The reason for this is because ROM folders are usually used to house files from different expansions separately.
Chain of Promathia occupies ROM3, Treasure of Aht Urhgan in ROM4, and so on. The previous folder ROM8, was used for the add-on A Shantotto's Ascension. (all Abyssea data is stored in the main ROM folder).
ROM9 remained largely unnoticed when it was created, and a single file added to it in Feb this year. In March, another test server update added several files to ROM9 and this caught my attention, but we didn't really find anything about it.
Fast forward to late May, even more files were added to ROM9 but this slipped right under our noses.
They were actually zone files.
Over at BG, after Septimus pointed this out, Kaisha did some quick sleuthing, finding them to be newly designed areas, even though the texture effects are mostly re-used, likely because new ones haven't been applied yet.
I could not resist but investigate further into this matter to find out more about these zones in ROM9, and so here I present to you... the ROM9 zones.
[ read on ]
note: there is a possibility that what you see here constitutes spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.
Right now there are a total of 11 zones in ROM9, 2 of which appear to be identical to Provenance which I will not go into detail with.
Screenies of said zones.
Here are the other 9..
#1 - Zone 9/0/2, nicknamed Prontera.
This zone is (quite obviously) a town, and like every other city in FFXI, a seaside one.
Someone mentioned that it looks like Prontera from RO, probably because of the fountain design in its center.
It appears to have exits on both sides, and if you observe carefully the town is connected to a tower of sorts. Maybe they're going for a bit of Geffen too lol.
One of the exits appear to be a bridge that leads somewhere....
And by using the power of assumption, it seems like it's going to lead us to this next zone.
#2 - Zone 9/0/3, aka Stairs Town
Instantly you'll notice stairs town has a lot of steps..
It seems to be built on a slope, which is pretty impressive since all FFXI towns so far are generally on flat ground. In the above right pic you can also see it appears to have another exit to someplace else.
Closer inspection of the "stair" reveal them to just be sloped pavement, although there are steps at various points. It leads up to a pretty grand looking gateway.. which leads you all the way to the top, where a mansion sits.
Looks pretty government authority if you ask me.
#3 - Zone 9/0/4 aka Waterways
This zone looks like its an underground waterway dungeon.
It doesn't seem like just any other dungeon, because its room design seems fairly simple, but layout is like a maze.
I'm going to bet on this zone being used for "dungeon crawling".
#4 - Zone 9/0/6 aka Jungle Zone Act 1
This is the first of 2 jungle zones. Its got dense canopy in most of its areas, so its probably meant to be all lush and claustrophobic.
Whats interesting is that the forest has a beach attached to it.. so it must be some tropical island paradise place..
#5 - Zone 9/0/7 aka Jungle 2
More of the same from #4, except for this point of interest. A giant mushroom..?
#6 - Zone 9/0/8 aka Riverside (Motherfucker)
This zone is pretty barren, but from the way things are arranged, there appears to be a river running along the area. This area also appears to have a beachfront.
#7 - Zone 9/0/9 aka Forest of Nothing
This is the most barren zone out there. Its got nothing and is flatter than A cup boobs. I get the feeling that not much work has been done on this one.
#8 - Zone 9/0/12 aka the waterfall cliffs
I can see this zone looking pretty beautiful. It looks like Beaucedine remixed with the East Saruta streams.
Look closer and you'll notice theres like an encampment in the zone too.
It seems this area is a lot warmer tho, so it feels kinda like um.. a dry steppe.
#9 - Zone 9/0/14 aka Tunnel zone
Last, and probably least impressive is this tunnel zone. Every expansion with new areas seems to need at least one of these lol.
Now for my thoughts.
Looking at this really builds a strong case for a new expansion being announced next weekend at Vanafest..
I mean, its 9 entirely new zones, which to me is huge. In terms of zone design I think there's actually more original thought put into this here than the whole of Wings of the Goddess.
My next question really would be.. where?
Based on the zones shown above, I think I'd put a strong vote in favor of Olzhirya, the Mithran continent to the south.
I somewhat envision it to be a tropical paradise - lush and green, and the presence of beaches seems to support the idea that its the southern islands.
The towns being as majestic as it is seems like it'll be Yhoh, the capital of the Gha Naboh Matriarchate. I'd bet the stairs town is where their seat of power lies. That said, the design and architectural style of the towns are not what I'd expect from Mithran civilization, but maybe I'm biased because of evidence from Kazham and Windurst Woods.
just to add 2 other popular opinions on where this might be..
- some say it could be Tavnazia, based on the geography.. the terrain and the slope of the town seem to line up with the image from the opening FMV.
- others think its a foray into the far west, to either Ulbuka or Adoulin Isle, where the exorcists of the Dark Lilies and Achtelle hail from.
What do you think?
Does Final Fantasy XI look set to have a new expansion, or at least new areas to explore to you?
Where do you suppose its going to be? And do you think this will breathe much-needed life into the 10 year old MMORPG?
The answers to some of these could come in less than 7 days.
The week to Vanafest is going to be a long one.
UPDATE (220612): Square Enix has filed for a new trademark relating to FFXI. Read more.
UPDATE 2 (250612): New expansion announced. Read more.