The E3 Expo was highly anticipated by many Final Fantasy XI fans, all hungry for any news about the fourth expansion, Wings of the Goddess, which was announced at the Square Enix Party in Tokyo, Japan almost two months ago. Allakhazam.com had it’s first opportunity to meet with several key members of the Final Fantasy XI Development team including Senior Vice President of Software Development Hiromichi Tanaka and Wings of the Goddess Director Koichi Ogawa and Community Relations leaders Sage Sundi and Yasu Kurosawa with Koji Fox translating for us.
Pikko: The Japanese and English versions of the game have different titles. Is there any significance to this?
Koji Fox: The direct translation of the Japanese title is “The Divine Soldiers of Altana” but the difference is only in the name, the titles mean the same thing. Altana does not actually have wings, she is lifted up by her divine soldiers, this is how she flies. The Japanese prefer a more literal, direct title while Americans would prefer a more figurative title. So the titles mean the same thing but were phrased differently for separate audiences.
Pikko: The community is already speculating about the new jobs and what we are going to see. How much fan influence is there when you are determining which new jobs you are going to implement and what made you decide to introduce new jobs in the first place?
Ogawa-san & Tanaka-san: Lots of fans want lots of different types of jobs and of course we’re always listening to that but rather than just putting in a job that maybe the players just want because they want it, we look more at how the new job is going to fit into the game and the battle system and what role that job will play and that’s more important, basically to maintain the balance of the game.
Because with the new expansion we will be introducing a new aspect of the world, adding new jobs will enhance that world, it adds that much more playability. Also, by adding the new jobs those jobs can be used as support jobs so not only does it add new jobs it also affects the old jobs as well. It introduces new play styles for all those jobs, new options.
Pikko: People on our forums seem to be asking for a new “tank” job, any chance you can tell us whether their wishes will be fulfilled?
Ogawa-san: Sorry, can’t say… but we realize people want a new frontline “tank” job.
Pikko: With the new expansion taking place in the past around the time of the Crystal War, will we see special zones designed for open PvP combat between nations? Will we see any type of open PvP?
Ogawa-san: I can’t answer that because I really can’t say anything about the new areas yet.
Pikko: Dynamis has been one of the most popular battle systems implemented into the game and although Treasures has been out for over a year now Puppetmaster, Corsair, and Blue Mage still do not have relic gear. Can players expect to see relic armor for these jobs or even upgraded Artifact armor before the expansion is released?
Ogawa-san: As with the original jobs it was a while before those jobs… if you think about from the start when the jobs were first released five years ago, then relics came out, the new jobs still have a little bit of time before their relics will be released.
Pikko: But it is coming eventually?
Koji Fox: (nods) It’s coming eventually.
Pikko: The Sanction experience bonus has basically rendered much of the “old” world undesirable to many experience points parties, was this an intentional side effect or did you expect players to diversify themselves between challenge in the old world and xp bonuses?
Ogawa-san: The original reason that we introduced Sanction to the Aht Urhgan areas was because we wanted lots of people to come to the Aht Urhgan areas and so one way to get people to come over from Jeuno and the rest of the areas was to add this bonus and it was a lot more successful than we had intended. As for players now all doing their experience or their leveling in Aht Urhgan, we do want to do some adjustments in the future to maybe alleviate that.
Pikko: Beastmasters have long awaited something new added to their job such as new abilities or jug pets. Can they expect any type of enhancement to their job in the near future?
Ogawa-san: Just changing the beastmaster would probably make a lot of other players upset as well, so what’s going to happen is when we add the new jobs we’re going to have to adjust a lot of the other jobs to keep things balanced and so probably at the time of the release of the expansion there will be another overhaul of the current jobs.
Pikko: It’s been mentioned in the past that the Puppetmaster job was intended to be another “solo” job, yet players are unable to utilize this tactic of fighting in its current state. Are the plans that you spoke of just now going to enhance it to the point where they can do this?
Ogawa-san: Yes, something very soon will happen to puppetmasters. The adjustment will come soon.
Koji Fox: He answered that one quickly, so he knows.
Pikko: Chains of Promathia came out nearly 3 years ago and as of today, no linkshell has beaten Absolute Virtue without the invisible wall or the locking technique, both of which were changed. When you originally created Absolute Virtue, did you intend for him to go undefeated for such a long period of time and is he meant to be defeated at all?
Ogawa-san & Tanaka-san: When we first designed it we didn’t design it to never be able to be defeated and we’re convinced that it can be defeated. Last year at the Tokyo Game Show hints were given and whether those were taken as hints or not, well… Some players were able to figure out some things from it but there were other hints that not a lot of people have picked up on and so its become sort of this urban myth that Absolute Virtue cannot be defeated, but it can be defeated.
Pikko: We’ve seen a lot of new concepts and activities added into the game in the past year. Was the community reaction to things such as Chocobo Racing, Salvage, and recently Einherjar what you were expecting? What factors determine what you will add into the game next?
Ogawa-san & Tanaka-san: We got good response. It’s not always positive response because they’re the hardcore players and they’ve been playing for a long time and they have their opinions and if they don’t like something right away they tell us because they know that we’ll work on it. So there has been a lot of [feedback], especially with the new Einherjar “It’s way to difficult!” and so we’re going back and of course we work on everything. But overall there’s been a lot of things maybe people give harsh opinions of them at first, but then they learn to like it and then those [comments] go away.
Pikko: I have a question from one particular linkshell. They said that they have cleared the first wing a total of two times and out of those six bosses they’ve received one abjuration drop. Other than that they receive body parts from the boss itself like hair, hides, stuff like that. They would like to know why they should keep killing themselves over this just to get nothing. Is that something that’s going to be fixed or will it be the battle itself you adjust?
Ogawa-san & Tanaka-san: First of all, about not having the drop rate be as good as people want it to be it’s because we want people to go back and play Einherjar many times, so that they get a continuous type of challenge. And if it’s too easy the world will be filled with the abjurations and everyone will have that and it won’t be something that has that mystic feel to it like, “I have it, look at me.” Rather, everyone is wearing it. But we will watch the trend because we do realize that this is supposed to be a replacement place to get it rather than to camp against the real money traders and so we’ll watch and if we feel that something needs to be fixed…
Pikko: So if the participation drops then you’ll re-evaluate?
Ogawa-san: (jokingly) Then we’ll raise it and lots of people will complain and then we’ll drop it down again.
But now, it’s that people instead of having to fight these campers they can go to places where they don’t have to and so it gives them a little better chance and takes away that stress.
Pikko: On that same note, a lot of new gear has been brought in with Assault and Salvage yet people still spend so much of their endgame careers in areas such as Tu’lia and Dragon’s Aery. Can we see a good amount of new HNMs and will their drops be as game altering as items such as the Ridill or Byakko’s Haidate?
Ogawa-san & Tanaka-san: As for the new HNMs in Wings of the Goddess, as you know we can’t say anything specific but there’s a pretty good chance that there will be lots of new challenges like that with things that are difficult to get but will have a big impact on the game as drops. As for your comment on how lots of people are still camping in areas like Dragon’s Aery and other old HNMs it’s that over the years we’ve added new HNMs and as you do that, you have ones that are popular and then you have new ones and so some people go to those and when some people go to those less people are camping the older ones so more people want to go to those cause they think they have a chance. We feel that with all the new choices such as Assault and Salvage and also the old ones, people can choose which one they want, whether they want to camp or do they want to go into the instanced areas and fight for stuff.Pikko: At the Premier Site Summit in March, it was suggested that the ability to seek a party on multiple jobs be made available. What do you think of that idea and is it something we can possibly look forward to?
Tanaka-san: It’s something that’s come up many times and that’s one of the reasons that we introduced the search comments and so people would be able to look at the comments and even though you can only search for the one job in the comments you can put, “I also have this job, this job…” Right now, the big thing holding up a change here is the actual engine that we use to do searching. To go in and change this would be very difficult. We’re definitely going to take it into consideration but again it’s a big difficult programming type of change and so it’s not something that can be done right away.
We’ve been working on it. But once it starts with the jobs it’s, “Okay, now let’s have multiple [linkshells]” then it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and then it becomes hard to maintain all of that so we’re still working on it.
Pikko: The Allakhazam community was very happy to hear about an official windower. Are you involved in its development and do you have any word on its progress?
Tanaka-san: Up until now the problem has been that the graphics parts of it have been published in DirectX 8 but now that we’ve been able to upgrade it to DirectX 9, which is what we are doing right now, this will become available for all of the cards. We hope to have it in by the release of Wings of the Goddess. We think it will be ready.
Pikko: A rumor was posted on our forums by someone who attended the Anime Expo that another Fan Fest will be coming up in November, can you tell us anything about that?
Kurosawa-san: Yes, it was a rumor then, but it’s official now. There will be another fan festival this year. Next week there will be a big announcement of when and where.
Pikko: This is more of a personal question. Which expansion have you most enjoyed developing?
Ogawa-san: Aht Urhgan has a lot of new challenges for us to overcome and that’s what I choose.
Pikko: The release of the starter pack shows the playerbase that you hope FFXI will live on for quite some time, where do you see the game 5 years from now?
Tanaka-san: As to where it will be in five years, we can’t really predict as it’s a long time. One of the things is as the game is based on PS2 technology, there are limits and right now we’re doing our best to get around those limits and make the best with what we have. On the other hand we also have the new MMO that’s being developed at the same time by the same team and how those two will be related will also deal with what the other players want but it all comes down to the user. If the user wants to keep playing Final Fantasy 11 we will keep producing content for it.
It truly was an honor to meet Hiromichi Tanaka and Koichi Ogawa. Allakhazam.com congratulates them on such a fun-filled and successful game. We eagerly wait for the day when we as divine soldiers can lift Altana up into the beautiful star-filled skies of Vana’diel.