After the widely criticised launch of Final Fantasy XIV, the newest MMORPG title to come out of the franchise, we sit down with the game's producer Hiromichi Tanaka and global online producer Sage Sundi to talk about the upcoming changes that will be coming this winter.
Q: One of the complaints about FFXIV is that, for a Western audience, it isn't accessible. Do you think that Asian MMOs need to Westernise in order to grow internationally?
Hiromichi Tanaka: We believe that's not only from the Western audience who say that - we've also had feedback from the Japanese market complaining about accessibility. Because Final Fantasy was released globally, we are really listening to all the region's voices. That's why, for the next update, we will be implementing tutorials and more quests to make it easier for people to find what to do in the game. That's one of the focusses we have.
Q: Does this imply that the game is less accessible than most Asian-based MMOs?
HT: We don't think it's really Asian styled, we just think that Final Fantasy XIV is very difficult - well, we understand it could be difficult.
Q: Why do you think it's that difficult?
HT: First of all it's probably the user interface, that wasn't easy for the players to find it straight away. Also the quests, we were focusing on the later stages of quests, therefore we believe we should have focused on the tutorial side or the early quests so people will know what to do or how to do things in the early stages.
Q: What did you think about the negative reaction to the game once it was launched? Were you surprised?
HT: We do understand there was a lot of dissatisfaction amongst the players, so we do feel very sorry that we couldn't meet expectations. One of the reasons behind that was because during the alpha test and beta test we were concentrating on fixing all the bugs. But we do understand there were lots of things we wanted to implement in the game, but because we were fixing all the bugs we couldn't really do it at the same time. That's one of the reasons the game wasn't in the shape that they wanted it to be when the launch happened.
Q: What kinds of changes have been made then?
HT: The main three areas in which we are planning to make changes. One is the user interface; we are going to improve it so it will be much easier for players to use. Then the market system should be more convenient for the player. And also the battle system - we're going to adjust it so players have a clear view of what they're supposed to do next. Those are the three main areas.
Q: Would you have preferred it if you had set the launch date later, then?
HT: [laughs] We definitely wanted to look into that possibility as well, but at the same time we do believe that the players wanted to try out the game as soon as possible. When we thought about the balance, because MMO doesn't mean the launch is the end of the product, rather the beginning of a long process. Rather than delaying the launch for three months or six months we thought we would release it and listen to the feedback and grow with the players and make the game with the players. That's why we stuck with the launch date.
Q: In that case can the game still be a critical success?
HT: Yes we believe that the most important thing is satisfying our players. This is not the end of the FFXIV, we have the PS3 launch in the near future so we are going to fix all the issues that the players are not satisfied with and improve the game. Even if the players left the game for any reason we do hope by upgrading the game they'll find that the game has changed.