With Final Fantasy XIV‘s second major expansion on the horizon, it’s natural we still have plenty of questions. After all, the undertaking is proving to be absolutely massive with each reveal – as to be expected with two new jobs, new locations, battle system updates and more. With Heavensward wrapped up it’s time to look toward the game’s future and all the improvements it’s looking to bring along for the ride.
We had the chance to catch up with Naoki Yoshida during a media round-table and presentation in Hamburg, Germany. What were the reasons behind the upcoming boost items? Will we ever see Final Fantasy XIV on Switch and will Yoshi-P be a boss enemy in the game one day? The producer/director tells all in our full interview.
—Stormblood features the new job classes Red Mage and Samurai. Will we get more iconic job classes like Blue Mage or Illusionist in the future?
Naoki Yoshida: We have yet to release the Stormblood expansion and for the last two years we have always asked what kind of jobs we should include in the next expansion. Finally we are able to tell you that it’s going to be Red Mage and Samurai and that you can play them next month.
Right now I think that it’s enough and I don’t want to think about it too soon (laughs). But of course for the future we will consider bringing back the classes from previous games and you can keep that in mind in terms of their popularity.
—Because of your plans to change the job class disparities, some players fear that this will affect the difficulty of the content in the game. Some are more hardcore and some more casual. How do you plan to satisfy both types?
Yoshida: First of all I’d like to clear some things up because some people might misunderstand that. When we say we want to make certain elements more simple or obvious – something more digestible to understand – it does not necessarily mean that the game is going to be easy.
The objective for adjustment this time is that players can level up their characters more smoothly and can better understand their progress. We want them to better progress to the end game content.
Previously, once you came to the high difficulty end game content, a single mistake in the skill or combo rotation could make you lose your very high DPS and it was not easy to recover from that.
So with our changes it might be easier to recover from such mistakes, however the difficulty of the content itself was not changed… it won’t become easier. We want to keep it challenging and interesting for the players and want to make them use the full potential of their skills and actions. We want to make you shine in the way you utilize your skills.
—What lessons did you learn from developing some of the experimental new content in the 3.x series and can we expect that to continue in the 4.x series or will you build on what already exists?
Yoshida: I believe if there is no challenge you will start to get tired of the game and we cannot escape that. So for any content in the 4.x series we still want to continue the challenge of new material.
For example we implemented the Deep Dungeon/Palace of the Dead and plan another version for Stormblood, but the way you approach and play it will be a bit different.
There has been a reaction once we had implemented the 200th floor. Many people enjoyed this difficult content from floor 1-200 with a four man party. Since there seems to be a constant demand for difficult content it is something we are positively looking into.
—Don’t you fear that experienced players may be disturbed by new players, who used the level or skill jump items and don’t know how to handle their skills or rotations?
Yoshida: Just to give you some background: This item was already in place for the Chinese and Korean version of the game.
There is something we found out while we researched our data from the game: someone who is not very familiar with the game does not tend to use these items to start and jump into the game.
Typically, the players who used these sort of boost items have experienced playing the game the free trial version. They have got used to one of the jobs which are available, liked using it and then decided to really go into the game.
Once they decided to get the full version of the game and use their boost item for that single job, the first thing those players need to learn is not the skill rotation. It’s actually more their role within a party such as the Tank, Healer or DPS.
So we feel it is most important to teach them which role they play so, for example, they won’t run in front of a tank as a healer during a battle. Or imagine a healer, who is just attacking instead of helping his teammates – we don’t want this to happen.
If you use the job level boost item, we will direct you to what we call the Hall of the Novice. This is a separate area, where you learn what role your job has. You are prompted to go there as soon as you use that item in the game.
I am sure the concern is currently there as some players just participate in FATES and level up like this. I understand that, but with the release of the boost items it will not drastically change this situation, so we feel there is no cause for worry.
—Apart from having boost items, are there any plans to streamline the 2.x content for new players?
Yoshida: The patch content is technically not mandatory. There is the chance to not play them to get to Stormblood.
In terms of progressing through the main story and leveling up your character, we will make it one step faster with the implementation of Stormblood. The experience you gain through the 2.x content will be allocated and adjusted so you can level up your character quicker than before and the amount of experience you will gain will also increase.
And of course if you followed all the story quests in the 3.x scenario, you previously obtained all Allagan Tomestones elsewhere in order to update your gear. Now we are switching the rewards for the main scenario quests so you can obtain whatever is necessary for you to progress through the main scenario. You don’t have to go aside to collect the different Tomestones.
—Currently we are able to play Final Fantasy XIV on PC and PS4. What about Switch and Xbox One?
Yoshida: Of course we don’t want to say there is absolutely no possibility. We want to explore and expand our platform base because we want as many people as possible around the world to play our game. We want to think about platform support and there are opportunities where we do talk with Microsoft and Nintendo.
As you already mentioned the developers are very mindful of the community. If we consider adding another supported platform, there will be a community for that platform. No matter how small this community may become, we need to continue that support and to operate on these platforms in the future. So we need not only to talk about it amongst our selves, but also with Microsoft and Nintendo: Are we ready to setup a community? Can we support them in the long term. That is a very complicated decision that we have to make because it is not just us but also Microsoft and Nintendo have this sort of readiness that resolves in order to do this. So these decisions make it a really long process.
—One of the major characters in Final Fantasy XIV disappeared: Will Estinien play a major role in the next expansion? We would love to know what happened to him.
Yoshida: Please look forward to it! That’s all I can say for now. We hope that we can meet your expectations. (laughs)
—After we got the possibility to fight the CEO of Square Enix in Final Fantasy XV and NieR: Automata we wondered if we will ever battle against members of the development team (Yoshi-P, Soken, Koji-Fox, etc) or the rest of the company in FFXIV.
Yoshida: I don’t think we can handle the CEO! Definitely no! (laughs)
It doesn’t fit in the realm of fantasy. For the most part I don’t think you will see myself, Soken or Koji-Fox literally appear in Final Fantasy XIV.
One of the more irregular things that did happen was the Wandering Minstrel. It was actually brought up to me as a character when we made the 1.x series. The idea came from the scenario team and my reaction was: I don’t think that this is a good idea.
According to my scenario team they wanted somebody who represents the development team to thank the players directly. I was barely able to give the OK for that one. That might be your irregular case there. A certain example might also be the Rising event. It was when the development team wanted to give a message to the players and you may remember an episode from that.
We believe that something as you mentioned might not be impossible, but nobody in the development team has a lore setting in the world of Eorzea – there is no connection. But there is something like a joke idea I have. You all know those striking dummies everyone likes to beat. Maybe we can make one of them look like me! (laughs)
—Is there any feature or element you could not implement in Stormblood?
Yoshida: There is one that simply could not make it in time when we wanted to release and it was a PVP content. We wanted to release it with patch 4.05 where everyone has gone through the PVE content and settled down from there.
But my development team has worked so hard to implement as much as we wanted to, so I would feel disrespectful if I asked them for anything even more than this.
—Won’t the story lose a lot of its value since people can skip it using the boost items?
Yoshida: That is actually an interesting question. Of course from the creator’s perspective we want players to pay attention to the story and history we created, but rather than having a potential player looking at our game and saying “Oh it’s to much time I have to spend on this – I don’t want to play,” I’d rather give them the option to enter the game even when it’s from the middle of it.
We often compare it to a drama TV series in its third season. If you liked what you see in the third one, you may become interested in season one and two. If you do, you can always create another or multiple characters and discover those first two seasons. We really encourage players to do that.
—Every expansion release for MMORPGs gives newcomers an incentive to jump into them and start fresh either solo or with friends. With the release of Stormblood on the horizon, is there anything in particular you would like to say to players jumping into FFXIV for the first time? Any advice or message?
Yoshida: With the start of the new expansion we try to make things more manageable, more straight-forward and easier to understand, as if you are playing a standalone Final Fantasy game.
Then we have the free trial. At first we had a 14-day limitation, but now this restriction as gone and you can play as long as you want until the level cap of 35. You can experience many different experiences and content in Final Fantasy XIV. As I mentioned it is like a drama series with a wonderful story and we have a great community with players who are very nice.
I think it is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Stormblood as a new Final Fantasy installment.
—Will we maybe hear more about personal airships or aerial combat in the future?
Yoshida: I am afraid we cannot get into too much detail for now, but we want to hint that there will be an update coming to Free Company crafting in the 4.1 timing. That is all we can say at the moment.