Every so often Japanese gaming news website GAME Watch carries articles about Final Fantasy XIV. Representatives from the site were present at E3 and had a chance to sit down with Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and US Producer Kurosawa Yasu.
This interview is very similar to the one from Dengeki, enough to make me think they were actually done at the same time, but it is also just a little bit different. Once we get past the mandatory male Miqo’te question, they discuss the new battle system, the beta, retainers, and other familiar topics.
You can find the original interview (in Japanese) here.
–Is the demo version at E3 the beta version?
Tanaka: I think it is more accurate to call it a build close to the beta. It has the same content as the beta version will, but there are bugs that we still need to work on. Once those bugs are fixed, we will release it as the beta version.
–Will this be Beta 1?
Tanaka: We won’t be calling it 1 or 2 or anything, just releasing it as the beta.
–How is it different from the alpha build?
Tanaka: The battle system has completely changed so that’s the biggest difference. We also played with how graphics are displayed quite a bit. The alpha build uses an older method called projection shadowing. For the beta, we’ve changed to a method called depth buffer shadowing that is actually makes the graphics process and display quicker than the old method. It seems to be a lot better. We also did a lot of work on the character creation process. The way it works now is very close to how it will be in the final release.
–I agree that the character creation screens have really changed quite a bit.
Tanaka: We had planned to make something like it from the start but it wasn’t finished in time for the alpha, leaving us with no choice but to use that makeshift system.
–Will most of the races and clans that players can become be available in the beta?
Tanaka: The beta will include all of the races we plan on including in the final release.
–Is there a storyline or setting reason behind leaving out female Highlanders and male Miqo’te?
Tanaka: We had originally planned on having playable female Highlanders as well but for various reasons, they got left out. I think we’ll see male Miqo’te in the form of NPCs. They sadly have been left out of the list of playable races because we couldn’t prepare for them in time. (Translation note: It isn’t clear if this means that storywise they couldn’t fit them in or that model-wise as playable characters they couldn’t include them.)
–So maybe we could see them added in the future?
Tanaka: Well (laughs) I can’t make any promises but it would be nice if we could.
–What parts of the game have been affected based on feedback from the alpha testers?
Tanaka: You could probably say the whole thing has. Changes have been made in every part of the game.
–Was there any there feedback that you really felt was critical?
Tanaka: I’d have to say the feedback on the battle tempo. That was really prominent in the feedback from the American testers. I think it is because they are used to the tempo in World of Warcraft.
–How exactly has the battle system changed from the system in the alpha build?
Tanaka: The tempo has changed a lot. In the alpha build you had to wait for your action gauge to fill up and then wait even longer for the effect gauge to fill up for more powerful attacks. All of this “filling up” was taking time and just making the players wait so we tried to change that. In the new system, the gauge fills up naturally over time and you use up a portion of the gauge while you attack. If the gauge is completely full you can attack 3 or 4 times in a row. The gauge will work on replenishing itself even while you are attacking as well so that helps to speed up the pace of battle.
–Were players not receptive to the battle tempo of the alpha build?
Tanaka: How should I put this… You see, in FFXI, we used an auto-battle system and people are used to that. It allowed people to chat during battle. With the system in FFXIV, you pretty much are forced to give up that ability to chat.
–I imagine there was a lot of feedback relating to the user interface. How has that changed?
Tanaka: We’ve added chat filtering. The entire log system has changed completely. The build we have here at E3 doesn’t have chat filtering included but it will be a part of the beta. We are also looking to make it possible for people to line up multiple chat windows on their screens.
–I’ve heard before that there are going to be additional communication methods besides regular chat. Can you tell me anything more about that?
Tanaka: With the battle tempo the way it is, it will be impossible to take time to chat during battle so, starting with the beta, we are including a macro pallet system. We’d like people to use it as a communication tool. You can create a macro to set off a particular command and attach a message with it to communicate what you are doing to your party members.
–Will the macro pallet be similar the macro system in FFXI?
Tanaka: It’s a fair comparison. We also plan on including other ways for players to communicate with each other but they aren’t set in stone yet. For example, we want to make a system where members can easily tell which enemy that the party leader is engaged with. We will continue to look into a bunch of different methods so for now, all I can say it look forward to how they are implemented.
–Is there anything special in the battle system for when you are in a party?
Tanaka: That would be the battle regiments. Like we just talked about, there will be times where you have to use the various communication tools at your disposal during battles. In particular, the enemies you face while carrying out a guildleve will often be in parties which will make communication critical.
–Battle regiments didn’t work very well in the alpha.
Tanaka: They practically didn’t work at all due to various bugs. It turned into something completely different from what we were trying to create.
–So we’ll be able to see the real thing in the beta?
Tanaka: I believe so. However, even though the system is already set in stone, we will continue making balance adjustments during the beta.
–Are battle regiments meant for times where all of the party members attack the same enemy?
Tanaka: It is a system where you chain different commands together and some of those can be area-of-effect attacks as well. It is possible to make regiments that work against a group of enemies.
–Will there often be times where you pitted against a group of enemies?
Tanaka: Right now most of the enemies you see roaming around are solo. However, in the future, they will be in groups as well. For example, maybe you will see a flock of females with one male. I think over half of the guildleves will require that you take out a party of enemies.
–What is that white being at appears in the trailer?
Tanaka: That is an elemental, not a summoned avatar. In FFXIV, the elementals and elements in general will be important for a lot of reasons.
–More so than the crystals in FFXI?
Tanaka: This time the elements will have a much larger effect on things. You won’t see a huge effect from things like the phases of the moon or the weather.
–Let’s talk about the equipment screens. Those have changed a lot too.
Tanaka: Yeah. The new screens are actually just temporary as well. We are in the process of remaking them.
–Then what will the final screens look like?
Tanaka: You’ll just have to look forward to them after the beta starts. For the alpha, we had a layout where you would open an item menu for each equipment slot and then choose a piece from there. However, a lot of the players with experience playing FFXI said it wasn’t very user friendly. When they got a new item and didn’t know what it was used for, they wanted to be able to check if they could equip it or not by selecting it from the item screen. That’s why for the beta version, we are making it possible to equip things straight from the item list.
–So it will be similar to FFXI?
Tanaka: System wise, yes.
–Will testers be able to access more areas in the beta?
Tanaka: We’ll look into it but it will probably be difficult to do that. We don’t know exactly how large the download would become for example.
–So Limsa Lominsa will be the location for the beta test as well?
Tanaka: That’s the plan. However, if it becomes necessary, we might have to test other areas as well so we’ll watch and see how things go.
–Are there any other systems or things in the beta that weren’t in the alpha?
Tanaka: The chat system is different. Also, linkshells will be included but it is too early to tell if they will be included by the start of the beta or not. I think they will have a big effect on the community when they are introduced.
–Will linkshells be similar to the ones in FFXI?
Tanaka: Yes. There is also another system that builds on top of them called “Companies”. We also plan on expanding and improving them even after the game is officially released. Item degeneration will also be included in the beta. You can think of it as your weapon being damaged by use over time.
–So it will require repair?
Tanaka: Yes. In order to make the classes in Disciples of the Hand and Disciples of the Land successful, you have to have an item degeneration system.
–Will they disappear if they are broken?
Tanaka: They won’t disappear but they will get to the point where they are near useless until they are repaired. A market will also be added to Limsa Lominsa. Along with that we will see the addition of “retainers” who are NPCs for hire. They can sell your items for you in the market place while you are logged out. The retainers will also have an effect on companies and there will be a lot of different ways to use them. I hope people look forward to them.
–The benchmark software was recently released. Does that mean you can tell us the final required PC specs?
Tanaka: When the beta test begins, we will release the required specs for the beta. We will continue to work on optimizing the game even during beta testing so I think the final specs will be even lower. Right now, the biggest issue isn’t CPU speed but the GPU so we will try to work on that.
–I was really surprised to see a 3D version in the booth at E3.
Tanaka: Right now Nvidia is putting a lot of effort into their 3D Surround technology which allows you to use 3 monitors at the same time. That’s why we cooperated with Nvidia to make the display.
–Will the final release of FFXIV work with 3D Surround and 3D Vision?
Tanaka: We haven’t decided yet. Right now it is merely for demonstration purposes.
–Can you tell us how the PS3 build is coming along? I saw that the new trailer was shown off during Sony’s press conference.
Tanaka: We’re still hard at work. Right now we are in a critical stage of development for both the beta and the PS3 version. That’s why director Komoto wasn’t able to make it to E3. The staff back in Japan are putting all their effort into development.
–Will the quality be the same for PS3 as the PC version?
Tanaka: It won’t look very different. Of course, 3D Surround won’t be an option. (laughs) The textures are about ¼ of the size and the resolution is about half. However, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference by just looking at them.
–The PS3 is capable of producing 3D images. Any chances of a 3D PS3 version?
Tanaka: That would be very difficult so we aren’t considering that right now.
–When will the beta test start?
Tanaka: This will be the last week of the alpha test and then we will get straight to work on preparing for beta testing. It will all depend on how debugging goes but at the earliest, 1 to 2 weeks. At the latest, we might start in 3 to 4 weeks. We want to start by the end of July at the latest.
–Will the beta test have continual service?
Tanaka: Eventually, yes.
–What can you tell us about the number of testers?
Tanaka: We will start with the same testers from the alpha. Right now we have 10 servers and the number of testers is in the tens of thousands. They’ll all be a part of the beta and if things go well, we will continue to add more testers over time.
–At what point in the beta will we see cross-regional service?
Tanaka: The servers are already cross-regional. It is just that testers could only login during set periods of time depending on their account region. Provided that things are stable, we’d like to start near 24/7 service soon after the start of beta testing.
–What will become of beta testing on the PS3?
Tanaka: We are currently having a bit of trouble with the PS3 build so we will let people know more about PS3 beta testing at a later time.
–Do you still plan on having an official release in 2010?
–Finally, can we get a comment for all of the players out there?
Tanaka: We have made adjustments after listening to all of the feedback from the alpha testers. Please check out the beta test and then we will make even more adjustments. Of course we will continue to do this even after the official release so I hope people enjoy the game.
Kurosawa Yasu: We received a lot of comments from people about the alpha test. The team here in North America gathers up the feedback and it is making a difference in development. The comments made by Japanese testers will also have an effect on the game so please, send in your opinions.