FFXIV: Endwalker Media Tour Interview With Naoki Yoshida

A couple of weeks ago, after spending a large portion of the day getting hands-on time with Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, we had a chance to meet with Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida over Zoom to ask about the expansion and future updates.

Gamer Escape: The changes to Summoner were really fun to play and the job feels just as active as it did before. Can you go in and tell us a little bit about how you did those changes for Summoner?

Naoki Yoshida: With the updates that we made to Summoner in our previous expansion 5.0, we were actually using a base system that was built during the ARR era, so it was made during a time where we had like a limited amount of time. The team and I felt that we were kind of pushing the limits at that point, so the team strongly felt that trying to make any further updates on that base system was not going to work and by 6.0, we would have needed to rebuild it and kind of renew it. That was already kind of in our minds and we’d decided to do so since the release of 5.0. Whenever we were thinking about, “Ok, so how do we revamp or rebuild Summoner,” we looked at the egis, Ifrit, Garuda and Titan, which worked more like a pet, but we wanted to make it so that we were actually summoning these beings. Then the second element was our infamous title of DoT master, that we’ve had since 2.0, was something that we wanted to remove from the books, so we definitely wanted to remove all of the DoT abilities. With these three summons, Ifrit, Garuda, and Titan in a sort of classic Final Fantasy, you would summon the monster, it would come out and unleash its move and come back. But when we looked at that from the perspective of a real encounter where there is a timeline that you’re following, or a skilled rotation that you’re trying to utilize during the battle, we felt that just having the creature come out and then come back was kind of lacking. We tried to rack our brains on, “Ok, so what would be unique to XIV, but an idea that we could incorporate into that sort of element.” We came up with the idea of the elemental attribute. Once you have summoned one of these creatures, the Summoner themselves will receive these elemental attributes added to them that would affect their attacks and it would provide a different feeling. Some of the moves that you can unleash differ, and so that was the third element that we implemented as the base concept.

From that base concept, we had our foundation, so we tried to move it into a specification document. That’s when we listed out the qualities of the updated summoner, and the battle content team and I would discuss about the different specifications. I think we went through 5 different iterations of just discussion upon discussion, trying to see if we could work out the kinks: get rid of any elements that might be hard to grasp, making sure that our settings made sense, and then having that motivation of why does it enable for a Summoner once you’ve called forth the Bahamut Prime that would allow for this aether to be attributed to you so that you can utilize these summoned creatures, trying to build the mechanics, the thinking behind the mechanics, as well as making it make sense for the players. Then once we had nailed down the specifications, we moved into the implementation phase. I think we spent just as much resources as building an entirely new job, if not more.

In one of our iterations, we tried playing it and of course we were able to call forth summons like Titan, Garuda, and Ifrit, but it still felt kind of flat, so to speak, and it wasn’t as fun as we expected. So we reworked it again. We got all of the ace developers on our battle system team to hash out more ideas to see if we could tweak it and get it to its final form and that’s how we got it to this state that you had seen in the previews. In the feeling of the game play that you feel right now, I believe that we were able to bring out the uniqueness of each of these creatures that you summon. I’m hoping that players will really enjoy it when it comes out.

Gamer Escape: Because it’s still using Bahamut, is Tiamat going to be upset with us?

Naoki Yoshida: I think we’re okay. She won’t get so angry because the Bahamut Prime that the summoners use is different from the Bahamut she knows. In that respect, just to add, the Ifrit, Garuda and Titan that you summon aren’t literally the Primals that exist in Eorzea, or else we’d suck out all the aether from the planet and we would destroy Hydaelyn. There is lore behind it: the powers that were bestowed upon your egi is kind of how you’re able to summon these creatures.

Gamer Escape: With Shadowbringers, there was a lot of talk about how you were able to overcome the technical challenges to get the sky to change depending on player progression, and I was wondering if there were any technical challenges that you and the team overcame for Endwalker that you’re able to talk about?

Naoki Yoshida: So there are technical aspects that we did incorporate. I would love to talk about them, but I’m afraid I can’t. I really can’t- hmmm, what can I say about this… Okay, so with the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga coming to a conclusion with Endwalker, it is a sort of culmination of everything we’ve been building since forever, and in terms of technical challenges that we had sort of put upon ourselves like we did in Shadowbringers, it is definitely there. I know we had explored some means of expression that is unique for Endwalker and I think in some of the ways the visuals are depicted, we tried to implement elements of emotional aspects, conveying emotions through some of the visual aspects in Endwalker. We were very particular about that part. I think that’s the extent I can say.

And then also, the moon is something that we were very torn over. We racked our brains on “how do we depict the scenes once we’re on the moon. And fundamentally speaking, what is the moon in the realm of FFXIV?” So those were some of the questions that we asked ourselves when we were trying to develop the look and the location. I’m hoping that it’s something that players will be very surprised by once you get to that point. The moon is definitely something to look forward to. I’m pretty sure most of you are going to be like, “What, what, really, what!?” I’m hoping that’s the effect. I’m hoping that people will get that.

Gamer Escape: During the presentation that we saw today, you mentioned that there would be more dungeons that use Trusts starting from patch 6.1 onward. I was curious if that’s going to include older content because there’s a lot of content from the beginning of the game up until level 71 when you unlock Trusts for Shadowbringers.

Naoki Yoshida: At this time, I’m afraid I can only say it’ll be in various places that this Trust system will be supported. Once Endwalker does release, I do want to take the time to talk to the players about what we are envisioning, what our plans are, so I’m afraid I would like to ask you to stand-by just a little bit more for now.

The AI and the Gambit (note: Gambit is a term the team uses for the variables in its AI, named after the system in Final Fantasy XII) that was built into the system previously was only able to be managed by our ace level developers, but we have updated the system so that it’s more accessible to the other developers. Something that is more general-use, per se. Our designers arranged for the system to be utilized on a larger scale, or a more general basis. We’re hopeful that the team will be able to apply these in more places.

Some of the updates that are implemented with the Trust system are that, for example, if its a Tank Trust, say there’s a boss that is about to cast an AoE attack. They might be able to cast Reprisal or some kind of buff to mitigate damage. Or, if the Trust NPC is a DPS, before they would have to finish a combo and then evade attacks, or it would get interrupted and it won’t go back to finishing off the combo. Whereas now, its been updated so that even if it had to evade some of the attacks, it can come back to finish out the combo rotation, or it would try to resume the attack it was trying to do. So I feel that with this new update it will give the feeling of playing with other players, you’ll feel that more. And I think this will be good news to some of the Dark Knight players. If you go into a dungeon with a Healer Trust, if you cast Living Dead on yourself, the healer will make sure to heal you to recover your HP. I think that’s good news to the Dark Knight players out there. But yeah, there are many other updates that were made to the Trust system, so we’re hoping that the players will be able to see that.

Gamer Escape: Back in April, Shoichi Matsuzawa said that you were thinking about upgrading the in-game textures. Looking ahead now, with such an emphasis on the next 10 years of the game, I was curious if you could talk a little bit about that, and if there are any other kind of big graphical or engine upgrades that you’re looking into?

Naoki Yoshida: I’m afraid there’s nothing I can say at this time, only because we do want to concentrate on Endwalker. Not just the developers, but the players as well. We would love for the players to kind of enjoy the new expansion first and once that has settled, we would take the time to explain what we are looking forward to for the next 10 years. I don’t want to relay words that could potentially cause people to imagine something that might not be fully accurate. I don’t want to just provide words, but I do intend on taking some time where I discuss with the players and to get excited with the players, to encourage people to continue to stick with us. I’m sorry, but I would like to ask you to hold off on that as well.

Gamer Escape: We know that Ishgard housing is coming with Endwalker and you’ve talked about a lottery system, but also having a first come, first served type system. Can you talk a little bit about how that lottery works and are there going to be any plans to add that system into the older housing areas?

Naoki Yoshida: I just wanted to clarify, and you may be aware of this, but, of course, Ishgard housing area plots of land can only be purchased starting patch 6.1, so the area will become open, but you won’t be able to purchase any plots until the patch release. As such, we will be going into much more details during another Live Letter after the Endwalker release, but I am able to speak to parts of it at this time.

So for the system itself and the lottery system, once it is implemented, we’re going to allow for certain wards, not single plots, but the ward, to be designated as a lottery ward, or a first come, first served ward. The development team or operations team will separate out these different designated areas. So even if it is an existing housing area, if a particular ward is set as a lottery area, whenever a plot becomes available because it’s within that designated area for lottery, it will be available as lottery. In addition, this system is going to allow for the development team to designate whether a ward can only allow for a free company house versus a personal estate. We are making it so that we have the system setup so that we can use it in a flexible way, depending on the situation.

I’m hopeful that it will become a very fair system. Hopefully it will meet or exceed expectations of what the players were looking for in terms of fairness with a lottery system included. Whenever somebody moves out, if they happen to be in a ward that’s designated as a lottery area, people will have a chance at it. I’m hoping that I can take some time during a future Live Letter to go into the details, but I did want to make sure that, rest assured, we are going to address it.