When it was first launched back in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV for PC was criticized by players and the media, and eventually the planned PS3 version was postponed. Since then, Square Enix decided to reshuffle the leading developers of the game, with Naoki Yoshida now acting as Director and Producer. His challenge is to helm the 2.0 version of Final Fantasy XIV, which is a re-imagination of the original release. It will mark a new beginning for the game when (update: the beta) gets launched this winter, coinciding with the release of the anticipated PS3 version.
The game was not ready to be demoed publicly at E3 this year, but we got a chance to see a brief live demo behind closed doors of the game still running on a PC. It featured lush visuals, with a richly detailed character running through a forest area with dense vegetation and impressive lighting effects passing through foliage. It was something we definitely aren’t used to see in an MMORPG. “Right now it’s optimized for PC. We’re about 50% into the development of the PS3 version, but it’s pretty much how it’s going to look on the console as well,” explains Yoshida. “It uses the same new graphics engine we built just for this game. This summer we’ll have an opportunity to show the PS3 version.”
In the meantime, he briefed us on what to expect from the new version of the game. “We believe that Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 can be considered the next real Final Fantasy game in the series,” he adds. This re-release is based on three pillars that have also been the aspects the series is known for: high quality gameplay, great storyline and beautiful graphics. “And on top of that, there´s our MMORPG community, which will consist of both PC players and also the PS3 players all over the world.” Which means the game will be cross-platform, like FFXI before it on PS2 and PC.
Yoshida-san is quick to emphasize how the legacy is going to be a driving force for this episode: “We’ll have some Final Fantasy staples as well, like chocobos, moogles and summons. But what is a little bit different is that these summons are like demigods in this world, so they´re really powerful, and it’ll take cooperation of all the players to fight these battles.”
Of course, bringing an MMORPG to a console system means tackling some big challenges. “It is a thing that didn’t have been done a lot in the past, and we have to make sure that we design an user interface and control scheme specially for these players”, explains Yoshida. “And we’ll also be adding in-game tutorials and quests that will help players that might not be comfortable with MMOs, and when they play the game, they will feel like they’re playing a console game that just happens to be online.”
Things are looking promising for the second coming of Final Fantasy XIV, and PlayStation fans will finally have the chance to explore the lush visuals of Eorzea in this deeply-revised version of the title. Below, Yoshida-san goes deeper in some details of his project. And we can’t wait to gather some friends and ride some chocobos around those wonderful vistas.
PlayStation.Blog: Besides the new control scheme and new user interface, does the PS3 version have any new exclusive features compared to the PC version?
Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director: Because PS3 players and PC players will all be on the same servers, we can’t give either group something special, because everyone is playing together.
But we know that a lot of players have a PS3 and PCs as well, and depending on the mood, sometimes you want to sit down and play in front of your screen, whereas in other times you want to sit back on your couch, relax with controller in hand and play. We believe that we offer opportunities for players to enjoy both worlds.
PSB: Final Fantasy has a rich universe, evolving its mythos and its narrative from episode to episode. How do you translate this into a massive open world, into an MMO form, where players can dictate the story?
Yoshida-san: It is an open world in the sense that you can explore freely, but in this open world you have this very detailed story, which has a beginning and an ending. What is good is that, once that story ends, we can add new tales. That’s one of the greatest thing about an MMO: you expand a certain story or add new storylines via patches.
PSB: We know some friends that still plays Final Fantasy XI today, 10 years after it was first launched. Do you have a roadmap to keep supporting FFXIV long after its launch?
Yoshida-san: Yes, definitely.
PSB: Are you incorporating easter eggs for fans of the series?
Yoshida-san: Yes, we’re definitely planning on lots of references to past Final Fantasies. This is a game we believe is for the fans of the series, so we want to bring back a lot of nostalgic monsters and other things. For example, we’re planning the Crystal Tower, which is the last dungeon of Final Fantasy III. Basically we’re taking all the great things from the the first 13 episodes, squeezing it into the game and giving them some polish. For example, in FFIII you were limited by the technology of the time, and we’re going to re-render that using high quality graphics. So you’ll have the opportunity to re-visit these sections and see the difference between the lower quality graphics from the past and the high resolution visuals of FFXIV.
PSB: Being players of Final Fantasy XI as well, we know the game was really party-based, and that was a problem with some audiences. Can you also play solo on in Final Fantasy XIV?
Yoshida-san: Definitely, you’ll be able to play the content solo too – it won’t be as party-based as Final Fantasy XI. But, on the other hand, we believe that in this current generation there are a lot of people with time constraints, and it’s hard for them to spend time finding a party. So we’re going to make sure that, for party-based contents, we make it easier to recruit a party. With the Content Finder tool, you’re going to be able to decide “Okay, I want to do this today”, then simply press the button and you’ll be joined by other people with similar goals. So you’ll be able to decide if you’re making a party and, if you don’t have the time, just press the button on Content Finder and you’re automatically in a party.
PSB: With the game finally launching on PS3 soon, how are you planning to attract those potential new players? You know, the console audience is very different from the traditional PC gamer.
Yoshida: We know that a lot of console players never played an MMO and they may be scared by not knowing what to do, and we want to stress that it’s very similar to an offline Final Fantasy that always had great stories, made you cry, changed your life. There will be a beta for a limited time where people will be able to try it out. And an additional factor to bring in console games are graphics: something of this quality you can’t have in any MMO title.
PSB: Will there be a public beta for 2.0?