Naoki Yoshida, the new producer and director for Final Fantasy XIV, is not used to having his face in the media. However, Square Enix has brought him in to save their latest MMO, and Yoshida is anxious to connect with the players and bring them what they want. In an interview with Famitsu this week, he detailed the problems FFXIV has faced, and how he will work to repair them -- with the help of the player base.
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- Can you tell us about the circumstances leading up to that ultimate announcement to restructure the development team on December 10th, 2010?
Yoshida: Ever since service began in September of 2010, we had been receiving demands and complaints from the players. Additionally, for a game that bears the Final Fantasy name, it is important that the entire company work together to raise the quality of the title.
- When was the decision made?
Yoshida: The end of November, 2010.
- So, you're saying the new policy was drafted soon after the decision was made?
Yoshida: We had been talking with the core members of the new team well before then, but the official decision was made in late November. I had some responsibilities from the beginning among the directors, and I was concerned about the state of FFXIV, so it wasn't as if I was suddenly thrust into the role of producer and director out of nowhere.
- What is the reason for you alone being both producer and director?
Yoshida: In the gaming industry, the realm that producers and directors cover can be incredibly vague. However, with an MMORPG like FFXIV, work continues after the point of sale, so the job of producer remains important. At the same time, I am hearing a lot of dissatisfaction coming from our players, and my top priority is to see those complaints become positive feedback, meaning managing the direction of the game is also important. We now need to act with speed and accuracy, and so the development team advised me that having these two areas managed by the same person is the most efficienct way to achieve this.
- What meaning do the keywords FUN, LIVE, REBOOT and REBUILD hold?
Yoshida: At first, I just planned to put the keywords out there without writing detailed explanations for each one. But then people interested in the game began asking if these indicated specific targets we were aiming for. I just thought these were keywords that are inherent to an MMORPG. FUN means I want people to enjoy the game. LIVE (the game feeling live and spontaneous) is important as well. I can't pinpoint what this will mean for the game, but I hope you look forward to the plans we have in store. The remaining two and REBOOT and REBUILD. There will be adjustments and changes, and we would love for you to imagine how things can be rebuilt or rebooted through the course of play.
- I see, so with REBUILD, in accordance with the second question of the player survey where you ask about changing the rules of Eorzea, is there a possibility Windows players could see their characters being wiped?
Yoshida: As a policy of mine, I would absolutely never do a wipe. While there may be adjustments that significantly alter the meaning of one's physical level or skill ranks, I would still allow players to reallocate their stats. By the way, I actually wrote those questions myself, and I purposely referred to Eorzea, not FFXIV, in the question. What do I mean by the "rules of Eorzea?" That is something I'd like you to speculate about.
- The survey is touted as the "first," so are there more in store?
Yoshida: Yes. If we started right in with lots of specific questions, it would tough to get a solid idea of what the players want. We plan to gradually move through a number of different topics. Our players need to be satisfied above all else, and so we will focus on interacting with everyone to create an even better experience.
- In the survey, you ask what content players would like to see added. One of the options is an auction house, which seems quite specific. What was your aim with this question?
Yoshida: The auction house is a system that was implemented in Final Fantasy XI. This is something I haven't revealed before, but I believe we focused too much on FFXIV being different from FFXI. As a key to having a vibrant economy, there should exist a system for players that is easy to use. If that means an auction house, then shouldn't we work aggressively to implement it? Making everything original isn't necessarily correct, I think.
- By the way, how has the reaction to the survey been at this time (January, 7th, 2011)?
Yoshida: Our core players have been filling in the survey. We've taken a look at the responses so far, but encourage everyone to voice their opinions by the January 14th deadline.
- This may depend on the survey results, but is there anything you wish to immediately change about FFXIV?
Yoshida: The user interface. More than improving any other aspect of the game, if we don't fix the controls, the players' frustration will drown out any feedback on positive changes. Next would be the battle system. Eorzea in its current state is way too peaceful. (laughs) I'm thinking of bringing that Final Fantasy essence to the forefront so we have players banding together to face down fearsome enemies.
- Lastly, do you have any words for our readers holding out hope for a PS3 version?
Yoshida: I apologize for not having a set release date, and unfortunately, I cannot decide upon a solid date until our current players are fully enjoying FFXIV. We are determined to deliver a product that lives up to the Final Fantasy name, and I hope you look forward to playing it.