E3 2013: Final Fantasy XIV Developer Interview

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn took E3 in a big way this year – now properly detailed and dated and two months out from launch, it’s clear Square Enix is placing high expectations on this rebooted MMO several years in the making. Despite promises of the next generation looming about the show, FFXIV took point – occupying a large portion of Square Enix’s own booth on both PC and PS3 for curious adventurer’s to try their hand at the mighty primal Ifrit.

That isn’t to say FFXIV will be missing out on those new consoles – in fact it’s heading to PlayStation 4 sometime next year, just in time to take advantage of what will (hopefully) by then be an established player base.

We had a chance once again to sit down with Producer/Director Naoki Yoshida in between signings and E3 audience hijinks to see how things were going and where the game was potentially headed post launch.

Nova Crystalis: From everything it looks like, Scholar branches off from Arcanist, like Summoner. When can we expect to see other Jobs branching off from other classes?
Yoshida: We haven’t announced anything official, but we hope to have other jobs branching off of classes that already have jobs before an expansion. Right we now we have too many attackers, so we’re trying to figure out what to do next. Personally, I want to have scout classes – something tricky, to do traps and those types of maneuvers.

Nova Crystallis: You just mentioned an expansion pack, and you’ve also talked about a number of features that are coming in content updates. What kind of schedule can we expect for content updates, and even an expansion pack?
Yoshida: For our current update schedule, we’re aiming for large updates every two and a half to three months. We pretty much already have our schedule solidified up to 2.3, and then if everything goes well we hope to have an expansion at around a year and a half after the original launch. That’s what we’re looking at, but then again you know how things change. We’re going to have a big launch and a lot of content at launch, and a lot of people on the team are working on this as well. So, we’ll have to see how things go with the launch but that’s what we’re looking at.

XIV_01Plenty of content will be available, although some will be locked away at first.Nova Crystallis: Now with Final Fantasy XI, they kind of had this thing where you would buy an expansion and it had all the areas of the game, but a bunch of them would be locked away. Then you would have to wait for a patch to open them up. Since the internet has obviously come a long way since then, and other MMOs traditionally release new areas in a patch, is that something we can expect to see?
Yoshida: At the release there will be areas that won’t be available – we’re going to continue adding dungeons and such. You’re not going to see everything at release. We’ll add more dungeons in future patches which won’t be in the game beforehand.

Nova Crystallis: The new trailer was amazing, and it highlighted a big focus on story. How many of the parts are going to be voice acted? Is it only going to be main quests?
Yoshida: It will only be for the main story, yes.

Nova Crystallis: So only the main scenario, and not the Grand Company quests?
Yoshida: In 1.0, the main scenario was, in a sense, kind of broken. When we came onto the project and started to rewrite the story and fix some things we decided to bring in the Grand Companies as one of the ways to repair it. So that’s why you had the Grand Company storyline feeling like the main scenario line, because that’s what it was. Whereas in 2.0, the Grand Company and the main storyline are going to be together from the beginning. So these types of Grand Company quests that you’re seeing – the people that are in those are going to be in the main quests as well. A lot of the stuff you see in the main scenario will be tied in with the Grand Companies.

Nova Crystallis: Will there be story content for gathering and crafting classes?
Yoshida: Yes. All classes – battle, crafting, gathering – will have separate quest lines. Crafters and gatherers will have their own quest lines up through Level 50. The battle classes will have quest lines up till Level 30, and then from there you’ll have the Job Lines.

Nova Crystallis: Will the story content differ for Legacy characters, either with acknowledgement from NPCs or extra cutscenes?
Yoshida: Yeah, there are some things that will be different for Legacy players. Some of the voice events as well – we’ve taken lines for both Legacy and newer players.

Nova Crystallis: Is the Content Finder and PVP Matchmaking system cross-region?
Yoshida: With the data centers that we have, there won’t be any cross-data center matching. It will only be between servers in a single data center.

XIV_03This is a test blurb for this image…Nova Crystallis: Do you worry that Legacy players will rush end-game content – complete it at launch? How do you plan to keep people that do this engaged long-term?
Yoshida: First of all, with the main scenario – just because you’re maybe a Level 50 Legacy player doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to rush through that endgame content – again all of the main scenario battles are going to be level-synced. So, you will have to play through them at the same level as everyone else – even someone who is starting from the beginning. It won’t be too easy to get through all of the main scenario.

Because so much as changed since version 1.x, yes maybe players have all of this gear they got from this version, but will that gear really help them get through what we have prepared for them in high level content in 2.0? Yes, there’ll be similar battles, but we don’t believe that a lot of players will be able to get easily through a lot of it. They’re going to have to adapt their fighting styles; they’re going to have to maybe get new gear to challenge these things. There are going to be new battles as well, such as with Titan and Bahamut.

Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy XI had kind of a weird thing where because of the gear swapping in battle, all of the endgame stuff was basically lateral upgrades where you would do all the stuff to get one piece to use on this one spell. You guys are clearly not doing that in this game, so how are you going to keep old content relevant, rather than dungeons being emptied forever? How are you going to keep older players coming back to help newer players?
Yoshida: We think the best way is that there’s going to be that content, and we’re not worried too much about people moving away from old content and it getting abandoned in a sense. Who wants to just play old content? You want something new, and so yes at the beginning you’re going to have a lot of new players and you’re going to play that old content, but it’s an MMO and you’re going to get less and less new users as the game goes on. Yes, older things can kind of fade away, but to combat that we’ll keep adding new content. That’s how we have to deal with that, rather than focusing on keeping players coming back to old content. Then there will be a point where you can come back and look at this older stuff and say “Okay, maybe we’ll renew it.”
Nova Crystallis: I didn’t mean that as a test, but you passed.
Yoshida: (Laughs)

That’s not to say we don’t have gameplay features in place to get people to go back to old dungeons. We have a token system where you gather different tokens and you can exchange those tokens for certain kinds of items. You’ll get more chances to get these tokens if you go to a lot of different dungeons, so going back to older dungeons will give you opportunities to get better items. That will be sort of a motivation for players to return to dungeons they’ve already completed.

Kobold2The open beta will act as a free trial for players ahead of launch.Nova Crystallis: Similar to Hamlet Defense, will there be endgame content for gathering and crafting classes?
Yoshida: We don’t have plans to have any type of content like that for those classes. We tried Hamlet Defense in 1.x and we found that there was a lot of limitations in designing the battles, and from that learned that it wasn’t the best thing to do. We want to redefine the gathering and crafting classes compared to 1.x. Crafters are there to craft weapons and armor to be used by battle classes to then clear content. Gatherers need to gather high quality materials for crafters to make high quality gear for battle content.

Crafting and Gathering will be used in other areas for example; housing, for furniture, and PvP, for ballistas and similar things. We do have things planned but we want to bring it back to the traditional type of gathering and crafting.

Nova Crystallis: Are dungeons force Level Synced?
Yoshida: Most of our instanced dungeons require four people – all at the required level – but this doesn’t mean later on we won’t let high players go in to solo the dungeon. That is just natural progression, but for now it’s forced level sync for parties.

Nova Crystallis: Will there be a free trial for people to try before they buy?
Yoshida: At launch, the open beta period will facilitate this. After the game has launched, we won’t provide a trial straight away but in the future – perhaps six months after launch – we might offer a two week trial or something similar.

Nova Crystallis: If you have a positive experience with someone in the Duty Finder, will you be able to flag them so that you can play with them again?
Yoshida: At launch, we don’t have any plans for that feature, and the biggest reason behind that is, because dungeons are around 30 minutes, we don’t think players will get that close to one another within that time. You’ll come in, say hello, get through the dungeon, get your gear, say thanks and goodbye and it will be done. That is pretty much our reasoning behind the matchmaking system; no need to worry about finding people, you can go in, get the dungeon done, and leave. If you want to make friends, we would suggest the FATE system in order to meet new people that are on your server.

Nova Crystallis: How long after the game launch do you expect to allow Legacy characters to migrate to new servers?
Yoshida: We are thinking around six months. We will be checking the data on our side and we will see how the players are mixing, where they are going, and how the server balances are. We may push that date forward depending on these factors.

Nova Crystallis: Do you have any plans to combat RMT (Real Money Trading)? It was a large problem in 1.X as well as FFXI.
Yoshida: We believe that with the type of game we have now, it is discouraged, RMT is all about getting gil and selling it, but we have a game here where a lot of gil is not necessary to progress. Something in our game that FFXI didn’t have is gear binding, and so because of this, you cannot sell worn equipment. The only thing that requires gil is the housing system, so there are RMT that might try and get gil through housing, but most RMTs work by using their free account to create many characters, and then make lots of gil in that time, and then transfer that gil all to one spot before the trial ends. We have systems in place so that the amount of gil you get at lower levels is really insignificant, so during that free period, will they even get a decent amount of gil? We also have systems in place that prevent trading at lower levels, so we do have lots of small systems that discourage RMT, and hopefully RMTs will see that there aren’t good ways of making money. On top of that we’ve strengthened our special task force that has been active since FFXI, and we’ve made ways of scanning bots to make sure that even those RMT that try and make gil will be combated.

Nova Crystallis: Have there been any plans to reduce the amount of gil and RMT characters that existed on the 1.x servers?
Yoshida: It’s hard for us to find out who is legitimate and who is not – there are many players with lots of gil who legitimately obtained that gil, and if you accidentally delete a character that is not a RMT it will create trouble. The most difficult thing about RMT puppets is that the activities they do are not technically against the rules; anyone can create seven accounts and play nothing but guildleves all day to make gil. As long as they are doing things that other players are doing, and paying for an account, there is really nothing we can do. When they start botting and using automatic ways of cheating, it is then that we will deal with their characters. If they are just doing standard activities more frequently, it is hard to police them, but those that are active, we will be dealing with them.

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R. Kane