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Final Fantasy XIV, Designing Success and Future Thinking – Naoki Yoshida Interview


Crossovers, Keanu Reeves and Ideas for the Future - More from the Naoki Yoshida Interview

Crossovers - From NieR: Automata to (hopefully) Blizzard and Keanu Reeves

One aspect that has caught the attention of players within Final Fantasy XIV have been crossovers featured within the game. A number make a lot of sense, particularly crossovers with other Final Fantasy titles, despite no core Final Fantasy title taking place in the same world. You've seen small links with all Final Fantasy titles from XI to XV, some considerably larger than others like the Return to Ivalice raids in Stormblood.

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What has been more of a surprise, at least to me, are the links to other titles like Yo-Kai Watch, Monster Hunter: World and the recent collaboration with Yosuke Saito and Yoko Taro of Platinum Games to create the NieR: Automata raids. I asked about the possibility of further collaboration from other Square Enix IP's, with a surprise turn to non-Square Enix IP's.

CW: What I find interesting is your ability to draw on other Square Enix IP's, such as NieR, will you be looking at working with other IP's as well?

NY: We just want to be careful when talking about 'the next crossover partner' because something could be looked at as confirmation. So the reason why we did this crossover is that the developers have a great amount of respect to the partner title or IP's. We can create great quality content by working together with partners and their title.

It's not that we're trying to generate buzz from players or media. Our main focus and basis for a crossover are that we want to work with somebody who can create content together with us. I don't really want to specify just one or two titles, I want to work with as many great developers and creators as possible. I have a couple of ideas, but these are strictly personal ideas and this isn't any confirmation of working with these people or IP's.

CW: Oh, I completely understand that. These are just ideas you have.

NY: So, because I'm a big fan of Blizzard and now World of Warcraft has announced a new expansion with the word Shadow in it, it would be cool to do some kind of crossover. Also, Diablo IV has been announced and Diablo is the first online title I was really immersed in. It would be cool, again, to work with them. Speaking for our sound director, (Masayoshi) Soken, he's a massive fan of Overwatch so he would say he wants to crossover with Overwatch.

Crossovers with titles like World of Warcraft, a natural competitor to Final Fantasy XIV in the MMORPG space, would be incredibly interesting in their own right. Of course, both titles would be set to benefit from such a crossover. Whether we will see such a thing happen, though, is a whole other matter.

What was interesting is, again, the conversation working into how the developers are also the players but then also how many developers from other teams play Final Fantasy XIV, the prominence of Yoshida and how it could potentially lead to future crossovers. One in particular that grabbed my attention, though only a (supremely) cool idea, was the idea of Keanu Reeves featuring within Final Fantasy XIV.

NY: Also, the developers, including myself, are the players as well. When we feel fun with some games, we want to work with them and we believe that we can create something great for the player who will also have fun. It's cool to have this mindset because when you have fun with something, you want to release it and generate something for others to have the same sort of fun.

On the other hand, it can be sad because there are so many FFXIV players in other development teams as well. For example, there are players of FFXIV in the development teams of Anthem and Cyberpunk. At events, people can ask me to play their game and spend some time together. It would be really cool to work with them. So, one example we could say is that we could maybe have Keanu Reeves in Final Fantasy XIV one day.

CW: If you did that, I'd just be stood there looking at and talking to Keanu Reeves all day, thinking "I'm happy with this", huge fan of his [laughs].

NY: [laughs] I'm a big fan of Keanu Reeves too!

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The Future of Final Fantasy XIV - Big Changes and More to Come

Of course, these ideas for potential crossovers are just that, ideas. As awesome as it would be to see Yoshida and the development team working with CD Projekt Red, Blizzard and others, life is never that kind to me and these things are rarely that easy. What is controlled by the development team is specifically the direction that Final Fantasy XIV will take in the future.

CW: So how do you see the future of Final Fantasy XIV and what you will be driving towards?

NY: Now we've expanded more and more, exploring uncharted territory, we do feel like we're reaching the point of truly being a unique MMORPG. We have no intentions of stopping any time soon and want to continue expanding, reaching out further and further.

CW: Right, Let's make this a long one. So, you've mentioned that post-Shadowbringers you have some cool ideas for the future. Do you have anything solid about what the future of Final Fantasy XIV looks like? For example, expanding on dungeons or concerted efforts to a larger degree than in the past.

NY: So there are two big aspects we can talk about at the moment. The first is how the narrative will develop and the second is how game content can expand in the future.

Storyline wise, we are currently nearing the end of the Hydaelyn-Zodiark arc, so we are nearing the climax of the storyline. Our hope is to make a very clean ending to the current arc that the players will enjoy. Of course, this doesn't mean it's the end of Final Fantasy XIV. We may expand for another arc that goes across for several expansions, or we may take one expansion and make a one-off sort of storyline. We haven't reached any conclusion yet, we're still discussing it.

What we don't want to do is keep continuing and resuscitating it just for the sake of continuing it. All we want to do is bring out a great story experience for the players, one with a great conclusion, that's the centre of our thinking.

It's interesting to hear that the current story of Final Fantasy XIV is coming to an end. As said, this doesn't mean the end of the game, it gives the game freedom to expand and explore whole new areas and themes. Going by what the development team has achieved with the game so far, a fresh start that everybody can experience together could be fantastic.

I find it refreshing to hear somebody point out that they know when to end something. All too often the success of one thing will lead to it being dragged out and when the conclusion finally comes, it simply falls flat, having arrived way too late.

NY: On the second point, about the game content, for the ones we've already established - like instances for example - we have no idea to change drastically. The developers have already started to see how they need to work on these, the workflow is established and polished already. Rather than tweaking or changing, it'll be good for us to deliver new areas and content.

Looking at the current status of the game, we think we've got enough amount and variation of content already. We're hoping to change the direction a little bit to more social aspects, we want players to feel like Final Fantasy XIV is their home so they want to come back to the game. To enhance that feeling, we included features like playing instruments in the game or gpose, letting players take great pictures. The direction we want to explore is that kind of aspect and the story that we've talked about.

Do I completely like the move towards making more social aspects? I'm honestly not sure yet. If it comes at the expense of the varied content we've seen in raids, events and more, it would be an issue. Frankly, with the track record of Final Fantasy XIV, Yoshida and the development team behind the game, I can't see this happening. What also makes me think this is from what has been said about Yoshida in the past and the genuine enthusiasm he has for the game and its fans.

While the future of Eorzea is uncertain, particularly as the current story of Final Fantasy XIV comes to an end, we can be safe in the knowledge that Final Fantasy XIV itself will continue strong, with the direction of the game continuing to serve what the fans should keep enjoying and finding fun.