History's proven that once an MMO disappoints its audience, it should pack its things and go home. We gamers are a grudge-holding bunch, (Remember the reboot that killed Star Wars Galaxies? Nine years later, people are still grousing about it.) as Square Enix found out last year upon releasing Final Fantasy XIV. The game failed fans in spectacular fashion thanks to inadequate server support, bugs and obtuse mechanics. And although watching a disaster of that magnitude is morbidly fascinating, more satisfying is a good comeback story. Despite public opinion and unsettling financials, Square vowed to redeem its failed MMO and against all logic, has actually done so. In fact, the game's fortunes have so reversed, Square's on the cusp of releasing it on the PS4.
This week, producer Naoki Yoshida, the man tasked with raising the wreckage of Final Fantasy XIV, came to Sony's Bay Area offices this week, and despite a hectic schedule and soul-crushing work load, demonstrated unflagging enthusiasm for the project. Since ours was the last stop on the tour, much of what Yoshida discussed (the game's history, recent patch content, upcoming Collector's Edition extras) we at MMORPG.com have already covered. More interesting is what Yoshida says the game aspires to going forward.
According to him, hopes are high that FFXIV: A Realm Reborn on PS4 will help the game achieve a number of ambitious goals:
to have the best MMO graphics and sound available
to have the most customizable (controller-friendly) UI in the genre
to make as many fan requests as possible a reality
to be accessible to newbies
to expand its current Japanese, English, German and French support to include more languages
to be a truly cross-platform MMO
to live up to the modern MMO standard
to stay perennially relevant
A year ago, fans and the media alike would have doubted Square's ability to turn Final Fantasy XIV around and Yoshida spoke to that at the event:
“The biggest challenge [in rebooting FF XIV] was regaining the trust of the players. At the time, the condition of the original FF XIV was very poor – content-wise, server structure-wise, from feedback from the various testing that had occurred. Because this was a Final Fantasy game, expectation was very high so when we launched, people were disappointed and said, “I'm never going to play Final Fantasy XIV again.” Going into the process of taking 1.0 and without completely shutting down the service and keeping it going while trying to build toward the process of a relaunch, it was definitely a challenge to regain the players' trust and to get closer, to communicate with the users. To communicate to them that we're rebuilding this as A Realm Reborn and could you please come back and give us another chance. That was definitely a struggle.
The reaction was very similar with members of the media as well all over the world, and of course people were skeptical at first—can they really rebuild this title? But each time we spoke with the media, slowly, little by little, we began to rebuild that trust and they started to take us more seriously and believe what we were saying. People started believing in the title again. Although this was a huge challenge, it was also very rewarding and I felt very happy that we were able to rebuild that trust.”
In addition to addressing FF XIV's long, hard road to redemption, Yoshida optimistically announced that this summer, Square plans to expand FFXIV: ARR service into China and is working to bring South Korea, Russia, Taiwan and the Middle East into the fold. Along with expansion plans, He also spent some time outlining the benefits of playing the game remotely on the PSVita. He described this as a “completely new way of playing an MMO” and touted the Vita's share functions, such as livestreaming gameplay and sharing screenshots. Finally, he discussed at length the many UI/control options the PS4 version offers.
Hoping to appeal to every possible gamer, the PS4 FFXIV: ARR offers numerous methods of control: mouse/keyboard control (a first in console gaming Yoshida said), a revamped CrossHotbar, point-and-click control with the DualShock4 controller, Vita remote play, and support for gaming keyboards under “certain” settings (which settings Yoshida failed to expand upon.) Demos were set up at the event with DualShock controllers and for me anyway, navigating the fairly complex UI with the default controller setup is somewhat unwieldy. Players could adapt to that though over time, and as Yoshida mentioned, if they don't, there's a slew of other control schemes to choose from. Much easier to take to than the control scheme were the game's amazing graphics. The cinematic aspects of the Final Fantasy franchise have never been as evident as they are on the PS4 version, with high-def characters just about leaping off the screen.
Though our time with it was limited, from what we saw at the event Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is looking really good on the PS4. The game's set to release April 14, 2014, a date Yoshida mentioned was chosen by Square's marketing for its memorable repetition of fours. (Get it? 4.14.14 for FF XIV? No doubt developers are working themselves into an early grave trying to meet this “auspicious” date, the poor slobs.) In any case, beta phase 1 of the game begins February 22nd and goes on until March 3 and is open to all PS4 owners. Phase 2 begins April 4th and goes until April 7th , which means it's your last chance to tell Square what you want.