A few hours ago Square Enix held a livestream event on the Japanese streaming website Nico Nico with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida, that showcased quite a lot of Alpha gameplay and a few pieces of information on the upcoming beta testing. The event was definitely successful, with 61,974 viewers, demonstrating a keen interest of the Japanese audience in the game.
The livestreamed gameplay footage was particularly interesting, as it allowed us to see for the first time the dungeon included in the Alpha – Tam-Tara Deepcroft – and some more of the beautiful environment around Gridania, in addition to a metric ton of characters on screen (that caused a few visualization problems, as there were about 1,000 characters in the same area).
The gameplay displayed was also interesting as it showcased the game on three different machines running three different detail presets: High on a Core i7 3.5 Ghz with a Geforce GTX 680, Middle on a Core i5 750 2.66 Ghz with a Radeon HD5750 and Low on a Core 2 Duo 3.0 Ghz with a low-end Geforce 8800 GT. All three machines were running on Windows 8 Pro 64 bit. Despite the evident differences in texture detail, shadows and lighting, the game definitely looked good even on low settings, and was very fluid with all three presets.
To further show how the game will play on Windows 8, Yoshida also demonstrated touch-screen support, that included the ability to control the camera and the zoom (with the usual pinch) and to drag and drop ability icons from menus to the toolbar.
As a final bonus he shown a few character renders (including a rather saucy miqo’te upskirt, that sparked fits of hilarity between the commenters and the two hosts) prepared for the upcoming beta.
Following the event Square Enix also published the detailed beta roadmap, that you can download in PDF here. According to the roadmap the beta testing will start around the middle of February and the game will launch between eight and eighteen and weeks later, placing the release window between the middle of April and the end of June. Of course dates are subject to change depending on the performance of the beta builds and on reception.
The graph also tells us that the PS3 beta will start between five and eleven weeks after the beginning of the beta, placing it between late March and late May.
A few more tidbits of new information include the fact that all legacy account holders will qualify as testers since phase one, while all those that have a Final Fantasy XIV account will gain access from phase 3, with the possibility of using their characters imported from the original game. Phase 4 will be an open beta and, excluding problems, all character progression gained in it will be carried over into the game at release. A level sync function (that hasn’t been announced before today) will also be implemented in Phase 4 together with the Duty Finder (basically a cross-server dungeon finder).
You can enjoy the full gallery below. As usual remember that (besides the renders), this is alpha gameplay, and the quality is poor due to the compression of the livestream. You can also see the detail preset used in each screencap clearly displayed on the lower left.