We know - we've talked about Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 a lot - but with a Producer as open-minded as Naoki Yoshida, it's hard to say no to an opportunity to inteview him.
Although it hasn't been too long since we saw the game back at E3, a follow-up felt appropriate in the meantime to fill the gap until Gamescom next month. Think of this as an extension to our previous interview with producer/director Naoki Yoshida and localization guru Koji Fox.
Having seen the new version in action, we wanted to get somewhat of an in-depth look at some of the decisions behind the game's development, and of course changes going into version 2.0 - now formally known as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Hot on the heels of a brand new trailer, the newly rebuilt version of the game will see even more reveals in the coming months.
As we've come to expect, Yoshida-san had quite a bit to say.
RPG Site: About how large now is the team working on FF14 and how has it - if at all - affected Square Enix development internally? Actually, I’m really interested in the way the team works so perhaps if you could describe a bit about day to day workings and various staff roles? Going back to the idea of 2.0 having an ‘epic Final Fantasy-style’ story, I’m really interested in who will be handling the scenario and dialogue writing—things like that.
Yoshida: Currently, the in-house team consists of almost 300 members. We also have outsourced a fair amount of work to third-party companies, so all-in-all, the team is fairly large.
Some of the core members include:
Naoki Yoshida – producer/director – (Dragon Quest series)
Yoshihisa Hashimoto – technical director – (CTO, Luminous engine)
Hiroshi Takai – assistant director – (Last Remnant, FFV, Romancing Saga series)
Akihiko Matsui – battle director – (Final Fantasy Series, FFXI)
Hiroshi Minagawa – UI director – (FFXII, Tactics Ogre)
Takeo Suzuki – art director – (FFXII)
Akihiko Yoshida – lead artist (FFXII, Tactics Ogre)
And many, many more Square Enix veterans
Continuing operation and development of the current version alongside 2.0 development has resulted in a very unique team make-up. On one side, we have a small team of programmers and art designers working on assets ordered by the 1.0 game design/scenario team who implement their quests directly into the game via lua script. For 2.0 development, we have separate teams for quest/scenario writing, game design, UI design, level design, and programming. The programming team is further divided into smaller units working on the servers, user interface, in-game content, the client system, graphics, and more. Finally, we cannot forget our artists, whose workload is determined by assignments received from the teams listed above.
As director, I personally make it a point to check the details of each group’s work, and prioritize the implementation of new features.
Yaeko Sato (FINAL FANTASY XI, FINAL FANTASY XII) will continue her role as lead writer. I, personally, will also be involved in working on the plot. In addition, we have introduced a talented new Scenario Director, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for more information regarding him at the moment. Him!? I’ve already said too much…
RPG Site: With development of the new engine you have Yoshihisa Hashimoto has the Technical Director, who is also Square Enix Chief Technology Officer and is head of the Luminous Studio. Could you perhaps share more on his involvement with 14? Has the new engine from 14 been influenced at all by Luminous? Are there certain features that both share such as scaling, etc?
Yoshida: As our technical director, Hashimoto is deeply involved in the technology behind FF14. This includes decisions made regarding the use of middleware technology, as well as coordination and design decisions regarding the graphics engine, the core system, and the server system. He also is the mastermind behind the task management system that our entire team uses to keep track of work flow and deadlines.
It is a completely different engine, yet because the same people working on the Luminous Engine (Hashimoto-san included) helped create FF14's engine, there are some similarities. You could say the two engines are siblings.
RPG Site: From a localization standpoint, are all of the voice overs remaining in English? And will we start to see more voice over in the game as a whole – for example the current game doesn’t have much in terms of voiced content outside of a few cutscenes. Do you think it’s important for other markets, such as Japan, to have voice over in their domestic language?
Yoshida: Voice overs will be available in English, Japanese, French, and German. While there is slightly more voice in 2.0 compared to 1.0, NPCs in towns and normal quests will not speak. The reason behind this being that we did not want the time spent voice recording and preparing the files to compromise the quick version update schedule that we have planned for version 2.0.
RPG Site: FF14 marked the first time that localization was worked on in this manner at Square Enix - simultaneous and in-house in Japan. In working on version 2.0, how do you feel about that structure? Have you changed it at all since, or do you plan to?
Yoshida: We find having the localization team on-site helps improve efficiency dramatically and therefore have no plans of changing this setup in the future. In addition to translation, our localization team provides the team with valuable feedback on issues such as UI design, storytelling, world building, and more.
Koji: Actually, this is not the first time the LOC team has worked in this manner with the team. Square Enix has been translating and localizing games on site in our Japanese offices for over a decade, FF11 being an example of a project in which the LOC team works directly within the development team. The FF14 localization team follows 11's model, but expands upon it by allowing the translators an even larger role in the game’s development.
RPG Site: This one might be a little too early, but perhaps could you talk a little bit on the new music and new composers for FF14 outside of Uematsu-san? Will the current music remain in the game, namely the established vocal theme Answers?
Yoshida: As has been the case with the music for the ongoing version updates, the music for 2.0 will feature the talents of a wide variety of seasoned composers whose names will be revealed in the near future.
Answers will not only be featured in 2.0, but it will play an important role in the game’s relaunch. As for tracks used in 1.0, while some will remain in 2.0, some will not.
RPG Site: As far as gameplay goes, how will grinding vs. quests work for leveling? Will players find more reward from taking on more quests as opposed to just outright level grinding?
Yoshida: We will be moving away from a grind-oriented leveling system to a quest/content-driven leveling system. No longer will randomly defeating public monsters be the most efficient way to level your character.
RPG Site: In regards to linkshells and Free Companies, it feels like Free Companies are just another form of linkshells – why have them split into two different things?
Yoshida: They are completely different entities. Linkshells can be thought of as chat communities, with players allowed to join as many as they like. Free Companies are a complex, player-driven guild system which includes various leveling aspects.
RPG Site: Are there any plans to promote more competition between linkshells at high levels? Some sort of leaderboard at the Adventurer's Guilds which tabulates NM kills or raid clears for example, since the game is moving away from direct linkshell confrontation with the lack of open world content.
Yoshida: Free Company leveling and World server-based rankings will be implemented.
RPG Site: Primal fights will become roaming in 2.0 for the summoning system; are there any specifics you could go into? Will weapons and things like that still be obtainable, and will there still be instanced fights like which are available in the current version?
Yoshida: Most of the primals will not be “roaming” the public areas, and their battles will still be instanced, though it will be more challenging to discover these instances.
Koji: It looks like there was a little bit of misinformation given at the E3 interview (and this may have been my fault, or it may have been Yoshida-san’s). The implication given was that all the primals would be roaming, and once they were summoned, they would pop somewhere else in the world. This is not the case. While roaming primal are still not out of the question, the summonable deities will be instanced-based, with the primal going back to these instances once they’ve been summoned. However, players will still have to look for these instances once they’ve become available, preventing camping.
RPG Site: Will there be an improved Loadstone for player data? For example on the current system you can’t see your actual progress.
Yoshida: A complete revamp of the Lodestone is being planned for the relaunch. This revamp should improve many of the site’s current features.
RPG Site: Has there ever been any consideration to add fashion/vanity slots to the game? Basically separate slots for equipment that actually gives you stats, with the option of a second row of slots where you can put in other armor. The armor would then be your visible gear—something like that which has been present in other modern MMOs.
Yoshida: This has been talked about, but will not be available at the time of relaunch, as we feel that it will make it harder to distinguish between classes/jobs if their appearance does not match their party role. However, we have not abandoned the possibility of implementing such a system in the future.
RPG Site: Will speed runs be kept for version 2.0? It seems a lot of people on the forums are not in favor of that type of content, especially when having to go back to content you already played through before.
Yoshida: Speed runs will remain in the game (for achievement purposes), however, they will no longer be necessary to obtain equipment upgrades. Expect the reward system for these runs to change greatly.
RPG Site: What about plans for the file structure for the game itself? Currently FF14 takes up about 12GB of space on a hard drive, but is spread across 185K files or so, which is a lot more than other more recent MMOs. Are there any plans to restructure the file system of the game to be a little more non-SSD friendly for PCs with more memory than a PS3?
Yoshida: Of course. Players will see a significant reduction in the number of files installed onto their hard drives.