Tell us about FFXIV!
At Gamescom, we bumped into the Final Fantasy XIV triumvirate: Producer Tanaka, Director Komoto, and Global Online Producer Sage Sundi. We pulled them aside and asked them for an interview, and they acquiesced. HARDCORE!
Looking back over the year
Famitsu (F): It’s been over a year since you revealed FFXIV at E3 last year. How has that year treated you?
Producer Tanaka (PT): Wait, did we reveal it at E3 last year? (He laughs) We’ve been working on it so long we’ve kinda lost track of the time.
Director Komoto (DK): Time’s really flown, especially this last year. It’s hard to believe the E3 at which we revealed FFXIV was a year ago already.
F: So basically you haven’t had time to look back?
Sage Sundi (SS): Right now, not in the slightest. (He laughs)
F: I’m sure you’re busy cramming a lot of work into the last few weeks before release, but can you tell us when open beta starts?
DK: The plan is to start it at the beginning of September.
F: Yeah yeah, tell us what day!
PT: Would you let us off the hook if we told you “As soon as possible?” (He laughs)
Changes between phases two and three of the beta
F: What changed with the beginning of phase three of the beta?
DK: We added a few things, but a couple of big things that changed were the tempo of battle and the feel of the game. Also, for the players outside of Japan, the changes to the mouse controls were probably pretty big.
F: So mouse control was a pretty big deal to users overseas?
PT: I would say about 90% of the feedback we got about things people wanted to see in the game was related to the mouse.
DK: If you look at it globally, there was more feedback about that than anything else.
SS: Outside of Japan, many PC gamers use a mouse as the main controls for all games, from FPS’s to MMORPG’s.
PT: Gamepad and mouse controls are different at the most fundamental of levels. With a gamepad, you have to go through a layered structure command input for control, a mouse needs to be able to get things done with just a click. We have to set the game up to be able to handle both.
F: So there wasn’t much feedback from Japan about all that?
DK: Not really, but we got a lot of feedback about the user interface as a whole, so we’re working around the clock to fix that right now.
Don’t forget the other requests
F: Was there any other kind of feedback you received?
DK: There was a lot about guildleves, like allowing retries on failed guildleves or suiting them more for party play. We on the development team also believe we could do more to promote party play. We’re trying to figure out how to find that balance of enjoyable party play without taking away from the soloing experience.
F: So you’ll be adding content to that purpose?
DK: Right now our greatest priority is to increase the merits for party play. Though we still want guildleves to be a rewarding solo experience, we also want to add things that would make them rewarding to complete as a party.
SS: We got a lot of feedback about that, and all the feedback was consistent; players’ first concern was the user interface, then the merits of party play. Thanks to this, we know what everyone is focusing on.
From “Bun-bun” to “Shei-shei-ha! Shei-ha!”*
F: The battle system changed drastically from alpha to the first phase of beta. Do you think the battle system could change even more?
DK: We feel that the battle system has become pretty set. What we have left to adjust are the abilities, monsters, and guildleve balance. The biggest part is probably the balance of the growth system, so we’ll be looking at that a lot during the third beta phase.
PT: Speaking of which, in open beta, the placement of monsters and their aggro settings will change greatly, so you may have to change your battle strategies, too.
F: So the changes are going to be so big they’ll even affect strategizing?
PT: FFXI was the same way. The system and balances change and adapt like a living creature.
DK: You’ll also be able to start in any of the three starting capital cities. It’s not just about the three different stories; it is from this point that you’ll actually see the economy begin to work the way we imagined it, and we can’t wait for you to see it.
F: So in open beta, will you be able to go between cities?
DK: But of course.
Where’s the magic?
F: Right now there’s only two Discipline of Magic classes available. Will there be any more than these?
DK: We’d like players to enjoy these two classes for a while. The caster class system is still being tweaked. However, this doesn’t mean we’re going to wait for the release of an expansion to release the class; it’ll be out when the timing is right.
F: So you’re saying that there will be more Disciples of Magic?
DK: Yes. They might come in a patch, they might come in an expansion. We’re not sure yet.
F: What about pet classes, like FFXI’s beastmaster?
DK: There was a lot of feedback asking for those. We’d like to be able to provide that, but it might come in an expansion…
F: …or it might be in a patch. We get it (He laughs)
DK: If you put a pet class in right from release, balance is really difficult, so right now we’re not putting them in.
F: Do you have plans for any other new classes?
PT: We’ve got a few in mind, but we’re keeping them under wraps for now.
F: What kind of class will they be? Give us a hint!
PT: No! (He laughs evilly, clutching his pitchfork and stepping on the interviewer’s toes with the malice of a kindergartener. Ok, the Japanese just says he laughs, but WE know what happened, don’t we, folks? –Manly)
*The “Ideal FFXIV Battle Tempo” according to the Japanese. In a Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus video posted on Japanese video site Niconico Douga, (14th in a series of DoC vids, which probably drew in people looking for FFXIV videos) bun-bun is the sound Vincent’s slow-firing gun makes, and shei-shei-ha is what Vincent says during his melee attack. Months ago, a common post on Japanese boards was, “The current FFXIV battle tempo: Bun… bun… Ideal battle tempo: SHEI-HA! SHEI-SHEI-HA! SHEI-SHEI! HAA… SHEI!”
F: Tell why you decided to implement Fatigue and Latency (note: I really don't know how to translate that, but it's something in-game to keep you from playing too long at a time on one class).
DK: We'd like you to think of it as a reward to those players who don't have much time to commit to the game. Those hardcore players out there might think it's a little unfair, but the main concept behind it is that you don't need to put in massive amounts of time to enjoy the game.
F: Still though, there are a lot of disgruntled looks coming from those hardcore gamers.
DK: For those who have more time on their hands, they'll be able to try out all the various classes. Fatigue doesn't carry over when you change weapons, so we hope that they'll try out not just battle-oriented classes but maybe some crafting or gathering ones as well. So for those who end up with many high-level classes, they'll have more choices when it comes to any situation, whether solo or party play.
That Lovely Guildleve Delay
F: Will there be a change to the two-day cooldown on guildleves?
DK: There's been a lot of debate over this even among the development staff, so it may or may not. We decided on the current set-up to allow those who only have an hour a day to play to be able to progress only via guildleves, so balance does become an issue. We want to encourage people who've completed their leves to group up and help others, but currently there isn't enough benefit to forming leve parties.
F: Creating a gap in merit between solo and party play seems difficult to manage, though.
DK: Definitely. We want solo play to still be worthwhile, but we also want to add a bonus to those who decide to group up.
F: So soloing will be the basis of the game?
DK: Yes. More than a one-man army, it's more of a slow-and-steady kind of thing. In FFXI many things weren't possible solo, so we'd like to avoid that from developing this time around.
F: Right now you can't buy armor from vendors, it looks like.
DK: Another point of contention among the staff. We do plan to add some more armor for the beginning part of the game, but we really want to encourage the crafting community to establish itself.
PT: Crafters can't really take part in battle, so we want them to enjoy their role in the game fully.
F: So at a certain point, crafters will become necessary?
DK: Indeed. The depth of play for crafters will also expand. For now, I think providing repairs will be a big source of income for them, and they can even repair their own.
F: It sounds like that will play into their game experience, as well.
DK: It would be pretty easy to design a guildleve around it. A "go to this aetheryte and look for the guy who needs repairs done" kind of thing. Probably a guard at a specific aetheryte.
F: Aside from set phrases, will you be adding any other ways to communicate with players overseas?
DK: It's something we'll be watching as things progress. Regarding vocabulary not added yet, we'll be listening to the requests of the players. So it's something that can be expanded if needed.
F: The current specs needs to run the game are pretty high. Will they be lower for the official release?
DK: The specs had already been decided. But since then, we've seen the need to lower them a little to cater toward more casual gamers. However currently, there is no difference between the minimum specs for open beta and official release.
PT: Early on, beta wouldn't run properly on certain set-ups, but we've had a chance to smooth most of the wrinkles out.
F: Will we be able to choose our server once the game is out?
DK: However, if certain worlds become over-populated, we may add restrictions. As long as everything's normal, you can choose as you wish.
F: You mentioned it earlier, but can you tell us more about the status of the PS3 version?
PT: We had hoped for a simultaneous release, but there have been problems with linking to the hard disk, etc, and that has caused delays. That being said, even while we're talking here in Germany the staff is hard at work on it back home.
F: So will you be having a PS3 beta test?
PT: Of course. It'll be after the game has been released on PC, so testers will be playing the final version. Once we have a date decided, we'll let you all know.
F: With the start of the PS3 version, more players will be arriving in Eorzea. Will you be adding servers to compensate?
PT: It's a definite possibility.
*Well that about wraps it up. The game comes out soon, so stay tuned!
Here's some stuff I picked out that looked interesting:
-About 90% of non-Japanese players had requests concerning mouse control. Most Japanese players use a controller, but Americans, specifically, seem to be more mouse-oriented. They're looking into what can be done.
-There are no plans to increase the level cap in Open Beta.
-Guilds appear to be scattered among the three main cities. Though they're designing it so there won't be any gaps in leveling up to rank 20, it seems that certain cities may be more suitable for certain classes.
-It's not impossible to walk from city to city (though they are rather far apart), but geographically you'll need a boat to go to and from Limsa Lominsa. Distance between cities is similar to FFXI, and if you level up a bit it's not that difficult a journey. So if you're playing with friends, you don't necessarily have to start in the same city.
-Open Beta will have almost all the fundamental parts of the game, but it will only include a small portion of storyline quests.
-There are plans for giving monthly subscription discounts if you purchase three or six months' worth at a time, however details are not yet available.