E3: Square Enix FFXIV Press Conference
More details on Square Enix's next-gen MMORPG.
06.03.09 - 6:15 PM
Today, Square Enix had a special Q&A press conference with Vice President Shinji Hashimoto, Producer Hiromichi Tanaka, and Director Nobuaki Komoto, for Final Fantasy XIV. Before the session started, Mr. Hashimoto began by informing everyone that the Sony press conference announcement was slightly misleading. While the launch of Final Fantasy XIV in 2010 will come to PlayStation 3 and PC, Square Enix has not ruled out putting the game on Microsoft's hardware. Our take on this? Expect a 360 release of this game shortly after initial release (they didn't say it outright, but we did).
The first question asked was regarding the appearance of the races from Final Fantasy XI showing up in the trailer for Final Fantasy XIV. Galkas and Elvaans are definitely visible in the trailer. While the press release explicitly stated that this new MMORPG takes place in the realm of Eorzea, there was some hope that there would be a direct correlation between the two games. Tanaka-san was adamant that the games take place in two different fantasy worlds, and that while the races are similar, there may not be a direct correlation between each race from their old MMO to the new MMO. The idea was to allow players of Final Fantasy XI to keep their generic character design intact, should they choose it, to ease them from one MMO to the other.
This, of course, begs the question: what is the plan for Final Fantasy XI? Do they want to phase it out quickly over the next year or two in an attempt to get the community playing Final Fantasy XIV? This was the question I asked, and the answer was a definitive no. Clearly, Square Enix acknowledges the value (including, of course, the profits) of keeping Final Fantasy XI running as long as they can. Their statement was that they plan to simultaneously support both MMORPGs for as long as they can, and as long as the players continue to play Final Fantasy XI, they'll have content ready. Tanaka also said, specifically, that the development for Final Fantasy XIV has been taking place for years, behind the scenes, while those same developers added content to Final Fantasy XI. Hence, they feel prepared to support both MMORPGs.
A follow-up question to this topic, presented by Mike Tidwell of RPGamer, was this: how do they plan to approach the "communities" of each game? Do they want each community to be separate? Do they want to ease Final Fantasy XI players into Final Fantasy XIV? How will they approach this? Square Enix's answer was essentially that they will "react" to the communities however they form. If XIV becomes popular with fans of XI, then they will support that. If XIV takes on a whole new community, they will want to support and learn from that community as well.
Many questions were asked about language and regional compatibility. One member of the media asked why Final Fantasy XIV wasn't being released in Spanish from launch. The team responded that, essentially, they hadn't had enough demand for a Spanish version, and that they'd also need some skilled Japanese-to-Spanish translators living in Japan to work with the English, German, and French teams who translate the script as it's written in real-time in preparation for content updates. However, they said that "if the demand was there," they would try to support a Spanish-language version of the game.
As for regional settings, Final Fantasy XI has run on "worldwide" servers. People from all nations and languages can play across the game's many servers. The Square Enix team admitted that they initially plan to keep this the same for Final Fantasy XIV; however, they have noted that some players in Final Fantasy XI have intentionally migrated to certain servers that are heavy with one region of players, and they may decide to set up region-specific servers for Final Fantasy XIV.
Also, it is worth noting that they will not be using the "PlayOnline" service for Final Fantasy XIV. Whether or not another "shell" program will be required to enter Final Fantasy XIV is yet to be seen, but hopefully the login process will be much more smooth for this upcoming MMORPG.
A number of questions were asked about what lessons they had learned from Final Fantasy XI, and from the MMORPG giant World of Warcraft. In answer, the message and tone from Square Enix was that they want Final Fantasy XIV to be a game that can be enjoyed by casual and hardcore players alike. They want to offer decent solo content, and content for people that can only devote an hour (or less) of gameplay at a time. Final Fantasy XI has a reputation for requiring large groups of players, and large spans of time, to get anything done. They hope to remedy this style of gameplay in Final Fantasy XIV.
Speaking of "style," no details were revealed as to gameplay mechanics. One daring member of the press tried to determine where exactly the combat system would fall on the "real-time" versus "turn-based" scale. Square Enix was "not prepared to reveal that at this time." So, we don't know much about gameplay. They did say that they hope to encourage many-to-many battle sequences, alongside the traditional many-to-one battles popular in Final Fantasy XI.
A member of the Japanese press asked about the game's graphics engine. The Square Enix staff explained that the trailer showed both pre-rendered and in-game engine sequences. Specifically, the scene with the Galka fighting is processed real-time in-game. This gives players a good first glimpse to how the graphics will look in the game.
The Q&A revealed little else about the game, and details are sparse. We have screens from the trailer, as well as a piece of artwork from lead art director Akihiko Yoshida (Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII). Also, expect the full trailer to be up on our RPGFan YouTube account soon!