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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:35 am 
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Elmer@JPBUTTON wrote:
Game Watch Developer Team Interview

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Hey, look! It’s an interview. Now 100% Sarcastic Exposition-Free!

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On November 12th, the curtain was closed on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XI Offline Event in America. Last year was about discovering all we could about Wings of the Goddess, and this year interest in its development and future has garnered a level of enthusiasm not seen on some major titles.

The theme of last years events in America and Japan focused on Wings of the Goddess. This year, it was all about 2009 and beyond, with three add-on scenarios, updates to “Wings of the Goddess,” and the “Moblin Maze Mongers” private dungeons. We made sure to make it to the event and ask all we could about these three new elements that will be added.

This interview ended up being very long, so it’s been split into two parts. Part One deals with Add-On Scenarios, Wings of the Goddess and Moblin Maze Mongers. The second half deals with Job Adjustments that are in high-demand among fans, low to mid-level content, and aspirations for the coming year.

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Seven members of the development team were present at this interview.

Looking back on 2008… Itou has high hopes for 2009

First, tell me about 2008… what you worked on, how it turned out, and what kind of reaction you received.

Itou: 2008 was all about Campaign for me. Last year, I couldn’t even come to America because I was working away on it. During the second half of this year, I have been coming up with all sorts of new plans and ideas for Campaign. I think next year is going to be amazing. (laughs) I’m negotiating with people now to make those plans happen.

Matsui: It’s only been one year, but it feels so long ago and it’s hard to remember well. The biggest thing of 2008 had to be Level Sync. Also, the planned addition of “Fields of Valor” was made in December was something I worked very hard on. I believe is a great system for new players and people on a free trial.

Gondai: For me, 2008 was filled with making Job Adjustments for the new jobs introduced at last year’s Fan Fest. The biggest addition, Level Sync, I believe has allowed us to answer the concerns of players who are looking for better ways to build parties.
The real trouble with Level Sync was the adjustments made to equipment. At first, we thought that the required equipment restrictions and Level Sync could be released separately. However, we were told by community managers that we needed the adjustment system added at the same time as Level Sync “no matter what,” so we had to implement it in a hurry. Not to mention, it was originally planned for December, but Tanaka said, “Make it September,” and September is became. (laughs)

Tanaka: I’ve been working with the user interface for a few years now, tinkering around with what could be done. We’re bringing out “Moblin Mazer Mongers” now, but there has been lots of other work getting in the way, and I’m sorry you had to wait this long. As Producer, I also have to be somewhat of an accountant as well. (laughs)

Ogawa: My role is as Director, so there was a lot of cut scene checking for Wings of the Goddess that I had to do. Also, it wasn’t my main focus, but I helped make some quests as well. From here on, I’ll continue to look over everything.

Fujito: First, I looked at how to even the playing field for Chocobo Racing, and then I did Mog Bonanza. The planning period of Maze Mongers was pretty long, but negotiations took up a good chunk of that as well.

Sundi: I’m in administration, so I manage the budget regarding America and Europe. I planned out the sale of free trials by download overseas. Of course, I also work with the STF (Special Task Force). We do what we can with the GM system to investigate and fight against things that concern the players. And that’s basically what I’m up to. We’re also eagerly discussing a one-time password system, which unfortunately didn’t make it in this year.

Three new expansions… Director Ogawa, FFXI’s original writer, pens the script

Tell me about the three expansions you announced at the events in Japan and America. First, what went into planning them?

Tanaka:As we’ve been putting event after event, and quest after quest into Wings of the Goddess. Now, we come across this one-year milestone and wish to implement a greater variety of “small time investment” aspects of the game, and other player-friendly content like Level Sync.

So from there, we thought we should add a series of unique quests that you can complete within a few months. I remembered Katou, who was working as a freelance scenario writer, and contacted him with the idea. As it turns out, he was up to the task.

I always had this plan of a series of quests the progress from level 30 to level 75, but was never sure if it was the right time to implement them. Within the company, we’re working hard on developing the scenarios for Wings of the Goddess, so I decided to call on a little outside help. Matrix has done development work on Dragon Quest V for the PS2 and Final Fantasy III for the DS. We are working together with Katou and Matrix as a team.

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Final Fantasy XI Producer, Hiromichi Tanaka

Why did you tap Katou for this project?

Tanaka: Being that he’s working on titles like Xenogears and Chrono Cross, not to mention Final Fantasy XI: Rise of the Zilart, he immediately popped into my head when looking for a scenario writer.

So, he’s like your original right-hand man.

Tanaka: I wouldn’t say that, but (laughs) it was very good timing. He originally worked at Square Enix on FFXI, so there was no reason he would necessarily come back. FFXI Developers stay on board for at least 1-2 years. As a freelancer though, he is able to find a few months to write out some scenarios for us.

With the scenarios being written by a third party, will they also be directed outside the company?

Ogawa: I will be handling that. My role will be making adjustments here and there.

You announced all three expansions at once. Will they be developed simultaneously?

Tanaka: No. They will be developed one at a time, and released one at a time. They will come intermittently. Katou has begun work on the three expansions, and is currently writing scripts for the first one. Once that is complete, it will be sent over to the Battle Team.

Why did you decide to forgo a packaged product and release it online?

Tanaka: We were able to create a good file distribution infrastructure when we released the free trials. Also, the file sizes are small enough that using discs, which would good for holding lots of map data, became unnecessary and we decided to utilize online distribution.

Why is Rise of the Zilart required to play these additional scenarios?

Tanaka: Originally, the idea was that you could enjoy them without any expansion, Rise of the Zilart, Wings of the Goodess, Promatia or Aht Urghan getting in the way. However, Katou’s originally story-line went past the defeat of the Shadow Lord and continued with the Ark Angels and such in Rise of the Zilart. So we thought about that as the full base story-line of the game, and Rise of the Zilart came into the picture.

This still isn’t decided for sure, but since American and European users originally had releases with Rise of the Zilart bundled in, the only users that could not have it installed are the Japanese. Besides, these three expansions will have some real high-level scenarios within, so playing up to Rise of the Zilart would serve as an appropriate prerequisite.

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Scenario Writer and VanaFest ‘08 Special Guest, Masato Katou. He’s been Tanaka’s partner since back when they worked on “Xenogears.”

Expansion discs up until now have not only brought new maps, but many new gameplay elements and ways to play. What will the new expansions deliver in this regard?

Tanaka: These expansions aren’t ones to revolutionize the game system. Previous expansions were designed to improve the system and add new gameplay elements, but these ones coming out are designed to utilize existing maps and system features to create new ways to play and new stories to enjoy.

Are these scenarios going to be changed and adjusted along with regular Version Updates?

Tanaka: No. These scenarios will be fully completed upon the time of their release. That means there will be no reason to add to them through Version Updates. From the point you buy it, you can play all the way through until the end.

For the average player, how long will these take to complete?

Tanaka: Will believe you’ll be able to enjoy it for about two months. Hard-core players could probably beat it in around two weeks, maybe less.

You won’t be adding any new jobs or new monsters, will you?

Tanaka: No new jobs, but some new monsters may become necessary for these scenarios.

I think what the users really want to know about are the rewards.

Tanaka: We’re planning something that Level 75 players would be quite pleased to get a hold of, we think. We’re also looking at making some new graphics. It may sound strange to bring accounting in the mix here, but we have to consider the cost of someone designing these new graphics.

After you announced the expansions would be “around 1,000 yen,” Tanaka, as far as I have seen, there have been various reactions split between “wow, that’s cheap,” and “these expansions cost money?” What impression have you gotten from this, Tanaka?

Tanaka: We calculated development costs and decided that anything less would make it too difficult to produce. We didn’t intend to just simply profit off the users.

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The first volume is called “A Crystalline Prophecy.” What is the meaning behind this title?

Tanaka: The scenarios and titles were all Katou’s ideas, so they have all sorts of deep meanings behind them. (laughs) I believe they are connected to the particular scenario’s story. Crystals are used to synthesize, but there are other crystals that exist in the game, and those are the ones it refers to. Story-wise, there is a scene in the opening movie scene with Aldo and Emeline being chased, and we wanted to write a sequel to that event. There are many other in-game connections, but that is the heart of its ties to the story.

Will expansion discs and add-on scenarios be developed simultaneously from now on?

Tanaka: Expansions and Version Updates are handled by Ogawa and the Event Team. They have the next year’s worth of Version Updates mapped out, but that is a separate line of development. The Battle Team, however, is involved on both ends and has their work cut out for them.

So, Tanaka, would you say the idea is that there are two lines of development running concurrently?

Tanaka: That’s right. These three new scenarios are separate from the main line of development, and are meant as fun additions to the game.

If that’s so, could there possibly be a set release schedule that continues beyond the second and third add-on scenario?

Tanaka: I don’t know about that. (laughs) Expansion discs are designed to add new maps and play aspects to the game. Downloadable content is good for the free trial and such, but I don’t think it will become our main line of development.

Are you planning an “All-in-One Pack” for the three scenarios?

Tanaka: All-in-One packs, or Vana’diel Collections, always contain every release added to the game up until that point, so future ones will contain the add-on scenarios.

Then, for example, Vana’diel Collection 2009 could contain the scenarios depending on the timing of releases.

Sundi:That’s the idea. Although it may not all be able to fit on a single disc.

The first scenario is set to be released in Spring of 2009. Is there a chance this will change?

Tanaka: At this point, we’re on schedule. For now. (laughs) Please look forward to it.

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Wings of the Goddess Director, Kouichi Ogawa.

The future of Wings of the Goddess… More additions to Campaign?!

Next I’d like to talk about Wings of the Goddess. First, why has the story-line be released at such a leisurely pace?

Ogawa: Production is a factor, and the longer we make missions and quests, the less other content we can deliver for a Version Update.

Tanaka: When we began work on Wings of the Goddess, Ogawa pitched the basic concept as not missions and quests being the main content, but as Campaign being the main content. So improving the Campaign system is the main priority.

Ogawa: Certainly, even if the story-line is great, quests and missions aren’t the actual game itself. We have been working to tie story-line more and more into game-play, and will continue to consider ways to do so.

This time, quests for the three nations are interwoven between the main missions. It seems like that could have been difficult to accomplish.

Ogawa: For Treasure of Aht Urghan, it was a large burden on the developers to create so many missions. This time, we thought we would divide that up and flesh out each of the three nations with their own stories. However, each nation’s story grew and developed so much, it turned out to be just as difficult a task as before.

Tanaka: If you consider the nation quests and Wings of the Goddess missions added in each Version Update, it’s about the same amount of content, if not more, than previous expansions. Since it’s divided up between nations, to a single player affiliated with one nation it appears to be 1/3 or 1/4 of the actual content added.

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Mizuki Itou, who developed Salvage and Einherjar in Treasure of Aht Urghan, oversaw Campaign in Wings of the Goddess, and has worked on a wide variety of battle-related content.

Currently, out of all the missions, what percentage has been implemented?

Ogawa: As of the December Update, we’re currently in the middle.

Campaign is the main feature of Wings of the Goddess. Would it be safe to say the system is pretty much set now?

Itou: No, there’s still more that is planned to be added. We’re expanding into new areas; ones which everyone can probably guess. Also, we’re thinking of some new elements. We’re going to add some really fun new aspects.

How do you feel about Campaign in its current state?

Itou: I think it gives too many experience points. I feel like leveling up has shifted too much into usage of Campaign. That then raises other problems, such as how to skill-up your weapon, and such.

I see, so Campaign is useful for rising up to level 75, but can produce players with all their skill uncapped.

Itou: That’s right. Remaining within Campaign just ups your level and not your skills, and there is discussion on how to deal with this. If your skills aren’t high enough, you can’t use certain Weaponskills, and then you’re out of luck. We would like people to utilize other content as well and skill-up their characters.

Has it really gotten that bad?

Itou: More importantly than that, it’s not balanced. I want to bring new elements to the game that will invite a beautiful balance between all content.

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At this time, there is no real merit to forming a party in Campaign. This makes it feel less like joining an army, and more like simple solo content. Are you going to look at changing this?

Itou: That would be contrary to the casual nature of the event. I don’t want people to feel like parties are necessary for Campaign.

As for areas, the Northern areas have yet to be implemented.

Itou: Indeed. Talk of the Northern areas has begun to surface in the stories of the three nations. We think you can look forward to some big changes in-game once those areas open up.

The North will of course tie into the Missions, but currently, Campaign and the Missions have no real relation to each other.

Ogawa: There’s no direct connection there, no. The situation regarding Campaign changes from week to week, so we were unable to really tie it in with the Missions. This is only tentative, but the Northern lands will open and have a much greater link than before.

What will the Demon Army be like?

Itou: Some Demon-esque things will appear up North, but… please sit tight and you’ll see what I mean. (laughs)

Now, if you gain control of a Beastmen Stronghold, it opens up special Campaign Ops you can do. Will there be more unique content like this added?

Itou: We’ve put in pretty much everything that we had planned for the areas that are currently open. If you’re speaking not of Campaign, but content outside of the Campaign system, then I can’t say anything yet. (laughs)

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At this Developer Panel, you mentioned you want to add new elements to Campaign. Can you elaborate on that for us?

Itou: This was fairly recent, so we haven’t fully decided on a process yet. Something that we’re ready to do is increase benefits and such for areas that are under control. To give an example, say the humans control East Ronfaure. There would be an entrance somewhere in East Ronfaure where you could take part in some battle-related content and receive rewards if you win. It’ll have some fixed cost attached, I’m sure, and it will be a new challenge to enjoy. It’s being prepared for every zone related to Campaign. Users will be able to control where they want to go, and which ones they want available.

Sounds like that could become part of Campaign Ops.

Itou: It isn’t decided whether this will be part of Campaign Ops or not.

Will you utilize existing areas, or have new instanced areas?

Itou: It may be an instanced area. We still don’t know what the development costs will look like. Personally, I think it would be fine taking place in in regular Field Areas. Still, looking at the trend of what users enjoy the most, it may be better to pay the cost to develop instanced areas.

I’m interested in what these battles will entail.

Itou:You’ll enter an area or instance or what have you, and take part in a hectic battle with a big finish. I don’t know what the “big things” will be quite yet, but I can say it’ll be more like an Assault than a BCNM.

Will there be some story associated with this?

Itou: Indeed, there will.

Personally, something I was looking forward to, yet heard nothing about, was the Scout NPC system. Will this system be expanded upon in any way?

Itou: We are going to expand upon it. We’re going to add more and more NPCs. The problem developers are facing is exactly how to build upon it, but we do plan to increase the amount of NPCs.

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The mind behind Moblin Maze Mongers, Youji Fujito. He is responsible for a lot of side-content, such as Chocobo Raising, Fishing and Mog Bonanza.

Implemented before your very eyes: Moblin Maze Mongers

Tell me about “Moblin Maze Mongers.” It feels like it’s actually harder to say the name than play the content.

Fujito: Yes, it’s really simple. I think if you try it, you’ll get it right away, and people will be surprised at how customizable the system is. You can literally set one piece down and hop right on in; it’s not difficult at all.

In what way are you planning for people to enjoy this content?

Fujito: I think it would be great if they just tried it over and over again. I said at VanaFest that players could do anything they want with the system, and the concept behind it is something players and developers can experience and improve together. I thought about a Maze Monger that could support someone with putting together their first maze, but it was difficult to accomplish. I’ve released something that has been made as easy to utilize as possible.

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Is this something that core users can really sink their teeth into?

Fujito: I believe so. The premise was to have it encompass as many players as possible. Core users can set any preferred theme, and leave out whatever they wish. There is no required play style forced upon them from my end, so if they want something they can go at full strength, then why not put it in there?

What’s the target level?

Fujito: It’s for all levels. Party size is flexible too; you can have between 1 and 6 members. It will also receive some additions in the future. You’ll have an easier time clearing it with bigger parties, but it is certainly content that you can experience solo.

How about play-time?

Fujito: One play-through lasts about 30 minutes. It basically feels like Assault, which I think is good.

You said that Moblin Maze Mongers has “many different games” within it? What did you mean by that?

Fujito: By “games” I mean clear criteria, because you can choose one of several different clear conditions. So what you do within the event itself changes. To put it simply, it’s Assault. However, Assault only let’s you choose from pre-determined missions, while Maze Mongers has a wide range of customization. The important difference is you choose what goals to accomplish and what monsters you need to defeat to do so.

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The main event this year was the chance to use Moblin Maze Mongers. What kind of reaction did you have finally watching players actually play the content?

Fujito: Everyone did really well, but I felt they made their mazes easier than I expected. However, I did tell everyone at the computer stations to be careful not to attach too many runes and make their maze too difficult, so many people didn’t. (laughs) I thought people would have Elementals popping and end up with long, boring battles. I think that is something that could be improved.

Tanaka: We missed the chance to say so, but the December update will be organized into two stages. The balance adjustments for Maze Mongers were not complete by the 9th, so it will be implemented a week later.

Through playing Maze Mongers, we discovered that the reward is a new type of point, called Moblin Marbles. What was the reason behind adding another new point system?

Fujito: The reason is that we want a system wherein you are rewarding for participating in that particular content a number of times. In the case of Moblin Mazes, it’s to distinguish it from other arenas. If Assault points and Chocobo coins could all be used interchangeably, we fear players would just flood into whichever event produces the greatest returns.

By the way, what kinds of items can you trade in points for?

Fujito: There’s an NPC you can exchange them to right beside the Moblin president. If you talk to the NPC, you can see a list of items. Please feel free to take a look. (laughs)

We’re still working on adjustments, so there’s a chance things will change, like getting a voucher for 100 points. We’re still testing it out, but there could be a voucher to face one super strong monster, or like I mentioned at VanaFest, a voucher related to making a crafting theme, or one to fight a large wave of weak monsters. We’re thinking of implementing these things, so you will be able to trade points for them.

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Also, this is apparently limited to once per real life day. Tell me what the reason for this was.

Fujito: Preventing any congestion was the #1 reason here, but we also knew that no matter the cost, players could enter over and over again and check exactly how each Rune affects the construction of a maze, eventually focusing on only the ideal setups. An instanced area would also cause a large amount of connection traffic. We knew everyone would rush to use the content upon implementation, so we set it so 1 player can build 1 maze a day, and participants would not have to be charged.

You’re now gearing up for the December update, so what percent of the total content planned for this can we say will be implemented?

Fujito: We’re looking to make this fairly huge, so in terms of the entire event, you could say about 1-2%, I think.

Which means there’s a lot of expansion in store.

Fujito: Yes. As people experience Maze Mongers, there will be new content, new systems, and other vouchers that will allow for new play-styles.

As an example, what are these Vouchers that you are planning to add?

Fujito: Vouchers build off of the clear conditions you set by choosing how you accomplish those clear conditions and are directly tied to how you play. We’ll have 3 of them ready for December, and 2 more are in the works.

Are there any particular setups you like, or perhaps any recommended setups?

Fujito: Mochizuke tells us that “Beast” plus “Big” plus “moves in herds” runes are fun. If you use those, Dhalmels will appear. Then, if you further add a White Magic rune to the Dhalmels, you’ll have a bunch of those dopey animals with no capacity for magic casting spells, which is apparently an irregular but funny arrangement.

If you say that, then it seems like this is a world where anything is possible.

Fujito: That’s exactly right. I anticipate that people will thoroughly enjoy it.

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In the second half of this interview, the developers discuss some long-awaited job adjustments, Fields of Valor, Treasure Caskets, low-to-mid level content, their aspirations of increasing the 70-item limit, as well as plans for the future of Nyzul Isle and Assault.

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Mitsutoshi Gondai works on Job Adjustments.

The Job Adjustments everyone is waiting for… Scholar and Dancer complete!! (for now) … What’s in store for 2009?!

Next, I would like to ask about job adjustments. First, you presented Dancer and Scholar Group II Merits, but please tell me what went in to planning them.

Gondai: Scholar was already a job with a number of useful abilities. I thought about adding some spells, but since the concept behind Scholar is a job that utilizes abilities to enhance spell effects, I added abilities. To build of the system of swapping Grimoires, I thought I would design an ability to let you cast one spell from the opposing Grimoire without having to switch.

Dancer is a job that can do many things, so I felt that should be expanded upon with new abilities to learn and add new merit to the job. “Saber Dance” already existed with the Final Fantasy series as a trademark Dancer ability, so that’s how I came up with it. It lets you specialize as an attacker, while hindering your healing abilities as a penalty.

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It’s an interesting concept, being able to specialize like that in lieu of another role.

Gondai: I think it’s good to have that option of taking a penalty to enhance something else.

Dancer group 2 merits have brought more utility as an attacker to the job, but do you think this will be enough to let Dancers serve as effective attackers?

Gondai: Using the new ability, you can certainly increase your offensive power, and the other ability, “Fan Dance,” is a marked increase in defensive power. It reduces the amount of damage you take. In practice, these should be great abilities to use as you see fit.

If you use “Fan Dance,” can you tank?

Gondai: While the ability works to reduce the amount of damage you receive, you probably could not withstand a prolonged barrage of attacks, but rather stand up well to pulling hate on a monster. It’s a good option to have at your disposal until the enemy’s attention turns away from you.

With the addition of group 2 merits, what do you think a Dancer’s role in a party will be?

Gondai: After group 2 merits, a Dancer will still function on that concept of a job that heals while dishing out damage. I think it has a lot of variations it can add to that role now.

As a subjob it’s incredibly popular, but as a main job, I get the impression there aren’t so many Dancers. Maybe their numbers will grow from here on out.

Gondai: Players leveled new main jobs faster this time than back in Treasures of Aht Urghan. People can get the idea that some jobs are weak and discourage others from leveling them. I would encourage people to try a wide variety of jobs.

As far as group 2 merits go, it looks like all the jobs are finished.

Gondai: They sure are.

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At VanaFest, some pretty interesting ideas were presented regarding Beastmaster, White Mage and Summoner. Please tell me why you decided to comment on those jobs specifically.

Gondai: As it happens, Summoner, Puppetmaster, White Mage and Beastmaster were jobs we received questions about. Just a coincidence. (laughs) It wasn’t that we only wanted to comment on those jobs in particular.

So, you’re thinking about stuff for all jobs then?

Gondai: That’s right. However, like I said, we’ve got something coming for White Mage in the next major update after December.

At the Developer’s Panel, you talked about White Mage and Red Mage, but what you said about Red Mage I had never heard before.

Gondai: Previously, we had said we wanted to help Red Mages have the opportunity to move up front, and it turns out we may do that for White Mages as well. We think it wouldn’t be so bad to let White Mages have a chance to mix it up in battle. White Mages and Red Mages will be adjusted together.

In essence, will you expand the front-line utility of White Mages and Red Mages?

Gondai: This isn’t something where people can expect to move up front and deal out damage. This is something that will produce some beneficial result from striking the enemy. Now, there will still be times where your party will tell you to move back, but we hope with these additions, there will be situations where your party will want to invite you up front to melee the enemy. We’re thinking of how we can produce these situations.

Like, for example, a new Weaponskill for White Mages that restores MP. Is that along the lines of what you’re thinking?

Gondai: Yes, like that. Other jobs can restore their own MP, so we are thinking of a White Mage getting the chance to melee up front while being able to keep their own MP up.

Now, how about Red Mages?

Gondai: Red Mages were built upon a concept of being flexible and good with a sword, so we’re preparing to allow them to assume a more offensive role.

Right now, they have considerable skill in both Dagger and Sword. Will they both receive enhancements?

Gondai: The type of weapon won’t be an issue, as I think that is best left free for the player to choose.

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Battle Director Akihito Matsui.

At VanaFest, a new growth aspect of Beastmaster pets was announced, but could you give some more details?

Gondai: This ability to grow and develop is already a part of the Dragoon’s wyvern, so we thought we’d build off of that.

Matsui: We considered it for Beastmasters at first, but ended up implementing it on Dragoons before them. It’s how a Wyvern’s HP, attack and accuracy rise. It’s no good having a jug pet’s stats be set values every single time, so we thought it would be better to encourage the use of a variety of pets, allowing players to more broadly choose from different beasts to match their enemies for maximum effectiveness.

However, there is still the issue of being limited to a stack of 12 per each jug, so game balance is still preserved. We’re thinking of ways to let Beastmasters enjoy fighting alongside their pets without disrupting the balance of the game.

I see. So what would be your ideal situation for Beastmasters, Matsui?

Matsui: I would like to see Beastmasters as a job with an expert knowledge of monsters, knowing what beast to use to take down any foe; a job that can quickly nab a nearby baddie to get out of a jam. That would be the ideal Beastmaster to me. I would like to see them have knowledge extending to monsters that aren’t often fought.

Regarding Summoners, you have made it clear that new Avatars do exist, but what exactly are you considering?

Gondai: If I say the name, I’ll get yelled at, but they are set to be implemented in the not too distant future.

Tell me about the concept behind these new Avatars.

Gondai: They are different than any of the current ones. The way you use them is a little different. I can’t say any more. (laughs) There will definitely be a battle required to learn them.

It seems that Ixion and Alexander are the most anticipated.

Gondai: Feel free to anticipate them. (laughs) We intend to put together something that will make people happy, so we don’t think anyone will be disappointed in these.

As for job balance, take Samurai for example, there seems to be the impression that all other melees look weak in comparison. What are your impressions, and future plans, regarding this situation?

Gondai: I think Samurai is fairly popular because it is strong. Previously, we strengthened two-handed weapons, but overdid it and had to weaken them a bit. Weakening them once again isn’t something I think we will do. Instead, we will expand upon the specialties of other jobs.

I see. Are there any front-line jobs you want to expand upon now?

Gondai: Well, for example, with Dragoon we wanted to improve the damage output of their Weaponskills, and therefore strengthened their Mythic Weaponskill. Similar to that, there are various minor tweaks we are tossing around. I can’t say what order this will all be done in, but we’re always looking at all jobs. We aren’t really looking to nerf anything.

What plan do you have for job balance adjustments going forward?

Gondai: Making these jobs more fun to play is the top priority. Next, we try to compare the jobs to each other, and help balance them out in aspects where they may fall behind.

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Developer Panel

Improving low to mid-level content… 160 inventory?! We will ever see the day?!

In Japan, you mentioned improvements in Storage. Can we expect a future of 160 or 240 Storage spaces?

Tanaka: Multiples of 80. With the limits of PS2 memory, and the need for the entire storage list to be in memory at once, we are stuck at the initially planned limit, 80 slots. We think there could be a kind of switch and you could replace slots in the list from outside, but how it would work or be implemented is still in the planning stages.

I think what users really hope for is more on-hand inventory. Something like, “Today I’m going White Mage, so I’ll take my WHM bag with me.”

Tanaka: It’s still early in the planning stages, but we think that’s the way we’ll have to do it. The inventory limit for users is at 70 now, so there’s still 10 spaces free. We still have room for improvement.

So, first you’ll expand to 80, and then you’ll experiment with replacement systems?

Tanaka: Yes, that’s right. We making preparations now to do so. I can’t even consider now what shape it will take in the end, however. I had thought more people would want to raise a second character. I didn’t think so many would have second, third, and more and more jobs all on the same character. The number of people with 10+ jobs is constantly growing, so we need to respond to that.

That may be so, but I thought the existence of Maat’s Cap was an encouragement for people to level many jobs on one character and enjoy having such a variety to which to Job Change.

Matsui: That was a complete afterthought. We had no reason to plan something like that from the beginning, and it was after we were astounded by the growing number of players with multiple level 75 jobs, that the idea came to add it as a reward.

Players don’t really have the tendency to increase their number of characters.

Gondai: No, they don’t. That’s the kind of system it has become. Support Jobs too, with all the combinations you can make, have players wanted to raise those jobs on their current character.

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Starting recently with Level Sync, and now continuing with Fields of Valor and Treasure Caskets, low-level and mid-level content has been receiving a huge makeover. What’s the story behind this?

Matsui: From the beginning, high-level content has always been improved upon. However, there are players that quit before even reaching it, or others who do and want to play with new friends they invite to the game. We didn’t originally think FFXI would make it this far. To put it bluntly, we hear a lot of recent MMOs are much easier. We couldn’t change the battle system of FFXI and remove it’s uniqueness, so we thought we could make leveling a faster, less painful process.

Now, to explain Level Sync, that was for the large amount of people who desired to play at the same level together. At first, it was simply a system to match players to the same level, but it would be a pain for high-level players to intentionally lower themselves, so being able to receive full experience points was the motivation to get them to do so. By the way, when setting the experience points, we knew we had to adjust equipment as well and save people the hassle of having to gather up weapons and armor depending on the level.

Gondai: At first, I heard Fujito and Matsui discussing a system wherein you could forcibly lower your level and earn points of some sort. That sparked an idea, and I requested to develop such a system where you could also earn experience points. Tanaka said “Make sure RMT can’t abuse it,” and after much trial and error, I came up with the content you see now. It was quite complicated to accomplish, but I am glad that everyone is enjoying it.

Matsui: I’ve always wanted to make level-capped areas and battlefields. I’ve wanted to, but the big issue was always items and equipment. This issue was especially prevalent in Chains of Promathia. For example, you would be capped at level 30, yet most high-level players had gotten rid of their level 30 equipment. If that issue can’t be fixed, then there’s no point to level-capping areas.

I spoke a little about it already, but I am just glad that we were able to accomplish this. Level Sync was designed to bring players together, and for Promathia missions it serves as the perfect solution for people who are discouraged from helping new players through the story due to lack of equipment. Together with Treasure Caskets, it is also a great feature for Free Trial members to use and enjoy.

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Did it also serve as a little invitation to do Chains of Promathia?

Matsui: You could say that. (laughs) It was planned so that people who may have been put off would return and reunite with old friends.

Conversely, what do you think may be lacking for low and mid-level players?

Tanaka: I notice that getting properly equipped as you level up can be pretty tough. Raising money is difficult, and the auction houses in the three nations aren’t well stocked.

Matsui: People level up and then head to Jeuno, so new players in the three nations can’t get the equipment they need. There are talks about what to do for this. As for raising gil, if we make it too easy, it gets exploited by RMT. However, we still need a way for legitimate players to gain new weapons and armor. The answer to that is Treasure Caskets.

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What’s in store for Vana’diel in 2009? More stuff for Nyzul Isle and Assault?!
The instanced areas that have been added with recent missions and quests are really great. How will you expand upon this?

Itou: Going forth, there will be more content involving battling enemies together with NPCs. It would be a shame to limit that to always being a quest or mission. We want no limitations, just like we’re doing with Moblin Maze Mongers, and we will keep using the instanced area system.

Treasures of Aht Urghan has been upgraded substantially, I think. Wings of the Goddess has yet to receive a system like ZNMs, Nyzul Isle or Einherjar, where many people can work together towards great rewards. How does the future look regarding this?

Ogawa: There is something planned for after the missions are complete, but they are progressing at a somewhat slow pace, so I think it will be a while.

Will it be tied to the missions?

Ogawa: The area will be difficult to get to if you don’t complete the missions.

So, like how Tu’Lia is for Rise of the Zilart?

Ogawa: Yes, like that. I must apologize to the Battle Team, because they can’t do anything until things progress far enough. You’ll have to wait on that being implemented for the time being.

With Balrahn’s Secret Treasures finally implemented, can we view that content as being complete?

Ogawa: Yes, you can. However, there’s no reason to have it end there, and we’ve made it so that it can continue.

Itou: It doesn’t end at floor 100, and it’s been made so that up to 200 or up to 300 can be made. You climbed upwards, and now you may descend downwards. We’re considering various things like that.

Be that as it may, once Balrahn’s Secret Treasures were added, the objective behind Nyzul Isle seemed to change completely.

Itou: It caused a lot of congestion, and now peak times are incredibly crowded. We implemented measures to address the issue, but it can’t solve the core problem. We can’t add even more new elements to Nyzul with it being this crowded to being with. (laughs)

Ogawa: Congestion levels vary from World to World, but if even one World has a significant problem with certain content, it precludes us from adding new elements to it.

Balrahn’s Secret Treasures serve as a new kind of Relic Weapon, but the difficulty level of their acquisition is just incredibly high.

Ogawa: The original concept was to make it equal to that of Relic Weapons.

So there’s no way you will change anything regarding their acquisition?

Ogawa: We already changed it once, so for the time being, no.

Here’s my final question. Please tell me one thing each that you would like to accomplish in 2009.

Itou: 2009 is the time to reap the harvest from the seeds we have sown this year, and add some very fun new content. I feel the way I view current and future content has changed compared to before. I want to see which addition succeed and build upon them over the next year.

Matsui: While Itou works on high-level content, I want to follow low and mid-level players up through level 50. As for solo battle, players have come to simply beat the easiest enemies possible to gain experience. I want to continue to make objectives that involve defeating a wide variety of enemies. I made the Count system in Fields of Valor to accomplish just that, and am thinking of other practical ways to encourage that behavior.

Gondai: Along with adding new Avatars, I’ve got a lot of stuff that needs to be done, and I’ll take it on one at a time.

Tanaka: I have some things, like the non-expansion add-on scenarios, that have been planned for years that I can now make some progress on. I feel like I’m back on track for next year.

Ogawa: Recently, I’ve just been surrounded by Missions, Quests and cut-scenes, all of which will find their way into the game for you to enjoy from here on.

Fujito: My future goals are clearly set on improving and expanding the MMM system that I am implementing in this update. Besides that, I don’t work on much mainstream content, so I want to see if I can’t make something happen with side-content that has been neglected.

Sage Sundi: The STF will continue to work hard, and soon we will be shifting around some members within the office. Also, there was a Premiere Site made in Japan, but it hasn’t gone over well enough, and we would like to try again with more support and correspondence with the community. We want to strive for a global network of feedback.

Thank you very much for your time.

LINK:http://www.jpbutton.com/?p=1343

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 1:51 am 
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http://www.onrpg.com wrote:
Final Fantasy XI Fanfestival Interview Questions by Mary Garcia, Onrpg Writer [1]
Answered by the FFXI Development Team: Sage Sundi, Yoji Fujito, Kouichi Ogawa, Hiromichi Tanaka, Mitsutoshi Gondai, Akihiko Matsui, and Mizuki Ito

Onrpg.com interviewed the FFXI Development Team at Fanfestival 2008!


On the new Moblin Maze Mongers feature:

Onrpg:
When you look at what Vana’diel already has, what made you feel we needed the Moblin Maze?

Dev:
At last year’s Fan Festival, we initially announced this project as “My Dungeon”. One of the reasons we wanted to bring this out was that we are always giving out new content with some way of introducing new items into the game. One thing Vana’diel did not have was something players could do where they can customize something themselves. This is the main attraction of “My Dungeon”; that it is yours. Players get to tweak it and adjust it however they like. So that is something novel to Vana’diel. Also, it provided us with the opportunity to play with some more technical ideas and system side features that we wanted to try out.


Onrpg:
About the Moblin Maze function. From the feel of the crowd, 200gil was a little expensive. Is that for a solo player, or a group, and does it scale up for difficulty?

Dev: It does not scale at all according to the difficulty of the maze or the settings or the level. It is the same for everyone, solo player and full party alike.
A: If a player is entering in a group, only one person has to pay the fee.


Onrpg:
What is the lowest level you can enter the Moblin Maze Mongers?

Dev: Level 1 is the lowest level a player can enter.


Onrpg:
Is the Moblin Maze Mongers planned for parties or alliances?

Dev:
The system is set up to accommodate a full alliance.


Onrpg:
In the Moblin Maze Mongers demonstration, we saw there was some music that was free. There will also be tracks players have to pay for. Are these paid tracks new music we have not heard yet?

Dev:
In the Moblin Maze Mongers, there is a point system, where a player receives Moblin marbles after the completion of a maze. Premium tracks will only be available through purchase with these marbles.
Dev: No new music, just tracks that have been released up until now. In having all of these tracks available, some will have to be paid for with the marbles.


Onrpg: If a player has made a dungeon they like, is it saved somewhere to be used again?

[b]Dev:
[/b] The pattern in which players set the rune on the tabula is saved. They can always refer to the tabula to see how the runes are set so it can be recreated.


Onrpg:
Where will all these be stored?

Dev:
It will work the same as puppet attachments. It won’t trouble a player’s gobbie bag at all.


Onrpg: Any other content that will be available with Moblin marbles?

Dev:
Yes there will be more items available. What we did when we designed these items was instead of making them high level end-game equipment with desirable attributes, it is more of an aesthetic thing, for looks. It was designed this way so that the system will not be mobbed by high end players trying to get gear.



On Campaign and the Wings of the Goddess expansion:


Onrpg:
Any plans to allow skillups in Campaign battles?

Dev: Unfortunately, it is something that can be exploited very easily so it is something we do not want to allow people to do in Campaign. We would like to have people doing skillups in other parts of the game. Also, the new Moblin Maze Mongers is a likely venue for skillups.


Onrpg:
In Campaign, when multiple NPCs are attacking one monster, it becomes very difficult to target anything. Are there any plans to make a command to target the closest enemy?

Dev:
That is something we are consciously aware of and unfortunately it is something system side that is very difficult to accommodate. There have been a lot of complaints, even within the development, team about it. IT is something we are looking into, but so far, nothing yet.


Onrpg:
Any plans to allow players to warp directly to Garlaige Citadel [S], Crawlers Nest [S], Eldieme Necropolis [S], and the beastmen strongholds?

Dev:
The initial concept was to take players out into the field, into the outdoors for battles.
Dev: Mr. Ito forgot the initial reason why, knows there was some sort of problem but cannot recall specifically what it was. It is something we get a lot of feedback on. We want players to warp into the open field and have to travel to these places so that there is some kind of effort. It is something we will look into if there is enough feedback.


Onrpg:
When will the Iron Ram body piece be released?

Dev:
Soon. (laugh) Maybe not so soon. We want to time it with the release of the Northlands areas in the past.


Onrpg:
What is the incentive to travel to the beastmen strongholds in the past?

Dev:
There is a definite reason to visit these areas. The most recent patch we added the beastmen stronghold NM system, and there is very good gear players can get from these monsters. Players can also kill the 8 NMs for the key item triggers to access the stronghold battlefields for even better gear.
Dev: There are also plans to make Campaign areas merit camps for players. We are constantly tweaking the Campaign areas.


Onrpg: When players battle in Campaign, they let the NPCs take care of the big NMs. Is this intentional?

Dev: That is the way we intended it to work. You have to exploit the NPCs. (laugh)
Dev: It is designed to be a group effort, so that different players do different things with the NPCs. It is a very complex system.


Onrpg: Summoners have the ability to buff everyone in Campaign with their bloodpacts. Will this ever be implemented into gameplay outside of Campaign?

Dev:
It is something that happened in the design, and is not something we are planning to take beyond Campaign.


Onrpg: It has been a year since Dancer and Scholar came out. How happy are you with the balance of the jobs and their functions at this time?

Dev:
One thing we intended when we designed them was that, unlike the Treasures of Aht Urghan jobs, we wanted Dancer and Scholar to be very viable subjobs, rather than mains. Many players have been using the jobs as subjobs which is one of the original intentions. We are pleased that it is going according to plan.
Dev: That is not to say that we only intended for these jobs to be leveled to 37. What we are doing now is adding Group 2 merit categories and new items. We realized they didn’t have relic and were lacking a lot of things, so that is part of what we are introducing in hopes that players start playing these as main jobs as well. We look forward to seeing the results from that.



On the new mini-expansions:

Onrpg:
With the new mini-expansions, is this the format we are going to be focusing on more in the future, or will there be large scale expansions like the last four we have had?

Dev:
At this point in time, there is nothing really decided on another big expansion on the scale of the previous four. The new format is a new trend we would like to like to bring in, to try and see if it works out. It is going to be running concurrently with the on-going patches for the Wings of the Goddess expansion, which are also still planned to be continuing throughout the next year or so.

Onrpg:
What are your thoughts behind having many expansions instead of one big one?

Dev:
It was something we have wanted to do, and since the patches for Wings of the Goddess are still continuing, we have had our hands full. We approached the former FFXI writer, Masato Kato, whom worked on the original Final Fantasy XI and Rise of the Zilart storylines, and asked him if he would like to compose new storylines to be incorporated with this new system of smaller content packages.



Notorious Monsters & other battle related topics:

Onrpg:
Absolute Virtue. What were your reactions when the version update came and linkshells began zerging it. Obviously that was not the planned way to kill it. Are there any plans to give us new information on killing it the intended way?

Dev:
When Absolute Virtue was created, at that time the newer strategies (such as zerging) the higher end players have adopted for playing did not exist. These were not things we could take into account when we designed Absolute Virtue, and we decided to make it a two hour fight, which ultimately entailed reducing its hit points, and unfortunately when it was released, players used the zerg strategy. It was unexpected and unfortunate.


Onrpg:
Almighty Apkallu. It has been a year since we received the last few hints, yet nobody has been able to find out anything about him. Is there anything you can share?

Dev: He just doesn’t like to show himself. He is a hard character to track down.
Dev: It is something we are able to adjust. It is possible to meet him now, to find him now, but if people still cannot find him, if the player community speaks up, it is something we will have to look into.


Onrpg: Are there any plans to add new items to Zeni Notorious Monsters to keep it fresh?

Dev:
There are no plans to introduce new items.


Onrpg:
Will there ever be a change to the respawn timer of monsters in dungeons?

Dev:
When we first worked on the dungeon concept, the reason for the longer repop time was to make it easier for players to progress through a dungeon, since sneak and invisible spells had not yet been introduced. If dungeons start becoming regular camps, and an adjustment becomes obviously necessary, then we will have to look into it.


Onrpg: Any plans to revive PvP (Ballista) in a dual or a large battle?

Dev:
When Ballista was originally designed, the PvP atmosphere was not something we really felt was in our original Final Fantasy XI world view. One thing we have always been big about is people playing together as opposed to against each other. If there is enough feedback from the player community, if people feel they need a PvP system, it is definitely something we would be willing to look into. But at this time there are no concrete plans.


Onrpg:
Will Dynamis, Limbus and other similar areas be changed to instanced type areas, while keeping their respective timers, so that players do not have to wait for an area to be free before entering?

Dev:
Technically, on the system side, it is possible. It would, however, require an enormous overhaul of the systems that are already in place. It would require an entire patch of working. It would be a very big endeavor.


Onrpg:
What about new Dynamis areas?

Dev:
No plans a this time.


Onrpg:
The music in Dynamis-Tavnazia begins with the standard music, then changes to the Sunbreeze Shuffle, and then finally to Christmas Jeuno music. What was the reasoning behind this?

Dev:
(laugh) Because it is a nightmare. The universe is supposed to be the dreamed up world of Diabolos. A very chaotic world where anything goes.


Onrpg:
Were the Mythic weapons meant to rival the original relic weapons?

Dev:
The concept of Mythic is completely different from the original relic weapons. The originals are designed for big damage and specific weapon skills, whereas the new Mythic were designed for specific jobs, with more focus on the usage of TP as opposed to big damage. Naturally, there is a difference in the damage output, but that is because the weapons are designed differently.


Onrpg:
What is magical critical hit?

Dev:
Critical hits will not appear in the log, but players will notice magic will do more damage, a nice surprise. It is something we want to add to more items in the future.


Onrpg:
Are there any plans for new mounts similar to the chocobo?

Dev:
System-wise, it would be hard to implement at this stage, so no plans for new mounts. Just the chocobo for now.



Game Functions, Merit Point System & Jobs topics:

Onrpg: With players leveling new jobs to 75 more frequently, are there any plans to raise the merit cap in the combat, magic, attributes and job specific merit categories?

Dev:
Something we have been definitely thinking about is raising the cap on pre-existing abilities, as well as adding new ones.
A: On combat, magic, and attributes, it is not something we haven’t considered. We have considered the possibility, but we have to take into consideration things such as the difficulty of the monster that players are generally fighting. We have to make sure a nice balance is maintained and the combat system does not become too easy.


Onrpg:
Have you ever considered a way to remove merits and get the merit points back, possibly making it over a certain amount of time?

Dev:
The original idea we had when creating the merit point system was to have variation amongst players with the same jobs. If we were to change it now, we would have to reconsider the entire design.


Onrpg: The biggest problem with this is the addition of new jobs. Players have to take out points, thus losing a lot of experience earned for those merits. Even if a delay of some sort was implemented, I think the people would accept this.

Dev:
We definitely are not considering an option of a reapplication of already earned merit points. If anything, merits would be adjusted by raising caps in their categories.


Onrpg:
What does physical potency merits do for blue mage?

Dev:
It is a simple increase in accuracy for physical magic attacks.


Onrpg: In-game command functions. Are there any plans to add more than six macro lines per macro slot?

Dev:
At this point in time, there are no plans to expand it.


Onrpg:
Ninja emerged as a tanking job, and then the Paladin became so strong. Now Ninja has become the less preferred tank. Any changes to Ninja in the future?

Dev:
The Ninja has not been neglected. We always have all the jobs in mind. It has not received adjustments directly like some of the other jobs have, but indirectly we think we have maintained a good balance by making adjustments to other areas of the game.


Onrpg:
Is there a type of job you feel Final Fantasy XI still needs?

Dev: (laughs from the team) In a previous interview, a gentlemen had a request from a young child from the Make A Wish Foundation. The child asked if we could make a Bee Mage.
Dev: If an opportunity presents itself for a new job, we would love to make one, but it is up to the director. We also have to make sure no two jobs overlap in the game.

Onrpg: Part of the problem in making one job is making another obsolete.

Dev: One thing we keep in mind when creating new jobs is that we have to make sure people do not abandon other jobs. After the release of a new job, if we see some trends where one job is being neglected because another job was introduced, that is when jobs get adjusted accordingly.



Miscellaneous:

Onrpg: Final Fantasy XI was based on Final Fantasy I, and in keeping with the Final Fantasy theme, do you feel that Final Fantasy XI, being an MMO, has allowed you to keep more to the theme and general feel of Final Fantasy?

Dev: For the magic system and the world overview, we took most of the inspiration from Final Fantasy I, but we had to work within the technical limitations and make what we could. The job system was pulled from Final Fantasy I, III, and V.
Dev: Between all the Final Fantasy series up to this point, Final Fantasy XI is the closest one.


Onrpg: In regards to the community voice, how does someone coordinate an effort to make a change in the game?

Dev:
There is no official forums on Square Enix’s site due to the multi-lingual nature of the game. The role has been assigned to the Premier Sites. We have community managers who are viewing these sites, so if somebody wants to raise their voice about something, we hope they will go to their respective Premier Site and post there and organize a community effort to try to institute some kind of change. And there is also the option of direct feedback by emails.


Onrpg:
For someone who has never played Final Fantasy XI, if you had one statement to say, what would you say to them?

Dev: We have had a huge success with the Level Sync system, which makes playing at lower levels very easy, and we have the 14-day free trial available now, so it is easier than ever to get started.
Dev: For the players that have left the game, we would love to have them return and try out some of the new content.

Our interview ended with group pictures (one is shown above).


Read more coverage on the Final Fantasy XI Fanfestival 2008 on the Forum!

[1] Questions are composed by Mary Garcia, Onrpg Writer as well as others from the Media Coverage group.
LINK: http://www.onrpg.com/MMO/Final-Fantasy-XI/interview/Final-Fantasy-XI-Fanfestival-Interview


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:48 pm 
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wow that's alot of information.

Im shocked they still support the game so heavily. I spent a couple years thinking of what MMO i would play next thinking this would be winding down and gone by year 5 >.>

Quote:
We didn’t originally think FFXI would make it this far.


It's either the addictive nature of the forced-party mmo, or other most games stink

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:55 pm 
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You have to hand it to them, there is so much to do in this game that I'm still a noob when it comes to certain things.. I really don't think they should add low to mid-level content, they should just tweak it so you can level up faster.

I particularly enjoyed this from the 1st interview:

Quote:
Story-wise, there is a scene in the opening movie scene with Aldo and Emeline being chased, and we wanted to write a sequel to that event.


That CS always perplexed me. The only CGI in the game and it didnt get the coverage that it deserved. Kudos Square.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:42 pm 
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Fun Fact:

Aldo is in the game and makes several appearances through missions, and the Tenshodo in Jeuno, but did you know that Emeline is viewable in game as well?

The NPC Mathilde at H-9 in Selbina is actually Emeline, all grown up. After loosing her parents and being abducted by the Beastmen she lost her memory. After she was recovered, she was taken in and raised by her adopted grandmother Ramona of the Selbina Weavers Guild.

Ironically enough, despite her memory loss, she has named her son named Aldo.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:53 pm 
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Actually I found that out not too long ago when I was in Selbina. I just talked to the NPC by accident. I must admit I got a little teary-eyed. You don't expect meeting a central NPC in Selbina of all places lol.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:08 am 
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Quote:
Dev: There is a definite reason to visit these areas. The most recent patch we added the beastmen stronghold NM system, and there is very good gear players can get from these monsters.


yay for NMs in the past. maybe i can completely skip toau.. assault.. salvage.. and play in the past instead. Anyone explored the strongholds? i assume that means past davoi, castle oztroja, and beadueax(sp) ??

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 2:01 am 
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I'm not all that impressed with what drops in those battles, however there is one thing that does interest me...Ruler.

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