Final Fantasy 14 Interview: Is This Really A Realm Reborn?
Final Fantasy 14 has a long way to go to redeem itself from the mistakes of the initial launch, so we chat to director and producer for the game Naoki Yoshida about how A Realm Reborn will fix all of its problems.
Final Fantasy XIV was initially whimsical in presentation, it now seems darker and more urgent – is this a conscious redesign?
There is a place for both light fantasy and dark fantasy and we want to incorporate both of those into the game. But I do realise, personally, that a lot of recent Final Fantasy games had a very light and whimsical feel – I want to go back into that darkness.
It’s sort of like how Lord Of The Rings is – you go to the land of the elves, which is very high fantasy and whimsical, then you go fight Sauron and it’s dark, with lightning, clouds and evil. So having that juxtaposition in there is something that we’re trying to aim for.
Will 24-man raids be in specific dungeons?
Yes, there will be specific dungeons for them.
And will there be a time limit on them?
The instance rates we have in the current dungeons are ones we put together with very limited resources, which is why they’re limited in the scope and span of the things. This is not what we want to do for A Realm Reborn [and the PS3 version] – we want to do many things, and you can expect instance rates in the new version to be a lot higher.
We’ll probably be removing that old time-attack style system, replacing it with these new instanced sections.
Visually it’s still one of the more impressive games out there.
Will you need a long time to play through them?
There’ve been high profile changes on the development team. What’s been the result of these changes? Has it had a big effect on the game’s direction?
A lot of the high profile members of the team changed and we got a lot of new people from other development teams outside to create this new core team.
The remainder of the development team has stayed pretty much the same, so it wasn’t like we had to start over from zero and tell everyone what to do – it was just taking it in a new direction with this new core team.
On top of this, there’s two main points we’d like to clarify: when we decided to take the game in the direction of A Realm Reborn, we had to pretty much convince the development team to take the current version, continue to make updates to it for the current PC players and also make this new game.
But once this new game is made, everything you’re making over the next year or so will be thrown away because it will be completely replaced.
To motivate people when you’re saying ‘you’re going to be making something for a year then it’ll be gone’ was very difficult. But the team took this in its stride and has worked really hard for the past year, so for that we have to thank the team for their hard work.
And if you look at the current version now, all the changes we’ve made since the original, you can see that they aren’t changes people without motivation make – they’ve done a lot with the limited resources they have.
The second point – one of the most difficult things to do – was to basically educate the development team about the global standard of MMORPGs.
A lot of people didn’t know, so getting them up to ‘okay, this is what players expect from a MMORPG, this is the global standard’ and with A Realm Reborn we want to get to this level and go beyond it.
So educating the dev team was a difficult process – we started that last spring and spent weeks basically training the development team.
They might want to tailor those controls a bit more when it comes to PS3.
Which ideas from Hiromichi Tanaka remain in A Realm Reborn, and what elements are purely from the new direction of the team?
I really can’t say, because to me it’s less about who made something and more about whether it’s good or not. We get a lot of ideas from a lot of different people in the development team – they could be from a great battle planner or they could be from someone who’s just entered the company recently – if it’s a good idea I’ll use it.
It’s the same [with older elements] – things that will be remaining from the original version of FFXIV, I don’t know who those were by originally, so there could be things that were Tanaka’s, there could be things that weren’t. I don’t put too much emphasis on that.
Everything that goes in A Realm Reborn has to go through Mr Yoshida, so if you play it and you don’t find it interesting it’s not a matter of who designed it – it’s my decision to put it in the game so you complain to me [laughs], tell me you don’t find it interesting and I’ll go in and fix it.
Communication is one of the best things about MMOs – you can get feedback from the community and you can implement things into the game, so that’s what we want to do, to keep those communication pipelines open.
It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without chocobos.
FFXI just hit its 10-year anniversary and goes strength to strength, but you say you had to educate the dev team on XIV on how to do things right. What is it that XI got right that XIV was missing?
One of the reasons we believe XI was so successful at its launch and is still successful now, ten years later, is that when they first started developing it and decided to develop it the whole development team basically went and played Everquest for a year, and were then thinking ‘we want to do what they do with Everquest in the Final Fantasy series’.
There were times when you couldn’t contact people in the dev team unless you went into Everquest to talk to them – that’s how much they played.
The thing was because they did that they had the direction to go in, whereas one of the problems with the beginning of Final Fantasy XIV there wasn’t that direction, there were a lot of developers who weren’t aware of what that global standard was.
They didn’t spend a year playing World Of Warcraft or any other modern MMO so they didn’t know that, and because they didn’t know that they created something that wasn’t up to global standards.
The other thing is that when they began developing Final Fantasy XI there was the real feeling that they wanted to create a Final Fantasy, and they worked hard to do that, it was stronger because of it.
That’s the thing – the concept with A Realm Reborn is that we’re not going in there trying to do so many things. We want to first start off getting to that global standard, and once we get to that global standard we will have a game that hits that target and has a real Final Fantasy feel to it.
Basically what the original FFXI team was able to do – we want to do that with FFXIV. And we want to get the Crystal Tower in and the Golden Saucer, and the MagiTek armour as a mount, just getting that FF feel and adding things to get that FF feel.