E3 2015 Interview with Naoki Yoshida

After four days of press conferences, meetings, streams, presentations, hands-on demos and just plain crazy E3-ness, we finally got a chance to sit down with Naoki Yoshida and talk about some FFXIV in general, some Heavensward, and even touched on 4.0 (or tried to anyway).  We met with Yoshida in the last interview slot of the last day of E3 so that we didn’t waste time or questions asking things that were to be revealed in the Trailer, the patch notes or the live letter from the producer.

Read on to see what additional information we were able to get.

Translating the interview for us was Michael-Christopher Koji Fox (aka Fernehalwes). Who we also interviewed this week!  Also, we were joined by ZAM in the interview, and we have added their questions here for completeness.

Yoshida: Thank you for taking time out of your busy  E3 schedules.  We’re almost to the end!  In about 10 hours and a little bit more we will be releasing early access for our first expansion pack – Heavensward.  Rather than a long introduction from me, I know you guys have a lot of questions from your communities, so let’s get to them.

GE: RMT tells have been getting a lot worse.  First it was just tells and now there are friend invites.  We saw in the patch notes that friend invites won’t be an issue anymore because of the trial period changes. Players have resorted to using third party tools for chat filters, how are you looking to combat the tells issue? Would you consider giving players a first-party chat filter?

Yoshida: Every patch we’re looking at what kind of tells are coming from RMT and where they’re coming from – and while we haven’t been putting this in the patch notes, we actually have a lot of measures in place, and we’ve been updating those measures with each patch to filter those types of tells.  Of course, we haven’t been telling players about how these types of measures are taken, because the minute you put them in the patch notes the RMT will know about that as well, and then they will know what to do to get around it.  So that’s why we haven’t been putting that in there. In addition to that, we’ve also been banning thousands of accounts almost every week.

Final Fantasy XIV has become a success, and we know that when a game becomes a success, you want to get in on that success, and so while it’s not a good thing, because FFXIV is such a success, that’s why there so many RMT-ers.  We’re going in there, banning players and doing this filters, and doing things like the friend invite restrictions.  And of course from here on out, we’re going to continue to think about how to strengthen these filters and make them even better and more useful.

As for the free trial and restricting friend requests, we don’t really want to do this because we know a new player comes in and wants to make friends, and this restricts these new players from making friends; however we look at it on the larger scale and we realize that it’s these accounts that are the ones that are obstructing the play of a lot of existing players.  We understand that as well.  So we want to continue implementing and updating the measures, keep getting feedback from our users, as well as keep collecting data on our side and just try to figure out the best way to stay ahead of RMT.

ZAM:  Do you have any plans to smooth out the instanced parts of the main scenario to help players catch up faster?

Yoshida: Because we are releasing the expansion Heavensward, a lot of the media tend to look at that new content, but in addition to that content and a lot of time updating the content that’s in the original A Realm Reborn.  The patch that everyone has downloaded, which will go live in about 10 hours, contains a lot of adjustments and changes to the ARR content.  And so, one of the biggest things that we introduced to help new players and players that haven’t made it to 2.55 and the end of that story arc, is that we’ve doubled the amount of experience rewarded for all the main quests.

Up until now, players would have to, in addition to the main scenario quests, do FATES or battle logs or do different types of challenges to get enough experience to get a level 50. Now, players will only have to play through the main scenario to get up high enough.  Also, instead of having to go out and farm for gear that will prepare you for Heavensward, gear has been added to main scenario quest rewards.  So now, a player can play through only the main scenario, get all the way to level 50, and get a full set – including accessories – of iLevel 110 gear.  So it makes it easier for players to start from the beginning and get right into Heavensward.

Another thing that we’ve adjusted is the algorithm used in the duty finder. Now, players that are new or that haven’t completed a certain dungeon, will automatically get moved to the top of the waiting list.  So it will be easier for those players to get into a party through the magic of the duty finder system.

Another thing that we added is that you can now challenge most of the dungeons in ARR as an undersized party, with maybe 1 or 2 or 3 players, rather than having to get all 4.  One thing you can do is, for example, say I am a level 60 warrior and want to help my level 30 friend, we can go in the same dungeon and I can have all of my great gear – it is not level synced –  and I can help by new friend go through a particularly hard dungeon.

So, new players don’t have to fear that it’s an expansion and that they will not be able to catch up. We’ve given them the opportunity to catch up. You don’t have to be afraid of this huge wall in front of you preventing you from experiencing Heavensward.

GE: We were playing the demo here at E3, and there was a FATE on the map, but because of the elevation, we couldn’t immediately find it. Is there any plans to add a z-coordinate to the map or to the compass?

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Y: There’s a reason we haven’t put that in. One of those reasons is that we don’t want to be one of those types of games that has the Z coordinate. We’d rather have players find it out on their own and remember it on their own. To remember that this is one of those that’s a higher level or at the lower level. The reason behind this is that we want to put a focus on adventure and exploring new areas and fighting, so we’ve made it a little less convenient in some instances. That is not to say that in the future, once everyone has gotten used to the system and explored, that we won’t add something like this in. For now we want players to have fun and explore.

For example, what’s going to happen is some players are going to have that feeling of superiority when they get on their flying mount and a FATE pops, and you leave another player behind confused who doesn’t have their flying mount yet.  If you have that Z-coordinate from the beginning, that second player will already know that they cannot reach it and It takes away from that player exploring.

On the other hand, we understand that this is an MMORPG and players don’t want to waste a lot of time doing something that’s unnecessary.  But we don’t want it to get too easy for players, because when things are too easy and convenient it becomes less of a game. We want to have that game aspect of exploration and adventure still while players are new and don’t know anything about the areas and are still exploring.  We want to have that and maintain that. So that’s why we’re leaving off the Z-axis. For now.

ZAM: Why the choice to have players complete all the old main scenario quests to start the expansion content?

Y: I think of Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward as the second season to a television program, where as A Realm Reborn was our first season. So when you watch a television program, you don’t watch it from the second season, you watch it from the first season so you know what’s going on. We talk about the story, but story is an important part of the Final Fantasy series and experiencing that story is something that we want the players to do and that’s why we decided to do it this way. But as you mentioned before, we understand that it takes a while to get to that 2.55 content and play through it, and that’s why we’ve lowered the hurdle with all those things we mentioned before. We want players to see it, but we’ve allowed players to watch that first season on fast-forward, binge watch it, and get to the second season.

There are shows like CSI where people can start in the 7th season, and they’ve made it so that people can start in the 7th season and not be lost. But for us it’s still our second season and we want our players to follow the story.  Maybe in the future when we release our 4th or 5th or 6th expansion we can have a shortcut so the players can get to that piece, but that’s way out there – for now we’re focusing on the second season.

GE: With A Realm Reborn, one of the first things you announced was the Crystal Tower – the 24-person raid. When are we going to hear about the 24-person raid for Heavensward?

Y: That content, our 24-person raid for Heavenward is planned on being released in 3.1.  August 27th is our 2-year anniversary, so probably sometime around then we’ll be able to give you a lot of information. It’s a completely new series – with no relation to the Crystal Tower.  Difficulty wise, we hope to make it the same difficulty as the Crystal Tower, but we have tried to make it a different experience in the type of battles that we have, and the type of areas, and how players interact with those areas, and how those areas interact with the players. We’re trying something new in that sense.

GE: Today you announced the new Carbuncle plushies that will be coming to Europe and America. Back at FanFest we asked about all the merchandise currently available in Japan and when that might be coming over here. We were wondering if you had any new updates for us.

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Y: It’s going to be a long process. we’re taking baby steps. We’re trying, and we’ve been working with merchandising, and this is the first step that we’ve taken, being able to provide these to the world before Japan. This is the first step, but hopefully from here we can take more steps to get more of those items to the West. This battle that we’ve had with our merchandising department, this is our first reward come out of it. We won the first battle! This is our reward to our players. But there are still more battles to come.

GE: Right now we have those dyes that you can only get from your retainers. We always end up getting dyes that we don’t want. Are there any plans for some sort of trading system, so that if you get dyes you don’t want you can trade it for you would want to use?

Y: (laughing) It’s all about luck. You have to be nicer to your retainer. You’re probably just pressing the button saying “go, go, go”.  Don’t just send out retainers with high level gear, you have to have them wear something nice, and then send them out… they have feelings too. Be nicer to your retainer and maybe they’ll bring you something.

GE: Will there be any new dungeons in Heavensward that are main scenario dungeons and will fall under the main scenario dungeon roulette?

Y: Low level roulette will be undergoing a name change to “leveling” and that’s where all of the ARR dungeons and 3.0 dungeons up to level 58 will be.  Because were calling it “leveling” veteran players and new players who are leveling will be paired together.

GE: But no new main scenario dungeons? Like The Praetorium or Castrum Meridianum?

Y: (thinking) I can’t remember which category I put it in. There are a lot of dungeons this time, they might have all been moved to leveling. I think I put them in leveling.

One of the biggest things with Castrum Meridianum,  it has a lot of cutscenes in it, and there were players who wanted to go there multiple times to get to the end didn’t want to see all the cutscenes, but you will also have players who were there for the first time who would want to see the cutscenes. We realize this was one of the things that we could have designed better, and we kept that in mind in Heavensward so that we don’t make the same mistake.

E3_2015_Mediakit_021GE: Going through the patch notes, it looks like the housing glamours are not available for personal housing.  Is that correct?

Y: Yes.

GE: Why?

Y: Because it is free company crafting.

GE: But the example that you’ve given, decorating the house to make it look like a merchant house or something, it feels like that make more sense for it to be a personal house?

Y: Oh, those items can be purchased. So a company could make one and put it up for sale. On top of that, we plan on adding more types of designs for houses.  People who want one of those quickly can purchase one from a free company. People that don’t need it right away can wait.

GE: What was the thought process behind having these new extra jobs and not having classes for them. Will there ever be new classes? Or more jobs? Or will it just be extra jobs?

Y: From a dev perspective, if you have to create a class and a job, that’s a lot more work.  Another thing is, when you make your class you have class actions and that actually reduces the number of job actions that are available.  Because of that, you can’t do anything special, because you are tied to the class actions.  Designing it as job-only made it easier for us to create something that was unique and deep.  Also, just coming up with new classes is kind of difficult at this point.

GE: It was surprising because musketeer has a gun and there is no gun class.

Y: When we were designing this gun wielding class we came to the conclusion that just shooting a gun would not be that much fun.  So when coming up with Machinist, if we were bound to a class such as Musketeer, you’re bound to those class actions which are only about shooting guns.  You don’t get the stuff about auto-turrets and the machines that will get used. You want to get that in early, but you can’t because it’s not part of the Musketeer.  But starting with Machinist and only having Machinist, you can start with those auto-turrets and get that in early and make that a part of the whole game.  So it’s not just shooting, but also the auto-turret experience as well.

So you look at NPCs like Merlwyb and think you have Musketeer here, but then add to that the technology of Cid and the Garlond Ironworks, and now you have what is the Machinist.

GE: With A Realm Reborn, there was a new Primal in pretty much each patch. Is there going to be something similar with Heavensward with Primals or maybe dragons?

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Y: Every patch, yes we do plan on having one type of boss monster. Basically what we have planned is interlinked directly with the main scenario, so we can’t talk about whether it’s a primal or boss or dragon. But there is a hint as to what you will be fighting in battles that you’ve previously fought. We have a lot of exciting bosses planned. Please look forward to it.

GE: It’s been awhile since we’ve had an opportunity to increase your grand company rank. Will we have the opportunity to do so in Heavensward?

Y: We already have grand company content planned.  One idea is that you get your own army of NPCs and raise them up and make your own little unit that you’re able to deploy and train. To do that you need to rank up.  So we have content coming and that’s when that rank up will come – introduced with content. Just increasing the rank isn’t fun. Having something to go along with that is what we wanted and now that we have that, soon you will be able to rank up.

GE: When you first talked about the first expansion you talked about either going up or down.  Now we’re going up. Is the plan for 4.0 to go down? Maybe water?

Y: (laughter) Maybe even further up? Maybe space? Maybe further down? Below the ground?

GE: There is still a moon you haven’t destroyed!

Y: In FFIV you could go to the moon.  While we have a plan and theme with 4.0, we haven’t really decided where it will take us yet.  We want to sit back and see how players react to Heavensward and go from there. And if you go to the moon, who’s going to give you quests?

GE: Recently FFXI announced they will be going into maintenance mode.  Has that had any impact on development?  Any ways to help the Final Fantasy XI players who might want to try FFXIV?

Y:  There are two sides to this answer, so I will cover both of them.   While both FFXI and FFXIV are both Final Fantasy games and both MMORPGs, they are completely different games.  There are players who have been playing in Vanad’iel for 13 years and have been playing for 13 years because they love Vanad’iel.  I do not want to be the person that grabs their arm and yanks them into Eorzea because that is not what they want.

But when FFXI moves into its minor update phase, some players may decide they want to check out Eorzea while still maintaining their connection to Vanad’iel and for those people we want to make that easy.  So we are looking at ways to make that transition easier. They are completely different worlds and we realize that some players might not want to come to Eorzea. We’re not going to be the people that force them into it. But if there’s interest by people do want to come into Eorzea, we want to make it easier for them. We want to try and help them.

The one thing we don’t want people to think, is that we stopped FFXI just to get people to come to FFXIV. That is definitely not the case. We don’t need that enmity.  We don’t want to force anyone that doesn’t want to come, but we want to help people who do.

GE: You made a statement in the live letter about data mining, and asking players to stop doing it, especially right now. What are your thoughts on it and that community? They are obviously passionate about the game.

Y: There are multiple ways of looking at this one.  As corporate executive of Square Enix, and producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV, data mining is against the law and players should not do it.  This is a product created by Square Enix, protected by law, and without permission players are going in there and breaking it apart.  They are not supposed to be doing that.

On the other hand…

As a gamer, I understand that out there are the next great programmers and graphic artists, and they want to see what other companies are doing. They want to learn the secrets of the trade. They see this great game and they want to see how it works to get knowledge of their own and to take it apart. When I was young I got a radio and took it apart. In doing that, you know you’re breaking that rule, but you’re doing it for yourself and you know there are going to consequences, but it is something you want to do.  But that is going in and data mining, by yourself, for yourself.

But then again, also as a gamer, taking what you are supposed to use for yourself and spreading it out to other players, without their even knowing it and creating spoilers and ruining that experience for those other people, that’s a terrible thing, and as a gamer I cannot forgive that. Even worse than those people who data mined are those people it take that and spoil it for even more people. That secondary group is even worse I think.

So when an update comes, eh, you know…  But when it comes to an expansion, as a developer, we want you to experience the excitement that we have.  When we get to an expansion, you have these experiences and challenges in the game, and experiencing those and getting a reward for those is part of that experience. You have that challenge, experience it, and get a reward for the first time and gets to say “oh wow, I got this reward”. If, from the beginning, you already know the reward, it’s going to change how you experience certain battles, certain quests, when you already know what you’re going to get.  It changes how you’re going to experiencing the game and it is not the way it was intended to be experienced. Part of the experience is not knowing those things.

So basically it comes down to each individual and how they want to experience the game. We would like to leave that decision up to the player.  You could say the same thing to those third-party DPS tools which show DPS. If you’re by yourself or with your free company having fun maybe they are not so bad.  But if I am approached and asked whether they can be used, my answer is no.

Those players, having fun and using it on their own, maybe it’s fine. But when one starts streaming to the world, saying “look at me with this tool”, that’s where the problems start.  Most players here are adults, with morals, and you have to ask yourself whether this is the right thing.

If what you’re doing is going to affect the game and experience and fun of the other player, then maybe you should rethink it.  If you really have to reveal a spoiler, label it, leave a hundred spaces, and then have your spoiler so that you’re not ruining it for anybody.  Again, it’s just about thinking about the other people around you.

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  • Edgedy

    Honestly, my only issue with Yoshida’s answer regarding datamining is they were too stingy with the information.

    I wanted to know which quests for aether I needed to do without completing all side quests in the zone. (Saving them for my alt). I also wanted to know about gear item levels and other basic information so that I could look for successful well planned out time during the early access. Spoiling story I can understand, but Square Enix did very concise patch notes that really didn’t answer all the imformation for me and while I understand there are players who want that discovery factor, we really need to provide information that would essentially be in a new game launch player guide for the people who want it.

    Currently, the only source of that information is by virtue of dataminers, but if SE were willing to meet the needs of the players with a strategy guide of some sort I suspect a lot less mining would be necessary.

    • Alhanalem

      By a few days after release, you can find that information out from people who have done it and on websites frequented by such people.