Ah – New York City Comic-con. The crowds, the cosplayers, the video games… But where’s the comics? Unfortunately, I didn’t see many, but right on the center of the show floor at the Javits Center in New York City was Square-Enix’s dual booths and in full effect.
It’s a bit of a shame – None of the Final Fantasy XIV merchandise that was premiered at the Tokyo Game Show was available at this event, so unfortunately that left me a bit dry in the merchandise department. Fortunately, Square-Enix’s presence at the show did not end there.
To the right there was another booth that held presentations every 2 hours for the new Dues Ex title, Dungeon Siege III, and of course Final Fantasy XIV. I stuck around for the XIV presentation – It appears that the presentation was identical to the one at PAX, however there was a good deal of emphasis on the new Snakebyte controllers. In addition to this, there was a long row of kiosks where you could not only test out Final Fantasy XIV, but also the controllers.
Oh, I know, this sounds rather uneventful. I’ll make it up to you, however! I had a chance to speak with both Sage Sundi and Yasu Kurosawa at the event, and later schedule an interview with them. While Yasu unfortunately could not attend the interview, I did have the honor of speaking with Sundi for a good 24 minutes. He answered questions about the community for Final Fantasy XIV, the Japanese cigarette taxes, where ARE those darn male Miqo’te!?, and of course what he sees for the future of XIV.
–Sundi, as of right now, what is Square Enix’s plan of attack not only for Final Fantasy XIV, but also XI? What challenges have you seen?
Sundi: Compared to the launch of FFXI, the game was first launched in Japan only – On the PS2 only. We then later opened to the United States 2 years later, and then a year after that in Europe. This year our challenge was to launch globally – All at the same time. We had some incident for the Japanese launch of Final Fantasy XI, so this year we wanted to be prepared for XIV. It’s turned out to be really smooth – We helped lower the load, because this time we had two launches, both for the regular edition and the collector’s edition of FFXIV.
Sundi: Yes, the game is always the same, but each region has it’s own marketing strategy – And that is why each version of the three collector’s editions has it’s own unique set of items. To us, the most important thing to include was the security token. [Writer’s note: While referring to the Tumbler, Yasu had earlier told me that market research had proven that North American players disapproved of bonus items that did not apply to the in-game world.]
-Absolutely. The security token’s have been well received after Final Fantasy XI had issues with compromised accounts. It also proved to be difficult to get your account back through Square Enix’s tech support.
Sundi: I know, I know! First when we tried to reimburse the accounts, it would take at least 6 weeks. Now it has been cut down to 2 or 3 weeks. Unfortunately, it is very difficult once an account has been compromised.
-I noticed that now you can submit support tickets on the Square Enix website, and they will either help you with your issue through email, or still request you call in depending on the severity of your issue.
Sundi: That’s something we changed for XIV, and our support system. That was not the only plan, since the in game support system is supposed to run along with the website’s support system, but we will be improving upon that. Overall, it’s surprising, but everything has been going smooth for it.
-It’s gone rather well from what I’ve seen, although we know the game is a still very young. I wanted to ask you – What is the long term projection for Final Fantasy XIV, as far as the community, end game, and other elements of the game play go?
Sundi: Definitely – XIV is just born, and now XI is running 8 or 9 years, and we’ve seen how much the game has changed over the years. Our idea of raising levels right now, or raising a skill, is to be a big scale tutorial for our players. Once people start to reach the cap, then we will start to think about the end-game, and become more involved with the community, while also finding ways to better teach the new players coming to the game. As of right now we are just born, so we don’t entirely know how we will build the community, or exactly which direction things will go.
-The community is definitely a huge part of XI, so I imagine this will be a similar focus for XIV?
Sundi: Not just the in-game community, but also how we handle the premiere sites. We want to lower the bar to be a premium site so there is more content from the community. As far as the Lodestone goes, it is not an item base, or even an information base. The Lodestone is a reference and portal for the community. You can go there and show off your character. We never plan for it to be the main site revolving around the game. Considering that XIV is a multi-language game, we really want the community to create their own central points of communication.
-Speaking of the community, people have been wondering if in the upcoming year there will be another fan fest in the states. Also, there has been talk about a gathering in Europe. Is any of this possible?
Sundi: I hope so. Not this year, obviously, since we still trying to build the community. Since XI we decided we have to do something for the European market. We’re still trying to figure out if it would be London, or Paris, you know? Hopefully we can find somewhere to do it. We hope to have future fan fests combined for both XI and XIV. Hopefully next year we will be back in the states. We were recently at PAX, and it was a great place for a community event. Maybe instead of having our own fanfare, we could have an event that runs along side of an event like PAX, instead of having our own festival. Then people could also enjoy PAX, or whichever fare it is.
-Will there ever be an auction house, or similar function in XIV? The Market Wards are great, but very difficult to shop for specific items in.
[Sundi was unable to answer this question, but said to keep an eye out for updates, since they do plan to improve upon the way players shop within Final Fantasy XIV.]
Sundi: What I will say is, anything that the community talks about is our first priority. We are checking the forums. Not only Eorzeapedia, but other sites as well. We have people – Not only here, but Europe as well – That gather criticism from all of the community sites, and we always look at that, and use that to improve the game. Every morning these issues are brought up to the dev team. We don’t only go to the biggest forums, but also the smaller ones, because we don’t want to only hear the largest voice, but everyone.
Sundi: [Laughs] Oh yes – Definitely, we play the game, we have to! But not just Final Fantasy XIV, but even other popular MMO’s. That’s our job. I just built a new PC for this – It even has a water cooling system.
-Okay, so this is a personal request, but hopefully it can be passed along. I have heard a lot of complaints about how gear incur damage not only during battle usage, but even in some cases over time, and while crafting. It seems that this function is a bit too punishing on the players.
Sundi: I’ve heard a lot of that. What I wish the players could understand is that Final Fantasy XIV is not developed by one guy, there are many different people. When there is a problem like this we do our best to make sure the right people on our team hear about it.
-Another question you may not be able to answer – However, a lot of the community was quite surprised that there were no unique playable races in Final Fantasy XIV. Of course, right now, we have the races that are similar to XI. People were disappointed in the absence of something new, or at least the inclusion of Male Miqo’te. Was this a decision, or just a time factor?
Sundi: I have heard a lot of this too. On behalf of Komoto-san, let me quote, “Let’s see how it goes!” [Laughs]
-If it ever does happen, I would be interested in seeing how it is possible, considering that players get attached to their first character and it would be difficult to create a new one in a game like XIV where the importance and growth of one single character is very emphasized.
Sundi: Right, but you need to remember, this isn’t a game like Final Fantasy XIII or X. It’s supposed to be an ongoing world. It’s not static. Anything can happen.
-It always goes on, in other words! I remember Final Fantasy XI wasn’t perfect at first either.
Sundi: Exactly. I live in Tokyo. I love living there, and I want to see it get better. Like with the recent taxes in Japan. So you know – I complain a lot, and I complain because I want to be there. That is part of being in a community. It was the same when I was just playing MMO’s. We appreciate all the feedback.
-That’s great to hear. Is there anything else you would like to say about Final Fantasy XIV, or the future of Square Enix in general?
Sundi: Well, we have the Crysta working now, and we have a lot of plans for how the players can use that. Not only for Final Fantasy XIV, but also XI, and even other games with our new ID system. For XIV, you no longer have to use Playonline-
-I think a lot of people are happy about that! [Laughs]
Sundi: [Laughs] Yes. I see a big future for the new ID system.
-I understand that the Crysta works as credit towards your subscription. Will there be any other uses, such as in-game implementations?
Sundi: In the future it is very possible that features like world transfer will be payable for via Crysta, that is part of the idea for it. Right now, though, instead of paying the money for a transfer, I think many players will maybe just recreate the character.
-Right. As of right now I noticed that you cannot always create characters on all of the servers, all of the time.
Sundi: Yes, this is true, we even had to add a new server recently! What is also important to remember is that some servers might be congested during Japanese hours, but empty during American hours, or vice versa. This is also part of why the servers aren’t always available.
-Being able to play with Japanese players, for me at least, is one of the huge appeals of Final Fantasy XI, and now XIV. Even though language is a huge barrier; When you can get through, even if it is just a little? Well, it is a really wonderful experience.
Sundi: That’s a huge success for us, the multi-region servers. It is why it still exists in Final Fantasy XIV. It’s really a wonderful experience to have such a global community together. Right now we’re doing our best to get the server population as even as possible. It has already gotten much better.
-Very cool. That pretty much wraps up all my questions. Thank you very much, Sundi!
Sundi: No problem! Thank you!
Overall it seems that their panel was a success – The booth was always packed, and every time there was a presentation of Final Fantasy XIV the crowd gathered in to hear about the game, and of course score one of the Final Fantasy XIV t-shirts that were being thrown out to the audience.
It also proved just how strong the PS3 community ultimately will be for Final Fantasy XIV. While standing in the crowd I was able to hear at least a dozen people musing over how they can’t wait for the PS3 release due to their fact that their PC can not handle the game. Who can blame them? For an MMO Final Fantasy XIV is most certainly technically ambitious, and while many of our computers may not be able to run it right now, I can only imagine it enabling XIV to age well as the game grows older, and our hardware grows more powerful.
I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s Comic-con. Hopefully Square Enix will be there again!
Were you at the NYCC event this year? If so, please jump in on the discussion thread below and talk about your experience this year at the Javits Center!