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Interview: Naoki Yoshida Discusses Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s Past, Present and Future

by on April 12, 2013 2:00 PM 22

When Final Fantasy XIV launched more than two years ago, it definitely wasn’t the state-of-the-art of MMORPG development. Many expected the game to simply disappear quickly or to be swept under the “freemium” rug to make some quick cash.

But those many were wrong. In a rather surprising move, the team was reshuffled and Naoki Yoshida was appointed in the sweeping position of Game Director and Producer. At that time I was perplexed. No one really knew who he was and information on his previous work was direly scarce.

Yet, thanks to his humble and hard-working nature, his deep background as a gamer and his open approach to the game’s disgruntled fanbase, Naoki Yoshida managed to earn a special place in the heart of the Final Fantasy XIV fans, and started steering the ship around in a constructive and radical way that no one really expected.

Fast forward a couple years and the completely rebuilt Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is in closed beta and steadily approaching its release. Naoki Yoshida almost single-handedly showing a new face of Square Enix,  – less rigid and more open to feedback and criticism — earning the respect of many (enough to have his very own fan art, as you can see just below).

I finally managed to have a chat with Yoshida-san, and he shared some details and thoughts on his vision for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn‘s past, present, and future.

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Giuseppe: I have to say that I have the utmost respect for a developer willing to take the helm of a project as challenging as Final Fantasy XIV. What were your feelings when you were asked to take this massive responsibility? How are you feeling now that the goal seems to be in sight?

Naoki Yoshida: Final Fantasy XIV was a major concern of the company in its early days, even before I was on the project. I provided advice and instruction to the previous project team, and due to that, when I was asked to take over the project, I was already familiar with the title. When I took over the project I was in a positive frame of mind and my immediate thought was “Okay, it’s time to rebuild this game!”

I love the Final Fantasy series and have no regrets about my decision at all.

With the release date approaching, my workload is unreal so it hasn’t hit me yet. The fact remains that I enjoy working on Final Fantasy XIV.

G: The beta has been going on for a while now. How would you judge the reaction of the testers? Are you satisfied with the results of the test so far?

NY: Most of the testers that joined in our first beta phase are dedicated fans from the original release of Final Fantasy XIV. We received great reactions and enthusiasm about where the game is headed!

As for the test itself, we have been able to detect and fix bugs that arose when the servers were under extremely heavy load which we were unable to find in the alpha. The test has been quite productive.

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G: The design documents shared about a year ago mentioned “A Server System Built to Support a Worldless Model”. Does that mean that, down the line, there are chances for the borders between servers to be further blurred beyond the initial cross-server content finder? I’m thinking about the ability to freely travel between servers to meet your friends, for instance, that is being implemented in other games like The Elder Scrolls Online.

NY: Our server is designed in such way that it will be able to support those “worldless structures” down the line, but we don’t intend to make it available in the beginning.

There are certain elements that make MMOs interesting: having borders gives a sense of having a home, the ability for rankings among different worlds, PvP battles between the top players of each world, etc. For that reason, down the line, there are chances for the borders between servers to be further blurred but for the immediate future it will be operated on a per server basis.

G: Many did not expect the replacement of the soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu that came with Final Fantasy XIV in A Realm Reborn. Can you share the reasons behind that decision?

NY: We’re not planning to completely disregard all of the music from the original version, so fans shouldn’t worry about that. The reason that we’re introducing so many new songs is because of the fact that we rebuilt A Realm Reborn’s environment from the ground up. So we’ve been creating music that matched these new themes. We plan to use songs, both old and new, from Nobuo Uematsu and also to introduce music from other composers in future updates.

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G: Final Fantasy XI has been on Steam for quite a while, and digital sales seem to be the future for PC gaming, while SimCity just moved 54% of its initial sales digitally. Can we expect Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn to appear on Steam as well, maybe down the line, or it will be only on Square Enix’s own digital download platform?

NY: We are not planning to have Final Fantasy XIV appear on Steam at release, but it may be possible down the line. However, players can expect that there will be a downloadable version available at launch. We’re also in discussion with Sony regarding a downloadable version on the PlayStation 3.

G: I read that Dark Age of Camelot is one of your favorite MMORPGs, and it happens to be one of mine as well. Incidentally, Final Fantasy XIV has three factions. Can we expect something in a fashion similar to DAOC‘s Realm vs. Realm for A Realm Reborn‘s PvP?

NY: Oh! Then perhaps we have fought or joined a party together before?

For A Realm Reborn‘s PvP we plan to implement two elements: the Coliseum for “casual” PvP matches and the Frontline for large-scale PvP battles. Frontline will feature epic battles among the three city-states and would be similar to a Realm vs. Realm which you can look forward to.

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G: There’s one element that has been a crucial part of most Final Fantasy games, but has been somehow missing from the latest installments of the franchise, and that’s romance. Have you ever thought of inserting elements of romance in the quest lines of Final Fantasy XIV? Maybe integrating them with a possible return of path companions?

NY: For most games in the Final Fantasy series, the player is in control of a specific character (e.g. Cloud or Lightning) and experiences romance through that character. In A Realm Reborn, the player is playing as their own protagonist.

We’re leaving it up to the players themselves to have strong feelings toward specific characters or even other players. We don’t want to “force” players to like some characters that they normally wouldn’t just because of the story.

As for the story itself, there is a possibility that some of the NPCs may fall in love during the course of the adventure. Please stay tuned!

G: And here’s the moment in which I ask you to do my job for me: Anything else you’d like to tell to our readers before we conclude this interview?

NY: Thank you very much for your continued support of the Final Fantasy series and Final Fantasy XIV especially! We’re putting our utmost efforts into delivering a high quality gameplay experience, great storyline, incredible graphics, as well as creating the best Final Fantasy ever filled with distinctive Final Fantasy elements. So please stay tuned for the release of the game!

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And there you have it. We will definitely follow the development of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn closely over the next few months leading to our full preview and review, and I can’t wait to see if Yoshida-san and his team will be successful in creating the most astonishing rebirth of the history of the MMORPG genre.

In the meanwhile, if you missed Final Fantasy XIV or just need a recap of the story to prepare for A Realm Reborn (that will be a direct sequel story-wise), you can check out the eight parts of my Final Fantasy XIV: The Story So Far column, that include all the major plot points and the relevant cutscenes. You can also see the opening cutscene of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn below.

Additional Credit: the “Mini Minstrel” Naoki Yoshida fan art displayed above is a rendition of Naoki Yoshida’s personal in-game character and is courtesy of Vergil Renata. You can find many other super-cute “Mini Minstrel” artwork pieces in his Deviantart gallery here.

Join the Discussion

  • Seradwen

    I look forward to the release of the new reborn FFXIV. Great interview!!! Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.o.nieto.5 Daniel Ortiz Nieto

    Toshida is a true gamer and he proves it in every interview. He understands the game he is making and what he can do with it.
    Can’t wait for the phase 4 to come!

  • Glarry

    Uninteresting interview with uninteresting questions by a fanboy. Too bad for us, players.

    • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

      Well, thankfully not everyone shares your opinion there, isn’t it?

      Or maybe anyone that doesn’t share your personal opinion is automatically a “fanboy”? :D

      • Bobby

        I think you touched on the questions most players were interested in. I think Glarry here was looking for lame content related questions, like jobs, quests and things that are basically on the FFXIV:RR website already in glaring detail, but vague enough to piss off those who think they are Gods gift to the gaming world and deserve to know everything, like SE owes them something.

        • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

          I did try, glad you liked it :D

    • http://www.alkshkool.com/ faisal

      Yup totally useless interview. Nothing useful, might as well asked him what’s his favorite kind of icecream.

      • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

        Of course, maybe I should have asked him “why aren’t you going free to play!?!?!?” like everyone else? :D

        I asked things that weren’t asked before. That’s pretty simple. Ain’t it lucky that others found it interesting, especially considering that there’s info that hadn’t been previuously talked about?

        Quite evidently what’s not “useful” for you, may be interesting for others :D

        • http://www.alkshkool.com/ faisal

          Here is a hint, combat… New president maybe we should be worried?!

          completely useless.

          • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

            Combat is very visible in a thousand movies we’ve seen over and over, and very soon we’re gonna have everyone and his mother invited into phase 3 of the beta to try combat themselves.

            If you bothered following the news, you’d know that Yoshida already stated very clearly that the new president changes nothing for FFXIV. http://www.dualshockers.com/2013/03/26/naoki-yoshida-reassures-final-fantasy-xiv-a-realm-reborn-fans-after-news-of-wadas-resignation/

            The concept has been reiterated by Wada himself during the latest Livecast. So why exactly should I ask him something that he has already responded to, or about something that everyone can see by himself?

  • http://twitter.com/phatastical Sean

    Have to say I’m rather sad he dodged the Nobuo question so much. Also, I really hate that NDA at the moment. Self restraint… (´―`)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Perry/1310105117 Nick Perry

      Yes I feel the same…

    • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

      Doesn’t seem like a dodge to me. It’s actually quite clear.

      • http://twitter.com/phatastical Sean

        Unfortunately Giuseppe, I can’t explain my feelings currently due to the NDA, that being the reason I left it as it was. I do understand you guys are severely limited in what SE allows you to ask of them, and its not just this interview that has been extremely dodgy, but a number of them.

        We’ll have to just wait and come see full circle post-phase 3 when the NDA is lifted.

        • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

          Actually we were given no limits on what “SE allows” to ask (besides time limitations).

          The response he’s given here seems quite clear to me. Doesn’t leave room for interpretation. Remember that whatever the beta has, it’s not a final client, so what he says is more indicative than that.

          • http://twitter.com/phatastical Sean

            That’s idealistic thinking unfortunately. If that were the case, we should have gone with what Tanaka said after official release and not by what the 1.0 alpha/beta/release provided.

            He provided an answer as to why they came up with new songs, not why Nobuo wasn’t asked to re-write. His wording could be construed as hinting that Nobuo will have some new songs in 2.0, however as it stands that’s not the case.

          • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

            That’s not “Idealistic thinking”. That’s simply how the game industry (and all the entertainment industry) works really.

            There’s no “construing” to be done. The sentence “We plan to use songs, both old and new, from Nobuo Uematsu” is self-contained and leaves no room for any construing or interpretation.

            As a matter of fact, I would go ahead and saying that any further interpretation besides its most literal meaning (even not considering that there really isn’t any other meaning in English to it) is “construing”:

            There isn’t even the possibility of a translation mistake or lapse, as the questions and answers have been translated directly by Square Enix.

            In this industry developers go out of their way not to give answers that can create false hope (and in turn disappointment), and those replies are strictly scrutinized by Marketing for further safety, so if Uematsu was not involved in the way indicated by his reply, he would have just completely avoided the question with a no comment.

          • http://twitter.com/phatastical Sean

            To be honest Giuseppe, it’s not worth debating over at this point. It is very evident that regardless of what anyone says that’s not just accepting of what you think, you will defend. Whether its blind hope/faith or just refusing to admit in any certain fashion that on certain points there are problems.

            For your post to pigeon hole the entire entertainment industry as ‘that’s just how it works’ is part of the problem. There are numerous games, movies, and other ‘entertainment’ media that portray one thing and deliver another. An analogy of this would be movie previews showing clips pertinent to the story, but are completely lacking in the film. (The abomination known as Paranormal Activity 3 anyone? Or the mostly unwatched ‘The Invisible’? Guild Wars 2 Manifesto, what was said and what was done and all the history behind it.) There is plenty of examples that quite frankly show consumers/fans that only going by what is said and not what is produced/released is indeed idealistic and setting yourself up for possible disappointment.

            I’d also like to point out that while English is a rather precise language in its meanings, Japanese is not. As well as the fact that just having a translator give you the ‘meaning/translation’ in English doesn’t represent 100% what is actually being said.

            But to each their own. If Yoshi can do no fault in your eyes, who am I to point out the glaze over them? I’ll admit Yoshi has many strong points, but to blindly say he isn’t evasive / dodgy / vague in a number of his answers is at some point a stage of denial.

          • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

            There’s nothing to defend or no “denial” to be done. English is English. There simply is no other meaning to that sentence and to be completely honest it seems that you’re looking for excuse to disbelieve what is said (for reasons unknown).

            I’m sorry to have to be clear cut, but there’s a large difference betwen “showing clips” and making a clear cut statement.

            If you think developers go out of their way to lie to you, I’m not exactly sure why you’re reading an interview at all.

            Yoshida is vague on a number of his answers (like every game developer out there), but this one simply isn’t. There aren’t any other meanings to it. The only vagueness is on the extent of the collaboration, not on its existence.

            The translation has been done directly by the localization team at Square Enix, meaning that it says exactly what they wanted it to say and it has been greenlighted by their marketing department.

          • Hooped

            I bet your kicking yourself over this argument now =P. I’m pretty sure it goes without saying just how evasive he is to the paying customers, like myself, about the server load situation. How many letters addressed to us is an apology and and thank for your patience. Not one letter gives a complete explanation on how he will resolve the problem about the server issues, Your hero is the most hated gaming executive right now lol. Good luck with that.

          • Giuseppe Nelva

            Actually no. I’m not. Never kick myself over being right.

            By the way. He just posted a definitely exhaustive explanation exactly on that. Looks like you’re just a couple hours late to the party.

            If you think he’s “hated” in any shape or form, you must be completely blind to reality, or just a blind hater that confuses his biased opinion with the general perception.

            I’ll tell you a secret. You =/= Everyone. The fact that you’re a blind hater doesn’t mean everyone is :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Perry/1310105117 Nick Perry

    Good interview

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