We are now just one week away from Tokyo Game Show, the biggest video game expo of the year in Japan. A trailer will be shown in the Open Mega Theatre but we won’t know until the event starts whether it’s just an old one or not. Japanese fans are likely to feel slighted if there isn’t anything new though so I’m hoping for at least a little something different from what has been shown at E3 or gamescom.
In the meantime, I finally got some breathing room in my schedule to read the most recent Dengeki PlayStation magazine. Oerba from Final Fantasy XIII graces the cover this week and there is another fairly large article for the highly anticipated game inside. The unexpected treat (prior to online leaks anyways) was a 2 page interview with Final Fantasy XIV Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Director Nobuaki Komoto in a font so small it makes your eyes hurt. No new game play pictures for the interview but the two looked happy in their picture, Komoto wearing shorts as usual.
Let’s check out the rankings and info in this week’s Dengeki PlayStation magazine. Many of you have probably already seen the information on other sites so let’s make this a little special with some other Japanese magazine extras. Curious? Read on!
Pop Idol group AKB48 enters the Japanese CD singles chart at #2. My friend described them as being more about quantity than quality but I think the idea is unique. Pop idols you can see almost any night of the week in a small concert hall, versus the mega stadiums where you can barely make out the faces of the performers. For DVDs, 20th Century Boys Part 2 tops the charts. The 3rd part of the trilogy is currently in theatres and ends one of the largest projects ever attempted by the Japanese movie industry. Large blockbuster videos are normal for Hollywood but not so much for Japanese movie makers.
Wondering why I’m talking about a Japanese pop band and movie? It’s true they have nothing to do with Final Fantasy XIV but I’m hoping to see both during my trip to Tokyo next week. The shared coverage currently being planned with Elmer from ZAM won’t just be about Tokyo Game Show but our mini adventure in general. We’re hoping to entertain you guys a bit leading up to the event as well. More information on how to follow the coverage later this week.
As for game rankings, Final Fantasy XIII got knocked off the top spot this week! It slips down to second place, a few thousand votes less than received by a game being released today in Japan: the PS3 port of Tales of Vesperia. Final Fantasy XIV fell down to 13th place, sandwiched between two PSP games: Ys Seven and Final Fantasy Agito XIII.
Looking at the rankings of games currently on sale is also pretty interesting. The top 10 in the list are all PSP or PS2 titles. The first PS3 title to rank in is a baseball game made by Konami. Only 3 of the top 20 on-sale now games are for PS3. Hopefully the release of Final Fantasy XIII gives the system a lift like some experts are predicting.
There are hundreds if not thousands of weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly publications in Japan. You can find some kind of publication for nearly every hobby you can imagine. Like to obsess over Japanese voice actresses? There are several magazines you can choose from. 1st year in elementary school? There are specialty magazines for you too. And don’t worry about getting older. You can just jump up to the 2nd grade specialty magazines next year. Love kimono? Check out the magazines on the latest trends in design and fabric. I think one of the oddest magazines I’ve seen was one for people who like pictures of girls in skimpy outfits holding guns.
With such a variety of magazines, it can be hard to choose the right magazine for you. In addition to a wide variety of gaming magazines, I also buy computing magazines from time to time. There are some pretty straight forward ones but lately I’ve grown attached to Weekly Ascii magazine. They tend to have some female model on the cover but never particularly attractive ones. That isn’t the point though. This magazine is about computing but with a definitely geeky spin. There are articles on pop culture and maps for Akihabara. There are also articles on video games and consoles, like their coverage of the new slim PS3 a couple weeks ago. And at only 390 yen an issue, it’s not a wallet breaker like some of the gaming magazines I buy. (The magazine is done by the same publisher as Dengeki PlayStation which might explain a few things too.)
So! A few little tidbits and trivia from this week’s Weekly Ascii:
- This is the first year since Square and Enix merged that a Dragon Quest series game and a Final Fantasy series game have been sold in the same year.
- People are attempting to write 140 character novels on twitter. Search the hashtag #twnovel for examples. Also interesting is twittermap.jp which ties profile information from twitter with maps. Finally, while a lot of people are used to live blogs now, using both special tools or twitter, some Japanese users refer to the concept as “Tsudaru” (“Tsuda’ing”) in reference to Japanese journalist Tsuda Daisuke’s use of twitter to do event reporting.
- There are some odd USB memory sticks on the market in Japan. Some of the ones they cover this week: a thumb, cat ears, USB memory wristband, the smallest USB drive on the market which is barely bigger than the metal part you insert into your computer, and USB memory sticks shaped like pose-able people. You can check out some of these odd creations at solidalliance.com.
Ever wonder if Japanese interviewers waste questions on stupid things like the western press does from time to time? They sure do! This interview was probably conducted by the head of the Dengeki FFXI Lightning Brigade or one of their members. In it, they ask if we will be able to ride Roegadyn using emotes. Apparently the leader of the group would like that to be an option. And before your mind goes too far in the gutter, the leader is a Tarutaru in FFXI and probably means riding on a Roegadyn’s shoulders. Unfortunately, the two big men for FFXIV let him know he’ll have to keep dreaming because it’d be too difficult to implement. Other things they mentioned:
- Miqo’te only have the ears on top of their head. They don’t have extra ears hidden anywhere.
- Roegadyn were designed for the world of FFXIV so they have no tails even if they are similar to Galkas in FFXI.
- Not every character will have voice acting. It would be impossible to keep up with regular updates and have things fully voiced. However, any voice acting there is, like for important scenes, will be done in English. Oddly enough, the reasoning for this is they want people to focus on the graphical aspect of the scenes rather than just a box with text.
- They haven’t decided exactly how chocobos will be used in FFXIV yet.
- Komoto says playing with a controller won’t feel much different than it does in FFXI.
- They haven’t had a chance to think about any events specifically for FFXIV, like the recent party thrown for FFXIII, but Komoto says he’d like to do something.
- You will need a Square Enix ID to play. You will not be required to use the security token.
- The game will be windowed from the very beginning so you can take advantage of other things, like community sites, at the same time.
- The next system Komoto would like to show off is the Armoury System.
The majority of the interview was pretty straight forward stuff. A lot of it we have heard before but they did clarify a few things from other interviews as well. Unlike some summaries posted online, they did not bash the western media, so people who were concerned about that can relax.
Comparing FFXI and FFXIV – Aetheryte versus Mog House
They’ve said before that one of their target markets is current or former FFXI players. That said, there will be some people who are curious about what’s new and what’s different. Also interesting is how the game is being made differently from FFXI. One of the most obvious differences is in game play. Guildleves will be a large part of FFXIV. Where as FFXI had a lot of grinding in groups for long periods of time, it sounds like most guildleves will be on the short side, as short as 30 minutes, and have different goals that must be accomplished. Some players are already comparing it to the Assault system from FFXI. There is also a big difference in how you change jobs or roles. In FFXI, you had to talk to your house moogle or a nomad moogle to change jobs. In FFXIV, you can change classes freely without needing to return to any particular spot. The Armoury System was a concept they originally had for FFXI but now are able to make it a reality in FFXIV.
This change in how and where you can change classes also changes another part of game design. One of the nice features in FFXI was the Mog House, a semi-customizable homebase. The entrance was shared by everyone so no worries about getting lost or forgetting where your home is. In addition to item storage, it was the place to change your job as well. This feature is no longer needed for FFXIV. The Mog Houses were also in cities. You could log out quickly in your Mog House and then walk into the city to look for other people to play with. This was largely the case for big cities like Jeuno or Whitegate. However, in FFXIV, they want people to gather at Aetheryte and log out or in around there without having to go back into town often. In other words, you don’t really need a base camp in town either. Komoto goes so far as to say the Aetheryte replaces the need for Mog Houses. When asked if there will be regular homes, he says he expects that kind of thing will be gradually added.
How do you feel? Do you think it is necessary to have some kind of personal home in an MMO?
Comparing FFXI and FFXIV – Customization
The level of customization for playable characters is also different. Tanaka says they took ideas from FFXI to make it easy for FFXI players to move into FFXIV but the level of customization you can do is so high that you can end up making something very different from what was available in FFXI. The interviewer asks if characters will age due to the fact that weapon and armor degradation is included in FFXIV. With a smile, Komoto says they won’t age but it will probably be able to change your hairstyle in game. This is an option FFXI players have wanted so it’s nice to see that it might be included in FFXIV. He says that they want to grant the requests of players as they develop the game. One thing they don’t plan on letting people do is change their face. If you can change even that, you lose something that allows you to recognize somebody.
There will also be some level of armor and weapon customization this time around. We had guessed this before but they now confirm that there will be different colors available for equipment that have the same stats. They already have a wide range of colors planned and the number of items that can be colorized will increase. In the future, Komoto says it would be nice to even allow people to add emblems to items as well.
Graphics and the Landscape
At this point in time, the game graphics are only 50% completed. Tanaka says they will probably change quite a bit so people should look forward to even greater things. We know parts of the UI are customizable. The interviewer asked if we will be able to adjust the text size as well and Tanaka says he thinks it will be something they can add in in the future. Character graphics are getting a lot of attention. They are still looking into things but there is a chance that more equipment will be visible this time around. For example, neck pieces or rings. However, nothing is set in stone yet. They are still talking about the best way to go about things and how much should be made visible. They are also not sure about how to show weapon degradation status. For example, they could change the way the weapon looks on screen or make a gauge. Komoto says they will try out lots of different things and go from there.
One of the first things we learned about was the inclusion of weather effects. People started to wonder what kind of effect they would have on the players. For example, would certain clans be affected in different ways. Komoto talked a little about the weather with the interviewer from Dengeki. The weather effects will not be related to elements like they were in FFXI. It doesn’t sound like weather effects will have a specific effect on players. He explains the reasoning behind this by saying that while that might be interesting at first, eventually it would get to the point where people wouldn’t want to go to certain areas. Instead, they will think about how to use the weather effects in other ways.
At gamescom, the team showed off some of the emotes players will be able to use in game. The detail is much higher than FFXI, in part because they decided to use motion capture this time around. Komoto says it would be difficult to implement motions that involve multiple people but it would be nice to think about as they could be used as one form of communication. For people curious what this means, think about having an emote where you could hug another player and they could hug you back at the same time. Both character models would be involved with the emote.
As for the general landscape, they say the game will not be entirely seamless. This was mistranslated (but they don’t say by who or where). The area you can move through seamlessly will be about the size of a region in FFXI. This doesn’t mean there won’t be area divisions though. Monsters will not follow you for the entire length of a zone for example. There will be towns and the areas around Aetheryte as well. However, you can generally divide areas by if there are monsters there or no monsters there. Either way, you will be able to draw your weapon anywhere you want thanks to the fact there is no auto-attack.
Move, Fight, Fix, Move, Fight
As mentioned several times before, they want people to gather at the Aetheryte. From there, people will start guildleves or help with other people’s guildleves. Its main purpose is to act as a gathering point for players. For example, not only could you find other people to do guildleves with but perhaps craftsmen that can help fix damaged armor or weapons. The second function is as a method of transportation. Komoto says you can also use them to go from town to town, not just to a battlefield.
Speaking of the craftsmen, they give a little bit more information about that too. They may or may not add personalized shop signs in the future, i.e. a way to advertise your services. Even if a craftsmen fails to fix something, the item will not break. They are also considering adding regular shops that people can use to get things fixed in the event they can’t find another player to fix something for them. If you need to find somebody, you might be able to search players’ personalized comment areas, developed out of the search comment feature in FFXI. They also have other ideas in mind.
There are a few new details about fighting too. For example, your position and the position of other people and enemies will be an important thing to keep track of. We’ve already seen this in action at gamescom with people getting attacked from the right hand side by Dodos. Differences in height will not be as important.
Some people have also wondered if the more craft-oriented classes will still be able to attack things in battle. Komoto tries to reassure players by saying they will have at least the minimum stats they need in order to fight but they will naturally be weaker than classes more geared towards fighting.
You start off by going to a player’s guild, which is almost like a tavern. There you can accept guildleves, which are like plates more than cards, and go off to the Aetheryte. You can think of the guildleve as a pass or permission slip. It allows you to do a certain set activity or perhaps travel in a certain area. The rest of the information has been covered in previous interviews like how it works well for casual players because it doesn’t eat up a lot of time to do a guildleve or how some of them will involve monsters like the NMs from FFXI. After you finish your guildleve, you can go back to the Aetheryte and then start a new one or even logout there.
That’s it for now. See ya later!