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Final Fantasy XIV Developers Dish on Creating Lore

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Interviews 0

Recently, the Final Fantasy XIV team sat down with both Oda-san and Ishikawa-san, the minds behind the Stormblood story, for an in-house interviewer to talk about the lore in the game and how they go about creating a great story. We have that interview that covers a range of topics including how lore is created, what challenges the team has faced and much more.

Question: How did it feel to be part of a project where the initial product was totally destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch? Was it liberating, stressful etc?

Oda: I joined the FFXIV project just after it came under Yoshida-san’s leadership, in March 2011. I only learned of the Realm Reborn plan when I was part of the team. Whilst I did foresee a difficulty regarding the story when thinking about how we were going to create it from scratch whilst updating the previous FFXIV, I also did get excited at the idea that if this was a success it would be, without a doubt, one of the most impactful things I’d ever worked on.

Question: What was the biggest challenge for your work during this period of transition?

Oda: Not destroying the feelings and experiences that the players of the previous FFXIV had. On the other hand, we also had to make it easy for the large number of new players joining with FFXIV ARR to understand the world setting and story with ease. Handling both of these at once was a challenge. Especially with the previous FFXIV lore and story – as it was pretty difficult to grasp. I felt that it was difficult to find a method of expressing the basic lore easily, without changing anything within it.

Question: How do you go about crafting stories that have a wide-reaching global appeal and remain accepting without being too simple?

Ishikawa: I think it’s important to frequently ask myself “how would I feel about this if I were a player myself”. Anything too simple would of course get boring, whilst too much of a more difficult script would also make people lose interest in reading it all. I take care to constantly think about how it will feel for the audience – that is not to think “is this fun to write” but “would this be fun to play”.

Question: Is there a challenge involved in writing a story for an adventure where there's no real "end" to the adventure?

Ishikawa: Actually, it’s something I find interesting as it can only be done with this project. There are things that I wasn’t able to include in the game at first, which I was able to years afterwards. But as it’s a long-term operation, there is always a worry about the restrictions we have on data though!

Question: How do you handle story pacing when people could drop the main thread of a story or quest and spend hours doing something else only to come back to it later?

Ishikawa: The UI in FFXIV is constantly evolving, and since Stormblood you don’t lose where the next quest needed to continue the Main Scenario is even if you drop it halfway through. So, I kind of feel like the way we create the story isn’t that different from an Offline RPG. Saying that, we take care to ensure that there’s time for players to think “Oh I’ve come to this point, so I will run the roulette” or “I might take a break and craft some stuff”, as there are various small branches coming out from one main storyline.

Question: What challenge is there in creating a sense of continuity between each expansion to the original story and world without making it seem both wildly unfamiliar yet not too similar to what's come before.

Ishikawa: The best method of not allowing the story and the stage to disassociate is for the main scenario writers to think up the settings for the land and groundwork of the expansions. But the problem with that is that the amount of work that we make for ourselves increases immensely!! haha

Question: What aspect of your work in FFXIV ARR have you found most inspiring or enjoyable?

Ishikawa: These days, it takes over three years to develop a high quality game. As a result, I feel that a unique strength of FFXIV is that patches are released every 3.5 months, and expansions approximately every two years. Players also give us their feedback straight away, so we get to see how much they enjoy it - and because of that, I cannot see myself wanting to go back to working on titles that have a large amount of time before their release.

Question: How much of a challenge was it to create a new set of world lore for ARR that doesn't betray its origins in XIV's original game?

Oda: There’s no mistaking that creating it from scratch was easier.

Question: When working on the background for a game expansion, do you also work on expanding the lore, or are all expansions direct results of aspects of ARR's world that you've already outlined in some aspect?

Oda: There are two patterns; the fundamental world lore that has already been determined and cannot be altered, and then changes made when necessary. For example, when the new content and jobs are added, we think about the gameplay and playability first, then the lore is considered thereafter.

Question: How difficult is it to strike a balance between making a fantasy world that makes sense but is also wildly fantastical without it being unbelievable?

Oda: It’s important to maintain certain rules (e.g drawing a line between what can and cannot be done with magic, having conditions to use, etc.), even with it being a fantasy. But, it can be hard to share those rules amongst all of the many staff members. With a project like FFXIV – in which there are so many staff – it can be especially tricky to get everyone on the same page.

Question: What aspect of your work in FFXIV ARR have you found most inspiring or enjoyable?

Oda: As it’s an MMORPG that has major updates released every 3.5 months, it’s really fun to be able to see the reaction from players regarding what we’ve created so frequently. It’s a huge inspiration that we can hear what players have to say through various things like sites like Reddit, videos with gameplay in, Social Media and actual events.


Guest Writer