Final Fantasy 14’s next expansion, Shadowbringers, is just around the corner. We’ve covered the expansion extensively recently but there’s always room for more.
While in Japan for the Tokyo Fan Festival and London for the Shadowbringers preview event, I had the chance to chat with Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director of Final Fantasy 14.
We talked about the expansion as a whole, a potential Australian data centre, the new Trust system and a potential Final Fantasy VIII crossover.
However, when talking with Yoshida, something that consistently stood out, at least to me, was his reverence for both the series and franchise overall and for the fans. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, Yoshida’s vision for Final Fantasy 14 is a game for everyone and a place that welcomes every player.
For All Players
According to Yoshida, when the team started work on A Realm Reborn, a core goal was “to make it a game that treats all genders, races and values with fairness.” When I asked what he thought about people who worried about representation in the game he said that by catering to everyone regardless of their differences means “I think there is no need to worry. I would love it if everyone can enjoy the gameplay in their own way!”
I was interested in the influence Japan and Japanese culture had had on the development of Final Fantasy 14. Particularly the concept of Honne and Tatemae. A basic description of the idea is that Honne is one’s true, inner-feelings that are kept hidden while Tatemae is the public facing image one projects.
One’s Honne remains private and is likely only shared with close friends and family. In Final Fantasy 14, players form strong bonds and relationships with their Free Companies and people they play with. They can even go so far as to get married in the game.
For a culture like Japan’s, where the true self is hidden from the public, perhaps Final Fantasy 14 is a way for people to express themselves digitally. According to Yoshida “the dev team — myself included — is mostly made up of Japanese developers who were raised in Japan.”
“Yes, I do think that there is a large influence from our native country as part of the process of growing up there,” he added. While the concept of Honne and Tatemae has a name in Japan, it’s something that, I’m sure, many people can relate to.
The ability to role-play and express yourself in Final Fantasy 14 is a testament to how it caters to all players. As are the 16 million people who play it.
Yoshida beleives that the reason Final Fantasy 14 has been so successful is, in-part, due to this idea that no matter who you are and where you come from, there’s something for you.
“We’ve been working very hard over a long period of time making sure that we’re giving it our all and putting in the efforts to continue these elements,” he said. “Of course our player base has become so strong and they’re very passionate about the game. I believe that there is a really good relationship between the development team and the players.”
Gameplay for Everyone
The idea that Final Fantasy 14 features something for everyone extends to the gameplay too. While players can be their true selves in the game, role-play as whoever they want or create a combination of the two, having gameplay options helps players feel at home.
It’s been six years since we relaunched as A Realm Reborn, and of course, we feel that the reason why so many players continue to pour into our game is that we have a wide variety of the types of people that play and what they value.
Certain people like the performance action of our bard. It’s not to say we have hundreds of thousands of people who just utilise that performance action, but at the same time, they are there.
Or they’re people who are very much into housing and they love to furnish their houses and they’re very, very passionate about that.
Or there are certain people who love taking screenshots of their game, group pose, things like that. I think we were able to get to a point where there are so many different types of people joining our game and we’re able to reach that environment and have that playground available for them.
I wanted to know what Yoshida considered to be the Final Fantasy ‘feel’ and how that is translated into Final Fantasy 14. He told me that because the original games were “birthed out of Japan” and eventually released in the West there are a number of players and fans very familiar with the jobs and roles in the game.
An example he gives me is the White Mage. “When people who are familiar with Final Fantasy think about the White Mage, there is an iconic image that they would have in their minds,” he explains. With each expansion, Artefact Gear and variations, Yoshida’s direction to the designers is always to ensure that fans can recognise the jobs/roles.
” Black Mage is Black Mage, White Mage is White Mage, Samurai is Samurai etc. As long as the designers keep that in mind just for that Artefact gear, we have several other variations of other gear that they can design for with each job,” he said.
With that reverance to the source material, Final Fantasy 14 not only caters to all players it also makes them feel at home as the designs and features remain familiar. Someone who’s a fan of the series but has never played Final Fantasy 14 should be able to jump in and recognise elements from the series.
If they can, Yoshida and his designers have succeeded and the player will feel welcomed and excited to continue playing.
When it comes to Shadowbringers, Yoshida’s “kick-off point” was the notion that “Light is good, darkness is bad.” While this relates to the themes of the game, travelling to a new location and fighting new enemies, it can also extend to the overall goal of the team from the outset;
To make it a game that treats all genders, races and values with a fairness
Light and Dark are two sides of the same coin and in Final Fantasy 14 without a balance and fairness, things begin to unravel. The story of Shadowbringers is not yet known, though Yoshida told me that he thinks the story is the biggest attraction for the expansion.
” A story is about to unfold that really cuts into the core of FFXIV,” he told me. What this will mean for players isn’t clear, though it’s certainly exciting. Whatever happens, you can be sure that Final Fantasy 14 will be welcoming of all players.
Leo Stevenson travelled to Tokyo, Japan and London, England as a guest of Square Enix.