Final Fantasy XI was the first Final Fantasy game to ever be online only. It launched eight years ago as a successful MMORPG and still boasts tens of thousands of subscribers to this day. Yesterday, VG Chartz sat down with a pre-alpha demo of Final Fantasy XIV and interviewed Hiromichi Tanaka, the Senior VP of Software Development for Square Enix as well as Yasu Kurosawa, North American Online Producer.
The demo was first and consisted of some time spent with the character creation process, some battle experience, and finally a tech demo of the game running in 3D.
Character creation is very rich. The current pre-alpha build had five races to choose from, not all of them from Final Fantasy XI. Customization starts with race and gender, then gets into hair style, color, highlights, eye color, shape, scars, eyebrows, nose, facial hair, mouth, build, and many more. Each race has classes available to it and within those classes are sub-classes that are chosen right in the character creation process. Even your character's sign is chosen.
Combat was a bit daunting to play with a controller. I myself am a console player and I chose to use a controller rather than the keyboard. This game still seems like it is geared primarily toward PC and so the number of button presses required to get in and out of combat were a bit much. The Square Enix workers kept having to remind me which buttons I needed to press to toggle between communications, interaction with the environment, and battle. These were low level characters, but the combat really felt slow too.
The tech demo for the 3D was very impressive. While not much has been created graphically yet, the backgrounds really shined and the added depth made traversing the large plain available much more fun.
Final Fantasy XIV takes place in the exact same universe as Final Fantasy XI, with some changes having taken place between the games. The technology is significantly upgraded. Players are not being forced to change from XI to XIV, however, as Hiromichi Tanaka said, "the option is up to the users. They can choose if they want to stick to FFXI or if they want to play both or if they move to XIV, we want the players to select the options by themselves. If they decide to do both at the same time, we are considering providing them some kind of a discount."
Square Enix is also trying to encourage players of Final Fantasy XI to play Final Fantasy XIV by allowing players to keep the same character surname as they had in XI. They specifically want to "encourage players who are friends in Final Fantasy XI to still be friends in Final Fantasy XIV," says Yasu Kurosawa.
What really bothered me was that Final Fantasy XIV is set in exact same setting as Final Fantasy XI. They're trying so hard to make things easy for their existing Final Fantasy XI players that they're forgetting one of the fundamental themes of Final Fantasy games: reinventing the franchise with every numbered iteration. There are certain themes that unite them all like magic names, summon spells, and Cid, but the worlds are always different. To me, Final Fantasy XIV should be retitled Final Fantasy XI-2.