Sunday, January 2, 2011

Naoki Yoshida

Note: If we get any more information or interviews regarding Naoki Yoshida, I will edit this post accordingly.

This picture (above) is a drawing of Naoki Yoshida. Last month, in a widely publicized shift by Square-Enix, this relatively unknown person was chosen/hired to replace Hiromichi Tanaka (now former producer) and Nobuaki Komoto (former director -> now lead game designer) as the new producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV.

(Although it's not explicitly stated, he is most likely now leading Square Enix Product Development Division [PDD] 3 as a result, as well.)

Last month, when he took over as producer and director, he released this statement:

I would like to take this opportunity to greet all of you—those currently playing FINAL FANTASY XIV, those who have taken a respite from playing, and those awaiting the PlayStation 3 release—and offer a brief word by way of an introduction.

No doubt there are very few, if any, among you who have ever heard the name Naoki Yoshida. To be sure, I have never been in the fore on any of the titles I have worked on in the past. I am, however, honored and privileged to work alongside many talented and inspiring colleagues, and with their support have enjoyed making games for a number of years. I am aware that a great many people will think the responsibility of leading FINAL FANTASY XIV is far too large a task for someone so unknown. After all, even my very best may seem no more than a drop in the bucket when considering the sheer scope of FINAL FANTASY XIV. But working together with me are the very talented and very capable development and management teams, whose dedication and motivation are unwavering. I would like to ask you to please put to rest uncertainties that you may have.

Now, more than ever, myself, the development team, and Square Enix as a whole, are committed to furthering our efforts to provide a quality service.

Everything we do will be for our players and customers.

FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer/Director, Naoki Yoshida

Naturally, this sparked curiosity within online forums. A lot of us gamers have never even heard of the guy. A lot of us were (and still are) worried about his direction/experience with producing a game. Sites such as ZAM even posted an editorial in an attempt to find out details about who he is.

According to the article, we only knew that he joined Square Enix in 2004, and worked on a Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road game series, which was a card game played on arcade machines.

A few days ago, had an interview with Yoshida on the future of the game. Here is a translation from Eorzeapedia:

4Gamer: Interview with Naoki Yoshida: Part 1

4Gamer: Interview with Naoki Yoshida: Part 2

I'll try and pinpoint the stuff I found notable:

He wants to have more of a transparent team that talks to the players often, as well as make things much easier to understand. He seems to invite player feedback rather than shrug it off or mad that we as players cannot understand their system.

(See: Tanaka Frustration Incident from August 2010)

He compares the relationship with a development team and its players like a close friendship. He goes on to state that there can't be broken promises this time around. They plan on regaining trust for their players.

There are some nitpicky details he does go into, but I can be sure of one thing from this interview. The man knows his MMOs. He's well aware of MMO industry standards that FFXIV has a notable lack of and is willing to be much more flexible with adding them for PC players. However, it comes to a cost because it set an outcry to the forums that PS3 players will get an unfair disadvantage.

I'm not sure how Yoshida plans to even the playing field for these platforms, but this is the most vocal I've ever seen a Final Fantasy development team, and I've been playing Final Fantasy XI and then XIV since October 2003. That in itself says a lot. We're coming a long way from the old development team that had their set vision and were unwilling to budge and/or even listen to players. Or even worse, send a Community Representative around once every few years to say a sentence and then disappear after a couple of weeks.

I'm happy these times are behind us.

Let me begin by wishing a happy new year to all players and fans of FINAL FANTASY XIV!

The last few weeks of 2010 were tumultuous times for us all, what with the announcement of the development team restructuring and multiple version updates. Still, I hope you are all enjoying your winter vacations and holidays, and had truly memorable Christmas and New Year's Eves and Days.

As part of the new direction promised, we here on the development and management teams have adopted four new keywords for FINAL FANTASY XIV: fun, live, reboot, and rebuild. Forgive our translators if these buzzwords seem a bit cryptic or cliché, but I am using these English words as-is in the Japanese, and insisted they use the same words for a global resonance.

To get things rolling right away, I am asking for your cooperation with our FINAL FANTASY XIV Player's Poll the First—a brief questionnaire being issued to give you the players another means by which to have your voices heard.

Well, I would be lying if I said I was writing only to wish you the best in the coming twelve moons. Truth be told, the realm is all aflutter just now—the air thick with anticipation and excitement. In fact, an ancient verse of prophecy was delivered to my person by a messenger from Eorzea not moments ago. But I've never been much of one for poems... Perhaps some of you will have more luck decoding it than I have.

(Link to the poem.)

Again, I wish all of you a happy new year, and ask that you all look forward to what we have in store for FINAL FANTASY XIV in 2011!

FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer/Director,
Naoki Yoshida
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