The latest details on the upcoming expansion.
Twinfinite was at PAX East last weekend and we had the opportunity to sit down with FFXIV Director Naoki Yoshida to chat all about the new and improved Diadem, the new jobs, and of course Stormblood. Yoshida has to play his cards close to the chest with still another major patch before Stormblood releases in June, but he still was willing to share some exciting new information about the next expansion. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the full Q&A!
Note: Yoshida is being translated by an interpreter.
Diadem and The Story Leading into Stormblood
Ed McGlone from Twinfinite: Let’s start with the content that just dropped a few days ago. Diadem is back. What improvements and features are you most excited about players enjoying?
Naoki Yoshida: So, first and foremost, the last time we had presented the Diadem content, we didn’t have a very clear set of rules. People were not sure how to go about approaching this content, so there were a lot of people that all kind of did the same thing. Stuck in one place, hunting monsters, and it felt like that kind of dragged on. So it was a big reflection point to look back on. As a piece of content that’s in the FFXIV game, we should have made the rules a lot more clearer.
This time, we’re going to have the content be roughly split into two parts, a front and back part. Of course it’s not going to clearly be delineated with a set time or anything like that, but you can kind of see the beginning part of it. It will kind of guide you, you don’t have to figure it out chatting among yourselves. It will sort of lead you towards whatever loot to obtain for that first half.
After that first half, players can choose to exit the content if they want, or stay behind and go into the latter half where you are more free to do whatever you like in terms of explorations, we have that set up. The players can play with a general guideline in that first part, and then do what they would like to do more freely in latter half. That’s the one of the biggest changes in this iteration of the Diadem exploration.
And we also wanted to add that, this element of [emergent chaos], like an emergency mission that players will have to get involved in. For this, I’m sure everyone is still on their search within the Diadem area, so we’re not going to into specific details, but it’s going to be something that all of the players from all of the zones will need to participate. It’s a very new sort of gameplay experience. No set of rules are in place, so you’ll have to work together to beat this… almost sort of raid/surprise element. How players will enjoy that content will be up to them.
Twinfinite: Heavensward began on a very depressing note. There was a feeling of hopelessness for the heroes after everything that happened at the end of A Realm Reborn. What kind of tone or feeling do you want or expect players to have going into Stormblood?
Yoshida: Part 2 of the Heavensward sword story patches is not out yet, but at least I can say that it’s going to be different than Heavensward, where it was characters fighting their internal demons, kind of in a depressing tone but still resolving to reclaim one’s dignity.
With Stormblood, it’s going to be different from that. It might seem momentarily that it’s a quiet sort of beginning but there is going to be a lot of surprises in store so we hope players look forward to it.
Twinfinite: Passing through the gates of judgement into Ishgard was very satisfying for the first time after years of anticipation. Are you able to share what that experience will be like with Ala Mihgo?
Yoshida: With the Heavensward story line, when our heroes go into Ishgard, they didn’t have a clear objective of what they were supposed to be doing there. It was more about reclaiming their dignity, and regaining their powers, and it kind of starts there. They didn’t have that clear intention of oh we’re going to save Ishgard.
This time, it’s going to be different. You have this sentiment of we’re reclaiming freedom for the area, so that’s kind of how it starts. But there is still more in store!
New Stormblood Jobs
Twinfinite: Let’s talk about the new jobs. Red Mage and Samurai have been requested by fans for a very long time, and I imagine the response has been very positive for them to finally be added to the game. Were they both always envisioned to be DPS jobs? Can you talk a little about the thought process that went into designing both Red Mage and Samurai.
Yoshida: So first and foremost, the Samurai. We always wanted to have the Samurai included. We didn’t determine when it was going to be implemented, but we always had the desire to have that job in there.
Because Samurai was a job in Final Fantasy XI, some players might have imagined it to be a tank. [FFXIV’s] Samurai was always going to be a close ranged melee DPS. The reason why, is because he [Yoshida] couldn’t imagine a Samurai with a very thin sword trying to block and be a tank and it’s also inaccurate to Japanese history. So he [Yoshida] always wanted it to be a proper DPS.
So for the Red Mage, and when we were talking about how will we make Red Mage fit into the realm of [FFXIV], there was actually a very heated debate about what role it should be.
Of course, there’s the element of using the rapier to do close range attacks, there’s also the element of magic, and that’s more of a ranged thing. There were discussion about do we have to start considering hybrid jobs, or do we just go the other way and make it a healer. Yoshida-san felt that no matter which route they took, it might differ from what players imagined a Red Mage would be.
And on a separate discussion, when they were thinking about introducing new jobs into [FFXIV] there are many different jobs that are popular and demanded by the fans, and there is a whole roster that they had to consider; for Stormblood looking at a game design perspective, they knew that they were going to introduce two new jobs, and they knew they were going to want to implement DPSs. Thinking about it from a game design perspective, they tried to figure out “OK if we want to introduce two jobs and we want to make them a DPS, out of the roster of characters that are demanded by fans, which would best fit into the narrative of Stormblood.
So, it was actually two discussions going on at the same time, in terms of determining which jobs were going to be introduced in Stormblood. Of course we had the existing jobs that we wanted to eventually implement, and the story from a game design perspective which jobs should be introduced for the narrative.
Twinfinite: Were there any jobs that came close in those discussions, but eventually dropped in favor of Red Mage or Samurai?
Yoshida: He [Yoshida] says if he says anything it’s going to start the speculation and rumors! (everyone laughs) So of course, that being said, the Samurai job came very smoothly and that it was the Red Mage that we had to have that long debate pretty much until the last minute. It’s interesting because we announced them in the other way around, the Red Mage announcement came first.
We were also thinking of a ranged caster as well. It’s a very Japanese sort of… they call it “onmyouji,” but that was something that was debated also. I wish knew the best equivalent in English…
Twinfinite: Maybe like the Oracle from Final Fantasy Tactics?
Yoshida: Yes! Yes! But yeah, we finally decided on the Red Mage because we were able to confirm that it would still be fun to play. Of course utilizing the close range attack but also the longer range attack and it was a good fit, so we finally decided to move forward with Red Mage.
Moving forward, because Samurai and Red Mage were so highly anticipated, and we heard from around the world that everybody really wanted both of these jobs; now that we’ve gotten that taken care of, moving forward I feel that we have less pressure in terms of thinking of what kind of jobs to introduce and we can be a little more free in our thinking and maybe even consider a totally original kind of job for [FFXIV].
Twinfinite: Some players were upset that there wouldn’t be any new tank or healer jobs with the launch of Stormblood. What would you say to these players to make them feel more at ease?
Yoshida: You know, [people] who are upset about no tanks or healers being introduced, he [Yoshida] feels that it’s less “oh if you had introduced a tank or healer I would have played it” [and] more “oh the wait queues are going to be longer, the matching is going to be so many DPS waiting!”
I’ve mentioned this on stream on several occasions before, looking at the data all throughout the 3.0 series, people who have been playing as a tank or healer whenever a new expansion is introduced, they will first try to level their main job, and we did introduce the Dark Knight and Astrologian as tank and healer respectively. The player population didn’t seem to change too drastically…
In terms of, having the different jobs with each different role, we have three jobs for the tanks, three jobs for the healer; maintaining the balance and even having all of those jobs was an extremely difficult challenge for the development team to go through and I’m sure people who do prefer to play tank or healer had a lot of stress going through trying to keep up with the battle. We felt that we didn’t want to add a tank or healer just so that matching times would be alleviated and risk having an imbalance happen and adding more stress to people who do like to play as tank or healer.
We wanted to revisit our existing tank and healer jobs and make sure [we’re doing] what can we do to improve their player experience and what can we do to tweak the balance so that it’s not as stressful for the players that do prefer to play as tank or healer.
There are many ways to gain experience so you can level your characters. We got your FATEs, we got your Deep Dungeons, which was not at the beginning at 3.0, which you can match freely. You don’t have to worry about your different roles, so you don’t have wait in a queue line in an instanced dungeon. I feel that there are more effective ways to level your characters to level your characters. I hope players will be reassured that there are ways to go about leveling your characters efficiently.
Twinfinite: Is it a possibility that new jobs would be added at some point during the Stormblood saga similar to how Ninja was added towards the end of A Realm Reborn?
Yoshida: With the Ninja, that was actually a job that we wanted to launch at the start of A Realm Reborn and we just looked at the schedule and determined that it was impossible to match the launch unfortunately. But we had made plans to introduce it and we had a very clear plan. We planned it over a year before its actual implementation and we already had plans for an additional job in the middle of the story line.
With this current upcoming expansion, and our style development moving forward, we’re looking to release an expansion pack maybe every two years, and continually updating the content within it. It’s extremely difficult to introduce a brand new job in the middle of the expansion itself. We feel it can only be matched with the timing of the expansion launch. Not that we don’t want to introduce any new jobs, it’s just physically difficult. It could kill us!