GAME Watch Interviews Tanaka and Komoto at TGS

28 Sep 2009

A surprise interview!  GAME Watch got to spend a little bit of time with both Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Director Nobuaki Komoto at Tokyo Game Show this past week.  The two dropped by Makuhari Messe for the interview, which was conducted in the public lobby area.  They talked about the trailer and the upcoming beta as well!  Click to read more of this rather extensive interview.

The Trailer
Once again, they say that the setting is not science fiction, but high fantasy.  They are making the game with fantasy in mind, but presenting it in a much prettier way than has been done before.  The attention to detail is evident with the high quality images you can see in the trailer.

Ship heading for port in the FFXIV TGS 2009 Trailer
Near the beginning of the trailer, there is a scene with adventurers coming into port.  This was done to visually show the idea behind how the game will start.  Komoto says you can think of it as the prologue for Limsa Lominsa.  Being a port town, new players will start their adventure coming into town by sea.  Other towns will be different but further information isn’t available because they are still working on the prologue scenes for the other two starting city-states.  

People on the forums have been wondering how much of the new trailer is pre-rendered and how much is done in real time.  The answer Komoto gives is a little confusing.  If you talk about the length, then the stuff done in real time is longer.  However, if you talk more about the elements used to make up the trailer, the pre-rendered material wins out by just a smudge.  There are scenes that switch between the two in the trailer and they are very proud of how it came out.  It’s hard for even them to tell which is which.  It’s also best not to pay too much attention to the order of the scenes.  Komoto says the ones towards the end with the fight in the sky between Magitek are scenes that aren’t actually related to each other.   The interviewer also asked if there would be psychic powers as a skill in the game due to the addition of Magitek.  Komoto says even if there was such a skill, it would be called something else and it’s hard to make a distinction between psychic powers and magic.  

The music playing in the trailer was made by Nobuo Uematsu.  The scenes and the music used in the trailer have nothing to do with each other when it comes to how the tracks will be used in the actual game.  The track from the first part of the trailer will be used in cutscenes while the second track is for battles.  

field3The Game
The demo shown off at gamescom represented a game that isn’t even 50% complete yet.  They worked on it to the last minute.  It wasn’t so much about wanting to show off something at gamescom specifically but that the timing was right for them.  As for nothing be available at TGS, the company’s decision was to focus on FFXIII.  Rather than being unhappy about this, Tanaka says he was more relieved than anything.  They really didn’t know how the gamescom demo would go since they didn’t have experience with showing off a game at this stage in development.  They didn’t know how users in Germany would accept it.  It sounds like they also had technical problems getting the demo to play on machines there.

Director Komoto says to expect changes between that demo and how things turn out in the end.  Even Final Fantasy XI had changes to the final product when compared with its beta.  While the user interface doesn’t look much like what people are familiar with in FFXI, it was inspired by the game.  For example, the abilities that you set at the bottom were inspired by the macros you would create and set in FFXI.  They haven’t decided the maximum number of abilities you can register yet.  Tanaka laughs when recalling that some people think that the 200 possible slots in FFXI aren’t enough.  Also not included in the demo was the ability to do skillchains, which will also be a part of FFXIV.  However, due to a different battle system, the way skillchains are done is also expected to change drastically.  There may be a way to do solo skillchains in the future, but for now they are focusing on chains you have to build with other people.

field6They then get into party dynamics and battle strategies.  It will be very important to think about your position and the timing of attacks during battle. The enemies can also be in parties so you have to take that under consideration as well.  This was something they wanted to show with the guildleves made available at gamescom.  In FFXI, players primarily pulled back enemies one at a time and thought about how to do that without nearby enemies linking.  For FFXIV, however, you have to think more about how to deal with an entire party of enemies.  If you pull one, then many times the rest of them will come to fight as well.  You have to learn how to deal with “many-versus-many” type fights.  Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you can just pull one enemy though.  

There is still no official decision on the maximum number of players or enemies that can be in one party.  However, they don’t want to make set patterns with the number of people in a party like with what happened in FFXI.  Rather than saying that a party can have a maximum of six people, they want the system to be flexible enough that if you have two people, that’s ok, and if you have three, that’s ok too.  That said, there won’t be any bonuses for having a certain number of players in your party as well.  For example, sometimes you could get an exp bonus in FFXI depending on the number of people in your party and other factors.  FFXIV is more about the difference in the level between you and what you are fighting rather than the difference in levels amongst players.  

The interviewer also brought up the fact that you can brandish your weapon and walk into town during the middle of battle.  According to Komoto, there are some people who don’t like the idea.  However, there are also some who argue for it.  For example, your movement speed changes when you brandish your weapon.  They can also make differences in how you recover depending on whether your weapon is out or not.  The combination of being able to pull out your weapon anywhere with a largely seamless world also allows them to do other things not possible in FFXI.  For example, you could bring your fight into town.  It may not happen frequently, but Komoto says it’s a definite possibility.  

tailorThe Classes
The first thing the interviewer asks about the classes in FFXIV is how they came up with the idea.  It was partially inspired by Komoto’s own experience with FFXI wishing he could be an adventurer based just on the crafting and gathering elements.  Then they started to divide out the different types of classes based on what you’d want during battle, like a magic user or a swordsman.  Breaking them into different groups led to the creation of the Armoury System.  You’ll be able to change your class just by changing your weapon.  However, if you change to a weapon you aren’t skilled with, you will become weaker than if you had changed to a weapon you are skilled with.

The number of classes we’ll see at the start of service isn’t set yet.  However, they do think they will add classes with version updates rather than with major expansions like they did with FFXI.

In prior interviews, they talked about how it will be important to set and decide roles during battle.  They hint on that again with more information on how classes work.  Some classes will be more suited to certain roles than others.  For example, some classes might be better at tanking.  However, they don’t want players to pigeon hole certain jobs.  The goal is to design classes that are flexible.  If a player wants to be an attacker, they can set more abilities suited to that.  However, if their party needs a tank, they could set abilities for tanking instead and switch roles without switching classes.  Some familiar abilities will also be making a comeback in FFXIV but people will need to be open minded about them.  Komoto says Flee will most likely be included but that doesn’t mean the person using it is a Thief.  

When it comes to crafting, the sky is basically the limit but they do have to start somewhere.  They think armor will come first but they also have to think about other elements as well.  For instance, furnishings or even larger items.  If they don’t plan for those, there are people who will lose interest since they can’t do what they would like to do.  Komoto says they’d like to support people who still want to advance in the game but mainly be crafters.  He thinks there will be people in the game who specialize like that as well.  There will surely be a need for people to repair items due to FFXIV’s weapon degradation.  However, it’s not just weapons.  Komoto says that, in a very overarching way, anything can degrade.  Weapons, armor, and tools are given as examples.  Even rare weapons can degrade over time and it will take somebody with a lot of skill to repair them.

The Specs
Right now, the game is being developed with DirectX 9 in mind.  They looked into DirectX 10 and the machines currently available on the market as well.  In the end, they decided that DirectX 9 was the best choice.  Tanaka says they will also work on how to incorporate new technology in the future.  Expect that you will need a computer on the high end of the current market to play FFXIV.  They were told the specs for FFXI were too high when that game was released 7 years ago but look at the situation now.  They have to design a game that will age gracefully.  They also have to guess at what things will be like when the game is released in 2010.  People will be switching from Windows Vista to Windows 7.  There are people who will go from a 32bit system to a 64bit one.  Tanaka also says device drivers can lead to different problems they have to try to foresee as well.  They are also planning to support a wide variety of possibilities.  For example, this time expect support for 64bit and multicore systems.  Information on what that means exactly, for example, how much FFXIV will take advantage of such systems, is not available at this time.  However, things will be different from FFXI.  FFXI was made for consoles and ported to Windows.  For FFXIV, it’s made with Windows in mind and then they’ll make adjustments as needed for any console systems.  

Graphics will also be different.  They are preparing separate graphics for the PS3 and Windows versions.  For example, textures will be different.  When the interviewer asked about HDTV video modes, Tanaka says the PS3 version will probably be 720p instead of 1080p. It will vary for Windows users depending on their system.

There is no deep reasoning for Art Director Akihiko Yoshida being on the team.  At the time they were putting together the team for FFXIV, Yoshida had just finished working on FFXII so the timing worked out well that way.  Tanaka mentions that Yoshida checks all of the PR material they send out for the game as well.  

The Beta
Can you believe it?  GAME Watch got actual information about beta testing! The first round of beta testing will be done with a relatively small group and be conducted worldwide.  It won’t be a continuously running beta test but broken down into small 3 or 4 hour tests held at different times.  They plan on doing very detailed testing on FFXIV so users will see how the game develops over time.  At the beginning, tests will only be conducted with the Windows version.  From the initial 3 or 4 hour tests they will expand to daily or weekly beta tests that run for 24 hours a day.  After that comes stress tests which will require a lot of people.  Tanaka says it could start with 10 thousand people and go up from there to 20, 40, and 80 thousand people.  Finally, there will be a free open beta.  Originally he thought it would take half a year to go from a development build to the open beta, but he now thinks it will be shorter than that.  The interviewer guesses at a summer release based on that and Tanaka says it all depends on the feedback they get from players during the beta testing.  It doesn’t sound like the development build he is referring to is the same demo shown at gamescom.  He says whether or not a development build is made by year’s end will depend on the developers. 

The interview ends with Tanaka saying things will be different from how FFXI started because they will take action against RMT from the very beginning this time around.  People will also be able to use the security tokens and one time passwords.  Komoto says visitors to gamescom were able to try out the game first but for people in Japan to please be patient because it will be awhile longer before they will have a chance to play it.  Tanaka laughs and says he’ll be lighting a fire under the bums of all the developers.

And there you have it!  A surprise Tokyo Game Show interview with quite a lot of new information.  Will there be more surprise interviews?  We’ll just have to wait and watch the Japanese media closely over the coming days and weeks.  If you want to check out the original interview in Japanese and see the pictures of Tanaka and Komoto at TGS, visit GAME Watch’s page here.