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This Week in the Magazines

26 Jun 2009

dpcoverjune26It’s been a quiet two weeks for the magazines. Weekly Famitsu hasn’t had anything new, focusing instead on the soon-to-be released Dragon Quest XI for the Nintendo DS. Dengeki PlayStation however got another interview to run in their FFXI section, this time with FFXI and FFXIV Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Kouichi Ogawa, director of ToA, WotG, and the 3 add-on scenarios. Dengeki PlayStation is calling this an “Emergency Interview”, and looking at the contents, it seems the team at Square Enix really wants to make sure people know that even with FFXIV coming next year, FFXI will still be around as long as people are supporting it.

Let’s take a look at what they had to say.

This interview was more about FFXI than FFXIV. This could be on purpose to calm any fears people have about FFXI service ending after FFXIV is released or maybe just to get us all excited about what will be coming with the next version update scheduled for late July. There were a few things mentioned in the interview though. We’ve heard from previous interviews and reports that FFXIV will not be based on an experience points system, that the weapons you use will have a big part in things, and that they want to make it accessible to people who normally don’t play MMOs due to the large time commitment. This last point is especially important as FFXI received a lot of criticism when it was released in regards to the amount of time required to progress in the game. Producer Tanaka isn’t about to spill the beans on FFXIV just yet but says it will go in a much different direction than FFXI did, and not just in terms of play style. He also mentions with a smile that FFXIV Director Koumoto Nobuaki referred to FFXI as being FFXIV’s biggest rival as well as its friend. (This was something Director Koumoto had said during the group interview that was done with the Japanese press after the main Q&A session held at E3.) At its core though, it is still a Final Fantasy title and will remain true to the series.

Development of FFXI and FFXIV will continue to happen side by side under the two directors and they don’t predict it will have a negative affect on the ongoing development of FFXI. They have been working on both titles at the same time for about 3 or 4 years now. A similar statement was recently made in an interview with Tanaka published in another book as well. He did acknowledge that they have been working on it more in recent months though compared to when they first started work on the project. Interestingly enough, he also said there that the pace of an update every two months or so for FFXI was more than they had originally planned but it just worked out that way based on fixing things quickly back when the game was initially released. The time period between version updates now could be more along what they originally hoped to do. If so, what does that mean for version updates when FFXIV is released? It will be interesting to compare the two and their version update schedules in the future.

Rumors on Japanese sites (and some English sites directly translating those rumors) about the contents of this interview said it would also contain a statement on how FFXIV would be made available for download through the PlayStation Network. The interview did not cover this topic which is a healthy reminder that while a lot of sites and forums run information on magazine contents as fact before they are released, not all of it is true. There is always the chance it will be made available as an online download though and it seems more and more likely looking at the direction FFXI is taking.

In fact, this is what the interview actually touched on. The interviewer asked if online downloads will become the main way to get future expansions for FFXI. Producer Tanaka responded that from a cost standpoint, disc media like CDs and DVDs had its merits but now the situation has changed so that there is no problem selling expansions online for download.

Personally, I believe that there will be a retail version of FFXIV in stores at release. It would help draw people to the series that don’t normally follow gaming news or bring in people who are fans of the Final Fantasy series and see it on the shelves lined up next to other Final Fantasy titles. Having hard copies of registration codes and instructional manuals are also important, especially for people new to online gaming. However, once you get over that hurdle, any future expansions could easily be done through online sales.

One last bit on FFXIV from this interview. Tanaka stated once again that they are planning to use the Square Enix Account system for FFXIV and any other future online services from Square Enix. All in all, nothing we haven’t already heard about FFXIV.

Let’s take a look at some of the FFXI specific news while we’re at it. The interviewer asked if we can expect any full expansions or new jobs after the 3 add-on scenarios are released. Tanaka isn’t saying anything about future expansions at the moment but he wants people to know that they aren’t planning on using microtransactions for things like new jobs. Some MMOs use microtransactions for jobs, items, and abilities, but there has been a lot of negative feedback floating around the Japanese community about having to pay for something to get an in-game item like the Tidal Talisman or even those who feel like ACP was really just paying about $10 to get a customizable body piece. It is likely Tanaka is trying to reassure those people that that is not the direction FFXI is going to take.

So what can we expect from the next version update? It was recently announced on POL as well but the Northlands will open up and be the stage for the next set of missions. However, people who are not caught up on their quests and missions needn’t fear because access to the Northlands will not be dependant on how far you’ve proceeded with the story. Anyone will be able to explore these new areas. With the next version update, Ogawa says the story line of WotG will be about 2/3 completed. They are also planning on releasing the 2nd of the add-on scenarios, A Moogle Kupo d’Etat. Advanced sales will start soon similarly to how the first add-on scenario was done. Volume-wise it will be about the same as ACP but he thinks people will have more fun with it. It starts off serious but makes a quick turn to the nonsensical. The augment system will be used once again but the types of items and the augmented abilities themselves will be different from what is available with ACP.

Speaking of ACP, they said they sold more copies than originally expected. There are some issues that they acknowledged though. They thought areas would be crowded right after release and the battle to get the required items from monsters would be fierce. Getting the proper balance for these things is still a difficult task. People also finished the add-on scenario much quicker than imagined. They wanted something that anyone could finish so they didn’t want to make it too hard but looking back, Tanaka says he wishes it had been a little tougher. There are probably some people out there thinking the last fight is too hard. However, there is one thing the team focused on. The key is avoiding being charmed. Surprisingly, Ogawa says the battle team put a lot of effort into making something where you can’t rely on a simple strategy. From my own personal experience, it seems most people are depending on Paladins and ranged attacks but perhaps there are more possibilities that have yet to be discovered.

Finally, what is in store for us in the future? The Mog Tablet quest introduced back in May will continue as part of the game. Security tokens will go on sale again this weekend. If you missed out on the first batch, make sure you order as soon as you can. The security token has helped cut down on the number of account related problems the team has had to deal with and they really want people to use them. As for future version update and expansions, we are getting closer to getting a new avatar but no specific timing was released in the interview. They are looking at adding new quests relating to some of the popular Campaign NPCs in future updates as well. We can also expect additions and adjustments to current game contents as new areas are opened up.

As for Fan Fest, they are looking into holding them again this year. Tanaka makes a joke that maybe they should hold it in Hawaii since it is between Japan and America. Ahhh Tanaka! Don’t tease me like that! I would love to escape the cold and snowy winter here for a nice and sunny Hawaii.

That’s all for this week. See you next time!