Assembled in a large room on the second floor of the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, thousands of Final Fantasy XI players sat, restlessly awaiting the beginning of the festivities. Some of them were groggy, perhaps due to the complimentary open bar offered by Square Enix the night before. Others, like myself, were well-rested thanks to the three hour time difference due to traveling from the East coast. A sampling of the crowd suggested a surprising diversity of fans. I originally suspected they'd all look like me: 20-something-year-old caucasian male, slightly overweight, glasses. I was wrong. In the crowd you could spot male and female, a full spectrum of ethnicity, ages ranging from college students to the elderly, some cosplaying and others dressed professionally. The visibility of the crowd faded, however, as the lights dimmed and the opening ceremonies began.
Over the speakers, I heard 2001: A Space Odyssey. On the two large screens adjacent to the stage, as well as the two TVs suspended from the ceiling for attendees seated further back, the logos for the three new "mini-expansions" were thrown on screen in syncronization with each of the three musical climaxes of the 2001 theme. "Crystalline Prophecy," "A Moogle Kupo d'Etat," and "A Shantotto Ascension" each got a proper clapping and cheering, even though players know little about these scenarios, other than the fact that they are new content.
After this opening display, a burning fire appeared on the screens (taken, I believe, from the Nibelheim fire out of which Sephiroth would appear). But instead of Sephiroth, the figure to appear through the screen (which was a transition to the live camera focused on the stage) was Final Fantasy XI Producer Hiromichi Tanaka. After much applause, Tanaka thanked everyone for coming, and then went on to introduce the nature of the upcoming expansions.
These three expansions were described as "vertical," rather than "lateral," content. What this means is that the content would be released all at once, instead of the usual format of bi-monthly/quarterly updates that essentially "expand" the expansion. These three mini-expansions will be made available, one at a time, in the coming months, for a price of about $10 each. They will be available through download only, and will focus primarily on plot. There will be a main series of missions that expand the plot of the original areas of Vana'diel; indeed, the original FFXI planners and directors are working on these expansions. No new areas will be created, but both veteran and amateur players will be able to participate in these expansions from the start.
After this presentation, Tanaka-san introduced Yoji Fujito, a planner on the team who created the new "Moblin Maze Mongers" event. Fujito went into detail about the event; meanwhile, a Square Enix staff member controlled a character real-time on the screen, demonstrating Fujito's talking points.
After the opening presentation, fans scattered to try out the now-abbreviated "MMM" event, prepare their costumes for the costume contest, and check out all the exhibits at the event. As for me, I had a private meeting to attend, where I would get to try out MMM and another new event, "The Swarm."