Anticipation and expectations are high for Endwalker, the latest expansion in Final Fantasy 14, which releases this November. The game has had a fantastic year, with a rising population due to a content creator migration, competition full of controversy, and an almost frighteningly devoted player base that swears to the game’s quality. There’s also the widely-known story of its rebirth: the initial game was so widely-panned, a new director was brought in to attempt to revive it.
Eleven years after his appointment, the director, Naoki Yoshida, remains at the helm to the praise of its ever-growing fanbase. Few, if any, developers have achieved such a consistent celebrity status as Yoshida-san. And, it seems, it’s largely from earned respect from his transparency with his fanbase and successful history as a game developer at Square Enix, with past work on the Dragon Quest series in the past and a role as a producer for the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI. He’s also been on the Board of Directors for Square Enix since 2018.
While promoting Endwalker via media tour, we were grateful to have the opportunity to sit with Yoshida-san for an interview, where he spoke about jobs and quests, the release schedule, and working on FFXIV at an exciting time for the genre.
MMORPG.com: Thank you for your time! [The Final Fantasy 14 team seems] to be talking about a long term plan for the next 10 years or so. Jobs are starting to get very packed, so there seems to be some simplification, but at the same time there are some players that say oh, this is far too simple. So what is your perspective or your approach to this at the moment?
Naoki Yoshida: With our development team, and most, almost all of the staff that handles the different battle content and the different designs and systems are all Warriors of Light, and we play the game. So it's not like we have a person who's in charge of, say, Dragoon in our debug team, but we play the game. And for example, I like to use Black Mages as my main job. So we actually get to understand and get a firsthand feel of these different jobs in the public servers. And so I know each of us who will work on this different content understands the different jobs that are available.
And so with each of us understanding how these jobs kind of build up to the different like level calves and say, like level 80 is at this level in terms of control difficulty with the new level cap at level 90, you have a little bit more growth that you will be approaching. And, of course, for somebody who continuously plays one single job and kind of concentrates on that as their specialty, that gap from the level 80 to level 90. They tend to desire something that's a bit more robust or something that will allow them to know that they're growing and progressing and they feel more worth it.
If there's like, a big difference between level 80 to level 90, but if we just skew in that direction, I'm afraid we will be leaving out the newbies, because we're they're looking at it from like the very beginning and being stacked so high, it might seem unapproachable for them. So, of course, we do want to provide a different gameplay experience, but we don't want it to make it such a great difference. So if somebody wants to get that sort of new sort of influence or like a new stimulation, we recommend people try out new jobs. That's one of the reasons why we actually add new jobs whenever we have a new expansion: because thanks to the armory system, you can switch jobs whenever you'd like. And so we continuously add new jobs and then look at an overall balance.
And I would like to add and I'm not sure if this is appropriate or not but and I get it I get the player on feeling because I myself and one player but whenever there is a new level cap and you've built up all the way to the existing level cap and then that you have more to to grow with you kind of have that feeling that well I don't want newbies to catch up to me like I work really hard to get up here and so I get it I really understand and it is like a great sort of experience for those players to have work that hard and to have mastered their their craft so to speak. And I'm sure some people might find it a little fearful that players could easily catch up to where they are.
I understand if people might have a little bit of frustration on that, but we also don't want to leave people behind if we are too wrapped up in that kind of sentiment. We wouldn't be able to sustain our game to have so many new people joining us and continuing their gameplay amongst many veterans out there and to build a strong community so we do have to be really mindful about balance as you mentioned, we don't want to skew towards just the one side. I do enjoy receiving feedback, but at the same time, we're unable to listen to every single request that is being made. It is tough sometimes because we do have to draw the line but there is a balance that we do have to strike
MMORPG.com: Will the job role quest return with Endwalker because we had a break when we went to the first but coming back Of course we returned to our job mentors and I admit also that as a Black mMage main, we get a lot of information about the lore, about this stor. But there may be rifts for a lot of other jobs and classes.
Yoshida: After going through the role quests in Shadowbringers we had one additional like job quest for each of the job at level 80 and the intent behind it those job quests were to kind of cleanly kind of bring a conclusion to each of the different jobs so that's the first point.
Perhaps there might be an opportunity to explore these different jobs if there is a new character that can guide them through the lore. And so the possibility is not zero. But that being said, For now, we have kind of concluded these different job quests. And I feel that if we continue a story for too long, not everybody will continue to keep up with it. So I think Yeah, for this, at this time, I think it's safe to assume that we have kind of concluded this arc for the job quests
And of course, we have so many talented writers on our team, some fresh blood that has come in and I would love for them to explore like stories that revolve around new characters that they introduce into the lore. So I mean, if there ever is an opportunity to say, for example, introduce a new Black Mage to take you on another journey, the possibility is definitely there. But as for the narrative of these different jobs that started out with ARR, I think it is safe to assume that we did want to conclude it at the level 80 job quest.
You know, some of these arcs were written across like three different writers, sometimes like three generations of writers. There was somebody who worked on the ARR portion, and then another person who worked on them up to the Stormblood arc, and then level 80, like the finale of that arc, was written by a third person, so we have so many writers working on it.
MMORPG.com: For the upcoming year, expansion and with the new story promise ahead will the pacing of the patches continue? For example about, three to five months for X.1, then typically three between the different patches.
Yoshida: I'm afraid I can't really say one way or the other at this point. Of course, plans are being made for sure. And we do need to look at how we are going to schedule out the 6.X series patch. But to be honest, I don't think we're at a point where we can say like okay, we're gonna have up to 6.5 and then we'll move on to 7.0 at this point.
You never know. Like, we might go 6.3, then 7.0! Or maybe not.
I do want to point out that we are looking into sustainability and looking forward to the next 10 years. How do we continue our title for the next 10 years? And so a lot of what we do right now is also looking back at some of the trajectories that we have followed, per sae, compared to when we first launched ARR, the volume and the quality of each of the patch has become larger and greater. And I do believe that the development team is also growing as we produce this title. And plus, at the same time, it has added a lot more challenges that they have to face, and things have gotten more strenuous, as well. So those are some of the elements that we need to be mindful of, of course. That being said, I don't think we'll ever come to a point where we would look at the major patch update cadence and take that three-and-a-half-month update schedule and change it to half a year. I don't think that would ever happen.
But of course, that being said, there may be like a one to two week sort of sometimes we need to make adjustments. But I think that will depend on our moving forward like after 6.0 and Endwalker has released and I would like to take the time to let the players know what are we looking towards. For the next 10 years I would love to spend some time on, like, a live letter or something like that to explain where we would like to go, and some of the things that I'm thinking about for the next 10 years. So until then, I don't know I would like to encourage you to enjoy Endwalker up to that point, and I feel that it won't change very much, even if you start playing so I think there's no need to worry about what's going to happen after this.
MMORPG.com: This year and next year, there are a lot more MMOs coming out. I suppose by coincidence, Final Fantasy 14 is also becoming very big and the pandemic is also dragging out so this is a very interesting and exciting time to be working on an MMO, especially FFXIV, so I was wondering if you had any thoughts about being in this space at this time.
Yoshida: There's things swirling around in my head that I want to talk about, but right now, at the same time, I am so focused on, like, okay, I need to release Endwalker, I need to continue the adjustments, and we have to finish our master build, and so it's it's very hard for me to put into words thoughts about this, current and future, at the moment.
But if I were to bring up two points, the fact that more and more MMO titles are being released is actually a great thing, because that means there are new developers who are taking on the challenge of bringing an MMO title, and us, as existing MMOs have a chance to look at these new titles and gain inspiration, or like be stimulated by these new title. As somebody who is competing in that kind of landscape, it's great to have new and fresh blood joining in. So as an MMO player and as a developer, I think that is a good thing.
And I feel that next year. I'm hopeful that we will win our battle against the coronavirus, and it will allow us to get out there more. And I'm sure everybody has been really toughing it out, and working really hard to kind of fight against this, and I'm really thankful for all the medical professionals out there that are in the frontlines battling this with us. But I feel that next year is finally going to be that year when we are going out, that we are able to step out, we're going to win against this battle. I would love to believe that that's going to happen. And man, I've been wanting to go snowboarding! I would love to take, like, a one year sabbatical, just carry my snowboard with me, travel around the world. So I'm hopeful-- I'm hopeful that finally we will be able to get out there. I'm sure that that's going to be another form of happiness.
This article is based on play of an in-development build of FINAL FANTASY XIV: Endwalker, and content in the final version is subject to change.