As Gamescom comes to a close, 4Gamer was able to secure a block of time with Final Fantasy XIV producers Hiromichi Tanaka and Sage Sundi. Previously, Tanaka took staff from Famitsu through a tour of the demo provided to attendees at the convention. 4Gamer, however, spent their time prying out details regarding the game itself.
Read on full the full interview and discuss this in the ZAM forums.
Learning from Final Fantasy XI
Surf to any Final Fantasy XI forum, and you will see players making comparisons between XI and XIV. How will Final Fantasy XIV be different? Will Square Enix address common concerns from XI? Have the developers learned from any mistakes they may have made?
Tanaka admits that one thing they learned was how technology advances over the life of an MMO. When they first began development, single-processor CPUs were the norm, but soon after release, multi-core processors grew to become the standard. With Final Fantasy XIV, they are thinking five years ahead and plan to include support for multi-core and mutl-threading technology from the start.
Beyond PC technology however, the most crucial point for the developers is the server. Since they are creating an MMO, the client's machine is irrelevant if the server cannot deliver the information. A station can broadcast to a black and white TV or a color TV, but if the signal does not get out, then everyone loses. This is why Tanaka is adamant about creating a stable game server, which he says is the most difficult part of the process.
Another issue that plagues fan forums is whether Final Fantasy XI is going to continue or die. Even if it continues, will it be actively supported with Tanaka and co. focused elsewhere? As it turns out, there are separate areas within the offices of Square Enix for the respective development teams. The work will not be combined, but rather each will be developed as a separate entity.
Tanaka also gives an amusing look into the part he played creating Final Fantasy XI. "When making FFXI," Tanaka admits, "I felt it was faster to do things myself rather than take the time to explain what I wanted." This led to him designing some of the fonts and user interface himself. In Final Fantasy XIV, however, he will be taking a much more hands-off approach, allowing the team to do the bulk of the work. "Sometimes you have to stand back and let the younger guys take control," Tanaka jokes. "If I don't allow them that much, they can't become the next generation of great developers."
Billing Systems and Item Selling
There was a brief mention of billing practices at E3, and the interviewer tries to press Tanaka for more information. He states they wish to use an "Anniversary Billing" system, which means players will pay a certain amount of money to play for a period of time. In other words, X dollars a month, like in Final Fantasy XI; or X dollars for 30 days, which Tanaka expressed interest in at E3. As always, the developers oppose the use of micro-transactions to make items sellable. They feel by allowing players to purchase everything they want, they would rack up larger bills, but quit the game faster for lack of anything to strive for. The developers would rather players find lasting enjoyment in the game itself, instead of make a mad dash for treasure and quit soon after.
However, Sundi interjects saying not to rule out optional services altogether. For example, they may want to add server transfers or other options for players to purchase. There is no elaboration on what else they have in mind, but they will be considering what to offer.
How Everything Works
Thankfully, the interviewer begins to delve into the details of what Tanaka displayed earlier during his Puk hunting and find out exactly how one manipulates their character. According to Sundi, you perform an action by selecting from the "Action Menu" along the bottom of the screen that appears once you target an enemy. The more you use a weapon, the greater your prowess grows, and thus, the more skills you learn to utilize with that weapon. You then set these abilities in the Action Menu and activate them during battle. Changing your weapon will also change what is displayed in your Action Menu. For example, equipping a staff will present your magic-based Action Menu. Also, multiple abilities you wish to perform in sequence can also be registered as macros.
In order for the character to perform commands specified by the player, one must first store up the Action Gauge. If you select a command before the gauge is ready, it will activate once the gauge fills up. There is also a Power Gauge, which can increase the strength and accuracy of one's techniques. The interviewer notes that even with the absence of Auto-Attack, the player could simply use the most powerful skill over and over again. However, Tanaka reveals that repetitive usage of one skill will cause the monster to start seeing through your actions, and it will become harder to land your attack. In other words, employing a variety of tactics is the best way to defeat a monster.
The main goal behind the battle system was to allow freedom of playstyle. Players can easily go solo, as demonstrated by the demo, or they can join up with a number of friends. In Final Fantasy XI, one had to return to their Mog House in order to switch jobs, but players in Eorzea can do it anywhere they please. However, Tanaka warns that swapping weapons during battle is not allowed, so there are some minor limitations.
Another reason they are focusing on solo play is to encourage players to explore all the variety put into the game. If players were forced into parties all the time, they would most likely stick with one weapon and master that. However, when adventuring solo or with small groups, players need to acquire a number of different skills and abilities to be able to survive. The developers hope this will create a rich variety of players and really make each character unique. However, Tanaka admits that growth can come slowly if one focuses solely on adventuring alone. Grabbing a party and working together will help your character improve faster. So, there are positives and negatives to both, which is exactly how they like it.
Content That Keeps on Giving
Guildleve, which was demonstrated at Gamescom, will become the core activity of Final Fantasy XIV, according to Tanaka. It's greatest merit is that you can enjoy it over and over again. Up until now, players would progress through a series of quests or missions, effectively "consuming" these activities until there was nothing left to do. However, Guildleve will allow players to repeat similar quests to their heart's content.
The developers will also be looking at how players use the system, Tanaka says. In Final Fantasy XI, the users would sometimes inject their playstyle into the game and the system would bend and shape into something new and unexpected. Tanaka hopes to see this kind of ingenuity once again, and says the developers may be able to improve the game based on how the players enjoy it.
As the heart of Final Fantasy XIV, Guildleve will come in many different shapes and forms. The type of Guildleve one can accept will change based on the character. Also, new types of Guildleve will continuously be added through version updates. Tanaka promises that the development team is working hard to create a wealth of content in this area. There will be quests that take less than 30 minutes to complete, all the way up to epic missions that span a couple days. Guildleve is all about customizing the game to one's own style.
When asked for more specific information on the actual quests, Tanaka is unable to divulge too much more. However, he explains more about the system, saying that there is an upper limit to the number of Guildleve one player can acquire at a time. If you want to play beyond that, you may have to help other people with their Guildleves. Sundi explains that players can freely aid each other on quests, even if one player does not possess the particular Guildleve being fulfilled.
Races and Faces
While rumored Gria sightings have been squashed, fans are still wondering if new playable races are going to pop up anytime soon. Unfortunately, Tanaka's response to this is to sidestep and instead boast the merits of the character creation system. Players will be able to craft their avatars in more detail than ever before, with skin, eyes, hair-style and face being adjustable. There will also be factions within each race from which to choose, possibly the ones mentioned in descriptions on the official site. For example, a Miqo'te could belong to the Seekers of the Sun or Keepers of the Moon. While this change does not have an impact on the story, Tanaka indicates they may add more aspects to the game that further differentiate the factions.
When creating a new character, players will be able to freely select their starting location as well. While Final Fantasy XI offered special rings depending on your hometown, Tanaka expresses interest in giving everyone a completely level playing field this time around. The point is to allow everyone to start fresh and not influence their choice of race, hometown, or what path they may wish to take with the growth of their character. To this end, there will also be no significant differences between the races. All races can learn the same skills and abilities, but there may be other slight nuances to make them unique.
Hearing that the developers are striving for equality, the interviewer wonders if this will make PvP a reality in the world of Eorzea. However, Tanaka quickly states that PvE will be the focus of the game. If PvP elements are ever added, they will be in the form of sports and games, like Final Fantasy XI. It was decided very early on that PvP would not be added, and it does not appear the developers are going to waver from this.
As 4Gamer starts running out of time, they briefly touch on the camera perspective. Players at Gamescom got to try the demo in the 3rd-person perspective from behind the character, and Tanaka indicates they are looking at having a "third-person shooter" style shoulder camera and a first-person camera. The interviewer appears surprised to see the shoulder-cam make it into an MMO, but Tanaka explains that they have heard complaints about the camera positioned behind the character making it difficult to see what is in front of you.
Finally, Tanaka closes the interview by expressing how pleased he was to be able to meet so many fans and gather so many opinions on their work already and hopes to have more chances to do so in the future.