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Final Fantasy 14 - Interviews - Komoto Regarding The Future

Komoto Regarding the Future

GAME Watch got together with director of Final Fantasy 14, Nobuaki Komoto, and battle planner Atsushi Okada to discuss all things Final Fantasy 14, mainly pertaining to the end of the beta and the release of the game itself.

Translated by FFXIVCore

How’s beta coming along?
DK: I finally managed to get some time to log in a play for a bit and even secretly partied up with players. For every part of the game that we’re pleased with, there’s one we’re still not quite happy with yet. There are still things to fix, so we’re continuing adjustments. There were things we kind of expected would be met with criticism. We realized we weren’t touching base with the community enough, so we’re in talks with management about how to remedy that.

From what we heard at the CEDEC presentation, it looks like the development team is kept extremely busy.
DK: I’m usually focused on solving the problem right in front of me, so I guess I’ve stopped noticing how busy we are.

And how is the development process coming along?
DK: I feel like I’m always saying that, though. For FFXI, beta was but a small part of the whole. With FFXIV, we get to see our bug fixes in action as the official version is gradually being completed.

Compared to Closed Beta, Open Beta seems to have patches nearly everyday.
DK: The changes made in Closed Beta were fixing specific parts. In Open Beta we were approaching release and were fine tuning everything.

Are there more balance adjustments to come?
DK: There was a gap between where Closed Beta was and where it should be for release. We could’ve fixed certain things now, but then the client would’ve still been far from ready for retail. We decided to tackle those in a version update, then. Release is fast approaching,and I want to be able to show everyone those changes as soon as possible.

What’s an example of a high-priority item?
DK: Definitely game balance, the biggest problem being enmity. For example, the Cure spell was drawing way too much hate.If we left that unchanged, users’ play styles would drastically change come official release. So we tried to fix that right away.

As director, what part of the beta process struck you the most?
DK: There were a lot of problems with stability and enjoyability. I thought if I could just get feedback and focus on the problem, things would work out. Unfortunately, it was a very time-consuming process.

How was international participation in Open Beta?
DK: Japan and North America didn’t really change much, but there didn’t seem to be many European players. That might have to do with our maintenance schedule. I went to Gamescom hoping to draw a little more participation from our European friends.

While some players complained of frequent client crashes during beta, others had no problems at all. What might have caused this?
DK: We’re looking into that. We weren’t having that problem on our machines, but we were finally able to recreate it when under heavy loads. We know that not everyone has the same computer environment as we do, so we’re eliminating causes one-by-one.
Okada: PC specifications differ from player to player, after all.
DK: It might just be too demanding on computers, so we’ll see if there’s some common link among occurences.

So you’re still not quite sure what’s causing it?
DK: It’s not just one big cause. There are many smaller reasons, so we’re trying to narrow it down via the process of elimination. There are some fixes in the beta version and more to be implemented in the retail version.

A lot of players are complaining that the User Interface is hard to use.
DK: There are many sides to this problem,such as a problem with the fundamental structure of the UI or a problem with lag, etc. There are parts we have to fix in time for release day. It’s not just a simple UI problem but also has to do with the server load, so we’re really focusing on fixing server issues. We’re also making changes to the UI to goalong with this and will continue to do so even after the game releases.

So the retail version will be relatively easier to use?
DK: We have to make it that way. If a lot of players are in the same area, it slows down. So it depends on who’s where.We’re trying to tune that as well as work things out with the people overseeing the servers. I think it will be fixed, though. And of course, we have a handful of plans to fix the UI itself.

Will you be adding things like saving skill sets to the action bar or gear swapping?
DK: At first it had to be done manually. But once people got the hang of macros, many were saying that was simple enough. I definitely hope players try that out. We’re also considering saving skills to the action bar even when you switch classes. We received a lot of input regarding this as more and more people tried out gathering and crafting classes. We’re currently making big adjustments to this.

So even abilities you can’t use won’t be unequipped?
DK: For example, when a gatherer changes to a fighter class, their gathering skills are automatically unequipped. We’d like to change that to make it less cumbersome when they decide to switch back.

We’ll be able to set both battle and gathering skills and change which are usable just by changing our weapon?
DK: If there is space. We’re still working on making unused skills not take up AP. There are still other things that need adjusting, but I can say we are currently working on a solution.

The Actions & Abilities screenitself is fairly difficult to understand.
DK: Indeed. A lot of players were unaware of the pull-down list at first. We’re working on having it display your skills automatically among other things.

Anything else you’re working on development-wise?
DK: Tons! Both things that need to be fixed by the release date as well as things we’ll keep an eye on as the game progresses.The big ones are skills, as mentioned above, and server stress. Our biggest priority is that users can play and not worry about stability. After that come bugs, I suppose, and fine-tuning leveling balance.

What new things can we look forward to in the final version?
DK: The big addition will be quests. What you saw in beta was just the tip of the iceberg. Tons of new ones are being added, so I hope everyone is looking forward to that.

So we’ll see more guildleves?
DK: Well, of course we’re adding new guildleves, but this is different. Currently there are only three quests available, one for each major city. Those are also just a fraction of the whole. Class quests are also being added, and we’re working on the final adjustments right now.

What will class quests be like?
DK: If you’ve played FFXI, they’re similar to the artifact quests available to each job in the mid-level range. When you reach a certain level on a certain class, a quest specific to that class starts. It’s designed to be enjoyed solo,and there are quests for crafters and gatherers, too. They have unique cutscenes and involve quests that, unlike guildleves, feel like a classic Final Fantasy story.

So guildleves aren’t the main content?
DK: There’s a lot of talk among the developers about what the main content is. My opinion is that if guildleves were a food, they would be bread or rice. They allow you to progress but don’t become dull or monotonous. You never grow tired of it. From that perspective, guildleves are the focus. But it doesn’t end there. New quests pop up and new items or skills become available, making progression fun. So I think of guildleves more like a staple food than a main course.

Ultimately, what kind of play style will FFXIV have?
DK: We’re designing the main scenario to be mostly soloable. Thereare party battles, but the focus is solo play. The storyline is pretty hefty. Even the quests available in-game seemed pretty high-volume because of the custscenes, but it will increase even further. If you’re wondering what we have in store for crafters and gatherers, we’re still preparing it so please look forward to it.

We only had a portion of the main storyline available. What’s the big picture?
DK: The main scenario starts in various ways from each of the three cities. Think FFXI. Eventually the three paths will combine into one story. It stretches into the higher levels and makes use of instances. Beyond mere dialogue, there are plenty of cutscenes and characters with special abilities.

Main quests are available every 10 ranks. Will this stay the same?
DK: They will probably become a little more frequent than that. Playerswill also have class quests for each of the classes they level, so we want them to have a plethora of quests at their fingertips.

It has been said that it is impossible to finish all thequests in FFXI. Will FFXIV be similar?
DK: It will certainly be hard to. At release it might not be impossible, but it’ll certainly be close.

You could hardly participate in endgame content if you were just a crafter in FFXI. How about FFXIV?
DK: For starters, we want to make crafted items the most powerful.High-end content will involve crafters and gatherers, and we are trying to add gear that will catch their eye.

How will that play out?
DK: We’re still working on that. There might be some things similar to FFXI. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Content from FFXI will be making an appearance?
DK: Indeed, but we’re focusing on not making it a time sink. There will be content that spans long periods of time, but nothing that requires hours upon hours for each attempt.

Will it be soloable?
DK: Some will, but a fair share will only be possible in a party. We want to give players some options based on their play styles.

It seems like the difficulty of guildleves in Open Beta encouraged party play over soloing.
DK: The idea of being able to solo to cap still remains, as well as being able to solo quests. Soloing is the basic premise of the game. In Closed Beta, we were unable to achieve a balance that providing extra merit to forming a party. We’re working on adding an extra reward to party play while not discouraging soloing.

So we should be doing quests alongside guildleves?
DK: Yes. Even among guildleves you’ll be able to see some amazing new things around level 40. Gameplay will be more difficult and innovative, so prepare yourselves. Faction leves have yet to be explored, and there is certainly some interesting stuff awaiting players there.

When can we ride the chocobos?
DK: You’ll have to wait a little longer. It’s easy enough to make them ridable, but we already have teleportation available from the get-go. Compared to that, a chocobo isn’t very convenient. Therefore, we want to add something more to them, so we’ll probably time it to coincide with other new content (*perhaps as a way of accessing it?).

What can you tell us about the Market Wards?
DK: The market is still not matured and there are still things to be done with retainers regarding usability. There are things we want to fix by retail and things we want to watch as the game progresses. We want to make the experience more user-friendly overall and are currently working on that. Perhaps some method of finding out where to buy what, and so on.

How about Companies?
DK: They are a high-priority item, but we will need a little more time to work on them. I can say we’re in the planning stages, and there will be more information soon.

Have you already worked out Company dynamics?
DK: It’s like an advanced form of Linkshell. Linkshells are about ease of communication. Companies involve the player more and are a way to pool resources.

So there is merit to joining a Company?
DK: If not, there wouldn’t be much point to it, I think. The main factor will not be implemented on release day, but we encourage everyone to enjoy the current content and watch as we unveil new things.

Will it be for experienced players?
DK: A main element of a Company is to allow novices to group up with veterans in order to experience the world. We’re keeping this in mind as wework on it.

Can we expect PVP battles between guilds?
DK: We are considering it, but I can’t say much on the topic rightnow. Once I can, I’ll let everyone know.

So the probability of implementing such a feature is high?
DK: We will definitely do so.
Okada: Some players might have noticed, but many skills were createdwith PVP in mind.

Will PVP be different from what we saw in FFXI?
DK: The battle system itself is completely different. Like chocobos and companies, it would be easy to implement if it were just a simple one-on-onefight. We think about how content will be played before we release it, so we want it to be nice and polished.

The stir over latent (*bonus, surplus, whatever they want us to call it…) experience seems to have calmed down some since Closed Beta…
DK: It’s currently working as intended. A bug caused a huge increase in earned SP and XP during Phase 3, and many hit the cap and were left to wonder. The system had been in place since the start of Beta but didn’t really manifest itself until the massive boost in skill gains. The parameters themselves weren’t tweaked.

As it stands right now, fatigue will gradually recover when you’re not playing, right?
DK: It will recover not only if you’re logged off but even if you’re just playing a different class.

So tell us more about surplus experience…
Okada: If you collect enough bonus experience your surplus rank will increase for that class, but there is currently no benefit associated with that. If we add powerful skills unlocked with surplus, it will just encourage everyone to pursue it. We’re trying to figure out what rewards we could offer that wouldn’t be overly enticing.
DK: The reason there is no reward currently is so players don’t misunderstand our intentions and think we’re forcing them to earn surplus experience. Even if we do add something, it will be nothing more than a novelty gift. First things first, we have to see how much surplus players are collecting on average.

Once you earn a certain amount of SP, you begin to collect surplus. Is this based on a time limit?
DK: We based it off of how much SP a player is likely to earn in a sitting, but this was mistaken to mean that it was solely time-based. In Open Beta, characters were able to go from Rank 1 to 20 in a week and never see a drop of surplus. If you play at a normal pace, you should seldom see it.
FFXI players might remember that level 20 is around when you need to consider leveling a support job, and we wanted to encourage a similar type of experience. Also, we think leveling speed is still a little slower than intended, so we’re considering lowering the amount of SP needed to reach Rank 10. If we do that, then there definitely should be no surplus gained up through Rank 20.

So ultimately, you don’t want players to obsess over just one class?
DK: There are two reasons. First, we want to balance casual and hardcore gamers. There’s the eternal question of which group to make the game for. Despite many aspects counter to the fact, FFXI is seen by many as a purely hardcore game. We wanted to lighten it up a bit, make it less of a time sink. In trying to balance the two play styles, we realized we are able to raise the base leveling speed to compensate, as mentioned before.

Second, every player comes to a point where they need to change classes or take a break. How the player spends their time is up to them, but we wanted to show them there are more options to choose from than just one class. Hence surplus showing up in the chat log, letting them know they should start considering trying something else out. We aren’t trying to hold players back. We want to present them with opportunities to try out the myriad of options.

It appears that many are confused about how to execute Battle Regimens.
Okada: I think that’s because the effects weren’t known. For example, if you chain a regular attack with another regular attack, it lowers the physical defense of a mob for a period of time. It doesn’t require TP, so you can start off with it right away, save up some TP and chain a Weapon Skill with another for a Battle Regimen that will deal increased damage.

Many times players were confused about when to initiate a Regimen, and the battle was over before they knew it.
Okada: We realize the explanation regarding Battle Regimens is lacking. We will have to come up with something a little easier to understand. Regimens were created to be less confusing than the skill chains of FFXI. It’s included in the UI, and timing is less of a factor than with skill chains.

So it’s taking the place of FFXI’s skill chains?
Okada: The point of a skill chain was to cut a chunk out of a monster’s hit points. Battle Regimens have various effects, and the timing is more in the players’ hands. In FFXI, the player starting a skill chain was under a great deal of pressure to start it at just the right time. There was probably a great sense of relief when a skill chain was executed well. We wanted to expand the concept more and allow for greater party play, and so Battle Regimens were born. We’re placing the emphasis on having fun, not a nerve-racking experience.

Why are local leves mostly performed near aetherytes?
DK: Item repair is going to be an important element of gameplay. Sure, there are NPCs that manage that, but they only repair up to a certain percentage and charge accordingly. We wanted to draw them out of the cities and into the camps, so they can mingle and meet prospective customers.
Okada: It’s impetus for them to not keep themselves holed up in the city all day long.

Are there leves that have crafters traveling long distances?
DK: As a crafter’s rank increases, they’ll no longer be targeted by low-level aggressive monsters. Just by playing a crafting class, you can see the world and even learn its deepest secrets. We want crafters to travel abroad and use it as a chance for new business opportunities and ventures.

When you finish a local leve, you are given a recipe. Is it saved or written down anywhere?
DK: Honestly this idea barely made it into the game. Many were saying they didn’t know any recipes, so we wanted to give some hints. We released some recipes on the internet and have more things in the works. Recipes as a reward from a local leve is another way we’re trying to help. It’s not that you can’t make it if you haven’t gotten the recipe yet. It’s more of a tip.

So recipes can be seen out-of-game?
DK: We are considering posting the basic recipes on our website, etc.

The main site mentions a recipe compendium in “The Delicacies of Life” of Aeleyora (*see IV: The Joy of Cooking, for those who are curious). Does it exist in-game?
DK: Due to various reasons, we cannot show it at this time. It is in the works but is not a high-priority item at the moment.

Ingredients are hard to come by lately, and this makes it difficult for crafters to rank up.
DK: The problem right now is that the market doesn’t provide enough, I think. One option is to have vendors sell them. The drop list could also be adjusted, especially regarding shards and crystals, the fundamental parts of any recipe. We, too, noticed as we were playing that hey, there isn’t enough of this or that.

Crafters’ main option for fighting is throwing stones. Will they be able to attack with their tools?
DK: We’re not saying that they’ll get a bunch of attack options come release. However, we’ll see how things go and will hopefully add something in coming version updates.
Okada: It would indeed be nice. There have been various opinions about it within the department, so I hope we come to some sort of agreement on it.

Are there still no pet jobs like FFXI’s Beastmaster and Summoner?
DK: Something is in the works, but it’s not ready yet. It’s still under review, but I think I will be able to reveal more after a little while. We’re still working on the fundamentals. This time we hope to add classes without the need for an expansion disc. We’re even considering the next version update, so I think I’ll be able to say more around then.

FFXI usually added new jobs in expansions. Will FFXIV be doing that in version updates instead, then?
DK: We are considering it for this update.

What are your plans for expansions after official service starts?
DK: We’ll probably have a major patch once every three months. I expect there will be a mountain’s worth of emergency updates right after release, though, so we’ll see. The pacing of expansions will probably be similar to that of FFXI.

Lately expansions for FFXI have been solely Downloadable Content (DLC). What will you do for FFXIV?
DK: I don’t think the chance of things heading that way is nil. But if you’re going to go out, you might as well go all out. A bunch of new content all at once garners more attention, so we’re considering discs first.

How’s the PS3 version coming along?
DK: We returned home from Gamescom right in time for a meeting on the topic. We were able to see it in action. The party system and fundamentals were coming along, but it still needs tuning before we can show it to everyone. Please wait just a little longer.

When do you think PS3 Beta will start?
DK: As of right now, all I can say is that we will still have a PS3 beta test. We will have more information on that soon.

Are there any changes to the scheduled release date?
DK: No. It remains as announced.

Finally, anything you want to pass on to our readers?
DK: I want to continue hearing players’ opinions. I’ve learned loads just by logging in and interacting with players directly, and I think this is just the beginning. Join with me and help improve the game and change the face of Eorzea.
Okada: It has been quite a while since development started, but this is not the end. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m looking forward to molding it along with all you players out there and surpassing FFXI.

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