It only feels like yesterday that Stormblood’s first major content patch, Return of the Legend came out — yet it’s been almost two months. On top of the usual helpings of story content, boss battles and balance changes, the developers took the unprecedented step of bringing in guest creators for a new raid series, Return to Ivalice, and introduced Ultimate, a hard-as-nails difficulty mode that makes Savage look like Cape Westwind.
Now that the dust is starting to settle on patch 4.1, I had the chance to speak to game director and producer Naoki Yoshida about the work that went into it. He shared details on the creative process behind bringing Rabanastre to life, future Ultimate raids, and what we’ll be doing in Rival Wings, the new PVP mode coming in Patch 4.15.
MMORPG: In Stormblood, players liberated Doma and Ala Mhigo. Patch 4.1 showed us a little bit about what sort of future awaits Ala Mhigo, although we haven’t seen too much of Doma since the end of the Garlean occupation. What role will the Warrior of Light have in the future of both nations?
Naoki Yoshida: Discussing the main story would contain lots of potential spoilers, so it’s very difficult to choose the right words… What I can say is that Patch 4.2 will shed some light on the situation within Doma, and I expect there probably will be surprising revelations. You, the Warrior of Light, may have the opportunity to think deeply about what it is to judge someone, or how one may view life itself. That’s about all I can say at this point…
MMORPG: Return to Ivalice was written by Yasumi Matsuno (FFXII, FFT) and bosses were designed by Keita Amemiya (GARO). How did developers turn the guest creators’ ideas into a playable 24-man raid?
NY: First, we submitted detailed examples of past raids to help Mr. Matsuno get an overview of what normally goes into a 24-man raid: the number of new characters modelled, how many bosses are featured in a raid, how many cutscenes we implement, and ballpark figures of the amount of dialogue.
Mr. Matsuno is an avid FFXIV player and a top-tier game developer, so he already had a deep understanding on these points, and was able to turn around his plot idea immediately. After reviewing the plot and deciding on which boss monster we would choose for Mr. Amemiya to create, Mr. Matsuno and I compiled the requested specifications for Mr. Amemiya, and went to meet him directly to convey what we were envisioning.
Mr. Amemiya got to work, and with amazing speed, was able to submit multiple rough sketches of the boss monster. Mr. Matsuno and I discussed the sketches and gave our consolidated feedback to Mr. Amemiya so he could work to solidify the design. Once the design was complete, the monster modelling team discussed with the battle team the specifics of the encounter, and from there began the modelling process.
During all that, we had Mr. Matsuno work on writing the dialogue itself. Once the modelling was complete, we had Mr. Amemiya come to our office to check the character model. Once the overall content was at an overall level of completion, we had Mr. Matsuno participate in the development team’s balance testing and provide feedback.
You wouldn’t believe we were doing this for the first time, considering how everything went so smoothly.
MMORPG: How is developing an encounter based on a previous Final Fantasy game different to developing an entirely new encounter?
NY: There is no difference, fundamentally. The biggest difference would be that in cases where a previous Final Fantasy game is the basis for the content, we would pay special care during planning and development to not discourage fans of the original work, as well as make it more exciting if the player knows the original work.
Another thing—I noticed that the stronger the love for the original work that my development staff has, the more particular they become in all aspects of their work that we tend to exceed our bandwidth; but that may be about it. Everyone is so gung-ho! [laughs]
MMORPG: While playing Return to Ivalice, I was excited to see the Bangaa make their debut in FFXIV. Can we expect any other of Ivalice’s races to make an appearance as the series continues?
NY: Well, that is something that only god (Mr. Matsuno) knows… :P
MMORPG: The Unending Coil of Bahamut is the first ‘ultimate’ fight in FFXIV and by far the hardest content in the game. What were the development team’s goals in introducing content harder than Savage raids, and is the community response to the content in line with what they expected?
NY: It is October 27th at 10:30PM (JST) at the time of writing this, but I have not received word of anyone completing the content. There are so many raid teams participating in this race for world first, plus people are getting excited over the livestreaming of the challenge.
I’m very happy with this—seeing people not only play the content, but also enjoying cheering and spectating—I am somewhat relieved after seeing the results of this new challenge.
The goal of implementing the “Ultimate” series is to entice top players to take on the challenge, plus create a sort of admiration when other players see them taking on the content. It would be nice to see a team clear the content soon, though…
MMORPG: What percentage of groups that clear Deltascape V4.0 Savage are expected to be able to complete The Unending Coil before patch 4.2? Not pick-up groups, but statics with a set roster.
NY: This was a brand-new challenge for us, too, so I don’t think I can come up with an accurate percentage. If I had to come up with some kind of number, I would have to say maybe 10% or less…? However, please understand this is not based on any set of hard facts, and is based simply on my imagination!
MMORPG: Will future Ultimate-series fights also be based on preexisting encounters, such as Alexander or Omega, or will we see entirely new encounters?
NY: We do not have plans to create an entirely new encounter for the Ultimate series. We made the Ultimate series to be a special battle that only a handful of super-hardcore raid teams could challenge, and so players that can take on and clear the content are very limited.
Due to this, my directive is to not create a completely new encounter, but to create the highest-level (Ultimate) difficulty version of battle content the Warriors of Light have fought throughout the game.
MMORPG: What will a game of the new PVP mode (coming in Patch 4.15), Rival Wings, be like? Other than destroying the enemy team’s core, how will players be able to help their team win?
NY: The fight will be very hectic. This is especially true because players will work together in parties of four, which allows for a lot of mobility. Other than destroying the enemy team’s core, you can use weapons to interfere with your opponents that come to destroy your core, or replenish fuel for your ally’s goblin machina. I would love for everyone to get rowdy and have fun!