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Naoki Yoshida Answers Questions From the Press at Fan Fest 2023

29 Jul 2023

The North American Fan Festival is over and while FFXIV players (im)patiently await Patch 6.5 and the newly announced expansion, Dawntrail, we still more news to report on from the event in Las Vegas. During a press conference Friday evening, Final Fantasy XIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida answered a handful of questions from the media outlets that were in attendance.

[Editor’s Note: Gamer Escape submitted questions, however due to the amount of press attending, and the limited amount of time, they were not answered during this press conference]

Q: You mentioned the theme color for Dawntrail is gold; could you tell us what kind of guidance you provided to Mr. Yoshitaka Amano when you asked him to create the illustrated logo? – Akira Chigira, Famitsu

Naoki Yoshida: When we were discussing with Yoshitaka Amano about the illustrated logo, I did say the theme was adventure. We’ve went to the edge of the universe and saved the planet.

With that being said, we’re going to have our Warrior of Light embark on this new adventure we’ve been referring to as the New World, by boat. I conveyed we’re trying to capture this feeling of excitement and uncharted territories, and have a glimpse beyond the sea, and a new continent, and there’s a new landmark, so we wanted to capture that excitement and anticipation.

I know we mentioned the theme is gold and the question was how will we convey that color, but it’s interesting because when we spoke with Amano about the  illustrated logo, he was working in black and white.

The reason we do that is because with Mr. Amano’s delicate touch, we don’t want it to lose (image) integrity. And we scan it in to digital data – its difficult to match the delicate touches he does with the colors. So we get it in black and white, and our team members can apply the gradients to it afterwards.

I want to admit, last week, there was something I wanted to request of Mr. Amano. He’s going to work in black and white and I ask “can you please draw a rainbow in there?” We really pay attention to how he depicts his illustration and what kinds of lines he uses and its very inspiring. We take that in and did a lot of back and forth about discussing it and getting guidance to hash everything out, so we’re very pleased with the logo we ended up with. We’re hoping that once you see it when Dawntrail releases and that logo appears as you’re traversing across the sea and go into Tural, you will see how the logo crosses over into the cinematics.

Q: Endwalker brought an end to the story we’ve been following since the beginning of FFXIV. Dawntrail starts a whole new story. Do you already have an idea of how vast this story will be and how many more expansions will develop it? – Matúš Štrba,

Naoki Yoshida: I just wanted to clarify one thing. There was mention about how Endwalker brought an end to the story we’ve been following since the beginning of Final Fantasy XIV. It wasn’t necessarily our intention to write one long continuous story. Of course, we would foreshadow certain elements. We’ve been doing that since A Realm Reborn. As you’ve been noticing, certain clues might open up certain elements, and we try to tie up loose ends throughout the expansions, but that’s always with the mindset of placing it in the hopes we can depict and delver further into it. Every time we do a new expansion, we try to tie those loose ends together. With Dawntrail we’ll do something similar to that – go back to the elements we’ve been foreshadowing and see what we can connect to the new story.

In terms of “will this be as long as the Hydalyn and Zodiark saga?”… I think that depends on our players and whether or not everyone likes the story and wants it to be continued. Of course, we have so many ideas, I think we have enough to fill two full expansions but I can’t tell you what they are.

Right now I’m 50 years old, by the time Dawntrail releases, I’ll be 51… then two expansions, I’d be 57, 58? I might be able to squeeze in three expansions by the time I’m 60.

Q: Were you inspired by any specific cultures in the real world to create the regions featured in Dawntrail? – Ramón Baylos González, Areajugones

Naoki Yoshida: To give you the short answer: yes, there is. That said, we want to keep it as a surprise for when we reveal more information. For now, all we can say is yes, there is inspiration, but please look forward to more information in the future.

Q: What will be the features in Dawntrail that will help old players to get back to the game or even bring new players to the adventures in this new area? How can they avoid getting lost in the current lore and get up-to-date to play Dawntrail? – Jeancarlos Mota, IGN Brasil

Naoki Yoshida: Right now, what we’ve already have since Patch 6.1 is a system where you can go back and read about the different characters and the lore throughout the stories. And we are considering methods for how adventurers who want to skip forward, can just jump into it.

I also wanted to mention, this question gets asked every time an expansion pack is announced. I want to double-check who here plays FFXIV on a regular basis? [attendees raise hands] Oh, okay, a lot of people do, thank you! I’m sure you are all familiar, but regardless of if we release an expansion pack, our previous content isn’t necessarily old-old, we always add things that expand our content… plus, the content is very story-driven. If we have a new expansion, would people want to be able to just jump into the new expansion pack? I wonder…

With the Duty Support System, we have NPCs that would come along with you on this content for the main scenario quests, so we’ve allowed it so that if you don’t have time to play with other players, you can go solo and power through the story content. Honestly speaking, I understand with the analogy of a TV series that this is season six and people might be tempted to start with six. But I honestly feel like, it is season six and we’ve made it so that season one is easy to get through. So I’d recommend to just start from the beginning and take it from there. We’re trying to get it technically ready for sure, but we’re still trying to debate if this is something we’d actively be pushing forward.

Q: The way that Fan Fest rolls out development staff like rockstars is pretty unique, what do you and the development team feel like at events like Fan Fest, where you will so often be stopped and asked for photos, et cetera – Sayem Ahmed, GLHF

Naoki Yoshida: We’re not necessarily treating them like rockstars when we bring them out, though. Our intention is not to flaunt around like a rockstar. Our job is it to make games. I don’t think developers are meant to be out in the forefront like that. When I’m on a stream, I see comments like “Yoshida got fat” or “Yoshida is old.” No one wants to see that.

With this being an MMORPG, I think it’s important we have a mutual understanding between players, members of the media, and developers. With a game that accumulates a lot of content, and a whole lot of systems, it’s important to be able to see and get an understanding and share what the players want, what the developers need to do, what the media pays attention to and reports on, and be able to communicate. Having that mutual understanding allows an MMO to stay interesting for us to continue to update.

I also wanted to touch upon… they asked about being stopped for photos. I’m honored, I’m flattered. I’m very thankful for that. I want to point out too, I’d love to accommodate fans as long as I have time, and as long as they’re okay with a middle aged man. When I went to the first NA Fan Fest, in the casino, someone asked if he could pick me up – like princess style. You might be able to find that photo online actually. And there was one girl who asked me in Japan at an event if she can do a backdrop wrestling move on me. So as long as its fun and interesting – I’m open for it.

But… there’s one thing I want to caution. There was a time I took a photo with five people, in the same FC – then the photo was uploaded to their social channels. So I saw it online and my face was on the photo, but everyone else was anonymized – was there a point in uploading that? We’re having a good time, I know we need to ask permissions, but as long as everyone is okay, I encourage you to show your face and that you’ve having a good time!

Q: Can you tell us about some of the greatest moments you have experienced with FFXIV? The milestones you have reached as its Producer and Director or some of the experiences you have made as a player and a part of the community? – Eric Mittman, TAG24

Naoki Yoshida: This answer might sound familiar as I’ve mentioned it during different interviews. When we did our first Fan Festival in Las Vegas. This was within the context of the former version of Final Fantasy XIV starting and ending as a failure, and us trying to rebuild it as A Realm Reborn. At that time, when everybody was checking-in for registration, there was a machine malfunction. So the lines started to build and build and build.

So the PR director at the time noticed the crowd getting frustrated and asked me if I would come out to the lines and apologize for the inconvenience. So with that context, I go out expecting to apologize and feel bad, and once I started to say I’m sorry, fans took notice and were cheering! They recognized me and started clapping and cheering. They were very grateful that FFXIV was relaunched and we rebuilt it. Many fans were saying “Thank you, Yoshida-san” for rebuilding FFXIV. One young man approached me and said “You’re my hero” and I’m just a Japanese person who came over to make video games and I can’t imagine someone saying something so powerful to me. I’ve felt very humbled and was really relieved that what we were working hard on really paid off. That was my most memorable moment that I can never forget.

That said, also with the pandemic, media interviews had do be done via Zoom, so we didn’t have that kind of interaction with each other. And we were not able to do our Fan Fests in person either. Now that we’ve done day one and played that trailer back and got that excitement from everyone… the energy that came from that was very similar to what I felt at that NA Fan Fest. It was the best! Thank you so much- I’m really happy!

Q: Ten years on, what sort of balance do you consider when looking at fan feedback and requests versus your own philosophies for what Final Fantasy XIV should be? – Erren Van Duine, Nova Crystallis

Naoki Yoshida: In terms of how I strike a balance… actually, it’s not quite explainable with words, so to speak. Being a gamer myself and also a Warrior of Light playing in Final Fantasy XIV, there are many points of feedback that I could totally understand. But when you look at the player perspective, I feel that it tends to lean towards, “Well, if it’s okay now, then it’s fine,” or “If I could get this inconvenience out of the way now, it’ll be okay,” or something similar. I mean, we’re all playing games for fun. We tend to focus on the now.

But looking at it from a developer’s perspective, if we make everything easy, if we lose the challenge or decrease it… it might be fine right now, but if you look at it from a long perspective, will it actually be good? Sometimes it might destroy the game balance. We also need to consider that there are people who want to play on a more casual level versus those who are more hardcore players= those who are okay with coming back and farming and things like that. If we listen to every piece of feedback and accept it all, it would potentially break the game. There are instances where we notice something in the UI must be fixed, so it’s worth it to spend two patches to correct that. Or sometimes, there is content where we are unfortunately unable to accommodate or address at that time. That’s the job I have as a director of the game- to kind of see what kind of situation we are facing. There isn’t really a method so to speak, and it’s more intuitive, but this is the kind of thinking behind it.

Q: Are any crossovers between FFXIV and FFXVI planned? – Anastasia Kudinov, Eurogamer Germany

Naoki Yoshida: So yes, the producer of FFXVI happens to have the same name as I do. I did have a chance to discuss it with this Yoshida. I think we are nearing the conclusion of our discussions, but we are unable to divulge on it right now. I’m hoping that we can reveal some kind of information within this calendar year.

Q: As the game continues to expand, how are you ensuring it’s approachable for new players, considering the time investment required? – Ed Nightingale, Eurogamer

Naoki Yoshida: I think the way we approach it is we make sure we adjust how the item levels come into effect, making sure we’re balancing out the content and we also have different support elements like the Duty Support.

Q: Patch 5.3, released on August 11, 2020, overhauled a lot of the main scenario quests and duties from A Realm Reborn. Can you talk about what it was like revisiting that content and deciding what to keep, what to remove, and what to revise? – Quentin Humphrey, Operation Rainfall

Naoki Yoshida: There wasn’t anything that I felt “I wanted to actually keep it,” after all. In terms of the process in which we were shaving down the content, we would kind of abridge it. There were multiple ways that we assessed how we would address the truncating. There were three major points. First, we researched which content players had the tendency to drop and we kind of pinpointed those. Two, there were certain quests that we, as the development team, felt like “we have done way too much; we need to reel it back.” And the third method, was that we looked at the different NPCs, what quests they’re given, their lines of dialogue, and does it pertain to the main part of the lore. Based on this information, we decide “that “this guy could safely go away.” That was the hardest part, though.

Q: Endwalker’s story is full of emotional topics that are often difficult to broach for many writers and players, such as existentialism and loss – can you talk about any inspirations and difficulties in taking these on? – Victoria Rose,

Naoki Yoshida: [Long pause] To tell you the truth, whenever we make an expansion – and this does not just apply to Endwalker, we apply the same kind of philosophy to anything we make. For example, in Heavensward, we had Alphinaud, Ysayle, Estinien, and the Warrior of Light travelling. They all had different ideals and beliefs. And you see those values being thrown up on its head but they’re still able to come together to work through it all.

In Stormblood, we had the nation of Ala Mhigo who were under Garlemald’s rule and we were fighting to liberate Ala Mhigo… and was it a happy ending? No. We had people born under the oppression of the empire. So they were already used to the Garlean rule compared to those who were fighting for their freedom which led to that kind of friction between each other because they had this different kind of thinking.

in Shadowbringers, we have those who wanted to bring the sundered worlds back together. The Ancients wanted to bring it back to how it used to be, and the Warrior of Light and their associates who were living in the now with the people of the First. They’re used to the worlds that they’re living in. They may be weak in comparison to the Ancients, but they each have their own beliefs that they’re trying to pursue. You can never tell which is right or wrong. I don’t think that there’s a correct right or wrong.

And so with Endwalker, all of that kind of culminates in the conclusion of the Hydaelyn and Zodiark saga. At least the first conclusion to that arc. We might not realize it, but we’ve been following that path throughout the story. It is a difficult theme, but I think that you’ll be able to tell that we contemplated it, thought it through, and brought it to a conclusion that we’re satisfied with, so to speak.

So, if this was just Endwalker, and just trying to depict all what happened and trying to bring those themes to the table, it would’ve probably been an impossible feat. We agree that it’s definitely a difficult topic to approach. But I think with Natsuko Ishikawa present, who wrote the main scenario for Endwalker, that it would not have been possible without her. I do want to reiterate that it was difficult for sure, but I hope for her sake that you get the opportunity to interview her to get a more in-depth perspective.

Q: Would you consider implementing cross-regional Data Center visiting, or even a cross-regional Data Center Duty Finder queue system? – Michael Damiani, Easy Allies

Naoki Yoshida: I do want to mention that the technical aspects of traveling between North America, Europe, Japan, and Oceania data centers is built. That said, we need to observe the culture between the different regions- it differs significantly. Is it okay to just suddenly open the floodgates for everyone to intermingle? I’m afraid we still don’t have enough information to have the confidence to open that up because we would have different communities jumbled together. We’d like to continue to look at how DC travel is being utilized and what the situation is like and take our time to assess before we consider inter-region travel.

If the question is “Are you considering it or not?” Yes, we are considering it. I’ve been having many discussions with our super server engineer, whether we can do it this way or that way. We’ve been having these meetings on multiple occasions and we had one recently even. Whenever we have these discussions, we always end up saying this… “[groaning sound] Oh, we’re gonna have to talk about this in the next meeting.”

So I mean, yeah there are many challenges that we have to overcome from a technical perspective and infrastructure perspective. But a challenge is a challenge and we want to overcome that challenge and we don’t want to give up on that idea. I think that’s what makes my team very talented and that’s what their strength is. We’re tying to figure out how we can work this out.

Q: After Variant and Criterion Dungeons, do you plan on working on more 4-player endgame content like this? What was the feedback so far and does it mean we won’t have new 72 players content in the future (big fan of Bozja here)? – Cassim Ketfi,

Naoki Yoshida: [After double-checking whether the question refers to content separate from Variant/Criterion Dungeons] Right now the system for Variant and Criterion Dungeons are well structured and we’d like to continue releasing content in this format. Of course we’ll continue to listen to feedback and see what we can reflect in the game but we want to enhance the content we’re offering through Variant and Criterion Dungeons so that you can jump into it casually, but still offer that excitement. We’ll implement more content based on that format.

Of course, we continue to discuss and ideate on different content that we’ve never done before in terms of battle content. In terms of large-scale combat situations like Bozja and Eureka, we still want to do things in that vein as well. So we’ll continue to come up with new challenges in that aspect.

Q: Ideally, I’d love to buy Final Fantasy I and put it in an Arcade cabinet in my house. Being able to play the first few Final Fantasy games in Final Fantasy XIV would be amazing, even if it was in the cash shop only. Can we ever expect something like this? – Omer Altay,

Naoki Yoshida: We’ve been trying this idea since a year and a half ago. With the Pixel Remasters coming out, we thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to play that in the Gold Saucer or your estate?” We had tested this but realized that the Pixel Remasters were running on a middleware. Because it’s running on middleware, we’d have to build a system to play that back in the game… so building a system of a game to play a system of a game… It’s a weird configuration.

Our FFXIV team, I love them, they’re crazy. But I don’t think they’re that crazy. If I could only have a super level programmer… maybe two more of them we might be able to see some kind of path for that. So for any Warriors of Light that are gonna read these articles, if they’re a programmer and boast to be a super programmer and can build a system to run this we’d love to take your job application please sign up at Square Enix Japan!

Half joking half serious, of course, but FFXIV is a theme park of Final Fantasy so we’d love to incorporate elements that’d bring that togetherness.

[pointing out cash shop only part] I need to point out it does mention even if it was in the cash shop only, I don’t want people coming out and saying Yoshida you lied why is this paid content on the Mogstation!

Make sure you write it in your articles this person was willing to have it in the cash shop! But yeah we can consider maybe Final Fantasy I, III and III? But we might have to do Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI in a business sense. We’d like to bring enjoyable content to our game.

Q: Have you thought about expanding FFXIV into other mediums, like anime or a TV series? Would you like to see that personally? – Hayes Madsen, Inverse

Naoki Yoshida: [pondering his reply] If I’m allowed to be the overall production as well as the supervisor director, I’d love to have a FFXIV TV series. That said, right now as you know my title is Producer Director of FFXIV, and I’m the head of CBU3… and a board member… so I don’t think I can squeeze in being the director of a TV series.

From that aspect, I won’t be able to do it, so we’re open to offers we may receive if there is a passionate party that want to bring FFXIV in another medium- in a spin-off or some kind of anime or movie or TV series that our Warrior of Lights would be involved in. We’ve never really rejected the idea.

We actually were fortunate enough to have people approach us with projects like that with the pandemic hitting, schedules were thrown off, things being cancelled. [Editor’s Note: you can see our last published update about the announced FFXIV TV show here] Not just our FFXIV project, but other projects were affected as well. Nothing else has followed through to concrete discussions.

In any case, if the FFXIV team committed to a project like that, we want to make sure we’re not destroying the image we’ve built, or the image that players have built in their mind of what Final Fantasy XIV should be- no matter the medium. So we know we’d want to have a good quality when we deliver it, I mean we don’t have any real plans of doing so, but I’ll make sure the quality is high.

Images courtesy of Square Enix.