While it doesn't really have any new info compared to the other one, I like the style of questions in this one much more so I thought it was worth translating so others could take a read. The questions come across as much more informed about the state of the game, and although Yoshida's answers can be a bit evasive, they do shine some light on why certain decisions are made about content implementation, item levels for raid equipment, etc. It's too bad that they back down so quickly after asking what might be considered some fairly pointed questions, I would have liked them to push a bit more on the line of questioning around content to carry us between patches to fill that downtime.
Europe's largest game event Gamescom 2016 was held in Cologne, Germany from the 17th to the 21st of this month [[August]]. There, we had the opportunity to interview Naoki Yoshida, producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV, about the third anniversary since the start of service, future development, and some topics about how he feels about the current status.
It's worth noting that the patch 3.4 content is going to be discussed in more detail with the official announcements during the 14 hour live broadcast commemorating the third anniversary. With that in mind, during our interview at Gamescom we focused on impressions looking back at implementation of content through 3.3 as well as questions that went beyond 3.4.
Just walking around here, the excitement is palpable at Gamescom. There's especially a lot of stuff going on here in the FFXIV area like the battle challenge. Did you get to meet up with any of the players?
Yoshida: The excitement for gaming here at Gamescom reminds me a lot of the atmosphere at Tokyo Game Show. All of the participants are here to get their hands on the latest games. I hope we can relay that excitement to people in Japan. As I wander around the booth area here, the players from Germany and all over Europe don't hesitate to say hello, take photos with me, or ask for autographs. I'm happy to see a mix of familiar and new faces.
More folks that aren't involved with the media should show up on Saturday and Sunday, so there will likely be more of that.
Yoshida: Yeah. I'm sure that I'll be meeting a ton of players from Friday afternoon through the end of the event on Sunday. I'm also planning on participating in the battle challenge and we're renting out a bar in the city tomorrow night, so there will be other opportunities for interaction as well. We're just having interviews here today, so the space may look a little empty, but the venue should fill up soon (laughs).
It seems like there are a lot of booths that have VR content at the show this year - have you been keeping an eye on that?
Yoshida: Since I've been participating in game events around the world, I've already had my fill of VR (laughs). This year I want to take a look at content related to e-sports in the Europe region to see if that's something that can help increase the user base, especially here in Germany where PC games are particularly popular. Outside of that, there hasn't been much time since E3, so there's nothing in particular I'm checking out. That said, I do want to get a feeling for the overall excitement at the event, so I'll be taking a look around the venue.
Onto questions about FFXIV - how has the reaction been to the latest content implemented in patch 3.3 and later? Were the reactions different in Japan and abroad?
Yoshida: For the deep dungeon Palace of the Dead, people have been pretty vocal about the content and the reactions in Japan and overseas have been quite different. In Japan, a lot of mid-core players have voiced an opinion that the beginning is too boring. Looking at the rate of repetition of the content, it seems like people are enjoying it casually while playing through it a few times. Since there are a lot of new players in Europe, we got more feedback here along the lines of players being happy to be able to play with their friends, or glad to have a more relaxed piece of content.
I tried it out myself, and I thought Deep Dungeon was actually pretty fun in comparison with a lot of the content so far. It seems particularly interesting for solo play.
Yoshida: Yeah, people who are really into soloing should find it particularly enjoyable (laughs). Unless you really prepare and devise a good approach for it, I think soloing through floor 50 would be impossible. I feel like we did tackle the original goal of having a place where veterans and beginners could play together.
As newer players go up and defeat more enemies, it can feel a bit challenging, so I think we have a good balance. We've gotten a lot of interest in a continuation of the deep dungeon series across the globe. Considering this was just the first wave of content that will be a new play style, we were really happy to see this. We had already thought of what we wanted Deep Dungeon 2 to be, so I do want to continue this as a series in the future.
Before the second deep dungeon is added, you'll be expanding the first to the 200th floor?
Yoshida: Yeah. We'll be adding the additional floors to Palace of the Dead, the first installment of deep dungeon, in patch 3.45. We'll also be including score ranking at that time, so you can compete to be on top.
Will this be a score attack for four people?
Yoshida: Whether you play in a party or solo, the score will be accumulated by individuals, and the rankings will be by job. However, the score formula takes into account the floor reached and how many players were involved, so you'll get a better final score if you go as far as you can with as few people as possible (laughs).
But... will you be able to reach floor 200 solo? (laughs)
Yoshida: Well, about that... without being really strong and having a lot of luck it might be impossible. I can't really guarantee what the difficulty would be right now (laughs).
Sounds fun (laughs). By the way, how was the feedback to other content like Aquapolis or PvP that was added in patches 3.3 and later?
Yoshida: In the 3.3 series, we added a lot more new casual content that could be quickly repeated than we ever had before. We thought we would add something new outside of repeating the instanced dungeons that you could do with your FC on weekends, for example. Since the next patch 3.4 will include the completion of the Alexander raids, that story will come to a close with the final battle. There will also be a lot of updates included for other casual content, so I think it will be a well-balanced patch. We kept you waiting a bit for patch 3.1 as we developed our plans, but now we're back on track. 3.4 will include a lot of new play elements, so I think players will enjoy it quite a bit.
Please tell a bit about your policy for adjustments in the future. You've added a lot of content with new ways to play like Deep Dungeon. Will there be a continuing emphasis on content with new play styles in the future? How will you move forward with updates around conventional content like raids or new dungeons?
Yoshida: Our intention is to do both of those and strike a good balance. If we look at it like food, a restaurant which is no longer serving food will of course fail. If the restaurant just has one classic meal, like just implementing the same kind of content each time, people would get tired of it. So you need to continue to expand the menu and offer new tastes so the customers keep coming back.
It is still a lot of fun to rush to try out all of the new content immediately after a patch is introduced. However, once you get through all of that content, there's a lull between patches, and I think there are a lot of users that leave and come back to play when new patches are implemented. Are you planning on anything with regards to the time between patches?
Yoshida: No, we aren't planning anything. Of course, we understand the feedback that if we divide up the patches further then players would get less tired of continuing to play. However, regardless of how we decide to implement there is still a baseline amount of time that it takes to "master" each update. This isn't just debugging the content, it's also other parts of the process like implementing patch notes, updating future plans, etc. It easily takes at least 2-3 weeks just to do those activities, so I don't think we'd be able to maintain the 3.5 month cycle for major updates in that case.
I know it may feel like there's a bit of a pause between content, but if we divided it further the overall amount of content in the end would be lower. Also, I think it's unreasonable to try and tie someone down to FFXIV - there will of course be times that players want to take a break or go play other games, and then return on their own time, so I think it's important that we work on maintaining our current pattern of delivering major updates.
For me personally, I'm not necessarily thinking in the sense of additional patches to fill the gap, but more along the lines of content with new kinds of play that we can continue to enjoy during that period.
Yoshida: Of course we'll have that. Aquapolis should be relevant for that even through 3.5. We're not just aiming for one main thing, but it would be better if there were several things to do. However, since there's a lot of work involved like I mentioned earlier, if we do plan to implement content between patches, we have to plan it far in advance. We decided on the timing of Deep Dungeon during patch 3.3 at least six months ago, and once we had developed our patch release framework, it went pretty well. To maintain the development of Eorzea, we're already working on content six months out with graphics and programs on the development server. Prior to these being completed, we divide the patch into two branches on the development server, one focused on the delivery of content, and one is focused on the development of content. If we had to do both of these merged together, many mistakes would be made and it would not be ideal, so I don't think that would be reasonable.
How are the people in the community you associate with feeling about the new content?
Yoshida: It varies from person to person. Some people got really into Deep Dungeon and got a weapon quickly the first week and now have their third light weapon. I also have some friends who are trying to get all of the weapons they need from extreme Nidhogg, but they've said that the number of clear parties on Party Finder has gone down recently and they've actually seen more practice parties popping up. Also, some people are going for the birds (laughs). After we made it a bit easier to obtain the new mounts from the extreme primals, there have been some folks that have been really going at it to get them all. And of course there are still those who are going through savage Alexander, so it's a mix.
So everyone finds different things to enjoy between each patch and enjoy them in their own way, and I think that's what works best. Also with the new raid coming out, some people are getting ready for the new crafted items by earning gil through Aquapolis. People who are gatherers have probably been ready since 3.3 and are now saying "bring it!" (laughs)
So if you look you'll be able find something that you can do. It's good to have that kind of freedom while you wait for the next patch. By the way, you previously mentioned that there would be adjustments or new elements for the Sea of Clouds exploration content in patch 3.4. What form will those improvements take?
Yoshida: There have been a lot of twists and turns with the development of the Sea of Clouds exploration, so I'm sorry if there's been any confusion. The staff is not working on a new Diadem for exploration content right now. Instead, it will effectively be a "Sea of Clouds Exploration 2." We decided to do this in response to the feedback we received about Diadem, so it will be a new kind of play within the exploration content.
The map will be fairly similar, but the rest of the content will be very different, and the play elements will be entirely different. We're having a bit of difficulty with the production right now. Actually, we originally planned for it to release with patch 3.4, but we felt it was not ready to be released because we were still in the middle of making adjustments, only about halfway done. I think it will probably be implemented in patch 3.5. The original plan was that we would end Diadem when we implemented Sea of Clouds 2 during the patch 3.3 series or in patch 3.4. However, because it's taking longer to get the content ready and there are problems we wanted to address with Diadem, we're making some updates to Diadem in patch 3.4.
Let's talk about the future of high difficulty raids like savage Alexander. The Raid Finder was implemented in patch 3.3, but you previously mentioned that you'll soon be allowing party recruitment across worlds. Is there anything about the future of that or the balance of equipment item level and where its obtained that you're planning on changing?
Yoshida: The development of party recruitment across worlds has been on schedule, so I think that will be implemented in patch 3.5. When you talk about raid balance and item level, do you mean the way we release the raids and updates with each patch? If so, we're not planning to change that. The idea is still that the advanced players will work hard to improve their item level and come up with the best strategies in order to clear the raid to get the high end equipment that comes from the raid. Along those lines, we have no plans to implement any equipment that has a higher item level than raid equipment at the time that the raid is implemented.
As someone who plays raids, they are a good way to test your skills and have that recognition of being able to clear. However, I do personally feel that the value of the rewards when compared with the time it takes to practice and eventually clear the raid is too small, and recently that's gotten even worse. I realize this gets complicated, but do you plan on making any adjustments to that?
Yoshida: It's good for testing your skills and the prestige, yes. And the reward that's intended to be a "must have" is best item level weapon that will only come from the raid during those two patches.
Although it varies from person to person, I think there are more people who are doing the raid because it is more content to clear than people who are doing the raid just because it has a strong weapon. However, we can't just exclusively have all the best items coming from there because then players would feel like they are required to do the difficult raid and many would be frustrated by that. Again, we don't want to force people to do the raid. So it's a tough decision to make to have rewards that are even more powerful and have them become too attractive.
Well, even once you get the highest item level equipment from one update, after all the time you spend practicing, it's not long before item levels as a whole increase with the next update, so unless you're getting that best equipment quickly it just feels like a repeated cycle of catching up for some people.
Yoshida: I think part of it is that the current high difficulty raid takes too much time to clear in comparison with something like the Coils of Bahamut. Previously, players were able to clear the four battles in two or three months and then spend about one full patch repeating it to obtain the strongest equipment. However, now there are many more who don't clear until the next raid is just about upon us.
We feel like as it stands now, the amount of time you have to utilize the strongest equipment is too short. There's an increasing number of people clearing savage, but it's like "well we've finally cleared it, but with the next raid coming this equipment isn't going to last very long...." We want it to feel special and exciting for people who clear the raid, so we're carefully focusing on the difficulty adjustments this time, even more than in the past.
In particular, the level 60 skill rotations for DPS have made player skill far too important. The difference in damage between people who play casually and people who play perfectly has grown huge, too much like an action game. In order to reduce some of this disparity during the patch 3.X series, we'll be focusing on content-side adjustments with the next raid.
You’ve mentioned party recruitment for raids, but will we also be able to enjoy other content like Gold Saucer across worlds?
Yoshida: Some of that will be implemented in patch 3.4. For example, Lord of Verminion will be added to Duty Finder, and there will be a Triple Triad field area that crosses worlds. You'll be able to use Duty Finder or go to that card competition area to go beyond world boundaries.
On the topic of the story, we've reached the end of the Dragonsong War, so where will the stage be set next?
Yoshida: Right... since the Dragonsong War was complete in patch 3.3, there's already been some foreshadowing, but we'll be continuing to expand the story around the Warriors of Darkness. A lot of mysteries will start to become clearer regarding things like Eorzea, the Crystal of Darkness, and the Void. Also, for fans interested in the world lore. patch 3.4 content might include a big hint at the future direction.
Oh, I'm really looking forward to that! By the way, I think you said the official world lore book will go on sale after patch 3.4, so will this information be included there?
Yoshida: Patch 3.4 will release prior to the publication of the world lore book, so the lore book will have an exhaustive amount of information through 3.4. The world setting is pretty dark (laughs). It will be quite fancy and I think it will continue the trend of more elaborate books for game fans. Looking back on those old huge books about game lore, I think this will be something like that, and there haven't been many of those recently. Please let us know if you're satisfied with the end product.
So this year you're going to have another gathering of fans for discussion at the 14 hour live broadcast for the third anniversary like last year?
Yoshida: Yes, we contacted a number of people involved with community activities and got replies to determine the guests. We'll do a roundtable discussion with the participants involved, and I want to meet off-screen as well because I get the sense they want to chat in a less strict environment (laughs).
With the anniversary coming up soon, how are you feeling about the future?
Yoshida: Well, counting the original FFXIV, it's been six years. So I was definitely emotional last year when I thought about the players who were still playing after five years since it's an important number, but with this year being just another number I don't really have any special feeling about it. Actually, I feel like this year flew by. With all we had planned earlier, there's still more we want to get done, so we're moving forward full steam ahead. It's another checkpoint in an endless race.
Do you have any closing message for players in Japan?
Yoshida: Coming here to Gamescom, I'm reminded of all of the fans of the FF series. Looking at the Final Fantasy series as a whole, I think it's one of the largest IPs with fans all over the world. Among those, the fans of FFXIV, especially those who have stuck around since the original FFXIV, are a rare breed, and it's overwhelming to me that we have such a strong fan base around the world. With such strong support from the fans, I'd really like to give back to them as much as possible in the future. Since the game has become so profitable for Square Enix, we can use that money to return the favor to our fans with the Fan Festivals or by putting it into development costs for new content.
We don't want to just maintain the status quo, so we're going to continue to challenge ourselves and I look forward to hearing from everyone in the future.
Thank you very much!