Like many media outlets, Famitsu had their interview with Final Fantasy XIV Producer Tanaka Hiromichi (left) and North American Producer/Senior Manager of NA Operations Kurosawa Yasu (right) today. Topics included the upcoming start of beta testing, possible 3D effects, and community reactions about the ongoing alpha build testing.
You can find a copy of the original interview in Japanese on Famitsu’s website or our translated version below the break.
–Is the version people are trying out at E3 this week the actual beta build?
Tanaka: It’s very close to it. You could say it’s one step prior to the beta build. We are still working on balance issues and haven’t finished our final round of debugging.
–Why put out the beta now?
Tanaka: Awhile back we knew we had to start beta testing around this time of year. However, I do have to say that alpha build testing has taken more time than we originally thought it would.
–Has the character creation process changed a lot with this new version?
Tanaka: It’s close to how it will be in the final release. There are a few things planned that aren’t included though, like the ability to change the color of a Miqo’te’s tail or change the shape of an Elezen’s ears. Those things will be added in by the final release.
–There were also changes made to the battle system like how you got rid of “effect” gauges.
(Translation note: The interviewer referred to them as effect gauges.)
Tanaka: Even before alpha testing began, the developers already felt that the battle tempo was poor and had decided to start working on something new. However, just to make sure, we decided to ask players for their opinions on the system which is why we started alpha testing with that particular system in place. As expected, there were a lot of complaints from the alpha testers as well that the battle tempo should be quicker so we continued development on the new system with a faster battle pace.
The action gauge was also part of the problem. If you have to wait for the gauge to fill before you can attack, that ruins the tempo, so we switched to a system where you have an action gauge that is completely full when you start and it depletes while you attack. The developers really worked to the last minute to get us this in time to show off at E3 and they are still working on further debugging and balance issues back in Japan.
–Are there any other big changes?
Tanaka: We’ve increased the number of abilities you can set on your action bar to 30 from 20. We’ve made it so that players will have an even easier time placing their actions on the bar in the way they want. There are other changes as well. HP and MP will now grow as part of the system itself, elemental bonuses will be put into play, and the physical bonuses will be separate from that. I think it will be a much simpler system than what players saw in the alpha build.
–You have a 3D version on display at E3 as well.
Tanaka: We are still looking into using 3D. For E3, we cooperated with nVidia to make the demo display using their 3D Vision Surround Technology.
–The graphics have also greatly improved with the beta build. Will this have an effect on the required specs for the PC version?
Tanaka: You do need a bit more processing power to use ambient occlusion or see the shadings on the backgrounds, so we’ve made them optional. However, a lot of things now require less processing power than they did in the alpha version. We also used projection shadowing for the alpha build but have now switched to something called depth buffer shadows which creates a much more distinct shadowing effect.
–So is it safe to say that players will be able to start customizing the graphic settings to some extent when the beta is released?
Tanaka: That’s correct. There are settings you will be able to access and adjust from the main menu. For people on the PC version, there will also be a way to adjust your settings before you load the game. Players will be able to judge how their computer will be able to handle FFXIV by using the benchmark software that we recently released.
–At E3, you’ve been showing off the PC version. Any comments on the PlayStation 3 version?
Tanaka: We are still hard at work on it, continuing development in cooperation with Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE). Also, while it’s true that individual users can’t make adjustments to their PS3s, we do plan on adding a lot of setting options within the game for players to adjust to their liking. As an example, you can see what we did with the PlayStation 2 version of FFXI. Players can expect something similar for the PlayStation 3 version of FFXIV.
–When will beta testing actually begin?
Tanaka: We’ve finished putting in almost all the necessary systems into the version here at E3 so it will probably take place soon. Right now we are still working on debugging and things. We’re going to stop the alpha test after this week. Once we return to Japan, we’ll immediately get to work on preparing for the start of beta testing. There will probably be a bit of a break before we start up testing again but I don’t think people will be waiting a whole month before beta testing will start.
–Mr. Kurosawa, you’re the North American Operations Manager and Producer. What have North American player reactions been like?
Kurosawa: We received quite a lot of feedback from players and we’ve been gathering up all the comments to send back to the Japanese developers on a regular basis. After they get it, they give us additional feedback to pass on to the players. Then we get more feedback from players and it just continues in a big circle. That has allowed us to improve game play.
Tanaka: Every week a report is made based on feedback from the three regions: Japan, North America, and Europe. We continue development while watching what kind of feedback is coming in.
–Do North American players give a lot more feedback than the Japanese ones?
Kurosawa: Well, the feedback just keeps rolling in and that really helps us out.
Tanaka: I’d say that the number of comments from North America and Europe is about 10 times that of Japan.
— What kind of community features are you planning for Japan, North America, and Europe?
Kurosawa: Following in the footsteps of FFXI, we will be using global servers so we’ll be building community tools that can be used by players all over the world.
Tanaka: At some point during beta testing we will start introducing some community tools that players can take advantage of. One of these is something you could call player sites. Each player will be able to have their own website. We also plan on adding a bulletin board function and other tools that any player can use.
–What other communication tools do you plan on adding?
Tanaka: We want to add a simple translate function like we have in FFXI. We will also have something like the linkshells in FFXI, but on an even larger scale, we are introducing an organizational concept called “Companies”. That system is currently still in development so we’ll give out more details at a later date.
–Do you plan on adding voice chat?
Tanaka: That’s not something we are looking at right now. It is difficult to create something that works for both PC and PlayStation 3 players. It would also be incredibly difficult to add in something that would interpret for players in real time when playing with people from other countries. When you consider that, it is much easier to work with a text based system.
–Finally, can we get any parting comments for the players?
Tanaka: We’ll be starting the beta test soon so please look forward to it. I’d like to pass those sentiments on on behalf of the Development Team and director Komoto who wasn’t able to make it to E3 since he’s hard at work.
Kurosawa: We are passing all kinds of opinions on to the developers to make this game a fun one for players all over the world. Please look forward to it!