E3 2016 Interview With Naoki Yoshida

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This year at E3 we once again sat down with Naoki Yoshida to chat about Final Fantasy XIV. Joining us this time around were the fine folks from PlayStation Universe and MMORPG.com.

Read on for all the juicy details!

MMORPG: I was curious about the Raid Finder introduced in 3.3 and I wanted to know if there was a reason why you introduced it now and not earlier?

Yoshida: The reason it hasn’t been introduced until now is because with raid content, its higher difficulty and you need to be careful in selecting which party members to join. You need to have people with the same motivations and the same intent going into it. A lot of the times the content isn’t that simple, you can’t just go in and clear it on the first try, so building that party is important. We wanted to avoid any conflict that might arise from any automatic matching. We didn’t want people fighting over skill levels or intent when auto matching, there could be some frustration there.

Now that we’re into our third year of operation for FFXIV, we’ve been seeing a trend that there are some groups that like to go in and conquer the raid content, and also people that aren’t interested in going into the raids. We notice a trend too that there are people that want to try the raids- they want to try it for the sake of trying it out, and its ok if they don’t clear it the first time, but they want to experience and learn it. We’re heard more and more demand from people wanting to jump into this content but are having difficulty getting into parties. We wanted to respond to that demand and implement a system that goes beyond just gathering party members.

The development team also wants to put in a system where you can build your party across worlds and in order to do so, we need to implement a system that allows players to chat across worlds as well. That chat system will take a bit longer, we’re thinking maybe Patch 3.5. While that’s in the works, we don’t want it so that’s implimented and a party matching system comes in right there without people having been able to practice and get their feet wet. To get sort of a head start to get that ball rolling, that’s why we included the Raid Finder in patch 3.3

GE: Other than the glowing weapon, what sort of rewards will we get to use outside?

Yoshida: The biggest reward is the glowing weapon. The other element would be experience points used for leveling.

GE: The experience points you earn in Deep Dungeon will be used to level your character outside as well?

Yoshida: Yes. That being said, the pace your character levels up in Deep Dungeon is faster, so yes those points carry over, but the exp gets “translated” so to speak, to be the equivalent of the exp you would earn outside. So it’s not like if you’re level 60 in Deep Dungeon you get level 60 outside.

Following up on the glowing weapons, those actually have a high item level. For those players who may not be as confident in their playing skill, they can utilize the weapons used through the Deep Dungeon content.

PSU: In 3.3, Sohr Khai was a great example of a dungeon that had both interesting combat and narrative mechanics with Hraesvelgr flying overhead and the fight with him. It’s deeper and more interesting than some story moments in the past. I’d love to hear, if possible, what some ideas might be for the future, perhaps about 4.0 and how those moments might be more epic like in Sohr Khai.

Yoshida: In terms of instanced dungeons, it does serve a purpose also for leveling and to go in there multiple times for EXP and Allagan Tomestones. The time it takes to clear that content is typically fixed so we don’t want to make it that it’s so dramatic that it makes it tough to go in there on multiple runs. That being said, we do plan on having dramatic contents coming up in the future.

While keeping that in mind, the plot line for the next expansion is finalized and the main scenario is pretty much solidified at this point. We’re hoping to bring more dungeons that are dynamic with never before seen dynamic content. We can’t say what that is otherwise it would be a spoiler for what’s to come.

MMORPG: Because each patch builds on the patch that came before it, I was curious if there are any lessons you feel like you’ve learned since the game has gone live that you were  bringing to 3.3 and further content.

Yoshida: In terms of lessons learned, there were a lot throughout the development experiences. Things like how to set the appropriate drop rate or how long it should take to clear certain content.

Another example is the 24 man raid. We felt the Void Ark was a little too easy and we noticed the players got used to that environment. So when the new raid content came out and we had a more challenging difficulty there were a lot of players asking us to nerf that content. So that was a big lesson we learned. It might not be a good idea to have a situation where people are complacent in the content so we need to consider how we set the difficulty level and how to maintain it. It may not necessarily mean that as long as the players are having fun, that all is well.

GE: You previously said that 4.0 won’t be story gated. We were wondering if you could elaborate on what your plans are for that?

Yoshida: In terms of the story- the narratives are continuous. The expectation is that the players will start with ARR and continue through the expansion. The lesson with having 3.0 released was that all of the content of the expansion wasn’t accessible until you beat ARR. The feedback, especially from the Western audiences, was that players weren’t able to access any of the Heavensward content until having completed 2.0. We would still like players to get through the story content, but some of the elements in the expansion we’re considering letting players access certain elements without having to complete content from ARR.

Another thing we’re debating internally is whether or not to have something like World of Warcraft’s jumping potion that would work with both levels an story. The Chinese version actually has something similar to this already. I’m trying to decide if something like this should be timed with 4.0.

WoW would have players pay to jump over and skip levels and it’s something that can be considered for FFXIV as well. Of course this isn’t so we can make money off players wanting to skip the content, but there has always been the debate of when we bring in new players, or if an existing player wants to bring in a new player, there’s disparity with the level gap between them, especially if the player has gone through all the content and their friend is just starting. It would be such an effort for the new player to catch up. I feel that we might want to bridge that gap and have that available as an option. Whether or not to actually implement that or offer it as a purchasable option still hasn’t been decided.

We still have some time until 4.0 so we’re hoping to gather more feedback from players out there to see what would be the best course of action for handling this. I’ve talked to a lot of players familiar with WoW and some of them have said “well why didn’t you have your jumping potion with 3.0?”.

PSU: Last year I talked to you about the process of writing and creating characters for 2.x and 3.0 and at the time you said the characters you enjoyed the most were the ones that didn’t have existing lore or baggage from 1.0. Looking back at 3.x now, I’d love to know which characters or personalities were the most rewarding for you to write or create?

Yoshida: With the characters from 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0 I’ve tried to connect them to make sense for the larger narrative. To do this we have Alphianau- that’s why he was created. He’s an interesting character, he’s very smart, from a well-to-do family, he has ambition and is idealistic. At the same time, he’s someone who has never experienced failure, he’s never taken matters into his own hands. That character going through that disappointment and hitting rock bottom in the 2.x series and pulling himself back up and turning himself into a leader is something I really paid attention too. If someone asked me which character I was proud of or thought was the most rewarding, I would say Alphinau.

I also like Estinien. What makes him interesting is that you have Nidhogg whose sister was killed by humans and he’s hated humans for 1000 years and then with Estinien, his family was killed and so both sides want to kill each other almost like a mirror. They both want to extract their revenge in each other.

With that being said, there is a difference between the two in that Nidhogg was always alone and isolated while Estinien had his allies and his friends and I feel I was able to depict that narrative in Patch 3.3

MMORPG: With items, Heavensward is interesting with the diversity in how they look like weapons and equipment. We’re still seeing items however that only have marginal upgrades. Have you given any thought or concerns to diversifying items from a gameplay standpoint like changing how your abilities work or anything like that?

Yoshida: In terms of having specific abilities assigned to a weapon, or a significant stat on a weapon- the chances are that players are going to look at that and see it as the strongest weapon and all flock to it. So when the development side is looking at game balance, we’d have to anticipate a party of eight with everybody having that particular weapon and set the balance to match that. By doing so, we run the risk of limiting the options you have for items and the difficulty would have to be balanced to cater to that particular weapon and that’s a very big risk and not something we feel is a good thing- other MMO’s have done this and haven’t been successful with it.

If there were specific items that had that boost or an added ability, we would want a situation where that item needs to be hard to obtain by farming or making the drop rate extremely low and that’s not really productive either. In this game we have people of all skill levels. Different players have the freedom to choose which content they want to play and so the development team wants to make it so that no matter how each player plays the game, they can still end up at the same strength and be on an equal playing field. That’s what we keep in mind when deciding the strength of an item. Adding anything special like stats or abilities on weapons is quite dangerous and so we avoid that kind of situation.

GE: Deep Dungeon sounds like great content for casual players. We were wondering though if there will be new content for more hardcore players?

Yoshida: Actually, Deep Dungeon will have a hardcore element. With the initial implementation in Patch 3.35 there will be fifty floors. In the future, maybe 3.4 or 3.5, Palace of the Dead will have up to two hundred floors in a future update and that’s definitely geared for hardcore players. I believe most players won’t be able to get to that last, two-hundredth floor.

PSU: My Fiancee and I had a bit of a debate that I’d like to settle. I play a male Elezen and she’s a female Elezen and we’ve noticed that the character of Ser Aymeric, very subtly seems to express… just short of romantic feelings, but a certain type of feeling that isn’t present with other characters. We were wondering if there was a certain purpose there. Additionally, would you be willing to explore possible romantic ties or deeper relations with future characters as the story proceeds?

Yoshida: We don’t intend on having any sort of NPC fall in love with a player character in the main story.

The reason is that say for example in real life, you’re a male gender, but in the game you’re RPing as a female. I feel that it should be the player’s choice for who they fall in love with and what kind of relationship they have.

That being said of course, when the player character has someone they like and want to get to know more about them without being related to the main story- that might be something we can explore. We are busy working on other material right now but it might be cool to have some kind of a dating game.

PSU: It felt like we had a kind of preview of that with Little Ladies day.

Yoshida: You’re right in that assumption- but we also have to be careful if someone gets a little to involved and then the NPC dies the shock might be a bit extreme so we want to tread carefully on that part.

And for your personally, be careful not to fall in love with any of the characters in the game and get in a fight with your fiancee.

If you and your fiancee like Ser Aymeric there are lines in the dialogue that make you think “is he talking to a best friend? or is he in love with the player character”? we’re planning on some dialogue in 3.4 that evokes that emotion again.

MMORPG: Deep Dungeon is so interesting and different than what you’ve done before. I was wondering if there were any particular inspirations you drew from when designing it from a mechanical standpoint?

Yoshida: The basic concept is to have first time players and veteran players be able to go into the dungeon together and enjoy the content.

It’s not about maneuvering through the mechanics and gimmicks of the content, but just enjoy playing and progressing deeper into the dungeon.

With that concept in mind, when you start Deep Dungeon, everyone starts at level one. I wanted to try and make it roguelike and see how that would fit into FFXIV.

The battle content and the rules for Deep Dungeon are very different than the typical content so we hope that players try it out.

MMORPG: Were there any specific roguelikes you were looking at when designing Deep Dungeon?

Yoshida: In Japan there was the Chocobo Mystery Dungeon- we were hoping to sort of re-create that with Deep Dungeon.

GE: During the E3 Live Letter you talked about Fan Fest. We were wondering how you decided on FFX minions to be given away?

Yoshida: You’ll have to wait until Fan Fest to see!

GE: I have my theories!

Yoshida: Yes, please speculate!

PSU: Regarding the glamour elements of the game, previously you said that you didn’t want jobs to wear the gear from other jobs because it could be visually confusing, and there are some dungeon pieces that can’t be dyed. I wanted to know if you’d be open to changing that? I think the players are skilled enough now for that to not be confusing.

Yoshida: In terms of being able to glamour job specific gear that’s not for your job… I don’t have any intentions of doing that. I don’t want a black mage in full plate armor casting spells. There are some MMOs that allow tanks for example to use robes, but if you’re a mage or caster you can’t wear full plate armor. If we were to do that in FFXIV people would complain. I don’t want to lift that restriction just yet.

PSU: There are some items that are restricted to a certain job that don’t seem that they need to be. Things like gloves or a skirt or pants.

Yoshida: We totally, totally understand. There are so many items… we’d have to go through each item. Forgive me for saying it, but honestly speaking it would cost too much bandwidth. We would like to turn it back to you (the players) for feedback. If there’s a specific item that you want to be glamour capable for all jobs, maybe we might have a better reference for what to take on.

  • Croweye

    Once again, great questions, great interview.

    • MouseNo4

      Compared to some that were answered during the live letter… these are amazing questions.

      • Croweye

        Don’t get me started on that. Makes my livid!

  • Autarch Cyrus

    And here I am basically skimming through interesting and cool information to look for “Please, please confirm Red Mage.” One day. One day.

  • izzyv

    No thank you to the jumping potion, China can keep it. What’s the point in jumping if you miss everything along the way? I came to XIV because it wasn’t WoW. I’d like to keep it that way, if that’s alright. Honestly if it does come to pass it’ll just make me feel like all the money and time and effort I’ve poured into this game was for nothing. Because what’s the point if all you have to do is pop a potion and boom you can go raid? There’s no challenge, there’s no heart left after that. I already feel terrible seeing my hard-earned event items on the Mogstation shop, how do you think I’ll feel when newbies are running around at levels that took me over a year to reach?

    • Aaron Jessix

      Totally agree

  • Joseph Estrada

    Better than that live letter where Yoshi spent half of it advertising to get people to spend money. >_>

  • D. A. Smith II

    So, do you think Halls of the Dead (Deep Dungeon) will be a viable leveling mechanic? Cuz I’m hoping it will cuz I’m sick of Leves/FATEs/hour-long dungeon queues trying to level DPS Jobs.