Square Enix has managed the impossible; taking a broken, disappointing MMO and turning it into the legitimate contender to World of Warcraft. That’s all thanks to the massive efforts Naoki Yoshida, affectionately known by his nick-name of “Yoshi-P,” who took an ailing, sinking ship of a game and righted it and its course. Now FFXIV is looking forward to its first big paid expansion—after numerous free content updates—and Yoshi-P was on hand to discuss his thoughts about the game and its new, upcoming addition, Heavensward.
Comics Gaming Magazine: When Final Fantasy XI was released, the response wasn’t as positive as anticipated. Final Fantasy XIV, however, was well received and breathed new hope into the evolution of the Final Fantasy title’s move into the realm of the MMO. What cues did you take from the experience Square-Enix had with XI to create such a positive response to XIV?
Naoki Yoshida: I first and foremost want to mention the background on how the concept of Final Fantasy XI came about. At the time, there was the very addictive MMO Everquest. There where addicts worldwide playing the game. Square Enix wanted to take that really popular addicting game and sort out how we could adapt it as a Final Fantasy game. That is where the concept got started.
During the release of Final Fantasy XI, it was considered the first generation of MMOs. Back then you were not able to do anything alone. Like, you can't do any sort of solo play. You had to gather a party, you had to stand there to shout out and gather a group of people. That alone could take an hour. Then you had to walk over to whatever dungeon or quest with your party, and then you can't come back for another four hours. That took a long time, but that also contributed to why it was so addicting. But now, people’s lives have become so busy, and there are just so many things to do that you can't really allocate that chunk of time to play an online game. So when it came to Final Fantasy XIV we have taken that into consideration. Along with that, battling and questing is not the only thing within an MMORPG. We wanted to incorporate things like lifestyle sort of games. The gold saucer is one of them. We have the crafting disciplines within the game. So we wanted to have a lot of elements available, but do not take all the players time. Sort of like a Final Fantasy theme park as I’ve been putting it. That’s the kind of atmosphere we wanted to portray within Final Fantasy XIV.
CGM: The Astrologian class was introduced as part of the new expansion, which serves as a healer. How does it compare to the already existing healing classes?
NY: There are two healers as you are familiar, the White Mage and the Scholar. The new healer that we’re introducing, the Astrologian, is going to have two major differences compared to those two classes.
First and foremost this is going to be the first job [class] that’s going to be within that healer role and they’re going to have this unique new system called the stance change. Where the White Mage is sort of like a pure healer type where they’re just focusing on healing the party, and the scholar has like a more protective stance where he sets up barriers in order to protect your allies, this third healer, Astrologian, can utilize that stance change. Like for example, when you’re in a full party with eight members and you have the two healers, the Astrologian can kind of determine and swap. It can become a supplementary secondary healer or can go in for main healing types, so you can determine which would best work for your party’s strategy.
Another very unique characteristic about the Astrologian is that she is seen carrying a deck of cards - divining cards is what we call it - and she will draw a card and she can make a decision whether to utilize it at that turn or wait for global cool down (wait for the next turn) to determine whether she wants to combine the powers of the next card she draws to either utilize it for her party or not. It requires a lot of quick thinking and if you effectively use the power of the cards correctly, she can become a very powerful healer role within the party.
CGM: Now you and your team have been very responsive to your fans, especially in terms of new classes to release. I understand that there has been much desire among them for the introduction of the Samurai class, but you chose to introduce the Dark Knight instead. How do you anticipate the fans will respond?
NY: With regard to the new jobs, we actually made the first announcement during our fan festivals last year and there was actually a good number of people who were excited to see that the Dark Knight was chosen in the end. There was very positive response, but of course there were people who wanted the Samurai class. But instead of them being disappointed that the samurai wasn’t chosen they were more like ‘so, when is Samurai coming?’
In terms of how fans reacted, it makes me think ‘so if we were to put in a Samurai, how is it going to play into the realm of Final Fantasy XIV? Would it be a tank? But that doesn’t seem to make sense because Samurai seems to be more of a DPS. Or if we were to go in the vein of a tank, wouldn’t it be a Shogun?’ those kind of thoughts start brewing in my head. Then we would look to the fan feedback again and see what the community is asking for; what they’re searching for. What their image of what a Samurai ought to be. And again, play catch a little bit and converse and see what the fan thinks and determine and discern what would work in the realm of XIV. So by having that communication and that thought process and being pretty transparent out there, then the player would understand when we say ‘ok so we’re taking this all into consideration. It does take a while to implement a new job so if you could please wait.’ And then fans will understand: ‘oh, ok. So they are giving it a lot of thought, so I am going to see what’s going to come out of it.’
For even more of Yoshi P’s thoughts, read the extended interview in the next issue of CGM.