Here is a pre-alpha look at some of the things I can confirm we will see with Final Fantasy XIV. Let's start with the biggest question I have been hearing from a lot of people. What is going to happen to Final Fantasy XI? I can confirm that Final Fantasy not only will remain supported by Square Enix, I can also tell you that a new lead developer has been hired to continue working on Final Fantasy XI. If anyone was worried about it, you can rest assured that XI will remain a focus for Square Enix.
So the second biggest question is release date and platform choices? To my surprise, Community Planner and Service Manager for Square Enix, Robert Peeler told me that Final Fantasy XIV will come out on 2010 for sure. Due to pre-alpha status, he could not give me knowledge of which quarter they are shooting for, but his tone of voice expressed much excitement for a 2010 release date. Robert was able to tell me that Final Fantasy XIV will release on PS3 and PC across ALL regions simultaneously. Square is working on a 360 release, but there is nothing confirmed right now on release for it. We all know that Microsoft runs ALL servers that live games play on, so it can be difficult at times to work out agreements for cross platform games. The expressions he gave me tell me that there will be a 360 release with no date set, but I cannot be quoted on that.
The next big question has been the class and leveling system. I wasn't able to get all my questions answered that I would have liked to, but I did get a lot of information that I think all of you will like to know for sure. Does this game have a leveling system? NO!! You will not progress through the game with a leveling system. This game is going to have a skill set system similar to games like Oblivion. It is not going to be tree based like Star Wars Galaxies was before the new experience launched with leveling. It was hard for Robert to describe the class/leveling system. He kept telling me how I would have to experience it myself to understand it. I am going to do my best to repeat some of the things that he told me, but I am still confused as I was not able to play the game myself. He basically showed me live game play that was pre-recorded.
As you use a sword, axe, staff, ect your stats will grow in each area. This is how you will gain experience. The key area is that the system is very complex. You aren't going to just gain points for each weapon, but to my understanding this is also how you will develop attributes as well. Robert couldn't go into a lot of detail on that area, but that is how I understand it. The next question is how does armor work? He couldn't explain it at all other than it is going to work similar to weapons. You will have stat requirements for each piece of armor that you find.
So are there classes in the game? Well yes of course! Like all Final Fantasy games, there will be classes/jobs. Robert didn't explain if there was a job class. His tones expressed that there is some form of job system, but the only need for the system will be to help determine what you can and cannot use. What I did find interesting though is that any character can use almost any piece of equipment in the game that they meet the requirements for. For example, a warrior can wear cloth and a mage can wear armor. The downfall though is that your stats aren't going to compliment what you are wearing, so it is going to make you weaker. This could make things interesting when people re-roll. I can see this easily turning into a way of skilling up fast, but who knows at this point.
The combat system is VERY interesting. First off, there is no auto attack of any kind (unless of course the game will allow macros). It will be a number set like most MMOS, but there are some key differences. The game is going to have an attack bar similar to other final fantasy games. After each attack, you will have a short time you will have to wait for the bar to fill back up before you can attack again. The game is going to be turn based like XI was, but the twist is that you will have two bars. Why two bars? You will be able to do a weak attack with strong accuracy and a strong attack with weak accuracy. Due to the attack bar system, you will have to plan attacks out while you are in combat. This is going to make boss battles VERY interesting. If you go for a strong attack and miss it could be fatal! Also the time of each bar is going to be different between which attacks you use. I believe it will also be shorter if you miss an attack, but most attacks I saw didn't fail.
Questing is going to be similar to most games. In the pictures I provided, you see those three crystals. That is actually where this character got quests. It's not going to be like XI where you randomly talk to people and hope they have quests for you. You are actually going to be able to get quests in the game that will help you improve your skills without spending hours trying to find them. The game will also be solo based or group based. Robert told me that this time around there is a bigger focus on solo play, but you will run into boss battles that require multiple people. If you wanted an Oblivion MMO, this game is going to be for YOU!
Now I am sure the next question is how will zoning/mob levels work? Sadly, I cannot provide much information on these two subjects. One interesting thing about zoning though is they made the game similar to Oblivion where you don't actually change zones. This game is going to have a totally free roam feel to it. My next question right after he said this was probably what you are you thinking, how are we going to know what monsters we can attack? The answer is simple; It will be just like final fantasy XI. The monsters aren't going to have levels and the game will have a similar check feature. This means that as you progress in the game, you will learn which monsters are weak and strong just like we all did with XI.
Let me end with just a couple of things: First off, I realize that some of my answers and explanations are vague and I apologize. I was getting a lot of vague answers to my questions simply due to a lot of information cannot be confirmed yet. On top of that, this was not a sit down interview. It was not prepared for this at all. I asked what questions I could think of and put as many notes as possible into my phone.
With the game in pre-alpha, this is a very good sign. I cannot express how much Robert was pushing a 2010 release date. I will be very upset if it is pushed to 2011 with all the excitement he had with this release date. I wish I could have gotten more details out of him, but I got as much as I could think of. I hope that I at least brought a little more insight to a lot of questions people have asked on the forums. The game play footage I got to watch was pretty cool. The game looks very similar to XI with an Oblivion feel to it, so I am sure the system requirements are going to only be bumped up a bit. One funny thing, is that anytime I made a comment about the look and feel being like Oblivion, the replies I got shrugged off any of those comments. So keep in mind that I am using that term loosely as it is the only clear way I can explain things.