Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Group Interview – No Netcode Changes, Microsoft Holding Up Crossplay

Jun 26

Footnoting the end of our media briefing for Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers in San Francisco last month, we had the pleasure of taking part in a round-table interview along with representatives of Massively OP and IGN Latin America. During our 45-minute chat, we touched upon a number of topics related to the upcoming Shadowbringers expansion and fielded a number of questions taking from the FFXIV Reddit community. The responses below have been based upon translations with Naoki Yoshida and have been cleaned up for clarity.

Massively OP: A lot of the English language promotional material is a lot about Stormbringers being about becoming the villain. The language other narrative is about becoming the warrior of darkness which is not the same as becoming the villain. Is this a shorthand in the marketing or if we are going down a darker path in the storyline for Stormbringers?

It is correct that the different regions have a different marketing strategy. In Japan to say “darkness” portrays a straighter message compared to “villain”. On the other hand, in other regions, the wording and concept are a little too vague and we instructed [the marketing team] to change the key message. That is probably why the promotional material is mixed.

Related The Sinking City Interview On DLC Plans, Switch Version, Google Stadia, Next Gen

Wccftech: Following up with the light/dark in the truer sense [of] night/day cycles, will we see some of the older world events or fates being transformed due to time cycles?

No, that will not be affected. The basis is that the world is veiled in light but as time is not still. There may not be complete total darkness visually but it will turn to night and day because the sun is moving. So there is no impact due to the day/night. The fates in the 5.0 version, have additional stories that cannot be covered by the main and sub-quests alone that are unique to that region. Lore from that region or stories of past kingdoms, these have been included in order to get a deeper understanding of that region in play. Hopefully, this is attractive to the players who like lore.

IGN Latin America: As a new world which is flooded with light [and almost destroyed], [we are] there to recover the darkness that has been lost. Would you say that the players would be actually making changes to the world as they play or as the system goes by and the story advances?

Yes, you will be able to [see the darkness you bring back in some of the areas]. We call this style “region capturing” [clear the objectives in an area]. The adventure begins in an area called “Lakeland”, it doesn’t matter where you start but if a certain player goes through a certain situation in a certain location, the sky in that area breaks and the night returns. So when you walk around that area, you experience the normal time changes from day to night. You will be able to tell the difference. The world that has been filled with light is being re-filled again with darkness. [The sky is being painted over with light, but as the player goes through, the sky is broken and is colored back in with darkness.] However, if a player has not regained the night in that area, it would look as if it were light/day. But if you had cleared the area, it would be night. Even in one public area, depending on your progress of quests, the sky you see is different. This is a new concept that was brought in [with Stormbringers]. The world will look different based on the player’s progress.

Massively OP: Discussing the jobs that we saw in the demo, the machinist has had a massive amount of rework. It looks a lot more fun to play. What led to, as mentioned it is almost an entirely different job, to the basic remake of the machinist? Did it take more time and resources to make an entirely new machinist?  

The biggest factor even when we were playing ourselves is that being a machinist is not fun, this job is boring. That was most of the feedback we had. That is the biggest reason for the rework. Specifically speaking, the heat gauge, should you collect a lot of resources or should you have minimal? Even that was difficult/tricky to understand [the mechanics]. The machinist has very complex mechanics but when you understand those mechanics to play, [there was a lot of frustration in utilizing the proper mechanics which was very stressful] there is a lot of stress on the player which leads to a job that is not fun. This had to be drastically changed. We decided that for all jobs, we should standardize the gauge so that resources should be collected. That was a major turning point, so we had to change the mechanics. Another major factor, since the machinist requires you to use a gun. There were many designs on how to use a gun in a stylish manner. But because you’re a machinist, your main weapon may be a gun, but that’s not the only thing. You use many different weapons. Maybe it would be better to change the design to show that the machinist uses various different machinery. Maybe if we went back to the basics to incorporate better ideas, a job that also looks more interesting. So that’s why we decided to redo the design from square one. As a result, it is almost an entirely new job. But I do think now the job of a machinist is more fun.

Wccftech: While not nearly as drastic as the machinist, during the presentation, it was mentioned that Monk would gain the ability to stack the Greased Lightning ability up to 4x. One of the reasons it wasn’t in Stormblood was because of the player’s skill but also the needed speed. In order to accommodate for the increase in skill and abilities, will there be any changes in the net [server] code in the future?

No [No adjustments needed for the net code]. We are more concerned about the differences in the player’s abilities. If there is someone with extremely fast reaction/speed and a player that cannot play the character because it’s too fast [someone who is good at maneuvering vs someone who is not as well versed in these actions]. We were concerned that it will create a major gap between the DPS in the 4.0 version. But in the end, even if we had gone around and created a job tries to prevent any disparities between players, that may, in turn, create a boring game. Even if the intent is understood, it takes the fun out of the game. It just creates stress for everyone; the players and the developers. If that’s the case, then we should create/provide the players with as much as content as they wish. That has been reflected with (Final Fantasy XIV) Stormblood in total. Not to make a game based off of the feedback but to think about what the players want and come as close to satisfying that request and bringing it to the game as a fun experience.

But of course, just because we included the Greased Lightning that the players wanted does not mean we no longer care about the gap between players.  By including the Greased Lightning x4, when your Greased Lightning reaches zero, that would give you the biggest DPS. So we wanted to make sure that you would constantly have lightning even if the boss escapes and ran away. That way players would be able to maintain the Greased Lightning and keep fighting [when the boss comes back to the field]. That was the design we made [as requested]. [We make sure that it is feasible and if there are any other actions needed to supplement it and to take that into consideration]. We did not ignore our previous concerns [in previous versions] when incorporating a method to maintain the Greased LIghtning but I believe this is one of those improvements that the players wanted which we were able to meet the demands.

Related Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Hands-on Preview and Gameplay Footage

IGN Latin America: As a recently new player to [Final Fantasy XIV], the new changes to the jobs and roles that were announced today for Shadowbringers have actually made the game more simplified and easier to understand and get into with the different classes. Do you worry that these changes [and additional content] will alter the balance? Or the experience from the other content from the game?

No. Everything was revised and reviewed for Shadowbringers. It was a lot of work. We checked everything so it will be alright. [There were some role actions that were removed/purged] In ‘Ultimate’/people using ultimatum switch [tank swap during battles] may have to change their playstyle. That might be all. It’s not like they can’t clear the quest. But there may be several instances where they may have to change their methods because role actions were removed.

Massively OP: Obviously one of the big changes we have seen in Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is the two main pet jobs, Summoner and Scholar have also undergone some significant renovations as well. Summoner, in particular, has a VERY different pet management system. Now you will be swapping your pets much more often. Was this for gameplay balance, or does this tie into what players have been requesting for a while with more EGI glamour?

For the Summoner, the job had become too complicated. Playing the Summoner just gave the player to much stress such as preparing your ether flow before going into battle. The job was very difficult to play with. By changing the structure with the pets, with Shadowbringers we wanted to take this opportunity to make a proper Summoner job. EGI glamour is not really related. When you summoned Bahamut and the time you couldn’t do anything [downtime], well now you can call the Phoenix. I think it’s closer to a true Summoner.

Wccftech: One of the other glamour people have been asking for is Shiva EGI. But going back to the glamour question, we do see a lot of other classes like the Disciple of the Land/Hand having unique armor sets, especially the artifact armor set for the alchemist [which is a nice design]. Would there be possibilities to glamour those disciple armor sets for the battle roles?

Right now we do not have any plans to do that. In the Chinese versions, there are some which can change armor sets which could be glamoured for a battle class but it wasn’t very popular. It is something that is on our minds [difficult decision to make]. It doesn’t seem like a bad idea but it will depend on the demand. It will depend on the voice of the community.

IGN Latin America: On the trust system, it is a really good system for those who enjoy playing solo. Do you think it will ever come to the old content of the game? Even if it becomes more popular than you expect? Or do you worry that not many people will use it?

On the last question, that is a no [On the question of if people will use the trust system], there is no concern for it. [It is anticipated that] I think a large number of people will utilize it [want to try it out]. This time [with the hands-on demo], since you had to play a short time in one dungeon without knowing any story, I think your impressions are going to be mostly on the system side. But one of the main differences between the old FF14 and Shadowbringers, the members you have traveled to the dungeon with can now raid that dungeon when it opens with the player. With the story getting more involved and complex, you will want to bring the other members along. This time Fates has all bosses and all characters all situations have a specific AI which we spent an enormous budget on. That includes an element that will make players want to switch the characters to take with them into the dungeon [retry the dungeon with different characters].

I believe many players, especially during sub-jobs leveling, will utilize this function quite frequently in Shadowbringers. So I do not feel this function will remain unused. We spent a massive amount of money on this development. If we were to implement this function into older dungeons, that would be a very tough decision. We may redo 3 dungeons and then throw in the towel. We will need to be very prepared [resolved] if we were to implement this feature in the older dungeons. But I do want players to play all the dungeons with the Fate system and give feedback on what kind of changes to make going forward [our forums are open for communication].

Massively OP: You mentioned that there are going to be 6 new areas in Shadowbringers. But we only know about 5 of them. Only 5 of them have been revealed. You’re obviously not going to tell us what the 6th one is but could you give us a compass direction?

Direction?? It’s not your cardinal direction. Finished!

Wccftech: Recently there was the launch of “Dauntless” from Phoenix Labs with PC, PS4, and Xbox One crossplay. Have there been any updates for Final Fantasy XIV [to support] crossplay for Shadowbringers or in the future?

Two months ago, I discussed with Phil Spencer. I have explained this before but we are prepared to do crossplay at any time. To play an MMORPG, there are 2 regulations for Microsoft which stand in the way of making crossplay feasible. Unless these regulations are rejected, there is no meaning. Simply speaking, the matching base FPS style game has no issues with those 2 regulations. If we had made an FPS game [had FF14 been one of those games], then we would already have crossplay. One of the regulations is that players with different platforms cannot chat with each other in-game. Then how do you play an MMO? The other regulation is you cannot make a community with plays on a different platform. You can’t form a guild, you can’t enter into a link shell, [and] no free company. So I would like to have Microsoft change their regulations. And this is not limited to Microsoft but there are many players who only have crossplay experience with FPS games, especially with the business scene. For an MMORPG, a game which full communication is possible, regulations need to be created considering how massive an MMORPG is to have true crossplay. Final Fantasy XIV will not release crossplay without making this clear because that would only hurt the players. I think we can only try to continue having our discussions with those parties [to communicate and relay what is needed].

Wccftech: As a comment, there is precedence to this in Final Fantasy XI. We did see PS2, Xbox 360, and PC cooperate. Hopefully in the future, Microsoft, Sony, Google, and whichever other platforms come together for Final Fantasy XIV.

I hope the same thing. I have been having that same discussion with all of the other platforms. I have been discussing how true crossplay is not understood [and try to convince them].

IGN Latin America: A lot of new features in Shadowbringers are massive and honestly a little overwhelming. Which do you think is your favorite in the game and in the new expansion? Do you think you’ll ever take a vacation?

This time, there are so many features in Shadowbringers. But everything has been prepared for the main game experience. Especially the main core storyline for FF14 will unfold at an extremely fast pace. I would like for players to focus on the main story. The turn of events is so fast you might think this is the end. And no vacation, because at the end of August, I have to start designing the next expansion. 

Thank you very much for your time.

Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers is out July 2nd on PC and PlayStation 4.