Dengeki Online has posted a new interview with Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Global Online Producer Sage Sundi. I imagine these guys must be really tired by now.
Check out what they had to say and discuss this article in the ZAM forums.
Worldwide Release, Multi-lingual Support
From reports all over the web, we have seen that players enjoyed the taste of Final Fantasy XIV they got at Gamescom. However, Sundi reveals that it really came down to the wire when getting a playable demonstration ready. As a whole, the game is about 40-50% complete, but the developers were set on having an alpha build that attendees could get their hands on. The German version was presented at Gamescom, but Tanaka assures us that the final product will see a simultaneous release in all four languages they plan to support. All versions are progressing along at the same time.
To help these different languages coexist, there will be another Auto-Translate Function included in the game. Tanaka says they are thinking of including something that is basically simiiar to what Final Fantasy XI, but improved upon. However, it is uncertain how they will expand upon the concept yet keep it simple at the same time. "If we add too many functions and it becomes complicated," says Tanaka, "then it loses its purpose."
A New Battle System
Again, the greatest difference from Final Fantasy XI is said to be the lack of auto-attack. The player must draw their weapon and then select their actions from the Action Menu at the bottom of the screen. These abilities can also be set to correspond with the number keys on the keyboard. Each weapon will have its own abilities the player can acquire by raising their skill in that weapon. When you switch weapons, the Action Menu also changes to reflect the abilities acquired with your new weapon. Although the alpha build lacked the hot-key functionality, the final game will allow players to bind commands and create full macros as well.
In Final Fantasy XIV, characters will no longer have experience points or levels. Instead, skill level will be used to determine how "strong" someone is in a particular class. For example, the higher you raise sword skill, the stronger your attack power with a sword becomes. Also, as you increase your skill you will acquire new skills and techniques. This was designed to avoid the problems faced by parties with a level gap in Final Fantasy XI. At first, they planned to go along with the usual level system, but decided to find a way around the difficulties it could pose, ending up with a skill-based system of progression.
There will be a cap imposed, but it is still being worked on. They say it is not something you can reach in a few days, but it will not be as brutal as Final Fantasy XI.
Guildleve : Skill-Ups, Treasure and HNMs
At Gamescom, there were three different Guildleve quests available that took around 30 minutes each to complete. However, Tanaka plans to add so many quests to the game that players should never run out of choices. There will be Guildleve quests that reward gil, others that reward items and many class-specific quests as well, such as a Gladiator Guildleve that awards sword skill. Players can either increase their weapon prowess through battle with monsters, or opt to gain some quick skill points through completing a quest.
Crafting classes, such as Weaver and Blacksmith can also benefit greatly from the Guildleve system. By completing quests, players can reach a "high level" within these professions and not have to engage in a single battle. In other words, playing a crafting class full-time is one way to adventure throughout Eorzea. Tanaka states that one of the concepts behind Final Fantasy XIV is that if a player so chooses, they can lead a quiet life as a crafter - players are no longer bound to relentless grinding against enemies.
However, there will be some things a Blacksmith simply cannot do, and if you wish to travel to the deepest, darkest recesses of a dungeon, you may need some front line jobs to back you up. This is where the weapon durability system comes in. While crafters need tough fighting jobs to help them, those same fighters need Blacksmiths to repair their weapons. In this way, the disciplines are interdependent, adding an interesting new layer to the game and perhaps giving new purpose to the weapon durability system. In Final Fantasy XIV, crafting is a job just as much as Warrior or Sorcerer is.
Aehteryte will be used in conjunction with Guildleve to transport players where they need to go. Depending on the land, the Aetheryte and Guildleve start locations may change. Also, there may be times when you cannot take on more quests until you finish ones you already have. In Final Fantasy XI, a lot of time is spent in town, but Final Fantasy XIV will utilize Aetheryte to allow players to travel easier, so it is thought these locations may end up being the central hubs of activity.
Besides Puk Exterminating, at which Tanaka proved to be so adept, there will be free-roaming monsters across the lands of Eorzea. Final Fantasy XIV will pull well-known monsters from throughout the Final Fantasy series. We have already seen pictures of a Cactuar and Ahriman, to name a few. Although not confirmed, Tanaka says there is the distinct possibility Notorious Monsters will make it into the game, bringing with them rare item drops. High Notorious Monsters, however, are planned to be included in the Guildleve system. There will be a number of quests designed to function as large-scale battle content, where players must gather strong parties in order to take down the required foe. The developers provide a very relieved follow up, saying that outside players or other parties cannot attack monsters involved with your current Guildleve quest. This should be great news to any veteran of the HNM scene.
Something Old, Something New
The trade system will be back in Final Fantasy XIV, but for large-scale commerce, the developers are looking to create something new and different from the Auction House system. Sundi expresses their intent to keep Final Fantasy XIV somewhat familiar to adventurers of Vana'diel, but at the same time really show players how they can enjoy the game in new ways.
Another thing that appears to be similar is they plan to offer a choice of only three starting zones: The Port City Limsa Lominsa, The Desert City Ul'dah and Gridania, the City in the Forest. There will be storylines for each of these city-states that players can follow. In fact, veteran scenario writer 佐藤弥詠子 (Sato Yaeko) will be returning to pen these stories. Sato was the mind behind Windurst's mission line in Final Fanatsy XI.
Voice acting will also be included in Final Fantasy XIV for cut scenes. At this time, they plan to have English voices for all versions of the game, but provide subtitles for different languages. There will be a lot of unique and interesting NPCs for players to enjoy, and Tanaka encourages all players to look forward to all the interesting personalities they will meet throughout the land of Eorzea.
What's my Motivation?
The developers restate that the major concept behind the game is "growth" - the freedom to grow your character in any way you choose and the chance to enjoy the process instead of sink into a routine of endless grinding. For players who seek shiny loot, the amount and variety of equipment is set to be increased by leaps and bounds above Final Fantasy XI. There will also be unique pieces of equipment obtainable through participation in special events. Perhaps this is hinting at something akin to holiday events or special BCs?
Since levels are out the window, gear will now be equippable based on skill. When you switch your weapon, your skill in that weapon, as well as your class, will determine what equipment you can wear. For those looking for some light action and plan to change classes a lot, there will also be some generic gear available that is wearable by all classes.
Beta Testing and GMs
The developers (and every fan since E3) want to initiate a beta test soon, but Tanaka admits that things on their end just are not quite ready yet. Before a full-on beta test, they want to create more "developer versions" like they featured at Gamescom in order to let players try out different sections of the game system. As an example, Tanaka says players tried Guildleve this time, but maybe next time would focus on the battle system more heavily. After that, they would consider opening up a beta that included the game as a whole. This is what they meant when they expressed their intention to have a prolonged beta process. They are going to use the time between now and release to really examine and test all aspects of the game.
As for GMs, Sundi says there are no plans to recruit GMs for the closed beta, but once the open beta gets going, they will consider hiring some. It would be tough to throw people with no GM experience into an incomplete game, so in the early stages they will pull from their Final Fanatsy XI GM pool.
In addition, the Special Task Force is going to expand and cover illegal game-play issues in Final Fantasy XIV. Policies regarding third-party tools will be reviewed and changed as needed. They hope to make full use of the Square Enix ID and Security Token system that was established this year.
Tanaka: "At Gamescom we wanted to focus on Guildleve and finally show the basics of the Amoury System. This is set to become the core of Final Fantasy XIV's game-play, so with Gamescom serving as the starting point, we will be able to receive user feedback and improve upon the game."
Sundi: "The areas I am in charge of are still under development, but we are examining ways to build a strong, new community through active collaboration with fan-sites and overseas Premier Sites. Putting out information from the development team and coordinating with fansites and blogs will be my top priority."
Source: Dengeki Online