After another phenomenal year for Final Fantasy XIV, which included the launch of its second major DLC in the shape of Stormblood and saw its player base grow to new heights, we were lucky enough to grab some time with the MMO’s producer Naoki Yoshida to discuss its development, its future, and what sets it apart from the other MMOs out there.
TSA: Last time we spoke I think you were feeling the pressure of readying Stormblood for launch, particularly due to the relatively short space of time you had to prepare for it. Are you rested now? Or does the constant development of Final Fantasy XIV mean that just doesn’t happen?
NY: Just after the release of Stormblood we received so many new players, and so many also came back, so the server was actually packed and there was so much work around this to mitigate the congestion. Also we wanted to release Patch 4.1 as soon as possible so that we worked parallel on that during the congestion, and in August there was a fan festival in China, and the fourth Iron Moon in early September [laughs] and at the end of September we were testing everything on Patch 4.1. And at the beginning of October there was a fan festival in South Korea. And Paris Games Week last week. And now we’re in London! [laughs]. So there is no time to settle!
I’m going back to Japan tomorrow, and two weeks after that we’ll get a big comedown. Maybe!
TSA: Do you still love it?!
NY: Yes! Just getting so much time to talk directly to fans and players around the world – they’re giving us energy, and galvanising us. When we meet media, like yourselves, and all the questions are quite positive, that is our motivation to keep going, so it’s working really really well!
TSA: There was a huge drive for accessibility with Stormblood. How do you think that’s gone now it’s been released and have those more vocal long-term players settled into the changes?
NY: Because something is simplified, if you’re familiar with any complicated thing, any change is going to feel uncomfortable. There’s a big main storyline on the back of Stormblood, so if you play it like a single player game, then you familiarise yourself with the new changes in a natural way. There wasn’t too much confusion or too many issues, so it seems as though they’ve digested those changes naturally by going through the main storyline.
From the release of 4.0 towards the release of 4.1, we’ve been following those changes and taking them into consideration. For example, the changes to the action and the new skill rotations has amalgamated everything together so that players can beat the content easier. Now we can see that many players have beaten the new content while they familiarised themselves with the new changes, so in the future content – patch 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 – I think we’ll have already built the foundation to progress through so that people can enjoy the game more.
TSA: Thanks to Stormblood’s success, you’ve passed the milestone of 10 million players, which places you amongst the most successful MMOs of all time. What do you think sets you apart from other recent big name MMOs like Elder Scrolls Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic that also have big name franchises attached?
NY: What makes us different to those games is our update speed and the volume of the content. We release a lot of new stuff in a short cycle, and that’s something that those others can’t really do. That’s why we keep doing it! People are really relieved that we’ve been sticking to the same pattern and releasing these packages and that’s why it became our advantage.
MMORPGs can also be compared with a marathon race; they start moving the same, but the longer it goes on you’ll start to see the difference. The other thing that makes us unique is the very rich storyline, so these are the points [that set us apart].
TSA: With the forthcoming online patch for Final Fantasy XV, do you think there’s becoming less call for straightforward single player Final Fantasy games, and is it all just going to draw towards the same point in the future?
NY: In the future the online element has to be vital for any type of game. It’s not necessarily going to be a good thing but many games have a day one hot fix implemented. Currently those high definition, high quality standalone games are built with an enormous amount of cost and human resources, and particularly for the graphics resources it’s a bit of a waste only to use them for the main game and not use them again.
If a standalone game is released and everyone is happy about it, it’s just natural to use those characters already in the main game and bring new content to give it a new, unique, game experience, so it’s something that all development teams are now thinking. Also from a business point of view, it’s quite beneficial as well, so it’s more like a natural cycle now. What we need to make sure is that we have to release a complete game, not to rely on DLC to complete the main game experience.
TSA: Final Fantasy XIV has already made the jump from one console generation to the next, do you think, given the level of success it’s achieving, that it could make the jump yet again in the future?
NY: One of our policies for the game, and for the team, is that we’ve put a lot of effort into it so we want to propagate it out to as many players as possible. We don’t want to have any restrictions regardless of devices or platforms so if a new console was coming into the market, of course we’d want to be on it.
Another policy we have because we have one big community, is that it’s cross platform. Even though the environment is different to each player, everyone can play together, and that’s something that’s truly vital for Final Fantasy XIV. This is the pitch that we’re making to the first party platform holders and that’s the basic policy that has to be met.
It might be easy to make a version of Final Fantasy XIV for Xbox, but we can’t have any limitations that the server would be solely for Xbox players. When the community [grows] in the future, we wouldn’t want the suggestion that you’re not to be able to meet your friends, so that’s what platform holders have to have in mind.
TSA: Finally, as a player is there anything you still want to see in Final Fantasy XIV, or have you now made it your perfect game?
NY: There are so many elements we still want to put into the game! I assume that most other developers will answer the same. If you make something that’s the perfect game you’d have to stop working on it, or never work on anything else! The perfect situation is all about perspective – is it from the developer’s perspective or the player’s perspective? I’m a really hardcore MMORPG gamer so introducing a PK server to the game is a cool idea, but again, in terms of Final Fantasy XIV a lot of players might say a PK server is nonsense!
So it’s just a personal view, and you have to have the developers point of view, and a business one – it’s quite difficult! – but again it makes the decision and the way of thinking really interesting!
Thank you to Naoki Yoshida for talking to us. If you’re still to try out Final Fantasy XIV then there’s been no better time, with a free trial available that allows you to access all of the game’s available content up to level 35, create up to eight playable characters, and experience the different playable races, classes, and jobs with no restrictions on playtime. New players who want to experience the free trial can register here: http://freetrial.finalfantasyxiv.com/.