We got the chance to sit down with Final Fantasy XIV's producer/director and global online producer at GDC to talk about the future of the game.
ZAM: From your letters and patches, the battle system appears to be a high priority for you and your team. What is your overall vision for the battle and party system in the game?
Yoshida: The main concept is in two parts. The first one is to have fun in a party. The second is to have a defined role as a class. Those are the two things. It's all based around that party play and having fun in the party, as well as having a defined role as your class and not just being something that's kind of in between everything. The rest of the battle system is based off of those two main points.
We understand that for a lot of players it can be stressful trying to get a party together. So we've decided to break up that party system into two different parts. One with the base of 4-player parties, which in a sense will be easier to get together than a 6-person party in Final Fantasy XI, and having content based around 4-player parties. So you'll get a party of four and then have lots of stuff to do with just those four players. But we'll also have the 8-player parties and have high-level content for players that want to spend the time to get a lot of people together and do these battles that are going to take planning. They're going to say, “OK, we need these types of classes and do this type of battle to win.” It's the two-part design to having stuff for both the players who don't want to spend a lot of time and the hardcore players who really want to get into it.
ZAM: How do expect all of this to be implemented? Will it be rolled out over many updates, or will one major patch introduce these battle system changes?
Yoshida: Concerning battle, it would probably be too difficult to release battle-related patches in the short spans because we are having patches every two weeks or month. Instead of trying to release little bits of the battle system every two weeks or month, we've made the battle implementation a two-month span. In two months, the battle team will work on a lot of different things. When the patch comes, you'll get two months worth of stuff in that one big patch. In between, other patches will be released. But we want to make it a two-month span for the battle stuff.
ZAM: Do you have an estimated time frame of when players can expect to see that battle patch?
Yoshida: Right now we're working on a high-end dungeon for hardcore players. We want to have the battle changes ready for when that's released. I can't give you an exact date, but I can tell you it will be sometime in the spring. When the dungeon is released, a bunch of battle changes will also come with it.
In the published list of the battle stuff we're planning on implementing, we hope to have pretty much most of that done sometime in the spring. In the spring you'll be getting that high-end dungeon and the first round of battle changes. Not everything, but the first round. You can't just change the rules overnight. There's a lot of stuff that has to change, especially with reassessing all of the attributes and actions of all the classes and rebalancing and adjusting stuff with the armory system. It's going to take a lot of time. But that first big change will come in the spring with the new dungeon.
ZAM: In your fourth producer's letter, you teased fans with concept art for class-specific armor. How will that be implemented? Will it be quested for like the artifact armor in Final Fantasy XI?
Yoshida: There will be lots of different levels of armor. It won't be just high-end. There will be low-end stuff as well. There will be lots of different ways to get it. For some of the low-end stuff we're going to be introducing low-level NMs so low-level players can defeat them to get new low-level class-specific equipment. The high-end stuff will be a little more difficult to get. There will be multi-tiered quests where you have to complete several different quests to get the items. But it won't all be, for example, Dynamis-based stuff. There will be lots of different ways to get the class-based equipment.
ZAM: September will be the one-year anniversary of Final Fantasy XIV. How do you envision the state of the game one year after launch?
Yoshida: When new players and old players come back, we want to make sure it's not stressful. There will be solid tutorials and an easy user interface so when new players come in, or older players come back, they won't have that stress of coming into the game.
We also want to have a big goal for the players. Something that when they come into the game they know they've got to do this and they can get with other players and aim for that goal, which will be focusing around this danger that is approaching Eorzea. The players can get together and feel like they have to fight to save the world. That big goal will be there and ready for everyone.
I want players who are already in the game to be able to say that something big is happening and tell players who quit that they need to come back in to help save the world. It will give players still in the game something that they can give to players that have quit to give them a reason to come back.
That's what Final Fantasy is supposed to be.
Darryl Gangloff, Editor-in-Chief