As well as getting our hands on the game for a significant period of time this month, we also got a chance to speak to some of the staff – including Naoki Yoshida, the game’s producer and director. We quizzed him on the evolution of Final Fantasy XIV, and what long-time players can come to expect in A Realm Reborn. You can find our in-depth presentation report through this link.
Nova Crystallis: You mentioned before that the next milestone after launch is the implementation of DirectX 11 support. How is this going to work with the standard client?
Yoshida: First of all for DirectX 11, we’ll probably ask the players to download a separate client as it’s a totally different technology.
Nova Crystallis: How will companions work in the game, or rather, can you talk about pets such as the baby behemoth and their function in the game?
Yoshida: In the beta you can purchase these minions from shops, and they will be available from completing dungeons or maybe achievement rewards – there will be a lot of them. It’s basically going to be something that follows the players from a graphical standpoint, but that means it’s low cost in terms of development. For the development of minions, we’ll be able to introduce a lot of them – they could be very comical ones or popular ones from other FF titles, but please look forward to what we introduce.
One of the funny ones I like is the finger pointer that will follow you (laughs).
Nova Crystallis: In regards to the PC version, will there be a Steam client available?
Yoshida: We won’t be supporting that one. They’re pretty expensive.
Nova Crystallis: Post launch, how frequently can users expect updates?
Yoshida: The major updates will be brought every 2 ½ months and within two years after launch we are planning to introduce a new expansion.
Nova Crystallis: Since Alpha had both the sprawling quest hub method of leveling but also supported making traditional parties and chain-grinding with leves, will content progression start favoring a specific method as levels get higher?
Yoshida: That will all depend on your play style. There are a lot of dungeons in the game, and if you have a community around you it will probably be quicker to try different quests in the dungeons. From a speed point of view, each quest usually takes around 8 minutes – that’s how we designed it. Rather than continuing quests, if you keep on doing the dungeons that would be much quicker. For example with a level 20 dungeon, you can keep on continuing once you reach that level, then go to the next dungeon and keep on continuing – that would be a much quicker way of leveling up.
I wouldn’t say that’s the way to do it, but it really depends on which way the player would like to go.
Nova Crystallis: Regarding Summoner: since things seem to be delayed a bit, might we see the Summoner job at launch now, instead of in a patch down the line?
Yoshida: It will be at launch time.
Nova Crystallis: Will returning Level 50 characters still need to do the low-level class quests to unlock abilities that they had in 1.x?
Yoshida: Yes, you will need to. The story is completely different. With the battle class from level 15 there will be different weapon skills.
Nova Crystallis: Speaking of people who played the original version, in the community there seems to be this sort of division – one side who still wishes the game was like 1.x, and of course those who like the new version. What would you say to those people to convince them to let go of the past?
Yoshida: I’d really like to know which part of 1.x do those people love?
Nova Crystallis: I have a friend who played the original quite a bit and he enjoyed the combat system and toward the end, the higher level challenges. So he’s kind of worried – he wonders, “How is this going to appeal to me?”
Yoshida: Rest assured, come Phase 3 [of the beta] you will be able to bring in your level 50 characters into the game. I know there’s some people who’ve seen the alpha version are saying “Well where’s the regular combos, and I want to see more challenging techniques to be present in the system.” But it’s alpha and only up to level 15, so I deliberately didn’t bring in the complicated systems at this stage because otherwise it would scare off all the new players. So don’t worry, when the game comes out there will definitely be more challenges to be had.
But of course, I’m happy to hear people are really liking the 1.x version because we did put a lot of effort into updates.
Nova Crystallis: On the topic of community, what goes through your mind when people trigger react to things such as the infamous grass discussion from the official forums?
Yoshida: (Laughs) It can’t really be helped. Not only our game, but with any genre you’ll see people who won’t give anything a chance but just say something based on the first thing they thought. That’s the nature of Internet blog stories. So, I can’t really help it so I don’t worry too much otherwise if I took each of those comments too seriously I might get depressed.
That being said, those people who express themselves whether it’s a good or bad thing means they’re still interested in this product – which I think is a good thing. If they really don’t care about it, they won’t say anything about it.
I also understand those people who love 1.x are really passionate about it and might be afraid of the changes.
Nova Crystallis: How is progress on the vanity slot system coming along? Will it still be released in a later patch or might it make it for the official release?
Yoshida: The design is already in the system, so it’s just deciding when to implement it. If we sort of add that slot to the UI now it won’t work straight away so it’s just about the timing. I probably won’t add it in the beginning because it might be too complicated and won’t look great, so maybe in six month’s time.
Nova Crystallis: What about the housing system that you mentioned before. How much will it cost to build one and will crafters be able to build entire houses or only parts of them?
Yoshida: About the cost, we’re still fine-tuning so I can’t really give any details yet, but most likely it will be around needing three level 50 characters spending all their savings. That being said, we will drop the price so no need to rush.
About crafting, you will have the ability to build walls or craft the wallpaper, for example. Gatherers will need to gather all the material for that, so yes it’s possible. For designing the shape of the house, it’s something we’re still looking into. It really depends on how many assets we can provide. At the beginning we will probably go with pre-designed houses and maybe in the future people can design them themselves.
Nova Crystallis: Will you be introducing seasonal events with amazing furniture rewards like FFXI had?
Yoshida: Absolutely, there will be a lot of seasonal events in ARR – including very interesting ones. The character team is definitely thinking about a lot of different rewards, and yes I am aware of people asking for the swimsuits so that’s something I had in mind as well.
Nova Crystallis: So was it your idea to have all the female characters in short skirts?
Yoshida: Hmm. That’s actually the preference of the character team.
Nova Crystallis: I’m curious about your design philosophy when it comes to balancing content created for the more casual player and of course the hardcore users as well.
Yoshida: Time is key. So all the hardcore gamers – those who really want to complete the latest content straight away and get the rewards the quickest – those people are the more dedicated players. If they really want to do that they will probably need quit their job just to play XIV. Now for the casual players, if they don’t have enough time, or want to play as long as they want whenever they want – they can still complete the end game content if they don’t rush. The way I want to address the balance is not to lower the difficulty straight away – that’s not fair to those who have paid attention and are putting a lot of effort into the game. They want challenge, so I want to give challenge to the hardcore gamers. But if we leave it too difficult, the casual gamers will never be able to complete the content, so after a while I may prepare a sort of easy mode or a buffer that makes users stronger. Again, I won’t do that straight away because I want the hardcore users to have a challenge first, and then later down the line the casual users will receive help from our end. That’s sort of how I imagine hardcore players enjoying the game and casual users enjoying the game.
Nova Crystallis: Expanding on that question a bit and going back to the alpha version, what sort of feedback did you get in terms of the difficulty level? Was it perhaps too easy?
Yoshida: We made it easy on purpose. Even with the instance dungeon in the alpha version we made it easy because it’s so early. With beta Phase 2 we will be introducing two more dungeons – one is a mansion, for example – and you will find those more challenging. Gradually we will be introducing more difficult content.
That would be a level 30 kind of content, so it might still be too easy to those who are used to doing the end game content in the 1.x version. Still, even the community team got killed many times today, so it can be pretty tough.
Nova Crystallis: In terms of the new road map and the different phases of the beta, how confident are you that you’ll be able to stick to those plans?
Yoshida: It all depends on the quality. I’m telling the development team to keep the schedule, and of course we’re doing our best to keep the schedule, but when it comes to checking the game, if I’m not satisfied with the quality, then there will need to be changes which will sometimes cause a delay. We want to make sure everything comes out on time, but more important than the schedule, I feel that bringing out a good quality game is key.
Nova Crystallis: What do you think the biggest challenges are with the PlayStation 3 version development?
Yoshida: First is the graphics – we’re trying to make sure the quality is comparative to the Windows PC version. On the PS3 platform there is a limit in terms of memory and we don’t want to compromise the quality so that is definitely a challenge we are facing. The second part is the user interface. For the PC version we have the standard mouse and keyboard setup, but we want to make sure the gamepad mode is just as quick and easy to use, so that’s something we put a lot of effort into building.
Nova Crystallis: Has there been any plans to develop a version of the game for Sony’s newly announced next generation platform, PlayStation 4?
Yoshida: First of all, we’re going to keep our promises made in the past and are really focused on the PS3 version. It’s something we announced over three years ago, so our focus is definitely on that for now.
We do have the high spec PC version we’re developing, so it’s not going to be a problem for us – it’s quite easy for us to create a version for the next generation. It can’t be lower than the PS3’s specs; it’ll only be higher and much easier for us to make something for that kind of platform. Of course, we want to have as many players as possible to enjoy this game; we will definitely want to bring the game out to as many platforms as possible. But first we will keep our promise and release it on PS3.
Nova Crystallis: So E3, maybe?
Yoshida: (Laughs) Please look forward to E3.
Nova Crystallis: Once the title launches, at what point would you consider it a success? Or rather, what are your expectations for the title’s success?
Yoshida: I’ll probably need at least six months to see what the reality is. For me to say it’s a fun game – I think that’s very important in order to understand if it’s a successful game or not. I think the best way to say it is if the players are waiting for the next patch. As long as players are looking forward to the next patch, I think that will mean naturally there’s more subscribers. So yes, making sure this game is exciting and having players thinking that “Yes, this is Final Fantasy” – I think that is the main way to judge its success. I’m waiting to hear their voices.
Disclaimer: Event travel and hotel accommodations were paid for in full by Square Enix.