Get the lowdown from Hiromachi Tanaka on the most ambitious FINAL FANTASY game yet.
FINAL FANTASY XIV for PlayStation 3 immerses you in the war-scarred world of Eorzea, where adventurers are banding together to form guilds and hunt down lucrative prey. You explore this vast realm and the possibilities it offers alone or with friends via PlayStation Network, in a game of near limitless potential.
Hiromachi Tanaka, producer of FINAL FANTASY XIV, talks exclusively to eu.playstation.com about the famed series' new direction on PlayStation 3.
What have you learned from previous games in the series?
We learnt that it's very important to listen to the community whenever we can. When we want to design a game in a new manner, or add new content to a game, one of the first places to start is with the people who know our games as well as we do.
How do you decide what feedback to take on board?
We'd like to implement all the feedback we get from the community, but we have to prioritise. We don't decide based on which suggestions are shouted the loudest. Even if it's a small voice, we listen, and if it's an important idea we do try to include it.
We prioritise by looking at what is most relevant to what we are trying to achieve, and because of the development schedule or manpower, it's sometimes difficult to add things when they are suggested. So we pick the most relevant suggestions and go from there, keeping some ideas back for future projects.
Can you give us an idea of how players develop their character?
The Armoury System lets you switch your class by equipping different gear and weapons, giving you different abilities. We want to give players total flexibility so that they can have a wide variety of experiences. Side quests and missions change depending on whether you play alone or with friends, and each task strengthens or weakens you in a unique way.
How will gamers with experience of more traditional, offline, role-playing games find the leap into a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game such as this?
Well, it's still very much a role-playing game, and the difference for an MMO is that all the players around you are real. You are not the only hero in the game – there are others too. It's important to get to know these people as you build your own story, because they will be involved.
How do you balance a strong narrative with the need for player freedom in an MMO?
Other MMO games usually provide you only with the world, then you have to build up your own story by yourself. Because this is a FINAL FANTASY game, it carries on the series' tradition of having a strong story driving the player onwards. We've tried to make it as fluid as possible so that you can create your own experience, within the strong identity of the FINAL FANTASY XIV world.
What is it about MMO games and online experiences that appeals to you?
Giving players the chance to evolve their own story is a big thrill. It's a fundamental part of FINAL FANTASY XIV, which makes it different from offline titles. You can be chatting with other players and team up to experience the story together.
It's special because you are able to make friends with people you may never get the chance to meet in real life. Becoming friends with people in day-to-day life depends on the situation. In the game, you're meeting a person strictly in that context – so you don't need to worry about age, gender or background. Normal social boundaries are removed thanks to shared experiences in the game.
Now that PlayStation Network is so established, do you think we'll see more MMO games?
We believe a lot of people are going to enjoy this sort of online experience and, thanks to the PS3 system's built-in Hard Disk Drive, the technological barrier of delivering an experience from an online server to a player's PS3 has been removed. So yes, I think we'll see more MMO-style games appearing on PS3 in the future – and this is great news for people like us.
Keep an eye on eu.playstation.com and PlayStation.Blog at blog.eu.playstation.com for more details on FINAL FANTASY XIV leading up to the game's launch later in 2011.