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Final Fantasy XVI: The Rising Tide Interview - Naoki Yoshida and Takeo Kujiraoka Talk Leviathan, a PC Demo and a Secret Endgame

Steven Weber Updated: Posted:
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During PAX East, Square Enix hosted panels for both Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XVI. We were able to sit down with DLC Director Takeo Kujiraoka, Producer Naoki Yoshida and Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox to talk about Final Fantasy 16’s next big DLC, The Rising Tide. Let’s dive into the interview, where you’ll learn about the new Eikon Leviathan, the team’s philosophy behind building the eye-catching battles, and a secret endgame.

During the interview, Michael-Christopher Koji Fox translated the responses of Naoki Yoshida and Takeo Kujiraoka. It’s important to take note of this as the responses will be primarily attributed to the latter two, with Koji Fox playing an integral role here.

MMORPG: What can you tell us about the inclusion of Leviathan in the story?

Naoki Yoshida: So it all started again about, I think about about, eight years ago when it was just me, the main director Takai-san and then the creative director Maehiro-san coming up with ideas of concepts for the plot. Originally we said, “okay we want these Eikons and we will have a complete circle of eight,” and Leviathan was one of those. But then as we discussed schedules, development cost, how are we gonna be able to do this, how many battles can we actually create, it turned out that we had to reduce that number by one. We just weren't going to be able to get all of that into the main game.

That said, we left it as an idea. If the fans loved the game, and they wanted more, we could come back to this final Leviathan, this final Eikon, and tell its story. We then released the game. Fans loved it, they want to see more, and so we were able to go with as we already had this idea. (Now) We can finally make Leviathan the lost found, and tell that story, and that's kind of where we are.

With this DLC we get to learn again about Leviathan the lost, we get to learn why Leviathan was lost and why Leviathan hasn't appeared for so long in Valisthea, we get to learn about who the dominant is, and that dominance story, and how that all ties into Clives story and the main scenario in the game.

MMORPG: In Echoes of the Fallen, most of the content was set apart from the main story. Will The Rising Tide change that, if at all?

Takeo Kujiraoka: It’s both, so it's going to be a unique experience, but there's also going to be those ties for the DLCs. One of our main concepts of the DLCs was to show different facets of Valisthea, things that aren't in the main game.

We wanted to make something that, if someone didn't play the DLCs, they weren't going to be missing anything from the main story. We didn't want to create something where you would have to play the DLC to understand what's going on in your main story.

That said, especially with The Rising Tide, we wanted something that connected to the main story and would help supplement that, and I think that is going to be better done with The Rising Tide because of that connection with Leviathan and that final Eikon, you're going to get more of a tie to the main story there and that will help supplement that better.

Naoki Yoshida: So I kind of look at Echoes of the Fallen as a final dungeon, where you have this end game dungeon where you're testing Clive and the fighter’s abilities. The Rising Tide is more like an expansion in the sense that you're getting a new area, you're getting a new story, you're getting a new town, you're getting side quests, you're getting exploration and you're getting battles, and it’s all of those aspects that you find in the main game, kind of taken out and recreated in this expansion of Final Fantasy 16.

MMORPG: What are you doing to ensure that the Leviathan battle lives up to the lofty expectations of the ones that you've already created?

Takeo Kujiraoka: So, of course we wanted this battle to feel as epic as the battles that came before it. One thing that we focus on is how the battle actually builds in real time, and focusing on having the battle change in real time during the battle.

The other thing is that we wanted to put a focus on having the player maximize their use of Ifrit, so up until now you've had Ifrit change with each battle and get stronger, which means new abilities, and this is that final battle and so it's going to be about players taking everything that they've learned from those previous Ifrit battles and using all of those tricks and fighting techniques and then using them here to do this final battle which we think is one of the most difficult.

Naoki Yoshida: The Eikon versus Eikon battles up until now have been about being those dramatic beats in the story. They've been tied to that main scenario. And, again, we want people to experience the story. So we haven't focused too much on difficulty in those battles. They're accessible, whereas this one, this is the final Eikon versus Eikon battle in the game. And this is about taking everything that not only Clive has learned, but the player has learned, and being able to use that in this battle and this final clash of the titans. It's not going to be easy. You should be prepared.

MMORPG: I'm assuming the Leviathan battle is going to take place before the Ultima battle, so in that event, there's potential for Clive to get Leviathan powers before the final fight. Is that going to change the balance of the Ultima battle at all? And if so, how's it going to change?

Naoki Yoshida: That's very perceptive of you. Yes, so in a sense, Clive getting a new ability set will again give him that extra advantage in the battle with Ultima. That battle with Ultima hasn't been adjusted, Clive will now be stronger when fighting Ultima. One more thing though, is that once Clive gets this final set, we actually have another step for Clive that we can't really talk about here, but we can say that beating Leviathan isn't the end of the story.

We're all gamers ourselves and so we kind of have that, "Oh, if you get everything done that means it's over", we know what we would expect and we know that other gamers would probably expect that as well. So, we wanted an answer to (what happens when the battle is over).

MMORPG: Has player and fan feedback helped shape The Rising Tide at all and what have you changed using player and fan feedback?

Naoki Yoshida: So, first of all, we are also planning a patch, a regular update, that's going to go with The Rising Tide. It's going to be for all players, not only players that have bought The Rising Tide. We are going to be updating a lot of things based on feedback that we've received.

For example, one of those things that we got a lot of feedback with was the Eikon abilities where basically you have one set, and if you want to change that set, you have to go in, change everything, and then start again. We've got a lot of feedback about how that would take a lot of time.

We're going to be adding five customizable and savable Eikon sets where you can have your three, and then create five different sets of that and be able to swap between those sets with just the touch of a button to hopefully make that easier for players who want to swap between their favorite sets without having to go in and edit each time.

But again, these are things that are not going to be just for The Rising Tide. Of course, there are places in The Rising Tide where this is going to be very useful, especially some of the endgame battle content that we're adding. But we wanted to make this available for all players so that players even new to the game, that maybe won't be playing the DLCs, will be able to have these customizable sets from the beginning of the game after this new patch drops.

Another thing that we got feedback about was being able to customize the keypad layout and we had a bunch of different sets, but we didn't have a fully customizable one. With this coming patch, which again, is available to everyone, not just people who buy The Rising Tide, you'll be able to have a custom set where you can customize all the buttons to whatever.

And in addition to that, we're making lots of updates to existing abilities, whether it be ability strength or ease of use, functionality, based on a lot of feedback we've gotten. There'll be no nerfs, no, no, we're not nerfing anything. So it's either getting more powerful or just easier to use. But we're going to be doing that and there's so many of those. Looking at the patch notes, it's going to be tons of updates. We've gone in and touched on a lot of different things.

Then, also, updates to the photo mode, adding more functionality to the photo mode, as well. But again, there's a lot of stuff going into this patch. And again, you don't have to have to have The Rising Tide to play with this, it's going to be a patch for everyone. But on the other hand, you know, taking feedback, we've also been able to take feedback that we've had and adapt that to the development of The Rising Tide, and Echoes of the Fallen as well. So it's getting that feedback and being able to implement it in these things as something that, again, we've done and focused on during the development.

MMORPG: Is the patch going to coincide with the launch of the rising tide? In addition, some players have noted performance mode problems outside of combat on PS5, will that also be part of the patch?

Naoki Yoshida: Yes, the patch will be released at the same time as The Rising Tide. And then, regarding performance mode, while we have worked on it, I think the current problem is that when you're in a giant field with tons of objects, that's what's bringing that framerate down. While we have worked on it, and we've gotten things a little bit better, there's still no way that we're going to, and can't promise 60 frames per second in those types of situations.

That's difficult, because currently, some players don't mind how it is even now. While some people are just like yeah, this is really a problem. And then when we add this update, and some of it gets a little bit better some people will be like, "Okay, now it's at a place that we like," but there's still gonna be those that are like no, this still isn't enough. And so it's kind of one of those things where you can't please everyone.

As you know, currently, we're creating the PC version, and we're doing optimizing for that. We're updating code that's going to be making things better. Currently, we're kind of thinking that this is going to be the final patch for the PS5, if we're able, through developing the PC version, to find better ways of bringing that framerate up, then there is definitely the possibility down the line for having a PS5 version that has that updated code that improves things even further.

MMORPG: Are there currently any enhancements for the PC version over the PS5 version either through visuals, performance, or possibly even localization?

Naoki Yoshida: For localization, there's nothing, there's not going to be anything different for the PC on PS5 versions.

As for you having better performance on a PC than PS5, If you have a very high end PC, you probably will get better graphical fidelity and better performance. But if you have a lower end PC, you're not going to be able to compete with the PS5.

Right now our engineers are working on that optimization and figuring out what the limits are.  We've seen some hardware getting that framerate up over 100 (fps) in places, but again, it's going to depend on the hardware that you have. We're doing a lot of testing on that now. But the better the hardware you have, the better you're gonna see.

It's one of those type of things again, if you have your ultra wide monitor and are trying to get 100 frames on an ultra wide monitor, you might not hit that, but if you if you have if you have high end PC then yeah, you may be able to.

Because there's so many variables with that, because everybody has different kinds of hardware, what we're going to do is, before the release of the PC version, we're going to release a PC version demo. Players will be able to test out this demo and see how their PC can perform. Then decide whether they, need a better PC if they want to improve performance. We'll give players the option to do that.

So, that's good, but the one thing that we don't want is people buying the game on PC and finding out it doesn't run on their computer. By having this demo, people can know exactly how it's going to run on their PC and whether they're fine with that, or they need toget a better one.  In the PC version, there'll be a lot of sliders to adjust lots of different graphical settings., too. 

MMORPG: When's the demo? And do you have a target for the PC release?

Naoki Yoshida: While internally we have a good idea of when we're gonna be able to release it, we haven't decided to release that information yet. And so right now we can't tell you a date.

We can tell you that we are currently in the final phase of optimization. But again, this is what's taking the longest amount of time because we have to check on so many different environments. You know, whether it be a different graphics cards, memory, drivers, out QA team is kind of working overtime to test the limitations of all these different systems. And so that's kind of where we are now.

Then, of course, there's all of those features that PC gamers have kind of come to expect from PC games, you know. The customization of  mouse and keyboard, and all of those types of settings, we will bring it to a level that's up there with what PC gamers expect from a PC version. We're doing tests on all of that as well, and on top of that,  we're just making sure that the game is stable.

The PS5 version had very few bugs in it, and it was pretty stable. We want to make sure the PC version is just as stable as well. It's a lot of work in that testing phase to make sure that we have everything running smoothly before we release it to the players.

It's not like it's a year away. We're getting close to that release date, so players shouldn't have to wait too much longer. For the demo version, and when we're going to announce the release, I think our plan would be to, on the day that we announce the release date, would also be the day that we will announce the release of the demo. Once we release the demo, you know, we're really close.

Once we announce that release date and drop the demo, then the release will be very short after that. 

One thing, for anyone who is waiting or is planning on buying the PC version, please get a good SSD. Because that's going to change the experience.

MMORPG: how long do you think it's going to take someone to complete The Rising Tide?

Takeo Kujiraoka: The Rising Tide main scenario is probably about two times longer than Echoes of the Fallen. We are looking at around five hours or more for just the main scenario. But because this has its own field and its own town, you're going to have side quests that are in those areas as well. That's going to take some time, as well as the exploration that you're going to get in the area. On top of that, we mentioned a little bit about some endgame content, so you're gonna have endgame content as well. Altogether, you're going to get 10 plus hours of gameplay.

Naoki Yoshida: The endgame content is a completely new type of battle system, a new type of framework that we created just for this, and so those who really get into it and want to get really good at it can end up spending a lot of time on that as well. But that's up to the player.

That wraps up our interview. For more information on FFXVI head on over to our comprehensive review


Steven Weber

Steven has been a writer at MMORPG.COM since 2017. A lover of many different genres, he finds he spends most of his game time in action RPGs, and talking about himself in 3rd person on his biography page.