In the industry, the development story of Final Fantasy XIV has reached an almost mythical status. After a rough launch, the second massively multiplayer online RPG in the Final Fantasy franchise was in need of a pickup. Producer and director Naoki Yoshida, an avid MMO gamer himself, was put in charge of this Herculean endeavor, a process that saw him and his team rebuild the game from scratch and relaunch it under a fitting new name, Final Fantasy XIV: A Kingdom Reborn.
The all-new title screen of Endwalker, a show that will welcome players from the 19e November.
As a 1.0 player myself, I vividly remember Yoshida-san’s first introduction to the community. Realizing the awkwardness of the situation, the newly appointed producer chose to speak directly to the players. He introduced himself and his preliminary plans in what he called a “Letter from the Producer” – a written account to the community that set the tone for a two-way communication that continues to this day, initially measuring players. for direct feedback in a handful of small, targeted polls, gauging expectations and wishes for the game they were playing despite the uproar.
It wasn’t until months later that the idea for A Realm Reborn was officially presented. Final Fantasy XIV would be “nuked” to be reborn again – both figuratively and literally. In 2012, after a climactic cinematic and months of darker and darker in-game updates, the servers shut down. A few months later, A Realm Reborn would introduce a whole new world to explore.
The last days of Final Fantasy XIV before its closure and possible 2.0 rebirth. The players had no idea of the terrors that slept in Dalamud, the threatening red moon …
Now, eight years after the release of A Realm Reborn and on the eve of its fourth and largest expansion to date, Final Fantasy XIV boasts over 24 million players and has become the highest grossing title in the Final Fantasy franchise, a feat largely attributed to the hard work of Naoki Yoshida and his team.
As part of Square Enix’s recent media tour, I got to play a preview version of their upcoming expansion, Endwalker. Bursting with content, this new one-update monster will raise the max character level to 90 and introduce two new playable jobs, a male variant of the fan-favorite Viera race, and a host of raids, dungeons, and games. other new content at MMO. By teaming up with fellow interviewer Jade King of TheGamer, I was able to get Naoki Yoshida’s thoughts on the current state of the game, Endwalker’s development, and his own journey to this new release.
Now with the additional title of director, Yoshida still regularly hosts his Letters from the Producer, now presented during livestreams in the continuity of this ten-year-old tradition. The last opus, the 66e to be exact, detailed some of the exciting gameplay features that will be introduced in the upcoming Endwalker expansion, furthering the excitement of gamers around the world.
The unique relationship Yoshida has had with the gaming community since she began her involvement has become a key part of what makes Final Fantasy XIV special to its players. “From our point of view in Team XIV, we don’t see the players as just players,” he goes on to explain, “we really see them as our friends and part of our family, we are in this game. together . “
Perhaps more importantly, Endwalker will close a chapter in a story arc that dates back to 2010, before the game relaunches. Hydaelyn and Zodiark, two eternally at odds of the realm, are prophesied to resolve their conflict in a decisive end to the secular saga. But it will be necessary to wait for the 23rd November to find out more …
Left – The Elders control four floating Nouliths to heal their allies, Right – Reaper’s weapon of choice is a Two-Handed Scythe.
In the preview, I tested the two brand new jobs: the Sage mech-inspired barrier healer and the insanely fast and powerful DPS Reaper. Both felt amazing to play, with Reaper providing a satisfying flow of attack phases that culminate in a swift, stripped-out blast of powerful combos, and Sage exhibiting complex, ear-pleasing healing abilities that seem ready to deal with vague. after wave of raid damage arrivals. The design of both of these jobs and the overall ability overhaul seem to portend some interesting developments for the game’s ever-hungry raid scene.
The three new areas I was able to explore were an absolute dream for any Final Fantasy fan, with the magnificent Greek-inspired Old Sharlayan, the culturally dense and colorful lands of Thavnair, and their complete antithesis, the monochrome and cadaverous lands. of Garlemald, three well-established areas that XIV players have wanted to explore for eons.
Above – the vivid patterns of Thavnair, below – the colorless ruins of Garlemald.
“Our approach to designing new areas is a little different for each set,” Yoshida explains, before adding, “In the case of Stormblood, for example, we had Ala Mhigo as a location. It was a place that was already established in the tradition of Final Fantasy XIV, so for a place like this, we didn’t really have a lot of freedom and leeway to incorporate our own ideas. What I did instead was think about the remaining areas that have not yet been shown to the player.
“Endwalker is going to mark the end of the Hydaelyn and Zodiac saga, so for this expansion we’ve focused on the details we have in the current story arc. Deciding on those aspects and creating the maps for the new areas go hand in hand. , so in that regard the process with Endwalker was a bit similar to what we did with Stormblood.
Alisaie and Alphinaud Leveilleur, Seventh Dawn Scion twins who have both been central to FFXIV’s ongoing story, return in Endwalker.
Of course, I was only able to play through a selection of the many new environments that will be introduced in Endwalker, some of which remain secret so players can experience them firsthand.
“There are some areas we haven’t announced in Endwalker yet. I don’t intend to announce them until the game is released! I’m really excited that players are discovering these regions themselves and I’m sure they’ll be surprised at what they find.
The construction of the game I played was obviously devoid of any hint of lore, meticulously preserving the storyline surprises Endwalker has in store for its players.
“I think if there’s one thing that really sets Final Fantasy XIV apart from other titles in the genre, it’s that we really aim to make FFXIV a landmark story-based MMO,” says Yoshida. “I think it’s a big differentiator from other MMO titles.”
Reaper’s destructive limit seen from the back
If the most recent FFXIV Shadowbringers expansion is any indication, Endwalker is sure to take players on an exciting journey of remarkable reveals. In fact, Shadowbringers received such critical acclaim that I just had to ask if the team was feeling any pressure with their follow-up.
“My case might be a bit like that of a film director,” Yoshida explains. “When a director works on a new creation, he always tries to develop it to the best of his ability. They always try to make the best story, the best thing that they can.
“I think various players will have their own opinions and preferences. There are perhaps some who liked Heavensward better than Shadowbringers, and others who preferred the journey-centric adventure we had in Stormblood.
“My approach is to always go the extra mile and raise the bar we’ve previously set, striving to create something better with every payout. “
Sage restorative borderline fracture front view
“That said,” he continues, “Endwalker will actually close the Hydaelyn and Zodiac saga, which has continued since the initial launch of XIV and the making of all of our previous expansions. In that regard, we’ve been working towards a huge climax. As a stand-alone extension, the volume [of story] in Endwalker is huge. There really is a lot to do.
“I’d be happy if… after playing Endwalker in its entirety, why not review the previous expansions and replay them?” Then you might be able to appreciate the direction we’ve taken with Endwalker and all the complex things we’ve done with the plot.
That last sentence surely leaves a lot to the imagination, and I’m sure many players are eager to experience the end of this ten-year story on their own… but wait, we have to.
Endwalker launches November 23, with early access starting November 19 for those who pre-order. See you later!
This article is based on the gameplay of a developing version of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, and the content of the final version is subject to change. Interview responses have been edited slightly to improve brevity and fluency. FFXIV 1.0 screenshots kindly provided by fellow meteor survivor and ten-year-old Eorzean friend Llen Coram.