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Final Fantasy XIV - What can one expect from this Square-Enix's next-gen MMO?

In this blog I talk about SE's new upcoming MMO 'Final Fantasy XIV (Online)'.

Author: Hyanmen

Nobuaki Komoto - the director of FFXIV

Posted by Hyanmen Wednesday June 24 2009 at 5:55AM
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 Today I'm going to talk about Nobuaki Komoto, the director of FFXIV and his last work Chains of Promathia expansion (and a little bit of FFIX too- the first Final Fantasy he worked on!).

1. Nobuaki Komoto and FFXI

Before starting to direct the 14th installment to the Final Fantasy franchise, Nobuaki worked on as an event planner and scenario writer for FFIX and parts of FFXI- mainly the missions and quests for the Bastok city storyline. Later he was chosen to be the director of the second expansion to the FFXI, Chains or Promathia. One can clearly see his influence in how the expansion turned out, however unfortunately the lack of experience he had in directing games as well.

The emphasis in Chains of Promathia (from now on CoP) is clearly put to story and missions. Huge part of the development time was put to mission and story content- actually one could say that the whole expansion is centered around it. This is no surprise, seeing what his earlier role was in the making of games he was a part of.

Nobuaki Komoto at E3 2009

One interesting thing to note in CoP is that almost every area in it has been developed for the storyline purposes, and has quite few interactive elements included: In one mission for example the player has to climb up a mountain in a way that resembles more the gameplay of Crash Bandicoot rather than an MMO. Later the player has to also slide down an icy slope. 

The whole expansion, at times, feels like a single player RPG with multiplayer elements rather than an "MMO". I think that this is what mr. Komoto was aiming for when making the expansion, too. 

However, unfortunately that was also the downfall of the expansion- it focused too much on a sector which wasn't really a part of the core of the game. While missions and quests were a something that made FFXI unique to other MMORPG's,  one does not need to complete them to progress their character. When the main way of progressing character was fighting monsters for experience and doing events for good rewards, the missions weren't as important to most of the players. Pair this with the insane difficulty for some missions, and you have lots of players not bothering with the missions at all, the main part of the whole expansion! 

Chains of Promathia, the second expansion for Final Fantasy XI.

Later on, after the dev team had finished implementing the missions they could focus on actual content that has something to do with the "core" gameplay of the game, which saved the expansion from being a total failure for many. That is what I think Komoto forgot when directing the expansion, and focused too much on what he knows best: event planning and scenario writing.

So, why did SE decide to make the director of FFXIV the same guy who made the not-so-popular CoP expansion? It can't be because it was successful, because it wasn't.. so what could they possibly have in mind?

2. FFXIV - A story driven MMO!?

I can only assume that the higherups in SE HQ liked what they saw in CoP, but realized that the core of the game was too far from one that could allow this kind of expansion to be made- missions and quests weren't really a part of the everyday things players did in FFXI, like leveling.

So, what if the whole game was designed in a way that it would allow missions to be linked to the character progression and maybe things like endgame and crafting? It'd interesting to see how it would work out at least..!

What did the dev team say in the Q&A session at E3? "We wanted to make the best FF game first, and decided on making it an MMO after that." 

Many theories can be made from that comment, but when looking at CoP- that almost felt like a co-op single player FF at times- one could come to a conclusion that they're trying to implement the missions into the game in a way like never seen before in an MMO.

IGN also interviewed mr. Komoto at E3, and one comment he said might actually reveal more about the direction of the game than we originally thought:

"In FFXIV we hope to expand the system from FFXI and have your character develop- through the story"

Sounds exactly like what he would say!

Well, there are still things we don't have answers for- like how does one implement grind to that kind of MMO, or if there will be that at all. No matter what though, there has to be some time consuming process included or we'd clear the content way too fast- be it grind or something else. Only time can tell.

Also, while this has nothing to do with the story, didn't FFIX put some kind of emphasis to weapons developing your character? That was the first Final Fantasy Komoto worked on, so.. we might be seeing similar system return? Who knows...~

 

That's all about Nobuaki Komoto- next time I'll talk more specifically about the endgame (and low and midgame) of FFXI and what we could expect from FFXIV endgame- camping monsters for hours with 100 other players in a small zone, or diverse instanced events that do not include camping at all?!

ProfRed writes:

Great write up.  Keep up your research! 

Honestly FFIX was the last single player FF I truly loved and felt a great attachment too.  FFX, FFX-2, FFXII, and now FFXIII never really attracted me all that much.  I do still play them all, but they have kind of lost some of the magic of FF in my eyes.  A lot of the world disagrees with me on that and that is fine by me. 

I really enjoyed CoP and I think it was a kind of sleeper expansion.  It made many unhappy when it came out, but over time when looking back it was probably my favorite expansion.  I dislike very much expansions that expand the world by creating new areas and seperating the playerbase.  FFXI had a magical dynamic when Jeuno was the end game city and players of almost all levels (20's through max) mingled and ran about.  I will never forget my first trip to Jeuno when a group of JP players ran by me in AF.  CoP added story, but it was delved into via full groups the same as leveling and it was a great experience for many CoP statics who bonded through story and grouping and many went on to form permanent statics that lasted for years.

The problem was, like you said, that many players just bypassed it to forge their way on towards end game and progressing their characters.  There wasn't any real incentive to progressing through the missions, and it was kind of an optional side quest which I think is the only way to do something like this in FFXI.

I can definitely see them tying these epic storylines more into character development, and giving more incentive for players to play through them.  They had a nack for making these expansions drag out with very long (1 day) waits between certain missions and sometimes trivial things, but they can definitely make them more involved and more tied into character advancement.  Whether you are grinding mobs, or grinding something for a quest can create a very different drive and focus for players and groups.

For many this man may be a risk, but for me I think they made the right choice, and I look forward to seeing how they blend story and casuality with the current FFXI formula that worked so well.

One thing to note.  I really liked their expansion style where the story and missions were dragged out and released overtime after the expansion.  It felt like there was almost always some story development waiting for the players.  If they can create enough story and interesting party based quests to keep the players slowly developing the story at a pace where they can catch the players as they finish the core game with expansions that extend it and expansions that catch the end of those expansions they can really create a neverending FF story and ever changing world for us players.

Wed Jun 24 2009 9:00AM Report
Hyanmen writes:

 I have this vision of hitting the level cap and beating the "Promathia" of FFXIV at the same time - how completely awesome would that be? ;) Make it happen Komoto-san!

Wed Jun 24 2009 9:34AM Report
Bellarion writes:

I enjoy your blog. It is interesting and well thought out. You do a good job of taking from  all kinds of FF history and the hints we have received, and then creating an interesting and plausible hypothesis. I look forward to more.

Wed Jun 24 2009 10:46AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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