-- Now then, we've finally come to the start of service for FFXIV, so I would like to ask about how the progression of FFXIV will differ from FFXI, and conversely, how it might be influenced by it.
Tanaka: First, for me personally, FFXI represents my ideal MMORPG, and having made it these eight years, there is a feeling that I have done everything I set out to do. However, there are those with different concepts of what is ideal and there can be more than one version of the "best." So this time, Director Nobuaki Komoto and his crew are creating their own version of the ideal MMORPG -- Final Fantasy XIV. Having lasted eight years, the graphics of FFXI unfortunately do not hold up against the latest game titles out there. In that respect, we are porting that basic concept of FFXI as our best online offering to this generation of gaming where it can have a fresh start as FFXIV.
Now, we all agreed as developers that simply making the same thing over again would be pretty boring, so we changed the battle system by dropping auto-attack system in favor of a command-based style and integrated positioning and directional aspects to encounters. We also added fluidity to the job change concept with Armoury and implemented a number of other new elements and features. However, there are some things that remain from FFXI, such as Linkshells and cross-regional play.
-- Was the intention behind the similar-looking races to create a sense of familiarity for FFXI players?
Tanaka: While we were making a new game, we also wanted to allow existing players to create avatars that were similar to those they had grown accustomed to over the years. During the alpha period, there were ideas for maybe a male Mithra or female Galka race in the planning stages, but unfortunately the developers already had their hands full. That idea is on the back burner for now, and if the opportunity arises, we might consider it.
-- How is the setting of Eorzea different from Vana'diel?
Tanaka: From the beginning, the main difference was to make a world without ancient technology. In Vana'diel, OOPArts, or out-of-place artifacts, are spread throughout every region. The concept for Eorzea was to make the history and culture of the land more realistic and avoid a sci-fi kind of atmosphere.
-- The seamless, wide open field areas and the way the music fades from one track to the next is really impressive. It has been said that Nobuo Uematsu composed every track for the game.
Tanaka: We have taken great care to accentuate the characteristics of each region with unique song sets for their respective field areas, battles and even Guildleves. Those three different themes should give one an understanding of the concept behind the region. We provided Uematsu with concept art, which he used as inspiration for his compositions, so the music is very fresh and fits the spirit of the game well.
-- As for the game system, Guildleve really revolves around allowing people to have fun even during short play sessions. How do you imagine play styles will change once service begins?
Tanaka: In the beta test, most players would use up their Guildleves playing solo, which is too bad because Guildleves are designed to encourage party play. You can level much quicker by doing a bunch of Guildleves with friends than by running around killing monsters. There is a give-and-take aspect to it, where friends help you and then you help them. We hope to see that play style spread in the retail version.
-- Regarding play times, what can you tell us about the opinions surrounding surplus points? (the system wherein experience points decrease to prevent excessive playing)
Tanaka: With surplus points, it was the terminology that worked against us. The system was always designed to counter the more enthusiastic players, and we imagined that 95% of the player base would not be affected; most people would not even know surplus points existed. Now, we are looking at adjustments such as making the 8-hour threshold a 10-hour one, and just as in Vana'diel, we have a message to encourage denizens of Eorzea to take a break before the game negatively impacts their health. There are also RMT to consider, and ultimately, the system should be something that only makes life difficult for them, not the players.
-- With the long hours we put in playing for article research, it might end up affecting us here at Dengeki, too. So, it is about bringing us back to reality, is it? (laughs)
-- Tanaka, along with the development team you have been involved with FFXI for almost 10 years. You created the game, maintained it, and journeyed along with its players all this time. What do you consider to be the most difficult part of making an MMO, and what do you consider to be the most enjoyable?
Tanaka: For most enjoyable, like I've stated in the past, I love being able to receive instant user feedback on something I have created. Not only that, but I can literally enter the game myself and play along with users and see first-hand what they like and what they do not. That kind of satisfaction from seeing the fruits of your labor is more than any developer could hope for. With regular titles, even if you wish you had done something differently, you can only wait for the possible chance to fix it in a sequel, but with an MMORPG, you have the ideal setup: version updates and user feedback.
What is most difficult actually has not changed since the Nintendo era: data management. MMORPGs, unlike ROMs, operate through a connection between the client and server, yet the main issue is still how much we can cram into those bits we transfer back and forth. Whenever we want to try something new, it is a judgement call regarding what we can drop and what we should include. In the Nintendo era, it was a battle to fit data into cartridges, and even as storage capacity increased with CDs and DVDs, we still managed to fill it up in no time. (laughs) Trying to shave down data to a manageable size is just as crucial in the world of data transfer.
-- Lastly, if there are any secrets you'd like to share with us about the retail release, or whatnot... (laughs)
Tanaka: I cannot divulge any details yet, but we will soon be presenting a rough roadmap for up through next winter, which will be our first year milestone.
-- You can count me as one player who be there to watch how FFXIV begins, and who is anxious to see how it grows.
Tanaka: And I hope you enjoy your time in Eorzea!