Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida was in Sydney last week and Game Console’s Darren Price caught up with him for a quick chat.
A Realm Reborn is the second version of Final Fantasy XIV. Version 1.0 was originally released in 2010, but was shut down after only two years due to problems with the game.
Rather than try to patch out the problems the game's publisher, Square Enix, instead relaunched the game a year later as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
It must have been a pretty big decision to start again with FFXIV. What challenges did you face turning a game that wasn’t performing well into A Realm Reborn?
I think the most difficult thing, the most challenging and important - even more than the technology or design side of things, was to try to change the image among the community; the players who were disappointed with the first version.
They loved the game but at the same time really got disappointed so much that they thought that the game was never going to recover. We knew that it was going to be very important to change that view and that was the challenging part.
Final Fantasy XIV is continually evolving. In the past I’ve found MMOs satisfying the hardcore players, but forgetting about the casual players when it comes to new content. We’ve just had the second content patch, “Through the Maelstrom”. Are these patches adding anything for casual players?
We will make sure that with every patch that we provide content for both casual players and hardcore players. But, at the same time, there is going to be a theme for each patch; so maybe one patch may focus more on casual players and the next patch focused more towards the endgame content for hardcore gamers.
With some patches you may have both; for casual players we will be providing a more variety in the game, but for hardcore it will be more endgame focused. The dev team and myself are quite greedy, so we want to make sure that we cover all both aspects in the patches.
How easy is it to solo your way through the game?
Strictly speaking if you want to play by yourself then you can really only progress up to level 15. But, after level 15 we have this system called Duty Finder; so even if you are playing solo you can use the Duty Finder tool and it will match you up with other players. You can join a party automatically, without the need to shout or try to find people yourself, Duty Finder will do all the work for you.
Once you are in a party we have designed it so that you don’t have to talk to each other or discuss the strategy or anything you can just naturally continue playing. It’s not going to make you feel like you have to make anything. So in that sense you can reach level 50 playing on your own.
The art style has a very clean, almost retro-MMO look compared to The Elder Scrolls Online, for example. Was this due the game's initial development in the mid 2000's or an intentional decision to keep the graphics in the traditional Final Fantasy style?
It’s quite tricky to answer, because I never really thought what particular sort of direction we were aiming to go. In a way, yes, The Elder Scrolls has a very photo-realistic type of graphics style, whilst in Final Fantasy we have more of a fantasy look. I think it is more to do with design taste. But at the same time even with FFXIV we do have photo-realistic scenes; even more so than The Elder Scrolls at some points.
FFXIV doesn’t have dirt, it's very clean. It has the traditional Fantasy Fantasy look. I’m torn about the game's visual style. Part of me says “I like this because it’s Final Fantasy” then there’s part of me that says “wouldn’t it be cool if it was a little more realistic.” Do you know what I mean?
I understand what you mean and personally I feel we are lacking in that kind of realism like dirt, for instance. Personally I prefer the more realistic dark side of the design.
We already have someone working on an expansion pack. In this expansion pack we are doing something that is very challenging considering that this is a Final Fantasy game- focusing on variety and that sort of thing. So that's something to look forward to.
What’s it like working on a Final Fantasy game? It’s such a revered series, how much pressure are you under to ensure your game lives up to the Final Fantasy legacy?
I don’t really feel that much of a special or particular pressure, because regardless of what franchise or type of game that you are making if it doesn’t sell you can’t make the next game. So the pressure is the same. If the game you are working on is Final Fantasy, you will get a lot of attention. It’s good to know that many players will be actually trying this game and that makes me happy. Also, because it is part of a franchise, there are of course some restrictions- so it’s not totally up to me to decide everything. Rather than pressure, I have happiness.
I am enjoying the experience because as a fan-boy I always thought it would be great to create my own Final Fantasy game with the fans, talking to the fans. That’s exactly what I can do with FFXIV and I’m doing it the way I want to, so I’m really enjoying it rather than seeing the pressure.
Final Fantasy XIV is out now on Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.