Something About Japan: Naoki Yoshida on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Square Enix’s Naoki Yoshida, producer/director of Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn, spoke with Famitsu during E3 about the long-delayed PC/PS3/PS4 MMOG. Yoshida took over production of the game in 2010 after its original bug-riddled incarnation on PC became a high-profile critical disaster.

During the lengthy interview, Yoshida addressed concerns that the game will appeal to players both in Japan and the West, a feat that recent FF titles have generally failed to pull off.

“I want to make a game that will appeal to both markets,” he said. “Western audiences have said the previous FF was too linear and not dark enough. On the other hand, when you go to Comic-Con or Japan Expo overseas you see a lot of people cosplaying as FF characters. Just like in Japan, the opinion of fans in the West is divided. So I’m taking the classic FF aesthetic and making it darker; that appeals to me, and it will appeal to certain fans in Japan and in the West.

“To be honest there’s not much difference now between the opinion of fans in Japan and in the West on FFXIV. They all think the Miqo’te are cool characters, for example, haha.”

MMORPGs are not especially popular in Japan, where PC gaming remains niche and many people prefer local multiplayer to online play.

“There aren’t as many people playing MMO games in Japan as in the West, so we’ve worked hard to make sure that the gameplay and the graphics are up to scratch for players in the West,” admitted Yoshida. “The old FFXIV had an especially negative impact in Japan; so if a Western audience says the new game is great, I can take that as a straight response. There are differences in internet culture and opinions go up and down. The aim is to make something that people feel is interesting enough to try.”

FFXIV was originally destined for release on PS3 as well as PC, but the PS3 version was postponed while the game received an overhaul that is still ongoing. The game is now in beta-testing and is slated for release on 27 August 2013 on PS3 and PC, with a PS4 version further down the line in 2014.

When asked for his opinion on PS4, Yoshida replied, “There’s so much memory! It’s fast! It has a lot of eye-catching features, like the social functions, integration with various devices, the touchpad on the DualShock 4, but the memory is a really big deal. In the case of FFXIV, when you have hundreds of customised characters on screen at once, it is after all hard to avoid a memory bottleneck.”

It may seem odd that Square Enix is even bothering with the PS3 version at all, since the PS4 version will surely be closer in quality to the PC rendition than the PS3 can hope to achieve. But Yoshida said that Square Enix has its reasons to persevere with the PS3 release.

“For one thing, we promised PS3 owners this game and we’ve kept them waiting for a long time,” he said. “Even when the game was delayed for PS3, we promised that it would eventually come out. Another reason is that the game is a MMORPG with a monthly billing model, and so we want to make the game open to as many players as possible and have them look forward to new content as we update the game. Even if a lot of PS3 users migrate to PS4, I don’t expect PS4 to have two million users overnight. It took a long time for people to switch from PS2 to PS3 you know.

“But for players who want to have PC-parity visuals and more characters on screen, there is the option of PS4. Both versions are on the same server, so you can carry your character and account across.”

Yoshida detailed aspects of the gameplay and character classes, before going on to discuss planned expansion packs and patches.

“It’s hard to be specific because all sorts of things could change with the launch, but personally I hope to release an expansion pack within about a year and a half of the start of the service,” he said. “It could be two years, though, because a year and a half could be too tight to create the volume of content we’re aiming for. As for update patches, we’ll probably release one every two and a half or three months – four times a year.”

It’s been a rocky road to PlayStation for this ambitious project. With the release finally in sight, it won’t be long till we know whether the development team’s reshuffling has paid off. The proof will come not only in the subscription figures but on the cosplay catwalk too.