The Tokyo Game Show has come and gone and many Final Fantasy XIV fans are disappointed by the lack of information. We knew from the start that Final Fantasy XIII was going to be the big focus, but browsing the forums reveals a lot of hopeful players that left wanting more. We did receive a few things, however, that may hide more information than it appears at first glance.
Reports indicate that FFXIV Producer Hiromichi Tanaka crept, ninja-like, through Makuhari Messe on the first public day of the show. He was caught by a Japanese fansite and confirmed that the upcoming MMO will support Windows 7, as well as 64-bit Windows systems. It does not appear there were any official interviews conducted with any staff from FFXI or FFXIV.
There is also a new Japanese magazine on the shelves - Dengeki Games. In their premier issue, they ran a feature on FFXIV news thus far, reviewing everything we know up to this point. Dengeki Playstation has always dedicated space to FFXI, and have had their fair share of exclusive interviews. I will be sure to keep an eye on them as we progress towards a beta.
I spent the better half of last week covering the show, and I hope you enjoyed some of the pictures and videos that were uploaded. In a way, though, ZAM readers were let down because there just was not any FFXIV news to report. Well, it's time to fix that. For this week, I locked myself in the Orastery to take a hard look at the new and old, mix in my own take on things, and see if we cannot get a better grasp of what lies in store for us within the wondrous land of Eorzea.
First up, the brand new Tokyo Game Show trailer! I downloaded the HD version from the PSN store and threw it up on a 42" LCD. Let's see what secrets it might hold before I burn out my retinae staring at it. Why did they bother to put together an entirely new trailer? Tanaka once said the E3 trailer contained some hidden message, so let's take him at his word and really examine this new one. It seems to be a confirmation of some game aspects they have described in the past, as well as a few hints at some new ones. I'm just going to throw out any little thing that catches my eye and let you guys speculate your hearts out.
Speaking of which, click here to discuss this in the ZAM forums.
Right from the start, there is trail of blue light that bursts into sparkles revealing something that may be of interest to those creative cartographers out there. Eorzea is 遥か西方に "far to the West," 五つの海を越えた "beyond the five seas." The narrative continues to describe how people from around the world have migrated to Eorzea, which almost sounds like some kind of "Promised Land" that is "loved by the gods." The English version goes into further detail about these gods, saying "the Twelve" hold vigil over Eorzea. In FFXI, there is Promathia, the Twilight God and Altana, the Goddess of Dawn. There are also Celestial Avatars, which are referred to as 眠れる神々 "sleeping gods." Eorzea is special in the world of Hydaelyn because it is a magical land full of crystals. These most notably take the form of Aetheryte, but could they also be strongly connected with summonable creatures as in FFXI?
Summons commonly are tied in very closely with the story, and often with the crystals themselves as well. FFVI had Espers and Magicite, FFIX had Eidolons acquired through various gemstones, FFX had the Fayth resting within a crystal chamber, FFXI of course had Avatars sleeping within Protocrystals, and FFXIII even links Eiodolons to characters through the use of magical stones. The Twelve watch over Eorzea, a land noted for its strong connection to crystals, so perhaps the pattern will continue.
In the opening scene, we see two people prominently featured in the foreground having a chat. One is seen from the front, and another from the back. I believe this may be a clever way to show off a complete outfit. Looking at the patterns, it is easy to see the styles are the same on both men. We also know that crafters will be able to customize the color of the gear they produce. I think this shot here is a confirmation that fact, clearly showing two identical outfits with different color schemes. Another thing it shows is a difference in skin color. A wider variety of skin pigments would definitely be a welcome addition to this MMO. Hopefully, they will pay attention to more than just colors and consider facial features and structure so it doesn't just look like a palette-swapped white guy. Also, let's not have a repeat of this, Square Enix.
A lot of the human-like characters in this scene seem to have this same design on their arms. These people also have the same outfit: short sleeves and buckled on gloves with chain mail running underneath. The very first man on the left especially has clothes reminiscent of standard Hume wear from FFXI. It seems to confirm that this is a "generic" style of clothing for the Hyur. Perhaps the patch design is unique to this guild or city? The crest on the back of the Lallafel's coat may be an identifier of some sort as well.
There are two more things that strike me about this scene. First is, what is up with that guy's shoes? It is almost like he is standing on some special pads. His foot his positioned so you can clearly view it from the side, and when the camera pans by, he wiggles it a bit as if to signal to the viewer. Perhaps you can bind accessories to pieces of equipment to enhance them? Or maybe it's just the type of shoe. Also, before the scene fades, a man slowly walks by in front of the camera. Until now, he was just standing in the background looking down at the two men chatting. It is very deliberate, but as far as I can figure, it is just showing off the fine detail on the armor.
The next scene shows a boat heading towards the Eorzean shore. Sea travel is something that has been shown several times, so it is probably safe to assume it will be available in the game. Once thing that seems odd is that the boat appears to be propelled by rowing. When they have shown airships, they have been propelled by little wings flapping - another fantastical, almost Dr. Suessian mode of transportation. Tanaka has said that Eorzea will be a high-fantasy that combines a traditional setting with advanced technology. Perhaps this style of creating hi-tech devices powered in low-tech ways will help them to add a fair amount of technology while maintaining the fantasy and avoiding a "science-fiction" feel.
Now we enter other gathering place, this time around Aetheryte. Some people have noted that they recognize this area from an old Rapture demo. Here, we see a male Hyur greeting a female Elezen. Also, the script speaks of forming friendships. This reinforcers the developers' idea that Aetheryte will be used as a gathering place to form parties and start adventures with your comrades.
As the camera zooms out, two people walk extremely close to the screen. One is wearing an orange shirt and has a shiny belt buckle. The other one seems to swing his hand up at just the right moment to reveal - green skin?! As Shrek passes, a Mithra pops out with brown skin like the man in the earlier scene. You can see her clothes are fairly similar to the man in the background, who is now departing with his Elezen friend. In addition, the pattern on the bottom of his shirt is similar to the man in the center of the screen, but a different color.
I believe one point that the FFXIV is trying to drill in with these guild scenes is the great variety they are going to afford the player in customizing their character. They clearly show people of various common skin types, and prominently display similar outfits that vary in color.
The screen fades out and back in, and now we pan swiftly through a dining hall. One thing that become clear quickly is that everyone seems to have a pouch, or backpack or utility belt of some kind. Bags are literally everywhere. Could this be a hint at the inventory system? In one interview, the developers for FFXI expressed interest in making it so players could have a "White Mage bag" or "Warrior bag" that could be accessed like the Mog Stachel and contain equipment specific to that job. Unfortunately, technological limitations have rendered that dream all but impossible. Since the FFXIV developers have said they are expanded on quality concepts from FFXI, such as the Job System, it could be possible they have something in mind for improving the management of inventory. The Armoury system relies so heavily on fast class changes on the fly, it will be imperative to have a non-confining inventory system to accommodate versatile players. How they will accomplish this is anyone's guess, but I think the developers are telling us here that they have something up their sleeve.
These pointy objects were placed right next to the arrows on the right and it's easy to tell they are much bigger. Could they be spears? It wouldn't be Final Fantasy without a Dragoon or Lancer of some sort. Also, that Lallafel has a pretty sweet hat, and the look on his face says he knows it.
Down here, we can see our green friend again. Perhaps some colors will be limited to certain races. The developers have stated that while stat differences will not be so great, there will be some things unique to each race. I believe this Roegadyn is the only green person in the trailer, since the guy who passed by before was too close to tell his race. Also, again we see two people with large backpacks that clearly have weapons and armor attached.
Some people have confused this part for a card game, but I believe it is just a visual representation of the Guildleve system. Having just panned through a guild-like area, this would be in line with comments that Guildleves would be obtainable at guilds in the city. Behind the Roegadyn, one can also see what appears to be a card catalog of Guildleves, with a ladder present to reach drawers that are higher up. Tanaka has stated that there will be such a large variety of Guildleves that players should never run out of options. Seeing that veritable library of quests behind the desk here would certainly back up that statement. A closer look at the Roegadyn also reveals some kind of symbol on his forehead. Could this denote him as the manager of Guildleves, or be something available to players as part of avatar customization?
In the next scene, we are suddenly outside. A Roegadyn shakes his head and begins to approach a Miqo'te who seems very tired or was dozing. The Roegadyn does not seem to have any reason to shake his head, and does not even directly acknowledge her even though she is the only one in sight. It is possible he just teleported in using Aetheryte and was shaking off the effects of the journey. It has been stated that Aetheryte can take a toll on an adventurer's body, especially from overuse.
The Miqo'te look up upon the arrival of a new adventurer as he looks towards the sky. She then turns to look up as well, and is bathed in this golden-red light. An earlier trailer mentioned a "crimson shadow" that veils the land of Eorzea. It almost sounds like it is some evil force that will have a part in the story. Also, this scene, and the entrance of this light, comes right at the turning point of the trailer, where the theme moves from forging friendships to battling against newfound peril. Could the appearance of this "shadow" be a regular event that affects gameplay in some manner? The titles after this scene are whisked in with the same reddish-gold light instead of the calming blue used before, so whatever these two travelers saw clearly has some role to play.
As the mood shifts, two things are prominently displayed: a Guildleve card and the Aetheryte. As the man holds a leve up, a blue light bursts forth and the camera zooms in towards the glowing Aetheryte in the background. Instantly, we are flying over the land of Eorzea with a trail of blue smoke. This appears to be a representation of travel through the use of Aetheryte. However, what was once touted as the root of friendship and camaraderie now appears to have a sinister side. This, coupled with the crimson shadow, reminds me of FFVIII, where the "Crystal Pillar" would trigger a Lunar Cry, which was when monsters gathered into a crimson mass and fell from the moon. Seeing as how the red light of the sky and blue flash from the Aetheryte bring us right into a battle, I believe they are all connected in some way.
Speaking of which, we now find ourselves in that same dark and stormy night and on that same large rickety boat being besieged by those same evil purple jellyfish. This is what the Japanese would call しつこい, or an irritating level of persistence. The developers must be trying to tell us something here. In both trailers, we have an obvious party vs. party melee going on. Perhaps this would indicate that FFXIV will allow for more manageable battles done en masse.
The fight only lasts mere seconds, but we can see a few things. First, everyone is doing something different instead of ganging up on one monster. In many situations in FFXI, if you don't set up macros to follow the leader, everyone is toast pretty quickly. FFXIV will have a battle system wherein you deliberately select each action instead of just auto-attacking. This could allow players to freely hop from target to target, picking out the best one for the situation - like if a nearby ally needs some assistance. In the background, we can faintly see another member standing away from the battle. This might be a magic-user who has positioned himself to attack from afar. The developers have said that battle positioning will play an important role, adding to the variety of strategies you can use. Of course, he could just as easily be an evil warlock calling these creatures from the sea to eliminate the adventurers.
One of my favorite things in current-gen RPGs is massive monsters. Since this is all CG, I doubt the in-game Malboro will have nearly as much detail to it, but let's hope they aren't completely overhyping how epic some of the creatures you face might be. When the monsters were presented in Famitsu, the columnist wondered how potent the Bad Breath might be this time around. If you watch closely, you can see green smoke leaking out as the Malboro rears back, and a sac under it's maw puffs up. Smoke then starts to burst out as it brings its head back forward. The camera cuts away before the attack fully unleashes, but I think we just saw a glimpse of Bad Breath.
OK, here's another logical long-jump, but bear with me. The camera cuts to directly in front of the Elezen woman, as she blocks something with her shield. Behind her is some kind of shiny pillar. Now, if you go frame by frame here, you can see what appears to be an arrow fly in and pierce it. Seeing as she was locked in combat with a Malboro, this could perhaps be one of his tentacles that lashed out to attack her. Again, going back to the developers' focus on strategy and positioning, could larger monsters have sections that can be attacked individually? For example, perhaps part of the strategy when fighting a Malboro is to attack the major tentacles, disabling certain techniques. As a side note, when shooting the frames, the Elezen woman's face kept activating my digital camera's facial recognition function.
Next we see the man who has become somewhat iconic since the last trailer. This time, we can clearly see a scar on his forehead and some arrows strapped to his back. His armor also has various scratches as well. Although this is CG, it could indicate the effects of durability on armor, and maybe damage on the body. While characters will not age, it has been stated that changing hairstyles will be allowed. If that is true, what about added scratches or scars after a certain total amount of damage is taken? FFXI always measured KOs, so with the customization planned for FFXIV, I wonder if data like KOs or damage received will play into that.
The final two shots seem to indicate naval and arial battles being included in FFXIV. The arial battle in particular looks particularly epic, with a variety of overly-complicated machines and some dragons skirmishing in the skies. Again, the skies are that reddish-gold tint that previously enveloped a that Miqo'te at the turning point of this trailer. An absolutely massive construct begins to descend from the heavens, and looking at the whole scene, I cannot help but think "final dungeon" - like Kefka's tower in the World of Ruin of FFVI or his final boss form - just something tied to the core of the "peril" players will face. The quick change from the bright blue sky and sea to the cloudy, sunburnt backdrop of the dogfight makes it seem like there will be periods of time, similar to weather effects or moon phases or night and day, where some evil force makes itself known throughout Eorzea.
What a terrible night to have a curse.