LOS ANGELES--Square Enix's announcement last year that Final Fantasy XIII would arrive on the Xbox 360 in addition to the PlayStation 3 was one of the biggest news items from the 2008 Electronic Entertainment Expo. This year, the company delivered one more shocker, abruptly announcing during Sony's E3 2009 press conference yesterday that Final Fantasy XIV Online is due for release on the PS3 in 2010.
Final Fantasy XIV Online will be the second massively multiplayer online role-playing game in the franchise. The first such game, Final Fantasy XI, debuted on the PC in 2003 and found its way to the PlayStation 2 the next year. An Xbox 360 edition followed in 2006. In a follow-up announcement, Square Enix said that FFXIV Online will also see a global release on the PC, with localized editions appearing in Japanese, English, French, and German.
Thus far, the only hard detail Square Enix has shared about FFXIV Online is that the game will be set in the world of Eorzea, a new setting that has not appeared in previous franchise installments. However, that will soon change, as Square Enix is hosting a press conference today, the second day of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, to discuss the new title.
[11:27] A mob of journalists are standing outside the theater, waiting to be let into the Square Enix conference.
[11:29] Journalists are chattering about what the announcements will include. Speculation abounds that there could be other games besides FFXIV Online, but chances seem unlikely.
[11:30] Press conference is due to start right now. No word as to when the conference will actually start.
[11:32] No filming is allowed at the event. Hopefully non-flash photography is still within the rules.
[11:32] Conversations have drifted away from Square Enix news to, oddly, 50 Cent.
[11:34] Square Enix employees are shuffling in and out of the theater.
[11:39] People are beginning to sit down, but it doesn't look like Square plans to open the doors anytime soon. No updates either.
[11:41] Frazzled-looking tech people have exited the room.
[11:45] Two lines have been consolidated into one, perhaps this means something.
[11:45] ...and we're entering the theater. Hooray!
[11:49] Square Enix PR is standing at the podium on a makeshift stage. A panel with three name cards is present.
[11:51] The panelists include director Nobuaki Komoto, producer Hiromichi Tanaka, and senior vice president Shinji Hashimoto.
[11:52] Only thing Square Enix has announced so far is that no filming is allowed. A large screen with the company's logo is displayed on a wall in the front of the theater.
[11:54] "Sorry we're running a little late," a rep tells the amassed crowd. "We'll be bringing our speakers on right now."
[11:54] Hashimoto, Tanaka, and Komoto are walking in now.
[11:54] Hashimoto would like to clarify some confusion regarding the exclusivity.
[11:56] Through a translator, he says that some folks interpreted that it was an exclusive, the announcement would be coming to the PS3 and PC.
[11:56] "We are considering all options at this time, including Microsoft hardware." (Emphasis added.)
[11:56] The QA session is about to get started. Mics are being passed around.
[11:57] A question is being asked about old races: "What are the ties to FFXI?"
[11:58] Tanaka says, "These are different races, a different world than FFXI, the name of the world is Eorzea."
[11:58] "The reason we made them similar in FFXI was so that the players who have been playing XI and liked the character can choose a similar type of race," he says.
[11:59] "An example of why we did this," he says, "is like we have one actor in many movies--in one movie he's an assassin robot, in another it's a spy, but it's the same guy. We want you to think of it the same way."
[11:59] The next question: "What happens to FFXI now?"
[12:00] Tanaka says that the development for FFXIV started appearing four to five years ago.
[12:01] "We started going into full gear the past few years. This has been going along at the same time as FFXI."
[12:01] "We still plan on continuing developing for FFXI," he says.
[12:01] "We have a year planned for FFXI still in the works."
[12:01] He confirms that there are no plans in the near future to stop development.
[12:02] Next question: "What kind of influences from other MMOGs like World of Warcraft have there been on FFXIV?"
[12:02] Komoto responds, "As with WOW, they're aimed at the casual user. We're aiming for more casual users. However, we don't want to make a copy of WOW. We want to be unique."
[12:03] "Is the action going to be action or turn based?" asks a new questioner.
[12:03] "We can't answer that yet" is the succinct response.
[12:03] Next question: "FFXI has evolved a lot over the years, with the ability to play solo like WOW. Will you be carrying over the ability of being able to play solo?"
[12:04] "Yes, all of the knowledge and experience we got, we plan on using in the development of FFXIV."
[12:04] "FFXI was originally designed based on party battles. With FFXIV, we'd like to have content for solo players, as well as extremely large battles for players to play together."
[12:05] Next question: "Are there plans for worldwide launch of the game, simultaneous worldwide release?"
[12:06] Tanaka says, "Yes, we will launch worldwide, in all regions, in the same four languages as we already announced."
[12:07] Tanaka also confirms that the servers will be worldwide, and there will also be cross-platform servers.
[12:08] Next question: "Will Square respond to players' feedback like they did in FFXI to make their lives in the game easier?"
[12:09] Komoto: "We believe that the user's voice is very important. We want to keep getting advice. We are currently still getting advice from FFXI users, we hope to get their feedback from FFXIV."
[12:11] "We hope to have users play XI and then another day play XIV. Communities will be independent, but if they want to communicate they can," Square Enix noted.
[12:11] Question: "Are there any plans to translate the game into Spanish?"
[12:12] "Currently we don't have a Spanish development, but if there are enough users that want it, we'll certainly consider it."
[12:12] "To get good translators in Japan, it's very difficult, but if users want it, then we'll definitely consider it."
[12:12] Another questioner queries: "Are there any special elements in the MMO genre that you will improve with this game?"
[12:13] Komoto says, "Our plan from the beginning was to make the best Final Fantasy game available with FFXIV. That was our vision."
[12:13] "We thought, 'How can we make the best FF game?' We decided on the MMO genre."
[12:14] However, we are trying to implement a lot of new systems that other MMOs have not used in the past," he continued. "So in that sense, it may be revolutionary."
[12:14] Next questioner, please. "When did you decide to make this installment an MMO rather than a traditional RPG? It's unusual to have another MMO as FFXIV."
[12:18] Tanaka says, "We've been asked that question by a lot of people. It comes down to, originally FFXI was designed for the PS2, and it moved to Windows and then the 360. A lot of people have asked about making a port of that to the current machine. But unfortunately with an MMO of this size, you have to be maintaining and developing new content."
[12:18] "Was yesterday's trailer the same quality that we'll actually see in the game?" is the next question.
[12:20] Komoto says, "Yes, there were parts that were prerendered, but parts were running on the in-game engine."
[12:20] "Is that then the actual quality that you are aiming for?" the questioner asks as a follow-up.
[12:21] "Are the fights many vs. many rather than one vs. one, and will there be changes in the battle system?"
[12:21] "Good question, but I don't know how much I can answer. But we will have battles against many vs. one or many vs. many."
[12:22] And the next question is: "What's different from FFXI, and what would they like to do in this game?"
[12:23] "We will have the same type of storytelling and expand on in-game systems. The player will be able to grow and develop in a natural way. It shouldn't put a lot of weight on the player itself, and through this, we'll develop the job system into something quite different."
[12:24] Tanaka follows up with: "FFXI has gotten better. For FFXIV we want to make it so that if you want to play in a party, you can, if you want to play solo you can, or if you want to play all day, you can. We will have game systems and content there for all types of people."
[12:24] "Have you given any thoughts to your beta testing? Will you let FFXI users into the program?"
[12:25] Tanaka says, "As with the actual release, we don't have a concrete beta schedule yet. All we can say is that we will have a beta. When we do have a schedule we will give that to you."
[12:25] "Is there any possibility of porting FFXI characters to FFXIV?"
[12:27] Tanaka says, "The game is completely different. There won't be any way to take your character from XI and take it to XIV."
[12:27] He continues, "Since the character design is very similar, you can create a new character that will be like what you played in FFXI."
[12:28] "Also, FFXIV will not be using the PlayOnline system. However, the friends list will be transferred over to the FFXIV system."
[12:28] Last question, "If I'm new to the MMO genre I have many options to choose from. Why would I choose FFXIV over these games?"
[12:28] Komoto says, "We believe that players will fall in love with the world we've created and the story we have to offer. That's probably our biggest thing."
[12:29] And that's it!
[12:30] Check back throughout the day for GameSpot's continuing coverage of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo.