With Square Enix's Press Conference still fresh on the minds of MMORPGers around the world, ZAM continues to bring you coverage on the information released at this year's E3. The following is the full transcript of the Q&A session conducted with select press attendees on Wednesday.
Don't forget to check out the amazing in-depth summary of the interview that followed, written by our new FFXIV Content Manager, Elmer the Pointy.
Discuss the press conference in the new FFXIV forums!
Square Enix: Thank you for joining us on such short notice. Your time is truly appreciated. We'll be bringing our speakers on right now. This is Shinji Hashimoto (Senior Vice President, Hiromichi Tanaka (Producer), and Nobuako Komoto (Director). From your reactions we heard after the conference yesterday, it seems like people were a little surprised by the announcement, so hopefully we'll be able to answer any questions you have about Final Fantasy XIV Online. Before we begin, Hashimoto would like to clarify some confusion there may have been about the exclusitivity of Final Fantasy XIV Online.
SE: Hi, I'm Shinji Hashimoto. Just to begin, I want to start by clarifying some of the announcements that were made at the Sony Press Conference yesterday. Some folks interpreted the announcement as being an exclusive, but we want to make sure that the announcement was that the game will coming to the PS3 and the PC. In terms of all other hardware, including Microsoft products, we are considering all options at this time.
Press: In the trailer - which was quite impressive - there seemed to be a lot of references to the old races found in Final Fantasy XI. I'm pretty sure I saw an Elvaan, a Galka and a Hume. What are the ties to Final Fantasy XI, if any?
SE: While you noticed that some of the same type of races appeared, we'd like to make it clear that these are different. The world in FFXIV is a different world than the world in FFXI. I think you saw the name of the world in the trailer, Eorzea. The reason that we made them similar to the races in FFXI was that so that the players who had been playing XI and had liked that type of character - and they had their avatar that they had been using for the past five or six years - can choose a similar type of race in this new game. As an analogy of why we did this, think of it as an actor in many different movies. In one movie, he might be an assassin robot and in another movie he'll be the saviour of Mars and in another movie he'll be a spy. But it's always the same actor, and we want you to think of him in that way.
Press: What happens to FFXI now if we're moving so swiftly - in 2010, I believe? - to FFXIV? What are the plans for FFXI? Will there be new content? How will you divvy out responsibility among development staff?
SE: The development for FFXIV has started 4 or 5 years ago and we started going into full gear in the past few years. This has gone on, at the same time, as FFXI development as well. As you know, FFXI has been going strong for the past seven years, and we still plan on continuing development for FFXI. We have about a year of content planned and ready in the works, so we have no plans in the near future to stop development of FFXI.
Press: I have a quick question about the influence of World of Warcraft. Since FFXI came out, MMOs have definitely had a more dramatic shift towards a more casual slant in way of design, especially with something like WoW. I was wondering what kind of influence games like that have had on FFXIV.
SE: As with World of Warcraft and how they have aimed for the casual users, we do want to put some of that in FFXIV as well - aiming for those more casual users. We don't, however, want to make a copy of World of Warcraft, and we're going to have things that we believe are unique, and will make us stand out from that game.
Press: As a follow-up to that - in terms of combat specifically, is it going to be something that's more action oriented versus a turn-based system or a semi turn-based system.
SE: I'm sorry but we can't answer that yet.
Press: This sort of relates to his question. Final Fantasy has evolved over the last seven years, specifically in the areas of player accessibility and also, in the post-World of Warcraft world, the ability to play solo. In starting over in a new game, will you be carrying over some of the features, like level sync and Fields of Valour, that made Final Fantasy XI, finally, solo-capable and have those in from the start in Final Fantasy XIV.
SE: Yes, all of that knowledge and experience that we got from FFXI we plan on using in the development of FFXIV. As you know, FFXI was originally designed for party battles, but for FFXIV we would like to, at launch, have content for solo players as well as extremely large battles (many, many players all fighting together). So, a wide variety rather than just focusing on same party mechanic.
Press: What are your plans for the worldwide launch of the game? Final Fantasy XI came out in the US and other territories a good deal after the Japanese version. I'm wondering if you're planning on a simultaneous worldwide release or, again, the other territories will have to wait a bit to play the game.
SE: Yes. At the launch it will be a worldwide simultaneous for the PS3 and Windows PC in all regions. We will have the same four languages that we had in FFXI. English, Japanese, German and French all released at the same time.
Press: Going off of that, is it going to keep the same format currently, where all servers are worldwide, or will it be split into territories?
SE: Yes, our current plans are to have the same type of setup as Final Fantasy XI, where there are worldwide servers and cross-platform and cross-region servers. We haven't discounted the possibility of having region-based servers. It all depends on, when we have our beta test, we will find out what the players want and how things are going and look at the balance there. For example, in FFXI right now, players can choose any servers they want from anywhere in the world and we're seeing that a lot of certain players, because they want to play with people in the same region, are now going on to one server. If you look at the Bahamut server, it's packed with people from the same region because they want to play that. We want to look for a good balance in that sense.
Press: Regarding Final Fantasy XI, which has evolved over the years, I know that Square Enix has taken some feedback from the players and implemented some changes to make their lives easier. I was wondering if you're going to have the same kind of plan for FFXIV.
SE: We believe that the user's voice is very important and we want to keep getting a lot of advice from our users. We are still getting a lot of advice from our FFXI users and we hope to use that advice when developing FFXIV. Also, during the beta test, we hope to hear a lot from the beta test users. We hope that FFXIV can be the same as XI, as in it will always be changing and getting better depending on what the users want.
Press: How do you envision the two communities between FFXI and FFXIV evolving? Are you planning on the progression of the XI fanbase to XIV, are you planning on keeping them seperate, or are you planning on treating them as one.
SE: Yeah, it's pretty much up to the communities themselves. What we envision is, hopefully, to have the users one day play FFXI and then the next day, play FFXIV. It's up to the user. The communities will be independent, but how much connection it has will be based on the desire of the users.
Press: Do you have any plans to translate the game to Spanish.
SE: Currently we do not have a Spanish version in development. If there are enough Spanish speaking users that want it, we will then certainly consider it. The biggest problem is that, because it's a simultaneous development, we have the translators in-house with the dev team, translating at the same time that the writers are writing the script. Right now we have the English, French and German all going at the same time and to get good translators in Japan is very difficult. If there are good translators and the users want it, then we will certainly consider it.
Press: And how can the users transmit that will?
SE: We'll have marketing research.
Press: Is there any special element in the MMO genre that you are going to improve with this game?
SE: Our plan, from the beginning, was to make the best Final Fantasy game available. With XIV that was our vision. We thought, "How can we make the best Final Fantasy game?" and we decided that the best way we could do that was through the MMO genre. Rather than going from "we want to make the best MMO," we want to make the best Final Fantasy game and THROUGH that, use the MMO genre. We are, however, trying to implement a lot of new systems that other MMOs have not used in the past, and so, in that sense, we may be revolutionary in that sense.
Press: Why did you decide to make a new instalment rather than evolve Final Fantasy XI?
SE: We've been asked that question by a lot of people. It all comes down to the fact that, originally, Final Fantasy XI was originally designed for the Playstation 2, and from there it moved on to Windows PC and then the Xbox 360. A lot people have asked why we don't make a port of that to the current generation of machines. Unfortunately, with an MMORPG of this size, while developing, you also have to be maintaining and developing new content for the world. To have a sequel to FFXI, you'd have to port the original one, and for porting that, it would take way too much time to port it to new technology and remake everything. Rather than doing that port and remaking XI, we decided to use that time to make something new.
Press: Yesterdays trailer that was shown - was that running off of the console? Is that the kind of quality we will actually see in the game?
SE: There were parts that were pre-rendered, but also parts that were running on the actual in-game engine.
Press: Is that, then, the actual quality that you will be aiming for? For example, there was a scene where the Galka was fighting. Is that, exactly, what we are going to be seeing?
SE: That is the part of the trailer that is actually running on the in-game engine.
Press: During that battle scene, we saw many enemies as well as many parties. In the, the game was many versus one. Is it now going to be many versus many? Are there going to be differences in the game system and the battle system?
SE: That's a very good question, and I don't know how much I'm allowed to answer. As was stated in the question, we hope to have battles that are many versus one, as well as many versus many.
Press: After the announcement yesterday, I'd like to hear from Mr. Komoto and Mr. Tanaka, from their perspective, what they feel are the highlights that they really want us to understand. What's different from FFXI and what would they like to let us know.
SE: For Final Fantasy XIV, the key word that we've been using in development is the 'growth' of the character, the development of the character. We will have the same type of storytelling and the same type of high-quality graphics that XI had, but we'd also like to expand on the in-game system. Through these original new types of systems, the player will be able to grow and develop in a more natural way that doesn't put a lot of weight on to the player himself. Through this, we will also develop the job system and expand it into something quite different from what's in FFXI. Another very important concept that's in a different direction from FFXI is that, as you know, while Final Fantasy XI has gotten better, it's still party based. With FFXIV we would like to make it something that if you want to play in a party, you can play in a party, if you want to play solo, you can play solo, if you want to play 40 minutes a day, you can play 40 minutes a day and if you want to play all day, you can play all day. We'll have content for all of those different kinds of play styles and we'll have a game system that will be there for many different types of people.
Press: Wondering if you've given any thought to your beta process. Will you be letting FFXI beta testers in? Have you thought about doing a promotion with the current FFXI subscribers to let all of them in, in order to get really solid feedback from that community?
SE: As with the actual release date of the game, we don't have a concrete beta schedule yet. All I can tell you is that we will have a beta and when we do have that schedule, we will get that back to you.
Press: The FFXI community wants to know if there's any possibility of a port-over from FFXI characters to FFXIV.
SE: Like we've been saying, the game is in a completely different world, different type of game system and a different type of character development system. There won't be any "take your character from FFXI and use it in FFXIV." Like we hinted at before, however, is that the character design is very similar to the character design in FFXI. That character that FFXI players have used for such a long time will be able to create a similar - a very similar - character in FFXIV. Also, FFXIV will not be using the PlayOnline system, however the Friend List and the things you have in the PlayOnline system will, hopefully, be able to be moved over to the FFXIV system, so you won't be losing that kind of data.
Press: If I'm new to the MMO genre, I have many MMO games to choose from. Why would I choose FFXIV over these games?
SE: We believe that players will fall in love with the world that we've created and the story that we have to offer, and that's probably our biggest thing.