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PAX Prime 2013: FFXIV's Yoshida on rebuilding trust and expanding functionality

Jef Reahard

Apart from Square's public presentation, which was open to both media types and fans at this year's PAX Prime, we were also able to sit down with Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida for a more intimate interview session.

Join us after the cut as we talk about classes, jobs, consoles vs. PCs, and a boatload of other Eorzean tidbits.

PAX Prime - FFXIV's Yoshida on rebuilding trust, expanding functionality, and more
As with the public session, Yoshida began with a handful of prepared statements that focused on Square's appreciation for its loyal fans and its continued acknowledgment of the missteps with both version 1.0 and version 2.0's launch issues. Yoshida said that Square didn't anticipate how large the demand would be for A Realm Reborn, due partly to the previous version's issues and because a complete reboot has never been done in the MMO space before.

Nevertheless, he said that by this Wednesday, the game should be supporting everyone who wants to play it.

He then detailed the game's three pillars, which consist of fantastic graphics, a great story, and great gameplay, before clearing up a bit of misconception regarding players being allowed to post gameplay to YouTube. Square had initially frowned on players exhibiting gameplay footage, but the company "has now taken that back."

PAX Prime - FFXIV's Yoshida on rebuilding trust, expanding functionality, and moreFor the interview proper, we began by asking Yoshida whether the quest tracking that was removed in beta will be reappearing at some point. Originally the feature was added to beta because of a bug and subsequently removed when the bug was fixed. That said, the dev team is very aware that many players loved the feature, and Yoshida has been in talks with the UI team to "hopefully have that coming back soon."

Yoshida was then asked about Easter eggs, cameos, and the like, particularly as they relate to new players or new MMO players who may be familiar with older versions of the Final Fantasy series. Yoshida downplayed the likelihood of having cameos or "tiny tidbits" specific to certain jobs or sections of the game world. He also mentioned plans for putting Gilgamesh in the story, but rather than having him appear in an isolated quest, the team would prefer showcasing him in a quest line or over multiple patches in order to broaden the experience.

He also stated that any appearances or nods to other Final Fantasy titles will be done with the fans in mind. The dev team will not have Yuna appear in Eorzea, he explained with a laugh, because everything in FFXIV needs to make sense for that particular world.

We then asked Yoshida whether other classes will have access to multiple jobs, much as Arcanists can dabble in Summoner skills. He said that we'll probably see more of that in the future. There will likely be existing classes made able to branch off into other jobs, and he does consider it highly important to have variety and lots of flexibility in the game's class system. Also under consideration is the possibility of combining two jobs to form a third, such as White and Black Mages combining to form a Red Mage.

He also laughed and mentioned that there's a "high possibility" of new jobs debuting prior to future expansions.

PAX Prime - FFXIV's Yoshida on rebuilding trust, expanding functionality, and moreNext up was a question about server transfers, and Yoshida said that they will be available within two to three months. After that, we asked how daily quests will differ from guild leves. Basically the dailies will be used to expand on the story behind the beast tribes in the world. The quests will explain motivation, lifestyle, and various other factors related to what certain groups are doing in Eorzea. And of course there will be item rewards that aren't available elsewhere.

Yoshida was then asked how he would attempt to sell an FF MMO to a long-time console fan who isn't familiar with the genre or its conventions. His answer was to think of it as an RPG rather than an MMORPG and to play it like the former rather than the latter. It's actually a lot easier to get into than some of the older FF games due to the tutorials, he argued, and much of the feedback from MMO rookies has been positive due to the newbie-friendly design.

We then asked Yoshida about the design choices behind solo story quests, particularly the decision to make class quests solo-only. He said that the purpose of these quests is to teach you how to play the game and your class, but he also acknowledged feedback from players who prefer to continue grouping with their friends. Ultimately, he's working out how to satisfy those players without ruining the teaching experience. He also noted that despite the large amount of solo content in the game's early levels, "it's going to come down to being able to function in a party" because it is an MMORPG.

Yoshida was next asked about additional game features and actions and how they will be incorporated into the game's controller scheme. His response touched on the cross hotbar and the fact that further functionality can be mapped to it with relative ease. There's room to grow in terms of things like flying mounts because instead of simply pressing a button and jumping, you could press and hold the button to fly.

We also asked about future map waypoint functionality, tagging, and the like. He said that though the world is large, the zones are small enough that the dev team is not seeing players who get lost. The team also has to consider how many player data are saved on the back end, particularly in light of the large number of customizable data sets stemming from the game's armory system and inventory. Given the current server issues, the goal right now is the make the sending and receiving of data as stable as possible, so there's currently a cap that is not ready for expansion.

Yoshida also interjected at this point that he's not a fan of fast traveling because it will lead to fat chocobos!

Finally with regard to travel, the dev team is looking at ways of click-traveling to Aetherytes instead of making players constantly look at their maps to determine which Aetheryte they'd like to go to.

Yoshida was asked about the breakdown between PC and console users on Final Fantasy XIV. He said that in the West, Square expects approximately 70% of the game's audience to experience it on PCs. That said, he thinks the release of the PlayStation 4 will boost console user numbers significantly given the HD options and the low cost of the console compared to a high-end PC. Japan, on the other hand, is largely console-focused, though Yoshida did say that Final Fantasy XI was responsible for a significant uptick in the country's PC gaming audienc. In Europe, it varies by country, with Germany voting largely in favor of the PC while England and France are more evenly split among gamers who prefer one platform to the other.

We wrapped up the interview by asking Yoshida to comment on his favorite part of A Realm Reborn's launch. He said that the most gratifying part of the process has been seeing Square start to rebuild trust in the community after the challenges posed by 1.0's reception.

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 30th to September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!

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