Who do you think you are?
The first - and most important - step in any massively multiplayer online RPG is creating your character. The good news: Final Fantasy XI is the most flexible of any of the current crop of MMOs, and is designed so that players won't need a stable of different characters. Because of that, you'd better pick one you want to stick with for a while.
A character is defined by his or her race, nation and job. We'll detail the game's jobs tomorrow. For now, we'll help you figure out who you want to be and where you should start - and teach you how to get your friends in on the action.
Unlike most MMOs, Final Fantasy XI is built so that players will never want or need a second character, except maybe to hold extra items. Your character's race is just about the only permanent decision you'll ever have to make, so choose wisely. Five races live in Vana'diel. Just as you expect, each has their own strengths and weaknesses.
Above: Galka, male and female Tarutaru, male Hume, male Elvaan, female Hume, female Elvaan and Mithra party down in preperation for being chosen ... by you
Humes are ... human. Like all fantasy humans, they are well-rounded and have average stats, making them good candidates for any job. Their most remarkable trait is how unremarkable they are.
It's a fantasy, so you've got to have elves, right? The Elvaan are physically resilient and strong, but their gangly limbs and long necks hinder their dexterity, and their magical power isn't the best. Elvaan are ideally suited to hands-on fighting jobs and protecting other players, but they're serviceable in any job with the right gear.
The pin-ups of Vana'diel, this cat-like race's matriarchal traditions only allow females to adventure. Extremely agile, Mithra have the highest natural dexterity and agility of any of the races. Though other players hit on them often, they can't take many hits from monsters and have average magical ability. While their base stats make them the best Thieves and Rangers, they can strut their stuff in any job.
These muscular hulks are the least popular race in Vana'diel and are the most inflexible of the five races, but their particular advantages are striking. Their massive bodies give them a huge stockpile of hit points, vitality and other important stats for giving and taking damage. Sadly, their tiny noggins make them poor mages without all but the best gear.
Vana'diel's jokesters, the adorable Tarutaru are both comedy relief and magical powerhouses. Their tiny bodies may be frail, but their swollen brains can dispense some serious hurt, thanks to their massive mana pools and high Intelligence. Tarutarus make better fighters than Galkas make mages, but Tarutaru remain best-suited to magical jobs.