The floodgates have opened. With Tuesday's unveiling of Square Enix's new title, previously known only as Project Rapture, everyone is now scrambling for Final Fantasy XIV information. All eyes and ears were on Hiromichi Tanaka and company as they answered a few questions at the private Square Enix press conference at E3 on Wednesday.
Afterwards, they went behind closed doors and thought, "Hey, answering 10 questions was kind of fun, why not answer 20-30 more?"
Read on to see what they had to say and discuss this on the ZAM forums!
Sources: GameWatch , 4Gamer , Famitsu
Right off the bat, Tanaka confirms that it was the plan all along to make "Rapture" into the latest numbered installment in the Final Fantasy series. However, he jokes that they were not sure if Square Enix would have already made it to 14 during the four years they spent in development, forcing them to go with Final Fantasy XV Online. Also, just as they did with XI, they wanted to show players that they had full confidence in the game being worthy of the Final Fantasy name - a feeling that may not have been conveyed by using "FF World" or "FF Online."
Eorzea will differ from Vana'diel in a number of ways. First, Eorzea is but a region within the full world of Final Fantasy XIV, which will be named ハイデリン (ha-i-de-ri-n). This land will be blessed with high technology, but not to the point of more sci-fi themed worlds found in Final Fantasy XIII or Final Fantasy X. This new MMO will stay true to the fantasy-style roots of the series, while setting itself apart as a completely different world than Vana'diel.
As we have seen in the trailer, all the races from Final Fantasy XI appear to be present and accounted for. Tanaka comments that this was done in order to add an air of familiarity to the game, so the Final Fantasy XI community would be comfortable transferring over and trying it out. However, while they look similar on the surface, they will be given somewhat of a makeover, which Tanaka says will include new names for the races. Many noticed the Galka-looking character in the trailer was missing a tail. Little changes like that will further define the races in Final Fantasy XIV. TaruTaru and Mithra fans can also rest easy knowing that similar models will be waiting for them in Eorzea.
The developers attribute the long-lasting success of Final Fantasy XI to the Job System, and plan to learn from it and greatly expand off the concept. They want to end up with something completely different, one that maintains this lasting appeal for the player. Instead of leveling up with experience points, weapons will play a key role in how a character grows and develops. When the interviewer asks if series mainstays like Warrior or Paladin will appear, the developers simply hint that nothing will be exactly the same as we know it. No more grinding XP for levels - they have something new in store.
So what is going to drive people to buy Final Fantasy XIV? The developers claim that Final Fantasy XIV is all about "growth." They laugh as they admit that "growth" in Final Fantasy XI would often amount to an endless cycle of shoot-pull-kill, shoot-pull-kill. The new MMO will focus on the variety and accessibility of methods to grow one's character. This includes an emphasis on attracting people who are not as familiar with online games with a smooth progression of content. Core fans can also count on there being plenty of story-driven content and cut scenes to enjoy. Everyone will be able to freely choose how and when they want to play, regardless of style or schedule.
Players looking for action can start sharpening their blades in anticipation for a battle system that takes a marked departure from Final Fantasy XI. In order to make the battles interesting and have lasting appeal, there will be a number of strategical elements added to encounters. They imply there will be a learning curve of sorts - beginners can expect simpler fights as they get the hang of things, while hardcore players looking to test their mettle can find serious battles that require much more cunning. It will not be realtime, action style encounters, but rather a number of more cerebral aspects.
Career loners will be happy to know solo play is getting a lot more attention this time around. However, the developers are still going to have a lot for parties to do. The core concept is growth through one's natural, everyday activities. Perhaps you solo a lot of quests, maybe you meet some people and band together against evil. it's all about enjoying the game in your own way, and developing as you see fit. Here, Tanaka chimes in to express his preference for balanced parties, as opposed to everyone meleeing at once. When designing the party system, he made sure it would facilitate more strategic setups, where everyone can play their respective role.
As for enemies, there will be instances where you face one at a time and others where you take on a bunch, but nothing more could really be said, as it has not been fully fleshed out at this time. Tanaka admitted the Battle System as a whole has not yet been perfected because that is something beta testers will need to take a crack at. The interviewer also brought up PKing and PvP, to which the developers responded they were considering options for the latter. They explain that while the game will involve cooperation, this does not necessarily always mean party vs. monster. Still, they say PvP will more likely take a shape similar to Final Fantasy XI, and they seem to shy away from allowing players to simply fight and kill each other anywhere, worrying it could lead to monopolization of content.
In response to praise regarding the quality of the trailer, the developers admit there was a lot of work put in to making an epic presentation, and are unable to comment on how exactly everything will be utilized in the game world itself (such as those flying totem poles). As the trailer implied, the atmosphere of the game will mix high-tech and fantasy elements. Unfortunately, speculation about the giant sea serpent's identity (Leviathan, perhaps?) was met with no comment.
Sure to please Chocobo fans, players can expect those speedy, yellow birds to appear in Eorzea. The developers relate how the audience erupted in excitement the second they appeared during SCEA's presentation. Apparently, everyone had been a little confused up until then, but once a Chocobo graced the screen, everyone knew they were in for another Final Fantasy title. In this way, Chocobos are practically inseparable from the series and need to be included. However, just like the races, they will be looking to develop a new incarnation of Chocobos unique to this title. Unfortunately, it is causing them a bit of worry regarding how exactly to do this.
Originally, thought to be a PS3 exclusive, Final Fantasy XIV will in fact be making an appearance on the PC. The developers delve into this a bit, mentioning Crystal Tools, a development platform that will also be used for Final Fantasy XIII and is designed to allow them to port more smoothly to multiple systems. In regards to the PC version, the game will utilize the most current version of Direct X that is out when beta testing begins. This goes for Operating System as well. Similarly, they do not specify Vista or Windows 7 as an operating system, saying again that it will depend on what is out at the time. For those of you looking to prep a new PC, Tanaka claims they are really looking to get on the cutting edge of technology with this installment. Like Final Fantasy XI, the game specs will be extremely high for the time, but in about 5 years, an average machine can run it on max settings with little to no issues. Tanaka also expressed interest in making a benchmark program available.
To compose the musical side of Eorzea, Uematsu was tapped for his extensive work in the Final Fantasy series. Tanaka was a little nervous that Uematsu's busy schedule would not allow for him to bless the world of Final Fantasy XIV with his compositions, but luckily he was happy to oblige. Although there were a few snags, being as this is an online game, they are researching the most effective way to deliver Uematsu's work in full 5.1 channel surround sound.
Final Fantasy XIV will have a number of Worlds/Servers, and they are aiming for a capacity of 5,000-6,000 simultaneous connections. The exact amount of Worlds has not yet been decided, but they have plans to add more Worlds as user demand increases. The most they can say is that they will work hard to exceed the amount of Worlds contained within Final Fantasy XI! When asked whether they plan to have as many as 30 Worlds upon launch, Tanaka states that he does not believe that many will be required so soon. Final Fantasy XI started with 16, but it grew gradually with a Windows release, NA release and EU release, so it will at least be more than that it is assumed.
If you were diligent in acquiring your Mog Satchel, those Square Enix IDs and Security Tokens we set up are going to come in handy. As Square Enix revealed yesterday in a response to a series of questions from ZAM, the Security Tokens will be used to secure Final Fantasy XIV accounts and PlayOnline will not be used as a portal for accessing the game. Tanaka further explains that exclusively using the Square Enix ID also allows them to be more flexible with the payment plan. He expresses interest in switching from a monthly plan to one that charges in 30-day increments. As for being able to purchase in-game items with real money, the developers indicate they are not considering the option at this time.
Some may find it ironic that Rapture was first announced four years ago at an E3 Microsoft press conference, yet is now touted as a PS3 console-exclusive title. However, the interest appears to be there for an Xbox360 port, but Tanaka laments that they just have not been able to reach a full compromise with Microsoft yet. Talks will continue, but there is no more comment on whatever progress may have taken place.
One concern certainly being voiced across many forums is the fate of Final Fantasy XI in the face of this new release. Well, rest assured that Vana'diel will persist well after the release of Final Fantasy XIV. Tanaka admits that while players can play both games simultaneously, it could be quite taxing on one's free time. However, he reiterates that the focus for XIV is having a variety of content that allows you to spend your time how you want and still progress. In the end, it is up to the player if they want to remain in XI, try out XIV, or maintain a presence in both games. Users are encouraged to explore the full freedom both games offer.
Besides the visual similarities between the characters you create, there will be no solid connection between Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. There will also be no character transfers, but they are investigating a way in which you can carry your preferred name over from XI. The developers stress that they want to maximize the comfort for community members transferring from one game to the other. Character transfers would take people out of XI, when the goal is to encourage freedom of play, rather than bunch everyone into one game or the other. The ideal would be enabling you to play with your friends in either XI or XIV as you so choose. Tanaka even states there was an initial plan to add a new door to the Mog House that would exit into Eorzea, much like a portal to a new dimension. However, the technical hurdles involved in accomplishing such a feat were too much to overcome. Some things they can do, however, include transferring over Linkshells or Friend Lists to Final Fantasy XIV. Still, none of this is set in stone yet.
Jumping back to Final Fantasy XI for a bit, we are able to shed a little light of hope for the devout denizens of Vana'diel. We know updates are planned out for the next year, but will development cease after that? When pressed on this issue, Tanaka gives a reassuring "no" to the idea the development would cease, and says that updates will continue as long as there are users to support. The Final Fantasy XI team has already been multi-tasking on Final Fantasy XIV for several years now, so there is no reason to think they will suddenly drop the game now. Players are encouraged to look forward to more updates, including the next add-on scenario, A Moogle Kupo d'Etat.
Final Fantasy XIV will also have a strong story backing up the gameplay. Like Final Fantasy XI, the story will be epic in scale, having the feel of a single-player title. Rich, full cut scenes will also become a staple of this title. When asked whether the game will feature voice acting for NPCs, the developers simply gave a nod and a wink and asked that we all "wait and see." Crystals will also be back with a role in the story, but again, players should expect to see them take a unique form this time around.
In the end, Final Fantasy XIV is all about taking the latest hardware and cutting-edge technology and developing a unique experience that really delivers for all types of players. Long time fans of the series can look forward to a truly amazing world in which they can immerse themselves, while faithful players of Final Fantasy XI have unexplored lands to tame alongside those whom with they have forged lasting friendships throughout their time in Vana'diel. However, Final Fantasy XI will be here to stay, and Square Enix made sure to convey the idea that the users who brought them this far will not be abandoned.