Naoki Yoshida on Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, tackling bots and bringing the MMO to PS5
Later this year will see the release of Endwalker, the final expansion for Final Fantasy XIV in the Hydaelyn and Zodiark storyline. We caught up with the game’s director, Naoki Yoshida, following the long-awaited announcement.
Beginning its life as a failed project, Final Fantasy XIV sprung back to life with the launch of A Realm Reborn in 2013, and is now one of the most beloved games on the planet. Its journey is rather extraordinary, so knowing its current slate of characters will end their journey this year is a bittersweet affair for millions of players.
Read on as we talk to Yoshida-san about the emotional impact of making the game during a global pandemic, bringing the title to PlayStation 5 and some of the other huge changes taking place in the world of Final Fantasy XIV right now.
TR: We have been following the Scions of the Seventh Dawn for almost a decade now, and it will be emotional to see their storyline come to a close in Endwalker. How does the development team feel about saying goodbye to these characters? I imagine being unable to work in an office environment together on such a huge project must be a bit unfortunate, too.
Yoshida: “First off, thank you so much for playing over these 10 years. I hope you’ll continue enjoying what’s on offer. Now, when it comes to what sort of a conclusion awaits the Scions of the Seventh Dawn in Endwalker and whether there will be farewells to be made, I can’t say anything just yet.
Of course, even though we’ve decided every detail of how the story will finish, players will surely respond differently in terms of what they’re left feeling. I’ll leave things unsaid for now because if we divulge how we personally feel, it’ll influence the player’s emotions unnecessarily. (laughs) You’ll have to experience the ending first-hand!
As for developing from home, it goes without saying that there is an element of feeling lonesome. Despite that, we do use virtual conferencing software to make sure we’re constantly on the same page and even hold drinking sessions over Zoom. Humans have a strong aptitude for getting used to things and adapting to their environment. As such, I’d like to overcome our difficult situation by combining our efforts within the team.”
TR: For Endwalker, are there plans to have 2 or 3 Ultimates across the expansion in its entirety. Following the announcement of no further Ultimates in Shadowbringers, are some of these ideas being saved for the final expansion in the Scion storyline?
Yoshida: “At this present point in time I’d like to have 2 Ultimates but I’m unable to provide a clear answer as we’re currently reviewing the schedule for the 6.X series. It’s exactly as I mentioned previously but I really wanted to release the Dragonsong War (Ultimate) in Patch 5.55. Similar to the ones we’ve done in the past, the Ultimate trials don’t really exert much impact on the expansion or characters because there is a strong emphasis placed on a ‘what if…’ scenario.
As for why we made this decision for the postponement, as I mentioned in the PLL, it was a measure introduced in order to limit any direct impact as much as possible on Endwalker’s release schedule from the delays that we had experienced due to COVID-19. I am deeply sorry to all those players who were looking forward to this but it’d be appreciated if you can kindly allow us to prioritise Endwalker, which I’m sure our complete fanbase are eager to experience.”
TR: Shadowbringers saw the introduction of two new races, are there any plans in Endwalker to introduce anything new or even additional gender options for the Warrior of the Light and the introduction of armour which isn’t locked to certain gender/races?
Yoshida: “That’s another very direct question you have here… regarding the addition of new playable races, I have explained previously but the development cost is so monstrous that it is probably hard for players to imagine. As such, please understand that there’s no easy way to answer your question with a ‘yes’. As for the remaining elements that you’ll find in Endwalker, be sure to look out for announcements at the Fan Festival in May.”
TR: The PS5 version announcement was a lovely surprise, and it was great seeing it unveiled in such a fun way during the showcase. We have heard it will support 4K resolution and improved performance/loading times, but will it also use the DualSense controller in some interesting ways? In addition, is there any news on the Xbox version that was briefly discussed before the pandemic hit?
Yoshida: “Thank you for your interest in the PlayStation 5 version. We are indeed incorporating detailed adjustments so that you’ll be able to make use of the DualSense controller’s functionality such as when riding your mount and engaging in battles. It would be great to receive feedback once everyone gets started on the open beta! (That is of course, if you can get your hands on a PS5 console…)
Now when it comes to the Xbox version, there’s unfortunately not much I can say presently but just that we cannot work on all the steps simultaneously and need to follow the order for proceeding with these things. Since we’re currently involved in the development of Endwalker and preparing the PS5 version to follow on from the title’s service on PS4, it’d be appreciated if we can return to touch upon the Xbox version once things have settled!”
TR: What are your thoughts on the bots being used by some players in Restoration content, and will steps be taken to address them in the future such as bans or updates to the game that prevent their implementation, especially with the Saint ranking etc?
“Basically we’ve been monitoring the usage of bots in the Ishgardian Restoration and there have been some unfortunate cases in which we’ve had to ban players and remove them from the rankings having discovered their involvement in botting. In addition to our systematic monitoring, we’ve taken great care to ensure that false accusations don’t occur by having invisible GMs participate in the surveillance.
So, I’d like you to keep in mind that we already have a system in place to address the usage of bots. Unfortunately any details I provide here would serve as a hint for those creating botting tools but again, don’t forget that we’re constantly working to stop the bots!”