Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail media tour: Questions and answers with Naoki Yoshida


Interviewing Naoki Yoshida is always a heck of a time. There are people whom I can interview about the games they run and get relatively little feedback about the game as a whole, but ask Naoki Yoshida about almost anything in Final Fantasy XIV and he will have a very elaborate set of answers prepared for basically any given question. It makes for a very enjoyable experience asking him about important elements of the game, and I was fortunate to get a chance to ask him a couple of questions during the Dawntrail media tour.

Yoshida also took the time to take some questions from everyone who attended in the form of a general Q&A, which covered some additional questions that are very relevant to the game’s current development and the team’s goals moving forward. So this particular piece will start with those answers and move on to the specific questions that I had about the expansion after having a little hands-on time with the jobs.

The first question about Yoshida’s comment when the expansion launch day was revealed, talking about more rewards for players. Yoshida explained that it’s important to note that neither the number of tomestones players will get on a weekly basis (or the prices of tomestone gear) nor the item levels will be drastically changing. Rather, it’s an understanding that the game has a lot of different kinds of dungeon, and some of them (Variant Dungeons were cited as a specific example) don’t offer enough rewards for players to keep exploring the content.

One goal for the rewards is to add more minions, mounts, cosmetic equipment, and so on to help incentivize players to take part in content. Another goal, however, is allowing content to award more gear that occupies “dead spots” in the current gearing curve. The idea isn’t to wildly change how the game currently works but make sure that everything feels rewarding to do.

Second, Yoshida was asked about adding a central party finder so that players don’t have to visit different worlds or data centers for certain kinds of content. While he’s aware of the requests, he argues that this is the natural evolution of allowing data center visitation; players want to explore different culture across different centers, and the team doesn’t want to completely eradicate every aspect of data center identity. It’s a project that’s still on the table for the future, but he said, “Maybe wait a few years for that one,” with a laugh.


When asked about the low-level skill experience, Yoshida explained that the rate of skill acquisition and the distribution at lower levels is actually always being considered; it’s a tricky matter because if there are no skills at the lower levels, it takes forever for a job to feel complete, and if there are no skills at the higher levels… why are you bothering to level? He also noted that you can’t just squish the game back down to having 50 levels again, since it would make the whole thing feel pointless. So the team is always considering how to balance this with each new expansion as well as moving forward, but it’s possible the balance isn’t quite right, and players are encouraged to leave feedback about specific pain points.

Are there any lore quests players should embark on before Dawntrail? That’s a hard one to answer, but he does recommend trying out the alliance raid series before 7.0. And he notes players might want to see if they can remember all the members of the Convocation… but saying more might be a spoiler.

So what was the inspiration behind Dawntrail specifically? Obviously the developers have mentioned the summer vacation idea many times. But even more importantly, the developers didn’t want to send players right into another world-shattering story. They wanted to do something different, to avoid serial escalation. That doesn’t mean the story won’t have serious aspects, just that it isn’t a straight escalation of prior conflict.

When asked about consolidating gearsets (considering that there are currently three different sets for melee on top of sets for tanking, ranged, magical, and healing jobs), Yoshida explained the devs are always looking into that, just as they’re looking into whether or not the materia system still works. The issue is just that it’s important not to make huge changes off the cuff because even minor changes like enlarging the target circles for bosses can have pretty big knock-on effects. So it’s not off the table, but at least for this expansion the goal was more about making sure that more jobs use more different sets rather than consolidating.

That segued quite naturally into a question about moving away from “solo-focused” content in Endwalker, which Yoshida answered by saying that he didn’t really see that as being a focus in Endwalker. Rather, after the praise for Shadowbringers, the team really wanted to find a way to provide an easier on-ramp to players who are normally uncomfortable starting MMOs. That meant revisions, duty support across all levels, and further refinement to that side of gameplay. Now that this particular project is done, the developers don’t need to go back and do that again, which means they’re free to explore more options for refined multiplayer content.

The goal, in other words, is always to support both; to give solo players fun things to do solo while making the game more fun in a group.

Yay, I'm an alpaca again!

Also, the team is aware that the level sync system is sometimes less than ideal and can result in weaker gear than intended; the system was developed very quickly when 2.0 was launched, and they’re still looking into how to best refine it and improve it moving forward.

Last but not least from the group Q&A, Yoshida responded to questions about whether Dawntrail is the start of a new saga with a very simple “TBD.” The team wasn’t sure if it would really get to explore all of the ideas it had after 2.0 or Heavensward; it wasn’t until Stormblood was a success that the devs really went all-in on planning for a big conclusion. So they’re leaving the next steps after Dawntrail open-ended, but there is definitely a plan for more. Whether it will be a whole saga… well, you know the words. Please look forward to it.

Now, when I got to sit down and talk with Yoshida, I needed to ask the real questions. The questions that were on everyone’s mind. Starting with the obvious: What was the inspiration for Viper? Was it actually because of vague Zidane allusions like a lot of Final Fantasy IX fans have insisted must be the case?

Turns out that the answer is no. Square had a lot of feedback from players who wanted a bladestaff weapon, but when trying to figure out how to build the job, the devs actually took some of their inspiration from Sword Art Online to deliver a job with fast and unique abilities. The goal was to make something that really relies on a different path for splitting player attention across your rotation. It’s meant to challenge the player and offer a different sort of gameplay style while still being familiar to melee fans.


I also brought up that when Shadowbringers was on the way, we were told that Gunbreaker was a tank because the game already had plenty of melee DPS. But now we’re getting a new melee DPS job the expansion after getting a melee DPS job. What’s the deal with that?

Yoshida explained a bit more of the devs’ thinking and how they personally design jobs. First and foremost, they try to have a new DPS with every expansion, just because it excites players and gets attention. One slot is always going to be a DPS of some kind. But they also try to look at what the game is currently lacking, which roles have gone without a new option for a while, or where there’s a gap to be filled in. Endwalker left only Scouting gear as the set only used by one job, and there hasn’t been a new magical DPS since Red Mage. It’s not an ironclad set of laws, but the developers are paying attention to all of their options.

Last but not least, I asked about what lessons the developers took from the Manderville weapon series even though it’s too early to talk about the next relic series. It’s difficult to summarize because the feedback has been very polarized; some players liked the setup, but others felt it was too simple. The start in 7.x will definitely be tied to new content, though.

We’d like to thank Naoki Yoshida for taking the time to answer our questions and provide us with plenty of insight about the game’s current and future development.

Both my lodging and travel were paid for by Square-Enix as part of my coverage of this event. We also did get goodie bags with a number of pieces of memorabilia, including a very nice compass and a travel bag. I have had to hide all of it until the reveal date today. Yes, even it was still under embargo.
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