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Face-to-Face with FFXIV's Naoki Yoshida

By Michael O’Connell-Davidson on November 13, 2017 | Interviews | Comments

Face-to-Face with FFXIV's Naoki Yoshida

A sticking point for some players is that they find little reason to leave their Free Company house or major cities in order to experience content, with most popular activities being available through the duty or party finder. It seems a shame when so much care has clearly gone into creating environments. Could we get more content to drive us out of cities?

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He says the team is trying to expand what players can do in field areas, though they face some difficulties. “What players are thinking is ‘What reward will I get on completion of the content?’ …  Warriors of Light are very strong, so any monsters in these areas are going to be very weak [by comparison]. Currently there isn’t anything challenging in fields, but in order to give people good rewards, the content has to be hard to beat.”

The developers regularly come up with ideas and try to see what possibilities there are, he explains, and they could add stronger mobs to the overworld, but it’d be tough to do so in a way that adequately rewards players.  So what about more content like Ixion? It was difficult, and drove more people into the field — though as it caused instances to crash, I suspect most would say it attracted too many players.

There’s a long pause. “With events where people can get rewards from tokens, once people have those rewards, they don’t do it. It’s the same with Odin as well. So if many players have those items already, it becomes very hard for other players to beat them.”

He says they’d like to introduce more activities that people can do continuously, so content isn’t abandoned by large chunks of the community making it difficult for newer players to complete. But he adds: “It’s still something the development team is trying to see the possibilities in, or the chances where we can do it, so we’ve not completely stopped working on this type of content.”

I’m eager to ask about the next Deep Dungeon, as news has been quiet on that front, and explain that Palace of the Dead is probably one of my favourite parts of the game. “The second Deep Dungeon is in development, but it’s not a sequel to Palace of the Dead,” he says. “It’s literally a brand new system with brand new stuff that will be added to it.” Sounds great — is there a timeline on when it’ll arrive? He laughs and shakes his head in a way that makes it sound like it’s a way off, and adds: “Before the next expansion.”

I ask what reducing the number of dungeons introduced in odd-numbered patches allowed the team to do, and he says it’s part of a wider redistribution of resources. “We gained breathing space not only from including less dungeons but from abolishing battle-type leves from the game. When it came to these, the text cost was enormous and almost everything was handmade; because we abolished this, the team was able to focus on the main scenario and add special battles and enrich the storyline.”

I mention the Lakshmi fight at the climax of 4.1, and ask if that’s an indication of what they were able to achieve. “Yes,” he says. “The 4.X series just started; because we’ve reduced the focus on dungeons, we’ve been able to work on new things. Ultimate is one example of that, but in future, you will start to see more types of new types of content.

“Another example is the glamour system, which is going to receive a huge revamp in 4.2. Players may not notice because it is not battle related, but ... those resources all come from the same place, and are spread evenly, so that’s why we can focus on other content, not just battle content.”

Pressing for more details on the glamour system, I ask if there’s anything he can reveal. “The changes are so gigantic that it would probably take an hour to explain everything. If we were to discuss it even partially, it would just be the tip of the iceberg anyway ... We’re hoping to discuss this in the Letter from the Producer Live if people can wait for that.”

What about adventurer squadrons? New dungeons are on the cards, he says, as well as customisable AI. “From the development team’s point of view, we’re not too sure where else we’re going to go; part of the team has suggested of doing something else outside of dungeons.” I also ask if the Hall of the Novice will be extended to cover Disciples of the Hand or Land. “We don’t have that plan right now, but we’re trying to make it easier for players to understand what they can and can’t make with their current gear.” 

There are times where it feels like housing in FFXIV makes as many headlines as the rest of the game combined. In the wake of the Shirogane housing controversy — in which many players were left unable to buy a home following an early morning rush — Yoshida apologized, later saying additional wards and a ‘fair and square’ purchase system would be added.

I ask him if he’s willing to provide details of what that might look like, suggesting auctions or lotteries, but he declined to elaborate to minimise the risk of a repeat of last time: “If we show people the requirements now, they’ll start to prepare for it, so we’re going to keep the information until we’re close to the release.”

We come to the end of our time, and I turn my attention to the man himself. He’s the one credited with turning the game around, and I get the sense from his answers that much of the game’s design philosophy comes from him; the idea that people won’t do content unless people find it rewarding, though self-evident, comes up a lot, and it’s clear he genuinely believes it.

I cite the example of the game’s loremaster Koji Fox, who in a recent panel said he inserted something in reference to his son Isaac into the game. Given Yoshida has spent seven years on the project, I ask him if any aspects of his own personality had crept into the world. Players know the Wandering Minstrel, his in-game avatar, very well — his embellished stories typically grant access to the hardest content in the game — but was he reflected in other ways?

“It’s not my world,” he says. “If you were to put reality into the game, you’d break the fantasy elements, so I don’t like this idea of inserting yourself into it. You mention Koji was inspired by his son; if you take inspiration from things you see in your life or reflect it in the game, that’s a normal part of creativity, but it’s not like bringing a real person or real elements to the game.”

He said he was hesitant to bring the Wandering Minstrel to the game for that reason, but did so because “during the 1.0 era, the developers wanted a representative in the game world to say ‘thank you for staying with us’”.

Despite Yoshida’s visibility within the community, that’s not really his style. “I think the best way to give back to the players is to make good content, and make it fun to play, rather than having someone in game to say thank you,” he says. Looking at the attention his character is receiving on the screen behind me, it’s a strategy that appears to be working.

Michael O’Connell-Davidson / Michael O'Connell-Davidson is MMORPG.com's FFXIV columnist. Follow him on twitter @mikeocd.
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