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    Yoshida Press Interview with Game Watch (2/20-2/21)

    This is one of several interviews that Yoshida did back around the time of the last press event, with a focus on the PS4 release as well as patch 2.2. However, presumably because they wanted to time it around JP PS4 launch (2/22), all three of the interviews were not published until recently (2/20-ish). The actual interviews took place on 1/30.

    Below and in the following seven posts is my translation of the Game Watch interview (other interviews were done with Famitsu and Dengeki as well, which I may take a look after this one), which focuses mostly on the PS4 version of the game but has some questions regarding future content, continuity of PS3 support, etc. I'll continue posting the interview as I work through the translation.

    Part 1: PS4 Development, Graphical Upgrades
    Part 2: PS Vita Remote Play, PS4 Video Streaming
    Part 3: PS4 User Interface, Control Schemes, HDD Read Speed
    Part 4: PS3 Support and Hardware Limitations
    Part 5: PS4 Beta, Steam and Other Regions, DX11
    Part 6: Reflections on Patch 2.1
    Part 7: Patch 2.2 and Beyond
    Part 8: Fan Events, Final Thoughts


    -----

    How far along is the PS4 version right now?

    Yoshida: I think we're at about 90% complete.

    What's the last 10%?

    Yoshida: We have to address some specifications for the PS4. In the presentation, we talked about how the PS4 version was developed and optimized based on the PC version, but, for example, the shader applied to the character is not the same so we have to port and re-code to match the PS4 processing pipeline, it's not an exact clone. So point by point we have to go through the code as we port over to PS4. We're almost completed with the work, but we're currently addressing some bugs that need to be fixed.

    Were there any difficulties in the development?

    Yoshida: Well...actually, I think it was rather tough. (laughs)

    That's surprising, I thought you said it was going quite smoothly?

    Yoshida: At the risk of offending the team in charge of rendering and the client system, that was just our early response to the PS4, but development didn't really start in earnest until October of last year.

    In other words, after official service for A Realm Reborn began?

    Yoshida: Yes. We had been preparing for development previously, but once we got to the rendering stage we had to wait for the PS4 development kit to arrive. The PC version is 32-bit and the PS4 is 64-bit, so we had to work on that for the first time. We didn't run into any unexpected issues and we went through optimization one point at a time.

    Were there any noticeable benefits with the move to 64-bit?

    Yoshida: Well, since the architecture is 64-bit instead of 32-bit, the software wouldn't work if we didn't support it. But generally, we were able to use memory more efficiently and get better performance out of the CPU and GPU. Plus, since 64-bit is required to support DX11, this will help make the development of the PC version towards 64-bit and DX11 support easier.

    Let's talk about the design concept of the PS4 version. The PS3 version is tuned in such a way that it's basically right at the performance limits of the system. On the other hand, the PC version has varying specifications for the global market of MMOs. What did you aim for on the PS4?

    Yoshida: In this event, the staff spent a lot of time talking about PS4 performance. With the PS3 hardware, we were pushing a large game into a small box, so we didn't prioritize getting everything to be 100%, but we aimed for something like 70%. Considering the amount of memory in the PS3, the number of user interfaces that can be open at the same time is different, but we should not have to have mutually exclusive control schemes. Square Enix has a history of pushing the boundaries on console performance with games like Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII. We felt the same way as we pushed the limits of the PS3.

    Talking about the PS4 hardware, Mark Cerny was responsible for the hardware architecture, and since we wanted to be involved with the design from the start of the PS4, CTO Hashimoto (A Realm Reborn technical director Yoshihisa Hashimoto) had many discussions with him about the design. For example, we talked about how we'd have liked to see more memory or a larger HDD size which Mark naturally understood and acted as our middle-man with SCE, but really some of those were just selfish requests since we were not considering the cost of those changes.

    We also wanted both the PS3 and PS4 versions to look good, and since the game was fortunately developed for Windows, we were able to get results faster. However, I think it's quite difficult for someone who has only played on the PS3 version to get used to the PC version, and vice versa for someone who has only played the PC version to move to the PS3 version.

    Since we were working on both, we were able to move through development very quickly since we were already familiar with Sony's unique architecture and we were easily able to understand the limits of the hardware and optimize. As a launch title, I think it will be quite beautiful, so please check it out during the beta.

    When the PS3 came out, immediately after the launch there was not much of a game library because the SDK did not have many features which made it really difficult for third parties to get software out - did you run into any problems like that this time around?

    Yoshida: With respect to developing generic PS4 titles, there are plenty of features. However, since we are making a MMORPG, we had to have a lot of customized network components for our SDK. Working with SCEJA earlier on the PS3 edition allowed for some very helpful interactions like "how do you expect us to have the beta ready for PS4 release if we don't have the SDK?" (laughs)

    Since working on the PS3 version, we've actually had regular weekly conferences with SCEJA for around two years, and we've discussed a lot of things such as promotions and the free service migration. They've been completely reliable to work on for these projects, so I am grateful.

    Once we got to look at the PS4 edition, we were wowed by how much more natural the colors looked. Is the rendering data the same as that used for the PC version?

    Yoshida: Strictly speaking, the shaders are somewhat different and you can see some benefits of the characteristics of the PS4's graphics chip processing vs a PC graphics card. The method used for coloring is not different for NVIDIA or AMD's drivers, but here it's fully optimized to focus on one. Since the PS4 hardware is fixed, its' easy to drive optimization. For example, we were also able to optimize the processing systems for water surface reflections and halation for the PS4 version.

    (Referring to an on-screen image) Like this road here looks very beautiful.

    Yoshida: It does. When it's viewed at home on a television because of all the different manufacturer color settings, I think it may also look quite different. Sharp's and Sony's backlights are also quite different, as an example.

    Do you intend to have a "recommended TV" for A Realm Reborn?

    Yoshida: Well, I personally like TVs made by a certain corporation, but that's just my personal preference. (laughs)

    When I played the hard Titan battle earlier on the PS4 edition, the effects looked crisp, but I got the impression that the setting where you are viewing from will also have an impact.

    Yoshida: Well, the shader is only slightly different, so you should certainly be able to see clearly. That said, PC monitors are generally set with configurations to prevent eye fatigue when working for a long time, while household TVs are often set to stand out on electronics store shelves. Even with a lot of ambient light, you should be able to get a quite a clear picture since the backlight is stronger. I wouldn't play on a 40-inch PC monitor, but a 40-inch class TV is pretty typical, and I want everyone to try it out on their big screen TVs at home.

    So you want us to play the PS4 version on a TV, and not a PC monitor?

    Yoshida: Yeah, I want everyone to experience how far playing video games at home has come.

    Got it, so people playing on PS4 will be expecting a brighter, more vivid game.

    Yoshida: With this much detail and the color performance and backlight settings, it does look beautiful at high resolution. We're also doing a demo on 4K, but we're not changing the resources.

    I know the PS4 version can display a lot of characters, but can it display as many as the PC version?

    Yoshida: Yes, it's the same as on PC.

    Is the draw distance also the same as on PC?

    Yoshida: It's the same.

    I know it's a little different because the shader has changed, but are shadow and lighting effects basically the same?

    Yoshida: They're the same, the assets haven't changed.

    The game definitely looks good when it's running smoothly - in an earlier interview, there was talk that the PS4 version would be fixed to a framerate of 30, what is the final specification?

    Yoshida: For the time being, we have removed the 30 FPS limit wherever possible and increased it up to a 60 FPS limit. We've usually been able to get 60 FPS in scenes that aren't particularly stressful to render.

    So rather than a fixed 30, the framerate of the PS4 version can be up to 60?

    Yoshida: Yes, it should be able to get up to 60.

    It's a pretty big change to move from a fixed 30 FPS to a 30 FPS minimum.

    Yoshida: It is. Although I think in a battle with a few hundred people, like the Odin FATE, it might drop a bit further than that.

    At 60 FPS, are the graphical settings equivalent to the highest level settings from the PC version?

    Yoshida: There are some differences in shadows and streaming, but that may not really help understand. It's just about at the highest level settings.

    In the PC version, there's boob jiggle, are those specifications also the same? [[yes, they really asked this]]

    Yoshida: Needless to say, that remains in the game. By the way, we're still finalizing it, but we plan to include the wetness effects caused by water in the PS3 version as well in patch 2.16.

    How does the wetness effect work?

    Yoshida: What's the term... we put another single bitmap on top of the texture when you enter the water with a darker base color, so the color changes when you get wet. We're also working on how the body gets wet in the rain, since it wouldn't be the entire body that got wet.

    Will anything happen when equipped with plate armor?

    Yoshida: It will have a slightly different sheen. By the way, the wetness effect is not just applied to characters, but we're also fairly extensively applying it to backgrounds as well.

    When you say it will be extensively applied to the background, what are you referring to?

    Yoshida: The ground, etc. It's a lot of stuff. Also, some people may think that characters may look a bit cuter when wet (laughs). However, "wet" and "transparent" are two different things, so don't set your expectations too high....

    You say you're implementing the wetness effect on the PS3 version, but you also said that the PS3 version was basically tuned to take full advantage of the PS3, so how are you able to get even more performance out of the PS3?

    Yoshida: As I mentioned earlier, we always want the latest Final Fantasy game to be the pinnacle of graphics in the genre. I believe that was the case at the time 2.0 was released. However, over time, we can further improve our processing capability, which you'll see in this update.

    Do you think there will be any further improvements in the future to the graphics?

    Yoshida: We will see as we implement DirectX 11 support in the future.

    Something like a representation of snow accumulating?

    Yoshida: Sure. As more snow piles up in the background, we could change how it sticks to certain places such as footprints, and we could have it accumulate to some extent in a virtual layer until it's to a point where the background layer changes. It will be interesting to play around with.

    Do you expect you'd be able to implement that on PS3 in the future?

    Yoshida: Well, I guess we'll see. Since that would eat up more memory it may be quite difficult to pull off.

    Will the challenge to improve graphics continue in the future?

    Yoshida: Yes, that will continue. If you're interested, please take note that the accuracy of reflections in the PS4 version is higher than those in the PC version.

    Right now, in A Realm Reborn, simple physics are applied to character actions and object movement, will more refined physics be applied in the future?

    Yoshida: I don't think there's any need for extremely refined physics in a MMORPG for now. I don't want to totally reject its uses, since it's enabling new play styles in EverQuest Next, for example, and it's something we could take on as a challenge in the future. However, we do need to balance this with updates to content, so it would be considerably difficult to implement.

    Although my understanding of this is a bit limited, as more physics come into play, it will become more difficult to perform logic computations for other tasks, so this balance is a factor which further complicates the issue. It's a lot of work, and I don't think we'd get the return on the cost to implement. If you look at a game like KNACK, that's all about physics, but I think that's beyond the scope of what we're doing here.

    I understand. So it's unlikely that you'll be suddenly introducing new physics to the game in the future.

    Yoshida: Well, for now at least. If we did something like this, I would want to look at making hair move more beautifully, for example. Or we could look at things like robe flutter, or how cloaks move around twisting models.

    I wonder if there would be a use for those kind of physics.

    Yoshida: It might be a while off, but it's not completely out of the question.

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    Been busy for a bit, just getting back to translating now...
    This part focuses on remote play using PS Vita and video streams using PS4.

    Among the original elements included with the PS4, remote play is one of the best. It's great that you can include this.

    Yoshida: Thanks, I hope the PS4 changes the way you play in your home environment (laughs).

    The PS Vita is an additional cost, but I think it's worth it for this alone.

    Yoshida: Yeah, when you get your hands on it for the first time and can play while moving around, it's a great feeling.

    Before I tried it out, I would have imagined that there would be either input lag or blurred images during streaming, but the picture looks great and there's really no lag. So, do you plan that players can use remote play exclusively, even for battle content, or was this not something that was specifically worked on?

    Yoshida: It was great working with SCE on this - typically when an external tool like this is added, performance will take a hit, so if we try implementing it, especially considering the game is exclusively online play, we would expect it to consume a lot of memory. However, since the rendering buffer is done separately all the time, it was really easy to support. It only took a very short period of time to implement support.

    When playing over a Wi-Fi connection, would you expect any delays to occur while connected to the internet?

    Yoshida: There will definitely be a delay. Each player has a different play environment, service provider, etc. Since there could be potential delays in the interaction between the PS4 and the server as well as delays between the Vita and the PS4, and the Vita and the internet, it's inevitable that it will happen.

    So you expect it to best be used for something like crafting?

    Yoshida: In the case of Japan or somewhere with a good infrastructure, I think you could probably go as far as daily quests wih this. Gathering and crafting would probably be the most common.

    Is the PS Vita screen too small to read the characters, so that you have to increase the font size to 140%?

    Yoshida: Basically. That said, I don't really think people should be focusing much on communication during remote play. It would be kind of absurd to have a keyboard connected while using the Vita for remote play, and using text input software is difficult. We really just intend people to be using it to take a quick look into Eorzea.

    If I want to play A Realm Reborn from my internet connection on the go, do I have to leave my PS4 on?

    Yoshida: If you put the PS4 to sleep it will go into a power saving mode, and it will launch the system when you try to access it.

    Can you save certain things like key bindings, HUD layout, etc., in PS Vita mode so that they can switch automatically when you're playing using the Vita?

    Yoshida: We intend to go in that direction.

    Ooh... how long will it take to be introduced?

    Yoshida: We're planning this for launch right now. The PS Vita is natively set up for L2 and R2 operation using the rear touchpad, so for easier operation of the cross-hotbar, we will have a different configuration where these are replaced with the L1 and R1 buttons. Also, the gamepad UI is given priority when you're playing on PS4, and when you switch to remote play, it will switch to a dedicated PS Vita UI which you can separately customize.

    So when you start remote play, the text will set to 140% automatically and it will turn off menu bars and some of the HUD, then when you switch back, it will go back to the originally customized settings?

    Yoshida: Saving the font size is possible. It's a challenge to place the other on-screen elements, so we will look at feedback from the beta test and continue to prioritize our support based on that.

    Would it be possible to have a PS Vita-specific version of the game?

    Yoshida: The illusion of high quality graphics is pretty good, but it's just running on the PS4. The specs of the PS Vita would not support A Realm Reborn anywhere near this quality (laughs).

    So in that sense, PS4's remote play is a viable solution.

    Yoshida: That's right. People have been seeing A Realm Reborn on the PS Vita and thinking "PS Vita is awesome!," but really it's the PS4 that's awesome (laughs). The programming team has been hard at work considering other solutions like cloud services where the calculations and rendering happen on the server and just the video stream is delivered to you through cloud gaming.

    The PS4 has a share button which allows you to publish video streams. Where will this be uploaded to?

    Yoshida: SCE supports the streaming video, it's like a shared live broadcast. There's a buffer separate from rendering on the broadcaster side, so it's like a double buffer. The data isn't saved, it's just a real time stream. If you want to save screenshots or video, you can determine the upload destination on your own.

    Can you upload to Lodestone?

    Yoshida: Since we do not have a huge back-end server, we do not allow video uploading to Lodestone. But there is the possibility that we would temporarily allow for video uploading with a certain MB limit per person during a contest.

    What uses do you see for the Share button?

    Yoshida: People can post to NicoNicoVideo as well as Ustream or Twitch. We're in a time where everything is in motion, the days of text blogs on the internet have come and gone. It was originally designed to be static, and then hyperlinks and CSS were developed, sounds and animations were added, and now we're in the era of live streams.

    There were those who would capture PvP video when playing MMOs, then edit the video and rent a server to upload the video. You had to buy the capture board as well, so it was quite expensive as a hobby.

    Now you can do it all with the PS4 with the push of a single button. For example, if you're doing well in a chocobo race, you can broadcast it live. We plan to have further live coverage for the PS4 community in the future using these features.

    With people from the development team playing on PS4, it'll be easier us to broadcast things live to the video game media or to the public whenever we want to.

    In that regard, has SCE decided yet on Nico or YouTube support?

    Yoshida: It's SCE's decision. There are various things in consideration such as the ability to moderate comments.

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    Part 3: PS4 UI, control schemes, PS3 vs. PS4 HDD speed

    I have some questions about the PS4 version's UI. First, regarding the cross-hot bar, is the UI for the gamepad exactly the same as the PS3 and PC versions?

    Yoshida: Yes.

    You've also mentioned a while back that the PS4 version would support mouse/keyboard operation. As a PC version user, I'm not worried about it, but many are wondering if they will need to purchase separate recommended hardware or whether they will be able to use the mouse and keyboard they already own.

    Yoshida: This will depend on the device and SCE's policy. For gaming products that require special drivers it might not work, but most keyboards and multiple-button mouses, etc., should support configuration. Please test your device out during the beta test and see how it works.

    The touchpad on the Dualshock 4 controller functions as a button, but it was nice to see that you could assign keys to the left and right edges of the pad as well. Is it limited to three things that you can assign to the touchpad?

    Yoshida: Yes. Since there is no Select button on the PS4, it has been assigned select by default. So you can reassign by going into the configuration settings.

    Is it also possible to assign things like R1 and L1 to the right click and left click, for example?

    Yoshida: You can assign the configuration however you want.

    In other words, you can use it as an alternative to a mouse.

    Yoshida: I think it's handy. Try adjusting the movement speed of the cursor as it's been changed.

    I tried using the touch panel of the PS Vita to move the cursor during remote play but it felt a little awkward because the display is so small. It's quite comfortable to use the touchpad on the PS4, though.

    Yoshida: Since you're using it in the same way you normally use a mouse.

    There seem to be a lot of people who want to play like that.

    Yoshida: Yeah, for example, it's possible to toggle operation of the hot-cross bar by simply pressing the touchpad.

    On the PS4 version, if you replace the HDD with a SSD, will it run even faster?

    Yoshida: I can only guess at this. If you install a SSD to the PS4, you're doing it at your own risk, but I think it would.

    It may not matter in practice, I didn't really feel the need to use the SSD as much as I did with the PS3 version, the read speed seems much faster compared to the PS3.

    Yoshida: It's fast, no doubt about it.

    Is it because of the architecture changes from PS3 to PS4, or have you changed something in the PS4 version?

    Yoshida: The HDD speed is faster to load, so we were able to read as fast as possible, and the memory is also different. Since the PS4 has a lot of memory, we can afford to have a lot more things resident in the memory so there is no need to constantly re-read from the HDD.

    The number one problem I have had playing on the PS3 is characters not loading, including monsters, in environments with a lot of characters, such as FATEs.

    Yoshida: Even with the memory cleared, when trying to load a resource from even the highest quality hard disk, we sometimes hit physical limits that prevent the transfer because the transfer bus is too narrow. I'm sorry but it's a hardware limitation.

    I changed to a SSD and displays in certain areas and on zone changes were much faster. I play on a PC mostly now, but I think maybe I will try it on a PS4.

    Yoshida: I also play on a PC at work, but I may try to play on PS4 at home. I like playing on a large monitor, and it will be nice to play on an even larger screen.

    Is the installed size to the HDD the same as the PS3 or PC versions?

    Yoshida: It's about the same.

    About how large are you expecting it to be?

    Yoshida: It will be approximately the size including update 2.16, roughly 12 GB. However, on the assumption that you'll install later expansion packs, please keep about 40GB space total available.

    Are you expecting all PS3 users who can to take advantage of the free transfer?

    Yoshida: Yes. If you purchase a PS4, please consider it since this service is available as a paid service from other companies but it's a free transfer service for this. (laughs)

    Do you mean to say it shouldn't be free?

    Yoshida: Yes (laughs). SCE's general stance is that you can transfer PS3 versions of titles to PS4 versions for $10, so after a bunch of discussions between our company and SCE, we actually managed to achieve something better.

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    Part 4: PS3 Support and Hardware Limitations

    --

    Do you plan to continue supporting the PS3 version for a while after the PS4 version is released?

    Yoshida: Right now we're working on design of the expansion pack, but we'll continue support of PS3 at least until the first full expansion pack is released.

    So at some point after release of that expansion pack, PS3 users may not be able to play any more?

    Yoshida: It may be something we decide to do in the future.

    I see. So how long could it be before that happens?

    Yoshida: We will continue to keep an eye on how many players play the PS3 version. However, we also want to continue to be innovative in the future, and there is the possibility that our continued pursuit of innovation will be restricted by the limitations of the hardware. Since almost all other MMORPGS are made specifically for PCs, they can continue to innovate their play style as PC specifications change. For example, with EverQuest Next there are some advanced physics which would not be possible without high PC specs, and if it catches on quickly, we can't afford to stay at a standstill and we'll need to keep improving to stay competitive with other MMORPGs.

    For example, we want to create flying mounts which can fly up to low altitudes, and a large-scale FATE with a 200m long dragon flying around freely. I think it would surely be impressive to look at, however, the minimum hardware specs would have to increase.

    As we've repeatedly discussed, we want to avoid having different experiences on different hardware. However, if we stick to this for too long, we won't be able to innovate any longer and it won't conform with the Final Fantasy image. So I'm not going to say things like we'll continue to support PS3 forever, but we won't be shortsighted in our decisions either.

    This is one of the reasons we decided to support the free transfer. We're considering other things that we can do in partnership with SCE as well.

    When you previously talked about the goals of A Realm Reborn, one of the things you said was that you wanted to make it through 10 years of service. If you continue supporting PS3, won't that be difficult?

    Yoshida: That's true, we'll have to maintain a balance. It will depend on how close we are to the hardware limitations and how many players are playing the PS3 version. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. We could continue some amount of support rather than just cutting off support completely, so we have some ideas.

    So it'll be a few years from now at the earliest?

    Yoshida: Yeah. We'll at least be supporting PS3 through the next expansion which we're currently referring to as 3.0, so don't worry about it.

    I'm sure things might change, but you announced that Leviathan would be implemented in patch 2.2. In A Realm Reborn, the water creates a considerably high processing load, like in Pharos Sirius. Since the Leviathan arena is full of water, how does the PS3 version feel?

    Yoshida: Are you talking about the PC version? If you maximize the water reflection effects in the PC version, it creates a heavy load. The PS3 version doesn't have the same reflections and there isn't an option to modify, so the PS3 load should be lighter than the PC version.

    Understood. Dare I ask, is there anything element which works better on the PS3 version?

    Yoshida: Compared with the PS4 version? Hm...you can see for yourself.

    For example, some aspects of FFXI actually looked better on the PS2 at first.

    Yoshida: Ah yes, FFXI. The translucency and anti-aliasing on PS2 did look best on PS2 in the beginning, that was the beauty of the hardware. The calculations were very demanding and were optimized especially for the PS2.

    So the PS2 version of FFXI was the main version and the PC and Xbox 360 versions were just other ways to play?

    Yoshida: After creating and optimizing for the PS2, FFXI was then ported to PC. For FFXIV, we have designed it to play on any hardware. It does look beautiful, but if you turn up the settings high, the hardware needs to be powerful to match the performance. It's also designed to be operated at low specs with the settings turned down. This is a difference in design philosophy when compared to FFXI. In that sense, we basically created the PS4 version by turning up most of the settings, but the settings on the PS3 version can't be turned up any higher. That's where hardware innovation has an impact.

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    Part 5: PS4 beta, Steam Release, Other Regions, Graphics Improvements

    With the PS4 beta version ready to begin on 2/22, will you be opening new servers in support of it?

    Yoshida: In Phase 1, multiple dedicated worlds will be added to the Japanese servers.

    So these are test servers only, not public servers?

    Yoshida: Yes, these are test servers exclusively for PS4. We will add new worlds to the JP and NA data centers starting with Phase 2.

    So the test servers will remain intact as they are moved to open servers?

    Yoshida: No, the data will be wiped between phases, but we may maintain the world names.

    You'll be adding new servers to support the PS4 release?

    Yoshida: We will decide the exact number after we see the success of the first beta phase, but we are already planning to add at least two new worlds to each Data Center. We will also be starting Steam sales soon of the PC version, so we expect the number of PC users to increase as well.

    Are there any differences between the Steam version and the normal PC version?

    Yoshida: No, payment will be done from your Steam wallet.

    When will the Steam version be on sale?

    Yoshida: I don't know yet since we are still adjusting the final date, but it is scheduled for February.

    Will all four languages be supported (English, Japanese, German, French)?

    Yoshida: Yes. Although there aren't as many Steam users in Japan, in total there are over 55 million users.

    Will it have the Collector's Edition as well as the normal edition?

    Yoshida: Yes. Since Steam is only digital, it will be the digital download version.

    Will we be able to migrate hot bars or other existing user settings to the PS4 version?

    Yoshida: By using a mechanism prepared by SCE, we will be able to move the local data from the PS3 to the PS4 to do this, hopefully by the time of the official release. However, because there is a difference of file format and other regulations from the PC to PS4, it can't be done as easily. We would have to implement a save server which could be read by any platform and it would be a significant investment. We could try implementing one of the server machines from the original FFXIV Lodestone, but it would be trial and error to prepare it as needed.

    What are the plans for global release of the PS4 edition?

    Yoshida: Since the PS4 will already be released in all regions by the time of the PS4 edition's release, it will be a global version which supports the four languages Japanese, English, French, and German.

    Next, we will be working on a China release specifically for PC. The PS4 hasn't come out yet in China as the Chinese government has not yet approved its release. For new languages besides the four we currently support with the global version, we plan to start service on the PC. Looking at the Australia PS4 figures, the console market has grown quite large, so hopefully we'll be pushing PR a little more there.

    Last week I was in Taiwan, and there are a lot of folks who want to play FFXIV there. Taiwan was also mentioned in the past as one of the planned regions for Service - would this be managed by SCET or a separate publisher in Taiwan?

    Yoshida: We will be talking with some publishers in Taiwan.

    Can you give any more details?

    Yoshida: I can't give much more information, but the talks are already underway involving both the China and Taiwan versions.

    Do you mean Shanda will also take on Taiwan's service?

    Yoshida: That might be the case, but we are looking into a variety of options.

    Will the Chinese version released by Shanda support both traditional and simplified?

    Yoshida: Only simplified. For Taiwan service, traditional will be included.

    One thing I was personally hoping you would mention in today's presentation was a Mac version. I think this was the first time you mentioned the Mac version?

    Yoshida: I was just kidding around about that. (laughs)

    Has there been any real development work going on behind the scenes?

    Yoshida: No, we aren't. (laughs)

    Really?

    Yoshida: One story we spoke about is that we aren't currently working on a Xbox One version since it will be difficult to implement unless the closed network concept behind Xbox changes. As far as Mac is concerned, we don't see any huge demand for that version, just a few individuals here and there who want to play on Mac. (laughs)

    So it doesn't seem like you'll be able to get anything like that done by the end of this year at least.

    Yoshida: No, we won't. Unfortunately there's no room in our development schedule right now.

    You've already announced that a DirectX 11 version will be released. Once it comes out, are you worried that one of the versions will be better than the other between the PS4 and PC editions?

    Yoshida: I feel like the PS4 version will match up pretty closely with the DirectX 11 version at the time of its release.

    How will it be implemented?

    Yoshida: It's possible to update, though it might be difficult, but it will be important to keep moving forward as a MMORPG. I think the PC version will wind up being a separate client.

    When the DX11 edition is released, will the PS4 graphics continue to improve?

    Yoshida: We are focusing our efforts on improving the PC version, and the PS4 version will improve by as much as it can handle.

    If the image gets even more beautiful in the future, that might be some motivation for me to buy the PS4 version.

    Yoshida: We talked about water and the expression of wetness in the presentation this morning, but the dedicated FFXIV graphics team is always looking into how they can make the game more beautiful, taking as much feedback from the forum into account as possible. (laughs)

    I hope you reconsider adding scalable graphics to the PS4 version, I definitely recommend you include it.

    Yoshida: I think we may do that, but on the flipside, it's easy to optimize performance because the hardware is fixed, so we may place restrictions. At some point, you'll need to make sacrifices to improve certain aspects.

    There are a lot of different PC memory and CPU situations, but the PS4 hardware is fixed. For example, if we continue to raise the reflection strength, we could apply it to water, but not to glass, as it would make the framerate drop significantly on both. Also the UI response would drop because the resources are focused on rendering. This would only be the case for people who try to raise the graphics quality further than their setup supports.

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    Part 6: Reflections on Patch 2.1

    I have some questions about patch 2.1. In December, you released the first large-scale update. Do you have any reflections on the response to that update?

    Yoshida: I do have a few reflections about the update. Right after it released, the frequency of FATE occurrences was one of the worst things. I actually had issued instructions to correct the frequency of occurrences in advance of the update, so I was in shock that it didn't make it into the final release. When I would log on after the release, I saw shouts in Thanalan like "YOSHIDAAAAA!!" and people would say things like "patch 2.1 is a FATE waiting game." We really didn't have any excuse for this.

    So this was immediately corrected in a hotfix.

    Yoshida: Yeah. I was actually angry about this for the first time in a while wondering why the changes that were supposed to be included were not made in the first place.

    Perhaps the developers were too busy and just forgot.

    Yoshida: No, it was just bad communication. Since this is a large scale project, the correction instructions weren't addressed to individuals but to an administrative list. Even though it said that it was important to fix, it seems like everyone wound up thinking that someone else would take care of it.

    I went to the responsible team immediately and told them to look at the Yoshida shouts in Thanalan. And then by chance Odin apparently popped and everyone had ran over to Odin so I had to explain exactly what I saw going on earlier. It was really frustrating because the instructions to fix this were sent out in advance. I'm truly sorry if we created a bad first impression.

    Regarding the content of patch 2.1, I personally found Crystal Tower to be good. The difficulty was moderate, it had a good play style, and the overall production values including the BGM made for some really great content.

    Yoshida: Yes, we worked on refining that a lot.

    Was it more difficult early on?

    Yoshida: Yeah, it was tougher. We wiped 5 or 6 times the first time. (laughs)

    Were the individual enemies stronger?

    Yoshida: No, we just had more elaborate gimmicks. We had things where the three teams A, B, and C, had to step on floor areas to disable barriers for each other and other places where if one team wasn't contributing to DPS, everyone would be destroyed.

    I think the balance right now is just right. You can't just go in without any strategy, so there has to be some discussion that goes on.

    Yoshida: Yeah, as an example for Behemoth, everyone can survive if there's even just one comet left, but then you see Behemoth's dialogue warning you about Meteor, and everyone is just running around the area and there's a feeling of "Oh no..." when all the comets are broken. That's always good for a laugh.

    Will you continue with that degree of difficulty in the future for Crystal Tower?

    Yoshida: Yes, that's what we'll aim for.

    So on the other hand, there are the extreme primals and the Binding Coil of Bahamut which are very difficult. You made some difficulty adjustments to the Moggle Mog fight as well as Pharos Sirius, so are you planning any adjustments to these in the future?

    Yoshida: The primals are at the difficulty we expected. The Binding Coil was actually supposed to be more difficult, but players did a great job of getting through these tough battles. Moggle Mog was a bit too tough for the main storyline, so we had to adjust it.

    Yes, but after trying the Binding Coil, the difficulty of Moggle Mog is a huge drop. Your thinking is that the battles along the main storyline should be easier?

    Yoshida: Yes, at first it wasn't good. Especially because 8 players are required, we had even more reason to make it simpler. There were a lot of people who were stuck with the main story at this point, and there isn't much need for the rewards from the fight for players who have progressed in other areas, so it can also difficult to find other players to help in the battle. The order in which the enemies needed to be defeated was too restrictive.

    Got it. So regarding battle balance, is there any you can talk about in the design philosophy regarding difficulty?

    Yoshida: For the team involved with battle, after content is proposed, they take a detailed look at the content to determine whether or not it is too complex to implement based on the man hours that would be required. Then they look at the implementation timing to get an overall sense of when it would make sense to implement.

    The team will then work on a general strategy for the content, and the final tweaks will take place with consideration of varying equipment being used by the party members. The battle team is a pretty logical group of people, so they have a tendency to implement bosses with stable logic. There are some items which aren't stable, though, like the number and strength of additional enemies in one of the Pharos Sirius bosses, which proved too difficult after we implemented it.

    I understand that Sirius was too difficult, so with the new dungeon and hard mode dungeons being added with each patch, will you be taking this into account during the design to come up with a new degree of difficulty?

    Yoshida: Yes, we've been taking it into consideration.

    You expected players to do dungeons like this once a day?

    Yoshida: For item drops, there's gil, and it can also be used to obtain gear for a second class and as a way to earn Allagan tomestones using Duty Finder. It might take 40 minutes the first time, or 20-25 minutes with a group used to the area, but we're targeting an average time of 30 minutes with the underlying design.

    To go along with that, the difficulty of the bosses in Pharos Sirius was too high. It was difficult for healers to keep everyone at full HP and it was difficult to tell whether players were mind controlled or not. Additionally, the bosses attacks and occurrences of the additional enemies were intentionally overlapped at points due to the evil nature of the person in charge of that battle (laughs). By thinning out the waves of adds and reducing their HP, we were able to make the fight considerably easier.

    Before these changes, it was too time consuming, and it was overkill for the difficulty and purpose of the dungeon.

    Then there are the extreme primals and the Binding Coil of Bahamut which are on a whole different level compared to Sirius.

    Yoshida: Yes, but there are much greater rewards to be obtained, so it is intended.

    I got it, so that's your way of thinking.

    Yoshida: Yeah, the content is made to fit the rewards. For example, by defeating the three extreme primals in a quest series, you'll obtain a level 90 weapon, and you can do these each week for whichever job you like just by killing the three of them, meaning the reward is guaranteed. Because of this, the content needs to be difficult to match.

    So that's why many players have a lot of trouble clearing the extreme primals.

    Yoshida: Yeah. There's a lot of battle logic to figure out. For example, in the extreme Garuda fight, the vulnerability buff gets strong as Chirada and Suparna get too close, so you have to establish a certain positional relationship with Suparna, Garuda, and Chirada, and you'll have to share DPS across all of them. The Garuda fight is very themed by roles, especially once it becomes divided into three locations. Then, once you kill the clones, you have to get back together in the center, and do it all over again.

    If you can precisely remember extreme Titan's pattern without making any mistakes, you should be able to clear it. However, the pattern shift can sometimes be scary if your DPS is too high (laughs).

    Healers hadn't been very involved in battle gimmicks so far, so on extreme Ifrit, it's very important that the two healers cooperate with the positions where they stand, and it's important that DPS can focus their damage, each job has a defined role in the Ifrit fight.

    For tanks in general, I think the tank switch concept permeated the extreme primal battles, and I think we will continue to find applications for switching tanks in the future.

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    Part 7: Patch 2.2 and beyond (adding the Echo, PvP matchmaking, item level discussion)

    When you say the difficulty is as intended, do you mean you have no plans to adjust the difficulty of Binding Coil and extreme primals in the future?

    Yoshida: No, not exactly. While we won't be changing the difficulty or the gimmicks, we will ease the battles by increasing player strength through the Echo after the patch is released.

    Right now the Echo only occurs in quests. When you die a few times, the fights become easier because your character's performance increases. How do you imagine that the Echo will work at level 50 or beyond?

    Yoshida: Extreme examples of what we're looking at would be things such as a 25% reduction to damage taken or a 25% increase in HP. The Echo will be applied to certain content starting with patch 2.2, and we will continue to look into which content it should be applied to in the future.

    What content are you currently looking into applying it to?

    Yoshida: We are looking into first applying it to extreme primals and the Binding Coil of Bahamut. It will not occur immediately when patch 2.2 is implemented. The bonus will be 10% one week after the patch is released, 20% two weeks later, and so on, so players feel stronger and stronger over time in these battles, which will make them easier to complete.

    This will be applied to all of the turns of the Binding Coil?

    Yoshida: It will be applied to the first five turns.

    So it will not be applied to the latest content?

    Yoshida: It isn't intended to be applied to the latest content because it's at the highest degree of difficulty. As people slowly grow their item levels, the relative strength of their characters will grow, and if they find the most difficult content too challenging, they can acquire new equipment to strengthen their character, along the same lines as the way the Echo will gradually strengthen characters over time.

    Well, right now it's a bit difficult to clear. Some people may feel that they can't participate since their item level isn't high enough.

    Yoshida: We're trying to make the point that you don't necessarily have to hurry to the highest item level. As we increase the available item levels, we will relax other content.

    For older gamers like myself who don't have enough time to participate in end game content, these are welcome adjustments (laughs).

    Yoshida: I expect that there are a lot of people like yourself who may find themselves unable to participate in the latest end-game content, but just one step behind. Once the content gets relaxed, they may feel more motivated to participate in it. The idea is that if you try it and wipe, next time you try it with the Echo you may have a better chance. Also, for those who want to try it without the Echo, it's a buff that can be manually removed if you wish.

    By the way, the time-out method of defeating the boss of Turn 2 of the Binding Coil is becoming more and more mainstream. Do you consider this to be an acceptable strategy for the fight?

    Yoshida: Yeah, I think it's acceptable. This strategy is simple, as you say, but for the most part this is because people have already acquired stronger equipment than the area is designed for. Since people have more HP and are able to heal for higher amounts, they can ignore the enrage timer and use it as a way to brute force clear the area.

    How do you feel about the current situation with job balance after patch 2.1? Do you think more needs to be done or are things pretty equal?

    Yoshida: Right now we're working quickly to fix a bug with Fairies which is creating balance issues.

    Do you feel that black mage is relatively weaker now after patch 2.1?

    Yoshida: It might be slightly weaker now relative to the enhancements of other roles, but we were not really intending to weaken it. Its utility needs to be taken into account as part of the balance as well, with abilities like Manawall and Manaward.

    You've said that you will continue to play around with job balance in each patch, so do you think adjustments will be made in 2.2?

    Yoshida: I can't talk about any specifics just yet.

    With job adjustments in 2.2, will you be fixing the behavior of Fairies?

    Yoshida: Yes. Until recently we've been focused on balancing PvP.

    Come to think of it, the main focus of patch 2.15 were PvP-related adjustments.

    Yoshida: We needed to make these adjustments pretty quickly. We have one person who's been grinding away in Wolves' Den and there's a considerable variety of play styles that we've seen. White mage is definitely more of a contender than before, and we will continue to keep an eye on the situation. In 2.2, we'll be turning on matchmaking by ranking.

    What is the idea of the matchmaking system?

    Yoshida: It's still under consideration, but we're trying to make adjustments so that people who are just starting and people who have earned tons of points already aren't exposed to each other in the matchmaking since the equipment strength will be very different. We'll try to keep the top rank people playing each other since they will be strong from Direwolf equipment, and set it up so that as you get stronger you can take on other stronger players. We'll discuss this more in the next live letter and upcoming patch details.

    With respect to jobs - you mentioned previously that new abilities would be added to jobs later in the expansion pack. I'm assuming summoners will be able to summon Leviathan, so what about other jobs?

    Yoshida: When the level cap is raised, naturally there will be two or three new things.

    So you're saying not just one, but a few?

    Yoshida: I'm still not sure (laughs). Undoubtedly, we will be adding new classes and new jobs, not just new actions.

    What will happen with item levels as the player level cap is increased?

    Yoshida: If the original strength of the character is level 50 and the strength of the item is level 50, when the character's strength moves to level 60, the strength of the item will drop to level 40 so that when the level cap is raised just the character's strength will be increased.

    And in addition to the base performance of the character being increased, additional job-specific actions will be added as well?

    Yoshida: That's right.

    So relic weapons and Allagan equipment currently at item level 95 will not immediately become useless?

    Yoshida: Yes, since there is a higher difference in item level, they will still be strong.

    Do you plan for the item level to continue to become higher with each patch, or will it stop at a certain number and then go higher with each expansion pack?

    Yoshida: I can't say yet. Since there's already a lot of conjecture and speculation, if we announce anything like this in advance, it could affect the economic conditions of the game and player motivation. I don't think any other MMOs announce things like this in advance, either.

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    Part 8: Fan Events and Wrap-up

    I snipped this one a bit because there was just a bunch of irrelevant talk in the middle about JP fan events.

    How did you feel about the first fan event held in Osaka in January?

    Yoshida: Honestly it felt pretty typical, but I still enjoyed it. I got to talk with a lot of players and take a picture with them. I didn't get to talk to everyone, but maybe not everyone wanted to talk to me (laughs).

    blah blah blah

    Yoshida: ...

    Looking at it from a product perspective, we have to consider the life cycle of players. In a MMORPG, the most recent data says that 100 days is approximately the average peak number of continuous play per person. A while ago, this was closer to six or nine months, but now it's as short as three months. So with that kind of thing in mind, we have to adjust our item design, time to clear content, etc. I was personally pretty worried about getting over the hurdle of the first three months, but the player base remains really strong, so I'm happy that we got through it.

    ...

    Will you have other guests in the future?

    Yoshida: That's the plan at the moment - each one of our events will have a different guest.

    As one of the players of the original FFXIV, I'm looking forward to seeing Kawamoto.

    Yoshida: I'm thinking we will have Kawamoto at one soon.

    So the next event is in Sapporo.

    Yoshida: It should be interesting. The ramen is calling me (laughs).

    Any last words for those players looking forward to the PS4 version?

    Yoshida: Even though we're coming out immediately after the PS4 launch, I think the quality and performance of the game will be evident. For those who pick up the PS4 on February 22, I think this will be a benchmark piece of software.

    If you do have a PS4, please try it out so you can see the performance and see how far games have come on the home TV. You can also get a taste of how remote play will change the game experience.

    I hope some of the charm of A Realm Reborn rubs off on you in the course of the beta, and if you enjoy the beta, then please purchase the title. I hope you enjoy it very much.

    For those of you who have the PS3 version and are planning to purchase a PS4, there are no disadvantages to moving to the PS4 version, and you'll enjoy all the benefits of the improved performance which should help you to enjoy Eorzea even more.

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    Thanks for your efforts! Much appreciated (and posting during maintenance is even better).

  10. #10
    WASTE OF CURRENCY
    I CAN'T I CAN'T I CAN'T

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    Slycer is the best.

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    Excellent, most excellent. Thank you very much for your hard work Slycer. Much appreciated! Truly a great read and couldn't have been able to without you kind sir!

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    Six parts up so far, there are actually only two more (eight parts total). Next part is a glimpse at patch 2.2 and beyond, and the last part is about response to the Osaka fan event, upcoming fan events, and overall wrap-up.

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    Thanks for the great work as usual.

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    i love you

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    I've only managed to get a couple translations here and there from the number of interviews that got posted on Reddit. Thanks for this, lots of great information! :D

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    Done with translations, and thanks for the kind words. I'll check out the Famitsu and Dengeki interviews later on, but they're shorter and I imagine the interview above covers almost all the details in the other two (I think the press interviews were all done back-to-back after the last event that was held on 1/30).

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    How do you feel about the current situation with job balance after patch 2.1? Do you think more needs to be done or are things pretty equal?

    Yoshida: Right now we're working quickly to fix a bug with Fairies which is creating balance issues.
    Confused if this is fixing a bad bug or curbing a good bug (and if so, what?).

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    inc. sch nerf

  19. #19

    Quote Originally Posted by Seravi Edalborez View Post
    Confused if this is fixing a bad bug or curbing a good bug (and if so, what?).
    Their AI has been less slow/retarded since 2.16, this was clearly not intended.

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