The eleventh month is almost over, and we couldn’t let that go by without reaching out to the Final Fantasy XI development team with… eleven questions! They were gracious enough to take some time to chat with us about the conclusion of Seeker’s of Adoulin, and what it’s like to work on the game in general.
Special thanks to FusionX and Camate (of the community team) for coordinating it, and Camate for the translation, and additional clarification.
GE: What was the development process like for Seekers of Adoulin? How was it different from other expansions?
Mizuki Ito: In the period leading up to release, we had our first chance to collaborate with external developers, mainly regarding map creation. Working together with other companies in pursuit of the quality expected of a FINAL FANTASY game was an invaluable experience for us. Post-release, we established and implemented version updates each month with the goals of autonomously making improvements and responding to user requests through venues such as forums to the greatest possible extent. As a result, we can think of this expansion pack as precipitating our building of a system that enables us to have close interaction with users and our releasing of content that continues to provide them with topical content.
GE: Updates seemed to have picked up in frequency since Akihiko Matsui was brought on as producer, and long-standing quality of life issues seem to get addressed every month now. How has his direction influenced the development?
Akihiko Matsui: I felt that having version updates once every three months caused us to lack the capacity to rapidly respond to the feedback received from our players. I consulted with the development team, reviewing the volume of content in an individual version update as well as our long-term plans in order to best take into consideration player opinions. Additionally, the team now more tightly operates its version management system.
GE: We’ve seen some major system updates within the past two years such as increased resolution, larger macro palettes, and expanded inventory. Are there any other major system changes on the horizon you can talk about?
Yoji Fujito: We have several improvements planned in terms of system-side issues. On the immediate horizon are plans to implement separate chat log windows and the ability to equip two linkshells at once. We are also thinking of other somewhat large improvements, not just limited to improving quality of life, but also to enhancing community functions.
GE: Final Fantasy XI has so many wonderful cut-scenes, right now the Goblin Footprint system requires a lot of running around. Are there any plans to introduce a cut-scene theater of sorts to re-experience the missions and expansions storylines in order?
Yoshitsugu Saito: Unfortunately, internal limitations make this a difficult task, but to be frank this is something that I would like to change at some point in the future.
GE: Trust magic is certainly a nice way to level new jobs, and adventure for trials and crafting materials. How did you come up with the idea for the Trust magic system?
Mizuki Ito: We decided that our stance on balance for FFXI going forward would include making soloing possible in a variety of situations. During this same period, we had a rough proposal for making reives in Seekers of Adoulin areas soloable (bringing NPCs from the city out to battle with you), and chose to expand this plan to include not only Adoulin, but all manner of famous Vana’diel NPCs, and changed the plan accordingly. This was where the idea came from system-side. When it came time to nail down our approach, we found hints in another issue we were facing. At the time, we were planning on taking another look at the low appeal of completing scenario content due to the poor rewards as well as the lack of standout goods for login campaigns. We thus settled on Trust as achievement-style content rewarding people for experiencing a variety of event content by increasing the number of alter egos available to them, while also setting other alter egos as flagship rewards for login campaigns—promotional-type alter egos, if you will. We will continue this policy going forward, and are adding these kinds of alter egos—achievement-type rewards and login campaign rewards—each month.
GE: Are there plans to continue development of Monstrosity? Can we look forward to uncapped zones for PvP?
Mizuki Ito: This issue is not unique to Monstrosity. A great number of personnel were working on the conclusion to the Seekers of Adoulin missions, and expansions to a variety of content have been put on the back burner. Though the missions themselves have concluded in the November patch, there are still some threads left unconnected, and we will introduce further quests and Seekers of Adoulin-related battle content in the months ahead that will take a deeper look into these stories. As such, we have been unable to prioritize Monstrosity. Scheduled high priority content will be released bit by bit, and once that has been done, there is a possibility that Monstrosity may rise in the priority list.
GE: Aside from avatars, Final Fantasy XI doesn’t often borrow classic characters from the main Final Fantasy series. How was the decision made to use a recurring character as the main antagonist for Seekers of Adoulin?
Yoshitsugu Saito: It’s difficult to overstate the fact that FINAL FANTASY XI has had its origins in the FINAL FANTASY world setting created by Hiromichi Tanaka and Koichi Ishii ever since the project first began.
Whether we are talking about the middle ages-style fantasy atmosphere, crystals at the heart of the world, a variety of different magic, modes of transportation such as chocobos and airships, or loveable NPCs such as moogles, it’s eminently clear that we borrow not lightly, but quite heavily from established FINAL FANTASY conventions. What’s more, we don’t throw these elements in hodge-podge, but blend them in to the unique world of Vana’diel. Perhaps one reason why some people might feel that way is exactly because they fit very naturally into the setting.
(Further clarification): When borrowing elements or characters from the Final Fantasy series, the dev team is extremely careful of how and when they introduce these elements. The decision to use Hades was made carefully and intently.
GE: The Adoulin storyline certainly made many references to other areas in Vana’diel and potentially the existence of another job or two… :) What can we look forward to next?
Yoshitsugu Saito: Though the missions have been brought to a satisfying conclusion, we still intend to flesh out Adoulin with related quests and scenarios. With FINAL FANTASY XI having been in service for many years, the world setting is constructed in such a way that we can take it in a variety of directions, and if we have the opportunity we would like to place efforts into doing so again.
GE: Final Fantasy XI has enjoyed a successful twelve years in operation so far, what are some of the greatest challenges keeping things exciting in today’s video game landscape?
Akihiko Matsui: We pay attention to a variety of things beyond just video games. During the twelve years of service, gaming trends have changed, and the environment in which players enjoy FINAL FANTASY XI has greatly shifted. We intend to embrace change, not fear it, and feel that it is critical to be able to enjoy the changes of the times.
GE: We really appreciate the increased level of communication by both the dev and community teams over the past couple of years, as well as the Freshly Picked Vana’diel videos. Is there anything else you would like to say to the players?
Akihiko Matsui: To be frank, it may be good to communicate all types of information in-game. I think Freshly Picked Vana’diel is a meaningful initiative to introduce patch content in a different form, as I was never the type of person who pored over MMO patch notes. In part because it takes place the day of the patch, we don’t really rehearse or prepare much of a script, but owing to that I feel we create an atmosphere that gives people an inside glimpse into the development side of things. The only thing I wish to impart to our players is that I have nothing but appreciation for them coming to enjoy Vana’diel. Of course, I also enjoy hearing anything our players have to say.
GE: By the way…(we had to ask) where does the boat in Norg go?
Yoshitsugu Saito: That’s a good question! (laughs) But putting all jokes aside, Norg has its own burgeoning markets in addition to its den of piracy, and as such often engages in trade with nearby islands. As such, it occupies a place similar to Mhaura and Selbina—there is no one set location.