Phoenix Down: Square Enix’s Naoki Yoshida on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida speaks to us about the design philosophy of Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn and its future going forward.

Jonathan Leackby Jonathan Leack

It's been just under three years since the Final Fantasy XIV development team was restructured, which is an eternity for MMOs. Now badged as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the game has been overhauled from the ground up, from its world design to gameplay functionality.

Spearheading the game's new vision is Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida. His job has not been an easy one as the MMO market is always evolving and extremely unforgiving. As the hired hero, it was up to him to restore faith in fans and make the game a success.

With Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn finally here, Naoki Yoshida has kindly taken time out of his schedule to answer questions about the game he has been working tirelessly on.

CraveOnline: There’s less than a month to go until the release of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. How does it feel knowing that within weeks the game will finally be in the hands of gamers?

Naoki Yoshida: The master discs for both the PlayStation 3 and Windows PC version are now complete. However, I am still working on adjusting the difficulty levels of some of the high-level endgame content which will be available to players at launch. I’m sure that I’ll be making these types of adjustments up until the very last minute, since patches can be made all the way up until release. (laughs)

At the same time, I’m working on patch 2.1 which will be the first major update for FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn.  So to be honest, I don’t really feel like the workload is slowing down at all! (laughs)

However, I’m extremely excited to play with players around the world!

One factor that has made many MMO fans interested in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the ability to play as every job and class on one character. How has the process been for balancing each job and class so that none of them are unpopular? 

By clearly defining the unique characteristics of each class and job and keeping combat formulas as simple as possible– we work to balance them in ways that avoids conflicts between each other as much as possible.

While giving monsters elemental weaknesses such as “Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind” makes it easy for us to create unique characteristics for each enemy, it causes certain classes and jobs to be unnecessary in specific battles. Removing these elements and creating pure combat features, as well as exciting mechanics, allows us to balance each class and job from the bottom up.

In terms of combat, have the successes and failures of other MMOs aided in designing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s new combat style? 
In the current MMORPG market, being able to attack freely without the need to specifically target an enemy and performing evasive maneuvers (which evolved from the “hack and slash” genre), has become the mainstream for gaming. However, when I took over the FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn project, the very first thing I decided was that we do not need these elements. To a certain extent, using evasive maneuvers and being able to freely target enemies allows experienced MMORPG players to have some excitement even from the early stages of a game.  

On the other hand, I know from personal experience that these types of elements can cause major discrepancies to appear between players of varying skill levels. Also, it’s difficult to maintain balance when quickly introducing a large amount of battle content.

Besides, since this is a FINAL FANTASY title, there will be players that have never played an MMORPG before. We specifically decided to include minimal amounts of action elements in order to build a more stable combat system in the long run.

With this in mind, I feel that we were able to create a solid game where players can enjoy combat through their strategically-developed characters, including leveling up specific classes and jobs, while diversifying their skills.

Of course, the successes of World of Warcraft and the challenges that Guild Wars 2 faced have been largely helpful for us in designing the game.

A lot of Final Fantasy fan service has already been shown for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, such as the Lightning costume and quest (FF13), Warrior of Light armor (FF1), and the video of Magitek armor (FF6). Is this something that you will continue to pursue in future patches? 

Yes, we’ll be introducing various content in such a way that it aligns with the lore of FINAL FANTASY XIV. If we were to look at FINAL FANTASY XIV as a big tree, it would be like us continuing to add various FINAL FANTASY elements on the branches and leaves of the tree.

We’re really hoping that everyone is looking forward to what type of FINAL FANTASY elements we’ll introduce in future patches!

<< On the next page Yoshida talks about the game's accessibility, its future, and more >>