Earlier this month, Noclip teased their upcoming documentary. Screenshots showing a blue sky as a red object started to become closer and closer… Dalamud.
We reached out to Danny O’Dwyer, the founder of Noclip to ask him about his upcoming documentary centered around Final Fantasy XIV.
Let’s start with talking about Noclip. What is it, and how did you start it?
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me first of all, as a recent immigrant to Eorzea I really appreciate it. Basically, Noclip is a production company that makes free documentaries about videos games. We fund our work entirely through contributions from our community of Patrons to ensure we are financially disconnected from the gaming industry. This is the same reason all of our documentaries are free and have no advertising. I set up Noclip last September after leaving my job as a host on GameSpot. Working there taught me a lot about video production and the troubling future of games coverage. So for me, Noclip is a great way for me to use my access in the games industry to share stories, while also standing my ground in terms of our editorial independence. I take it very seriously, I don’t even let publishers help us with flights or accommodation. It makes production more expensive, but I sleep better and we wrack up a lot of air miles. Thankfully we’re funded to the tune of around $23,000 a month from our incredible patrons, so that certainly makes being so stubborn a little easier.
How do you pick your projects? and more specifically, how did you come to select Final Fantasy XIV as a topic?
Choosing a game to cover involves a lot of decision-making because we’re a two person team and each project takes precious time to complete. It’s a mixture of things including the availability of the interviewees, the scope of the project, how it fits with the rest of our calendar and ultimately how interesting a story it is.
In terms of the Final Fantasy XIV project, that story started in October when we went to shoot our first doc at the Rocket League offices in San Diego. We did a patron meet-up in a bar after our last night of filming. Around ten people turned up, and when we asked around for ideas for upcoming features Final Fantasy XIV came up with at least three of them. It sort of stuck in my mind from that moment, and I remember reading up about it some more and finding the story incredibly compelling. I’d rather not get into the specifics of how we ended up talking to Square Enix, but I think our work on the DOOM documentary showed a lot of studios that we’re capable of telling authentic stories without manipulating facts or trying to get a cheap headline. There was a pretty long back-and-forth with Square Enix about logistics and my concept for the series, and we eventually flew out there and filmed last week. It’s all come together really well. The PR/Marketing team in America really helped us out a lot.
What aspects of Final Fantasy XIV are you focusing on for your documentary?
The main timeline of our documentary is the period between 1.0 and A Realm Reborn, though we also cover the development of 1.0 and the culture of the company past ARR and into Stormblood. We’re telling a story that won’t be anything new to fans of the game, but from a perspective that is often not seen. I sat down with multiple team members and even interviewed Yoshida-san for over 6 hours across three days. So it gets pretty granular!
Have you spent time playing the game? Had you ever played FFXIV or other Final Fantasy titles before?
I was a big World of Warcraft fan, but being completely honest I passed on both XI and XIV. In fact, I’ve passed on basically every Final Fantasy – my household chose Amiga over Nintendo so I never played the early games. And by the time I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in turn based combat. So the past few months have included a lot of research. I’ve been playing XIV for a while now. I’m a Roegadyn pugilist (Hellsguard before you ask) and I enjoy exploring Eorzea solo. The game has certainly left an impression on me, and the story of how it got to where it is now is something that I was personally interested in by the time we started interviews. That was important to me.
What kind of research goes into doing a documentary?
Like I said, I’ve played a lot more Final Fantasy XIV than I had expected to this year! Aside from that, basically looking into the community as much as I could. You learn more from a game from the people who play it than from trailers. So I’ve been lurking on subreddits, watching Twitch streams, and YouTube videos of PAX Panels for a while now. It was a lot to take on, and I’m still in the process of learning.
During your time working on this documentary, was there anything you learned that surprised you?
Plenty, but I’ll keep those for the documentary :)
How has this project differed from your previous ones?
It’s our first full shoot outside of North America for one. I recorded an interview with John Romero in Ireland back in January, but I did that solo and with minimal equipment. This production required my camera operator and colorist Jeremy Jayne come too, along with plenty of equipment. It was also both of our first times in Japan, so we booked extra days to acclimatize, shoot some b-roll around Tokyo, and generally try and educate ourselves about the culture. The videos require translation which is a significant production challenge. And lastly, this is a story about a game that completely changed, so we’re not in a position to be able to capture all the game footage we require. In fact, that’s something I’m hoping the community can help me with. If any communities or YouTubers would be happy with us using their work (and naturally crediting it) I’d love for them to get in touch. This is the communities story as much as anyone’s, so I’d love to have their input if at all possible (noclip.video/contact).
When can we expect this to be released?
June, sometime before E3. I can’t say any more specific than that right now. We turn over these projects pretty quickly for a small team, but we never put out anything we’re not proud of. This is an incredibly important story, so we’re working as hard as we can to ensure we tell it properly.