We had the chance recently to sit down with Naoki Yoshida, producer on Final Fantasy XIV about all the changes coming down the pipe to the game, and how the new team expects to really turn things around for the venerable series' second MMO installment. Yoshida talks about 1.21 and the many things ahead leading into version 2.0.
MMORPG: Overall, what is the focus for patch 1.21, and what are you trying to achieve on the run up to the 2.0 re-launch?
Yoshida: I consider patch 1.21 to be the final step in our plan to rework the current version of FFXIV that we’ve been working on over the past year. We revamped the battle system and user interface within the limitations of the current server structure and UI specifications and I can definitely say that we have gone over everything within our original scope. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re satisfied with where we are, which is why we are working on the 2.0 re-launch in the first place. We plan on continuing to put forth our utmost effort as we move forward. With that said, the main points of patch 1.21 are:
Also, we’ll be implementing a sub-target on/off toggle setting, the lack of which was causing headaches when playing with a mouse and keyboard when casting spells. This change will also continue to allow gamepad users to play smoothly and without issue. Along with updates to core systems, patch 1.21 also serves to increase the amount of in-game content available. Leading up to Version 2.0, we will continue to implement content that can only be experienced by those that are playing now, as well as events that dynamically showcase the impending threat facing Eorzea. We hope that players the world over are looking forward to the coming battles as Eorzea draws closer to destruction!
MMORPG: Player Housing will be a great inclusion for series and MMO veterans alike, how can a player obtain their own house, and what role will it have in the gameplay?
Yoshida: It’s a little too early to reveal the full range of details, but we are planning several stages for the implementation of player housing. This content will be closely linked with the “free company” system, which you can think of as being similar to the guild systems often found in most MMORPGs. First, a house can be owned as collective property for all of the members of a free company. Later, we plan on allowing these houses to be owned by individuals. Players will be able to customize the exterior, interior and garden area of their house. Gardens will be expanded via new content such as gysahl greens gardens and chocobo stables. At the same time, we’re also looking into the ability to create airships and boats (by crafting) within housing. As such, the housing system in FFXIV will be updated with each patch and will develop to serve as important “lifestyle-related end-game content.”
MMORPG: There seems to be a focus on the reintroduction of the "7 classic jobs" and their quests and general content, how will these new roles affect the existing game?
Yoshida: I believe that character growth in MMORPGs must fundamentally occur both vertically and horizontally. For example, this growth can take place within a skill tree or by selecting a specific profession after choosing a class. I felt that this was FFXIV’s most overwhelming weakness when I assumed the role of producer and director. The Armoury system is a horizontal growth system that allows players to level multiple classes. However, as a result of this system, the character classes can start to feel too similar to each other. As such, I felt that it was necessary to implement a vertical growth system by further defining roles. This is why I decided on the implementation of the job system early on. Prior to this, we had to make adjustments to the battle system, and with the implementation of individual combos in patch 1.20, we’re finally at a point where we’re able to implement a vertical character growth system.
In other words, I believe that the job system is a system that has been necessary from the beginning. For veteran players, the job system may seem like an existing system that’s being expanded upon, but for beginners, this system serves as a major fork in the road, where they need to determine a direction for their character. I believe that the addition of the job system will dramatically increase the strategies and tactics involved in gameplay, as roles, class choice, job choice, and skill sets are planned out by 4-member light parties and 8-member full parties.
MMORPG: In the Producer's Letter, you talk about changes to the UI, and also an overhaul of certain systems making it easier for mouse/keyboard users - are you focusing on streamlining FFXIV for those who do not opt for a joypad?
Yoshida: Of course. Currently, FFXIV is not yet available for the PS3, and when considering our global audience, I believe that many players will continue playing FFXIV on the PC. I’m also a big PC gamer, and I can say that we’re working to support a more intuitive interface for FFXIV, one which would allow players who are familiar with playing MMORPGs with a keyboard and mouse to easily feel at home when playing FFXIV. That is the main focus for FFXIV Version 2.0, which is why we’re fundamentally recreating the UI from the ground up. Once we reveal more detailed information, I think that our players will probably be quite amazed at how drastically the UI will be changed. Please look forward to this announcement (which should come pretty soon!).
MMORPG: Any MMO needs a layer of what we call affectionately call "fluff" - and with Seasonal Events and to an extent housing, FFXIV seems to be getting those distractive elements that promote immersion; is this a deliberate move by the development team to make the game feel more wholesome as a world and adventure?
Yoshida: Yes, this is definitely a deliberate move. As somebody who spends a lot of time playing MMORPGs, I believe that battle content serves as the foundation of the game, but to be immersed in the game world is extremely important for players to continue enjoying the game long term. Up until now, FFXIV has been very limited when it comes to content and most of the updates ended up being related to introducing additional battle content. However, now that we have completed our fundamental revamp for the battle system, we are now focused on continuously providing content that allow players to feel like they are “actually experiencing life in the game world.” This is how I interpret the term “fluff.”
MMORPG: Looking towards the future, Hamlet Defense has often been touted as an incoming feature albeit with several delays, recently you have pushed it back again because of its large scale, can you briefly explain your plans for this addition and what players can expect when it is ready to go live?
Yoshida: Hamlet Defense contains elements that allow the entire world to engage in. While it’s certainly possible to make the content work for individual linkshells, it may be necessary to work together with the entire world in order to take on stronger enemies and obtain even greater rewards. Hamlet includes content centered around “resupplying” and “defending,” which are both closely intertwined. The act of defense features aspects which require not only battle classes, but also crafting and gathering classes, so it will require cohesion and cooperation amongst players. Unfortunately, as the content is very large in scale, it did not make it in time for patch 1.21.
MMORPG: Final Fantasy XIV has had a somewhat difficult launch, but with the constant stream of updates and refinements, things seem to be turning around for the better, how do you feel as the producer/director of the game's current state?
Yoshida: Thank you! I really appreciate your positivity. I believe that players would have enjoyed the game much more if it were released in the state it was in with patch 1.20 or will be in with 1.21. The bar at launch is set very high for current MMORPGs, due to increased player expectations. With patch 1.21 coming soon, I do feel slightly relieved, but as the producer/director, I still feel like there is much more to be done. Letters, delivery boxes, housing and PvP are all still missing. There is no guild system beyond linkshells either. Once these issues have been addressed, I feel like it will be time for us to go on the offensive. I will continue to set my goals high and do my best to reach them!