The July 10th issue of Dengeki Playstation magazine has hit the shelves, and it contains a brand new interview with Hiromichi Tanaka and Kouichi Ogawa of the Final Fantasy XI development team.
Hiromichi Tanaka is the producer of Final Fantasy XI, which was the first MMO for the Final Fantasy series. He will continue his work at Square Enix as producer for the highly anticipated Final Fantasy XIV.
Kouichi Ogawa worked on the Treasures of Aht Urghan and Wings of the Goddess expansions for Final Fantasy XI. He also contributed to A Crystalline Prophecy, and will continue to develop the next two add-on scenarios: A Moogle Kupo d'Etat and A Shantotto Ascension.
The Dengeki Team was excited to get face-to-face time with these two who "hold the future of FFXI in their hands," and we are excited to bring you the juicy details!
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In the last volume of Dengeki Playstation, Tanaka expressed his hope that players would continue enjoying Final Fantasy XI, even after the start of Final Fantasy XIV. Perhaps, together with Ogawa, we can get some details as to what upcoming content they will be providing for players heading into the future.
FFXI will survive!
We have heard it several times so far: Final Fantasy XI has at least a year's worth of content planned in advance. Are there any plans after that? Well, Tanaka reassures us that he certainly does not expect to shut down FFXI in a year, and players can rest easy knowing service will continue as normal. The "one year" comment basically means they always have a year's buffer of plans and ideas, and this will not change even with the impending release of FFXIV. Tanaka realizes his previous statements could have implied that after a year there were no more plans for the development of FFXI, but wants all players to know that this is not the case.
Ogawa says there is still much to do for FFXI, including wrapping up Wings of the Goddess and trying to get in all sorts of yet unrealized plans. Tanaka jokes that as per the title of the game, he would at least want to make it to 11 years. Now, even if development does continue as they say, will it be slowed to a crawl? Working on multiple MMOs simultaneously has got to be a trying task, but Tanaka is confident that having been developing FFXI and FFXIV side-by-side for almost 4 years now, there should be no worries about maintaining a healthy pace for FFXI. Besides, with Director Nobuaki Komoto working on FFXIV, the development of FFXI should be unaffected.
So, with all this talk about FFXI and FFXIV conflicting with each other, how about some information on how they compare? Unfortunately, it is still too early to say much, but Tanaka is able to reveal that in terms of play style, the direction of each game will be different. The one real similarity between FFXI and FFXIV is that at the core, they are both true to the Final Fantasy name.
The Future of FFXI
I think we can all breath a sigh of relief about the future of FFXI at this point. Now that we know content is on the way for months (and years?) to come, let's take a look at what exactly we have in store!
First up, we have the July Version Update heading our way. In Japanese they refer to it as landing in ７月下旬 (shichi-gatsu ge-jyun), or the "bottom third" of July. At that time, we will finally be granted access to new areas in the Northlands. Wings of the Goddess is said to be heating up and getting ever-closer to the climactic conclusion! As for the core story line, Ogawa says that with this new update, we are about 2/3rds finished with the expansion.
This does not mean the end for Wings of the Goddess additions though. Ogawa states that they are looking into quest lines for some of the more popular Campaign NPCs starting with the Version Update after this one. Add on to this various additions and adjustments to existing areas and content and we can see there is still much to be done (and much to look forward to.)
Oh, and in a rather coy manner, Ogawa apologizes to those ever-patient Summoners, saying their long-awaited new Avatar is just around the corner... He could have at least said whether it was coming in this update or not!
One thing we can say for sure, is that Moogle Kupo d'Etat is confirmed for release with the next version update. Tanaka says they plan to pre-sell the add-on before the actual update as was done with A Crystalline Prophecy. In the meantime, Ogawa lets us know that while the volume of content is similar to the first add-on, they have been hard at work to make it much more fun for players. Ogawa laughs a bit telling everyone to expect a marked departure from what we have experienced so far and look forward to a more wild and wacky adventure.
A lot of players out there are probably more curious about the rewards, though. Ogawa indicates that the reward system will continue in the same fashion, utilizing the Tenshodo Treasure Box to dispense items and titles. The items themselves, however, will be different from the rewards in A Crystalline Prophecy.
A Crystalline Assessment
We have all seen some of the concerns and poor reviews A Crystalline Prophecy received, but when asked about the fan response to the add-on scenario, Tanaka reports that they were actually able to record sales that exceeded their expectations. The congestion and fierce competition collecting items was somewhat expected, but Ogawa laughs at how fast players were able to clear the full scenario despite these obstacles. Tanaka says that as paid content, they wanted everyone to be able to successfully complete the add-on, but in retrospect, admits there could have been a little more meat to the challenges. Still, the fact that many players are repeating content over and over for rewards is seen as a success, since they purposely planned it that way so users could get the most enjoyment for their money.
The final battlefield in A Crystalline Prophecy had an especially large amount of work put into it. The idea was to make a battle where more importantly than Jobs or Equipment, it is the players' judgement and decision-making skills that determine the difference between victory and defeat. This was the reasoning behind the enemy's extensive use of Charm. As Ogawa puts it, "No matter what job you are, if you fail to avoid Charm, you are Charmed, no excuses." After that, it's about being able to adapt and do what is necessary to win. The battle team spent long hours perfecting a final battle they could be proud of, and Ogawa is confident in the results.
More New Content, Online and Off
A Moogle Kupo d'Etat is on the way, and there is at least one more add-on scenario in the works. A collection disc with all three add-ons might be a nice idea in the future, but Tanaka is unable to say anything at this point. New add-ons will be available for download online, but there is still no news of what lies beyond the third planned add-on scenario. However, in what might come as a relief to some, Tanaka states that there are no plans to sell off smaller chunks of content on their own for money, such as paying for a new job or an item.
Released in April, Security Tokens were a big hit with players (or should I say the Mog Satchel was) and Tanaka apologizes for having them sell out so fast and inconveniencing users. He emphasizes the enhanced security provided by the one-time password system and hopes everyone will consider signing up once sales start again. Account issues are already on the decline, and the Square Enix Account system is planned to be used for FFXIV and other future Square Enix online content.
Coming into May, players were given a brand new quest involving Mog Tablets. While this was originally planned as a bonus for the 7th year anniversary, the developers saw no problem in letting it continue. They realize it can be tough to snatch up a tablet in the face of many competing players, so they hope that by letting the event continue on, all players can have a chance at success.
Getting back to the future, Tanaka indicates his hope for getting another Fan Festival off the ground this year. The idea is being discussed, and so far, he is optimistic. If worse comes to worst, Tanaka jokes, perhaps they will just meet both JP and NA players halfway and everyone will party in Hawaii.
As always, the developers are asked to give some final words for Final Fantasy XI players around the world:
Ogawa: Even with the release of Final Fantasy XIV, the development of Final Fantasy XI will continue unabated. We will continue to make adjustments and develop new content that will help players enjoy the game in fresh, new ways. Please look forward to it!
Tanaka: We are working hard on both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. I realize that [in the gaming world] all eyes are going to be on Final Fantasy XIV, but we know we have a version update and add-on scenario to deliver to the players. I hope you are looking forward to our continued support and development of Final Fantasy XI.