A letter from the founder of The Vana'diel Lobby

Friends of Vana'diel,

I'll get to the core of this letter at the top: we're formally archiving The Vana'diel Lobby as of December 2021. What that means is simple: the static content I've hosted — for instance, our guides — will remain up for now for historical purposes; our community forums will be fully taken offline, having been locked in read-only mode for several years. At some point in the future, the site will be fully shut down, left to our friends at the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine to host online for posterity.

It's still humbling to know that The Vana'diel Lobby reached so many people across the world — well over one million unique visitors and 2000 registered forum users — and became a small part of the lives of those with a shared interest in the world of FINAL FANTASY XI.

The Vana'diel Lobby opened on November 30, 2003. I wasn't trying to duplicate the size and scale of Allakhazam; I wasn't trying to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in ad revenue; I wasn't trying to gain Internet fame in whatever Internet fame meant in the pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook, pre-Instagram, pre-Snapchat, pre-YouTube, pre-TikTok world back in 2003. I wanted to help connect players across the many world servers that made up the world of Vana'diel.

In that simple goal, the Lobby succeeded. A small community on Siren server found a home in the forums, and new visitors from other world servers signed up. Over time, we went from exchanging World Passes on the forums to using MooglePass; players showed off their characters not only through forum profiles, but also on the Lobby White Pages (for the younger millennials and Gen Z's, a reference to the residential phone number listings known as the White Pages); and world server statuses could be quickly checked not only through the PlayOnline/FFXI website, but also through Lobby Express. These services were built for the community to fill a need, no strings attached.

It's now been 19 years since FINAL FANTASY XI launched in North America, and the fact that it's still around — with a new expansion released just last year — demonstrates how a game can create such a tight-knit community. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that a number of people stepped forward to provide assistance in one form or another to help the Lobby in its early days, months, and years. They are all acknowledged on our Sponsors page, but I want to highlight some by name here in this letter: Acroyer, Kanoa, Wicket, Tristam, and Earendur. These folks helped defray our domain name and hosting costs as the Lobby was just starting, and their assistance was, is, and will always be greatly appreciated.

I haven't returned to the world of Vana'diel for some time, which makes this decision a bit easier. Nonetheless, it's never easy shuttering a site. As an early alpha tester of FINAL FANTASY XIV, it was a difficult call for me to shut down Cities of XIV, a similar community site for FFXIV, but it was clear to me that the game wasn't ready for the public. (It should be noted that FFXIV ended up "rebooting" with a version 2.0 some time later, with dramatic rewrites of the game mechanics and story.)

To those who were a part of our community forums: thank you.
To those who read through our guides: thank you.
To those who participated in our other services: thank you.
And to all of those who passed through our doors during the years: thank you.

When I embarked on this journey with FINAL FANTASY XI and The Vana'diel Lobby, the landscape of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) was small, with EverQuest being the one major commercial success at that time. And after the blockbuster known as FINAL FANTASY VII — one of the few video games that broke into popular culture — there were legitimate questions about whether the MMO format would work for the storied franchise and its previous nine iterations. Many fans of the series, including me, took a chance on FFXI and dived headfirst into the world of Vana'diel.

Like many North American players on launch day, I found myself among a huge crowd of English-speaking newbies surrounded by well-tuned parties of Japanese-speaking players, busy planning advanced missions with their high-level characters. We learned the art of (Auto-translate) and how quickly a Tarutaru could bite the dust against some cactus-looking monster. We figured out the subtleties of aggro and the aggravation of being trained. We got used to (Looking for party?) for minutes to hours and saving up Gil for a trip to the Auction House. We grew flowers in our Mog House and raised chocobos.

We spent countless hours in front of the computer — and, for some, the game console — sharing experiences in our fictional personas, sometimes with people literally on the other side of the world. We weren't worried about whether Vana'diel would be around in a year, or nineteen. We enjoyed the camaraderie and community in the moment, the joys of victory, watching your party be wiped out by a monster. We waited in the hope that a friendly, wandering white mage might come across us, stopping to look before casting a revive spell, and leaving just as quickly with a polite nod. We scheduled our login times, sometimes in the middle of the night. We made friends, and we sometimes met the people behind the characters.

Whether you just spent a brief amount of time in Vana'diel, or you've seen every Christmas snowfall in Jeuno, we've all been part of a unique experience that will never be duplicated. And it's been an absolute pleasure to have been just a small part of it.

Robert J. Funches
Proprietor of The Vana'diel Lobby