'FFXIV' producer/director talks up battles, gamepad-based controls, the ever-elusive PS3 version

It's been a long haul for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the official name for the big FFXIV relaunch Square Enix first discussed back in late 2010.

It's been a long haul for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the official name for the big FFXIV relaunch Square Enix first discussed back in late 2010.

Despite being far under the radar of most PC gamers in the wake of, well, lots and lots of other MMOs and big-name releases, the new FFXIV received its first major English-language push in a while at the Gamescom trade show in Germany a couple weeks back. Among other things, producer/director Naoki Yoshida showed off A Realm Reborn's battle scenes for the first time in public, revealing a system that's been rebuilt from the ground up for speed.

"I'm looking for high-tempo battles that end on a high note," Yoshida told Famitsu magazine in an interview published this week. "That's why you start battles in the new FFXIV with a full supply of TP [Tactical Points, used to launch special abilities]. It creates this sense of speed, being able to launch weapon skills and ability from the start and going on to the next battle once your TP fills up again. You can beat your average monster with about 5 or 6 weapon skills, so your typical battle wraps up in around 15 or 20 seconds."

Adding to this sense of speed is the new Content Finder, an in-game aid to help you search for players that share common goals with your character and find content appropriate for your current situation. "We have it set up so that people who want to play solo are provided with good, recommended content they can play right away once they log in or change areas," Yoshida explained. "It's sort of a 'why not try this out' system that gives results depending on the player's status and how busy things are in the local area. It's optional, but you're provided with around ten recommended things to do on a list -- if you wanted to, you could finish all the items in around two hours and really get this feeling that you've accomplished something. When the player's going for more of a party-oriented direction, he'll be able to see party-oriented content instead, but that's something I'll discuss once we're ready to show it off."

"You can beat your average monster with about 5 or 6 weapon skills, so your typical battle wraps up in around 15 or 20 seconds."

Notably AWOL at Gamescom, however, was the PlayStation 3 version of FFXIV, a port that has fallen by the wayside ever since the MMO's infamously mishandled launch. All the Gamescom media showed a UI heavily dependent on a PC-style keyboard and mouse setup -- how's that going to work on the PS3?

"The UI for using a PS3 controller or PC gamepad is completely different from the one for keyboard/mouse, right down to how the screen's set up," Yoshida explained. "Unlike the keyboard controls, which are set up for directly pointing at things with the mouse, controller-based play is more oriented around 'selecting' things. Right now, you can't use an onscreen widget [window] unles you know which one is active. With the controller, only the UI bits related to what you're currently selecting are shown, and if you want to select something completely unrelated, you need to close all the other widgets first. Basically we're trying to make it feel like you're playing a Japanese RPG."

Despite no-showing Gamescom, the PS3 port -- originally slated to launch in the spring of 2011 -- could actually have its day in the sun shortly. "I can't give specifics," said Yoshida, "but I think we might be able to announce something around September 20, when the Tokyo Game Show begins. I know a lot of people are waiting patiently for info on the new FFXIV, but ultimately MMORPGs are all about being 'massively multiplayer,' having lots of people around, and appealing to people who are playing the current FFXIV is important to us. I hope that, while players wait for more info, they're enjoying the finale of the Seventh Umbral Era live event in the current game."

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