Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood preview: Our interview with Naoki Yoshida
Obviously, my focus during the media event was finding out as much as I could about what was going on with the actual mechanics of the expansion, but I also got a chance to pick Yoshi-P’s brain a bit regarding more specific reasoning behind existing changes and what changes were yet to come. But as someone who played Machinist extensively, my first question was both obvious and straightforward: Why the big change to castbars just to revert it in the very next expansion?
Yoshida laughed and said he was quite familiar with the associated “Bard Mage” jokes, lest anyone be unsure.
Heavensward, that number dropped off, and players had to relearn some fundamental parts of the job.
The current version, meanwhile, is meant to strike a better balance; experienced and high-end Bard players should have no trouble adapting, but those who prefer to play more casually should find the mechanics more intuitive and straightforward.
Obviously, this speaks to an understanding of the game’s community as a whole, which Yoshida has cited as a very clear and important part of the game’s design. The goal of the game’s design is always to make sure that players don’t feel as if they have to be logged in every single day; you can stop playing for a few days without losing out. It’s a good thing to have a strong community, but that community diminishes if you never get the choice to take a break.
By that same token, part of the goal of the game’s patch structure is giving the community something to look forward to on a regular basis. When asked whether the patches were too predictable, he replied that it was part of the balancing act; keeping the patches at a consistent rate helps players have something to look forward to. While the patches do have certain predictable and regular elements, like dungeons, the team also tries to include new mechanics and elements like exploratory missions, Palace of the Dead, and so forth.
In short, the patch structure as it exists works well for the game, and it’s not something the team intends to rewrite, even though they do want to keep adding in new factors as well as familiar content. It might feel a bit predictable if you’ve been playing for several years, but it’s part of the game’s strengths just the same.
With the new selectable traits for PvP, I asked if something similar had been considered for PvE content. Yoshida replied that role actions were the only equivalent for PvE, mostly to encourage players not to always pick the same things. While PvP content is inherently unpredictable, PvE is always going to be the same, and it’d be too easy to find the “best” traits for any given bit of PvE content under any circumstances.
That doesn’t mean that players can expect fewer options in general, though; when asked whether or not the game would ever reach “saturation” for jobs, Yoshida laughed and made it clear that he sees adding new jobs as a central part of launching a new expansion. While Red Mage and Samurai may be the most obvious iconic jobs not yet in the lineup, there are still many more Final Fantasy jobs to add into the lineup, and there’s always new stuff to add for the future.
Red Mage in particular was already a challenging job to design; it needed to slot resolutely into a specific role for the game, but at the same time it needed to not feel as if it was missing major parts of the Red Mage design. It needed melee abilities, it needed white and black magic, and it needed curative magic. The approach the team ultimately took was to emphasize that balance in all parts of the job; you’re not always in melee, you’re not always casting, you don’t just use white or black magic. It should take players some time to get used to the job, but the team is proud of the results.
Which jobs won’t take much getting used to? Paladin, Monk, and White Mage. After some consideration, he happily announced that while all three jobs have received new abilities and mechanics, they’re the closest to their current incarnations even in Stormblood.
I asked about the pricing on moving to Shirogane, and Yoshida made it clear that players who do already have housing but are looking to move to the new housing district will not have a 100% discount but may still have a discount. The only reason that a final amount isn’t being stated is because it’s still being decided upon. You won’t be able to pick up a new Medium plot for free if you have the same class of Medium plot, but you also might not have to pay the full price of a brand-new plot if you’re moving or upgrading.
On the subject of boost pricing, Yoshida wanted to make sure that boosts were affordable, but not automatic. Make them too cheap, and there’s no longer any push to level normally; make them too pricey, and they have the same problem of creating a wall between players. The price for both a story and leveling skip will be roughly equal to that of a new game, so new players can choose whether they’d prefer to catch up immediately or work through older content; players are certainly not expected to be buying the boosts as a matter of course. As time goes by, the restrictions and prices on these boosts will be evaluated.
Last but not least, there’s the painfully obvious question which all FFXIV players are wondering in the back of their minds. When will Yoshida want to move on? When will he want to do something else?
Upon consideration, he simply replied with a shrug that while some people get the urge to do something new, he doesn’t have that urge. He’s happy with the game, he’s happy to keep designing it, and above all else he can see himself continuing to guide the game from his current role for many years to come. Certainly he acknowledges that he is mortal and he is getting older, but for the time being? He’s happy to be Naoki Yoshida, producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV.
The fans are pretty happy to have him, too.