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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is approaching its one year anniversary. Since its initial release on August 27, 2013, the game has managed to shake off its troubled origins, and has come a long way in the past year delivering on its promise of creating a game fans would love.

yoshida_gamescom_art_1aAmidst the anniversary celebrations, we were lucky enough to get some time with the man who changed the fate of Final Fantasy XIV, Producer and Director of A Realm Reborn – Naoki Yoshida. Speaking to Pixel Dynamo at Gamescom, Yoshida was quick to emphasise it is because of the great support the game has received over the past year he was even able to be there. It was undoubtedly an honour to meet such a great man who is not only passionate about the work he does, but humble to the success he instead attributes to the players of the game. Yoshida cares deeply for A Realm Reborn, especially when speaking to us about how he personally wrote the in-game text for the anniversary event.

The success of A Realm Reborn can be measured in many ways, but most recently the forthcoming release of the game in China on August 25, 2014, which speaks volumes of how far the game has come. China has the largest online market; to be a truly successful MMO it must conquer the Chinese market. A Realm Reborn is only just joining the frontline with its Chinese edition, but just taking that step shows how confident Square Enix is.

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Square Enix has given much of its attention to A Realm Reborn in the past year, updating the game regularly and keeping fans involved with competitions and features such as Letter from the Producer Live. There is a plethora of exciting content brewing, so whilst in Cologne, Pixel Dynamo was invited to hear what Yoshida could tell us about what is in store for the adventurers of Eorzea.

ON THE EORZEAN HORIZON

The launch of personal housing is confirmed for patch 2.38. In addition to Free Company houses which have already been implemented, players will be able to purchase their own private estates. Details as to how different these houses may be from Free Company properties are thin on the ground. However, Yoshida was able to tell us that players will be able to own a private room in a Free Company house as well as their own private housing estate.

Patch 2.4 is scheduled to have some bigger changes in the pipeline; foremost, The Binding Coil of Bahamut raid story arc is due to end with the release of the patch. With new content following to ensure that endgame play remains varied. Announcements on the next story-driven raid will be revealed in the near future, but for the time being we were assured that the ending of The Binding Coil will be very enjoyable with plenty of surprises lying in wait.

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The highly anticipated new Thief class and Ninja job will arrive with the implementation of patch 2.4. Players are already familiar with Yugiri, a storyline character of mysterious race proficient with her twin blades. Many have drawn similarities between both her and the new Ninja job in both outfit and weapon style. When asked if Yugiri was linked to the Ninja class, Yoshida told us that she is not unrelated but is more closely tied in with the main storyline. Rather interestingly, Yoshida teased us that players may see Yugiri’s face in the near future. The speculation surrounding what race she is could finally come to an end when we see what lies beneath the mask.

yoshida_gamescom_art_4The Eternal Bonding feature will also be added. Similar to a marriage ceremony, the Eternal Bonding will have more of an open meaning. Any two players, regardless of race or gender, can pair together in this ceremony that celebrates the love between two people. Yoshida emphasised the ceremony celebrates all forms of love; the love you have for your family, brothers or friends, and that is why there are no restrictions on the Eternal Bonding.

In the content that sits between 2.4 and the first expansion, players will be able to enjoy all the Gold Saucer has to offer. You might remember this iconic amusement park from Final Fantasy VII, however the Final Fantasy XIV reincarnation of the Gold Saucer will add a host of new mini-games and exciting features. Not only will players be able to take part in chocobo races, but they will be able to breed and train chocobos to special speed or stamina parameters. Yoshida acknowledged the introduction of chocobo racing to Final Fantasy XI was initially met with some negativity as players were not able to race their own personal chocobos. Returning to the form of Final Fantasy VII, players will be able to ride their own chocobos during the races. Another fan favourite will be added to the Gold Saucer, as Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII is also set to return. Players will take part in card battles against NPCs to earn new cards, as well as being able to challenge other players to card duels. There will also be a FATE dedicated to the Gold Saucer area, which will only occur at a certain, as yet undisclosed, time.

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The most interesting information that Yoshida hinted at, after some nudges from us, of course, what that a costume for a certain famous Final Fantasy character will be available to players by completing particular content. Yoshida stated that it will not be implemented during or prior to patch 2.4, however he did reveal that:

The only thing I can say it’s related to a large scale content that is going to be introduced to the game, and this game is not necessarily related to the content but the image is linked to the content.

Naturally, it’s time to cue the mass speculation. Here at Pixel Dynamo, we’d like to place our bets on the content being the Gold Saucer and the costume being that of Cait Sith. However, there are quite a few ways in which this hint could be interpreted, so we may be proved wrong.

EORZEA EXPANDS

3.0 will be a fully-fledged expansion pack, the first of many hopefully. Yoshida confirmed that the level cap will be removed with the first expansion, although he couldn’t tell us to what level. Reassuring us Square Enix is well prepared for the level increase, Yoshida explained although the current item level cap is 115, the team behind A Realm Reborn is ready to scale to item level 300.

With the increase of level comes the increase of player power; however, Yoshida reiterated that they are fully prepared for the changes that lie ahead. When asked about the potential escalation in player damage out, Yoshida highlighted actually seeing players deal damage within the 4 figure range would be true to the Final Fantasy franchise, and therefore would be acceptable.

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With the release of the expansion, an increase to the player base is expected. Plans are currently being discussed to ensure new players can catch up to the high-level players in a reasonable time. While those that were already at the level cap are reaching new level limits, new players might be able to catch up more easily:

We are thinking of maybe letting them skip to 60, or 70, or 90 in order to get higher level much quicker and easier, so they won’t feel they’re left behind.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

There are many other plans in the works that remain to be scheduled. Even the small amount that is shared with the general audience goes to show how much forethought and energy is being put into A Realm Reborn.

The catalogue of digital items available for purchase via the Mog Station will be expanded. The first new arrival will be a package of 2013’s seasonal event items which are no longer attainable, one bundle price. There are also plans to add an optional service in which players can pay to change their character names. New Veteran Rewards are also planned. Currently working on the 720 days subscription reward, Yoshida promises us this particular reward will be a big one, stating: “It’s going to be really attractive”. As an avid collector of minions, I’m hoping for something in this range, but by the sounds of it, whatever form it comes in, it’s going to be pretty impressive.

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A Realm Reborn is pretty good at delivering exclusive items earned or bought in certain ways. We’ve already seen two exclusive in-game minions players can obtain when bought with two separate versions of the soundtrack. Another CD is planned for the future and players may just see a new item released alongside it. Yoshida also explained there are plans for an activity in which the result will affect each server and when particular servers succeed they will obtain rewards. We’ve experienced similar events in the past with battle challenges that rewarded winning servers with the Cactuar and Bomb Earrings. Can we expect some Spriggan Earrings on the way? The team has to plan accordingly in how they aim to distribute them and why. There will never be a special item that is only obtained through the purchase of a Japanese magazine, for example, as Yoshida wants all players to enjoy exclusive items, regardless of their location.

yoshida_gamescom_art_3aA Realm Reborn recently began a free trial period of 14 days for PC users; however there are plans to bring a free trial to console versions of the game also. Yoshida explained the PC trial came first as the entire decision process is in-house. Unfortunately, to implement the same feature on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 requires working in collaboration with SCE and agreeing on how and when to do it.

As a Final Fantasy XIV player, it has been extremely rewarding for me to see how the game has outgrown its initial, unsteady, beginnings, overcoming hurdles to become the impressive game it is today. The game is fortunate in that not only is it a great example of the MMO genre, but that it is also a compliment to the Final Fantasy franchise. As a result, A Realm Reborn attracts players of different tastes, bringing them together in Eorzea. I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming updates to the game, I urge anyone who hasn’t yet tried the game to take advantage of the free trial and experience A Realm Reborn at its best, during the height of its anniversary celebrations. Yoshida has shared some incredibly interesting news that enkindles our excitement about the future of the game. So, Happy Birthday, A Realm Reborn, here’s to another successful and enjoyable year.

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