Within the first three months of service, Final Fantasy XIV has changed considerably, both in-game and out. Now, with the development team restructured, Naoki Yoshida is at the helm and ready to win back an overwhemingly unsatisfied audience. According to our poll here on ZAM, most players are happy with a new producer and director, but we still do not know much about him or his plans to turn the game around.
This week, 4Gamer sat down with Yoshida for his first in-depth interview since being appointed to FFXIV. Read on to see what he has to say.
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Many people, including the interviewer, were shocked to see such a momentous change coming only three months into the game's life. However, Yoshida notes that this is exactly why such a restructuring was made -- to make the necessary changes early on that will make FFXIV an MMO worthy of its namesake. The new producer understands the weight the "Final Fantasy" name carries for the company and its many fans, and is ready to pump out quality updates for three, six even ten years to come.
Giving FFXIV new life is something that has begun to engulf the entire company. Tactics Ogre Director Minagawa was brought in as a UI and Web Content artist and directors from Final Fantasy XII were also tapped to spruce up the user interface. "As we stated in the 'New Development Team Policy' on the Lodestone," says Yoshida, "Square Enix, as a whole, will work vigorously, now more than ever, to deliver a satisfying experience for all our customers."
While the new team is in place and working hard, Yoshida is unable to provide any solid details on what is in store or a time frame in which the effects of the new team might be seen. The current goal is to get out updates chock full of content and carry the game towards its first major milestone. At this time, updates (including the December ones) have been putting out content developed by the previous team. What Yoshida plans to prioritize the promises the previous team made to the players and making sure everyone's voice is heard and has a part in the development process On January 1st, Yoshida will post another comment to detail more of his plans.
As for the task before him, Yoshida details FFXIV as a game in disarray, though also a victim of the times. Games like World of Warcraft and FFXI have been around for many years now, which he says has set the bar much higher for MMOs. "People want loads of content right off the bat, and third-party addons are a given now," Yoshida admits, "its a tough situation for new games." Yoshida lists end-game content, UI fixes, tutorials and in-game terminology as things that FFXIV needs to get right, and fast. The complexity of the game especially is something that players have struggled with since the beginning. As 4Gamer puts it, "If you can't understand the rules of the game, you can't understand how to enjoy it."
The user interface is set to undergo some significant changes to accommodate for the vast difference in play styles between a game controller and keyboard/mouse setup. Yoshida admits he is a stickler for a smooth UI as well, and Mingawa was brought in as someone who is "second to none" at UI development. Interface lag is another key problem the developers are looking to stamp out, and they are working to identify the technological issues behind the slowdown people are experiencing. Yoshida also shows his experience regarding MMOs, and sees games like WoW as an example of how users can also help reinvent the UI through addons. This is a big change from the days of FFXI, and something Yoshida wishes to support fully.
All these issues are also keeping the PlayStation 3 delayed, as the key is "regaining customer trust" before launching a new version. Yoshida takes some of the blame as well, saying part of the reason there is no longer a solid release date is because he does not like to make promises he cannot keep. The only promise Yoshida will make regarding the console port is that "they will never give up on it."
Wrapping up the interview, 4Gamer tests Yoshida as a Final Fantasy fan, and ask him what the series means to him. While he says the answer may be different for each fan (and especially different between players and developers) he sees Final Fantasy as providing a world in which the player can become fully absorbed. In that sense, presenting Eorzea as a world with yet untold wonder for players to experience makes it feel like the true Final Fantasy in his eyes.
And his favorite title in the series? "Final Fantasy VII," he says. "Even talking with fans from North America and Europe, you hear how it leaves an impact you never forget." It's that kind of powerful, lasting content that Yoshida now wishes to bring the FFXIV.