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Dengeki: Interview with Tanaka and Sundi

29 Aug 2009

dengekitanakasundiThese big game shows are a lot like Christmas.  You get a bunch of really good stuff all at once but there is something of a let down after it’s all over.  However, sometimes there are still little treats that come in the mail a bit late.  

Once again, Dengeki has delayed the online release of their interview.  They also interviewed Final Fantasy XIV Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Global Online Producer Sage Sundi at gamescom last week and a small portion of their interview was published in yesterday’s Dengeki PlayStation.  The full interview was posted on their site today and it is three pages long!  It really makes you wonder how much more we’d be able to ask if we could do interviews without the need of a translator.

In general, the interview covers a lot of the things we’ve already heard from other interviews.  However, there are a few specifics not mentioned elsewhere so let’s get into it!

Basic Information
The game is currently about 40 to 50% complete.  They were barely able to put the playable build together in time for gamescom but it was something they really wanted to have for the event instead of just the demonstration version they had originally planned.  

After reading all the interviews, you can tell they really want people to test out the game from the earliest possible stages of development, try out the new features, and then give them feedback.  This means we can expect beta testing to begin sooner than later.  However, prior to that, we can expect more focused testing with smaller parts of the game, much like the development build made for gamescom focused on the guildleve system.    Once it seems like the game can be played without a lot of problems, they’ll start beta testing.  

There were a lot of comparisons made in this interview between FFXI and FFXIV.  For example, the various teams working on FFXI will also help with things as they move forward with FFXIV.  They are already used to developing new content in 4 languages simultaneously and that will continue with FFXIV.  Proof of this is in the playable alpha build which was shown in German at gamescom but the media was also provided with pictures in Japanese.  The auto-translator from FFXI will also be in FFXIV, working pretty much the same as it is now.  However, they are looking to make improvements and see how they can get more accurate conversions between the various supported languages.  It is tricky to find the balance between precision and usability.  

The Special Task Force will also be expanding from FFXI to cover FFXIV as Sundi says they can’t expect to create a team for FFXIV with all new people with no experience.  As a side note, they don’t plan on hiring new GMs until later in the development cycle.  Nothing is planned for the closed beta but he thinks they will start looking for people after the open beta begins.  FFXIV will also use the Square Enix ID system and they hope people will use the Security Tokens as well.

In FFXI, we had three starting nations.  They currently plan to use three starting city-states for the new game: Limsa Lominsa, Ul’dah, and Gridania.  A previously released city-state, Ishgard, was not mentioned in the interview.

The main overarching storyline will be written by Yaeko Sato, who was responsible for the Windurst mission line in FFXI as well as some of the quests in Kazham.  The current plan is to have cutscenes with the voice acting done in English and subtitles added for translation.  People have been wondering about this on various forums asking if the voice acting would be done in multiple languages so it’s nice to see an answer to that question.  Of course, there is always the chance that they might change their minds later.

Many members of FFXI endgame linkshells participate in events so they can receive rare or exclusive items dropped from Notorious Monsters or High Level Notorious Monsters.  Players can expect to see something similar for FFXIV as well.  In fact, Tanaka states that there will probably be battle-oriented guildleves from the very beginning that will require a large number of players to work together.  We’ll see familiar regular monsters on the battlefield as well.  Some will come from FFXI but there will also be others that previously made appearances in other FF titles.  

What’s Not the Same
While there are a lot of things that are the same and familiar to players of FFXI, there are also many changes.  Tanaka even says from his point of view, he doesn’t think they had to change as much as they did.  However, Sundi follows that up saying that they also want it to be different from FFXI so that there are things you can experience and enjoy only by playing FFXIV.  They also want a world that new players can easily adapt to even if they’ve never touched FFXI before.  It will be filled with characters with strong personalities, even more so than the characters we’ve grown to love in FFXI.

A lot of the changes can be found in the way various systems work.  We’ll touch on changes to the battle system as well as the new guildleve system later.  Some of the other systems will directly affect the in-game economy.  For example, gone is the Auction House from FFXI, but we will get a new system to replace it.  Players will still be able to trade items between one another as well.  The crafting classes could also have a larger effect on the economy then they do now.  FFXIV will see some form of weapon degradation.  They give the specific example of using a blacksmith to repair weapons.  You could gain skills as a blacksmith to do it yourself but they predict more often than not, people will have to rely on the assistance of other players to do it for them.

Battle System and Guildleves
That leads us into the battle system and guildleves.  We’ve gone over this topic a lot in the past few weeks so there isn’t too much new to discuss.  Tanaka says again that the system used in FFXIV is different from the auto-attack system used in FFXI.  You’ll need to choose your attacks by making selections from the Action Menu or by using macros.  The commands in the Action Menu can be used by clicking on them with a mouse or by pressing the corresponding number.  A different interview said that PS3 users will be able to use a mouse as well but nothing has been mentioned about how this system will work with a controller.  You are free to customize your Action Menu and the makeup of the menu will change according to the weapon you are currently equipped with.

The skill you have in your equipped weapon will change a lot of things.  For example, higher sword skill can lead to increased attack power and will allow you to learn new abilities.  While there will be a gap in skill levels amongst players, Tanaka says it looks like they won’t need a level sync-type system because you can increase your skills just by participating in the battle.  Unfortunately, he does not elaborate on this any further.  They are looking at capping skill levels but they don’t think it will take as long to gain your skills as it does in FFXI.  This whole aspect of the system is still being worked on.

In FFXI, jobs and crafting were separate systems.  In FFXIV, they are combined under the armoury system.  Sundi says this is one of the special features, and according to Tanaka, one of the concepts behind the new system is that you can reach the highest levels of your class without ever fighting a single battle.  For the times you need to go somewhere too dangerous for you to handle on your own, you could ask some battle-minded friends to escort you.  Likewise, with weapon degradation, there will be times that battle-oriented classes will need the assistance of crafting-classes like blacksmiths, weavers, or chefs.  

Tanaka and Sundi also tell Dengeki a little bit more about the guildleve system.  There will be guildleves used to gain skills or ones that require a large number of people to work together.  The guildleves available to a player will depend on a lot of factors.  One mentioned previously was your skill level.  Another mentioned in this interview is location.  Each region will have different guildleves which you can start at the aetheryte.  They once again reinforce the notion that people should be gathering at aetherytes to do things versus the city-states.   Similar to the quest system in FFXI, there will be guildleves you cannot access until you have cleared some prerequisites.  

There weren’t any extra monsters in the playable build at gamescom but the actual game will have additional monsters on the battlefield that you will have to deal with.  You will not need to compete with other people over the monsters you need for your guildleve though.  Likewise, people cannot attack or be attacked by monsters that are for your guildleve.  There was a hint of this in the playable version as well.  In a couple of the released screenshots, you could see text that said “Player claims the Dodo party”.

Why Play? -Armor and Motivation-
Everyone is motivated to play a game for different reasons.  It could be to play with your friends or it could be to collect the best equipment in the game.  They plan on including a lot of things in FFXIV to draw you into the game and continue playing.

One motivation they touch on in the interview is equipment.  There will be a wider range of equipment in FFXIV when compared to its predecessor.  Sundi also says it’s possible that you’ll have to participate in certain game contents to get your hands on certain pieces of equipment.  For players of FFXI, think of it like Nyzul Isle assaults, runs in Sky, or trying your luck with Salvage.  Whether they will be of the same difficulty or have similar drop rates will be something players will have to compare in the distant future.

Your skill level will determine the armor you can wear or the weapons you can equip.  This means when you change your weapon, your armor will need to change too.  Sundi says they are looking into an option where your armor will automatically change in accordance with your skill level.  

The armor you wear will also affect your play.  There could be armor that will allow you to level a certain weapon more easily.  There is also armor that is more rounded to be used in situations where you want to attack and heal yourself.  It wouldn’t allow you to be experts in both but it allows for the possibility.  

We end with a final message from both Tanaka and Sundi.

In summary, Tanaka says once again how they want feedback from the players so they can work on improving the game.  Gamescom was about the guildleve system but he thinks it also showed off a little about the armoury system, which is one of the basic systems making up FFXIV.

As for Sundi, he says the stuff he is in charge of is still being worked on but it involves shaping the community in a new way.   They have to think about how they interact with fan sites and premier sites.  For example, how to get official information from the Development Team to the fan sites or even blogs.  That’s going to be a main issue for him to face when working on FFXIV.

You can read the original article in Japanese on Dengeki’s site here.