E3 2010: Our exclusive interview with Final Fantasy XIV executive producer Hiromichi Tanaka

In the world of Final Fantasy XIV, Hiromichi Tanaka is kind of a big deal. In fact, he's kind of a big deal in the franchise's history as a whole, having worked on the design for several games and having been the lead developer on Final Fantasy XI. It seems fitting that one of the designers from the original game 23 years ago is now hard at work crafting the newest installment of the series -- one that promises to be many things to many players while retaining the core features that have captivated fans for years.

Square-Enix have made a big push for their newest game at this year's E3, and we were lucky enough to have a few minutes of Mr. Tanaka's time to ask him about the game as a whole. There's a lot more still to be learned about the game, but from what we've seen in both the interview and our hands-on experience, it already has quite a bit to offer.
Massively: Will
Final Fantasy XIV retain the same difficulty as Final Fantasy XI? Will we be seeing the same sort of complexity as FFXI?

Tanaka: In terms of the amount of content we will have for FFXIV, probably FFXI will have more at launch, just because it's been in service for eight years. We'll make sure that we'll introduce the same amount of content as exists in FFXI, and we'll make sure that we go from there.

As for the difficulty -- your main question -- it's slightly different, because we will be focusing on solo players also. So you can be yourself and be very flexible -- in a short period of time, by yourself, you can level up by experience points, then customize yourself for higher levels. In terms of how difficult this is? We introduce [the game] as a very entry-level experience, so that a lot of people can enjoy it, but at the same time we'll be making sure that all the endgame players have enough content, and it will be as competitive for them [as FFXI].

Of course, one of the most popular elements of the series are the chocobos. Will there be chocobos at launch? Chocobo racing? Will they be mounts?

Yes, chocobos will be there. It may be further introduced toward a later time, but there will be something. Of course, chocobos are something for you to ride on, but any more than that? Yes, we are planning to introduce that later. Chocobos as mounts will be there.

The skill system is very unique. How quickly can players switch between the disciplines?

Aside from during a battle, you can switch any time you want. It's instant. There's no timer. However, if you just keep switching back and forth, you're low on everything. So if you want to be good at something to start with, you probably want to stick with one thing.

The skill bar on the UI only has so many slots -- is that all a player can have at once, or are there multiple bars?

We have points that you will be using to set your abilities. They're slotted so that depending on your abilities, you'll be consuming more points, so they will run out. In terms of number of abilities, it's 30 abilities at most.

We've had so many wonderful and memorable stories from the Final Fantasy series, including FFXI. Will that be continued in FFXIV? Will the player continued to be involved heavily?

Not only that -- we will be introducing more gradual storylines, more involved, so yes plus more.

Will story progress be similar to what Star Wars: The Old Republic is promising, with heavy player choice, or will it be more linear like traditional games?

In terms of FFXIV storyline involvement -- it's pretty much the same as other Final Fantasy games or other MMOs. You talk to NPCs to start it and then you continue. As for the uniqueness, we are introducing more grand-scale voice acting and lip synching. In the concept of how we introduce the storyline, it will be pretty similar to a standard MMO.

Will the guild system be more involved this time around than linkshells were in FFXI? Will there be more features and incentives?

We have a system called "company," a little bit larger than a linkshell. At this moment we can only say that there is a gameplay element to grow a company, but we'll be announcing full details of the company shortly, so stay tuned.

Can you clarify the guildleve system a bit?

The cards are called guildleves and the quests that you obtain are called levequests. You go to a place to obtain a card, a guildleve. The levequest is in there, and it's reusable. Currently, it's set to a two-day period to reset, but it may change. The point of this is that not only can you use the levequest, but you can also have other party members join your levequest without them having to have the guildleve. It's very flexible and convenient, and if you don't have time to go get the levequest, you can join in with other people.

We've noticed during character creation that there are places to select a guardian spirit and some sort of horoscope. Can you expand on that?

We still haven't started disclosing the full detail of what happens, but yes, something will change depending on what you choose.

A lot of players have felt that FFXIV takes more influence from World of Warcraft and similar games. Have these games influenced your design?

Not any other MMO specifically, but we got a lot of feedback from players from FFXI. At the same time, they were playing other MMOs too. They found elements they liked in those games and gave us feedback, and if they felt that something was good, then we'll try to introduce that in FFXIV as well.

One of the things that we adopted is to get more feedback from players, so we created the temporary alpha version purposely, quite different from the beta. It was just to get feedback from players, and a lot of people, especially North American players, are giving a lot of feedback.

Players have been worried about the future of FFXI in the face of the new game. Is it going away when FFXIV comes out?

We will continue support of FFXI. It will not go away as long as people enjoy it.

Can we look forward to more boxed expansions for the game?

We will continue to do version updates. As for expansions, we've already started with Abyssea -- we consider that as an expansion pack. We'll introduce more of those as well.

We'd like to thank Mr. Tanaka for his time and information.
This article was originally published on Massively.