You’ve got to be one soulless bastard to not like Final Fantasy. Don’t get me wrong the series isn’t without it’s issues. Some of the games do have more than a smattering of pretentious bollocks about them, and I’m not even talking about FFXIII’s twenty-hour tutorial.
Overall, though, there’s something magical and kind-of innocent about Final Fantasy; something warm and fuzzy that is missing from other games. Whilst no Final Fantasy game is going to ever top Final Fantasy VII, the online-only Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn doesn’t do a bad job of it.
FFXIV: A Realm Reborn Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida was in Sydney the other week and caught up with him for a quick chat. It was an interesting interview mainly because it was carried out via a translator – something that I’ve never done before.
A Realm Reborn is the second version of FFVIX. Version 1.0 was originally released in 2010, but was shut down after only two years due to problems with the game. Rather than try to patch out the problems, Square Enix instead relaunched the game a year later as A Realm Reborn.
Anyway, on to the interview.
It must have been a pretty big decision to start again with FFXIV. What challenges did you face turning a game that wasn’t performing well into A Realm Reborn?
I think the most difficult thing, the most challenging thing of the experience – more than even the technology or design side of things, the most important thing was to try to change the image among the community – the players who were disappointed with the first version.
They loved the game but at the same time really got disappointed so much that they thought that this is never going to recover. We thought that it was going to be very important to change that view and that was the challenging part.
Final Fantasy XIV is continually evolving. In the past I’ve found MMOs satisfying the hardcore players, but forgetting about the casual players when it comes to new content. We’ve just had the second content patch, “Through the Maelstrom”. Are these patches adding anything for casual players?
We will make sure that with every patch that we provide content for both casual players and hardcore players. But, at the same time, there is going to be a theme for each patch; so maybe one patch may focus more on casual players and the next patch focused more towards the endgame content for hardcore gamers.
With some patches you may have both; for casual players we will be providing a more variety in the game, but for hardcore it will be more endgame focused. The dev team and myself are quite greedy, so we want to make sure that we cover all the aspects in a patch.
How easy is it to solo your way through the game?
Strictly speaking if you want to play by yourself only then you can progress up to level 15. But, after level 15 we has this system called Duty Finder; so even if you are playing solo you can use the Duty Finder tool and it will match different players. You can join a party automatically, without the need to shout or try to find people yourself, Duty Finder will do all the work for you.
Once you are in a party we have designed it so that you don’t have to talk to each other or discuss the strategy or anything you can just naturally start the conference. It’s not going to make you feel like you have to make a party yourself. So in that sense you can reach level 50.
The art style has a very clean, almost retro-MMO look compared to The Elder Scrolls Online, for example. Was this due the game’s initial development in the mid 2000’s or an intentional decision to keep the graphics in the traditional Final Fantasy style?
It’s quite tricky to answer, because I never really though what particular sort of direction we were aiming to go. In a way, yes, The Elder Scrolls has a very photorealistic type of graphics style, whilst in Final Fantasy we have more of a fantasy look. I think it is more to do with design taste. But at the same time even with FFXIV we do have photorealistic scenes- even more so than TES at some points.
FFXIV doesn’t have dirt; to me it is more like the traditional FF look. I’m torn, part of me says “I like this because it’s Final Fantasy” then there’s part of me that says “wouldn’t it be cool if it was a little more realistic.”
I understand what you mean and personally I feel we are lacking in that kind of realism like dirt. Personally I prefer the more realistic dark side of the design.
We already have someone working on an expansion pack. In this expansion pack we are doing something that is very challenging considering that this is a Final Fantasy game- focusing on variety and that sort of thing. So that something to look forward to.
What’s it like working on a Final Fantasy game? It’s such a revered series, how much pressure are you under to ensure your game lives up to the Final Fantasy legacy?
I don’t really feel that much of a special or particular pressure, because regardless of what franchise or type of game that you are making, if it doesn’t sell you can’t make the next game. So the pressure is the same. Because the game you are working on is Final Fantasy, you will get a lot of attention. It’s good to know that many players will be actually trying this game and that makes me happy. At the same time, because it is part of a franchise, there are of course some restrictions- so it’s not totally up to me to decide everything. Rather than pressure, I have happiness.
I am enjoying the experience because as a fanboy I always thought it would be great to create my own Final Fantasy game with the fans, talking to the fans that’s exactly what I can do with this and I’m doing it the way I want to so I’m really enjoying it rather than seeing the pressure.
Thank you very much for speaking with me today.