a meet up wall, except, really difficult to read and decipher with all the names and the Free Companies. It was a bit of a mess, but it was a great place to leave your mark and to let others with the will of "Where's Waldo" to find you.
My next destination was the Lore Panel. Michael Christopher Koji Fox gave anecdotes on the story within Eorzea, and what the names of characters, places, and things, were, and that every location in Eorzea had a story. You may not know what that story is, but this man does. It was fascinating to hear, and another reason why I appreciate the depth put into a game like Final Fantasy XIV.
It was a quick bite to eat and then a little look around at the other stations at the Fan Festival. There were actually quite a few things to do there outside of the Live Quest, that had people getting together and doing the different quests throughout the convention floor. From there they would go back to the Loot station for fun prizes. There was an Extreme Primal Challenge (where you challenged bosses while enduring certain handicaps), a Frontline event (where players fought against other players), a Speed Run Dungeon Challenge (where you play through a dungeon as quickly as possible), and a line for the amazing cosplayers. This game is made for cosplayers, as there are simple costumes like bikinis and kimonos, to the more complex armors and even Primal costumes. So many people with such amazing talent. They wowed everyone who passed by them. There was even a toddler dressed as a Lalafell.
It was Developer Panel time, and more revelations of the upcoming Expansion. One of the biggest announcements was the pseudo announcement of the Dark Knight Job. This was to be hinted at by Mitsutoshi Gondai, who was supposed to wear a Batman t-shirt, but apparently forgot it. Naoki Yoshida then attempted to hint how much he loved the Christopher Nolan adaptation of Batman. This, of course, led the audience to conclude that players could play a Dark Knight. There was also the hint of the new race, as Yoshida faked us out with the mock up of race I've seen before, but don't know the name of. Either way it was not going to be the new race. Instead it was hinted that Yugiri, the mysterious woman we meet in the end game story, would be the key to what the new playable race would be. There was also talk of what to expect in the future expansions from new recipes for jobs, what to expect from the new level caps, and the final Binding Coil of Bahamut.
Eight o'clock rolled around and I was tired. Long lines, a horrible night's sleep the night before, and me nodding off whenever I took a moment to sit down meant it was an early night for me.
The following morning was an amazing Champagne Brunch at the Bacchanal with my sistra. Protip: don't skip out on the donuts. They're amazing. The afternoon lead to some gambling and me breaking even, and then I ran straight back to the Fan Festival.
Starting the day off right, I popped into the second Developer panel where questions were answered, Golden Saucer (an in game amusement park) details were revealed, Chocobo racing and the Tetra Master card game were announced, and we got more details on player housing. As if that were not enough, we were treated with some revealing photos in Yoshida's hands to whet the appetite for those there. There was talk of in game coupling and marriages and even having to book the in game wedding. Things just got real. A little too real.
The rest of the evening was a blur, as I took video of the convention floor and highlighting what was offered to us, I played a little Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, grabbed a bite to eat and sat in for the Costume contest. I took horrible pictures thanks to my phone's mediocre camera of the cosplayers, but rest assured, the costumes were amazing. I will most likely have to link to other people's galleries so you can see how fantastic of a job these cosplayers did. Soon afterward it was the closing ceremonies with a raffle, where people walked away with impressive things like high end video cards and mechanical keyboards. They were not playing around. But the end of the night, the pièce de résistance had to be the band "The Primals", as they played in game music, with singers in tow.
You may be thinking to yourself, especially if you made it this far without having played Final Fantasy XIV (for which I thank you for reading this!), it's just game music, so it had to have been a classical music concert with violins and oboes. Oh, no, that was not the case. "The Primals" were an all out rock band and the music had people on their feet, hands in the air like they didn't care, and even had some folk head banging. If you were a layperson, you would think this was a band out of your local alt rock station. It was a brilliant way to end the weekend with fun, electrifying music, audience participation, and even an encore.
I left the casino with a smile on my face, a renewed appreciation for the game and its players, and a respect to the hard work the developers go through to meet the players needs and some of their demands. By the end of the weekend, I'm sure new friendships and alliances were made, money was probably lost, drinking certainly happened, and at the very least, there was an excitement for the upcoming content in a game that people love. It's always tough to leave Las Vegas, but I leave with anticipation, excitement, and a look forward to things to come. Thanks to the people who set up Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival 2014, and for those who attended. It made for a brilliant and memorable weekend.
PS: The video and gallery are now up. Thanks for checking it out!