Game Entertainment conducted a "Key Person Interview" with key people Hiromichi Tanaka and Nobuaki Komoto. The interview revolved around their goals regarding their newest MMO, and the themes it is based on. They had a lot to say, so let's get right into it.
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-- Please tell us the theme of Final Fantasy XIV.
Komoto: For us, it was thinking, "What do Final Fantasy fans like?" The keyword we came up with was "growth." The most important aspects of role-playing are growing your character, getting new weapons, new abilities and opening the door to new stories and adventures. And that's what FFXIV is, a place to grow through meeting new people and attaining new abilities. There is also a brand new story to enjoy... you could say the theme of FFXIV is combining all these key RPG elements for the player.
-- Each title in the Final Fantasy series has its own unique world and special charm. What is unique about FFXIV?
Komoto: The world of FFXIV isn't just a straight fantasy world, but as you can see in the opening movie, incorporates some technological aspects as well. It still has that medieval feel, and it's designed to be a world where the characters and their adventures feel natural.
The two main points we built around were daily living and adventuring and giving the player the ability to enjoy either one. As for the story, our Scenario Writer experimented with many things not usually seen in online games. For example, there are a couple little riddles and some foreshadowing hidden in the opening movie if you take a close look. We would like to see players working together to progress the story so they don't spoil it by accident in coversation. There are many facets to the game world and secrets hidden in every nook and cranny.
-- You've prepared a number of races this time around, but do you see people flocking to any one in particular?
Komoto: The Lalafell, which are like TaruTaru from FFXI, seems to be pretty popular with everyone. We went through a little trial-and-error trying to get the height just right, and I think we settled on something good. (laughs)
Tanaka: We also have new tribes like Highlander and the Galka, now Roegadyn, are a much more "macho man" type of race. I like them a lot.
-- FFXI has been running 8 years now, which is a long time for an MMO. Are opnions and requests from FFXI going to be reflected in FFXIV?
Komoto: Thiking in terms of the version updates, we've always been listening and responding to the opnions of FFXI users. However, there are some specific requests or hardware-related issues that sometimes we just can't respond to. With FFXIV, we can address a lot more since we have been taking in feedback all through the beta process. We want to continue this rapport with the players up until the official release and beyond.
-- The basis of any RPG is the encounters, so what are the highlights of FFXIV battle system?
Komoto: During the Alpha, we got some criticism that battles had bad pacing, so now we've made it feel a little more like an action game. This doesn't mean you need to be good at action games to play, but rather the learning curve is much softer and once you get together with a party, the pace really picks up and everyone's roles start to come together. There's also a lot of freedom to it. If you want to fight a certain way, you can learn different abilities and set up a character that matches your particular style.
Tanaka: In FFXI, you have Auto-Battle and can chat freely, but this time we threw out that option and went with a system that focuses on pace and strategy. There are pros and cons to this type of system, but we think the majority of users are satisfied so far.
-- What stands out about the encounters in FFXIV?
Komoto: We want players to focus on how they engage a monster. In FFXI, you would just kill one after the other, but now there are party vs. party battles which demand players focus on tactics and strategy. This is just something I found funny, but there are monsters that will stare in your direction. So, you might think "What are you lookin' at?" and smack them only to find out they're ridiculously strong. (laughs) Even in regular battles you will find yourself in wrapped up in all sorts of situations. I think that's something people will really enjoy.
-- Are you aiming for a wider age range or looking to appeal better to both male and female players?
Tanaka: There are many players who don't have a lot of time, and we want to hear their opinions on how to make the game enjoyable. We want to build something where players won't be left behind by their friends if they can't play as much.
-- Is that what you're aiming for with the Guildleve system?
Komoto: The first objective of Guildleve is to make FFXIV accessible to new players -- anyone can jump right in and enjoy a solo adventure. The difiiculty is selectable and there are no requirements stopping low-level players. Players can even invite others to come along, and it's a great way to meet new adventurers.
Also, with most MMOs, once you start grinding experience points, it can be difficult to stop. Guildleves give you clear end points and help you manage your time better. This makes it especially easy for light users to budget time to play. Also, people can get drawn into difficult quests or ones with great rewards. The goal is to let people clearly plan out what they want to do each day.
-- What system have you prepared in terms of communication online?
Komoto: There are many dicussions going on about Guildleve, and there is one suggestion that people be able to enter an instanced area where they are invisible to other players and cannot be bothered by them. However, having many people playing together in the same world is an important part of the game, so we decided to keep everyone interacting in the same field areas. Still, we are thinking of ways to keep users from griefing each other.
If players are at a checkpoint after completing their Guildleve, we would like them to be able to wave a greeting to an incoming party and maintain that multiplayer atmosphere. We feel that it is very important to preserve that warm feeling of sharing a game world with many other players. We also want to devise tools, akin to the Linkshell, which allow players to communicate during Guildleve and form parties with ease.
Tanaka: For FFXIV, we also have ways to communicate outside the game. With the Player Site, users can stay in contact with each other even when not in-game.
-- It seems like there are opportunities to just sit back and chat then.
Tanaka: Yes, that's right.
Komoto: We've also increased the ability to express oneself through the wide range of emotes.
-- Through all the new experiences the Final Fantasy series gives us, there is always that certain "something" that is common to them all. What is new to FFXIV, and how does it retain that Final Fantasy feel?
Komoto: As I mentioned earlier, that Final Fantasy "feel" is about growing and uncovering a new story. That is what we want users to enjoy the most. For FFXI, being an online game was enough to make it new, but this time we're focusing on Guildleves to allow players with less time to fully enjoy the game and community sites to promote communication. This will be a Final Fantasy that adapts to the lifestyle of its players.
Tanaka: I'm always asked "what makes a Final Fantasy?" but even we don't have a definitive answer. However, there is a unique flavor that permeates each title -- it's just hard to put into words. It could be the colors, the atmosphere or the elemental system. Also, there is Aetheryte, which exists as the Crystal of this title.
-- In FFXI, expansions and other additional content kept the game evolving. What kind of plan do you have regarding the life of FFXIV?
Komoto: As far as a plan, we have the next two years mapped out, and a ton of ideas stored up beyond that. We have more and more things we want to try, but we have to also have to examine how users play the game. The ideal would be to combine our ideas with what the users want and deliver something good for everyone.
-- Unlike FFXI, now you are hearing opinions from mostly beginners.
Komoto: Those kinds of opinions are very important to us. Before we would only get demands from heavy users, but with FFXIV, there are many more light users, and we want to hear their concerns directly. Since we're already pretty knowledgable about online games, it's important to have some back and forth with those who aren't.
Tanaka: In FFXI, when I have the time, I like to go in-game as a player and check out what people are saying. (laughs)
-- Lastly, do you have a message for those people thinking of purchasing the game?
Komoto: People looking to have fun with the game just need to take a spin through the character creator. Final Fantasy is associated with having a preset character that you take through a story. With FFXIV, you can freely make any kind of character you wish, and this should help even beginners ease themselves into the game world. In addition, you can make a wide variety of characters and start them out in different places, experiencing the story in different ways. We've also included many tutorials to give beginners peace of mind and allow them to enjoy the game and its story.
Tanaka: There are many people who play an MMORPG for the first time and are a little shy and guarded. I say take that first step and try talking to people. An online RPG is different from the standard RPG in that it's a place to meet new people and make new friends. I think that's an amazing experience, and I know if you summon the courage to reach out to others, a wonderful new world will open up before you.