Last week we sat down with the Final Fantasy XI development team on the eve of the latest patch release to their current expansion, Wings of the Goddess, and talked with Koichi Ogawa (FFXI planner), Mitsutoshi Gondai (FFXI job planner), Mizuki Ito (FFXI battle planner), and Hiromichi Tanaka (FFXI producer) about the state of the game and its future. A good bulk of these questions were farmed up from my occasionally-updated My Life in Vana#DY#diel blog and from other user submissions, but since my interview time was limited to 60 mana-burned minutes, I wasn#DY#t able to get in a bunch of the questions I still had on my plate, like those regarding BLMs and THFs and other burning topics. Don#DY#t despair, though. I#DY#ll be back in Japan soon enough, and whatever wasn#DY#t answered to your satisfaction here, you ungrateful bastards, will be answered in the near future. In the meanwhile, check out what the good folks in Shinjuku had to say about your favorite Japanese MMO.
1UP: Since Final Fantasy XI is the only majorly successful MMO to ever hit a video game console and to survive for seven years, can you tell us what you think has attributed to FFXI#DY#s long-lasting success?
Hiromichi Tanaka: Actually, that#DY#s a mystery to us as well, why it#DY#s been so successful with the players. But the fact that the users have stuck with the game for so long is...well, it gives us something to build off of. And the opinions that we get from the players, we take that and then we try to give something back. And it#DY#s that constant back and forth with the players, and the success that we#DY#ve had with that, it#DY#s what#DY#s helped us continue for so long.
1UP: How do you feel about the state of Japanese game development? Nowadays, it seems like only the top-tier Japanese game developers are able to survive, while most of the lower-tier developers seem to be going the way of downloadable games only. And I guess, compared to western development, which has really grown in the last five or six years with PC developers crossing over. How do you think that the game market has changed, if at all, and how does that affect your future plans?
Koichi Ogawa: Yeah, this is something that our president, Mr. Wada, seems to be touching on a lot lately. What Mr. Tanaka-san said is that the Japanese market really hasn#DY#t changed that much. It hasn#DY#t gone up or down. Whereas, especially over this time, switching to the next-generation machines, it#DY#s that there#DY#s more and more users in the European and U.S. markets. And because there are more users over there, that#DY#s why that market seems to be getting bigger. And while the Japanese market#DY#s not getting smaller, it#DY#s just not moving like the other two markets are.