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Interview with Final Fantasy XIV's Naoki Yoshida: Celebrating 3 Years of Eorzea

It's been three years since Yoshida and his team relaunched the once disastrous title that was Final Fantasy XIV. Under his direction, FF14 saw a massive turn around in the form of A Realm Reborn. The game is now coming up on its second fan festival, where fans are hoping to hear news of another expansion for the MMO. Considering how soon this event is, Yoshida is hesitant to discuss with us any details regarding those plans.

However, he eagerly speaks on the current state of affairs, how the team has made it so far, and FF14's end game content. The entire time Yoshida is laughing and joking through his translator. His enthusiasm about Final Fantasy in general is charming, and it feels more like a casual conversation with a fan rather than director.

RPG Site: It’s Final Fantasy XIV’s third anniversary. The game certainly had a rocky history, but it’s come a long way. How does it feel to have come so far from that difficult place you started with FF14?

Naoki Yoshida: We relaunched Final Fantasy XIV on the 27th of August, 2013. It wasn’t a typical situation, and something unfamiliar to most people. FF14 shared the same title as the previous version, but it was completely different. A Realm Reborn’s development was tight, with a strict deadline considering the life cycle of the PlayStation 3. When we finally released our game, we were satisfied but just briefly.

So many people rushed the servers at launch that we had some serious difficulties, everything was constantly crashing because of the high demand for the game. We made the call to quit selling the downloadable version of the game at that time to ease some of that pressure. We had a lot of challenges during that time, but when we finally reached the end of 2013 things began to stabilize. The team finally was feeling good again, and I was too. Around then we felt like we had done something really great.

However, because this is a MMORPG, FF14 has to evolve and receive frequent updates. We also need to continue to engage the community and reach out to new players. So really, that 2013 situation was just the start for us. I always have a new goal, and at the time shortly after its launch my new goal was to release Heavensward.

There were some moments when I felt a little bit overwhelmed. But now that we have accomplished the base game and expansion, I just want to keep going. This is my sixth year to attend Gamescom. Earlier I was downstairs talking to fans, and that direct communication where they expressed their gratitude and I could show my appreciation for them just makes me want to pursue this further.

You mentioned the game evolving, staying updated. Recently, the raid finder was introduced to Final Fantasy XIV. For those who lack dedicated raid groups, they still seem to have trouble with raid finder due to impossibly long queues. Do you have plans for incentives or changes to the raid finder?

Well, right now we have this raid finder system implemented into the game. But our ideal system for this is the cross server party finder function that will be implemented in the future. At the moment, you can only communicate with people in your world. In the future, people that raid can use this party finder and chat with others interested in the same content. We want it to be easier for you to find someone to talk to and continue to practice with them. The raid finder is just a simple version of this system, instead of making players wait for our completed party finder we decided to also implement this.

The development team continues to monitor the back end log, and watch the winning rate of Midas. Turn 1 and 2 are moderately easy, so we see many people completing them. However, turns 3 and 4 are not seeing many players. Just adding incentives doesn’t work for this, we need another way to get more people in to challenge this high level content. Right now, when you open the raid finder, you see that there are so many requirements to get into this content. So in the coming patch, we want to review those requirements since they seem like a bit much.

We want to get more players into this challenging content, so we want to make the raids easier when the next one comes out. Some players may think this is a drastic change.

Since we’re talking about monitoring reception some on the back end, I’m curious as to what kind of results you’re seeing from Deep Dungeon. It’s pretty different from typical content in XIV, what’s the reception to this been like?

Deep Dungeon is something very unique to the game. Our development team has received a lot of feedback that’s different compared to most other encounters in the game. On our end, we’re seeing many people playing this content though.

It’s interesting and fun to see the different ways people are engaging Deep Dungeon. We see so many people trying to duo or take on all of this alone. There’s so much variety in how you’re able to approach this content, and that’s what we wanted here. From this perspective, we think it’s been pretty successful.

We’re seeing a lot of new players in here too. They’re players who still aren’t very familiar with the game yet. From mid-core players, those who aren’t new and aren’t on the top end, they seem to find the Deep Dungeon a bit boring. To have this group sit out content is kind of a peculiar situation. So, since this content is very newbie friendly, we would like to add more of a challenge to this later for other players.

We see that casual players don’t tend to join forum discussions and provide feedback there. But players that are midcore, people that play much more yet aren’t participating in much raiding, have been able to make it clear they don’t find this challenging.

However, with this new patch we’re going to add 150 floors to Deep Dungeon, bringing the total to 200 floors. If you want to proceed further up to 200, it’s going to be very hard. We want this to be a challenge for midcore and hardcore players to meet the new goal of reaching floor 200.

Final Fantasy XIV is available in several languages now, but do you have any plans to expand upon this?

Yesterday we had a question from some Italian media about the status of an Italian localization. We couldn’t really give any good news to them. We also hear requests for localization in Spanish and Portuguese as well.

The reason we can’t go to work adding these things immediately is because Square Enix doesn’t have dedicated teams in these languages at the moment. If Final Fantasy XIV was a stand alone title, then we could easily outsource this translation. However, FF14 is an online title, so it’s constantly being updated. This means we can’t rely on outsourcing to other companies for localization work. We would need these translator teams in house.

Since the beginning of this year, the president of Square Enix and I have been talking about taking localization further. We would like to have these teams in house, and we think of this as an important issue, so as of right now I’m thinking more positively about the situation.

You’ve had several cross over events with other Square titles like Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XI, etc. Are there plans for other future Square releases like Final Fantasy XV or Final Fantasy XII HD Remaster?

Final Fantasy XV’s director, Tabata-san, and I have a really good relationship, we chat about this a lot. If there’s a chance, we want to do something together. Thinking about the business of sales, running an event at the release of FF15 seems like it would make the most sense. We could exchange costumes between the two games.

However, it’s superficial. I don’t think it’s deep enough. What I want to do is wait for players to actually play through FF15 and get to know the characters and the world. Once they know what the story is, we could tie in an event better.

Speaking of Final Fantasy XII, quite a few members of the FF14 development team worked on FF12. We can’t say anything at the moment on this one, but in the future I would like to do this.

[Laughing] A lot of players think Hydaelyn is part of the Ivalice Alliance. This is of course just their speculation. I once had a player run up to me and ask “Yoshida-san! Can I ask one question? Is Hydaelyn tied in to the Ivalice Alliance?” But I can’t answer this question!

Final question, but you’ve talked a lot in the past about the differences in Bahamut’s raid versus Alexander. What do you think is the biggest lessons you’ve learned when comparing the player feedback of the two?

The biggest thing I was hearing was that players wanted more challenging high level content. But, listening to just that request is not working out very well. [Laughs]

The feedback from these high level players is very important, but we also must look at the end game data and make decisions from that as well. Now we’re focusing on looking at this from many more angles, and trying to better understand how we can approach the difficulty in future raids.

There’s also a very big difference in how players view thed story in these raids. Bahamut is very iconic to Final Fantasy. There was a very rich story to this raid, involving the world’s rebirth. In coil, there was the first, second and final coil. When we made the first part, there wasn’t much to the story there. In the middle of the second coil, you began to see the story and how it connected to Final Fantasy XIV. Then there was the climax in final coil.

Because that story of final coil has ended, we had to sort of reset that excitement. We wanted to do the same thing we did for Bahamut. So we had these levels of excitement, working up to the third coil, and it sort of feels like there’s a fourth one coming in Alexander. But that’s not what happened.

[Laughing] Also, we learned that Final Fantasy fans don’t like steam punk that much. They’re really into fantasy.

Alexander final is currently in development. With the next raid onward, we want more Final Fantasy elements incorporated. The planning for those is still going, so please wait for those details.

However, we will see the final installment of Alexander soon. You may see something very special for a MMORPG. So you may see a special battle situation and a twist in the story. We hope you can look forward to that.

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