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VanaFest 2010 Report

Square Enix gives a little sampling of Final Fantasy XIV at Final Fantasy XI fan event.


Square-Enix’s annual Final Fantasy XI fan appreciation event took place over the weekend, and your Andriasang.com correspondents were in attendance. Here's a more complete report to go along with our mobile blog updates.

Titled VanaFest 2010, this year's event marked the eighth anniversary for Square Enix's first steps into the world of MMORPGs. The event was held over a three and a half hour period at Nippon Seinen-kan Hall in Tokyo's centrally located Aoyama area.

The event began with MC Katsuyuki Konishi (an FFXI player himself) and producer Horimichi Tanaka, both initially dressed in a traditional happi coat, warming up the crowd with synchronized cheering and fist pumping. This lead to the first of two Final Fantasy XI talk sessions on a stage made to look like a school. For this, Tanaka changed into more professional attire and was joined by FFXI director Koichi Ogawa, battle director Satohiko Matsui, planners Mizuki Ito and Yoji Fujito, and global online producer Sage Sundi.

As if to counter recent rumors of an end to Final Fantasy XI, Square Enix managed a large number of announcements for the aging MMO. The crowd went wild with the announcement of a raise in level cap from 75 to 99. Other updates ranged from big things, like job adjustments and new add-ons, to minutia, like new furniture. Be sure to check out all the details directly from Square Enix.

The FFXI talk was broken up by a "Secret Bonus Stage" in which Square Enix debuted some Final Fantasy XIV CG footage. Following the footage, Hiromichi confirmed that what had just been shown was the game's opening, just completed the week prior.

The opening started with a party in a pub. After examining a magical card, they were transported onto the shore of a lake, where they encountered a traditional Final Fantasy enemy, a Marlboro. The fight was impressive, showing off many magical and special attacks, as well as party teamwork.

No sooner was the Marlboro defeated than the party leader was transported into a massive airship battle. Ships crashed and burned as a giant bird tore through the airship fleet, sending the party leader into free fall. Before he hit the ground, he was brought back to “reality” in the pub.

Those who have been keeping up with FFXIV will recognize some scenes from the trailer, as the original E3 video included a few sequences. Square Enix has also previously shared screenshots from the trailer.

No new FFXIV media was distributed to the press at the event.

For those who watched the live web broadcast of the report, Square Enix did not allow the opening movie to be broadcast. In its place, viewers were showed a walkthrough of the FFXIV development studio, complete with commentary from the staff, including, it seems, the person tasked with designing underwear for the characters (he said that all races have different underwear design).

Along with the trailer, FFXIV director Nobuaki Kawamoto took the stage to announce information on the long awaited FFXIV beta test. All show attendees will be able to participate in the beta, he announced. Current Final Fantasy XI players who applied for the beta will also be invited to participate. Invites were set to start going out yesterday (March 1).

Prior to the beta, Square Enix will hold an alpha test for the game. Kawamoto said that he wants the most hardcore of FFXI players to take part in the alpha. This includes the VanaFest attendees, he said, causing another round of cheering from the crowd (lesson: to please FFXI fans, announce level cap extensions and beta tests).

Obviously, not everyone will be able to take part in the beta at first. However, Tanaka said that he hopes eventually expand the beta to include everyone who applied.

A special site exclusively accessible by beta testers will go live on March 11. Tanaka did not give a specific time frame for the start of the beta itself though. During a press Q&A session that followed the main event, Tanaka said that start dates for the alpha and beta would be announced on the 11th.

As an indication of FFXIV's progress, while Kawamoto spoke, Square Enix showed gameplay footage of FFXIV on a large monitor above his head. This, Tanaka said, was being played by players off stage who were logged in to an actual FFXIV server.

The night's Final Fantasy XIV component came to a close with a surprise appearance by composer Nobuo Ueamtsu. Following a little jig with Tanaka (this must-see dance was posted to YouTube), Uematsu revealed that he's been working on FFXIV music since the end of 2008 and has worked on over 80 songs. Uematsu's three man Tokyo Businessmen group, with Uematsu on keyboards, debuted remixes of two FFXIV tracks, including the E3 trailer background song.

The Tokyo Businessmen performance, and a performance of five FFXI songs from The Small Onions, bookended another lengthy discussion of Final Fantasy XI. Yes, VanaFest was mostly about Final Fantasy XI (it does have the "Vana" in the name, after all), and from what we could see, the fans in attendance didn't mind one bit. Eight years later, and Square Enix's first MMORPG is still going strong.

[Additional reporting by Ryan Winterhalter]

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