Gamescom - Famitsu Interviews Hiromichi Tanaka

As Hiromichi Tanaka, producer of Final Fantasy XIV, hacked his way through a demonstration of a "Puk Extermination" Guildleve quest, Famitsu flanked him with some questions about their presentation and what it says about the state of the upcoming MMO.

Read on to see the full story and discuss it in the ZAM forums.

In the gameplay videos, we saw some people fighting dodos and others fighting puks.  It turns out that the full scope of the quest requires one to defeat dodos until puks appear.  Tanaka states that this is just one of the many ways they will incorporate puzzle-solving elements into Guildleve quests.  Also, while there may be an expansive area to explore, later builds of the game will display your targets on the map, so finding those puks that need exterminating will be much easier.  As an alpha version, the demo at Gamescom did not include this feature yet.

When the interviewer remarked on how beautiful the graphics were, Tanaka took the opportunity to give some hints about how powerful they will become.  It turns out the background scenery was heavily compressed for the demo, and will be greatly improved to the point where individual trees will be rendered far into the distance.

At this point, Tanaka begins attacking some dodos and moves on to discuss the battle system.  In Final Fantasy XI, the player would select the attack command and enter an Auto-Attack mode.  To spice up the flow of battle, Final Fantasy XIV will require players to select commands each time they attack, and the combination of commands they choose will determine the technique they use.  This will put all new emphasis on strategy and keep players engaged in battle.

Action Commands, as Tanaka calls them, are lined up along the bottom of the screen as icons.  Those who are grumbling about a passing resemblance to World of Warcraft will be happy to know the layout is tentative and certainly subject to change.  The current setup has players selecting an ability from the from the bottom which then appears as a command in your gauge.  There are two gauges - one for the left hand and one for the right hand.  For example, the character that Tanaka was controlling had a shield in his left hand, so the left-handed gauge had shield commands registered to it.

To activate an ability, the player needs to store up their "Action Gauge."  The strength and accuracy of a technique can be further increased by storing up the "Power Gauge."  The "TP Gauge" also makes a return, which when full will alter the effects of your technique in a variety of ways.  The TP gauge will increase when the player attacks or is attacked by an enemy.  During this explanation, Tanaka unleashes Red Lotus Blade with a grin, much to the delight of the interviewer, who immediately recognizes the sword technique.

Magic will be used the same way - through Action Commands - but will only be available if you are equipped with a weapon that allows their use.  Swords give sword-based abilities and staves will give magic-based abilities.  Also, there are skills that cannot be used until you have acquired enough skill in a particular weapon.  In total, you can line up 10 commands in the bar of icons along the bottom.  However, in future versions Tanaka states they intend to include a macro system, so players can customize and combine their favorite abilities to their liking.

Another bit of customization, to which players are responding positively, is the ability to drag-and-drop the various info boxes around the screen.  There are default positions for each piece of the UI, such as Action Commands, player status, chat box and party status.  These will all be movable, and the chat log will be fully adjustable as well.  The camera position will have options as well, although the main position will be an over-the-should third person perspective.  Tanaka expects there to be three different camera angle to choose from in the final version.

When asked why they decided to go with this battle system, Tanaka explained that first and foremost they wanted to get players more active in battle, which the auto-attack system discouraged.  Final Fantasy XI focused on each job having a clear role, with players designing parties around combining those roles.  However, in Final Fantasy XIV, they wanted to develop a system where players could easily enjoy the game alone, with a friend, with three people or more.  The system is built around the concept of meeting each player's own playstyle.

Tucked in next to the Action Commands, the interviewer noticed a smiley face, which Tanaka revealed was a set of emoticons.  In Final Fantasy XI, players were limited to creating emotes through text, but Final Fantasy XIV will provide a set of graphical smileys for users to express themselves.  In addition, there are the motions that we all saw displayed in the video at Gamescom.  According to Tanaka, these were created through the use of motion-capture technology.  However, capturing facial expressions proved too difficult, so the developers ended up designing those manually.  Unfortunately, players cannot use full-body emotes during battle at this stage.

At this point, Tanaka finishes up his quest and warps back to the starting point of the Guildleve and moves towards the Aetheryte.  Although prevalent in the demo, transportation via Aetheryte will not be so common in the actual game.  The majority of their use will be involved with the Guildleve system, as players need to travel to the site of the quest and back again.  However, like the user interface, a lot can change before the final game is complete.  Tanaka says the game is likely only 40-50% complete at this stage, and the demo cut out basically any elements that were not essential to displaying the Guildleve system.  The main focus of the presentation at Gamescom was to show players how Guildleve worked, and how it delivered quests that were enjoyable and light on time.  However, this is not to say things will be all fun and games.  While the quests shown to players took only 15 minutes of their time, there will many more quests with varying levels of difficulty and time requirements.  In addition, there will be hordes of other monsters roaming the countryside that will be sure to make completing your intended task a little trickier.

Tanaka admits that showing off an incomplete game can draw criticism from disappointed players, but he hopes that others may show praise for how far Final Fantasy XIV has come.  Currently, the most advanced portion of the game is the graphics, so there are many areas that many completely change before the release date.  The idea is that Square Enix will showcase new portions of the game as they continue development, allowing players to experience individual content before a complete beta is put together.  While in Germany this meant a playable demo at Gamescom, there may be a playable version that users sign up to try out in Japan, more like, as Tanaka put it, a giant focus group.  Players will be added gradually, and once the game is polished enough, and there is a solid base of users, they will initiate an open beta.

Whatever the shape it will take, Tanaka uses his closing words to assure fans everywhere that everyone will get a chance to play a demo of the game, saying, "The fruits of our labor are finally coming to bear, and the development team is working hard to get the game ready. We're planning to let everyone get a shot at a playable version like we have done here in Germany, so please look forward to it."

Source: Famitsu


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Being more like WoW isn't necessarily a bad thing.
# Aug 20 2009 at 9:29 PM Rating: Decent
Awesome interview, but I just have one little complaint about something that was said about the interface:

Action Commands, as Tanaka calls them, are lined up along the bottom of the screen as icons. Those who are grumbling about a passing resemblance to World of Warcraft will be happy to know the layout is tentative and certainly subject to change.

Lining icons up on the bottom of the screen is standard interface design in the MMORPG genre. WoW was not the first MMO to incorporate the idea, and designing the interface that way is most certainly not indicative of any resemblance to WoW. That's like saying any MMORPG where you can play as an elf has a passing resemblance to WoW. It's absolutely rediculous. City of Heroes lined up its icons on the bottom of the screen, and it came out almost a full year before WoW did. Many of NCsoft's other previous MMORPGs do the exact same thing. And let's not forget that EverQuest, which is over a decade old now, also did it. It's standard practice, as common as using the WASD keys to move.

Seriously, some people are so horribly anti-WoW that they say the FF MMORPGs shouldn't do anything WoW does or did, not even things that were good ideas, or things that are standard practice in every other game in the genre. It's like they don't care about doing what's best for the FF games, they just care about not doing anything WoW did. It's neurotic.

Sorry for that little rant there, but it just really annoys me when I see people who have never touched another MMORPG besides FFXI in their entire lives try to say that FFXI is perfect and everything WoW does is horrible and stupid, and that we shouldn't try to draw any ideas from WoW at all. I know many FFXI players view WoW as "the enemy" of FFXI, but such a standpoint is only self-destructive. WoW is the most popular subscription-based MMORPG on the planet for some damn good reasons, and it is absolutely vital for any game developer that wants to succeed in the MMORPG genre to analyze WoW thoroughly in order to gain a deeper understanding of what exactly those things are. That doesn't mean you have to make a clone of WoW (Warhammer already proved by example that WoW clones don't succeed), but you shouldn't make the mistake of completely ignoring everything WoW did, either. A middle-ground should be reached, and a balance maintained.

There is a book titled MTIV: PROCESS, INSPIRATION, AND PRACTICE FOR THE NEW MEDIA DESIGNER. In this book, the author --whose name is Hillman Curtis-- explains how we should never close ourselves off to any source of potential inspiration, especially when that source originates from those we view as "our enemies." To do so would only lead to the damnation and destruction of our own creativity and imaginative ingenuity. But he explains it far better than I ever could, so rather than just continuing to ramble on, I'll simply quote the passage from his book that I'm referring to:

"Hillman Curtis" wrote:
HONOR THY CONTEMPORARIES But falling in love with a master doesn't mean you should ignore your contemporaries. As I mentioned earlier, Picasso was as influenced by Matisse's palette as he was the African masks in Derain's studio.

Before becoming a graphic designer, I was an "almost famous" rock musician in San Francisco. I played guitar and sang for two bands that both got record deals, but each one dissolved before anything really took off. I learned a lot during those years, but the most valuable lesson was never to close your eyes to potential inspiration. In other words, don't let pride prevent you from seeing the greatness in others, even if they're your direct competitors.

The last band I was in was very close with another group that practiced in the same studio as ours. We ran in the same circles, played the same clubs, and even shared band members. They were signed about the same time we were, but to say they went further than we did would be a drastic understatement.

During the early years, before their stardom, I was intensely envious of their talent and the following they'd already developed in San Francisco. It was irrational, really, because they were among the most supportive and encouraging people I've known, but I still couldn't shake my envy. I became so competitive that I stopped enjoying their incredible live shows and demo tapes. Instead, I just grew critical and standoffish.

One day, after hearing that I was having trouble writing new songs, their lead singer offered to help me out. We even set up a time to meet in the studio to write a song together. But at the last minute, I called and canceled the session. I didn't want to admit that I needed help or that he was a better songwriter. I was so shut down by competitiveness and envy that I killed an opportunity for what could have been a great experience.

A year later, my band had gotten nowhere, and his was on the cover of Rolling Stone. Of course, this isn't to say that if I'd met him that day, my band would have made it too. It's just to point out that by letting my envy get the best of me, I ruled out an experience that, at the very least, would have given me a glimpse into how a great songwriter works, and at the most, a hit song.

So when I found my calling in graphic design a few years later, I vowed never again to bind myself up with such competitiveness. Naturally, I still feel my chest tighten a bit when I see amazing work coming out of others. But instead of being critical and trying to find fault in their designs, I promote them. At conferences, I'll often show the work of countless competing design firms. I promote them because I respect them but also because it does wonders for my own psyche to turn envy into inspiration. No matter how successful we become, we're never above that.

I've never avoided the influence of other people. I would have regarded that as cowardice and a lack of self-confidence. -- Henri Matisse


Edited, Aug 21st 2009 1:46am by Rhianu
# Aug 20 2009 at 7:32 PM Rating: Decent
I havewn't logged in for a week, and boy, did I miss some importrant FFXIV news...
# Aug 20 2009 at 7:13 PM Rating: Decent
Fantastic what the team is doing with this game. I just recently opted to buy Aion but I will totally give it up for this game as soon as it comes out. FFXI fo life.
I like it.
# Aug 20 2009 at 9:24 AM Rating: Decent
So it like FF Tactics games? Hold onto a weapon long enough to own that skill then switch to learn another? Sorry if I just don't understand it, trying to lol.

BTW what are the official FFXIV forums? I can't find it.
I like it.
# Aug 20 2009 at 10:43 AM Rating: Excellent
Mistress of Gardening
14,661 posts
As of right now, there are no official forums for XIV. We're still waiting to see if there will be any.
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# Aug 20 2009 at 9:01 AM Rating: Default

Edited, Aug 20th 2009 1:04pm by Ishbubjr
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