Friday, July 15, 2011

Naoki Yoshida "Yoshi-P" Part IX

If you're lazy and don't want to read the Q and A and the whole long blog entry, here's what's coming. (TL; DR Version)

-Repairs being simplified being added in 1.18
-Introduction of Grand Companies coming 1.18
-Battle System Revamp coming 1.18
-Instanced Raids coming 1.18
-Fatigue system being dropped in 1.18
-Guildleve changes coming in 1.18
-Raise is being lowered from Rank 38 CON to 14 CON in 1.18
-Resurrect is being lowered from Rank 38 THM to 14 THM in 1.18
-New Spells "Raise II" and "Rebirth" coming for CON in 1.18
-Death is going to be changed. Penalties will be incurred for using Return while dead in 1.18
-Return cost is going to 0 anima in 1.18
-Return going to have 15 minute recast restriction in 1.18. (Doesn't count when KO'd)
-Ifrit Battle coming 1.19
-Materia System coming 1.19
-Chocobos coming 1.19
-Airships coming 1.19, will require a quest and a fee afterwards.

-Physical levels being removed in 1.19
-Jump coming TBA
-New original armor models take approx. 6 months to create.
-Massive zone redesigns coming soon.

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I just want to say before this whole blog entry, that Naoki Yoshida remains to be one of my top influences when it comes to game designers. When I started Part I of this back in January, a lot of us players didn't know what to expect from the relatively-then unknown Yoshi-P. He put in place some well-received changes that were also implemented in sister-MMO FFXI. Such as massively increasing EXP earned from mobs, making the game much more casual friendly, and the biggest change he implemented up until upcoming patch 1.18 is the open-communication and the forums for FFXIV (which also expanded to FFXI as well).

I greatly admire him as a game designer and his personality for being so dedicated (as well as his unwavering enthuiasm) to the project and doing whatever it takes to get the job done (As you'll see in the interviews below.)

I really hope Square-Enix puts him on the forefront of more well-known series titles in the future. It's shameful that Yoshi wasn't put on FFXIV earlier, it could have been a radically different game at the beginning, and I say that in a good way.

Anyway, on with the post... From here on out my commentary will be in italics.

_

See also: Introduction of Grand Companies (7/15)
See also: Repairing Repairs (7/15)
See also: Patch 1.18 Miscellaneous Adjustments (7/14) - Regarding Revival/Death Revision
See also: The Community Teams interview Yoshida in Japan! (7/12)
See also: My post on Final Fantasy XIV - Patch 1.18: Dirty Deeds, Dzemael Darkhold Dungeon (7/11)




The official community team on the FFXIV forums (English, German, French) went to Japan went to interview Yoshida about his work style among other things. To the left is Youmukon, the middle is Yoshi-P, and the right is the English community rep, Rukkirii.


The community teams did the following Q and A below. Credit goes to them for the questions and answers.


English Q and A:

What role do you enjoy playing the most in a party, tanking, healing, melee damage dealer, or ranged damage dealer and why?

Yoshida: I prefer damage dealers and tanks. The former gives me a sense of watching over the battle and 'wearing down' the enemies, which I enjoy. A damage dealer on the verge of death appeals to me when playing PvP, too. Tanks on the other hand are aware of hate levels and their surroundings which allows them to be strategic and adapt their play style. I tend to play as all the classes though! (laughs)


If you were taking a stroll through the deserts of Thanalan and a trio of NM Goblins flying on Bomb Balloons attacked you from above, what would you do?

Yoshida: I'd probably burst the balloons and bring it down to the ground! (laughs) I'd like to gradually make these things on my mind possible in the future.

What is your favorite Final Fantasy monster and why do you like it the most?

Yoshida: The term 'monster' can cover quite a wide range of things, but if I had to choose I'd say the great Malboro. They just create so much impact when you see them. My second choice would probably be chocobos!

What is your favorite zone in FFXIV?

Yoshida: Central Mor Dhona, where the remains of the fallen airship can be seen. The place oozes with a sense of adventure. I'm hoping to create more places like this when we revise the map - and make sure there's plenty of content to compliment them!

Yoshida hints this many times in the forums, letter from the producer and other translated articles. The "copy-pasted" maps and geography in Eorzea is going to change radically. Free cataclysm, perhaps?


If you could be any of the races in FFXIV, what race would you choose and why?

Yoshida: If I could be any race but stay as myself in the real world, it would have to be Hyur. I just like the idea of doing my best as an ordinary citizen, although as a player using a character...I would pick Lalafell. (laughs) They're hard to target in PvP and have tons of charm, too. (laughs)

Upcoming content that you're working on that you're most excited for players to see/play?

Yoshida: At the moment? Instanced Raids. After 1.19 comes out, I'd have to say Materia crafting and the Ifrit battle!


The instanced raids look pretty awesome. I'm a noob when it comes to other MMOs, so I don't know if they have cut-scenes or not, but from what I saw in the trailer on Monday, if they plan on releasing more content like that, I'm interested in doing more of these kind of raids.

What's the hottest debate going on amongst the development team right now? (that you can tell us about!)

Yoshida: That would be our new 'conductor' plan. The point of our discussions is to consider fundamental revisions such as how characters access each part of the game content and how they develop after they're created, the level they need to reach to obtain mounts, etc. We're also planning the mount system based on this idea so I suppose this 'conductor' approach is our current hottest topic.

It seems they're proceeding with doing fundamental revisions of the game. The first team must have not gotten much of anything done with their plans...

Jump. We've pretty much confirmed it is coming. What further details can we wrestle out of you about it?

Yoshida: All I can say is that we are not emphasizing jumping with the jump key as a means to cover vast distances on the map or an element that must be used during battle strategies... Maybe it's easiest to say it will just be like the jump you generally see in MMO's.

I'm worried about this, personally. Well, at least I was worried. I have played free MMOs in the past that have the jump key, and it was a broken feature where everyone would just spam it in order to jump wide distances which made it farther than running.

Can you run us through the typical creation of a new piece of armor/weapon, etc.? Where does it start, then who does it go to, and where does it end up. Basically from start to finish.

Yoshida: The process of commissioning new equipment/weapons is largely split in two. The first is 'what's required from a game design point of view', e.g. it goes without saying an ultimate weapon players can only get when reaching the maximum level for a certain job should look unique. The other side entails 'equipment in the form of a reward' for 'content' that players must aim to clear. For both cases, a full time Item Team was established and they are accepting offers from the whole project. As there are so many unique designs that are essential to game planning, the production costs really add up. We then proceed with commissioning reward-based equipment after we decide whether it should be made with existing adjustments + parameters built-in or by redesigning the look. The character design team are the ones who get the actual request. Akihiko Yoshida's team creates the artwork used for character modelling and then modelling work starts based on this. Work proceeds to sculpting and when it's ready, it takes about 6 months to create one full set of equipment that maintains FFXIV's high standards of graphics. We can't get a good supply of these items ready if we don't establish a long-term plan for creating them. This is the most important part. Finally, the staff responsible for each content adds the items to the in-game item database and we're done!
Wow, yeah. That sounds about right. When working in a team, it always takes a lot of work to get from start to finish and coordinating it all together. I can see why job designs and job system we were teased with months ago are just coming into fruition.


How about the same as the above, but for quests/missions?

Yoshida: Just like creating items, there are also two processes for quests and scenarios. The flow is different for quests that form the basis of the game. The series of scenarios and quests that we call main quests are designed to be directly related to the plot. The person in charge of the scenario scripts the plot, and after I check and make further adjustment requests, this step repeats itself. The content staff then commission what quests are needed for the patch update and the World Settings Team also provide their ideas. Everything is mapped out and work on the script begins once I decide what order to prioritize the work. In the meantime, the Scenario/World Settings Teams get the text ready for what will become the actual script and the Quest Team continues to implement it. Once the text is done, the Localization teams handle the translation in tandem with the work flow and the content is released after tests and debugging on actual equipment. The workload progresses mainly as 'per-diem management'. Incidentally, we're currently getting planning and plot details organized for patch 1.19!

Have we decided on "Materia" being the final name for the upcoming system?

Yoshida: While not 100% definite, we're probably going to go with Materia crafting.

Personally, I hope it wasn't called that. Final Fantasy VII was a revolutionary RPG, but still...

What in-game related feature/item do you wish you could use in the real world?

Yoshida: Definitely teleportation. Commuting to work is such a waste of time...


What's the latest longest stretch you've been in the office while finishing a deadline, or before a major milestone?

Yoshida: If we're talking about FFXIV, then 22 hours straight. I can get by on 2 hours sleep, but if I don't sleep in a bed I'm exhausted the next day. By the way, I sleep 2-3.5 hours on average - it's been like that since taking this job. (laughs) If we're talking about since I started working in the games industry, then I once had a 96 hour marathon. At that time, I didn't sleep a wink for 96 hours. (loud laugh)

This is what I find most inspiring. And how can he go by with that much sleep!? I only get 4-5 hours myself, and I still find myself very tired and not looking like myself.



_


French/German Q and A:

Can you explain a typical day for the FFXIV dev. team?

Yoshida: The dev. team is made up of various teams such as Core Members, Scenario, Quest, World Settings, In-game Economy, Battle, Grand Companies, The Lodestone, User Interface, Tool, Character, Backgrounds, Art, Animation and so on. The day varies depending on the person.

As an example, I come in to work at 10:00 a.m. The day starts off with morning meetings regarding operation and new tasks. From there on, various meetings are scheduled all the way up until 9:00 p.m. I check the game specifications, plot, design, etc. Then I reply to emails (around 230 per day) and then, get back to working on game specification if necessary. During work, I check forums and post various comments, so I usually leave office at around 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. This has been going on for past 6 months... (laughs)

What type of games do you like?

Yoshida: I like various kinds of games including RPGs, action, FPS and fighting games. I like the Fallout series, Red Dead Redemption and the Assassin's Creed series, as well. I often play Street Fighter IV during my break. I really love MMOs and some of the online games that I still regularly play are Diablo, Diablo II, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft. I believe DAoC is what I played the longest, playing it for nearly 6 years. Right now, I am interested in checking out Rift.

What is your favorite MMO?

Yoshida: Oops! I accidentally just answered this! I still cannot forget the excitement of realm vs. realm in Dark Age of Camelot. In Ultima Online, I was a major PK (player killer) player. And for now, I am quite interested in Rift!

Do you prefer console or PC gaming?

Yoshida: I spend quite a time in online games, so I believe the total hours I have spent on each are about equal. If it's entertaining, it doesn't matter whether it's on a console or PC.

Do you play FFXIV as a personal player or only for testing/work purposes?

Yoshida: Since my private hours are close to null, I can only play it while I'm in the office. But on my free time, I wander around Eorzea so some players may have walked right passed my character. (laughs) If things calm down a bit more, I'm thinking about playing from home. Of course, my identity will have to remain hush-hush!

If yes, what race is your character?

Yoshida: Oh, I do have my own character! A Lalafell!

Tell us, just how much do you like Lalafells?

Yoshida: I really love them! They are so adorable, and surely anyone would simply die being around that much cuteness! Also what I like about them is that once the PvP is implemented, they are hard to target and can easily hide from others! (laughs maniacally)

Due to all of the conferences and meetings abroad, are you less afraid of taking the plane now?

Yoshida: Actually, things haven't changed at all... I have been a frequent flyer way before I became the Producer/Director of FFXIV and flew around 30 times a year. However, I still can't overcome my fear of flying. I usually wear shades while I'm on board but even with that the cabin attendant will often ask me "Sir, are you alright?" so guess I'm still not used to it...

Any plans for Mog Houses?

Yoshida: Not sure if it will be a Mog House, but a private space and housing are in our plans for the future. We are planning to work on it along with a major revamp of the map.

Another mentioning of the map revamp. And confirmation of plans for private housing. And he's right, Mog Houses wouldn't make sense in FFXIV context given moogles role in the storyline.

Will male Miqo’te and female Roegadyn be available with the PS3 release?

Yoshida: That’s the plan!

When will more means of transportation made available?

Yoshida: We are planning to implement both airships and chocobos in patch 1.19. I believe I'll be able to provide more details in August!

So it seems 1.19 will come late-August or early-September. No arguments here. Almost means I got a free year of playing. How about that?

Do you still manage to get enough rest despite all the long hours you put in?

Yoshida: Well, not really… Though I'm a light sleeper, I’m able to get rest when I can, so I'm doing fine. Thank you for your concern! ^^

Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate, what does the dev. team prefer?

Yoshida: Everyone has their own favorite so it's hard to say but I believe the favorite would be coffee. Personally, I sometimes feel that 1/3 of my blood is made out of caffeine… (laughs)

How many sugars do you put in your coffee?

Yoshida: No sugar for me, as I like my coffee black. But around 7:00pm, I start to get a sugar craving. At times like that, I add about two spoonfuls of sugar.

Are you planning to make cities more “lively”?

Yoshida: Yes, we are planning to work on this as part of the revamping of the map!

What are your work hours? Do you usually get to go home on time?

Yoshida: Generally, everyone starts their shift at 10am. However, in my case, I have a fairly chaotic schedule. There may be days where I would to attend a meeting at 9 am, skip lunch and continue to attend meetings, while also performing various checks. Due to my chaotic schedule, I'm rarely at my desk. From 9pm to 11pm, I read and reply to emails (around 230 emails per day). From 11pm, I create documents and hammer out designs while checking the forums. I leave the office at about 2-3am. I do some stretches, read a book and watch some videos at home. So, it will be after 4am when I go to bed. Then I wake up around 7-8am.

Tell us more about your daily life. For example, what is the work environment like? Is it more of a relaxed environment or a serious environment?

Yoshida: The office is much more lively and relaxed compared to what it was before. Since I am a heavy smoker, I do make frequent appearances at the designated smoking area. Everyone at the office gets along with each other.

What's the most exciting thing you have experienced while developing FFXIV?

Yoshida: Hmm, that's a tough question to answer. I think it may be chocobos as we are currently working on the specifications. (laughs) Since a lot of effort has been made for their implementation, I feel a major sense of accomplishment regarding it. Although it's been taking quite a long time, please be patient and look forward to it!

What's the worst thing you have experienced while developing FFXIV?

Yoshida: Hmm, I would have to say when players get angry at me in the forums… Pointing out mistakes and lack of information is one thing. However, it gets to me (along with the rest of the team) when the players start bashing my personality ^^; Please don't be too hard on us!

What do you do in your spare time?

Yoshida: I play FFXIV, watch movies or play basketball. Sadly… stress does build up as I hardly ever have any spare time these days! (laughs)

Do you play FFXIV on your spare time?

Yoshida: Even when I don't necessarily have the time, I play FFXIV.

How many hours do you work a day?

Yoshida: I would prefer not to disclose this to the public, but I generally work 14 to 16 hours a day.As commuting takes one and a half hours for both ways, I don't have much time to sleep. (laughs)

Will you continue to monitor the Q&A threads on the forums?

Yoshida: I will continue to check the forums and the reports from community reps each and every day. So, please keep posting your comments!

Are there any plans to implement a housing system for players and linkshells?

Yoshida: Yes, as it's on the plan, it will surely be implemented even if it takes time. It will be implemented gradually with several phases. Please be patient until it's unveiled!

Are there any plans to implement chocobos and/or airships?

Yoshida: Both of them are planned to be implemented in patch 1.19. Cheer the dev. team on so that it will be ready by 1.19! ^^

If there are plans to implement chocobos and/or airships, will players be required to complete a quest? For example, completing a quest to obtain an airship pass.

Yoshida: Yes, that's the plan! Airships will also require a fee after the completion of the quest.

Are there any plans to implement a system where players are able to inscribe their names into the crafted items?

Yoshida: This is currently being discussed; however, we must wait for the server-related adjustments before we can get our hands on it. I'm very sorry for the time it's taking for us to address these types of requests.

You previously mentioned that you guys are working on redesigning the areas. Are you more focused on changing the geography or the design?

Yoshida: Changes will be made to both the geography and the design of the areas. Some areas will be changed rather drastically, so I'd love if you all could discuss how you think the changes will be made while you're all looking forward to it.

I'm really hoping this would be applied to the Black Shroud and parts of Thanalan. Some of it is just so repetitive that it's montonous.

Currently, there are only 3 class quests per class. Are there any plans to add more?

Yoshida: There is a plan to add more but there are many other things to take care of first, so I assume it will be after the job system is implemented.

Are there any plans to implement new monsters?

Yoshida: Yes, new monsters will be added along with the implementation of the beastmen strongholds. Other than that, we are considering adding more monsters that are FINAL FANTASY-like. Due to the high quality nature that we strive for in FINAL FANTASY XIV, it's going to take some time until they are implemented but I can't wait 'til you're all able to tackle them!

_

You know, it kind of angers me when I read on the forums and people troll on about how the development team is all talk and no do, so to say. People will go great lengths (and this doesn't just apply in games) to criticize and then not realize they can do it any better themselves. Game development is a VERY slow process, and I wished the original XIV development team took their time with the game, but this team is fixing and improving and not making the same mistake twice. I strongly believe that if a game is fun, people will play and word of mouth will spread. While Final Fantasy XIV is not quite there yet (it needs 6 months to one year more in my opinion), it seems that the development team is wanting to get it right this time, and rightfully so. PS3 release is their final chance at getting a stable userbase and a change in opinion about the game.

Anyway, I say keep it up Yoshi-P and team, and get some sleep!






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