4Gamer Interview- June 2011

4Gamer recently got the chance to sit down with Naoki Yoshida, Akihiko Matsui and Mitsutoshi Gondai to talk about the changes that have been made to Final Fantasy XIV and the kinds of reactions they’ve gotten from the community on the official forums. They also talk about some of the changes coming to the battle system with patch 1.18 as well as the upcoming Job System.

Check out the full interview after the break!

The following translation is by no means official and as such, may not fully convey the intended meanings of those involved.

4Gamer: Thanks for meeting with us today.  It’s been nearly half a year since our last interview and since then, there have been numerous updates made to Final Fantasy XIV.  I’d like to ask you about the changes made in the past six months and what your plans are for the future as well.

Yoshida: Alright.

4Gamer: For starters, let’s talk about changes made to the user interface.  Now that improvements have been made, I personally think it’s a lot easier to play the game.  What kind of feedback from you gotten from the player base?

Yoshida: Hmmm, well, “user interface” covers a lot of things…. I suppose the feedback we’ve gotten about how monster levels are displayed and the icon that shows if a monster is aggressive or not are the most intriguing to me.

4Gamer: Thanks to the icons, it’s a lot easier to tell not just what the enemy’s level is, but if they are aggressive or not.  However, I’m sure that you’ve been told that having those things makes the game too easy.

Yoshida: We got a lot of feedback like that at first.  However, after things settled down, more and more people were telling us they liked it.  For me, it really hit home the idea that the type of information players want depends on their generation.

4Gamer: What do you mean?

Yoshida: I’m very much an old school type gamer so when I look at the people who are playing games now, particularly the younger generation, it seems to me that there are a lot of people who want to play in an environment that feels safe where they have a lot of organized information available to them.  That’s really a key point in all of this.  The feedback we get on the forums is from a mix of veteran and new gamers.  You can see it in the discussions about the icons too.  I really find it fascinating.

4Gamer: I see.  One side may see it as making the game too easy but there are more who feel safe while playing because of it.

Yoshida: I think so.  Down the line we’ll be releasing a PS3 version of FFXIV and that means a new generation of players including some who have never touched an MMORPG before.  We’ve been working on UI improvements for the last six months but when the PS3 version is released, there are going to be a lot of things that are needed for those players as a matter of course.  So even if there are current players who might object to it, I’ve always felt that we need to release whatever information we can.  We want players to understand that we’ll continue to add new things, and given that, we’d like for them to make their own decisions on how to play the game, develop battle strategies, etc.

Matsui: There really are a lot of things we’ll be adding.

4Gamer: There are a bunch of tables within the Letters from the Producer posts on the official site and I’m intrigued that that kind of stuff is included too.

Yoshida: For the UI, I think we really need to make it so you can customize your targets.

4Gamer: Can you go into more detail about that?

Yoshida: Before, the targeting system was based on a circle, however, I thought you should be able to customize it.  For example, you could set it to not target anything but enemy targets.  However, there are issues with the cost involved to do that that we’d need to consider, the fact that you can’t do it without holding up server improvements, etc, so you have to take things one step at a time.   I feel like we’ve only just reached the lowest acceptable state of the game.

Gondai: Right after service for the game started, we got a lot of feedback saying the response time was terrible, people couldn’t get information when they wanted it, or it wasn’t displayed.  We’ve gotten to a place where a lot of those issues have been improved upon so now we are getting more feedback about targeting, controls, and the battle system.

4Gamer: How are you improving the control system?

Snakebyte FFXIV Controller ReviewGondai: The biggest improvements have been made to the keyboard and mouse controls.  Since FFXIV has always been planned as a PC/PS3 title, we needed to make it so that you could play with a controller if you wanted.  However, it ended up where the design favored a controller setup.  If you wanted to target an enemy, you had to hit the confirm button twice but that turned into having to click twice with a mouse too.  It’s just odd when you think about it.

4Gamer: It definitely wasn’t popular with people who wanted to play using a mouse.  It got to the point where some people just gave up and switched to a controller.

Gondai: We’re honestly sorry about that which is why those control issues have been given priority and are being worked on by Minagawa Hiroshi.  The battle system is also being worked on which means we’ve been asking him to make the appropriate changes to the UI as well.

(Minagawa Hiroshi is the lead UI artist as well as the lead web content artist.)

4Gamer: For a PC game, it’s really important to have separate designs for controller-based and keyboard/mouse-based controls.  Look at FFXI.  The PS2 version came out before the PC version, right?  FFXIV is working out to be the opposite so it made the control issues stand out all the more.  You wonder why a PC game would ever have controls like that.

Yoshida: Yeah, it’s the next big issue we have to face and something we are already working on.

4Gamer: Another big change that has been made is the number of people you have in a party.

Yoshida: You’re talking about 8 people for a full party and 4 people for a light party, right?

4Gamer: I think it’s really changed party battle dynamics.  Can you talk about some of the reactions from the players?

Matsui: The most directly related feedback has been about Behest.  The biggest party you could have for Behest became 8 people and for players in far larger linkshells, it meant that they couldn’t play together anymore.  I feel bad about that.  However, it did make it easier to balance the game in a lot of other areas and we didn’t have to make battles that would be unfair.  There is a lot of good that came out of the change.

4Gamer: You’d have to try balancing so many things when it comes to 15 player parties.

Matsui: Exactly.  I wonder if it’s really possible to balance a game that is challenging enough for a party of 15 but still playable for a party of 2 or 3.

Yoshida: The short answer is you can’t.  There isn’t a limit on your class in the Amoury system and yet it has to be playable for any number of people from 1 to 15?  From the perspective of somebody trying to balance all that, you just put your hands in the air and say you are done for.

4Gamer: So why 4 or 8 people parties?  Is there a reason behind the numbers?

Yoshida: We had a lot of discussions amongst the 3 of us about what number it should be but we settled on 4 and 8 after looking at the size of the community.  Not like this is a new issue or anything, but there is a huge cost when it comes to forming parties in an MMORPG.

4Gamer: Cost as in you need to have a lot of time and gathering up players can be a pain, right?

Yoshida: Yeah.  I think things have been moving more towards where a lot of MMORPG players nowadays avoid partying up with people they don’t know by playing with people they know in real life.  In other words, the community they play with is getting smaller.

4Gamer: It doesn’t have to just be real friends.  Sometimes people meet new friends online and choose to start playing a game together.  I think there are a lot of people who continue to play with other people in these smaller communities.

Yoshida: That’s the way things are going.  So we think about what kind of content we can make that doesn’t require strict role division and makes it easier to form parties while at the same time, creating content that makes a player think “hey, this weekend, let’s make a plan and take on the hardest thing we can with the group we have”.  There are a lot of entertainment choices out there and given the busy lives of the current generation of players, it’s only natural that people would have different ways of playing whether it’s a weekend or a weekday.

Given the type of content we want to make, you come to the conclusion that it just isn’t probable to balance the game with groups of 15 people.

4Gamer: Even though people who are used to playing in groups of 15 might object, it was something that had to be done for the future of the game.

Yoshida: I think so.  We are really sorry for the side effects it has caused for linkshells with more than 8 people and the decrease in the number of people who can do Behest together.  However, I’d like people to refrain from passing judgment on the change for the time being.  This is something that really had to change based on the battle system improvements we’ll be implementing.  We’ll be able to see the good and the bad more clearly after that happens.

4Gamer: As long as the battling is more interesting, I think people will look on it favorably in the end.  Kind of continuing this topic of changes people are split over, updates have been made that changed the size of monsters as well as various effects.  There seem to be a lot of people who feel you should have worked on other parts of the game first…

Yoshida: I was pretty sure we were going to get some heated comments about it, like “makin em bigger doesn’t make em better!”, but we went ahead with it. (laughs)   From the point of view of the players, all we did was make the monsters bigger.  However, just like the UI, it was something we decided that needed to happen for all of the new stuff that is to come.  I think monsters should really pack a punch, don’t you?

4Gamer: They do seem a little weak when they are smaller.

Yoshida: You feel like you are just picking on weak critters.  I understand that people want us to work on other things but it’s a matter of doing what we can as we can do it.  Changing the scale of things is something easy enough for us to do.  However, that doesn’t mean we are done with all of the adjustments we’ll be making to monsters.

4Gamer: I can see how some players would feel that their requests to make battles more interesting got turned into just making the monsters bigger.  While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the forums where you can see a lot of these kinds of players’ opinions.  It looks like they are pretty active.  I’ve seen a lot of official sites myself and it seems that there is an image of Japanese players not being very good at debating things on forums.  What is your take on that?

Yoshida: I think we should turn this over to Mr. Matsui, who seems to be the master of getting people to “Like!” his posts. (laughs)

Matsui: Hahaha~ I really did want forums.  Unlike my position when working on FFXI, I felt like I couldn’t really say things on my own when it came to FFXIV.  Sometimes on the forums, you’ll see people writing posts agreeing with the development team only to get smacked down by other players.  I know they aren’t writing stuff for us per say but it makes me feel bad to see it anyways.

Yoshida: I often spend time reading the North American forums and I think they have a different feel to them.  For Japan, it probably has to do with their expectations of the game and feeling betrayed, but often when somebody makes a positive statement, it seems to breed a bunch of negative responses.  I feel it’s almost like Japanese people have something inside of them that drives them to write those negative posts.  Of course the things the developers say aren’t always the one and only truth, and we built the forums so we could hear what the players have to say.  Everyone, including the Community Reps, takes the posts on the site very seriously.

4Gamer: It’s just not FFXIV.  For any game, all of the negative feedback seems to pour in first.

Yoshida: That’s why I asked for the “Like!” button to be added.  Japanese on the Internet just don’t seem to be very good about taking time to post if they like something.

4Gamer: I totally know what you mean.  The people that agree stay silent while the posts from people who disagree seem to pile up making it look like more people disagree than not.

Yoshida: They’ll write if they disagree.  However, if you add the “Like!” button, it’s easy to see that there are other people who agree with you even if they don’t say it themselves.  They just have a click a button.  That’s why when you look at people’s opinions on the forums, you have to see how many people like it versus the number of negative posts and how many people agree with the negative posts.  If you don’t, you could make a mistake when trying to incorporate player feedback.

Matsui: The Community Reps are really working hard to read each and every thread.  They give us daily reports about what they see and respond to posts.  If we don’t make it obvious that we are watching the forums, I think the number of positive/constructive posts will decrease.  I try to visit the forums as much as possible.

Yoshida: Matsui will start looking at the forums, forget to keep working, and then start responding to things too.  Truth be told though, I’m the same way… (laughs)

4Gamer: You have pretty open communication with the player base now, what with the forums and the producer letters.  That’s seems to be the way of many Western MMORPGs as well.

Yoshida: Yeah.  We know that’s the case and also part of why we are doing things this way.  We don’t want to lie or give inflated expectations to the players.  We want people to feel that things are pretty much just as they appear.

4Gamer: I think it’s safe to say that development doesn’t always go the way players want it to go if you look at the forums and even the player questionnaires.  There are some players who tell you they want something, but it’s more of them just thinking about their own ideal MMORPG and not thinking about the balance of the game overall.  How do you deal with feedback like that and how it might overlap with your own opinions?

Yoshida: Hmmm, it’s really case by case.  We take a lot of pride in the things we make but we also feel a heavy responsibility.  I understand what some people want but when you look at the game as a whole, there are times when I just can’t agree.  However, there are times where I read something and think “Why didn’t I think of that!”

4Gamer: In those cases, do you change your plan of attack and incorporate more of their ideas?

Yoshida: For finer adjustments, we listen to the players calmly and then make adjustments.  The UI is a good example of that.  Thanks to them, we were able to discover a very critical bug.  It’s a bit embarrassing really.  For our bigger, overall direction, we did player questionnaires in advance.    There are things only players can see and the generation making the games is different from that of the players.  Sometimes the feedback we read there really opens our eyes so I think we should continue using the forums.

4Gamer: I see.  I think some people will be more passionate when posting their opinions on the forums hearing what you’ve said.  (laughs)  I think the players giving you feedback will be glad to hear it is reaching the development team.

Now switching gears, I’d like to ask about where FFXIV is going.  I’m sure there are a lot of changes still in store for us but are there any majors ones you’d like to talk about?

Yoshida: Probably the first would be the major changes to the battle system.

4Gamer: You’re talking about the ones mentioned in the 9th Letter from the Producer post right?  After I saw it, I thought “ah, you’ve finally reach the point where you’re focusing on the battle system”.  After all, particularly for MMORPGs, the battle system is what makes the game.  It really makes you feel that FFXIV is going to start changing big time.

Matsui: When we think about what we want to add to the game, it comes back to the fact that we need to improve the battle system before we can do any of that.  We’ve gotten to the point where we can’t make battle system adjustments slowly while adding new content.   However, since we’re making such major adjustments, it’s going to take a lot of time no matter how you look at it.

4Gamer: The improvements don’t end with just patch 1.18, but they’ll be split across a number of updates, correct?

Matsui: The biggest adjustments we have to do will be split over a number of updates.  You can think of 1.18 as just part one of that.  However, the plan is to release the updates without big gaps between them as well.

4Gamer: What kind of time frame are you looking at?

Gondai: Hmmmm, if you look at everything we are planning, it’s going to take a while.  That’s about all I can say at this time.  For example, we’ll be including the auto-attack feature and changes to the enmity algorithms in patch 1.18.   Then in 1.19, we’ll make overall adjustments to the underlying formulas.

Matsui: We’d also like to make changes to character growth in 1.19.

4Gamer: Are you talking about the plan to do away with physical character levels?

Gondai: Yes.  That’s a key part of the stuff we have planned for 1.19 that I’m involved with.  Once that’s taken care of, I think a lot of other things we want to do will go smoother.

4Gamer: I was a bit surprised to hear you’re getting rid of physical levels because they seem to be such an important part of the game design.  How did you come to that decision?

Gondai: In the battle system section of one of the questionnaires we did, we included a lot of possible answers that we didn’t think people would actually choose.  We received a lot of feedback that they didn’t care of we got rid of physical levels so long as we made the game better so we figured we’d just go ahead with that.

Yoshida: When we were making the questionnaire, I worried quite a bit whether we should include it or not, but it seemed important to ask the question directly.

4Gamer: And in the end, there was a lot of player support for it.

Yoshida: Really, when you think about the changes we’ll be making to the battle system, it makes all the more sense to basically rip out such a big part of the system all in one swoop.

Matsui: As we move towards getting rid of the physical level, we’re making adjustments to the underlying game formulas.  However, we know the person who was in charge of them before worked really hard on the parameter allocations.  For example, they worked hard to figure out how to make a character with a physical level of 50 still play in a balanced way in a class where they are ranked 1.

4Gamer: That kind of complex stuff can turn into the weight that brings you down.  While it’s a bit disappointing that it’ll take a long time to make adjustments, I think redoing things piece by piece is understandable looking at where you want to go from here.

Gondai: We have an approximate timeline for what will get introduced when, so as long as development continues that way, I think we’ll be able to get things out for everyone.

Yoshida: While it would be easier for us to release everything all at once, we’d have to ask ourselves exactly when we could make that happen.

4Gamer: While we are on the subject of character growth, in addition to getting rid of physical levels, you are planning on introducing a job system as well right?   Job systems make me think of FFXI but what will it be like in FFXIV?

Gondai: There will be jobs related to each of the classes and you’ll master them by participating in a quest.  The jobs aren’t advanced forms of their classes.  You’ll be able to choose for yourself whether you want to fight as your original class or as a particular job depending on the situation.

4Gamer: How will things be different if you play just as the class?

Gondai: The jobs are more like a defined style for when you are in a party.  When you play as a certain job, the actions you can use from other classes will become limited, but it’ll make your role in the party more defined and you’ll have access to job specific actions.

Yoshida: If you play as a gladiator, you can still use actions from other classes. However, they are still pretty limited in what they can do.  So let’s say you switch to a job called “Paladin” (Knight) instead.  You can use a sword and shield and you’ll be able to better protect people as a tank.

4Gamer: So if I understand this right, you’ll get access to abilities you can only use as a Paladin?

Yoshida: It’s like you’re wearing an outer shell called Paladin.  You could also think of it as a mode change.  Of course there would be abilities you could only use as a Paladin.  Perhaps for light parties where there are only 4 people, you’ll use various class abilities and actions.  However, if you get into a full party where you need some more defined strategy, everybody will switch to a job instead.  Narrowing your roles down can help with party balance and make it easier to come up with a battle plan.

4Gamer: So depending on your job choice, you might become a damage dealer or you might become the tank?

Gondai: Right now, it doesn’t work that way.  To start, there will be one job per class.  As we add jobs in the future, it might be possible to do what you’re thinking though.

4Gamer: For now, we’re just getting one form of specialization per class then.  That kind of makes me want to try making battle plans for the new raid content.

Yoshida: Once we’ve finished the adjustments to the battle system, we’ll be able to continue development on content like the raids.  I hope people look forward to it.

4Gamer: The raid content was mentioned in one of the producer letters so let me ask you, are they just for one party?  When you think of a raid, you kind of imagine large groups like the old 15 people parties we used to have.

Yoshida: That all depends on your interpretation of the word raid.  For example, in WoW, there are raids you can do with 5 or 10 people and then ones where you need more than 20 people.  Those can push away some players because they feel it’s too hard to gather that many party members which in turn causes that content to end up being done only by the hard core players.  However, when EverQuest started, a raid didn’t mean big scale PvE, it meant game content that required a higher level of strategy on the part of the players.  That’s the kind of raid I’m talking about.

4Gamer: So the raid dungeons you talk about in your letters aren’t so much large scale battles but more like difficult content that requires strategy.

Yoshida: That’s correct.  It’ll be done in an instanced setting so other people can’t bother you and will require 8 people to really pull together.  We mentioned it in an earlier questionnaire as well but from now on, any large scale PvE will be pointed out as such so as not to confuse it with the raid dungeons.

4Gamer: You make it sound like there are already plans for some big scale PvE. (laughs)

Yoshida: Well, I can’t say anything about that right now. (laughs)  We also will be making adjustments to the UI to fit with the adjustments being made to the battle system.

Gondai: The first thing people will probably notice is that the action bar will always be visible.  That’s something we’ve always felt should have been done anyways.

4Gamer: When you play with a mouse, it’s more convenient to have it visible all the time.

Yoshida: Yeah, that would be the normal way of doing things.

Gondai: Even if you play with a controller, all you have to do is make it easy to understand that you can’t select that part.  Also, right now, there are times when only one row will be displayed even when there are supposed to be three, so we’ll be working on making it so that all three show up.  I’m not sure if I’m really supposed to be talking about this stuff when Minagawa isn’t around. (laughs)  The battle controls will also be improved upon.

4Gamer: We’ve been talking about various battle related updates but how exactly will battles change after the adjustments take place?  I understand it’s a big departure from what we have now but I’d like to find out what you are aiming for.

Gondai: Personally, I think the stuff we are fixing now is akin to revamping the rules of a standard MMO.  In the case of FFXIV, I think it started off on the wrong path…

Yoshida: Maybe you could say that we bit off a bit more than we could chew.

Matsui: I think too many assumptions were made.  Too many people were creating data and because people were too focused on what could come down the line, each component of the game didn’t get as much attention as it needed.  So if you are asking what kind of battle system it will be, I think at first, it’ll be a very simple and easy to understand one.

4Gamer: I think a lot of people will expect it to be similar to FFXI which also had an auto-attack feature.  Will it be similar or how do you think it’s different?

Matsui: Since Gondai and I are involved, I understand where they are coming from.  However, we don’t want to make this just another FFXI.  I love that type of game and I think there will be similarities with FFXI, but rather than looking at what we did in FFXI, we want to start off with what is standard for an MMORPG.

Gondai: Having auto-attack is just a normal thing to have if you look at other MMORPGs.  Whether that’s good or bad, it’s the standard and so we’ll start from there and then add the things that will set FFXIV apart.  For example, WoW has a standard base and then a skill tree system on top of that that makes WoW what it is.  When a newer game, Rift, came out, it had things that set it apart as Rift.

4Gamer: So rather than trying to be like FFXI, you are working on the parts that define MMORPGs.

Yoshida: Yes.  I think there are only two basic types of MMORPGs left out there.  One is the hack and slash clicking games.  Click while pressing shift.  Stop your legs and click.  Continue clicking on the enemy.  These are the games that depend on your fingers.  They are easy to understand and it’s easy to feel good playing them.  The other type is more of the older style of MMORPGs like EQ.  A group of people has control over one monster and they watch their enmity while individually attacking.

4Gamer: I get what you mean.  Things do sort of fall into those 2 standard types.  Of course there are a few titles which are a bit like action RPGs making them more like exceptions to the rule.

 

 

“It’s not like FFXI, not like the old FFXIV, not like WoW, and not like EQ”

Naoki Yoshida

Yoshida: If you try to put FFXIV into one of those 2 categories, it doesn’t really fit the hack and slash model.  With FFXIV’s graphics and frame rate, not to mention the character proportions, it’s hard to picture a Final Fantasy game with those kind of unhuman moves.  So we need to focus on making the game the other type of MMORPG and then add the things that make it stand out as its own title.

It’s not like FFXI, not like the old FFXIV, not like WoW, and not like EQ.  Of course it sounds good to say you have a brand new type of battle system, but if nobody understands how to use it, that makes playing in a party pretty hopeless.  I’m a hard working game designer, but I’m not a genius and I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.

Matsui: You can’t make something just by saying what it’s not.

Yoshida: So if you ask what makes FFXIV special, it’s that you can be by yourself, play in a small party, play in a big party, play any class, play differently on the weekends or weekdays, the community size, and the way parties are going that day…. It doesn’t matter because there is so much you can choose from.  The job system will be added which just means you could also team up with your friends and enjoy playing as certain jobs.  I think all of that is what will make FFXIV different.

Gondai: I can’t get into specifics right now but we’re working on combo moves a player could do on their own if they are in a certain position when they use a weapon skill.  That combined with some other things should help set apart battles in FFXIV.

4Gamer: It seems like the stuff you’ve mentioned about playing in groups of different sizes, character growth through both classes and jobs, and role division is really going to be what makes FFXIV appealing.  This question just came to me as we were talking so I’d like to ask, what do you think makes MMORPG battles interesting?

Matsui: I think character growth comes to mind first.  When you defeat enemies, you get stronger, but at the same time, you actually feel like you’ve gotten stronger.  Battles are where you get the chance to see just how much you’ve grown.  You battle a ton in MMORPGs though so you have to think about how they all flow together.  I don’t think every battle has to be one where you have to keep track of a lot of things.  However, you don’t want them all to be too easy either.  That’s not fun at all.  The most important thing is to have variety.

4Gamer: I see what you mean.  You start wondering where the line is between having fun and feeling like it’s work.

Matsui: It’s not something you can so easily tell.  While working, I’m always asking myself if something is actually interesting or not.

Gondai: For me, I think it’s important to design battles where you feel you really did a good job.  The kind where afterwards you say to yourself I played my part well, or I really did a lot in today’s battle, or I was able to help somebody today, or today I was playing solo and thought I was going to die but I got away!… It’s going to be different depending on who you talk to but I think it’s important to make sure everyone feels that way.

4Gamer: That feeling of satisfaction after a battle then?

Gondai: That’s about right.  But like Matsui said, it’s not something you need after every single battle.  After all, you fight all the time in an MMORPG.  Think of it more like for those important battles.   Our job is to provide that experience to players, that feeling you get after trying 3 times and finally defeating the boss.

Yoshida: I think all three of us agree that not every battle has to be a hard one.  It’s the same with table-top RPGs… the end of a battle in a game is a lot like chess.  You go over everything in your head, the info you’ve been given, wondering if you’ll win based on your own level.  Then you make the best move you can think of.  But unlike chess, you throw the dice of probability and the rest, well, only God can know.  It doesn’t change much if you switch the conversation to MMOs.  I don’t think that will ever change.

4Gamer: I see.  That’s usually the way RPG battles go.

Yoshida: But in the case of MMORPGs, you don’t control the entire party yourself.  That introduces a level of uncertainty.  That’s why it’s so important to have an underlying understanding where everyone knows what role they have to play in the party.  You have to know if you are the rook or the knight on the game board.  Then, when your group plays its best move, everyone feels good.  That’s what a battle should be like in an MMORPG.  That’s why the best rules in battle are simple ones everyone can easily understand and also why we have to make roles clearer.

For example, when I play Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, that’s the part that makes me feel the best.

4Gamer: Ummm, do you mean like when you defeat an enemy after a close battle?

Yoshida: That’s also fun but what I really like best is when you completely defeat your enemy without even taking a hit.  If the monster gets to attack before you, it’s really hard to win like that.  So you use items to play with the parameters.  That way you can be the first to attack and use sleep or snooze.  Then you attack the slowest monster first until you defeat it… etc.  You think it all out ahead of time, enter your commands, and then wait to see what happens.  If everything goes well, you can finish it in one or two turns.  It’s the same for that game Wizardry too and part of the foundation for all games.  Since you’re not taking up time healing yourself, it works pretty well.  (laughs)

4Gamer:  It certainly does feel good to make a plan and then carry it out.

Yoshida: Any MMORPG that involves enmity from the targets is basically the same.  You try to control the target as a group and finish it off while maintaining that control.  What makes the battle interesting is how you look at it, how you pull off your part, how you grow, and how varied things are.

Gondai: It’s important to have well-rounded battles.

4Gamer: I see.  With all of that in mind, you’ve been thinking about what to do with battles in FFXIV.  I’m looking forward to how it turns out.

Yoshida: We’re also having fun as we make the changes.

4Gamer: What are you going to add outside of adjustments to the battle system?  I’m very interested in hearing what we can expect for the Disciples of the Hand and Land.

Yoshida: For this interview, we’re mostly focused on the changes to the battle system.  However, we’re also working on changes just as big for those classes.

Matsui: We really can’t go into it right now… First, we have to fix the battle system.  Once battles are more interesting, demand will grow in the market place, and that will benefit the crafters and gatherers as well.  If there is no demand for equipment, it won’t sell.  So first we have to see what we can do for the battle system, but know that we’re working on the other classes too.  I hope people look forward to the changes.

4Gamer: Ok.  Out of the other things planned for future updates, people also seem to be interested in the Grand Companies.  When I read through the special page you set up for them, it really made me feel like the storyline is going to take off from here.

Yoshida: I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Grand Companies make the world of FFXIV.  How will adventurers be linked to the three city-states of Limsa Lominsa, Gridania, and Ul’dah and how is the Empire going to become mixed into all of that?  How does it complement the main storyline?  How are the leaders in the different city-states going to become involved?

Also, some characters well known in the Final Fantasy series will also make their appearances so people will want to watch for where they show up and how they get involved.  A big storyline will also be included in patch 1.18 so I hope people look forward to that.

4Gamer: Already in patch 1.18?  I can think of a lot of FF characters, so I wonder who will show up.

Yoshida: Some that anybody could think of will also be making their appearances soon.  There are some important lines that get to the heart of the FFXIV story from them as well.  Look forward to it!

4Gamer: I’m looking forward to who will be included and how things will develop.  Good luck on development! (laughs)

Yoshida: We’ll do our best! (laughs) We have to start with the fundamentals though.  If we try to take on everything at once, we won’t be able to release anything at all.  Even when it comes to what we have planned, there are things I haven’t added to our schedule tables yet so I can’t answer questions about various things.  However, we are definitely making plans and working on projects for the things people are expecting.

4Gamer: For example, in previous places you’ve mentioned cottages (company owned buildings), boats, chocobos, etc.  There are a number of things I’m curious about.

Yoshida: We’re just now reaching the most interesting parts of the story and we’ll continue seeing large scale updates until summer’s warmth has faded away.  If things go the way I picture them, we’ll be talking again about what’s to come.  Until then, I hope you can wait patiently.

4Gamer: Let’s change topics then.  I’d like to hear when you think you’ll start charging fees for the game.

Yoshida: We haven’t decided a timeline for that at all.

4Gamer: I’m surprised.  I’d think that from a business standpoint, there has to be some cutoff point.

Yoshida: From a business point of view, I’d love to be able to start accepting monthly fees.  However, if we can’t ask people if they’d play the game without the slightest bit of confidence, we can’t go asking for money either.  We’ll make the battle system adjustments, look at the feedback, work on the introductory parts of the game, and make it better for the new players that’ll come in later.  I don’t think we can commit to a timeline for starting monthly fees until we’ve done all of that.

4Gamer: So the goal for now is just to make the game better.  How are things coming for the PS3 version?

Yoshida: It’s coming along nicely.  I can’t make any comments on when it’ll go on sale though.

4Gamer: Makes sense since you have to get the PC version under control first right?

Yoshida: Yeah.  I hate uncertainty more than anything, so as we work on rebuilding the PC version of FFXIV, we want to raise the bar on the PS3 version.  It’s quite a challenge but since FFXIV started off as a disappointment to a lot of players, we don’t want to make the same mistake twice.  The entire team is working together to make this happen so I hope people keep their expectations high and look forward to it.

Gondai: We’ll continue to break up what we’re working on over a number of patches, first 1.18 and then 1.19, and so on.  It’d be impossible to release everything all at once.  But I hope people won’t judge us too harshly on that, saying stuff like “Is this all there is to patch 1.18?!” It might not be for us to say, but I think things are going smoother than we expected, so please wait just a bit longer.

4Gamer: Understood.  Thanks for your time today!