Square listens to its players, and it's also acknowledged the outside world. "Our plan from the beginning was to make the best Final Fantasy game. And we thought the best way to do that was through the medium of an MMO." Let's hope no-one mentions that to the FFXIII development team. "However, we are trying to implement a lot of new systems that MMOs have not used in the past." And what might those be? They're not telling.
There's a lot of vague language flying around at this early stage; it's incredibly frustrating to be stuck in a room with a hundred journalists, where it'd be considered rude to shout "hang on, what you just said doesn't actually mean anything". Take this statement, in response to a question about what's important in the new game:
"We want to say that for XIV, the keywords are the growth and development of the character. We'd also like to expand on the in-game systems. The player will be able to grow in a more natural way. We are also going to develop the job system, and expand it into something that is quite different." It's like listening to mist.
So why a sequel, instead of taking the XI universe into the next generation? A mean-spirited cynic might suggest that two games means twice as many potential subscriptions without gaining a single new player - or that XIV would have been a less explosive announcement at the Sony conference than FFXI arriving some years late - but Komoto gives the well-rehearsed official answer.
"FFXI was originally made for the PS2. Then it was taken to the PC, then the 360. A lot of people have asked why we don't just port FFXI to the PS3. But to do that, we'd have to remake everything. We decided we'd use that time to make a new game." It's an explanation that makes some sense - although the leap from 360 to PS3 can't be anywhere near the chasm between the PS2 and 360.
Servers will be run the same as the FFXI servers - with players able to choose from the full global palette of servers and languages. The current system works well enough - territories come together on certain servers organically, thanks to word of mouth.
But what you really want to know, having got this far, is beta access, right? You want to know whether, as a valued FFXI player, you'll be granted early access to give your feedback, and given a weighted voice in the way things develop. Sadly, they're not talking about that, yet. Sorry to waste your time.
Final Fantasy XIV Online is due out for PC and PS3 in 2010.