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 1up interview 6/20/08

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PostSubject: 1up interview 6/20/08   Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:55 am

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Last week we sat down with the Final Fantasy XI development team on the eve of the latest patch release to their current expansion, Wings of the Goddess, and talked with Koichi Ogawa (FFXI planner), Mitsutoshi Gondai (FFXI job planner), Mizuki Ito (FFXI battle planner), and Hiromichi Tanaka (FFXI producer) about the state of the game and its future. A good bulk of these questions were farmed up from my occasionally-updated My Life in Vana'diel blog and from other user submissions, but since my interview time was limited to 60 mana-burned minutes, I wasn't able to get in a bunch of the questions I still had on my plate, like those regarding BLMs and THFs and other burning topics. Don't despair, though. I'll be back in Japan soon enough, and whatever wasn't answered to your satisfaction here, you ungrateful bastards, will be answered in the near future. In the meanwhile, check out what the good folks in Shinjuku had to say about your favorite Japanese MMO.

1UP: Since Final Fantasy XI is the only majorly successful MMO to ever hit a video game console and to survive for seven years, can you tell us what you think has attributed to FFXI's long-lasting success?

Hiromichi Tanaka: Actually, that's a mystery to us as well, why it's been so successful with the players. But the fact that the users have stuck with the game for so long is...well, it gives us something to build off of. And the opinions that we get from the players, we take that and then we try to give something back. And it's that constant back and forth with the players, and the success that we've had with that, it's what's helped us continue for so long.

1UP: How do you feel about the state of Japanese game development? Nowadays, it seems like only the top-tier Japanese game developers are able to survive, while most of the lower-tier developers seem to be going the way of downloadable games only. And I guess, compared to western development, which has really grown in the last five or six years with PC developers crossing over. How do you think that the game market has changed, if at all, and how does that affect your future plans?

Koichi Ogawa: Yeah, this is something that our president, Mr. Wada, seems to be touching on a lot lately. What Mr. Tanaka-san said is that the Japanese market really hasn't changed that much. It hasn't gone up or down. Whereas, especially over this time, switching to the next-generation machines, it's that there's more and more users in the European and U.S. markets. And because there are more users over there, that's why that market seems to be getting bigger. And while the Japanese market's not getting smaller, it's just not moving like the other two markets are.

1UP: Okay, well, I'll jump into this user-submitted list then. Recently a number of changes have gone into the game, such as bringing Nomad Moogles into areas like Mhaura and Selbina, which players have been wanting for years. I think for at least five years, people have been wanting Nomad Moogles in these places. So why, after all this time, are you guys adding them now? Is it a kind of way to hold onto people who might otherwise leave? Or do you have another rationale as to why it's time to add these? Do you plan to address player requests like this a little more promptly in the future?

KO: Well, we're always listening to what the players have to say, and what they want. We're always considering the certain things that they ask for. There are several reasons why we can't do things right away all the time. Sometimes it's technical limits, sometimes it's time limits, and resource limits on our side. But the reason we've started releasing all of this stuff now is that the Aht Urhgan story is pretty much wrapped up, and that's calmed down now. And all of the work that went into the Wings of the Goddess expansion, now that it's released, has calmed down. So there are more people available to start working on these things.

Another reason is that our special task force team that's been in the game getting rid of a lot of the problems, like hacking and using cheats, they've pretty much got the game cleaned out. And now that the game is cleaned up, we have not only more time, but we're now able to go in and add some of the things that could have been a problem before; things that might have been exploited by some of the users that were targets of the STF teams. But now that those are cleared out, we can implement some of these things.

1UP: Regarding Nyzul Isle Assault in specific, are there any plans to add notorious monster drops such as the Ridill? Because, at the end of Nyzul Isle, you're using some of the big boss monsters. But unlike the 'regular' NMs in Nyzul, which drop the mystery items that need to be identified, the big boys don't drop anything, which seems to be almost mocking the player. And it's a tough battle, so are there any plans to add things like that in the future?

Mizuki Ito: It's not like we're trying to taunt the player by doing this. Nyzul Isle, as you know, is for six-player parties, and the monsters and NMs inside -- their difficulty level has been balanced, so they can be defeated by six-person parties, whereas some of the stuff on the outside has been balanced to be fought by 18-person parties. By having the same type of drops for a monster that only takes six people to defeat, versus one that takes 18 people to defeat, it would be kind of rude to those people that went with the 18-person parties and worked hard to get that item...to give the same opportunities to just a small group of six. And that's the one reason. Also, the reason that the bosses do not drop the items is because they were designed to be pretty much the gateways to the next branch. So rather than having you fight them to get something, you're fighting them to get to that next level, and that's why we don't have them drop things.

1UP: Hmm, so they're pretty much just an obstacle.

MI: An obstacle, yeah.

1UP: Following up on the real-world equivalents of the King Behemoths and all that: Why are the drop rates on rare/ex items from long delay pops like 18-24 hour mobs so cruel?

MI: Let's take for example: Fafnir. When Fafnir was first released, when it first appeared in the game, the items and the equipment that he would drop were, at the time, some of the best equipment in the game. Over the past few years, there have been new NMs released, with new drops and equipment. So maybe in comparison, Fafnir, or other what older NMs would drop, is not as appealing, or not even as good. Well, they're still good, just not as good as some of the other things you can get right now. And since that's the case, the drop rates for Fafnir haven't been adjusted. But that's not saying that we won't adjust them in the future. But right now we're concentrating more on releasing new NMs and new items, to give the player more things to concentrate on rather than just some of the old items. For example, the latest patch, there are going to be many new NMs released around the game world. And they'll be dropping many new, even better items. For now, we want the players to concentrate on these items. But that's not to say that we're never going to go back and adjust those times, because we do realize that with some of the older items, that maybe the drop rates do need to be adjusted.

1UP: The last question I have in regards to the difficult NMs. There are a high number of Linkshells that compete for the three endgame kings. Always has been, probably always will be until you shut the game down. Nothing has been done to address the overcrowding that takes place at these sorts of camps. What are your thoughts on that, and "Well, we have different monsters with different drops elsewhere," isn't really an acceptable answer. People want these items and will claim steal and MPK where possible in order to get them.

Mitsutoshi Gondai: Like you said with the HNMs, the super powerful ones, there are still a lot of things that we can do. But like we said before, first what we're going to do is concentrate on releasing the new NMs and new items, and once that's been all established, then we hope to go back and look at some of the old ones. But we recognize that there is still a problem.

1UP: Regarding the new content, and apparently this new patch is super [Editor's note: I'm too busy doing this interview to actually play, so you be the judge about the quality of the patch], how do you feel about the criticism that Wings of the Goddess launched with too little content at the start?

KO: When making Wings of the Goddess, it was our goal to give it as much content as is in Treasures of Aht Urghan. But we can see how the players, maybe not in the way that we designed for them to play the Wings of the Goddess, would feel like they didn't receive the same amount of content. And one of the reasons behind this is possibly because the three quest branches for Windurst, San d'Oria, and Bastok all are separate. So if you are only playing one of them, you only get to see that one little bit, whereas there's actually many different unique quests in all three. So it can be perceived as there not being as much content. But we just hope that in the next few patches designed to fill the gaps that the players are feeling more fulfilled, and hopefully this patch will fill those gaps and give the players a lot more things to do.

1UP: Will you guys begin opening locked areas like Giddeus, and how do you feel about the fact that most people are content just to defend existing fortresses, as opposed to taking on more of the campaign quests?

KO: As for the new areas, there are some areas that we still haven't opened that will become available in the future. We're not saying that it's Giddeus, specifically, but more areas will open. As for the campaign, right now the players are so good and so excited about playing campaign that pretty much most of the areas are under the Allied Force's control. As a balance issue, we're hoping to, in the future, make the Beastmen Confederate a little bit stronger. And if the Beastmen Confederate is a little bit stronger and takes over some of the areas, then players will go back on the offensive rather than being on the defensive so much.

1UP: Some of those campaigns are really tough, especially when you get the orcs in there spamming AOE attacks. It's easy to wipe in instances like this. What can you tell us about the forthcoming Bahlran's weapons? How difficult will they be to obtain compared to the existing relic weapons?

MI: While it's really hard to compare the two, it'll probably be about the same level of difficulty.

1UP: Ugh. Guess we have our work cut out for us. Okay, this is a big question. With only two widely accepted tank jobs out of twenty available jobs -- Ninja and Paladin -- leveling new jobs is increasingly difficult because you can never find a tank. You can find Red Mages and Bards out of the wazoo compared to tanks now. Why wasn't a new tank added, and how do you plan to address this problem? I know you guys have said in the past that you're going to add abilities to other jobs that make them effective tanks. For example, in a pinch, I've tanked on Monk from anywhere from 70 to 75, and it's no fun. I've tanked as Samurai, but Third Eye only goes so far. I've had to tank on Warrior in the high levels because I could never find a Paladin or a Ninja. Are there any plans to address this issue in particular?

MG: When you look at the two tank jobs now, they can be split into two different styles. One would be, basically, the defensive type, where you just take all the damage, and that would be the Paladin. And the other would be the Ninja, where you avoid the damage. And when thinking of whether to make a new tank or not, the tank would have to probably be a hybrid of one of those. But rather than just creating a hybrid of one of those, we thought it would be more interesting game-wise to take the existing jobs and adjust them and forge new ways of playing with the existing jobs as tanks. And not only would that be something different than the Paladin and the Ninja, but also it would make a new style of play for those existing jobs, making them more interesting so that you could go back and play them again in a different sort of light.

First of all, we're not finished making adjustments. A lot of the adjustments we would like to make, we realize that a lot of the small adjustments we make are not always evident to the players. They might be so small, they might be so subtle, that the players might not realize that something has really been changed. The reason behind this -- making the smaller changes rather than a big, sweeping change -- is that there's the chance that it might destroy the balance of the whole game. And so, we're always being cautious when making these types of adjustments, when adding new abilities and things like that. But we realize that there are still a lot of things we have to do to make it easier to level and make it easier to level without a tank, with one of these hybrid-tanks being played by one of the other jobs. So we're going to continue making these types of adjustments. Also, we're thinking of making a new type of place where people can level or a type of enemy or a battlefield, where you don't need a tank to level. Maybe instead of adjusting the jobs, we could be adjusting of the monsters, so you wouldn't necessarily need that type of tank to level.


Last edited by cei on Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:56 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: part 2   Fri Jun 20, 2008 3:56 am

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1UP: There are a lot of jobs that can function as a tank. A Blue Mage could easily function as a tank if you sub Warrior, or a Dancer could function as a tank because it has Animated Flourish. But these jobs aren't as optimal at holding aggro. For example, Animated Flourish isn't as strong as Provoke. One suggestion I hear a lot is that you could add better armor to certain classes that currently have light armor, like on Monks or something. If you want to make sure not to make Monks too strong by giving them such high defense, maybe the armor could increase defense at the expense of offense, you know, almost like having permanent Job Ability Defender or lower the wearer's critical hit rate, something like that. Have you thought about equipment-related ways to make other jobs more tank-worthy?

MG: In regards to adding this type of equipment, that's a really good idea, and that's maybe one way to alleviate the problems. But then again, that might also create another problem in that the players will have to carry another set of armor in their inventory, but again that's a payoff there, and that's one option we'll be thinking about. But what I feel is probably the biggest problem here is that even if you go as a tank using a job that's not normally a tank, as you said with Monk, it just isn't fun. And that's probably the biggest issue, trying to find a way to make these hybrid tanks fun to play, and this is what we're looking at. By adding different types of adjustments and new abilities, we're looking for ways to make it so it's fun. Not only so that you can just do it, but that when you're doing it, it's fun.

1UP: One of the new things for Monks in particular, since we're talking about Monks, is the ability to switch to kick attacks only, which is actually a pretty exciting idea, because it really expands the notion of martial arts in the game. Following on this idea, have you guys considered a setting where Monks could specialize in staff attacks? There isn't a job in FFXI that can use a staff like Jet Li, or Kilik out of Soul Calibur.

MG: First of all, in regards to the kick attacks setting, by adding this it's basically showing a new side of Monks; giving them new options, giving them the option to change their fighting style depending on the monster so that their party members aren't getting upset at them for stealing all the hate because they're hitting too fast. It'll slow down their attacks, so they won't get as much hate there. As for having Monks use a staff and having a staff type of stance, I think that's a really interesting idea, because currently there isn't really a job that uses the staff as a main attacking weapon, so this is something to think about.

1UP: On the martial arts subject, why is it that Ninja is the only class that can use the katana and ninjitsu, but they have an A-minus rating in both. And, will you guys ever add Jubaku-Ni, Dokumori-Ni, a throwing weapon skill, or any new San-magic? I think this also brings up the issue that Paladins are better at holding hate than Ninjas because they have so many more job abilities.

MG: The simple reason behind the katana being A-minus is because the Ninja can dual wield, so we wanted to give a little bit of a penalty to keep it from being too strong. So that's why it became A-minus.

As for the Jubaku and Dokumori, the Ni spells you mention, they do exist, but because the Ichi are so powerful, by bringing in the Ni on those certain spells, they would make the Ninja stronger than the Red Mage in those sets, and we didn't want to do that. As for why Paladins are so much better at keeping hate because they have more abilities...because the Ninja is a tank that tanks by avoiding damage, by giving them the type of abilities that would make it easier to hold hate by themselves, that would make them so powerful -- more powerful than the Paladins -- that we think this would be the problem. So we would rather have them maintain what they have now and work with other jobs to help maintain that hate, rather than taking all that hate themselves and going beyond the abilities of a Paladin.

1UP: Here's one from the White Mages out there. Will you guys ever add the spells Pax and Regain to the White Mage, because right now there's almost no reason to level the White Mage beyond Level 37 except for having all of the teleports. The Red Mage and Scholar can do almost anything a White Mage can, especially if you sub a White Mage, and nobody really cares about Raise III anymore because you know, taking a Raise I only sets you back a grand in experience and that's like, you know, a few monster kills away and you've got it back.

MG: We can't say too much right now, but when we introduced the White Mage's sleep spell, Repose, a lot of players got really excited about that. But after that, people realized that the Scholar is good at curing ailments. It used to be that the White Mage was the best job at curing and removing status ailments, but when people saw that that the scholar could do that, everyone started flocking to that job. We realize that we must do something, because we didn't necessarily realize that it would be that big of a shift over to Scholars. And when we first designed Scholar, we wanted it to be an option for White Mages to use as a support job, rather than having only the option of Black Mage or Summoner like they used to. We wanted another option for White Mage support jobs.

Also, as Tanaka-san said before, as a healing option, it used to be pretty much only White Mage. If you wanted a healer, you would have to choose a White Mage. But now with people seeing that they can use the Scholar in the same type of sense, there's a lot of people that say, "Okay, I've played White Mage so long, I wanna switch to Scholar." That's why you see such a large flux of people going over to Scholar when, in theory, they could play both and be just as successful. But in all of the worlds when you look at which job is the most popular, or at least which job most players have, White Mage is still #1.

1UP: So there are plans to help White Mages in the future.

MG: Of course.

1UP: Are there plans to improve Automaton and Adventuring Fellow A.I. because watching them cast Silence at enemies like crabs that don't need silencing is annoying.

MG: The guy in charge of that is not here today, so I'm going to answer for him. I'm not 100 percent positive on this, but the Automaton is supposed to only cast Silence on monsters that would cast magic, and uh, but....

1UP: They don't.

MG: Yeah. I'm not 100 percent positive that it's that way with every single monster. That's the way it's supposed to be designed, but I can see how there might be some who have slipped through the cracks.

1UP: So you'll be looking into it?

MG: Yeah. I will report this to the man in charge, Mr. Matsui.

1UP: I'm going to burn through a few more quick ones. There's currently no real incentive to equip full artifact gear or relic armor, except for the complete look of the set, but you get benefits for equipping a whole set of Salvage gear, for example. Are there any plans to adjust stuff like that in the future?

KO: Actually, there are no plans for this. And the reason behind this is that, system-wise, there are a limited number of bonuses or effects that can be put on each piece of armor. And right now, with the artifact armor, that list is filled, which means that if we were going to add an extra bonus for having everything, we have to take one thing away from each one, and because we can't do that, there are no plans right now.

1UP: Will you guys ever add Campaign battle-type activities for lower-level jobs? I know you can theoretically get some experience if you're level 20 and above, but you don't get as much experience for healing in Campaign as you do in Besieged, and you definitely can't hit any Campaign monsters at low levels. So, would you consider adding campaign type activities for low level jobs in areas that are rarely used like Meriphataud Mountains or Purgonorgo Isle?

MI: For both the battles and the ops...right now, the battles are all designed to be the most fun for players in their late 50s and their 60s. It gets a bit easier when players get in their 70s, but most of the battles have been adjusted and designed for the 50-70 level group. So for the lower-levels players to have different battles, for this group, it would be difficult to adjust the overall balance. And that's why we have the Ops, which are for the lower-level players, and we plan to continue to add these types of missions for the lower-level players.

1UP: Do you guys plan to adjust the most unused areas, like the ones I mentioned, at all?

MI: We can't tell you anything specific, but yeah, those are some things we are considering right now.

1UP: Will the Norg Ferry ever open for business?

KO: [Laughs] That's probably a little bit too difficult for us to do right now.

1UP: Will you ever release cap information on jug pets?

KO: Alright, we'll get something together. The guy who's in charge of that right now is not here. But we'll ask him and see if we can get some information from him.

1UP: The Summoners want to know when you guys are going to start revealing more stuff about updates to Summoners. And will Astral Flow ever be better than the Level 70 blood pacts at higher levels? Basically Astral Flow isn't as good as some of the level 70 blood pacts that some summons have, like with Leviathan's Spinning Dive.

MG: First of all, as for new avatars, new summons, we can't say much yet. But we can say that there will be new summons, and yes, I said that in the plural. As for these new type of avatars that will be released. They will be a little bit different from the ones that already exist. They won't be as ability-based, or ability heavy. For example, the ones that we have now, they have like six or seven abilities per avatar. The new ones won't have as many.

As for why Astral Flow isn't as powerful as some of the Level 70 blood pacts, it's that Astral Flow is area-of-effect. It doesn't matter how many monsters are in the area, it'll be the same damage to the monsters in the effect range. Whereas the level 70 blood pacts are just for one target, so that's where the difference comes in.

1UP: Okay, last salvo, because I know you've gotta go. What have you learned from making FFXI that you will specifically take into your next MMO. Will there be any more expansions for FFXI, and when do you plan to announce something about your next MMO?

HT: First of all, the next-generation MMO that we'll be working on is going to be different than Final Fantasy XI. And even though we have the same staff working on the project, and we have seen the good things from XI, and we've also seen the things that the players maybe didn't like as much...while we're going to be using that info while we make the next MMO, we're not going to make something that'll be exactly like FFXI. We're aiming for something different from the beginning.

1UP: So it won't necessarily replace it.

HT: Yes, and that's exactly it. We want them to exist in the same world, to continue on side by side, without one replacing the other. And like we've always said before, as long as the players keep playing FFXI, we're going to continue making the content for it, and that has to do with the expansions as well. If players keep saying that they want to keep playing and that they want these things, then we'll keep providing them for them. For the time being it'll be handled with patches, like we have been doing. As for any announcements on the next MMO, I can't say anything.


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PostSubject: Re: 1up interview 6/20/08   Fri Jun 20, 2008 5:38 pm

New summons...

About the only thing that excited me
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1up interview 6/20/08
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