Team Final Fantasy XIV Interviewed
The Japanese media get some private time with Tanaka and Kawamoto.
Final Fantasy XIV was one of the biggest surprises at E3. But the announcement of the game may have been topped by its release proximity: 2010.
With such a close time frame, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Square Enix is talking about the game quite a bit at the show floor. Following the game's unveiling at Sony's E3 press conference, Square Enix held a general Q&A session for the press (check your favorite western media outlet for this), then sat down with individual outlets for one-on-one sessions (see IGN PS3 for details).
4gamer began its interview by noting that FFXIV was actually announced years ago as a next generation MMORPG. At the time, it was known by the codename Rapture.
So why the switch to a numbered FF game? According to Tanaka, the development staff had a general plan for the game four years back, and at that time they were thinking about making it as FFXIV. He also noted that, while the idea was for it to be specifically FFXIV, it could have ended up being FFXV if Square Enix had ended up making an FFXIV in the meanwhile.
There's actually some history to the use of numbers for this online offshoot of the FF series. Back during FFXI's development, Square Enix decided upon a rule where, when making an MMORPG entry in the Final Fantasy series, they would make it a proper numbered entry rather than something like "FF World" or FF Online." During the development of FFXIV, there was actually some talk amongst the staff that if they ended up making something that wouldn't be appropriate for a numbered FF game, they'd ditch the numbers. In the end, Tanaka explained, they worked hard to make the game we see today and decided to stick with the numbers.
FFXIV and FFXI for the most part have about as much in common as any other numbered Final Fantasy game. That is to say, they're totally different games, with only a few similarities.
The E3 trailer showed FFXIV's brand new world, Eorzea. There's one major point about this "world," though. In FFXI, Vana'diel was the name given to the game's entire world. Eorzea, however, is the name of one particular region of a world that's fully known as Hydlin (I'm not sure of the official Rominzation of this name). The staff plans on making Eorzea into the main area for the game, explained Kawamoto.
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Regarding some of those similarities, a good amount of the shared elements between the two titles has to do with community and jobs.
In an effort to draw in the community from FFXI, the FFXIV dev staff is looking into letting FFXI players reuse their avatars in the new game. Yes, this means that we can expect some common points between the two titles as far as character races go. All five FFXI races will have their equivalents in FFIV. They'll look the same, but have different names and settings.
As for the exact number of races for FFXIV, Kawamoto would not say.
Outside of the avatars, the staff is looking into allowing players to move their name over, as they're sure many FFXI players will want to keep their friends when moving on to FFXIV in the future. Kawamoto said that they'll try their best to allow you to carry over your linkshells, friend list, and so-forth.
Kawamoto made it pretty clear that they're not even considering the idea of allowing you to carry over your character progress level, though. However, they do want to do some things along this line in order to support a community. He suggested that they may implement something that allows you to easily switch between playing FFXI and FFXIV.
The ideal implementation of this, explained Tanaka, would be to allow players in FFXI to call over friends from FFXIV, and vice versa. The developers considered making use of special items for this, like a Mog House that could transport you from FFXI to FFXIV. This ended up being difficult, so they gave up.
Getting into gameplay, Kawamoto described FFXIV's combat system as being extremely different from that of FFXI. The focus will be more on a real time feel, although he said not to call it "action." They're aiming for something that allows beginners to enjoy themselves without too much effort while offering core players timing and other such elements that allow for higher level combat.
There will be something similar to the Job system in place. Kawamoto cited the job system as being one of the big reasons that people have played FFXI for so long. They hope to carry the concept over to FFXIV, and expand upon it, but Kawamoto said that it would be best to think of the resulting system as being completely different from the job system.
While not getting too specific, Kawamoto explained that the key to the new system is "weapons." As a means of expanding the concept of the job system, they'll be adding in the element of weapons.
So what will become of classic jobs from the Final Fantasy series? It would be best to think of them as not being in the game, said Kawamoto. This also means that the old jobs won't appear even as high level jobs.
Tanaka provided one more extremely vague detail about gameplay. There won't be any level caps this time around. Again, he made vague mention of some sort of new system here, but did not get into details.
Moving onto the aesthetic areas of the game, 4gamer posed some questions about the game's music. Tanaka revealed that when they first approached Nobuo Uematsu about the game, they expected him to be too busy to do everything. However, he ended up saying that he wanted to do it all. Tanaka confirmed that Uematsu is handling all the game's music.
We can expect some advances to the story telling side of the game. Kawamoto told Famitsu that the game's cut scenes would offer greater richness compared to FFXI. Asked if the dialogue would be fully voiced, the two wouldn't give a straight yes or no, with Tanaka saying that we should look forward to finding out more about this area.
Regarding some of the more technical areas of the game, Tanaka said that everything is currently open a far as specs and OS goes for the PC version. You can expect the required specs to be higher here than they were for FFXI. Server capacity will be at about the same level as FFXI, he said, with the team aiming for 5,000 to 6,000 players per world.
Famitsu asked some specific questions about graphics. The game's engine is from the same "Crystal Series" that Final Fantasy XIII uses, Tanaka explained. However, as with FFXIII, the FFXIV team has customized the engine for their needs, so Tanaka said that it's best to think of it as being a unique engine.
The two wouldn't share precise timing for when players can expect to get their first hands on time the game. The 2010 time frame shared by Square Enix is the planned time for the start of full service on the game.
They'll of course have a beta test prior to that. Tanaka wouldn't give a specific length for the beta test, but noted World of Warcraft's nine months. He doesn't expect FFXIV's beta test to last as long as that.
Tanaka also discussed some of the possibilities for billing. As mentioned in the above IGN interview, Play Online looks like it's on the way out. They're hoping to use a Square Enix ID minus PlayOnline. The base for payment will be 30 days play time.
4Gamer asked if they were considering item-based transactions like a large number of online games out there, but Tanaka replied that initially they're looking at just the 30 day play period charge.
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