Final Fantasy XIV: 10th Anniversary Las Vegas Fan Fest Press Conference
Shortly after the Piano Concert at Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest in Las Vegas, producer and director Naoki Yoshida held a press conference commemorating the tenth anniversary of the MMORPG’s relaunch as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, as well as the announcement of its new Dawntrail expansion. During the press conference, he answered a variety of questions — translated by Aimi Tokutake — submitted in advance from the variety of press members in attendance.
Speaking about Dawntrail’s logo and the color theme of “gold”, Naoki Yoshida stated the instructions to illustrator Yoshitaka Amano were that the new expansion will have a more straightforward theme of adventure. The Warrior of Light journeys to a new world by boat, with a feeling of excitement at exploring uncharted territories, including a large palace. He wanted to convey excitement and anticipation. Amano worked initially in black and white so that the conversion to digital formats used by the team to ensure it kept his delicate touch when they applied the colors. Yoshida did, however, tell Amano ahead of time that he was wanting it to be mainly gold, and also admitted to asking Amano to draw a rainbow. Yoshida also says that he really pays attention to what kind of lines Amano uses and the inspiration taken from his work.
When asked about the vast story, which saw Endwalker wrapping up many of the plot threads that had been ongoing since A Realm Reborn, and if he already has plans for more expansions down the line, Yoshida said it wasn’t the team’s intention to write one continuous story. They would foreshadow certain elements and clues since working on A Realm Reborn and tie up loose ends throughout the expansions, but they would largely be placed in the hopes that they would get the opportunity to depict them down the line. In terms of whether any new story lasts as long as the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga, he said it largely depends on the players and whether they want it to be continued. He has enough ideas to fill two future expansion packs, but wouldn’t be able to say what they are. He said, “Right now I’m 50 years old, and by the time Dawntrail releases I’ll probably be 51. After two more expansion packs I’d be about 57, 58 years old. I might be able to squeeze in three expansion packs by the time I’m 60!”
Addressing whether there were particular real-world inspirations behind the content of Dawntrail, Yoshida stated that there is. That said, he wants to keep it as a surprise for now, but that further information will be released at a later date. In terms of newcomers returning to the game for Dawntrail and tools to help them catch up, Yoshida noted that Patch 6.1 introduced a system where players can readily go and read information about the game’s characters, lore, and story. The team is also considering possible methods to allow players to potentially skip forward to the latest content. Yoshida also noted that the question is one that frequently comes up with expansion announcements, but that the game is very story-driven so that it may not be advantageous to jump straight into the new content and that team always adding new content to make previous content work better, such as the Duty Support system letting players to story dungeons with NPCs. He made an analogy to the expansion being like season six of a long-running TV show.
Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest offers a unique experience where the development team can be treated almost as rock stars, which is something Naoki Yoshida says is not something that is intended. Their jobs are still primarily to create games and that they aren’t meant to be out in the forefront, and he does see some comments when he is on livestreams such as getting old that he’s sure no one wants to see about themselves. However, he also feels like in an MMORPG that there needs to be an understanding between players, media, and the developers. With a game like Final Fantasy XIV, which accumulates lots of content, it’s important to see and share what players want, what the developers need to do, and what the media is paying attention to. Having that understanding and being able to share information allows it to stay interesting and continue to update itself. He’s often flattered that people want photos with him, and wanted to point out that he would love to accommodate requests, time allowing, for interesting photos, but saw one occasion where a photo had blurred out everyone’s faces except his and he didn’t see the point if the people with him aren’t shown.
When asked about his favorite memories with Final Fantasy XIV, Yoshida returned to the first Fan Fest in Las Vegas as they were rebuilding the game into A Realm Reborn. During it there was a machine malfunction, which caused the lines to keep building. The PR director approached Yoshida and asked him to apologize for the inconveniences. He went out expecting to feel bad, but once he started apologizing all the fans were cheering and applauding for the relaunch, with one young man in his teens saying that Yoshida was his hero and that having a powerful and humbling impact on him. He said that following the recent events where Fan Fests and media events were forced to be digital, the experience and enthusiasm around the Dawntrail keynote felt as good as before.
Answering a question about the balance between fan feedback and the development team’s own philosophies, Yoshida said it’s difficult to put into words. Playing the game himself, there are many points of feedback he fully understands. However, from a player perspective he feels the thinking leans towards “if it’s ok now or I get the inconvenience out of the way, then it’s fine”, and that they focus on the now. However, from the developer perspective if they do make everything easy and lose any challenge then it might be fine now, but will that be good long-term? What does any change do to the game balance? They also have to consider people playing casually versus hardcore players and recognise that if they accept every piece of feedback it would essentially break the game. There are some instances where they’ll notice something on the user interface where it’s worth spending two patches fixing it, or there may be something that cannot be addressed at that current time and his job is to oversee that.
With the recent release of Final Fantasy XVI, which Noaki Yoshida was producer on and has therefore been able to have fruitful discussions with himself, he confirmed that there are plans in the works for crossovers between it and Final Fantasy XIV. They are not able to divulge any details, but he hopes there will be information released later this year. Returning to the issue of approachability for new players and the time investment required to “catch up”, Yoshida says that there is also an adjustment on item levels and ensuring the content is balanced, as well as features and support elements like Duty Support.
With Patch 5.3 overhauling a lot of content from A Realm Reborn, Yoshida was asked what was it like revisiting the content and deciding what to keep and revise. He said the process consisted of three main points: research of when players would tend to drop out, quests that the development team felt they did too much on, and the various NPC and dialogues with players that could safely go away without losing anything from the game’s lore. He said the last part was the hardest task.
With Endwalker‘s story involving some hard-to-broach topics in writing, such as existentialism and loss, Yoshida was asked about some of the difficulties in taking these on. He said that they largely apply the same sort of philosophy to all content. For example, in Heavensward Alphinaud, Alisaie, and Estinian all had different ideals and beliefs, and one of their certain beliefs was shown to be untrue, but they found the way to work through it all. Another example from Stormblood, features Ala Mhigo under the rule of Garlemald, but it was more complex than everyone fighting for their freedom due to others being born under and used to Garlean rule. Shadowbringers sees the conflict between the ancients and the Warrior of Light’s allies, with each having their own beliefs that they want to pursue. Noaki Yoshida said he doesn’t think there is a correct right or wrong in these situations. Endwalker sees all of that culminating in the conclusion to that saga, and everyone might not realise it but they’ve always been following that path. It would’ve been impossible to address those themes in Endwalker without the previous expansions developing in that manner, though we agree that it was a difficult subject to broach and that it wouldn’t have been possible without (lead story designer) Natsuko Ishikawa.
When asked about the possibility of introducing cross-regional Data Center visitation or Duty Finder queue systems, Yoshida said there are many technical aspects to consider, and that while some cross-regional capabilities are built, they need to observe how different communities might intermingle before opening the floodgates. They are planning to keep looking into it, but cannot say whether or how it might go ahead due to the complexities involved.
Following the addition of new four-player Variant and Criterion Dungeons, Yoshida stated that the system for them is highly structured, and they’d like to release more content in this format and listen to feedback on it. Some new information on it will be included in Saturday’s Letter from the Producer Live. In terms of the large-scale content like Bozja and Eureka, they are trying to come up with challenges in those elements.
A suggestion was given to be able to buy an arcade cabinet in a cash shop and use it play old Final Fantasy games in player housing. Yoshida revealed that this is something they’ve attempted to do in the last year and a half, and the development team though it would be cool to play the Pixel Remaster in the Gold Saucer or player housing. However, they realised that the Pixel Remasters run on middleware so they’ve had to build a brand new system just to implement it into Final Fantasy XIV, and even though Yoshida thinks the team is crazy, he doesn’t think they’re that crazy.
Finally, Yoshida was also asked about expanding Final Fantasy XIV into other media such as a TV series. He said if he was allowed to be a supervising producer and director he’d love to have a Final Fantasy TV series, though given all of his current roles he probably couldn’t squeeze that in! However, the team is quite open to offers such as a spin-off, anime, movie, or TV series, and has not rejected the idea. There have been some approaches, though nothing has reached concrete discussions or planning. Yoshida did state that if the team is committed to such a project they want to make sure they don’t destroy the image of the game and it will need to be high quality.
Written by Sarah McGarr and Alex Fuller