In this article I'm looking to approach what I think is one of the most important things in a MMORPG, it's people and community in general. Although i have played more, the only 2 games (before FFXIV) that I spent any length of time were Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft and to me at least the memories are very different from one game to the other and I think this is mainly due the community that inhabit(ed) these games.
Not wanting to go into a detailed study on each game and why they were different I think we can all agree that the building block of a MMO's comunity is the Linkshell/Guild system, this is what enables you to keep constant contact with a group of people the you like or feel confortable with and as such is one of the most unrecognized mechanics in games like this. This usually holds true until the system just plain doesnt work properlly (or fully as it is the case in FFXIV).
With this in mind, even before the game was launched I looked into different Linkshells I could apply to. At the time I was looking for a new experience in a MMO and because of this my search was mainly for a Role Playing Linkshell which I found in FFXIV Role Player's Coalition and after a couple weeks joining their web forum we all eventually me ingame during collector's edition launch. At the time we mostly were learning about the game, what to do and how to do it, although everyone was very polite and helpfull I never really felt like part of a group of people.
After the initial surge in discovering a new game it came the disapointement of the comunity in general about the state of the game when it was launched, and with it the slow but constant disapearing of players from the Linkshell. Myself I was please about the game, call me naive, fan boy or White Knight I actually enjoyed the game so I never really though about leaving, I just needed to find a active group of people, preferably one that played at around the same times as me.
Searching for an European Linkshell led me to Tainted, a linkshell based around a couple in the UK along with a real life friend of theirs and I was happy to notice that the same sense of familiarity and kinship that I remembered from FFXI was also present in FFXIV, there was a desire to do things together, to help other people and generally answer their questions by people with more experience than yourself.
It was during this time that I was faced for the first time with the Linkshell managment restrictions imposed by Square Enix in FFXIV and their impact on the comunity in general. At this time there were quite a number of players who would join the game and after a couple weeks would be disapointed at it and would just stoop playing, because of this Linkshell rosters would sometimes get full with non active characters which Linkshell leaders were unable to oust since that option was only possible when the character in question was within a few yalms of the leader.
Because of this the Linkshell leaders had decided to just scrap Tainted and create a new Linkshell with just the active members and as such I came to be part of Sin, all but in name the same as Tainted. With character development, my character's needs for higher ranked tools and equipment grew and neither I or the members of Tainted were able to craft some of my needs, this was what led me to find some very helpful people in another European Linkshell, Fabulous Cats, headed by an Italian young woman.
After a couple interactions with some of their members I eventually asked if I too could become part of their Linkshell and I was accepted into their group. While Tainted's members were mainly people that were just looking to get their fighting skills as high as possible, Fabulous Cats appeared to have members which dedicated themselves equally to fighting and crafting, some of them like myself even showed a main interest in crafting and left fighting as a second activity.
For some time I kept swapping between one Linkshell and the other, depending on the conversation and activies going in both of them, I eventually got asked to become an Officer in Tainted but I started feeling a bit apart as the great majority of it's memebrs would get together to do fighting Guildleves and I would just stay in town crafting. some time elapsed and I started noticing that by sharing my time between the two Linkshells I wasn't allowing myself to really know either, to really be friend of their group of people. As such I decided that I should choose one and just be part of one Linkshell, the choice came down to where did I find myself most at hom, where could I find people that shared the same approach to the game as myself and crafting.
I got to know the most active players in Cats quite well and there was a group of us who mearlly just stood together in the BSM/ARM guild in Limsa Lominsa crafting and chatting together. After Christmas I was once again faced with the prospect of having to change Linkshells because of the lack of LS managment. At around this time the LS leader had started coming into the game less and less and suddently the other Officers from Fabulous Cats had created a new Linkshell, Vagrant's Requiem.
This conversation, along with previous suspicions led me to announce me quitting the Linkshell as I could not abide by a Linkshell leader promoting these kind of actions to Linkshell members. Suddently it all happened very quickly, suspitions came to the fore and Officers started quiting Vagrants. With 30 to 50 minutes before that night's scheduled maintenance talks of creating a new LS headed by the Officers in Vagrants started and these afficers and a small number of LS members, including myself, were invited to Seraphim. Within a couple days I was invited to become an Officer in Seraphim and we started inviting Vagrant's embers which we felt we active members of our little comunity.
Seraphim became a core of long time players and some new ones to the game but we eventually rebuilt our numbers to an average of 15 members on (GMT) peak times and a total membership of about 30. Dedicating myself to the strengthening of this new Linkshell I was faced with first hand knowledge of the lack of management options for Linkshells in FFXIV, if someone was to decide to stop playing the game they would most likely not delete their characters so the spot that they took on Linskhell roster would be taken with no option from Leader or Officers to remove that character.
Seraphim endured untill the Earthquake hit Japan and forced the game to go offline for 2 weeks. It seems that for the people that had doubts about the game, those 2 weeks away from it were enough to make them just give up alltogether. a couple weeks after the game was back on, from a total of 6 Officers only 2 were actually back, myself and another player from the US. With no option to remove or promote other members some members of Seraphim started requesting another restructure, that once again requiring the creation of another Linkshell.
And this brings us to today and Esuna Linkshell, as the most active officer from Seraphim I was asked to create the new Linkshell which joined by the other officer from Seraphim and two other long time members of Fabulous Cats for the Officer cadre of Esuna. the earquake doesn't feel that long ago but I'm starting to see the same signals as previous events, there are a few players which I haven't seen in weeks or even in months but the Linkshell population seems to be increasing.
At the moment we only have a roster of 45 members of which 24 were online last weekend at the same time so we don't really have an issue about lacking room to invite new people, or about the Linkshell being empty but to me at least it just feels that this is something that SE should look into. I understand that there are things which should be given priority like the new content and battle system but the Linkshell managment system should not just be seen as somrthing that does not require looking into.