We recapped all of the exciting new announcements from VanaFest 2012, along with a developer interview!
Over the past weekend, ZAM attended the 10th anniversary Vana'diel Festival 2012 in Pacifico Yokohama. The first part of our recap will cover the announcements regarding the direction of Final Fantasy XI. Also included is the developer interview held on day one after the show!
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We have a new expansion: Seekers of Adoulin. This will be the 5th full-featured expansion disc for Final Fantasy XI, and it opens up an entire new continent in the Far West. Speculation over the years centered around the Far East or the South being the next logical setting. However, the developers explained that Adoulin is about creating something completely fresh that can serve as the foundation of a whole new beginning in the world of Vana'diel. The Far West will have its own history, culture and secrets to be discovered completely independent of anything players have experienced over the past ten years. With Tenzen in the Far East and key Mithran characters hailing from the South, there were too many strings attached to these locations that would have limited creative freedom.
The inspiration for Adoulin's architecture are said to derive from areas of Europe (Spain was referenced, specfically) to give a sense of a land with a rich culture and deep history that spans the ages. In fact, the developers revealed in our interview that Adoulin is set to explore the history of Vana'diel before even year one of the Crystal Era.
Reclaim the Land
The overall theme of Seekers of Adoulin is discovery. With the capital city located in the northeastern point marked on the map, adventurers have an wide, expansive continent before them to explore. The entire mainland is said to be filled with rough, untapped wilderness. The key mechanics in this expansion will have players taming the wild and making the land suitable for adventure.
Players will cut through dense jungle, overcome new dangers, break through rocky terrain and gather materials needeed to survive and thrive. In gaming terms, this means new crafting ingredients, new fish to catch and new synthesis recipes. Exploration is accomplished by building outposts, similar to the ones placed throughout the central continents. With these outposts serving as a base, players work to cultivate the land around them. The system details are not in place yet, but essentially, each area will have a cultivation percentage that goes up as players operate within the area and complete certain quests. When the rate is high enough, it will unlock bonuses that affect players in the area, similar to the Signet and Sanction systems. There was even an indication that the game world itself would change through the efforts of the players.
There will also be six new guilds: Information Guild, Exploration Guild, Security Guild, Amusement Guild, Transportation Guild and Workshop Guild.
The developers promise much more to come, saying you can discover suspicious caves, monster lairs and places where you can attain "mysterious power." Players can expect a bunch of new giant-sized monsters, some of which they presented at the show. A lot of the new beasts are still shrouded in seceret, and the developers laughed nervously as they tried to resist giving any information that could spoil the upcoming story.
By the way, it's quite tiny, but I believe the note on the gigantic bee indicates that poison needles come flying out its posterior. So, you know, be ready for that :)
The Geomancer is a support Job that can buff party members and enfeeble enemies using some interesting new mechanics.
On a basic level, Geomancer functions similar to Bard. Like Bards with their instruments, Geomancers will equip bells and have a Geomancy skill and a bell skill. The combined level of these two skills will determine how effective their abilities are. Again, like a Bard without an instrument, a Geomancer can wield their power without the use of a bell, but it will reduce the effectiveness.
For party members, Geomancers can grant effects like regen, refresh and regain, or boost different parameters like STR, DEX, AGI, and so on. Against enemies, they can inflict slow, and paralysis, or other debuffs, like magic defense down or evasion down. The developers also indicated they were looking into other unique buffs and debuffs to further set the job apart, but such additions were still being proposed and tested.
Two features were also introduced for Geomancer: Polarity and Luopan. Polarity is a trait that lets the player boost their own abilities based on where they stand relative to the enemy. North for magic attack bonus, South for magic accuracy bonus, East for recast timer reduction, and West for a bonus to magic critical rate.
Luopan, which in the art of feng shui are compass boards used to detect the direction and flow of spiritual energy, are something the player can place to create an area of effect in a location of their choice. Theoretically, the Geomancer can center a Refresh Luopan AoE where the backline mages stand, or place a Regain Luopan on top of the heavy hitters. Luopan with enfeebling effects can also be placed strategically around the enemy.
However, the Luopan will have HP and can be destroyed by enemy attacks, so its positioning will be critical to its effectiveness.
On day two, Square Enix hit us with the second new job: Rune Fencer. This job is meant to be the third main tank in the game after Paladin and Ninja. The Rune Fencer utilizes a variety of runes to execute magic and special abilities. While the Paladin is primarily a physical tank, the Rune Fencer is designed to tank using magical-based defenses. Elemental Runes can be used to increase elemental resistance and add elemental damage to regular attacks, similar to En-spells. Enchantment Runes are divided into attack-based and defense-based runes. Attack-based runes add big elemental damage and increase your offensive capability, while defense-based runes help your defensive capability.
From what the developers described, Rune Fencer will be a tactical job with a variety of tools to meet various tanking situations. Elemental Runes are there to counter the different types of magic and elemental damage monsters will throw at you while allowing the player to strike back with the appropriate element in return. Enchantment Runes then let the player balance between big damage to control hate or strong defense to stay alive. In addition, Rune Fencer will be able to make other tradeoffs in battle, such as sacrificing spell duration to increase potency. Since this job was announced after the interview, there are many questions left to ask.
A key design philosophy behind Adoulin is meeting the varied playstyles of all adventurers in Vana'diel. To that end, the developers have created a new instanced dungeon system, which can be customized for your party. The dungeon is created by assembling parts of a statue--head, body and feet. Each section controls a different aspect of the dungeon, such as dugeon size, drops and monster difficulty. Rewards are also tied to how the dungeon is set up; for example, making the monsters more difficult will also increase the chances of getting better items. However, developers assure us that everyone should come out with something if they participate. Another feature is there will be achievements along the way that will grant bonuses while in the dungeon, like performing certain skillchains or getting to chain 5. Again, this aspect of the expansion was not covered in the interview, so much will surely change before it is finalized for the expansion.
Personal Island Farms
In the eastern side of the Far West, there are a number of little islands. These will be used to host personal farms upon which players can raise livestock and farm crops. Much like the Mog House system, each player will get their individual space to use and customize to their liking. There are currently few details regarding the farming system itself or any indication if players can visit each others' farms.
Monster Playing has the potential to add a whole new dimension of gameplay to Final Fantasy XI. This new system will allow player characters to physically transform into monsters and level up as a creature of Vana'diel. Some areas will be off-limits for stomping around as a baddie for practical reasons such as the physical size of some monster.
Also, those players holding out for a true PVP system have a new way to vent their aggression. A player can fight a transformed monster-player, or both players can trasnform and battle each other as monsters. However, it won't be total chaos, as developers expect to have a system in place that requires mutual consent to fight and may even limit it to certain areas.
The Monster Playing system works like so: players start out as a basic version of the monster, and as they level up, they earn new ranks, like NM and HNM. This allows them to evolve into more powerful versions of their monster type. As a monster, players can attach abilities in the form of "knowledge," using a point system similar to Blue Mage and Blue Magic. The developers hope players will enjoy evolving and combining abilities to form their very own unique notorious monsters.
- New 2-hour abilities are in the works. So far, developers revealed that the Warrior 2-hour will make all attacks non-elemental (like Formless Strikes), and the Monk 2-hour will allow them to counter 100% of regular incoming attacks.
- The enfeebling system will be rehauled, and the developers promised to post details about that later in the official forums
- Ranged attack delay will be cut in half
- Protect will made 1.5x stronger, and Protectra V may be made 3-4x stronger
- The developers made a point to say there are no scheduled changes yet for Dark Knights, but that they won't be forgotten
- Monk gets a new belt, but the Black Belt will be required to attain it
- Summoners are being tested for a fix for when Blood Pacts get canceled if the target moves out of range
- Dragoon may receive another merit ability in their category 1 merits to reduce the Call Wyvern timer
- Realizing that Mog House storage is tight for many players, the developers are considering adding another rental house like the one in Aht Urghan
- New UI: The new user interface will have drag-and-drop menus that can be placed anywhere on the screen. Players will also be able to select the color scheme. The new interface should be ready before the release of Adoulin.
I have incorporated the interview content into the article above where appropriate, but you can read the full content of the interview on Page 2.