Attending the first offline FFXIV event
Now that all those boring game facts are out of the way, we can discuss Eorzea Prelive -- the event! Part 2 of our Eorzea Prelive coverage explores the journey, the set up and a behind-the-scenes look at the extravaganza itself.
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Eorzea PreLive was held in Yebisu Garden Place, located in Yebisu, which is itself located in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo. To cite Wikipedia:
Ebisu was founded around 1928 as a community developed around the Japan Beer Brewery Company facilities where Yebisu Garden Place now stands. Yebisu Beer, named for Ebisu, one of the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune, was introduced in 1890 by Japan Beer and has long been a local favorite. The area adopted its name from the train station built in 1901 by the company to facilitate distribution of its beer. Japan Beer has since reorganized and was renamed Sapporo Breweries Ltd. After the breweries were moved to Chiba in 1988, the area was redeveloped as the Yebisu Garden Place, which opened to the public in 1994.
**Quick note: For the town and its locations, I'm going to use the traditional spelling, "Yebisu" as it was the spelling used on all the signs, buildings, etc.
As mentioned above, Ebisu is one of the 七福神 (shichi-fuku-jin) Seven Gods of Fortune. Ebisu brings fortune to fishers and merchants, which makes this town an appropriate location for launching a new game, especially one in which Square Enix is so invested. On a coincidental note, the timing works well too. In Japan, days are given one of six rankings based on how lucky they are -- sort of like a daily horoscope that applies to everyone. Nowadays, it is somewhat of an archaic notion, mostly referenced when planning weddings or funerals. Still, this ranking is listed on some calendars or daily planners you can purchase. One of my more superstitious clients actually ran white out through the entirety of his planner just so he did not have to always be worrying how unlucky a day might be.
The day on which this event was held (the 14th) was 友引 (tomo-biki) a day of trials. It's a day where friends come together to get through hardships, with the evening being an especially fortuitous time. This seems to have worked out well, as the developers really pulled off a great initial event for their new MMO, and already forums are reflecting a renewed excitement about the game. Then again, the Collector's Edition releases on the 22nd, which this month is 仏滅 (butsu-metsu), the unluckiest day of them all. So what do I know...
Yebisu Garden Place feels almost like a theme park. Everything looks very clean and new, and there are many different places to shop and eat. It is also very close to the station and is connected via 5-minute stroll down the Ebisu Sky Walk, which is an overpass with moving sidewalks. The atmosphere was very relaxed, though the weather was somewhat finicky. I was able to get some good shots in when I first arrived, but it began to rain soon after and I had to take cover inside Yebisu Garden Place Tower at location K. The Garden Hall where the event took place is at location J.
Yebisu Garden Place Tower went up about 40 floors and had viewing windows set up for tourists. It is well known how tight and cramped Japan can be, especially in urban areas. One of Japan's most interesting traits, however, is how stark the contrast can be between these densely packed cities and the little recreational areas tucked away inside them. A walk through any major town or city can reveal peaceful little playgrounds or shrines that feel like a whole other world compared with the hectic areas that surround them. Located in the heart of Tokyo, Yebisu looks as any urban environment would, but as the pictures up at the top of the article and immediately below show...
...the Garden Place fits neatly inside while still maintaining a unique feel all its own. By the way, the picture on the right is facing the Garden Hall where Eorzea Prelive was held.
Outside, there was a statue of some guy giving an "Adventure, ho!" pose. Well, let's follow him inside...
A placard at the doors identified this as 完成披露会 (kan-sei hi-rou kai), an event to announce the completion of FFXIV. A giant FFXIV logo spread behind the check-in counter. Things were a little quiet since the event was not set to begin for another 5 hours...
...but some people had been here already. Two massive flower bouquets had been delivered by Square Enix BFFs Enterbrain and Hakuhoudou. Enterbrain (left) is a company that publishes gaming magazines, such as Weekly Famitsu and Connect!On. They also publish Vana'diel Tsuushin, dedicated to FFXI content; and soon, Eorzea Tsuushin, which will be dedicated to FFXIV content. Hakuhoudou (right) is a large advertising agency in Japan.
Around 5 o'clock, the staff began allowing press in the doors and up to the auditorium. The elevator had the third floor marked with a FFXIV sticker which was cute, but there were staff on-hand to press the right button for us anyway. In true geek fashion, I asked the operator if I could snap a quick picture of the elevator button; he chuckled and said it was OK.
As you can see above, the elevator opened up into a room filled with PCs. They were all running FFXIV and were open for press and fans alike to tinker with. By this point, most press had seen several versions of the game already, and the 350 fans in attendance were all participating in the beta. As a result, most people just milled around the area, and the demos did not draw all that much attention. At least not compared to what else was on display...
All around the PC room, Square Enix set up displays for top-of-the-line merchandise provided by various sponsors. It was like that scene out of Spaceballs: Merchandising -- where the real money is made. Final Fantasy XIV: The Keyboard, Final Fantasy XIV: The Mouse, Final Fantasy XIV: The USB Controller, Final Fantasy XIV: The PC Speakers, Final Fantasy XIV: The Graphics Card, Final Fantasy XIV: The Wireless Router... oh, and don't forget the thumb drives they gave out in the press kit. Imagine someone using all of these at once; I'd like to see a picture of that. I guess it's no mystery why the PlayStation 3 version is delayed until March, though. With the console version, you just pop in the disc and go. Want the true FFXIV experience on the PC? Step right up and empty your bank account. Oh well, enough conspiracy theories, let's drool over more geek crap.
And what computer powerful enough to destroy mankind would be complete without the perfect case to house all this destructive power?
The above Final Fanta-gasm is a Cooler Master ATCS840 equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 SLI card. The design on the side is by FFXIV illustrator Akihiko Yoshida. According to the sign, the case is still in development and may change before release. If all this was not cool enough, there are still two more displays to check out!
The FFXIV Collector's Edition, in all its glory. Some of the special goodies it comes packaged with that we can see here are the behind-the-scenes DVD, FFXIV–branded Security Token, travel journal "filled with pages of never-before-seen concept art," the beautifully illustrated Yoshitaka Amano box cover, and the leather Adventurer's Tumbler.
Neighboring the Collector's Edition display was another case with the upcoming Battle Tracks and Field Tracks CDs. These come with about nine tracks each and are bundled with maps and booklets. Here's a previous article with more information and a statement from the composer, Nobuo Uematsu. Some tracks can even be previewed on their official site as well.
OK, I think it is just about time to head in for the Prelive event -- easy to forget such a trivial thing with all these exciting products ripe for the gawking. We already covered most of the information earlier today, courtesy of Square Enix. I want to give them another hat tip for getting together such a thorough summary for overseas players quickly. The Twitter account was not very detailed, and the reception (not to mention picture-taking) kept me from helping out during the Live Feed -- sorry about that.
Before settling in for the show, I was contacted by Global Online Producer Sage Sundi through Twitter, of all places. He wanted to catch up and say hello. Until then, I had only read or listened to interviews of him online and translated the contents. It was a pleasant bonus getting to meet him, and right off the bat he was very friendly. Not to mention, living in Japan all this time, I was impressed by how well he handled the English language.
During the fatigue debacle, Sage Sundi had opened up a little on Twitter and posted that he had always hoped to serve as an example of cultures working together effectively. However, with the controversy about fatigue raging, he felt that our goals and ways of thinking just might be too different sometimes. He comes across as someone serious about crossing the cultural boundaries we, as players, smack into day after day. Funnily enough, he has become somewhat of an icon in NA player culture, being featured in many game-related memes and photoshops. Hopefully, cross-cultural communication is something we can help tackle as the game evolves.
Anyway, let's head into the auditorium.