Square’s last MMORPG was Final Fantasy XI. Its major problem was a lack of accessibility. Because if you didn’t have a large group of friends, all with PCs that could play it or PS2s with special PS2 hard drives, the fun was severely limited. But that’s all changed in XIV, a timed PS3 exclusive. We interviewed producers Sage Sundi and Hiromichi Tanaka at GamesCom, and they explained the changes they’ve made to make their new MMO, FFXIV, in order to make it fun for everyone, not just groups of friends.
“In FFXI, the focus was on working together to take down large monsters,” explains Tanaka. “In FFXIV, you’ll be able to play on your own for a lot of the game. Later, when you encounter higher level monsters, you’ll need to co-operate with other players and take up your own role in that group.”
The core of the game has also been simplified. Rather than level your character up with traditional experience points earned by killing enemies, a new job system is in place. “We didn’t want the user to be restricted by having one job; we wanted them to have more flexibility,” says Sundi. “Not having leveling up is nothing new in the genre, it’s just that it has been made ‘the norm’ by games like World of Warcraft. If you look back in the Final Fantasy series, FFII had a skill-based system instead of a level-based mechanic, so we have it in our heritage too.”
This means you’ll be able to switch easily between classes depending on how you want to approach a situation. Maybe you need to back your team up with healing spells? Then become a white mage. Or maybe you favour strong physical attacks? A knight is probably your best bet. This flexible system means you won’t be stuck with one playing style, which increases the game’s overall accessibility.
So what’s the truth behind FFXIV’s apparent PS3 exclusivity? Despite the bombastic announcement at this year’s E3, the reality isn’t quite as dramatic. FFXI was cross-platform, meaning you could play with PC users, and Square wants the same for the sequel. But because of some internal Microsoft rules, it won’t let Square implement this into the 360 version at the moment (negotiations are underway, however).
Sony, on the other hand, doesn’t mind that kind of thing, so PS3 owners get the title first. And they get the added bonus of playing with people on PC from the start. There will also be a subscription fee, though Square isn’t talking about how much it’ll be yet.