Gamescom - 4Gamers Interviews Tanaka & Sundi

As Gamescom comes to a close, 4Gamer was able to secure a block of time with Final Fantasy XIV producers Hiromichi Tanaka and Sage Sundi. Previously, Tanaka took staff from Famitsu through a tour of the demo provided to attendees at the convention. 4Gamer, however, spent their time prying out details regarding the game itself.

Read on full the full interview and discuss this in the ZAM forums.

Learning from Final Fantasy XI

Surf to any Final Fantasy XI forum, and you will see players making comparisons between XI and XIV.   How will Final Fantasy XIV be different?   Will Square Enix address common concerns from XI?   Have the developers learned from any mistakes they may have made?

Tanaka admits that one thing they learned was how technology advances over the life of an MMO.  When they first began development, single-processor CPUs were the norm, but soon after release, multi-core processors grew to become the standard.  With Final Fantasy XIV, they are thinking five years ahead and plan to include support for multi-core and mutl-threading technology from the start.

Beyond PC technology however, the most crucial point for the developers is the server.  Since they are creating an MMO, the client's machine is irrelevant if the server cannot deliver the information.  A station can broadcast to a black and white TV or a color TV, but if the signal does not get out, then everyone loses.  This is why Tanaka is adamant about creating a stable game server, which he says is the most difficult part of the process.

Another issue that plagues fan forums is whether Final Fantasy XI is going to continue or die.  Even if it continues, will it be actively supported with Tanaka and co. focused elsewhere?   As it turns out, there are separate areas within the offices of Square Enix for the respective development teams.  The work will not be combined, but rather each will be developed as a separate entity.

Tanaka also gives an amusing look into the part he played creating Final Fantasy XI.   "When making FFXI," Tanaka admits, "I felt it was faster to do things myself rather than take the time to explain what I wanted."   This led to him designing some of the fonts and user interface himself.   In Final Fantasy XIV, however, he will be taking a much more hands-off approach, allowing the team to do the bulk of the work.  "Sometimes you have to stand back and let the younger guys take control," Tanaka jokes.  "If I don't allow them that much, they can't become the next generation of great developers."

Billing Systems and Item Selling

There was a brief mention of billing practices at E3, and the interviewer tries to press Tanaka for more information.  He states they wish to use an "Anniversary Billing" system, which means players will pay a certain amount of money to play for a period of time.  In other words, X dollars a month, like in Final Fantasy XI; or X dollars for 30 days, which Tanaka expressed interest in at E3.  As always, the developers oppose the use of micro-transactions to make items sellable.  They feel by allowing players to purchase everything they want, they would rack up larger bills, but quit the game faster for lack of anything to strive for.  The developers would rather players find lasting enjoyment in the game itself, instead of make a mad dash for treasure and quit soon after.

However, Sundi interjects saying not to rule out optional services altogether.   For example, they may want to add server transfers or other options for players to purchase.  There is no elaboration on what else they have in mind, but they will be considering what to offer.

How Everything Works

Thankfully, the interviewer begins to delve into the details of what Tanaka displayed earlier during his Puk hunting and find out exactly how one manipulates their character.  According to Sundi, you perform an action by selecting from the "Action Menu" along the bottom of the screen that appears once you target an enemy.  The more you use a weapon, the greater your prowess grows, and thus, the more skills you learn to utilize with that weapon.  You then set these abilities in the Action Menu and activate them during battle.  Changing your weapon will also change what is displayed in your Action Menu.  For example, equipping a staff will present your magic-based Action Menu.  Also, multiple abilities you wish to perform in sequence can also be registered as macros.

In order for the character to perform commands specified by the player, one must first store up the Action Gauge.   If you select a command before the gauge is ready, it will activate once the gauge fills up.  There is also a Power Gauge, which can increase the strength and accuracy of one's techniques.  The interviewer notes that even with the absence of Auto-Attack, the player could simply use the most powerful skill over and over again.  However, Tanaka reveals that repetitive usage of one skill will cause the monster to start seeing through your actions, and it will become harder to land your attack.  In other words, employing a variety of tactics is the best way to defeat a monster.

The main goal behind the battle system was to allow freedom of playstyle.  Players can easily go solo, as demonstrated by the demo, or they can join up with a number of friends.  In Final Fantasy XI, one had to return to their Mog House in order to switch jobs, but players in Eorzea can do it anywhere they please.  However, Tanaka warns that swapping weapons during battle is not allowed, so there are some minor limitations.

Another reason they are focusing on solo play is to encourage players to explore all the variety put into the game.  If players were forced into parties all the time, they would most likely stick with one weapon and master that.  However, when adventuring solo or with small groups, players need to acquire a number of different skills and abilities to be able to survive.  The developers hope this will create a rich variety of players and really make each character unique.  However, Tanaka admits that growth can come slowly if one focuses solely on adventuring alone.  Grabbing a party and working together will help your character improve faster. So, there are positives and negatives to both, which is exactly how they like it.

Content That Keeps on Giving

Guildleve, which was demonstrated at Gamescom, will become the core activity of Final Fantasy XIV, according to Tanaka.  It's greatest merit is that you can enjoy it over and over again.  Up until now, players would progress through a series of quests or missions, effectively "consuming" these activities until there was nothing left to do.  However, Guildleve will allow players to repeat similar quests to their heart's content.

The developers will also be looking at how players use the system, Tanaka says.  In Final Fantasy XI, the users would sometimes inject their playstyle into the game and the system would bend and shape into something new and unexpected.  Tanaka hopes to see this kind of ingenuity once again, and says the developers may be able to improve the game based on how the players enjoy it.

As the heart of Final Fantasy XIV, Guildleve will come in many different shapes and forms.  The type of Guildleve one can accept will change based on the character.  Also, new types of Guildleve will continuously be added through version updates.  Tanaka promises that the development team is working hard to create a wealth of content in this area.  There will be quests that take less than 30 minutes to complete, all the way up to epic missions that span a couple days.  Guildleve is all about customizing the game to one's own style.

When asked for more specific information on the actual quests, Tanaka is unable to divulge too much more.  However, he explains more about the system, saying that there is an upper limit to the number of Guildleve one player can acquire at a time.  If you want to play beyond that, you may have to help other people with their Guildleves.  Sundi explains that players can freely aid each other on quests, even if one player does not possess the particular Guildleve being fulfilled.

Races and Faces

While rumored Gria sightings have been squashed, fans are still wondering if new playable races are going to pop up anytime soon.  Unfortunately, Tanaka's response to this is to sidestep and instead boast the merits of the character creation system.  Players will be able to craft their avatars in more detail than ever before, with skin, eyes, hair-style and face being adjustable.  There will also be factions within each race from which to choose, possibly the ones mentioned in descriptions on the official site.  For example, a Miqo'te could belong to the Seekers of the Sun or Keepers of the Moon.  While this change does not have an impact on the story, Tanaka indicates they may add more aspects to the game that further differentiate the factions.

When creating a new character, players will be able to freely select their starting location as well.  While Final Fantasy XI offered special rings depending on your hometown, Tanaka expresses interest in giving everyone a completely level playing field this time around.  The point is to allow everyone to start fresh and not influence their choice of race, hometown, or what path they may wish to take with the growth of their character.  To this end, there will also be no significant differences between the races.  All races can learn the same skills and abilities, but there may be other slight nuances to make them unique.

Hearing that the developers are striving for equality, the interviewer wonders if this will make PvP a reality in the world of Eorzea.  However, Tanaka quickly states that PvE will be the focus of the game.  If PvP elements are ever added, they will be in the form of sports and games, like Final Fantasy XI.  It was decided very early on that PvP would not be added, and it does not appear the developers are going to waver from this.

Final Thoughts

As 4Gamer starts running out of time, they briefly touch on the camera perspective.  Players at Gamescom got to try the demo in the 3rd-person perspective from behind the character, and Tanaka indicates they are looking at having a "third-person shooter" style shoulder camera and a first-person camera.  The interviewer appears surprised to see the shoulder-cam make it into an MMO, but Tanaka explains that they have heard complaints about the camera positioned behind the character making it difficult to see what is in front of you.

Finally, Tanaka closes the interview by expressing how pleased he was to be able to meet so many fans and gather so many opinions on their work already and hopes to have more chances to do so in the future.

Source: 4Gamer


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# May 05 2010 at 4:20 PM Rating: Decent
Ringthree I would just enjoy ganking and camping people like you. Dont tell me why i played FFXI for over 6 years. and dont tell me im the minority. the minority of FF fans still play the majority quit.

Hope to god SE listens to the fans who quit, fans who play other games, and the lil voice in there head telling them there is money in pvp. Millions of fans dont plays their console games. and they wont know anything bout it till they hear from a friend. I wont waste 6 years of my life wishing that the creators of the game series i love and played since i was a kid, would add content i can find in just bout any other MMO. FFXI had balista ill be happy with anything but it has to have somthing to keep me and many other people interested.

No PvP makes me a sad panda.
# Sep 04 2009 at 7:09 AM Rating: Decent
ringthree, I don't think you should be speaking for everyone by saying unfounded and unprovable things like "most people just like PvP for the ganking and corpse camping." You have no basis for such a claim, and saying things like that only makes you look biased. Besides, if that were true, then why is PvP content still incredibly popular on WoW's PvE servers, where ganking and corpse camping aren't even possible? You don't know what "most people" want or like, so don't try to act like you do.

And I'm sorry to break it to you, but the mentality of FFXI players is not any higher than that of WoW players. I see FFXI players claim that they're more mature than WoW players all the time, but I have yet to see even the tiniest shred of evidence that would support that claim in the slightest. In fact, from what I've seen, the level of maturity is perfectly identical between both games.

But anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, PvP is an essential part of an MMO, and no game in the genre can be complete without it. It doesn't have to be the focus of the game, but it does need to be there in some form or another. It seems like most FFXI players have the misguided notion that PvP always means allowing players to gank each other and harass newbies. Now that's certainly one form that PvP can take, but it is not the only form! Take Ballista from FFXI, for example. That can't be used to gank or harass anyone, as all participants in the match must willingly register for and enter into the battle before they can engage in any actual PvP.

Ballista was one the absolute most entertaining things in FFXI, but it had two major flaws: first, it was horribly inaccessible, requiring players to get to Rank 3 in the game's missions, and then complete a ridiculously long and tedious quest to obtain a Ballista License. The second major flaw was that there weren't any worthwhile rewards for participating in it. People say you should just enjoy the PvP for the sake of the PvP, and not worry about any rewards, but that philosophy only works if the PvP is quick, simple, and easy to start.

It took a long time and a lot of effort to get a Ballista match going in FFXI, and then you had to spend about and hour or more actually participating in a match, and when you were done you didn't get anything out of it, not even if you won. It just wasn't worth all the time and effort required, and so it never became popular.

Probably the best thing they could do is create something like Ballista in FFXI, but fix the flaws Ballista had by making it more accessible and actually allowing players to earn decent rewards through it.

At the very least SE should provide a "duel" button so you can challenge another player anywhere (this is another form of PvP that also doesn't allow for ganking or corpse camping).

You say that not every MMO needs to appeal to PvP players, but that just plain isn't true. There are four main archetypes of players that every MMO should appeal to and provide content for. PvP players is one of those four archetypes (the other three are socializers, explorers, and achievers).

There was a rather extensive essay written on this a few years back. You should really look into it. It's called HEARTS, CLUBS, DIAMONDS, SPADES: PLAYERS WHO SUIT MUDS, by Richard Bartle. In it, the author explores all the different motivations different people have for playing these types of games, and players who play because they enjoy competing directly against other players in head-to-head combat made up a rather large percentage.

Like I said, if the developers want to focus on a different archetype besides the PvP players, that's fine. Every game should be different and unique in some way, and the developers should have the freedom to take their game in the direction they want. But at the same time, PvP players are a huge demographic, and completely and totally ignoring them is like shooting yourself in the foot financially, as you'll lose a ****load of potential players (and all the money they would have given you) if you don't provide them with the type of content they want to see in the game.

Edited, Sep 4th 2009 2:51pm by Rhianu
No PvP makes me a sad panda.
# Aug 22 2009 at 4:03 PM Rating: Default
I'm extremely disappointed that they're ignoring PvP content again. Ballista was one of the most fun and entertaining things to do in FFXI, though admittedly it had some serious flaws that stopped it from ever becoming very popular with the player-base. I was really hoping that this time around they would learn from their mistakes and create new PvP content that was more diversified and accessible, and actually gave you some kind of worthwhile reward for participating. That they're not even going to try is a huge letdown.

Also, lets not forget that there is an extremely large demographic of people in the MMORPG community that thoroughly enjoys competing directly against other players. From a marketing standpoint, denying all those people the opportunity to enjoy the game how they like just doesn't seem like a very wise business decision, especially when you take into account that SE keeps saying FFXIV is supposed to be about playing the game how YOU want to play it, not to mention the fact that virtually all other MMORPGs that SE will be competing against already have rather healthy PvP systems in place. If SE doesn't change their attitude about PvP content, then FFXIV is going to end up on the receiving end of a lot of hate from the larger MMORPG community (just like FFXI did), and will inevitably lose out on a lot of potential customers.
No PvP makes me a sad panda.
# Aug 26 2009 at 6:56 AM Rating: Decent
686 posts
Of FFXI players you are in the tiny minority. PvP has never been "make or break" for FFXI people. I think you are very much exaggerating the aspect of PvP in MMOs. Most don't like the games playing aspects that you do, most just like PvP for the ganking and corpse camping.

I would suggest that this is one of the reasons that the mentality of FFXI players been higher than WoW is because of the lack of PvP. There are many games out there for PvP, not all games have to fill every niche.
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