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Troubled MMO  FFXIV  'Will Always Be FFXIV And Nothing Else,' Says Producer
Troubled MMO FFXIV 'Will Always Be FFXIV And Nothing Else,' Says Producer Exclusive
November 18, 2011 | By Christian Nutt




Last September, Square Enix launched its latest MMO in the Final Fantasy franchise, Final Fantasy XIV, to a disastrous reaction -- so bad that the company has yet to begin charging players fees for the game.

In October, Square Enix announced that the game would begin charging this month or next, and that the game would be upgrading to version 2.0 in 2013.

Gamasutra queried producer Naoki Yoshida, who replaced Square Enix veteran Hiromichi Tanaka at the project's helm late last year, for more details on this unusual transition.

"The first thing I did when I became the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV last December was to ask myself, 'What kind of service system, game content, and community content would be necessary if we were to continue to offer this service 10 years into the future?'" Yoshida says.

"In doing so, I went back and restudied the systems used by other MMOs offered worldwide, such as World of Warcraft and Rift."

The 2.0 announcement, however, was confusing. If the team is developing a new engine, how can it be the same game?

"Players, community websites, and the gaming media may see the roadmap we have provided and take it as, 'Oh, they’re creating a completely different game,' but this is not the case," says Yoshida. "FFXIV will always be FFXIV and nothing else."

The studio has been continually updating the game since launch, and those updates are "all part of the upcoming version 2.0," says Yoshida.

However, he says, "a key development on the technology side is the new engine that will be rolled out for the version 2.0 launch which we are building from the ground up."

"Why build something from the ground up when it already exists? Well, the current engine we are using is good for showing ‘passive graphics’ in offline games, but the most important thing an MMO needs is an ‘active graphics’ capable of showing many, many different characters on the screen simultaneously. This is simply too difficult to accomplish with the current engine," says Yoshida.

The original version of Final Fantasy XIV was built with Crystal Tools, the engine which also powered the single-player Final Fantasy XIII. The studio currently has a new engine in development named Luminous, which is being developed under the guiding hand of the company's French global CTO, Julien Merceron.

The full interview with Yoshida on the relaunch will be published on Gamasutra next week.


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Comments


Patrick Davis
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I think they would have been better off just starting from scratch after such a failure. Even with ground up enhancements, you won't get people to suddenly start paying subs to this game. They will be running off the tiny player base they have left. The timing is just terrible. I could see them considering it after the huge 2.0 changes they are touting. But, now? Really?

Sean Danielson
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They are essentially doing just that. They are making the server backend compatible with the old version, so they can bring over all of the characters that have been created since launch.

Ron Dippold
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"Why build something from the ground up when it already exists?"



Because it's horribly broken. Honestly, when I was playing the Alpha I wasn't thinking 'Wow, this engine is broken.' No, it looked kind of nice, especially once you changed the settings (mouse smoothing!). What I was thinking was 'Good lord, who actually made these design decisions?' Okay, and it crashed a lot, so maybe that was the engine. But even if it were stable, the game was just no fun.



If Yoshida really believes what he's saying here then Square has completely failed at design again and the new FFXIV will be as bad as the original - hopefully, though, he's just being diplomatic.

Sean Danielson
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I think Yoshida is making a genuine effort here. You haven't actually been playing the game in the last two months, have you?



He has laid out a very concrete battle plan for developing FFXIV, and he has hit the majority of the milestones so far.

Bruno Xavier
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Square Enix and how not to make a MMO.

Terry Matthes
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I played Final Fantasy XI for over 2 years and loved it. Yes it had it's flaws, but for me they were easy to overlook. I was very excited for FFXIV to come out as were thousands of other players. The first thing I noticed is that the character designs where the exact same, but with completely different stories.



Within 20 minutes of playing you can feel the lack of focus in nearly every component of the experience. I was waiting for a new game not some half baked version of FFXI. They would have been better off to just upgrade the graphical look of FFXI and continue on in that universe.



I just don't know how you can make the same product worse the second time around. If you just compare the two games there is a massive disparity in quality and design favoring FFXI. This game feels like the Duke Nukem Forever of MMO's to me.

Sean Danielson
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If you ask me, the blame lies squarely with Tanaka. He became complacent because he expected it to be successful just because it was "Final Fantasy". He also didn't work well with others, in regards to getting feedback and incorporating it into the games. With that in mind, you can really see why XIV was such a clusterfuck.

Daniel Martinez
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I don't know much concerning the details surrounding this MMO. Did Squeenix conduct thorough open beta testing like other companies do before launch? (I.e. Gears of War, Halo, etc...)?

Sean Danielson
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They did. They just sucked at taking feedback and USING it, at the time.



Now, under Naoki Yoshida? They respond to nearly all of our concerns. Which is fantastic and a tremendous about-face from the old ways Square has often used to produce their games.



You know, like how Microsoft would, metaphorically speaking, develop their Windows operating systems in-house with no outside feedback, then chuck the finished product over the wall to the consumer masses. (Which led to the Vista debacle, I should add...)

Daniel Martinez
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Great comparison Sean. End-user feedback is critical. They are the ones who will be the consumers after all.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Sean Danielson
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Dan Eisenhower, I just chalk that up to Hiromichi Tanaka taking his product's success for granted, and thinking they could "patch in" the rest of the features.

Daniel Martinez
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Whatever the cause, I feel some sympathy for Square, not unlike someone who was a friend from my younger days but has now fallen on hard times. I really hope they get their act together and their products shine with the luster of their halcyon days.

Ramon Carroll
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I don't see any problem with what the guy is saying. It sounds totally reasonable. They're just remaking the same game, using a different engine. Game engines don't make games. They run them. Its the systems and their internal mechanics that make the game. This stuff can be retained in programming code and excel spreadsheets. Thats where the game really is.



Now if they scrapped all of the gameplay mechanics and started to totally rewrite the systems and rules, then yeah, that's a new game.

Sean Danielson
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They're rebuilding the gameplay mechanics to a degree, actually. So in a sense it WILL be a new Final Fantasy XIV, just within the same world that has been transformed by a world-shaking event.



Now, the entire server backend, plus the game engine, graphics engine, etc are all getting overhauls to their core programming, to improve latency efficiency as well as clientside efficiency.



However, all of the data we, as FFXIV players, have accumulated, will still be carried over to 2.0, because the 2.0 systems are "backwards compatible" with the data format of the original FFXIV. That is how Naoki Yoshida is approaching this.

Ramon Carroll
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Thanks for the additional info, Sean. Can you tell me how exactly they are changing the systems and gameplay mechanics?

Sean Danielson
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The information is available at the Final Fantasy XIV Lodestone: http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/



There's even a full road map laid out, for version 2.0, which you can see here: http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/jump?name=mainmenu&id=teaser


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