Final Fantasy XIV was our pick of MMO of the Year here at MMORPG.com, but if possible 2017 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the popular MMORPG. We caught up with Square Enix’s Naoki Yoshida to chat about the year that was, what’s to come, and the big reveals still planned before Stormblood’s launch.
MMORPG: 2016 was a fantastic year Final Fantasy as a brand. FFXIV was also one of Steam's biggest games, gaining more and more players over time. Looking back on the year, what was the most difficult thing you all faced?
Yoshida: Instead of pointing to a specific aspect relating to the game itself, I think the most difficult thing I faced was our ongoing battle against satiety, or people getting tired of the game due to long-term operation. In the case of FFXIV, players have been with the game for an extremely long period of time.
At the same time, that means they may chronically grow weary toward the game from extended periods of play. I think that the ultimate challenge for long-term MMORPGs is figuring out ways to dispel that fatigue and bring a sense of excitement to players. For us, we’ve addressed this through hosting Fan Festivals, developing expansion packs, and constant updates, aiming to implement something novel each time. I think we’ll continue to struggle with this key point, but that’s what makes this such an interesting job that’s worth the challenge!
MMORPG: What was your favorite update of 2016? Why does it hold a special place?
Yoshida: My favorite update was when the Dragonsong War concluded in the Patch 3.3 main scenario. The Dragonsong War was the main theme throughout the Heavensward expansion pack, and we’ve been fortunate to receive so much critical acclaim from around the world.
While FFXIV is an MMORPG, we were able to craft experiences where the player was able to encounter many distinct NPCs, journey together with them, and then part ways—just like the experiences you’d find in a stand-alone FINAL FANTASY game.
My involvement in helping to create the battles, music, cutscenes, and the lingering memory that was befitting for the finale of the Dragonsong War story arc, was extremely memorable to me. It made me feel as though I was in charge of developing a single-player RPG more so than an MMORPG.
With the sentiment of the allies we’ve encountered emblazoned in our hearts, we will be putting in even more effort into our main scenario quests so that the players can enjoy future adventures to come. We hope you look forward to the story our next expansion pack - Stormblood!
MMORPG: In the spirit of New Year's resolutions - what does FFXIV resolve to do better this year than they did in 2016?
Yoshida: Without a doubt, I think the quality of our next expansion pack, Stormblood, is going to be very important in 2017. With our last expansion, Heavensward, I believe we were able to bring a high level of quality all around. I’m sure there are players out there who think “it’s only natural that team will achieve the same level” with this expansion. It’s very important to definitively create what players expect as “routine,” and to honestly respond to these expectations. The adventure on which our Warriors of Light will embark will extend underwater, and we plan to bring you more surprising content and gameplay experiences, such as the “Return to Ivalice” raid being created by special guest developers, and much more. It’s my goal above all to be able to release the content as planned.
MMORPG: On that note, what all can we expect from FFXIV in the year ahead with Stormblood's launch?
Yoshida: I noted this earlier, but players can expect a vastly expanded world of adventure and a more exciting gameplay experience. The ever-popular raid content goes without saying, but we’ll have new elements such as traversing underwater, a main story that is comparable in scope to a brand-new RPG, the addition of new jobs, and much more. I believe players can enjoy it as the newest title in the FINAL FANTASY series!
MMORPG: What sorts of new holidays or events are on tap?
Yoshida: Even while we’re ramping up for Stormblood, we have “Little Ladies’ Day,” which presents the story of a group of NPCs working hard as an idol group in the world of Eorzea, as well as the Gold Saucer “Make it Rain” Festival—and we’ll continue to make constant updates. Just like our very popular “All Saints’ Wake” event from last year, we’re planning for a seasonal event that utilizes content from dungeons and the like. We hope you continue to enjoy these throughout the year!
MMORPG: Finally, we know you've got an expansion to launch, but any idea when we'll learn more about Stormblood?
Yoshida: The first big impact will definitely be made at the keynote presentation at our European Fan Festival in Frankfurt, Germany, on February 18th. We have been on a world tour with our Fan Festivals through 2016 to 2017, from Las Vegas to Tokyo, and we ran these as if we were running one of the largest stand-alone gaming events.
The next event in Frankfurt, at long last, is going to be the final stop in our tour, and we’re going to be revealing some big new information during the keynote presentation here. The largest piece of news regarding Stormblood will come to light. I would urge you to stay tuned! Full details on the live stream tickets can be found here, and players can get bonus in-game items with their purchase, so I would love for you to join us via the stream and share the excitement!