Final Fantasy XIV Update
Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Director Nobuaki Komoto discuss the alpha test and general development.
Square Enix has been staging an alpha test for Final Fantasy XIV over the past few weeks. While the test is limited to a few participants, major Japanese sites like Famitsu.com and Impress Watch have been permitted to post impressions complete with screenshots.
The print version of Famitsu got even greater insight onto the game through a four page interview with producer Hiromichi Tanaka and director Nobuaki Komoto in this week's issue. The two FF MMORPG VIPs provided an update both on the alpha test and development in general.
Tanaka began by issuing an apology to test players for some of the problems Square Enix has been having with stabilizing the servers. They're gradually fixing things through updates, he said.
So what's with all the issues? Tanaka explained that based off experience with FFXI, they anticipated a 50% simultaneous connection rate for the game. However, the Japanese test players turned out to be extremely hardcore FFXI fans, and the access rate was higher than expected. Compared to Japan, North America and Europe did not have as much of a problem with servers going down.
One of the fixes they made came in an April 15 update, which extended the login wait time 10 minutes and added the ability to see how many people are waiting to connect.
It may be hard to believe, but the FFXIV development staff is actually being told to avoid logging into the game. Komoto explained that Square Enix is doing this in order to allow more test players to log in to the game.
Tanaka is an exception, though. He sits in front of his computer just like everyone else when testing starts. If you see a player named "Azagba Tanaka," that's the FFXIV producer.
Explained Tanaka, while the development staff can see the play logs, it's difficult to get a feel for the actual play state of the players. Tanaka acts as a representative, investigating how things are actually going by logging in for himself.
The two were asked to provide an updated schedule for the alpha and beta tests. They're currently at the first step, explained Tanaka, where they're seeing if they can run three tests a week. They're aiming to make the game stable enough so that players can get in a proper play session.
As for how long the tests will run, Komoto said that they originally had a time frame in place, but ended up encountering greater server stability problems, forcing them to extended this a bit. They'll decide what to do once players have built up their characters a certain amount.
Regarding that character growth, Tanaka said to expect character data to get wiped out mid way through the alpha test. The reason for this is that they have two different patterns for character growth speed that they want to try out. Once they've gathered enough data for the current pattern, they'll wipe out the player data and try out the second pattern.
Test players should get used to having their data wiped, as this is something that will happen repeatedly during both the alpha and beta tests.
Asked when the game will switch from alpha to beta, Tanaka wouldn't give a clear answer. The next step for the game, he said, will be to expand from the current single world to multiple worlds, and to also increase the test player count many times. They'll call this phase of the test either beta 1 or alpha 2. They'll switch to the beta naming when they feel they've readied a version of the game that more closely resembles the final product.
Plans are also in place to allow players worldwide to log in and play together, rather than the current region-separate alpha tests. Tanaka said to expect this change to happen when the game switches to 24 hour operation.
Outside of the alpha and beta testing components, the magazine quizzed the two on general development for FFXIV.
The game's graphics production is currently complete. The planning and programming sides of the game have some final tuning work left.
Even though he said the graphics are complete, there will be some presentational changes. The town of Limsa Lominsa, for instance, will see some major lighting changes.
Asked to give a percentage completion, Tanaka and Komoto went back and forth a bit but decided on 65%. They tossed out numbers as low as 10%, though, with Komoto explaining that this figure represents the amount of FFXIV that can be seen in the alpha test.
The alpha test is currently for PC players only. But the PS3 version of the game is being developed parallel to the PC version, assured Tanaka. They're aiming to have both versions begin service at the same time.