There are still many questions floating in the air about the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV expansion Stormblood, and in order to get some answers, we sat down with Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida.
Yoshida-san talked about a variety of topics, including improvements to existing jobs, specifically Paladin, technical progress done thanks to the discontinuation of PS3 support, size and scope of the expansion’s story and cities and much more.
If you’re curious to read more, check out what he told us below.
DualShockers: At the latest fanfest, you mentioned that Paladins are going to receive some love. Could you provide some details on what this will entail?
Naoki Yoshida: There have been a lot of comments on the fact that Paladins’ magic defense is not very strong. That’s definitely one of the big elements that we’ll be modifying.
We always aimed for Paladin to be one of the most streamlined tank jobs to control, so we want ton make changes so that they will have a strong defense against both physical and magical attacks.
DS: Considering that there won’t be a new tank or healer job in Stormblood, are you thinking of any measure to encourage players to play tanks and healers as much as possible, to balance the large influx of those covering DPS roles?
NY: We don’t want to force people to transition into those roles. Yet, for those who already like to play a tank or a healer, we’ll prepare more content encouraging players to play those roles. This is the direction that we’d like to take, as we don’t want to force DPS players to play tanks of healers if they don’t want to.
Looking at it from a role balance perspective, our data shows that the percentage of players who prefer tanks is about 22%, while healers are at 21%. Of course, ideally it would be nice if it was closer to 25% for each of those roles, but it’s still very close to that, so we feel that there is no point in trying to force people into doing something they don’t enjoy.
DS: We’re quite curious about the identity of the lady in red in the cinematic trailer of the expansion, Stormblood. Some say she’s Yda, others theorize that she is her sister… If you can’t tell us, maybe you can at least give us a hint?
NY: You’ll find out in about two weeks [Editor’s Note: The interview was recorded about a week ago, so we should be close].
DS: The expansion is supposed to revolve about the liberation of Doma and Ala Mhigo. We saw Kugane, and it’s gorgeous, but we actually did not see Ala Mhigo yet. Will we be able to visit the city as a location in the game?
NY: Yes, players will be able to enter the Ala Mhigo region. The reason why we weren’t able to reveal the landscapes of the Ala Mhigo area is that unfortunately we didn’t yet have the assets to show at the Las Vegas Fanfest at the required level of quality.
Also, there are some buildings that are prominent in the main scenario. They’re key locations, and it was very difficult to shoot around them to avoid them.
Before the release of Stormblood, we expect to create a field walkthrough trailer, as we did for the previous expansion, so you will be able to get a glimpse on how beautiful the landscape is.
DS: How large and complex will Kugane be compared to Ishgard?
NY: In terms of scale, we think it will be approximately the same as Ishgard, but it’s one of the first areas where there won’t be loading screens. It will be seamless. We also made it so that you can climb on top of roofs and traverse from there, like ninja running on the rooftops. We’d like to encourage players to explore that way as well.
You’ll be surprised to see how climbable some of these buildings are.
DS: With the release of Stormblood, support for PS3 will be discontinued, and you’re encouraging players to move to a 64-bit version of Windows. Could you explain if this change will lead to visible effects in the expansion? Perhaps bigger areas, better effects or something else?
NY: Just to clarify, the ability to traverse seamlessly within large areas is something that was aleady possible. We just wanted to have dynamic changes in the scenery, which is why we included some of those loading screens. It’s not completely related to technical specs.
With the improvements in the baseline hardware, the biggest boon for us is that memory size will be vastly increased, but our intent isn’t to create graphics that might be even higher quality than what we have now. Instead, we want to increase how many assets we can show on your screen at the same time.
Outher improvements would be being able to travel faster on the map, and while some haven’t been announced yet, we are planning for various updates and upgrades.
DS: A while ago, you mentioned the possibility of a crossover event with Final Fantasy XV, how are the plans for that proceeding? Is there any chance of a crossover event with Nier: Automata?
NY: If we were to consider some sort of crossover or collaboration, it would probably be with Final Fantasy XV, but right now all of our resources are focused on 4.0, so we’ll have to wait for until after release before we start even considering it.
For example, our collaboration with the Garo IP took a whole year just to get the assets creation done. If you include the promotional discussions, and the contract negotiations, it’s about a year and a half in total. So, that’s how seriously we would approach it if we were to do some sort of collaboration. It would take time, but if there is any sort of progress we’ll make sure to inform the players.
DS: With the new Shirogane housing zone, and the feature that will allow free companies to move, aren’t you concerned about the possibility of the old housing areas becoming empty? Is there any plan to prevent that?
NY: We don’t think they would become empty, because as soon as they open up, there’s someone who wants to move in. Of course the plots in Shirogane will be limited, so I don’t think there will be any empty space left.
DS: The Heavensward expansion came with a very long (and quite awesome) main story questline at launch. How will the story in Stormblood compare to Heavensward in terms of gameplay lenght and content size?
NY: We believe that it won’t be any shorter than Heavensward. The voice over scenes are definitely longer than Heavensward‘s, so it’ll probably be longer than Heavensword.
DS: There has been a lot of speculation about the name of the new raid “Return to Ivalice.” Is the name just homage to Yasumi Matsuno who will design the raid, or there is more to it?
NY: It’s definitely not an homage. It also depends on how the players will interpret it when they’ll actually enter the raid. In terms of the world of Ivalice, and whether or not it is connected to the realm of Final Fantasy XIV, it’s still a mystery, and that’s something that you will have to enjoy while playing the scenario.
All I can say is that I encourage people to get an idea from Final Fantasy Tactics, and sort of brief themselves on that lore.
DS: At Fanfest in Frankfurt you mentioned that Samurai was the first job that was decided for Stormblood, with Red Mage decided afterwards. Were there other candidates for that slot? Why did the selection fall on Red Mage?
NY: …But if I mention what other jobs we were considering alongside Red Mage, that might raise people’s hopes about the next job (laughs). When we were looking at it from a game design perspective, we wanted to introduce a long-range magic DPS. It was more about determining whether if Red Mage fit into that perspective would meet people’s expectations or not. They’ve waited a long time for Red Mage to be included.
That’s the part that took the most time. It wasn’t about choosing which job it would be. It was more about how do we make Red Mage fit into the world of FFXIV. Of course, there other jobs were considered: when thinking of magic you might think of Time Mage, which could have been a good candidate, but of course there was a very high demand for Red Mage, so we thought long and hard on how to present Red Mage in Final Fantasy XIV, and how to get people to feel that it’s the Red Mage they were expecting.
We were able to shape the job and establish it as a suitable caster type, so after finalizing that design, we announced the implementation of Red Mage.
DS: Considering that Stormblood‘s theme is liberation against the Garlean Empire, large-scale battles seem to fit pretty well into the scenario. Have you thought to tie the Frontlines PvP feature with the story of the expansion?
NY: I’m sorry, but no. Even when we announced that the Garo collaboration was bound primarily to PvP, there were a lot of people against the idea, as they didn’t like the fact that it involved PvP. There are people who are still adamant against participating in PvP, so I don’t think we would incorporate such an element into the main story quest.
Personally, I love PvP, I would love to consider something like that, but…
DS: After steering the Final Fantasy XIV ship to its successful rebirth and to a stable present, have you been thinking about your own future as a developer? Do you foresee continuing to work on FFXIV for a long time, or maybe you’d like to create a new game?
NY: First and foremost, this kind of decision isn’t determined much by my personal feelings, but more by how the company wants me to move forward.
The company decides on the projects they want me to work on, but that being said, FFXIV is a title in which we put a lot of work and effort, and we gathered so much support from the players, so I would love to continue working on Final Fantasy XIV. This doesn’t mean that i’m not considering other projects, if the company and the fans have a strong demand for me to create another title, it might be something that can move the needle. I won’t die any time soon so…
That said, it would be a really great feeling if there was a demand among the media and the players for me to create a new game.
DS: Do you have any final message about the expansion?
NY: At Fanfest in Frankfurt we were able to communicate the largest key points of expansion, but there is a lot of information that hasn’t been shared yet, including the battle updates, the new actions that the current jobs will learn, changes to PvP, system changes… There are many details that are yet to be revealed. We’re going to plan a media tour and Letter from the Producer Live broadcasts to share that information with our players.
For now enjoy patch 3.5 Part 2, find out who that lady in red is, and then we’ll shift towards 4.0.
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood will release on June 20th exclusively for PC and PS4, with the PS3 version of the game getting discontinued. PS3 users are eligible to a free upgrade to the PS4 version, and you can find out how to get it here.
[On-location reporting: Ryan Meitzer]