MAKUHARI MESSE--Hiromichi Tanaka is one busy man. The executive producer of Final Fantasy XI is still overseeing the two current versions of the game that have been out for some time on both the PC and PlayStation 2. At the same time, he's shepherding the upcoming Xbox 360 version of the game and working with his team as they continue development on the work-in-progress game hinted at by the tech demo of a fantastic world set above the water shown at Microsoft's E3 press conference. Despite having all this on his to-do list, the veteran developer took some time out to attend the Square Enix Party 2005 and meet with us.
GameSpot: How do you feel about the way Final Fantasy XI has evolved since its release?
Hiromichi Tanaka I never imagined so many people would enjoy XI as much as they have, and I'd like to keep producing a good game for everyone.
GS: Did you always see the game as cross-platform?
HT: [Yes,] XI was always intended as a cross-platform game.
GS: Once Square signed with Microsoft, why did you decide to make XI the first game for it?
HT: The only game we had that was capable of being played on Windows was FFXI, so of course that was the first game we wanted to release. Obviously, new games will be developed for the 360, but those will take time. We'd actually planned to release the game on the current Xbox, but Xbox Live's closed system made it impossible.
GS: How do you see Microsoft's standing in Japan?
HT: Xbox wasn't received in Japan as well as it was in other parts of the world. Since the Xbox 360 will be capable of a lot of different functions, it should do better. The next generation of consoles is all an unknown right now. It's hard to know who will be on top, so it's a race from now on.
GS: What does the future hold for what you do? Can we look forward to another massively multiplayer online game with the Final Fantasy franchise? What platforms do you see yourself focusing on?
HT: For MMOs, the platform isn't that important anymore. The only real requirement is its ability to display the images from the game. As technology advances it should be possible to play one game across different platforms.
GS: Does that complicate things for you as you move forward, as typically developers have had to appeal to one specific audience such as console or PC players?
HT: Since MMOs require a keyboard, that's really the only requirement now. If the platform supports a keyboard, it doesn't matter whether it's a console or PC. From this point on it should be possible to make games for either.
GS: How are you enhancing the Xbox 360 version of FFXI?
HT: We're only utilizing the functions of the 360 which are equal or greater than the PC. So the graphics will be much better, but we aren't supporting features such as voice or micro transactions.
GS: How long do you see FFXI existing?
HT: As long as we have users who enjoy XI we'll keep producing content for the game.
GS: Do you think there will come a time when you'll shift your focus from XI to another MMO game based on a new world or another part of the Final Fantasy universe?
HT: Before, when we were making packaged games, we knew we had a limited amount of development time and we couldn't go back and change them. Online games were viewed as taking a long time [to build], but you can actually revisit them and put in new ideas and grow the game as you go, which has made development very interesting. As for a new game, we showed off graphics for a title that's in development right now. GS: Do you even have time to play XI these days?
HT: I always have my character on XI when I'm at work. I can't really join parties or level up, but I'm there at least. I can actually make my character invisible and go around to see what people are doing, so I'm always in the world.
GS: Interesting. Thanks for your time.