As part of our participation in the Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers 2019 media tour, CGMagazine had the opportunity to sit down once again with game director Naoki Yoshida for a Q&A session to learn more about the game’s rapidly-approaching expansion. The following includes both our questions and those from another media outlet in attendance.
Press: I’m always looking for ways to stay connected to the world of Final Fantasy XIV, even when I’m away from home. Are there any plans to further update the official Companion App with more functions, such as dispatching retainer ventures, creating glamour plates, chatting in the Free Company channel, and so on?
Naoki Yoshida: The implementation of Shadowbringers involves a lot of system updates, so the Companion App will have to accommodate those updates first and foremost. However, we do want to make it so you can dispatch retainers on ventures from the app, and we will be working on that once the system updates are in place. Following that, we want to look into creating functionalities that you can only access from the app side. That way, players will have unique ways to interface with Final Fantasy XIV independently of the game client itself.
Press: Will Shadowbringers eventually add any more large-scale Gold Saucer content, such as the long-rumored Blitzball? On a related note, will you perhaps lift the restrictions on Triple Triad deck creation, since four-star cards are currently unusable alongside five-star cards?
NY: We don’t have anything ready for the release of Shadowbringers. The reason for this is because whenever we launch a new expansion, the players focus on the main scenario, as well as leveling their jobs and participating in PvE battle content. As a result, we have a general rule to not make updates to the Gold Saucer and PvP in x.0 patches. We do, however, have updates planned for Patch 5.1. Regarding Triple Triad, we are currently drafting plans for how we want to revise the rules for deck composition, so we will hopefully have something to show you in a future update.
Press: If Stormblood‘s musical motif could largely be described as “Asian,” how would you describe the overall musical feel of Shadowbringers? On that note (heh), will you consider releasing the existing Blu-ray soundtracks, as well as future soundtracks, via digital storefronts like iTunes and Amazon? Many players are only interested in the music itself and not the accompanying visuals.
NY: I requested the Shadowbringers base theme to have a “rock” flavor. Hearing the music in our trailers, it sounds fairly atypical of Final Fantasy music, which is what I wanted. In terms of songs outside the opening theme, our approach to composition is close to what we did with A Realm Reborn. Heavensward leaned on pipe organs and a “cathedral” sound with a religious tone, while Stormblood, as you mentioned, had an Asian influence. I wanted Stormblood to have a comparatively…well, dry sound. In Shadowbringers, players will be visiting unexplored areas for the first time, so we wanted each area to have a specific theme. The goal here is to have players experience each region with its own motif and featured instruments to give that feeling of stepping into lands untraveled.
To your second question: the group that handles the publishing of musical media is a different department from ours, so the decision of how to release it does not fall upon my shoulders. There does seem to be a trend in that division that leans toward disc-based media. There is a hesitation to rely upon third-party distributors like Amazon due to the cut of revenue they take away by acting as distributors. For about a year now, [FFXIV musical director] Soken and I have wanted to break that mold. We don’t want to have to depend on a disc medium because a lot of people don’t have Blu-ray players these days, and it adds another layer of hassle to getting the music on your preferred device. We feel it is important to have digital media available. With that being said, there are currently some tracks available on digital storefronts, and we’re hoping we can offer more in the future.
Press: Regarding the Trust system, I was surprised to see a system that encourages solo play to such a degree in an MMORPG. What was the thought process behind implementing this system?
NY: There are two reasons. The first is that while Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG, there are a huge variety of people who play it. Some enjoy battles and raids; others spend hours posing their characters for the perfect screenshot. Some just enjoy sitting around chatting with their friends. Because Final Fantasy XIV is a story-driven game, there may be some players who want to immerse themselves further and take their time working through content, but that becomes difficult when you’re working on other people’s schedules. I want to break the preconceived notion that you have to party up to experience the story simply because this is an MMORPG. Even if every single player utilized the Trust system, hypothetically speaking, that still wouldn’t be detrimental to Final Fantasy XIV because players are still sharing an online environment and participating in the social aspects that come with it regardless.
The second reason for the Trust system is because we want players to fall in love with major NPCs even more deeply. You journey alongside these people throughout the story, but whenever there is a dungeon to explore, they’ve suddenly got to go run an errand. (laughs) That’s why we designed their AI to reflect each of their personalities. It really imparts this sense of “I’m trying to save the world with my close allies at my back.”
Press: Regarding the YoRHA: Dark Apocalypse raid penned by NieR: Automata creator Yoko Taro: what is the process you employ in bringing in guest creators to make content for FFXIV?
NY: Once again, we have two major reasons. The first is easy to understand: it’s a good promotion from a marketing standpoint. By having a notable creator involved, it allows us to reach those players who may not be familiar with Final Fantasy XIV, but who are fans of the guest creator’s works. The other reason is because it bestows upon us valuable outside perspective. We have been working on this one game for a very long time, and as such, we’ve learn how to optimize development and create new content efficiently. As a result, we may sometimes start to learn towards a specific “rule” in our creation, and it’s difficult to break that mold. When a guest creator comes in, they may not have experience with the mold we’ve been working with, and they will come up with ideas that will break it. Sometimes, they address things that we’ve purposefully avoided doing in FFXIV, but that makes us work harder to bring their ideas to life. We think this approach leads to a better experience for everyone because it forces us to take on challenges we otherwise would not have considered, thereby surprising our players in turn.
In terms of how we construct the pipeline to create content with a guest, it differs depending on who we work with. With [Return to Ivalice raid designer] Yasumi Matsuno, he’s actually an experienced player who knows the “rules” of FFXIV, and he’s very story-oriented in how he approaches things. For Yoko Taro, he was not familiar with our game before he played it, so he came in asking, “What sorts of things are possible?” I replied, “I can’t establish those rules for you, because they will become a limilation.” With that dialogue and that mutual understanding, Taro-san would relay what kind of impact he wanted to make with his content, and then the team would work with him to accommodate. That sort of back-and-forth is essential, I think.
Press: Today, the language of MMORPGs is starting to be taken out of that space and molded into different experiences. We see it as a base for games like Destiny, for example. When creating new FFXIV content, is the team reacting or responding to shifts in games as a whole?
NY: Frankly, no. We even have a policy behind that line of thinking. If we wanted to take inspiration from another game’s mechanics, we would have to adjust the overall framework of FFXIV. That includes the gameplay experience and the play cycle (like how long we want players doing a specific piece of content). Rather than taking the time and effort to make those sorts of adjustments, we might as well create a new game separate from FFXIV entirely. We also don’t want to alienate our existing players by drastically changing the framework of FFXIV. Although I love other games and the creativity they’re showing, for us to make such a large change, we’d run the risk of breaking FFXIV.
Press: When adding a new job, what is the creative perspective versus the game balance perspective, especially for jobs that are new to FFXIV?
NY: I would argue that XIV‘s jobs are not repeats of those from previous FFs. While they do have names that are carried over, we try to make it so the play experience and controls are completely unique to FFXIV. As such, we haven’t identified these jobs are needing to line up with those in previous FFs.
There are three major factors we consider when adding new jobs. One, the marketing and PR angle. Two, when we look at the stats of how many players are playing which jobs—and we do have access to that information—the numbers skew towards DPS jobs. So if we are going to add multiple new jobs, we lean towards DPS roles because of their popularity. Player feedback is, of course, important, and we even have a ranked list of which jobs are in the most demand. We keep it in mind, of course. Third, we have to consider which role to add in every expansion to keep the player population most balanced. It’s a matter of thinking from an operations perspective.
Press: Any updates on the “Egi glamour” system? I know, I know. A short answer is fine.
NY: Yes, we’re still working on it. Look for an update around Patch 5.1 at the earliest.
(For more Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers 2019 media tour coverage, please see our firsthand impressions of the event.)
Disclaimer: Square Enix provided travel and accommodations to attend this event.