At Square's recent Square Enix Party 2005 event in Tokyo this past weekend, 1UP had the pleasure of sitting down with Final Fantasy XI producer Hiromichi Tanaka to ask him about the popular MMO's most recent patch update, as well as the game's future on Xbox 360. While Tanaka and his team worked the crowd with team-based competitions for members of the audience, they also had a working Xbox 360 on display, running Final Fantasy XI. There wasn't much happening on the widescreen TV showcasing the 360 version, but the textures were exceptionally detailed, and the characters benefited from a richer color palette (as opposed to the occasionally washed-out look on the PC and PS2 versions) and enhanced lighting effects, which resulted in high-contrast shadows for a more solid look than ever before. We have a handful of new 360 screenshots for you to examine for yourself, but before you do, take a look at what Tanaka-san had to say about FFXI's current state of affairs.
1UP: So how's the feedback been from the recent patch?
Hiromichi Tanaka: The new "Fellowship" quest has been really popular.
1UP: Why create an NPC ally for players to party with?
HT: We got the idea from the other NPC escort quests [Editor's note: Like the Crawler's Nest escort quest with Olavia] but this time we're giving a little more freedom, allowing you to choose where to go with your NPC.
1UP: Are there any plans to expand this feature? Currently NPCs can only be of the Warrior job class and can only accompany players for 45 minutes.
HT: At the moment we're looking at what effect having extra NPCs on the screen will have and we're testing this feature and do intend to extend the amount of time you can play with NPCs.
1UP: Is this feature a way to help players who don't often get party invites? Generally speaking, Samurai, Monks, and Dragoons generally have trouble getting invites while jobs like Red Mages, White Mages and Rangers have no trouble.
HT: (laughs) No no, that's not why we're doing it. It's really for people to play together. We're making an effort to help those jobs who have trouble getting invites.
1UP: In a recent Famitsu there was a poll of what new jobs FFXI players would like to see. Are you looking to that poll to help decide whether you'll include a new job class like Blue Mage?
HT: We're looking to that poll as we move forward with developing new content. Although I can't say anything more about that right now!
1UP: When you do introduce a new job, will you limit the players who can become that new job? If level 1 players can all access the new job, you know there will be 500,000 Blue Mages running around the world.
HT: It hasn't been decided yet, but it will probably be like the extra jobs that can be accessed after level 30.
1UP: Are you planning any major updates for Chains of Promathia?
HT: Story wise the updates are finished, but of course we'll continue to update other aspects of the game like the battle system, for example.
1UP: You guys did a good job in combating the Gil sellers from places like Ordelle's Cave, where they'd monopolize creatures like Stroper Chyme for their Archer's Rings. And now those rings have been moved to burning circle (BCNM) battles, requiring players to spend Beastmen Seals to compete for them. While you've adjusted the ways in which you can get various items in the game (Emperor's Hairpin, Leaping Boots, Peacock Charm) are there any plans to help make the distribution of even more rare items more accessible to players of all levels?
We will introduce new ways to get rare items so everybody can have a chance.
HT: Up until now we've always been trying to come up with ways to prevent cheating. But this recent problem was just very public. We will introduce new ways to get rare items so everybody can have a chance. We're actually including this into our next patch update which is due in the next few days.
1UP: The spell Raise 3 was only available in BCNM matches for a decent period, recently, and typically sold for over one million Gil, but thanks to the recent patch it's now 15,000 gil. How much thought goes into these kinds of adjustments? Because there's always going to be that pissed off player who saved that million gil for Raise 3, only to have it drop to 15,000 gil the next day.
HT: Balancing the economy is so hard you know. It's hard to manage these things and not end up upsetting some players. All I can say about that example is that I'm sorry about it!
1UP: There's been a big change to the damage Rangers do, as well as their required positioning [Editor's note: Rangers are now required to attack from ranged distance, go figure]. Do you think Rangers in general were too powerful? By scaling back the power of Rangers, does that make the other melee classes more viable?
HT: The reason why we adjusted the Rangers was to help draw out the natural playing ability of players. Previously they were strong in almost every aspect of the game. Now they're going to have to choose the instance when to get involved. You could say Rangers are going to have to be more strategy focused than before. This all will make the other classes more appealing.
1UP: Are you looking to do something similar with Black Mages? A recent trend has been these "Manaburning" parties where five Black Mages (and a tank to hold hate) all cast Blizzaga 3 and kick (arguably) too much ass, too fast. Black Mages can hit level 75 in no time using this strategy.
HT: The Black Mages have been way too strong and ever since we released the game, and we've been trying to make them weaker. But as you know, players always find creative ways to get around this (laughs). But as for what we're going to do in the future, we're planning to continue to look to those Black Mages and continue to adjust them.
1UP: Are there any plans to make the other melee classes more appealing? Scaling back Rangers is one way. But Dragoons, Samurais, Monks and Thieves can always be found seeking parties for hours with little success.
HT: Of course. Not only are we looking at what jobs are too strong, but we're working on what jobs need adjusting and maybe a little more strength.
1UP: Can you tell us what the least popular class is?
HT: Haha, it's probably Dragoons. At first there was a lot of them but the Japanese players tend to stay away from them. And interestingly enough, Rangers didn't used to be popular at all. I guess it's all about learning how to use different jobs and there are some situations where Dragoons are very strong.
1UP: With the recent change, Ninjas were worried they would lose their relevance, do to the enmity loss with each Utsusemi shadow lost. So far it hasn't been nearly the issue many Ninjas feared it would be, but were the changes made to make Thiefs more valuable in parties, or to shift favor over to the Paladins?
HT: Most of the changes were made to balance out the game and give it more strategy. With Ninjas you could just get "hit" until your party killed your enemy. So now we're trying to make the combat more interesting, not just with Thieves and Ninjas, but with other jobs. These tweaks are about making the combat more interesting.
1UP: It seemed as if this had to do with making Paladins more useful in endgame battles where Ninjas typically dominate, thanks to HNMs (hyper notorious monsters) who can one-shot even the strongest Paladin.
HT: I can't say anything about Paladins in particular, but yes, we're always looking to make jobs more balanced and interesting for players so one isn't better than the other.
1UP: How's work going on the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XI?
HT: We're almost finished with the optimization of the game on the system. It's close to being done!
1UP: It's been reported that the draw distance on the Xbox 360 will be twice as long as the PC version. Will this give Xbox 360 players an added advantage because they can see enemies from a longer distance, helping 360 owners to camp rare monsters more efficiently?
HT: Actually, the draw distance will mostly affect the overall scenery of the game. The distance between the players and enemies will be the same as the Windows and PS2 version.
1UP: Was putting FFXI on Xbox 360 a way to sustain the game because Sony yanked hard-drive support for the PS2 (Thanks, Sony!)? Nowadays if you want to pick up FFXI and start playing, the PC version is the only option at the moment.
HT: It's not so much the survival of FFXI as is it giving players an option to play the game on next-generation hardware. Of course the added bonus for those players is to play the game in high-definition on widescreen HD televisions.
1UP: Will the 360 version support voice-chat? We sure hope not.
HT: No, it won't. The reason being is that we track player abuse through the chat logs, and if we removed the necessity of the chat log, it would be impossible to take action against abusive players.
1UP: When will the 360 version ship, and will the content basically be like the upcoming Final Fantasy XI: The Vana'diel Collection DVD coming out soon for PC (read: FFXI, Rise of the Zilart, and Chains of Promathia all on one disc)?
HT: We'll ship the game for Xbox 360 this year, and since the game is launching in the U.S. first, the beta period should start sooner for you guys (than the Japanese), possibly in September.
1UP: When the Xbox 360 version hits, will a patch be made available for PC players with high-end graphics cards to get similar high-fidelity graphics out of the game? The 360 version's character models look really nice, with deep shadows and rich colors.
HT: Yes, that will be possible, but the kind of video card you're talking about is extremely expensive!
1UP: It's OK. We're filthy rich! The new summer quest (the Sunbreeze Festival) has this really cool swimwear for the clamming activity (on Purgonorgo Isle) that looks really great on female characters, but like a lot of overly-girly clothing in FFXI, it just doesn't look very good on male characters. Was this deliberate?
HT: You think they look pretty ugly, is that what you're saying? (laughs) I'll mention that to the designers for you.
1UP: It only looks retarded on guys, and in a related fashion question, why don't Vana'diels grooms get any wedding gear equivalent, like a tuxedo, to match the brides white wedding gowns?
HT: Kind of like reverse sexism, right? Hmm, why is that? I guess for weddings in general, it's all about the bride. They're supposed to be the most beautiful thing. For the men, you could always buy some really nice armor for the ceremony. Let me consider putting in a tuxedo for the grooms.
1UP: As of late, FFXI has been suffering from numerous DDoS attacks, which, among other things, cripples the search functionality, makes the Auction House unusable, and on rare occasions makes it impossible to log in. How close are you to finding the people responsible for this?
HT: The FBI is helping us find them, but it's been very difficult. But as you know, these attacks are coming from around the globe, so it's extremely hard to track these people down. The way the attacks are hitting us is always changing.
1UP: Square Enix recently registered a trademark for "Treasures of Aht Urhgan". Is that a hint of an upcoming expansion pack?
HT: I can tell you that we're working on the new content right now, but as for the title of the next expansion, please just wait a little bit longer.
1UP: Thank you.
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Whats new in FFXI[SIGPIC]http://sv1.letmehost.com/sv1/21/gearsogwarhomer.jpg[/SIGPIC]
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The PlayStation 3 to get a digital TV tuner next year
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I'll do this one.*Kiss My X Box Flavoured Ass*
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