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Famitsu: Interview with Sage Sundi

21 Aug 2009

Sage Sundi (left) and Hiromichi Tanaka

Sage Sundi (left) and Hiromichi Tanaka

Don’t expect anything from the magazines this week. Dengeki PlayStation won’t go on sale until next week and there is nothing in Weekly Famitsu either. That’s ok though because everything we need is already on the net, free for anybody to read.

First off, interviews with FFXIV Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and FFXIV Global Producer Sage Sundi from Famitsu. Gamescom is the first time we’ve seen Sundi give an interview with the press concerning FFXIV, establishing that he has the same role in FFXIV as he does in FFXI. As his interview is the shorter of the two, let’s start there.

Sundi’s Job
He begins by saying an MMORPG is made up of three parts (Development, Operations, and Players) and describes his job as being the bridge between users and the development team on the global scale. Those familiar with FFXI know Sundi as the person in charge of the Special Task Force and GM services in game. He will continue this role in FFXIV as well keeping the GM policies nearly identical to those of FFXI. The GM team will also just be an expanded version of the team used for FFXI as well. In fact, he says he believes that other teams as well, like Community Relations and Special Task Force, will really just be expanded versions of the ones currently in place for FFXI.

Just because the teams will be the same doesn’t mean nothing will change though. Sundi gives one example of a possible change as being how easy or not it is to call a GM. Specific details of how things will change are not given so those things will need to be asked in future interviews as we get closer to an official release.

Global Communication
The bulk of the short interview is about global communication between SE and players worldwide.

We start off with how Square Enix will communicate with players from various countries who speak different languages. One thing often asked for by players is an official forum to express opinions and concerns. In fact, there was an official forum for Japanese players back at the beginning of FFXI. However, it was eventually shut down. This has been a sore spot for some in the Japanese community because they feel like SE first opened the door for communication and then firmly shut it on their faces when they tried to express their honest opinions. There are no Premier Sites for FFXI in Japan either, further limiting the ability of players to communicate with SE. In that sense, many Japanese players rely on the efforts made by Premier Sites in North America and Europe to fill the gap.

Sundi’s comments in regards to an official forum are directed not just at Japanese players, but Western players as well. He says that unlike games that are entirely in English, there are times for them where they cannot communicate in English. However, if they created something that was only in Japanese, it is likely that only Japanese people would gather in that forum. Instead, they would like to create a system for Premier Sites like we have now in FFXI. There would be sites for each language and a community manager assigned to the various sites. From there, they can gather questions and such from users.

With no Premier Sites at the moment for FFXI in Japan, it will be interesting to see how SE encourages community sites to develop. Sundi states that he wants to look into how they can use the web to encourage not just asking questions but also getting users exchange information. Whether it’s an item database or a wiki, he says they need to work on tying official data with the efforts made by players. Everything is still in the works, but he wants to aim for a new way of communicating and a new shape to the community compared to what we have for FFXI.

Next, the interviewer asks what will be available in-game to form communities. Sundi responds there will of course be the ability to chat with other players. He also expects something for players that has developed out of the linkshell system used in FFXI. There will also be an official site, growing out of their efforts made with the Linkshell Community site for FFXI. Out of game, people will make their own websites and blogs that can be tied in as well. Perhaps this is a reference to the new system for FFXI Community Sites introduced recently.

The Quest for Separate Servers
The last question for the interview isn’t so much a question as it was relaying a message. It is a touchy one as well for some players. The interviewer mentions that there are players who want servers that are divided based on language. This topic had been previously mentioned soon after the announcement at E3. At the event, Tanaka said in general they planned on doing cross-regional servers which contain a mix of players from different countries but that they would look into the issue during the beta. This statement gave hope to some Japanese players who would rather only play with other Japanese players like FFXI was in the beginning.

Sundi responded by saying the direction they are taking with FFXIV comes from not having language-separated servers in FFXI and that to implement something like that now would be almost like taking a step backwards. They will continue to think about how to make this system a success and that it makes it easier to show off how FFXI and FFXIV are special.

Reaction to this interview by Japanese players was swift and merciless. Many people replied that with his statements, Sundi had killed FFXIV by not listening to the voices of those that want language-separated servers. They say SE is only pandering to foreign audiences and they don’t care about Japanese players. One thing they point out is that Sundi basically states they want to keep online communities separated by language because of language difficulties but they expect players in-game to communicate just fine. Other people said that it doesn’t matter because they can use the web to organize themselves and focus on creating characters on agreed-upon servers and try to tell western players to stay off of them. This is one of the problems already plaguing FFXI so SE will need to find ways to counteract server population issues stemming from movements like this in FFXIV.

How much cross-regional servers will affect sales of FFXIV is unknown. There are of course plenty of players in FFXI and people interested in FFXIV who don’t care either way. There are also players laughing at those who wanted language-separated servers in the first place.