The director of Final Fantasy XIV has said he’d love to channel the chaos and freedom of nineties MMO godparent Ultima Online into his own game – but it couldn’t be FF14 itself, as the unbridled chaos would ‘break’ its players.
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“Each MMO has its own kind of focus of appeal – and if we were just to implement that in XIV, as is, it wouldn’t really work,” Naoki Yoshida said when asked which MMOs he looked to for inspiration at this year’s Final Fantasy Fan Festival in London. “We need to arrange it – we need to tune it to 14 – and that’s something that we are doing.”
While Yoshida didn’t namedrop any multiplayer games he felt Final Fantasy 14 could learn from, he did point out one MMO that just wouldn’t work at all in the game: Ultima Online, the enormously influential PC classic created by genre godfather Richard ‘Lord British’ Garriott that is often regarded as one of the first true MMORPGs.
“If I was to answer about something that I think wouldn’t work out if implemented in 14, I look back on the early days of Ultima Online,” Yoshida recalled. “That was something [that] when I played, it kind of really shocked me. Back in the early stages of Ultima Online, there was a sense of chaos but also a sense of freedom.”
That chaos included allowing players to commit crimes and even assassinate each other – with Garriott’s own Lord British infamously fried by a Fire Field spell during the game’s pre-launch beta test. Murder, stealing and becoming an accessory to a crime – by healing a wanted crim, for example – will all see a player’s character marked as a criminal who can be openly attacked by any players without penalty.
“I would like to create something maybe close to that sense,” Yoshida said of Ultima Online. That would need to be a new game, though, as the developer accepted: “But if I implemented it in XIV, I think it would probably break the community.”
Breaking an existing community is one thing, but Yoshida was also unsure of the appeal of an MMO where complete chaos reigns – despite the popularity of lawless survival games like Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved. (And the fact that Ultima Online is still going, almost 30 years later.)
“I think if you create that kind of MMO now, it probably wouldn’t sell,” Yoshida suggested.