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FFXIV: Made in China?

If you’re a MMORPG player, you owe it to yourself to read Lum the Mad’s blog. Lum has been around the MMO scene forever, prior to going to work for Mythic on DAoC and further MMO adventures. Last week when Final Fantasy XIV launched for the Collector’s Edition, he uncovered startling signs that the game was actually outsourced to a Chinese developer.

Japanese players of Final Fantasy XIV soon noticed that their own version of the game dispensed completely with the “English” names in favour of names using Chinese characters exclusively.

Most noticeably, “Chocobo” (チョコボ – chokobo) was renamed to “馬鳥,” a meaningless word combining the character for “horse” with that for “bird.”

Chocobos thus became “horsebirds,” a phrase as ridiculous to Japanese ears as to western ones.

Curiously, some users also noticed that “index finger” was written in Chinese (食指) rather than Japanese (人差し指) – a very odd oversight indeed, unless it somehow transpired that the game was actually developed in China.

A commenter on our FFXIV review, Hiro, pointed out that the game went down for emergency maintenance yesterday to re-translate a huge list of item names from Chinese into Japanese. Here’s a screen capture of the list. So it is pretty obvious that Square-Enix outsourced development of Final Fantasy XIV to a Chinese developer and it actually wasn’t developed by the people who made Final Fantasy XI such a popular MMORPG. Maybe that’s why it sucks?

  • Abriael
    September 30, 2010


    Looks like you’re continuing your sankaku-complex-like misinformation campaign.

    Sorry to burst an enormous bubble, but the maintenance wasn’t to retranslate the names from “chinese to japanese”, but it was to convert the names from KANJI to KATAKANA.

    Mind you, Kanji ARE chinese characters, but they have been adopted into the Japanese language more or less a millennia ago, and are the MAIN writing system used in Japan. Katakana, instead, is the system used to transliterate foreigner (mainly english) words.

    So yeah, sorry to have to point out how badly informed this article is, but the maintenance was simply to change the writing method used on such names to one more familiar to Final Fantasy fans. From Japanese to Japanese.

    • Jeremy Conrad
      September 30, 2010


      That is not Kanji. While Kanji uses characters that look the same in Chinese and Japanese, they have completely different meanings.

      • Abriael
        September 30, 2010


        Yes, they have completely different meanings, and those kanji have correct meanings in Japanese. So basically you’re saying” they used chinese characters because I want to read them as chinese! Otherwise i’d have nothing to write about!” lol.

        2chan and sankaku complex do not a valid source make. Your “damning proof” is nothing more than a spoof from a goon forum reiterated by a otaku/porn website.

        If china could really produce games with production values (graphics, music, animation and so forth) as high as FFXIV, then we’re in trouble, because they’re gonna dominate the gaming market in two years.

  • Hiro
    September 30, 2010


    Please do not comment about the difference between Chinese characters and Japanese Kanji characters if you don’t understand it at all.

    Also, China and Korean productions can produce high quality product “if” governed properly by professionals from other world. (I believe Koreans can quality check that themselves, to a point.)

    Did you know that “My Neighbor Totoro” was mostly outsourced to Chinese animation production? Miyazaki did a lot of quality check so it didn’t come out publicly.
    Square Enix did a poor job covering their traces, so… this is the result.

    • Abriael
      September 30, 2010


      Oh I understad it very well. Thank you. Mind you, aside from working as a gaming journalist, I worked for an anime production company for quite a few years. So I’m very familiar with outsourcing, localization problems and all that.

      You must not be very familiar with the difference between anime and gaming production. So I will explain for your sake.

      Animating anime/cartoons involves drawing keyframes (that are normally designed by a main studio, or by the actual artists between the studio) and then drawing a varying number of filler frames with just slight variations, that’s often outsourced, or mandated to low-salary unspecialized (often chinese, koreans, singaporeans and so forth) workers in the the studio itself.

      That’s a very low quality, low-tech process, that doesn’t need any kind of costly/hard to use equipment, nor specialized manpower. Any random guy able to trace can do that.

      On the other hand, videogame animation, especially videogame animation of the level/type FFXIV includes, is done with motion capture, which requires tech and specialized manpower/actors.

      To do mocap as fluid/good/complex as that in FFXIV (the animations are very complex, and often involves so many parts of the body moving at once that a cheap mocap equipment can’t achieve that level), you need a quite solid mocap equipment, and very specialized manpower.

      Square Enix used their internal mocap studio based on 44 Vicon cameras (you see it in one of teh Making of a Realm videos on youtube), and it’s by no mean a cheap setup, nor easy to use and master. On top of it, the raw mocap animations require to be tweaked by hand by specialized animation artists in order to look as good on screen as they do. That’s a completely different professional level from the tracing guy that does anime animation.

      If you look at chinese MMORPGs (all of them), you’ll notice that they’re extremely different in the fluidity and complexity of their animations, because they’re done with cheap animation programs like poser or with cheap mocap setups with very few cameras, unable to track complex movement as well as a bigger/more costly/more complex mocap setup.

      • Hiro
        September 30, 2010


        It is clear that you are not a good journalist then, you don’t even read other people’s articles or comments or probably any text at all.

        Have any of the FF14’s negative reviewers’ article stated that FF14’s graphic and
        musical presentation was made in China?

        This seems to be your only defence left there. ;)

        • Abriael
          September 30, 2010


          You’re the one that talked about animation. And if you do graphics, animation and music in in Japan, what’s there left to be done in china? Pure code?
          That’s an enormous overcomplication of the process that would undoubtly cost square enix more money than it would save, given that interfacing two studios has a quite hefty cost, especially on something as delicate as coding. Every process would need doublechecking, and every time there’s a change to be made it would require an extremely cumbersome process that, I can tell you, would flatten any saving completely. Either you completely outsource a game, or you completely make it in house (which doesn’t say that there could not be any chinese employees at SE, or koreans, or so forth, manpower from those nationalities is very widespread in Japan).
          Outsourcing doesn’t just have advantages, it also has it’s costs. The more complex the project, the higher the costs, and a MMORPG is probably the most complex kind of game there is.

          Also, the FFXIV client has been datamined almost entirely. If coding was made in China as you say, you can bet your rear that it would have been exposed by the datamined files in 5 seconds flat.

          A “good journalist” plays a MMORPG at the very least halfway to cap before writing a review. That’s how you give your readers something solid to read about, instead of a “review” based on wrong information, very limited experience, hearsay and wishful thinking.
          At the very least I will do just that, as most of the ones that actually share some kind of journalistic integrity.

          You lack any kind of actual proof to base your allegations on. I’m sorry, but a wider than usual use of kanji, does not a made in china game make. Especially when every single element other than that points in the opposite direction.

          So, in the end, this is nothing else than a wild rumor thrown in the middle of the radio noise. A “good journalist” doesn’t report those, especially not as they were solidly proven fact.

        • Abriael
          September 30, 2010


          just to add a final note. Even hypotesizing that a small part of development was indeed outsourced to a chinese studio (again, very, very unlikely, but let’s admit the possibility for the sake of argument), how does that make a “Made in China” game?

          My Armani suit’s buttons are made in china, as is part of the internal padding. The rest of the materials, the design, and the assembling is made in Italy. Is my suit made in china?

          Not really. It’s still Made in Italy, and mind you it’s a damn fine suit that lasted me 3 years so far, withoout a single problem :D

          So, basically, even in that case, this “article” is an entirely off target one, with a misleading headline to hunt for hits, misinforming in the process.

          • Hiro
            September 30, 2010


            If the quality check process was doing its job, it would have been all ok.
            For FF14, the Square top officials didn’t even know how to manage outsourcing, and that turned out to be disaster, at least at the launch.

            If FF14 becomes better from now, fine, they will surely add more quests and story part, more graphics to come. But without the system improvement, the overall experience would remain the same.

            If your china built buttons on your armani was placed wrong because of poor quality control, painting it red won’t fix its underlying problem.

            So it is worth to point out if or not the product is made in china, it fit the missing piece in the puzzle. (the puzzle of why it sucks so bad);P

          • Abriael
            September 30, 2010


            If someone placed the buttons wrong on my suit, they can simply be removed and replaced in the right position.
            Also, whenever there are outsourced parts in a product that’s partly made internally, the parts are assembled in house.

            Simply, you are turning your assumption and speculation based over no facts into facts, and i’m sorry, but that’s nothing more than libel.

            Mind you, this whole article can be easily labeled as libel, as it takes unproven accusations and feeds them to the reader as “obvious” fact.
            There’s nothing obvious about that, the only thing that’s obvious is bad journalism and libelous reporting, that can be acceptable on 2chan, but when someone labels himself as “media” he should avoid.

          • Hiro
            September 30, 2010


            I was misguided by your misuse of the term, product review is not journalism, it is product review and your accusation of it not being 100% objective journalism is off the mark.

            That said, the article is not stating it as fact but only as an assumption, “maybe”.

            Anyway, let this be my last reply to you because I see no point in arguing you any more.
            FF14 is China made Chinese quality game, your belief of it being produced in Japan is not based on fact either, yet you know it is Made in Japan (or rather you believe it is).
            I believe differently than you do because I know more about this product than you as a Japanese.
            There is no need for us to argue like this at this point, its China Quality will be made crystal clear to you within the first week of game play, guranteed.
            If isn’t simple “Oh i misplaced the button.”, its much bigger than that.
            Also they cannot even replace that button. From 馬鳥 to Chocopo馬留(chinese word to mean bus-stop) to Chocobo留(not even chinese nor japanese).

            Their quality will be made clear and will be in your face in the nest 1-2 months when they start their “paid” services. ;)

            By the way, be logical, stop seeing just random list of facts, try to connect them… jeez Ive wasted my time here.

          • Abriael
            September 30, 2010


            LOL. Sorry mate, but a product review is nothing else than a branch of journalism. It requires objective factual knowledge as much as speculation. And in a product review made of a passing impression, the actual facts are lacking. You notice it from the many wrong information included in Jeremy’s review. He didn’t spend nearly enough time with the game, and it shows, direly.

            You continue to talk about “china quality” but you deny to respond on what you mean with it. You don’t say if you played any chinese MMORPG, and you probably didn’t, since you obviously don’t know how they are.

            Again. Chinese quality mmorpgs are ALL (from the first to the last) clones of wow with very low production values (graphics, animation, sound and so forth). There’s no exception.

            FFXIV isn’t like that. FFXIV actually screams “JAPANESE GAME!!!” from every little area of the game. The menus are identical to FFXI and to those of MMORPGs, the combat is very similar as welll, same as progression and crafting.
            It simply has NOTHING To do with the systems included in chinese MMORPGs.

            And mind you, if FFXIV really was China quality, you can bet your rear that a lot of people screaming because it isn’t a wow clone, would be much happier, because it would be exactly that, a wow clone. That’s how “china quality” MMORPGs are.

            And mind you, I played alpha, beta, open beta, and now a week in release. I have seen plenty to know it has nothing to do with “china quality”. It’s quality is quite clear to me.
            It’s the MMORPG with the best production values in the market, with systems that resemble JRPGs (again, most decidedly made in Japan) a tad too much, and that need refining, like the systems of all MMORPGs at launch.

            I’m very logical. And logic dictates that overanalyzing (IE: connecting things that aren’t connected) brings to faulty conclusions. That’s exactly what you’re doing, blinded by some irrational hate for SE and China.

            Your equation is: I dislike this game + I dislike china = the game is made in china. That’s not nearly factual.

            Fact is that to anyone that as a wide knowledge of MMORPGs, meaning having played every major (and many minor) mmorpgs since UOL, including western, chinese, korean, malaysian and japanese, FFXIV looks NOTHING like a chinese MMORPG the heritage FFXIV comes from is very clear.

            -Chinese MMORPGs look like WoW (with chinese culture added).
            -FFXIV looks Japanese in every single element, from gameplay to menus and UIs. It’s the derivative product of a long tradition of console JRPGs, and has nothing to do with china.

          • Abriael
            September 30, 2010


            lil error in the above post “The menus are identical to FFXI and to those of MMORPGs” was meant to be “The menus are almost identical to FFXI and to those of JRPGs”

          • rofl
            October 7, 2010


            Would you nerds stop arguing and go get a date for once?

  • Hiro
    September 30, 2010


    I talked about Totoro outsourced to China, I am familiar with 2D animation (not a detailed process tho), and as a 3D hobby artist, I know how animation works, including mocap systems, Square Enix did anounce their own animator team and have announced that they use their special software to “robotically” produce 5 types of animation variations from each specially tweaked animation.

    “And if you do graphics, animation and music in in Japan, what’s there left to be done in china? Pure code?
    That’s an enormous overcomplication of the process that would undoubtly cost square enix more money than it would save,”

    This part is not proven. A good journalist won’t report anything but truth, according to your own word. I have to disagree with this tho.

    “but a wider than usual use of kanji, does not a made in china game make. Especially when every single element other than that points in the opposite direction.”
    This sentence is also fake.

    This proves that you haven’t really played it, actually every other elements than the graphic and music itself are pointing towards CHINA QUALITY.
    Including those weird Chinese characters ALL OVER the game, not just item names, but in UI, text, everywhere.
    It is often the case that Chinese people cannot recognize the difference between Po and Bo, or any of those clear pop sound and dirty bob sound.
    Chokopo, or Chocobo lol, you see.
    If you played it and still think its not chinese quality, hmm, thats one way to feel it.
    I wouldn’t deny that some people feel differently.

    So in the end, yours is nothing else than a wild guess and the matter of FEEL.
    A good journalist doesn’t report those, especially not as they were objectively viewed.

    However, I disagree with your logic, journalist, especially product reviews often include personal and subjective reception. The good reviewer would represent how a majority would subjectively feel, they evaluate what the product would have on a reader on both objective and subjective view.
    Without subjective evaluation like “the reason 1, 2 ,3 in UI system problem gives me these frustration, so the UI point would be 1/10″, you cannot review anything.
    A good journalist, while being objective and logical at the same time, have to assume how the general public would subjectively receive the scene or products and give how he would feel, how the reader would feel the same.

    • Abriael
      September 30, 2010


      Actually anyone that has experience with outsourcing complex projects, knows that doing so with only part of the project, expecially to a company that’s physically far away, is a costly, cumbersome and overcomplicated process.
      When you outsource just part of a project you normally outsource it to a company that has highly specialized skills that your company doesn’t have, in order to raise quality.
      You don’t do that to lower quality companies to save money, simply because the cumbersome and costly procedures this implies offset the savings.

      the only products that can be done like that, are products that have completely independent areas, like for instance clothing (like my MADE IN ITALY armany suit), from which you can simply outsource some pieces, and then seamlessly assemble them with what you produced in house.

      Videogames aren’t that simple. Every single part of a videogame interacts deeply with the rest, so outsourcing some parts wouldn’t have the same advantage of being able to seamlessly assemble everything in the end, bringing to actually identical or higher costs, not to mention the added cost due to having to correct errors and processes over which you have no direct control.

      You continue to scream “MADE IN CHINA QUALITY!” as a nice overdramatic cathphrase. But do you have any idea of what’s “made in china quality” applied to videogames? Have you ever played a chinese-made MMORPG? If yes, which ones?
      Which areas of those games would indicate “made in china quality?”

      The use of a method of writing over another isn’t an indication of quality. So which systems in the game are of “made in china quality”?
      Because you know. There’s absolutely NO system in Final Fantasy XIV that has any equivalent or similar in chinese games.
      Chinese MMORPGs are, in their systems, much more similar to Western games (WoW for instance), than to FFXIV.

      So basically, besides a linguistic choice that has nothing to do with quality, you have absolutely nothing to back your “MADE IN CHINA QUALITY!” claim. Videogames aren’t shoes, you know?

      And again, you didn’t respond to my question (probably because it trumps your whole argument). Do you consider my designed in italy, assembled in italy, with mostly italian materials, but with made in china buttons and padding, made in china? Because if you do, I’m afraid that you lack contact with reality.
      Even if some limited parts of FFXIV were outsourced (and again, it’s very, very unlikely, and completely unproven), that wouldn’t still make it a “MADE IN CHINA!!!” game. It would still be a game designed in Japan, assembled in Japan, with most parts made in Japan -> Made in Japan, just as much as my suit is, by fact and by legislation, made in Italy. Thus completely voiding this tabloid-like article.

      I don’t really need to prove anything. You’re the one throwing in wild accusations and rumors, so the burden of proof lies on you. You have nothing more than speculation on a VERY limited area of the game (script) that’s written using Kanji when people are used to see Katakana.
      No chinese language has been found in any of the datamined files of the game, on the other hand.

      It’s not even a matter of FEEL. If you try and play ANY real “MADE IN CHINA!” MMORPG, you’ll notice that they’re completely different from FFXIV, both in quality and mechanics.

      If there’s something FFXIV resembles VERY closely, is only FFXI, which definitely wasn’t made in china. Also, some console JRPGs in their menu structure, and china decidedly doesn’t make JRPGs.
      Chinese MMORPGs are ALL wow clones, from the first to the last, with more grinding added, but none of them strays from the wow role model. That’s what “chinese quality” applied to MMORPGs is. A clone of wow.
      FFXIV isn’t even on the same planet as that, and if you deny that, you didn’t play both FFXIV and any chinese MMORPG.

      Incidentally, FFXIV is quite a few steps ahead of what FFXI was at launch. IF you’re really Japanese, you might have noticed that when it launched FFXI was much, much worse and barebones than what FFXIV is. FFXI went a looooong way since then. And FFXIV will as well.

      I don’t see where i wrote that a journalist shouldn’t add his personal speculation to a review. But personal speculation needs to be IN ADDITION to fact.
      As you say, a good journalist need to be objective and logical.
      Objectivity and logic are reached through experiencing and elaborating facts. to experience and elaborate enough facts about a MMORPG in order to give a good review, quite a lot of gameplay is necessary, and the experiencing of levels beyond the first few.
      It’s quite obvious that no one reached that level of experience yet. The highest level players in the game are in their 20s (and to get there, they didn’t even really experience the armoury system decently, as they had to grind a single class most of the time). Most other players are in their lower tens or even under. That’s why too low to even get near to know a MMORPG anywhere decently enough to give anything more than a passing impression.
      A review requires more than a passing impression on the first few levels. That’s all there is to it.

      • LeePatekar
        October 1, 2010


        I see you’ve retreated here Abriael. I’d just love to quote this little gem: “Actually anyone that has experience with outsourcing complex projects, knows that doing so with only part of the project, expecially to a company that’s physically far away, is a costly, cumbersome and overcomplicated process.”

        I’ve done this most of my professional life. You see it often in database driven software, Indians write the code on a test DB but the main integration is done in the states with the confidential information. Sure there are integration problems, thats the way it is.

        Same principal applies to game design, you can have the art done in one firm and the actual programming done elsewhere. With proper management in China your product will be solid.

        Still don’t believe? Ask yourself why there are Google offices in Shanghai, China. They sure aren’t running the google website hehe. Why are there so many microsoft offices in India? You think its tech support?

        Outsourcing is just that, part of your project (or product) is done somewhere else. And if your not careful, the quality of your service suffers.

        XIV is most definitely suffering.

  • daimond
    October 1, 2010


    well a foolish believer, that are common in this day people tried max the profit and push the cost as far as possible the ffxiv like this (have bad comment cause that) in japanese people they mistake are greater because they would able compare the past product and right now product have a great huge different for you may not be seen.

    as the kanji use in china and japanese maybe similiar but have different meaning like the word “fate” and “destiny” maybe have same meaning but have different words. like “air” in english meaning like gas in the space but in indonesia “air” mean “water”.

  • paul
    January 5, 2011


    japanese mmorp gamers are apparently referring to this game as “chinal fantasy 14.” funny stuff.

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