I’ve had the honor and privilege of conducting many interviews over the years, but none compare to my interview with FFXIV’s Producer, Naoki Yoshida, this week at E3 2018. Final Fantasy XIV is the game that I’ve played more than any other ever, putting nearly 1000 hours into it last year alone.
When the opportunity to interview Yoshi-P himself popped up, I was overwhelmed and grateful. My time interviewing Yoshida was lengthy, rich, and a dream come true. Our time speaking about FFXIV wasn’t just informative, but he was able to reveal the fates of so many things that players like me have been wondering about for quite some time. Let’s get started.
I always like to break the ice when interviewing someone so, of course, I had to ask Yoshida definitively what his favorite race in FFXIV is. His response to me was “if I had to choose, Lalafell. Some people think they are annoying but I love them.” As a Lalafell main, this answer wasn’t super surprising but it was great to officially know.
Driving the Story Forward
With the funny stuff out of the way, we immediately dove into more serious topics like what the team does when looking ahead to each new patch for FFXIV. Yoshida stated that first and foremost, the “main story” comes first. The team asks themselves “what do we do with that?” While the answer he gave isn’t surprising, this is key for a number of reasons. Crafting the main story first allows the dev team to figure out where the player will be going and that, in turn, affects the content that the other design teams create. According to him, the team plans like this at least “two years ahead.”
Something that I absolutely had to know about regarding the main story was a couple of major events in patch 4.3. If you haven’t had a chance to finish the main story for the latest patch, I do recommend skipping the next several paragraphs. A spoiler warning is now in effect. I had to know how the Tsukuyomi fight came about, with its emotional story elements of Yotsuyu’s life taking place right in the middle of the action.
It is beautiful and daring, something that FFXIV has never featured before on this level. Yoshida made it clear to me that it wasn’t him that came up with that idea. There was one person who oversaw the Tsukuyomi fight and they had “such an understanding” of the main story. He told me, “one designer had an amazing idea and the team came together to make it happen.” He made it clear that all of the kudos for that fight go to the development team and not him.
I wasn’t done with the subject, though. Final Fantasy XIV has frequently taken elements that worked really well in previous content and improved upon it. So, I asked Yoshida if the story-driven Tsukuyomi trial would be a model for future ones. According to him, the design teams are “very competitive” so they don’t want to fall behind what someone else came up with. He noted that he even has to “control the situation” sometimes and make sure the team doesn’t overwork themselves.
His explanation left the door open for it to be possible so we’ll have to see. My other interest from patch 4.3 was the final instance in the story where you take the role of Alphinaud. This was shocking on many levels, making me personally feel like I was playing through a sequence in a ‘traditional’ Final Fantasy game with predetermined parties and such. Yoshida’s thoughts on it certainly lend itself to that. He noted that unlike Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud and crew, you are making your own story in FFXIV.
Because of this, one of the drawbacks for Final Fantasy XIV is the fact that the “emotions of NPC’s are at a distance. Having you control the character allows you to feel what they feel and grow closer to them. In terms of who asked [to do it], it was one of the main story writers. With that, the battle designers created it.”
Remembering the Past
This week saw the announcement of a Monster Hunter and FFXIV crossover event. Upon asking Yoshida how the crossover between two of the biggest Japanese publishers came about, he told me a sweet story I didn’t expect:
“So, first and foremost, I am familiar and have been friends with [Monster Hunter] Producer and Director, Ryozo Tsujimoto and Kaname Fujioka for 10 years. So with those relationships, when we started [A Realm Reborn], I had a chance to meet and Tsujimoto was very worried. He told me ‘I understand you will follow through with that and can help [you] with it at any time.’ At the time, it would have been piggybacking. Let me get back on my feet and be well established. When World was about to come, Capcom wanted to revisit the idea. XIV had gotten better so now was a good time. That was about a year ago.”
Ever since purchasing a Switch, I have wanted to be able to craft and sell items in FFXIV from the comfort of my bed. While we know that discussions are already happening about other platforms, I wanted to know if there was any update that Yoshida could give us. He noted that they want “as many to play as possible.” Discussions are still “ongoing” with all three publishers – Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo – to see if the game can come to Xbox One and Switch with cross-play with the PC and PS4 versions. Yoshida noted he “hopes to announce something as soon as we can.”
In terms of the future, Square Enix has Fan Fest coming up as well as some in-game events to celebrate the fifth anniversary of FFXIV. I asked him if the 10-year plan that he has mentioned previously is still a goal and he let me know that “of course” it is. It’s a “great milestone to match other MMO’s.” Looking to the past, I wanted to know what his proudest moment has been in the almost five years since the launch of A Realm Reborn.
After pausing and thinking for a bit, he shared that it had to be rebirthing the original 1.00 Final Fantasy XIV successfully. Interestingly enough, he didn’t think the “reborn was truly successful until the first expansion released. With Heavensward, he felt like the entire team succeeded” and it was a “major success.”
Conversely, I wanted to know what was the biggest learning experience of the last five years. Yoshida stated “Patch 2.1. With the opening of player housing, the discrepancy between legacy and new players (gil, etc) was great. I was thinking from a design perspective. It should have had a softer landing. The team has learned about being mindful.”
With housing brought up, I had to get a status check on two hot items that are of personal interest to me as a fan. I was surprised that Yoshida gave such definitive answers regarding both. The first was the long-awaited arrival of Ishgard housing. According to Yoshida, instead of opening new housing areas, the dev team has been focusing on making existing housing areas like Shirogane better. “Currently, there are no plans for new areas.”
Looking to the Future
However, “logically, it would be Ishgard” should the team decide to add new areas in the future. Considering he also revealed that the team plans upwards of “two years ahead”, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for Ishgard or any other new housing location in the future, including the next expansion.
My final question was specific to the Arcanist’s Summoner and Scholar jobs. As a main of both of those, I had to know if we could ever see the Moonstone or Obsidian Carbuncles as new summons and if the Scholar could get a new fairy, perhaps with the next FFXIV expansion. I asked, fully expecting to hear no comment but he actually answered definitively.
Yoshida revealed that he “understands the request” but he feels that those carbuncles are part of Alphinaud and Urianger’s “personality and it is who they are.” Being that it is tied into their characters, it is what makes them unique and giving them to everyone would make them not unique so it won’t happen. As for the Scholar, he laughed and told me that “fairies are fairies” and he isn’t sure what he would honestly do with a new fairy. That’s too bad, as I, personally, would love to see Anima or another fairy that had the special ability to revive teammates once every two minutes or so.