As the buzz continues to grow around Final Fantasy XIV, Producer Hiromichi Tanaka is also increasingly finding himself the center of attention. In this week's Famitsu, he was part of a feature on the 20 Most Anticipated Games & Game Creators of 2010. Tanaka has been a part of Square Enix since 1983, but is now coming into the spotlight thanks to his work producing Final Fantasy XI, and of course, the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV.
In this interview he gives his opinions on the state and direction of the gaming industry and elaborates a little on plans for the Final Fantasy XIV beta test.
Also, as each creator who was interviewed did, Tanaka also showed off his (dare I say, mad) calligraphy skills. He referenced the release of a brand new online world with 新天地 (shin-ten-chi) "new world", and wrote "Eorzea" in hiragana: えおるぜあ. Don't forget that registered symbol!
Read on for the interview and discuss this in the ZAM forums!
- How did 2009 treat you?
Tanaka: I've been producing the same online game since 2000, so the years generally follow the same cycle. Honestly, I was just working away to the point where I couldn't really feel the passage of time. (laughs) We put together presentations on Final Fantasy XIV, and of course were actively keeping Final Fantasy XI going as well. So just like the year 2000, it was a marathon. Still, if I were to say how much of my mind was occupied by either XI or XIV, I would say XIV became increasingly important as the year went on.
- How do you feel about the gaming industry as a whole?
Tanaka: Personally, I think 2009 was the year that really brought iPod Touch and iPhone gaming to the forefront. There was an explosion of applications, including games, and what was essentially a multimedia device suddenly had a rush of new and interesting software. Services like Twitter have also become commonplace, changing the way we spread information, which I think will continue to expand this year.
In Japan, for the most part, cell phones are cell phones, and we use Nintendo DS or PSP for portable gaming. But now, if more killer titles begin to appear on the iPod Touch or iPhone, they could really start making waves in the industry. Although the CPU and memory capabilities of these devices lose out to dedicated gaming handhelds, the potential is there for iPod Touch and iPhone to become serious portable gaming systems. As for the rumored tablet, it's probably doubtful it will focus on being a gaming device, which would undermine some of the concept behind the iPod Touch line.
Either way, I have my Docomo phone. (laughs)
- What are you expecting from 2010?
Tanaka: We are going to start service for Final Fantasy XIV, which we have been working on for several years now. We don't have an official announcement yet, but we are certain the game will be ready for all users to enjoy. First, we want to get the beta test rolling.
- What kind of time frame are you thinking of for the beta test?
Tanaka: We don't intend to set a specific time frame for the test, but if we begin too close to a finished product, we cannot apply the opinions and reactions of the users. Therefore, we want to let users try out the game in its unfinished state, and from there we will take in user feedback and gradually build together towards a final version. However, we have to avoid making it too much trial-and-error, or it would be more of a development process than a beta test, which could pose problems. For instance, the servers would need to be shut down for days at a time while the developers work on the game, and I think it would be difficult to run a smooth beta test. I can't really say anything definitive about the length of the beta test at this time.
- Where do you see the gaming industry moving this year?
Tanaka: I see the birth of more unique interfaces and technology such as Project Natal. For XIV, we're worrying whether or not we can implement voice chat. Like XI, it will run across multiple platforms, and there isn't a single, unifying way to support them all. Not to mention, we have many other communications issues to confront, such as communities being splintered by system, player harassment and translation features. At the moment, supporting voice chat will be difficult.
- Tell our readers your ambitions for 2010!
Tanaka: I'm working hard to begin service for Final Fantasy XIV, and I hope to see you all in Eorzea! And of course, there is Final Fantasy XI, which I have been so proud to be a part of for 8 years now. Things are going to be heating up again this year, so I'll see you back in Vana'diel too!