December brought change for Final Fantasy XIV that no one saw coming. Hiromichi Tanaka, the game’s Producer stepped down, taking full responsibility for the poor condition of the game. The development team was reshuffled and former Director Nobuaki Komoto shifted to Lead Game Designer. We were then introduced to Naoki Yoshida, someone who no one had really heard of before. Now known to players as “Yoshi-P”, he took on the role of Producer/Director for Final Fantasy XIV.
Since then, he’s written numerous letters on the Lodestone which outline the changes the team is working on as well as a few personal touches here and there. He’s already had several interviews with Japanese media outlets such as Famitsu and 4Gamer. He has just recently completed a visit to Square Enix’s headquarters in London to talk with a few European fan sites. Now, it’s our turn.
Please note that the questions, and more importantly the answers, are not direct quotes from Square Enix. There is a translation process and the answers are always somewhat disjointed for that reason. So with that disclaimer, on to the questions…
Q. Eorzea feels very, very safe right now. You have mentioned that you want to change this. You have also mentioned changes to mob distribution and safe travel routes. What else can you tell us about your plans to make Eorzea feel like a world filled with adventure and danger?
A. According to Yoshida-san, there are two primary things being implemented soon (patch 1.16 and 1.17) that will address this. The first is simply an increased number of mobs roaming Eorzea. This alone, says Yoshida-san, should make Eorzea feel, and actually be, more dangerous. The second aspect being implemented that will enhance feelings of adventure and danger are the side-quests. While these quests are not part of the main storyline, they will be foreshadowing the dangers and threats that will soon be present in Eorzea.
Q. You previously stated that: “significant changes to the battle system are necessary to create a style of combat that lends itself to the enjoyment of quests and miniquests.” What did you mean by that? What changes to the battle system are we in store for?
A. The current system, which contemplates fifteen-person parties, is very difficult to balance, especially with the current class system. The first fundamental change for Yoshida-san is to reduce this target party size to 8, although he also wants to allow parties as small as 4 to be fully functional.
Yoshida-san admits that currently the role of each class is very vague, and that one of the major initiatives is to make each class unique. According to Yoshida-san, each class should have an identity of its own – including a specific and defined role in the party. The changes related to this initiative will lead to tactics in a battle setting – which Yoshida-san made clear was one of his ultimate goals.
Related, but as an aside, Sundi added that the current trend in the MMO genre is for smaller parties, but also smaller linkshells/guilds. In other words, a move away from the 200+ person linkshells/guilds, and a move towards smaller, 10 person linkshells/guilds. FFXIV intends to follow, and support, this trend.
Q. Following up on the smaller 4-person parties, Letter From the Producer III mentioned the addition of a “buffing system.” What can you tell us about this idea?
A. Yoshida-san admitted that the details on this one are still being worked out, but the idea is that if you have a 4 -person party, you won’t need a buffer in the party to complete the quest or have a sucessful party. So whereas a “standard” 8-person party would have two tanks, two damage dealers, a healer and two buffer/optional slots, the 4-person party could get by without the buffer role, and supplement that role with a system of some sort.
Q. You have mentioned increasing the “uniqueness” of each class a lot, both here and in your letters – what else can you tell us about how you plan on achieving this goal? For example, Letter From the Producer III suggested changes to the armor system. What can you tell us about what is planned?
A. Yoshida-san expressed a very strong desire to make the classes unique. But more than uniqueness, the identity of classes and pride in ones chosen class, is very important. Class gear and minimum rank gear will assist with this feeling and will be added gradually alongside the current gear system. But Yoshida-san was clear that this class gear must be unique and must strongly reflect the identify of that class. He wants the gear to really represents the class.
Yoshida-san indicated that he will continue to show the community the sketches, and maybe even 3-D renderings, as they are developed. He also indicated that the class gear will be added to the game on a rolling basis. He does not want to delay adding finished gear simply because other gear is not complete.
Q. You have also mentioned the possible introduction of traditional names. How do you see these new names fitting into the existing class system? Do you plan on using the new names as a guide to develop class uniqueness?
A. Yoshida-san is between two possible plans at this time. The first idea is that the traditional names would be introduced as “higher” or “advanced” classes. The traditional classes would thus be something of a goal for players. The second idea is that the traditional names would be more of a subset or specialization within the existing classes.
Whatever change is put into effect needs to be right. He recognizes that he will not be able to change the system again after this, so whatever is put into place needs to work, and be able to be balanced, for years to come. Because of this his team is giving this issue a lot of thought prior to implementation.
A. No. Any class that uses MP will receive this benefit – even classes that use MP only for weapon skills will benefit.
Q. The third Producer’s Letter also mentioned the addition of “public company quests.” What can you tell us about this feature?
A. Yoshida-san was not ready to reveal details on this system yet, except to say that public companies will be one of the most important aspects of the game and will play a critical role regarding the threats to Eorzea. He indicated that more information will be announced at the end of March.
Q. At the Ebisu event back in September we saw what looked like group crafting – where a group appeared to jointly craft a cake. What can you tell us about that?
A. Yoshida-san indicated that he wants to keep developing this system, but its priority is still to be decided. He went on to joke that he needs to address how the cake would be used before addressing how the cake was made.
Q. To that end, are there any plans on changing how food is consumed? Right now the effects are unknown and the community is confused as to how to use food.
A. Yoshida-san is aware of the problem and wants to address it, but admitted that the priority right now is the battle system. He indicated that he needs to proceed in this order because, for example, if they were to address food effects to make it so that food was being consumed for every battle right now, once the battle system changes, it might end up not being necessary or helpful. Yoshida-san feels the need to adjust the battle system first since it is the cornerstone of the game. He can then can address how food, for example, will play a part in the battle.
Q. There has been a lot of discussion about high level content, and some discussion of mid-level content as well (rank 25+). Will anything be added to lower levels to increase the playability at these levels?
A. Yoshida-san recognizes that low-level content is very important, but admitted that the current priority is high to mid-level content. He believes that not only is the high level content the most lacking, but its absence also means that there is nothing for low and mid-level players to look forward to. Immediately after addressing the high-level content, however, he will address low level content.
Yoshida-san went on to reveal his vision for low level content – which is mainly through quests. More specifically, for ranks 9-15 he envisions quests that will direct players to go to a specific dungeon (one per city-state). In these dungeons the players will congregate, form parties – and, most importantly, create memories. According to Yoshida-san, it is very important for players to have these memories of playing the early levels.
Q. You just indicated that the official forums will launch on March 8. How do you see Square Enix using the new official forums? Who can the community expect to see posting?
A. Yoshida-san expects he will participate on the forums, along with a wide variety of Square Enix representatives. There will be moderators, community representatives, and trackers to show official posts. The forum will have sections for each language, but will not otherwise be anything ground breaking, and will basically put into place what other MMOs elsewhere have done. Yoshida-san acknowledged that the development team will probably be posting in Japanese and will therefore need to be translated by other Square Enix representatives. He did confirm that developers may post in normal topics, but that announcement type posts will be locked to replies. Anonymous users will be able to view the official forums, but only players with active FFXIV accounts will be able to post.
After interviewing Square Enix development teams for years between FFXIV and FFXI, we can honestly say that there was an atmosphere in the room that was noticeably more informal than the past. What quickly became clear was that Yoshida-san “gets it.” It’s hard to put a finger on a specific answer that Yoshida-san gave that led to this feeling – maybe it was all of them to some extent.
We hope you enjoyed the interview!