Following the announcement of Final Fantasy XIV at the Sony Press Conference, Square Enix held a small conference to clarify the details of the project. Senior Vice President Shinji Hashimoto, Producer Hiromichi Tanaka and Director Nobuaki Komoto were all on hand to answer any questions that the media had regarding the project.
The first issue on the agenda was the subject of exclusivity. Apparently Square Enix was not too pleased to hear Sony tell the world that the game was exclusive to the Playstation 3. The project is currently being developed for the PS3 and the PC, but Square Enix is carefully considering every other option “including Microsoft hardware.” With specific mention of Microsoft platforms and Square Enix’ loose understanding of the concept as of late, most of the media in attendance came out of the press event with the same opinion: Final Fantasy XIV is about as exclusive as your average Activision franchise.
Final Fantasy XIV has been in development for 4 to 5 years, and is being developed by the same team that worked on Final Fantasy XI. Producer Hiromichi Tanaka explained that while many fans of Final Fantasy XI would have been happy to have the game extended with new next-generation content, the cost of upgrading the core title to next-generation titles (which would be necessary before creating any next-generation expansions) was deemed too high. As a result, the team opted to immediately begin work on a new project from scratch. Final Fantasy XIV has no direct relation to Final Fantasy XI, so fans of the original will not be able to port their characters over to the new game. However, the team also plans to continue supporting Final Fantasy XI after Final Fantasy XIV is launched.
The world of Final Fantasy XIV is similar but different to that of Final Fantasy XI. The world is filled with new races, but each of the races share similar traits to races from Final Fantasy XI, an intentional design decision made to ensure fans of Final Fantasy XI would be able to find a new race to enjoy. Final Fantasy XI vets should expect some significant changes in the gameplay department as well, as Director Nobuaki Komoto explained that the team is trying to appeal to a more diverse audience of players, beyond those hardcore players that enjoy the punishing difficulty of Square’s last MMO title. There will be a better balance of challenges to appeal to players that enjoy quick-bouts of solo play, as well as those players that want to join parties to take on hoards of enemies, rather than single, powerful enemies. Unfortunately, Komoto was unwilling to go into detail regarding the Final Fantasy XIV’s combat mechanics but did say that the one scene in the E3 trailer rendered with the in-game engine was a battle scene.
Square Enix is abandoning the PlayOnline for Final Fantasy XIV. The game is currently slated to utilize the same world-wide server format as Final Fantasy XI. Interestingly, the Final Fantasy XI userbase has naturally divided itself over the various worldwide servers according to region to minimize problems caused by stretched bandwidth and language barriers; most of the North American players are on one particular server, while Germans are on another, and so forth. Noting this trend, Square Enix is considering implementing regionalized servers. Komoto explained that the user’s ‘voice’ would be very important to shaping Final Fantasy XIV over the last stages of development and during its lifetime post-release. Square Enix is planning a beta test before the game’s release in 2010.