Tomorrow is the release of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn. There’s been three years since the initial launch of the critically panned title and Square-Enix have worked hard to make up for faith that’s been lost because of the failure of the original FINAL FANTASY XIV.
But there’s more of a story to be told about the development history of FINAL FANTASY XIV than simply “game launched, game was bad, game relaunched”, and that’s what we’ll be diving into here and now. Contradictory statements, original platforms being left behind, fake leaks from fans and broken promises. From Rapture to A Realm Reborn, this is the eight year history of FINAL FANTASY XIV.
The year is 2005, players are eagerly awaiting the release of Square-Enix’s FINAL FANTASY XII set for the next year. At the same time Microsoft is preparing to release the X-Box 360 and Square-Enix is showing off what their then unnamed Crystal Tools engine could do on the system at E3. Known under the project name of Rapture, Square-Enix showed off thirty-eight seconds of what the visuals of the engine looked like when running on DirectX 10. The video in question can be seen below this paragraph.
The fact that FINAL FANTASY XIV was technically announced before FINAL FANTASY XIII was announced might seem weird, but that’s the case here. The footage itself is still very pretty when you look at it today, even to the point where I can honestly say that FINAL FANTASY XIV would not have looked like that had it actually been released on the 360 as the current PS3 release does not look up to par with that tech-demo. That’s not to say the final product isn’t good looking, the PC version of both FINAL FANTASY XIV and A Realm Reborn are gorgeous to look at when the settings are set to high, and I’m sure the upcoming PS4 release will do as well.
More interesting to players of FINAL FANTASY XIV is the fact that the tech demo is clearly showing areas from the game that wouldn’t be seen again until five years later. The video presents both Limsa Lominsa, the starting town for the Marauder and Arcanist classes. You can also see the Adventurers Guild from Ul’dah, the starting town for Thaumaturges, Gladiators and Pugilists.
Moving on to March 2006 where the development team of FINAL FANTASY XI announced that Rapture was in fact a new MMO that was early in development. Rumour starting spreading that Square-Enix was doing a direct sequel to FINAL FANTASY XI like they had done for FINAL FANTASY X a few years prior. Square-Enix denied that the game would be FINAL FANTASY XI-2 and confirmed again that it would be a whole new game.
In April 2006 FINAL FANTASY XI was released on 360, this was the first FINAL FANTASY title on a Microsoft console and despite Rapture originally being shown off on DirectX 10 hardware set to match the 360, all of a sudden Square-Enix issued a statement that Rapture was being developed for PC and PS3 only. Early in 2007 things changed however as Square-Enix changed their statement once more, saying the game was being developed for 360 and PC, with a PS3 version being kept in mind for the future. This was the start of the contradicting statements that would end up being a common thing throughout the development history of FINAL FANTASY XIV.
Things stayed quiet for until a false leak from a supposed Square-Enix employee in April 2007 that claimed Rapture had moved on to become a Dragon Quest MMO. While this ended up being false, though never denied officially, we did finally get a Dragon Quest MMO in 2012 with the release of Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes. No new footage or updates on Rapture had surfaced from Square-Enix for two years now.
November 2007 comes around and Square-Enix finally decides to answer a question about the status of the game at the FINAL FANTASY XI Fan Festival. The response was the following:
“As you might already know, members from the current FFXI team are working on a next generation MMO, but it still hasn’t been decided whether that’s going to be a game in the FF series, a continuation, or a totally new game. We are working on it, but it hasn’t been decided that far yet.”
–Hiromichi Tanaka, November 28th 2007
At this point anyone trying to follow what Rapture was had every right to be confused. With constant platform changes, the lack of any new footage and the fact that Square-Enix would not say what the game was beyond “a MMO” meant that many began to lose interest. In 2008 Rapture was once again confirmed for PS3 alongside the then confirmed PC and 360. Square-Enix also added that Mac and Linux were potential platforms.
So around comes E3 2009, Sony’s press conference. There’s been four years since Rapture was shown and we still knew nothing of it. The Japanese release of FINAL FANTASY XIII was getting close and after a grand trailer for said game came a little special surprise from the Square-Enix team. A trailer for a brand new FINAL FANTASY sequel, FINAL FANTASY XIV.
Fans quickly put together that this was what Rapture had become and suspicion was drawn to the fact that the trailer only mentioned PS3 and PC. Hiromichi Tanaka revealed during E3 that because of Xbox Live and a “different point of view” between Microsoft and Square-Enix. Mostly because of the fact that FINAL FANTASY XIV was going to use cross-platform servers that Microsoft didn’t like the idea of.
This has been noted as odd since the 360 version of FINAL FANTASY XI mentioned above was playable cross-platform between 360, PC and PS2. The same fate came to SEGA’s Phantasy Star Universe which had its’ own servers on 360 while the PC and PS2 versions had cross-platform play. It’s possible Microsoft changed their policies between April 2006 and October 2006, which would explain why things went this way and why neither FINAL FANTASY XIV nor A Realm Reborn ended up on the 360.
However, in the end it wasn’t just the 360 that ended up left alone. Despite being announced for a PS3 and PC simultaneous release in 2010, the PS3 version of FINAL FANTASY XIV never actually released. Initially delayed to spring of 2011, after the disappointing sales of the PC version and the high among of backlash from those that did buy the game, the PS3 version of FINAL FANTASY XIV ended up being shelved despite players who bought FINAL FANTASY XIII on PS3 being promised a PS3 beta shortly after the PC release. This promise was later held up by Square-Enix three years later with the Phase 3 beta of A Realm Reborn.
In December 2010 Hiromichi Tanaka, the director and producer of FINAL FANTASY XIV, resigned from Square-Enix entirely. Square-Enix CEO Yoichi Wada issued an official apology and announced that a new development team was being put on FINAL FANTASY XIV to try to fix the game and make it something worthy of what fans wanted. FINAL FANTASY XIV also removed the monthly fees during this development period during which a constant stream of patches added more content and began fixing problems of the game.
But it didn’t work out as initially planned. The damage had already been done and FINAL FANTASY XIV was too much of a mess for them to simply touch up through patches. Yoichi Wada apologized once again in September 2011 with the following famous words:
“The FINAL FANTASY brand has been greatly damaged.”
–Yoichi Wada, September 27th 2011
Then in October 2011 Square-Enix announced that instead of the stream of patches, the game would be rebuilt and relaunched as FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0. No more details were shared until July of last year when the game was announced again as FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn. The entire game rebuilt with new gameplay, a new story and promises to make up for all the faults of the original FINAL FANTASY XIV.
But naturally the development problems have still not ended. During the Open Beta test and the Early Access, A Realm Reborn users have been bombarded with errors, inability to create a character on half of the servers available, log in to the server they have created a character on or sometimes being stuck doing nothing because the in-game Duty Finder completely gave up on everyone. Who knows how long these problems will persist and how much it’s going to affect the launch tomorrow.
After starting out as a X-Box 360 tech-demo, FINAL FANTASY XIV have gone from being a unknown fantasy MMO on PC and 360, to PC and PS3, to all three, to only PC and PS3 again, to only PC and then once more to PC and PS3 with a PS4 version planned. Between the first reveal of Rapture and the release of A Realm Reborn two main-series FINAL FANTASY games have been released and two have been announced. It’s been quite a ride.
Check back soon for our review of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn.