Last monday we had the opportunity to interview Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida and Sage Sundi. One full hour! And we took the chance. Have fun reading it…
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: Let us introduce ourselves first, we are from JPGames. We originally started as a FINAL FANTASY XII fan page; developed into FINAL FANTASY FUTURE and now we are called JPGAMES.DE, the difference is that we now cover Japanese games for all platforms. I’m moderator for the FINAL FANTASY XIV forums and Frederick is a real hardcore player.
Frederick: Yeah. *laugh*
Yoshida Naoki: First of all, thank you very much for joining us today. As you already know, FINAL FANTASY XIV had a very hard launch since last year’s September and last month has been the one year anniversary. Thanks to all the FINAL FANTASY XIV players and communities that support us with very warm and kind words which really helped the development team, that is why we wanted to make this announcement about FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0. To show there is going to be more and more exciting experiences awaiting all the players. That is why we would like you to enjoy the game and look forward to the added features as well.
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: Thank you for this interview and let’s go straight to the first question: European players experience bigger time lags than US and Japanese players, which makes, for example, the Ifrit fight harder for them, because they can’t react so fast, are you aware of this situation and how do you plan to improve it?
Yoshida Naoki: First of all I would like to explain the situation, we are aware that there is a lot of discussion going on in the forums about these delays; however, some of them might be related to the server structure, while others might be related to the actual graphic design. We try to split these different issues, if it is about the server structure then: Yes, we are going to amend those delays.
I would really like to find out about this situation, so I would like to ask you this question. For example for the Primal Ifrit battle, probably the easiest example is when the flames come from the ground and you feel like you have avoided them but you might still get the damage. Is this happening to everyone in Germany? What do you think, or what is the voice in the forum?
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: Most of the players in the European region are suffering from this lag, we call it delay. The radiant plume, that is a special attack from Ifrit where those large circles spawn beneath you, that is where we suffer the most. On your screen you might be 10 meters away, but you still get the damage.
Yoshida Naoki: And that doesn’t happen to Japanese or US players?
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: We saw a couple of videos from US and Japanese players and it seems like they have 4 to 5 seconds longer time to evade these attacks. While we avoid those plumes on our screen, other players on teamspeak claim we run right into it or aren’t moving at all.
Sage Sundi: It seems like a network lag…
Yoshida Naoki: Thank you very much for this information, it’s very useful. We have heard a lot of voices from the player side that the Ifrit battle is really exciting, but at the same time we are aware that a lot of players are suffering from these lag issues. We are finding out if this is a server problem or a network problem, or if this happens when the client is accessing the server. We are going to investigate this, but any kind of information like ‚this is happening in a certain area of Germany or for a certain IP address‘ is very useful. We will definitely look into it, we want anyone to enjoy our product.
Sage Sundi: I really would like to have everyone suffering from this issue to report to our support forum, so we can look if we have a network problem, not just too many hubs but also… If you have, like, over 1000 milliseconds, it’s probably a network problem. But if it’s not this, then we have to fix that on our side. So if anyone is experiencing this, post your address route result.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: To our next question: When your vision of FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0 is realized, will there be anything left from the current game or are we going to play a whole different one?
Yoshida Naoki: Because we made such an announcement with all the information and that particular screenshot, we have a lot of questions from around the world like: „Is FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0 going to be totally different?“ Actually, it’s not going to be a different game, it’s still FINAL FANTASY XIV, of course, and the realm of Eorzea stays at Eorzea. The only difference is, as you experience now, the umbral era event, this is really going to change the world drastically. So whatever you are experiencing now is brining the future. For example guild leves remain, but some content can only be experienced in the current game. Also, there were worries we would wipe all the character data, we won’t do anything like this. So enjoy the game now and continue when 2.0 comes out.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: We definitely will.
Yoshida Naoki: For the guild leves, all the feedback that we receive from the players will be implemented and the proper ideal of good and evil will be brought in with 2.0 as well, also the instanced raids that you are experiencing now will be different as well, but for the primal, what is happening now due to the 7th umbral era, that might not be continued with 2.0. So, what is related to the umbral era you should really experience now.
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: We really wish FINAL FANTASY XIV all the best, but, especially on the MMORPG market, there is a huge competition. Why should a newcomer choose FINAL FANTASY XIV and what is unique about it?
Yoshida Naoki: It is very difficult to have one specific attraction for MMOs. If you really want to target a particular group of audience and forget about the majority, then it is much easier to make an MMO for that kind of audience. But what we are trying to archive with FINAL FANTASY XIV is, like I said in the producer letters, to try and create an amusement park. We have a long history with the FINAL FANTASY series, you have XI as a previous MMO and now you have XIV. So we want to make sure that this MMO has a lot of attractions in the style of FINAL FANTASY and that is the reason why I think about it like an amusement park.
We want a lot of attractions in the game, some for players without much time and some for the players who really want to try hardcore content, so we want to have a variation. For example, in World of Warcraft, it’s typical to say: ‚What makes World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft.‘ *chuckles* So as an MMO, it has a lot of different variations and places. It is up to the players, we want them to feel comfortable in their environment. Whatever they are looking for, we want to have it in the game. That’s something we want to make sure of. It is up to the players, after all. I believe if it is a good game, the community will tell: „It is a great game, why don’t you come in?“ And while they are in game, they enjoy; or if they don’t, perhaps they might leave, it is really up to the players. We want to make sure to listen to the community and to make the game as fun as possible.
I always talk about the game design, but the thing I forget about is the graphics. *laughs* It is something really, really important to stand out compared to other MMOs. In a FINAL FANTASY game, you can experience really high-quality graphics.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: So, we would like you to imagine December 2013, what significance will FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0 have for players and, especially, for the media? What realistic goal do you have?
Yoshida Naoki: How we would like the media to see us?
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: Yeah, what is your goal?
Yoshida Naoki: That is a very tricky question. For example for the PS3, the media is going to look at a new title, so we are going to approach like „We are really competitive with this new kind of title for the PS3, so please have a look!“ That is probably going to attract the audience, while the community probably sides with you, or the hardcore MMO media… Probably they are going to compare this new FINAL FANTASY XIV with the last one. Depending on the audience or the media, our message will be different. What we really want to make sure is, as we had a terrible launch previously, we want to make sure to have a great impact. So we are going to make sure that the user interface improves and we also make the flow up to level 20 a triumph for the players, those two issues are something we need to improve, it is quite tricky where we will see us at the time.
This relaunch is very, very unique for an MMO title. Most MMO titles that fail at the beginning just disappear, but we really want to bring this game back and make a big comeback for FINAL FANTASY XIV, so to make this happen, we really have to do our best. And what we want the media to write about us? We need to make it happen, so the media will write about it. It is not like we want them to do this, we need to prove it. To make sure of this, we will make more travels around the world and do meetings like this, to make sure a lot of players can actually touch and see the change we are making. It is up to us to do this, rather than asking the media.
Maybe, at a time, we want the media to realize that the miracle actually DID happen! *everyone chuckles*
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: Between October and December 2012, you plan to integrate the PS3 Version in an all-new FINAL FANTASY XIV, do you think you will have material to show at E3 2012? Or is this too early?
Yoshida Naoki: Visual Works, the company that makes the trailers and movies for SQUARE ENIX, is actually working on new movie trailers for FINAL FANTASY XIV, we should be able to show that to the public at E3. But about touching the game… I’m being quite cautious this time, I really want to make sure that the user interface is perfect and comfortable to show to the public, so E3 2012 may be too early, but probably we can show screenshots at that time. We will do our best to distribute information. So please, look forward to it.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: So no gameplay material at E3 2012?
Yoshida Naoki: Hands on or movies?
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: Movies.
Yoshida Naoki: We will do our best, we can’t make any promise. But we will do our best to show gameplay movies to the public. Personally, I don’t like CGI-only movies. I want to show the gameplay, so we will do our best!
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: With the work on FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0, the work on the new graphic engine should be finished. Based on the current system requirements, is the graphic going to improve for “high-end systems” or will there just be better options to customize the graphics for “lower systems”?
Yoshida Naoki: Actually, we are aiming for both. If you have a “high-end system” already, then you will be able to have more characters, monsters or objects displayed on the screen with the current high quality, but if you switch those options off, the game still works with great graphics. But you will be able to see less characters or monsters. We want to aim for laptops being able to run this game and at least to have the PS3 compatible.
But we can’t show those great graphics on the PS3 version of the game, that is very important.
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: The plans for player versus player have been released already, will this content be totally optional like in FINAL FANTASY XI and will there be new skills for the player versus player action?
Yoshida Naoki: First of all, PvP is going to be based on areas, unless you go to that area you won’t be engulfed in any PvP activities. Even if you try get into that area by mistake, you will see a warning like “There is PvP going on in this area, are you sure you want to join?” We will make sure to let the players know when they enter a PvP area.
I don’t have any plans to make a PvP-only server. Because it is area based, we don’t think we need any servers where you can PvP everywhere.
That is my plan now. *chuckles* But we might change it if we get a worldwide request from a lot of players, from around tens of thousands or more. Then, maybe, we can make a server dedicated to PvP, but that is only a possibility.
About your second question about the skill set: The answer is yes, we will definitely have special skills for PvP and I’m fully aware of the fact that PvP players need something to look forward to, so we will make sure that there is a special motivation to do PvP. It is going to be separated from the normal game, so both aren’t affecting each other. But for the PvP content, yes, there will be special rewards.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: With the recent release of information on FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0, we stumbled upon the term “Crystal Tower”. *Yoshida smirks* What can you tell us about this content and is it going to affect the storyline even after the release of 2.0?
Yoshida Naoki: I don’t want to spoil your fun, I’m not going to tell you if it is going to be related to the main quest or not, but you know… it is kind of the “Crystal Tower” you had in FINAL FANTASY III, and if you think about that and apply that to FINAL FANTASY XIV, you might get an imagination of what it is going to be like. *chuckles*
For example, when you think about what the “Crystal Tower” was like in FINAL FANTASY III, you were not able to save the content, there where thunders and dark clouds in there as well and also the four elements. That’s how the “Crystal Tower” was involved in FINAL FANTASY III and you can guess what it will be like in XIV. I really want you and the players to get excited about it. The “Crystal Tower” is just the beginning of what we have planned for FINAL FANTASY XIV. Because there is the long history of the FINAL FANTASY franchise, not only FINAL FANTASY III, we really want to include this history into XIV, so this is just the beginning of the excitement.
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: The marauder is a very good damage dealer and also, for example in the Ifrit fights, a really good tank, even a better one than the gladiator. What are your plans for the marauder and its job warrior? How can the paladin/gladiator keep up?
Yoshida Naoki: With 1.20, we are going to adapt the class balance and actually… in this laptop *points*, all the information is in there… *Sage Sundi laughs*
*Judge tries to seize Yoshidas laptop*
Yoshida Naoki (in English): Only Japanese. *smirks*
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: Damn. *everyone laughs*
Yoshida Naoki: We are going to make sure to do everything to get the balance right and then we are going to make adjustments to that. For example, the marauder is going to be a really strong attacker, but we don’t want to spoil all the gladiator’s tank positional skills. We are going to make adjustments, of course, when we bring in the job system. You can be more specialized in a different area, for example, the warrior will be really more warrior-like than a marauder going in that direction. You will soon see all those class identities with 1.20 and 1.21, when we make those balance adjustments. Of course we need to improve some areas and some areas might be shifted to a different job, so some people might get disappointed. *laughs* So, you can look forward to it, but you can also be quite wary of it.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: What are your future plans for the lancer class, what role is he going to play in future groups and what role is his job dragoon, or dragon knight, meant to play?
Yoshida Naoki: Yes, the lancer is going to be the main dragoon class, plus another class, so you have to achieve those two in order to walk the dragoon route.
The dragoon will be a critical hit damage dealer. They will make the most powerful critical damage to enemies. However, they need to do combo attacks and if they are successful, then they will bring the most effective damage to the enemy. This attack is unlike the one from FINAL FANTASY XI. When they are successful, then they can make this really powerful damage.
But we are fully aware of players that are really looking forward to the dragoons jump, we are looking into possibilities on how we can show that aspect to the players. Regarding 1.20 and 1.21, we are thinking about what we can do with the graphic engine… But when we make the new graphic engine, releasing with 2.0, we are still thinking about what we can do, so we are aware of that element as well.
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: Recently you mentioned combined jobs, what can you tell us about it and what jobs could that be?
Yoshida Naoki: The requirement to get these jobs is to do a job quest, but to do a job quest, there is a special requirement too. If you want to become a paladin, you need to have a class level 30 of gladiator and 15 of marauder. Then you can apply to this job quest and then, if you complete it, you can unlock that job, so it is not really like combining classes. It is more like a requirement.
For example, paladin will be a really special job for tanking. To make sure that he gets those abilities, he will need do more different quests to get those abilities. You are going to protect others, but that’s not all. You have the marauder as a background class before you become a paladin. Those kind of class abilities will be connected to the paladin job. Even if you had more classes in the past, these are not related to the paladin and can’t be used.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: So called “free companies” are going to be implemented with the release of FINAL FANTASY XIV 2.0, additionally player housings and the summoning of the primal Ifrit are planned features. Can you give us some details on this matter?
Yoshida Naoki: About the housing estates for the free companies, at the moment most disciples of the hand or of the land are thinking: “Why are they concentrating on the battle side?” Housing estates are going to be very important for those players, because it is more related to the lifestyle. We can make sure these players, trying out different classes, can really fell like they are taking place in the game, that was really important to us. Even for an MMO it is something very special to have your own house in the game, so we are fully aware of that and we are making sure it is really going to be exciting.
Unlike other MMOs, in which you can only see your own house and each house is based on an instanced system, we want to make sure that other players can actually see your house as well. Around 20 houses can be in one area, you can make houses, not anywhere, but you will be able to decide in which part you want to have your house. You can also design your house itself and have your own garden, maybe you can grow your own Gysahl Greens there or house your own chocobo. You can really customize your own estate.
At the moment, in the Dev Team, you can actually see the mock up of the polygons. So you can see what the estate is going to look like. It’s the Limsa Lominsa version, and the concept is to make it like a European resort area, so it is going to be really beautiful. Up from the hill you can see the ocean, it’s going to be really nice, I believe. I’m looking forward to it.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: What about the primal and the summoning?
Yoshida Naoki: The summoning system of FINAL FANTASY XIV is quite different from what you know from other classes, like the summoning classes or the beast master classes. It’s totally different, because to me the primals – Ifrit, Titan, Leviathan or Moogle – are all gods in the game and I don’t want to have several mini-Ifrits on the battlefield, because that doesn’t make sense. *laughs* I really want just one Ifrit in one world and the free company that defeats him gets the license to summon this primal. If that company summons or calls Ifrit, on the whole world the weather will change, so everyone will realize that someone called Ifrit. The world will be like in flames. To me, this is really FINAL FANTASY-like. And of course I’m going to make sure it is not unfair, everyone will have this opportunity. But we like to have the free companies to compete with each other to make sure to get this primal as an opportunity.
For example, if they defeat Ifrit, they have one chance to summon. But once they summon Ifrit, it goes away and someone else needs to defeat him to have another go at summoning him. We will give you more details, but this is how it looks like at the moment – so be excited!
*laughs* Oh, I did tell you quite the information there, so… *laughs*
JPGAMES.DE, Michael: Okay, let’s turn to our last question: We really enjoy your “Letters from the producer”. They are written really friendly and open minded, but this kind of open communication is something we are not used to from SQUARE ENIX. *everyone laughs* So the question is: Are you free to write them how you want them to be or are your PR-people looking over your shoulder? *PR people laugh and point at themselves*
Yoshida Naoki: To answer the question, if I have the right to freely do so, then yes. But of course, to make sure that there are no mistakes, for example Sundi and his community team check them before they are published. But sometimes they ask: “Are you sure that we can mention that at this point of time?” When they ask me that… well, I’m the producer and director and I have the full power to decide what we disclose, but of course we shouldn’t talk too much about the companies‘ secrets, so we do double check this. *Sundi laughs*
Sage Sundi: Well, the only problem is that Yoshida is always writing the texts at midnight *everyone laughs really hard* and sneaking out of his office to post it on the forums, so that really is the hardest part. *everyone still laughs*
So that’s the scary part about the community reps‘ role, because they wake me up in the morning to tell me: “There is all the information on the forum!”, and I am like: “OH MY GOD!!!” *everyone laughs again*
Yoshida Naoki: Because it’s an MMO, and because I have really been a hardcore MMO player, I honestly think that this open discussion is part of the excitement and we really want to make sure to have this good communication. I’m the director and producer of this project and it is not like I was told to act, it is my own policy. I wanted to do this and I really wanted to do this by myself. That’s why I started it and it makes it more enjoyable for me and, I believe, also for the players. I really want to continue this communication.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick: We hope so!
Yoshida Naoki: And I think SQUARE ENIX should generally change into that direction.
JPGAMES.DE, Frederick & Michael: We think so too. Thank you very much for your time.
Sage Sundi & Yoshida Naoki: Thank you very much.