Square Enix surprised everyone today by suddenly releasing a slew of information on the Future of Final Fantasy XIV. First of all the relatively bad news: the free to play period is coming to an end starting between late November and early December 2011.
The good news is that development will move at full speed through 2012 and towards the beginning of 2013 when the version 2.0 of Final Fantasy XIV will be launched both on PC and PS3.
The transition towards 2.0 and the PS3 launch will involve a server shutdown of undisclosed duration between october and december 2012, and a closed beta on the PS3 around the same period. With the relaunch and the opening of the new servers of the game that will support a fully new client, the PC version will become downloadable for free (even if it’ll still involve the monthly fee of course), and a new free trial period will be offered.
Of course existing players will be able to retain their characters and data without losing their progress in the game:
Version 2.0, added to what will build up from the patches that will be implemented from today to 2013, is planned to be not just an update, but a full reboot of the game, with a new engine, a slew of new content, and the whole world of Eorzea completely overhauled. Just take a look at te concept screenshot of version 2.0 that Square Enix shared today. It’s hard not to be excited about it.
Square Enix also shared a suite of four documents that detail fully the road to 2.0: a full roadmap, a list of features for 2.o, a lovely mini-artbook showing concept art for future updates, and a document detailing the major changes that includes the patch schedule for the next year.
The upcoming features (prior to and for 2.0) are many and basically sound like the wet dream of every Final Fantasy XIV player (and of many Final Fantasy fans in general). Here are the most juicy ones:
- Completely redesigned world.
- Implementation of a new graphics engine.
- New server system designed for increased speed and performance.
- Fully renewed user interface.
- Implementation of the Job System
- Complete redesign of character creation.
- Addition of Male Mi’quote, Female Roegadyns and Female Highlander (at long last we’ll some tall and muscular ladies!).
- Release of a drag & drop “mannequin” system to change gear on the fly when changing classes.
- Complete redesign of the market wards in a system incorporating both retainers and Auction House systems.
- Primal summoning and monster taming ability available to certain classes (yay, summoners!).
- Release of a “companion” system for summoned and tamed pets that will develop over time.
- Addition of private rooms (inns and similar).
- Implementation of Hamlet Defense battles.
- Implementation of content revolving around the Twelve mythos (the gods of the game’s lore).
- Release of new battles against the Garlean empire, including those against the Garlean Legatii (FFXIV‘s version of the Judges from FFXII).
- Introduction of legacy Final Fantasy items (Excalibur and Masamune anyone?), those items will have unique graphics and stats.
- New dungeons.
- Implementation of player housing.
- Implementation of collaboration in dungeons between Disciples of War, Magic, Hand and Land.
- Implementation of a feature to replay cutscenes.
- Full voice acting for cutscenes in all four languages (Japanese, English, German and French)
- New Seventh Umbral Era storyline.
- Implementation of multi-party alliances.
- Addition of a Signature feature for crafted items.
- Release of player-driven communities known as Free Companies. They will allow access to personal estates and cooperative crafting.
- Implementation of Chocobo gear and armor, mounted combat (!), mounted content and shared chocobos.
- Implementation of other forms of transportation.
- Introduction of a mail an delivery system.
- Completely overhauled search function.
- Content finder to find groups to enjoy content and dungeons even across different servers.
- New achievement system, with the addition of 300 new achievements and the implementation of rewards like titles and items.
But Final Fantasy XIV’s future won’t stop with version 2.0, as the following features are planned past the reboot:
- New Primal battles.
- Ability for free companies to summon a primal directly in order to fight him.
- Campaign of battles to defend Ishgard against an horde of dragons, with the participation of all four disciplines (wait a second as I wipe the drool off my mouth here…).
- Implementation of two PvP venues: The Coliseum and Frontlines. The first will be an arena-like system, the second an open world PvP area with factional warfare between the Grand Companies (and anyone that played Dark Age of Camelot knows that three-way RvR is full of win).
- Addition of two large-scale instanced raids named Crystal Tower and Vast Labyrinth, with further expansions planned afterwards.
- Implementation of the wandering Odin primal. He will grow in strength and drop better loot every time he’s defeated.
It’s undeniable that one of the biggest changes coming with the reboot of Final Fantasy XIV is the new engine. While Final Fantasy XIV is undoubtedly one of the best loooking if not the best looking MMORPG on the market, but many find the implementation and art direction a bit cold, especially because of the lack of advanced effects and dynamic shadows.
Looking at the concept screenshots displayed above, it’s easy to notice that Square Enix is aiming to change that by making the engine much stronger on the implementation of effects and lighting, creating a much more visually pleasing atmosphere.
While some may question why they would focus on improving something that’s already good with all the work that lays on the road to 2.0, it’s obvious that the rest of the MMORPG market won’t stop evolving in the next year, and Square Enix wants FFXIV to hold the leading role for visuals despite the releasing of new games. If the game will really look like the concept screenshot, there’s little doubt that they have the potential to pull that off, especially if they’ll use part of the technology of their new Luminous engine, that they have been showing lately and that looks really impressive.
They also going above and beyond the call of duty. Since the new engine will renew the looks of some elements, every player will be able to redesign his character from scratch when 2.0 will hit, including the ability to change race and gender if desired.
Another big change is the complete redesign of the world. This is unprecedented in the MMORPG market, and from the maps shown today it doesn’t look like they’re just adding a few landmarks here and there. They’re scrapping the whole world of the game completely to implement a new one. It will lose the seamless travel between areas that we have now, but in return it will allow for much more visual variation and much less asset recycling. The concept art shows some very large, impressive landscapes that is hard not to be excited for. Of course we’ll have to see how they’ll actually look in the game, but if there’s a field in which Square Enix never disappointed is graphics.
The fact that this massive geographical change will come with a lore-enriching storyline, and not just with a “Oh yeah, tomorrow is patch day, we’re gonna add this, this, and that”, is another classy element that will definitely please the fans.
Finally, the complete redesign of the UI is another possible large boon for the game. What we saw today looks like a very sleek and well designed UI (quite different from the current one), with all the info and options readily available at the player’s fingertips. Player-created add-ons will also be supported, so those that won’t like the default UI will be able to freely design their own or download those designed by others.
The wait might be quite long, but from the looks of it, it it could be definitely worth it. In the meanwhile, you can also enjoy the full resolution version of the Final Fantasy XIV artwork released today here.
It’s undeniable that re-enablling subscriptions at this point is a very bold move by Square Enix, but the work done so far and what has been shown for the future seem to justify it. If half of what has been promised for 2.0 will prove as good as it sounds, Final Fantasy XIV has the potential to achieve not only the first successful full reboot of the history of the genre, but also to become one of the best MMORPGs of 2013. It remains to be seen if the community swill stand behind it despite the monthly fees. Personally, I hope it will, as I rarely saw a development team putting so much hard work and passion in amending a botched launch.
While the decision to launch Final Fantasy XIV in an extremely unfinished state deserves all the criticism it received, in a market where MMORPGs that launch in a less than stellar way are more often than not abandoned to rot and/or closed, the dedication of Naoki Yoshida and his 250-men team deserves support and praise.