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E3 2018 Interview With Naoki Yoshida and Masayoshi Soken

17 Jun 2018

During our time at E3 this year, we had a chance to sit down with Final Fantasy XIV Producer/Director Naoki Yoshida as well as Sound Director Masayoshi Soken who was in town for the Eorzean Symphony Orchestra Concert (more on that coming soon).

Be warned, our first questions are a spoiler for Patch 4.3. If you aren’t caught up with the MSQ, stop reading now, go do it, and then come back.

Gamer Escape: At the end of Patch 4.3 we saw the introduction of the Roleplaying status with Alphinaud. We loved it! Do you plan to use this more in the future?

Yoshida: We can’t promise if it will come back often, but it is something that was new for us too- it was very experimental. Seeing the reaction of the players though and how excited they were for it was great. I’m glad people were able to experience the character’s story in that format. We’d like to utilize it when it’s needed.

GE: It really opens things up with how you can do the story now.

Yoshida: Yes.

Gamer Escape: Would you consider any game modes where you play as famous NPCs in a duty or instance?

Yoshida: We don’t want to delve into too much detail, because we want to leave that element of surprise for our players. You may have noticed with Alphinaud, we didn’t release much information at all because we wanted players to be very surprised by it. We’re currently working on something that will yet again bring that element of surprise so we’re hoping that once it’s implemented, players will find out and experience it first hand. It’s definitely something to look forward too.

Gamer Escape: When Eureka was first introduced it was interesting to watch the meta evolve over the first few days with how players were tackling the content. How was it for you and the development team watching players do the content? Were they tackling it in the way you intended?

Yoshida: I think for the most part, the player’s movements were in the range of the expectations of the development team. There were some people that waited at the base for NMs to spawn, which was something we imagined happening. Originally we thought about giving a debuff to people that stayed there for too long, but we thought that might be a little too cruel. We are monitoring the players and seeing how they react to the environment that they’re in. We’ve thought about different scenarios that may or may not happen. With the upcoming Pagos content, we’ve observed player behavior and tried to implement elements that takes that into consideration as we develop and create the mechanics associated with that. We look forward to seeing players strategizing or coming up with their own rules on how they’re going to be observing monster spawns and the conditions to spawn them.

Gamer Escape: Another Eureka question- there are a lot of references to Final Fantasy XI with NMs, minions and equipment. How did you decide to have all of those FFXI references?

Yoshida: With the concept for Eureka, we wanted to have an environment where you didn’t have any sort of limitations with time. So the more time you put into the content, we say “time to win” but we wanted players to take their time in the content, but still keep the essence that’s very FFXIV like. With the references with FFXI, it also kind of contributes to the fact that a lot of FFXIV players have a love for FFXI. The Dev team felt that some of the rule sets, or the way FFXIV is played, may not apply well to the content we had planned for Eureka with “time to win” or putting in as much time to approach this content. Taking inspiration from FFXI, where you have that kind of limitless environment felt like a good fit, so that was one element of it. Also a lot of the staff that worked on Eureka were actually former members on the FFXI team that transferred to XIV- so they wanted to sort of inject some FFXI into that content.

Gamer Escape: It was great with that patch, we had Byakko as well, and the Reisen Temple that played a track from FFXI when you go and see Genbu. It was a very nostalgic patch for FFXI players.

Soken: Yes, definitely. The development team agrees that it was content that would bring a smile to FFXI players and that was a great time to capitalize on that. I definitely wanted to choose “Iroha” to be utilized in that instance.

Gamer Escape: Soken, we talked at PAX a few years ago and you were torn on if you wanted to do rock concerts or orchestra concerts. Now you’re doing both… at the same time! How has it been touring with The Primals?

Soken: We are still in the middle of The Primals tour, so I can’t speak to the entire experience… but this could only have been done because it’s Final Fantasy XIV. With FFXIV and the intensity of the battles and the repetitive nature of a song being looped, as well as with the different phases we have in each encounter that matches the music as well- it’s always such a unique experience for players that do that content. It makes it so that it ties in very strongly with an emotional experience. So no matter if its a rock concert, or an orchestra concert, it makes it even more exciting, because it’s not just a musical experience, because players tie in their emotional in-game experiences as well. We have players really relating to the music that’s being played.

Of course, with anything we do related to FFXIV, we’ll give it our all every time. With both types concerts, they’re very serious business. We’ve put in a lot of effort and it was hard to get here. The preparations and practice to get here were quite a struggle. I’m really excited because we’re having the Orchestra concert in the Dolby Theatre this time, so we really want to make this a success.

Gamer Escape: We feel a bit bad asking this… Especially since The Primals album just came out, and the Stormblood OST is out early next month… but… on The Primals tour you performed the themes for Sofia and Lakshmi. When can we expect to be able to listen to those songs on an album?

Soken: But before we release it for sale, we should perform it during Fan Fest don’t you think?

Gamer Escape: Of course!

Soken: It’s true though that we have had many new Primals added up to patch 4.3 so we’ll need to consider doing some during the Fan Festivals. And I’m sure there are more coming.

GE: For Fan Fest this time around, the streams will be free. Why did you decide to do this?

Yoshida: There was a lot of thought put into this. At first we were thinking about how we could make it to sell streaming tickets more smoothly in a more streamlined fashion while also delivering the in-game items associated with it while also providing a high quality stream and archive footage. 

While trying to find the best partner to work with for the live streams, we approached different teams like Twitch. When we talked about paid live streams though, they have a company policy where they don’t typically handle personal information and we realized that there was a hurdle we had to overcome. So, why complicate the situation? We want as many people to watch the stream as possible so why not just make it free and available to everyone? That was the quickest route and that’s probably the biggest point that was brought up in terms of making that decision.

With that being said, for the in-game items associated to the Fan Fest event, we decided to attach that to the attendee ticket for those that will be there in person. But, that may exclude people that wanted to purchase a ticket, so we also wanted to make it available as an item on the Mog Station. With Soken being here and handling the music, I’m sure we’ll plan for some music stage event as well and with that, we want to make it so it’s special to the attendees that come to the event and make it a special treat for those that were able to come enjoy it with us.

Although the stream is free, we’ll be excluding music stage events from that so it’s more special for those that were able to make it out and watch it live.

Gamer Escape: Do you have any plans to make prior Fan Fest footage available?

Yoshida: How long did the archive last?… was it one year?

We didn’t actually give any thought about making it available. Is that something fans would like?

Gamer Escape: We’ve had a few people mention it. A member on our staff has really been wanting to re-watch things like lore panels and other main stage events.

Yoshida: Ah, so lore panel, battle sessions, things like that? With the Keynote… I don’t want people to watch me be nervous on stage, so maybe we’ll remove the keynote but maybe we can look into the possibility of getting the panel sessions. It might be a good idea to have it sort of condensed and make it available.

Gamer Escape: You don’t seem that nervous on stage.

Yoshida: Yes! I am nervous! So many people watching me!—Yes, we will archive it!

Gamer Escape: Soken, with Return to Ivalice… you’ve done a lot of arrangements on classic Final Fantasy tracks before, but with the new raid, it uses all of the original tracks. What’s the reason for that?

Soken: It’s always a tough choice deciding if we arrange a track or not. With the Return to Ivalice content, when the original composer, Hitoshi Sakimoto, made those songs, the quality of the sound he produced, even at the time was very high in quality. I felt that we could take the music as-is and it wouldn’t feel too foreign. That was the thinking behind it. 

Trying to add that sort of crazy flavor to the original source material… I don’t think it would do it justice- I think that was another reason why. Even from a music perspective, his work is so great that I would want to keep the integrity of it.

Yoshida: It’s just too perfect! Sakimoto’s tracks are so perfect that no matter how he arranges it, it will degrade the song. 

Soken: Of course, there were some tweaks made in the sound mix so that it meshes into the game, but its pretty much the original source material as-is.

Yoshida: Of course, myself and the team realize that there are players curious to know how Soken would arrange them and give them his own flavors, but, Soken, as the Sound Director, made the decision that the songs were already of high quality and we’ll use them as they are and the team agrees that it was for the best.

Gamer Escape: Using the original music gives it quite a nostalgic feel as well. We’ve had a lot of nostalgia in Stormblood so far with Ivalice, FFXI in Eureka, and the fights for Omega. What has the fan reaction been that you’ve seen for all of this fan service in Stormblood?

Soken: With these different iterations where we’re utilizing different Final Fantasy tracks, I have a stance where whenever I’m making an arrangement of a track, I want to be accurate to the source material. I’m very relieved with the reactions we’ve had so far because people seem to be very positive. Whenever there’s an arrangement of a certain song, people can easily go into two different extremes with their opinions. It seems that a lot of people have accepted them though so I’m very relieved.

Yoshida: There are different thoughts and feelings towards the reaction but there are people that have played the previous Final Fantasy games and they recognize the Kefka theme and get excited. Same with the music from Final Fantasy V. For those who haven’t played those titles, they’ll see other players get excited by recognizing the themes and it might peak their interest to make them go back and try it out. So I think it has affected the franchise as a whole, getting players excited about previous titles.

In terms of Omega… we haven’t completed it yet, there’s still more to come in the future. We can’t say much at this point, but we’re glad to hear people are enjoying it and hope they’ll continue to enjoy it.

Soken: I think this may not apply to just sound but graphics as well… if we’re asked what’s more difficult- creating something brand new vs arranging or interpreting something that already exists- it’s harder to take existing material and make arrangements to it.

Gamer Escape: Yesterday you announced the Monster Hunter collaboration. We were curious why you decided to put it behind Stormblood instead of making it something that players could do at say, level 30 in the original areas?

Yoshida: The Wyvern that shows up from the Capcom side, the Rathalos- it’s not something you can beat at a low level. It’s a monster that requires you to put in your best efforts and it’s a very formidable opponent so we wanted to recreate that challenge in Final Fantasy XIV as well. 

Who we call the Warrior of Light in the Monster Hunter world would be Hunters. I feel like those high skilled hunters are the cream of the crop of gamers so I feel that getting to level 70 and completing Stormblood won’t be hard for those players to do.

The same goes for the Behemoth that will appear in Monster Hunter. It’s not an easy opponent.

Gamer Escape: I’ll have to get caught up in Monster Hunter!

Yoshida: It’s going to be very well made, so definnitely check it out!

Gamer Escape: It looks like it could be an instanced battle? How is the difficulty tuned for Rathalos? Is it something like a normal trial? and extreme trial?

Y: In July we’ll reveal more information. We would be doing a disservice to Capcom if we said anything. Capcom’s PR will come in and take me to Raccoon City and feed me to the zombies!

Gamer Escape: With the Monster Hunter World collaboration… we’re wondering what ever happened to the FFXV collaboration?

Yoshida: We’re not able to say when… but for the time being, this summer our focus is for players to enjoy the Monster Hunter collaboration. Your patience is appreciated.

Gamer Escape: We have the concerts in LA and Germany coming up. Are there more being planned as a part of this sort of circuit? Or will Germany be the last ones for now?

Soken: For the time being, we’ll consider Germany our last stop at this time.

This is us kind of testing the field and seeing if this overseas tour would be successful. Then we’ll see if we’re able to do another series of concerts. If it’s not successful then we probably won’t have another concert.

Gamer Escape: Are you planning on any more updates to the glamour dresser system? Will we get more glamour plates? Will we get the dresser as a furnishing?

Yoshida: There are some elements that are being worked on. Especially those that have a very large demand. For the elements that cause server stress, we have to monitor them and we haven’t been able to act upon those just yet. So for plates, we won’t be increasing the number as of patch 4.4 because it relates to that stress we apply onto the servers.

What has the least impact or effect on all of this is going to be where you can use the glamour dressers, and adding more locations where you can use them. We haven’t finalized everything as to addressing this with patch 4.4 and we’ll have to double check once I get back to Japan, but the first update will be that you’ll be able to use glamour dressers in more areas than before.

Gamer Escape: I’m curious why we haven’t seen the glamour dresser as a furnishing item yet?

Y: In terms of having a furnishing item… there’s a scary amount of item data connected to it. Something like a glamour dresser has a few hundred items associated with it. With furnishing items, you can move it around, or someone else can move it around… it’s very dangerous and risky and very unstable to have an item like that for you to place in your own personal housing. 

I’m sure with the convenience of moving around normal furnishings, or having retainers available, or having the ability to access market boards, it’s logical to think, “why can’t we have it as an item?” but the engineering behind that, having the items taken out, but suddenly not having it there, or having other people affect the location of the dresser…. we have to be very careful in working on that. That’s why we can’t just have it available as a furnishing item or something that can be readily placed.

Gamer Escape: The Fashion Report in the Gold Saucer has been quite popular. Are there any plans to expand on it or add more rewards to it?

Yoshida: I’m sure we’ll continue to make updates to it, but there is one issue…

The issue we have is, say for example, in one particular week, the theme is summer vacation and then the expected answer to give you a maximum score is… something that you can’t believe is the answer to the theme. The sensibility of the person making the themes and assignments… if their sensibility is horrible, it causes an issue.

We tried to make adjustments to alleviate this, but unfortunately I can’t check the minute content every week. With the update, we also need to find a developer that has better fashion sense, or have the current person polish their sense of fashion. While they do that though we might have issues where their taste is really horrible… so it’s pretty tough.

It’s great that we’re able to add content like that though where it’s not very clear cut and there are options where you can talk to players and get their input. We’re able to allocate more resources to create content that is a different flavor compared to the more traditional ones we’ve had. We’d love to add more content like this in the future.