Final Fantasy XIV returned to E3 this year with a mission: focus on making the game bigger and focus on growing the community. At this time last year, the game remained unreleased as fans awaited the third phase of the open beta. Since then, however, Naoki Yoshida and his team at Square Enix have enjoyed a successful re-launch as well as two big patches and the tremendous support from both the community and media alike.
During the show, a new class and job was announced for release in the coming months, while the next patch – due out in July – was detailed at length in the lead up to the eventual expansion pack, or 3.0 version of the game. Starting this summer, Square Enix will be launching FFXIV in the Chinese market and from there will be exploring even more markets and regions to grow its user base.
We took some time out at E3 to chat with Yoshida about all things FFXIV, from technical questions to personal feedback – as well as a little bit on his personal highlights of the show.
Nova Crystallis: Have you ever considered expanding the Duty Finder region options to include for example, Japanese Servers for the NA Community; I figure this might help speed up queue times for DPS classes.
Yoshida: As with most all MMOs out there, DPS/melee are usually the easiest and most fun classes to play so lots of players want to play them. It’s not just the West that has this problem, Japan does too. It is possible to do the regional matching, but the problem wouldn’t be solved as there are just as many melee DPS in Japan as there are in the West. What we have to do to work on solving that problem is give players more reason to play Tank and Healer roles, and work on them type of bonuses like we implemented in the past to give more incentive to these classes. We’ve seen a little bit of change recently due to these previous bonuses with people changing classes more to get these incentives. We realize it is a problem and we are working on ways to address it.
Nova Crystallis: What happened to the Gun user class that was originally teased alongside the dagger user that we now know as Ninja/Rogue?
Yoshida: We can’t say when right now, but we can tell that we have a Fan Festival coming up in October and Winter for Japan – we will be revealing more info about the coming features and the expansion pack at that time. We want you to remember that we promised we would give you a Rogue class and Ninja job, and we’ve come through with our promise, so in the future we can hopefully tell you more about fulfilling our promises on other classes as well.
Nova Crystallis: You spoke about going online in China, which is known for it’s harsh restrictions such as skeletons in World of Warcraft. What kind of adjustments have you had to make for Final Fantasy XIV?
Yoshida: We remember the fun that Blizzard had with the Lich King Expansion and knew how difficult it was for them, so when we started the original design of ARR we planned around the idea that we would be releasing in China someday, so we started our development with that in mind, making sure any type of – for example Skeleton type of models we had – have backup models for the Chinese version as well. For other content, making sure it would work not only for the worldwide audience, but also for the Chinese audience as well – we’ve been playing it safe. Although the Golden Saucer is probably not going to be available for the Chinese market, it’s probably impossible for that market.
Nova Crystallis: What kind of business model are you planning for China, and is it an option for outside of China?
Yoshida: It’s going to be different, with the global version we’re using the subscription model because we understand that a lot of our players and first time players, the subscription model is easy to understand, it also ensures a steady income meaning a steady work flow of updates at a steady rate. For China we understand that the players and market is different, and they have different needs. The main option will not be subscription based model, although it will be available. We will not be using the Free to Play route, but you will pay for a certain amount of time instead.
Nova Crystalis: Real Money Traders keep contacting me via tell trying to get me on their phishing websites. Are you taking measures to be more stricter about this, and do you have any figures for how many accounts have been banned since launch?
Yoshida: To answer your first question, internally we are currently working on a new type of system that will allow players to directly filter and report as soon as you see it. Behind the scenes we’re working directly not to only get the RMT in the game, but also trying to shut down the websites from our end.
As for how many accounts we have banned, every week we release a number in our Lodestone topics, this is usually around 3,000 accounts every week we are banning and we continue to ban this many. We don’t have a total number, but you can look at these weekly numbers and add them up (Laughs).
Nova Crystallis: How do you feel in regards to players win-trading in Duty Finder PvP?
Yoshida: If you see someone abusing this, feel free to report it. Yes it’s a concern that people are abusing the system, but we have to think why are people doing this? There are some people that really want to do PvP but every time they get in, their gear is not good enough to compete with their opponents, so the only way to get that gear is by winning. It creates this loop of wanting to play, but being unable to play and by using that method players can get up there.
We realize this is a problem, so in 2.3 we are adding new types of actions and things that ignore Morale so that these players have a better chance of getting up to that same level as the higher players. If this doesn’t work, we may have to look at ways of controlling this type of mini-abuse – we want to see what happens in 2.3 and go from there. Rather than banning them for this action, it’s better for us to find a method so players won’t do this, and everyone can have fun. That’s our job.
Nova Crystallis: What did you think when the Second Coil of Bahamut was cleared in three weeks?
Yoshida: Amazing. We watch and track the progress the whole time, and we saw that out of the whole world three different groups were up there at the top with everyone else floundering on the first levels. Blue Garter got it first, but the others were right after – it was very close. When designing the Binding Coil, we expected that at the third Turn [Turn 8], players would need at least the Soldiery gear to progress. We designed it with a certain DPS requirement in mind, but when those three groups came in and were over that DPS requirement already, that blew us away as we didn’t expect them to get that far. If you look back and think, they were better than the requirement when they got got there, should we design it to be even more difficult for them? It puts the rest of those at the bottom in an even more difficult position.
In the future when we design things, yes it got beat in three weeks, but we’re not too worried about that. We’re more okay with keeping it at the current level rather than making it even more difficult because that will leave out the players below. We know that those high level groups want their challenge, and so we’re releasing the Brutal form of the Second Coil in Patch 2.3. When we first designed Second Coil, we create it at maximum difficulty and from there we tweak it downwards. The Brutal version will be the un-tweaked version – the first thing we made – and even we haven’t tested it. We want the best players to test it, and we’re not sure if they will ever be able to defeat it. Regular players don’t have to go here, you don’t need to do this – this is just for those super-hardcore players. I won’t be going either.
Even becoming just a Blue Garter member there is so many hurdles, tests and trials, even getting that is a status symbol, and then inside of the community there are different levels of players with super-players at the top, all of them have so much pride in being number one in the world and it’s a very strong community, and that’s the type of community that we think is great for Final Fantasy XIV. We want to encourage them to continue playing the game, so giving them content like this is fun for us too. Though sometimes I wonder, “Do you guys have actual jobs?” (Laughs)
Nova Crystallis: I know one of their White Mages, and he does have a job.
Yoshida: That’s amazing!
Nova Crystallis: Given where you came from, the rocky launch of Final Fantasy XIV in 2010, to the Playstation 4 launch of A Realm Reborn, how would you describe this journey in one word?
Yoshida: (Long pause) Appreciation. Yes we had a very bad launch and we were attacked by critics, players and the whole fan base. Even after that the players still supported us, even before 2.0, and they’ve continued to support us after that. You the media gave us a second chance when we did our relaunch. You forgot about the past and concentrated on what was in the present – players too gave us a second chance. You’re continuing to stick with us, and that’s appreciation for our fans and our community.
Nova Crystallis: Are there any plans for other FF franchise guest appearances in Final Fantasy XIV?
Yoshida: We are thinking of bringing over more characters from other titles, however, it’s not like we’re going to just bring in random characters to be in the world. We understand that each of these characters from each of these Final Fantasy titles have their own stories, and own place in the lore of that game, and we don’t want to bring in things that will feel awkward not just in Final Fantasy XIV, but will ruin the story from the other Final Fantasy worlds.
For example, when we brought in Lightning into A Realm Reborn, we worked with the Final Fantasy XIII team to make sure that the reason why she was in Eorzea would fit with her saga in her world. We don’t want to do things like bring back a dead character, because we know players are really connected to those characters and the events that happened with them, and we don’t want to ruin that for them players. We want something that will satisfy them instead. It’s a lot of work to make sure that if we do it, we do it right, and that’s why we’re taking our time. If you look at a character like Cloud, he’s always losing his memory, so that’s a perfect in for us (Laughs).
Nova Crystallis: Will there be re-works for current stats in the game in regards to Skill Speed which is typically seen as undesirable on most physical DPS gear? For example, with the introduction of the Novus where many players are deciding on the best stat materias to commit to based on existing community research, will the team be more apprehensive about touching the power of certain stats going forward so as to not devalue people’s gear and materia investments?
Yoshida: Skill Speed affects classes and jobs differently – it’s not the same across the board. Depending on the type of content, if you’re fighting a single monster for a long period of time, then that constant DPS will be important so things like Critical Hit Rate are important. For second coil where you’re moving around a lot more, then Skill Speed plays a larger role. Monk for example and the type of skills and actions they use get more use out of Skill Speed in continuing their rotation and combos.
When we do finally raise the level cap in the future, Skill Speed will play an even bigger role there. In regards to the Novus Weapon we are looking to add a re-spec system in the future so that players have more options to re-customize their weapon. We want players to continue doing their own research in the community and find out which types of upgrades are good for each job, areas, dungeons and so on, and we will continue to listen to give players further options. In Japan our players aren’t as adverse to Skill Speed, especially Monks. There is a special type of Monk in Japan called “Professional Monk” and they are currently having a lot of debate about whether Critical Hit Rate or Skill Speed is more important.
Nova Crystallis: You mentioned that 3.0 has a lot of content, the same as A Realm Reborn’s launch. That’s a lot of content you are planning, so are you looking to have a beta test similar to pre-2.0 and when can we expect a release date?
Yoshida: We’re still on the fence to whether or not we want to have a beta test for the upcoming expansion pack. The reason we are on the fence is because of the story that we have in-store for 3.0. From 1.0 to 2.0, we had this build up of story with the Meteor fall at the end, and we are planning just as shocking events for the build up to 3.0, so if we have a beta for 3.0 it will kind of reveal the story, and if we do, we will have to hide and mask that kind of content.
As for the release date of the expansion pack, hopefully we will have more details at the upcoming Fan Festivals. Gamescom will likely focus on 2.4 content, and the main reason we aren’t revealing it there is because we want this exciting expansion content to be shown directly to our fans first, and we will of course be inviting the media as well. We want to reiterate though that we have a lot in-store for the story up to 3.0, and it will be just as shocking and eventful as the 1.0 to 2.0 storyline – the world won’t be destroyed or anything though, not that shocking.
Nova Crystallis: Apart from the gil dropped from dungeon enemies there is no incentive to kill them. This leads to players effectively trying to skip as many monsters as possible to reach the end of the dungeon where the reward is. What are your thoughts on implementing high-level tradable equipment that drops rarely from dungeon monsters to entice players to kill more monsters?
Yoshida: We made sure to separate raid dungeons, in which you concentrate on the complete conquest of the dungeon, and instanced dungeons, in which you can casually collect gil and tomestones. You can see a clear split of opinion between players who want to play casually, and those hardcore gamers who can spend a lot of time on a game.
In terms of the players who have the time, I’m sure they’ll work desperately to defeat the monsters in a dungeon if there are monsters with rare drops (of course, the rare drop has to be something of value). Because they would be able to defeat many of them, we would have to ultimately lower the chances of the rare drop actually happening. However, that would mean for those who can only play about 2 hours a day, they won’t be able to get that item no matter how much time goes by. Even if the rare drop is made tradable, it would most likely be extremely overpriced, and real money traders would be happy about that. So in that example, the chances of the item dropping becomes smaller and smaller and hardcore gamers will get sick and tired of defeating the same enemies over and over again, and casual gamers would either be tempted to get involved with real money trading or quit playing the game altogether.
Of course, I know that players want to see elements that provide a sense of thrill or something on which you could take your time, and I understand that players want elements they can show off especially because they put in a lot of time, so we added that kind of content starting with Patch 2.2 (separately from dungeons). Ultimately, if both types of play styles are available, then the players would be really happy about it; that’s another reason why I want to work hard to incorporate lots more content! This may sound repetitive, but dungeons are where core and casual gamers come together to form a party, so it’s designed so that the goal can easily be set to a single purpose.
Nova Crystallis: What do you believe the benefit of adding dungeons such as Pharos Sirius and the new hard mode dungeons is for the more hardcore players who currently spend their time clearing Coil or the Extreme Mode primals every week?
“YOU CAN SEE A CLEAR SPLIT OF OPINION BETWEEN PLAYERS WHO WANT TO PLAY CASUALLY, AND THOSE HARDCORE GAMERS WHO CAN SPEND A LOT OF TIME ON A GAME.”
Yoshida: This is all based on the assumption that the player’s character will grow because they increase their item level. Because there will be gear with a higher item level, players will first obtain those, and then challenge even stronger enemies. So, the additional dungeons are the perfect place for players to bolster their equipment before tackling the next sections of the Coil of Bahamut. On top of that, players who struggle with the Extreme primals, or the first section of the Coil of Bahamut, will have a chance to obtain powerful items which will enable them to conquer content that they may not have been able to before. In Patch 2.2, we introduced “The Echo” game mechanic to previous content that also serves to ease the difficulty level, so I think this is a great chance for casual gamers to get even more serious about playing.
Nova Crystallis: What are your personal highlights of E3 2014?
Yoshida: Even though we’re here at E3, I’ve had three LIVE shows, 13-14 interviews and I haven’t been around the show floor that much. Of what I have seen, the thing that has left the biggest impression is Evolve by the Left 4 Dead team. Having four players working together, and the fifth player gets to be the monster – it’s a mixture of PvE and PvP gameplay. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time so when I see it I get really excited.
In a similar vain, the new Fable Legends is again four players, with one outsider that gets to be the Game Master type of player, putting down traps and monsters so that no two games is the same. It’s similar, but different and brings it up to the next level, although I’m sad that I haven’t been able to go to either booth to try them out. Of course there are other titles like Destiny that interests me too. Last year it was all about the consoles, this year it’s about the games on those consoles, so this year seems a lot more exciting but I’m stuck in here sadly (Laughs). Because I have a bad memory, I want to play the Master Chief Collection again and see if I can remember everything that happens.
Nova Crystallis: On the subject of something similar to Evolve, would you consider something like that for FFXIV? For example, creating a large dungeon where one player becomes a monster and chases the rest through the length of it.
Yoshida: Evolve is going to be a very different game to Final Fantasy XIV, and again, the needs and the stresses on the console will be different as well. Four players versus one means they can better allocate their resources, where we have to use our resources in displaying lots of characters at once – that is our restriction that doesn’t allow us to do the same things that they are doing because they have only the four players and monster. It’s definitely something we’re interested in and we’ve been talking about it ourselves on the development team, about doing something similar. When we do make that announcement, you remember you heard it here first in this room! So maybe you have one player playing Behemoth, and 200 players coming out towards him, and in one swipe he knocks all 200 players down… everyone will want to be Behemoth and nobody will want to be the 200 so we will have to work on balance.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is out now on PC, PS3 and PS4. A full review of the launch version can be read here.