This is post #6 for Blaugust Reborn
It is Developer Appreciation Week in Blaugust Reborn. This is the time where we show some love for all those developers and other professionals of the gaming industry who work hard to bring us some hours of entertainment.
This is one I should have done a long, long time ago but didn’t for… reasons.
My pick for this post is Naoki Yoshida, aka Yoshi-P. For those who don’t know who he is, Yoshi-P is the main producer for Final Fantasy XIV. He is also the one who was put in charge of development “A Realm Reborn” version of the game when version 1.0 turned out to be a commercial failure.
Now, I am not trying to imply he was the sole responsible for bringing back Final Fantasy XIV back from the ashes. There were a lot of other developers who worked very hard on the “A Realm Reborn” and still do to improve the game.
It is just during that period Yoshi-P was the public face of Square-Enix when it came to Final Fantasy XIV. Part of his job back then was to convince the existing players that it would be worth staying with the game and to new players that this would be a game they would like to play.
I was around during that period, not as heavily involved with the game as other people, just enough to see some of it unfold. Yoshi-P’s work during that time colored a lot of my relationship with Final Fantasy XIV. This is what this post is about.
Final Fantasy XIV 1.0
Let’s start from the beginning. Back when Final F antasy XIV was announced a couple of good friends said they were interested in playing this game. I don’ t remember what my status with MMORPGs at the time was. I think I was going through a burnout phase with EQ2 and was already very cynical of new MMORPGs releases in general.
But since these were good friends I haven’t played with for a while and I did like the Final Fantasy franchise back in the day I decided to keep a closer eye on news about the game.
I liked what I read in the news and when the open beta came, gave it a try. The beta grabbed my heart, so much that I decided to splurge for the Collector’s Edition. What can I say? When I am impulsive I am really impulsive. :p
It was after the launch that some of the cracks in the games design started to show for me. For example, for gathering materials there was a different mini-game for each profession. That is an idea I fully support but in the case of Final Fantasy XIV there was absolute no explanation on how these mini-games worked.
Worse, there was absolute no way to control which kind of material you would get from each node. For example, let’s say you were trying to mine an ore node that gave tin and zinc. You only want the tin though. But the way the mini-game worked it was impossible to say how to get just the tin. Or at least I was never able to figure it out on my own or find a fan-site with an explanation.
This also applied to trying to find which regions had what kind of materials. There was no information in the game about it. You had to experiment yourself or find a fan-site to find out.
By the way, those mini-games are still in the game they just were moved to the Gold Saucer as a mini-game to earn MGPs there. Also, now they give a good explanation on how to play them to earn said MGPs. :p
With crafting the story was similar. The basics of the crafting system is still the same as it is today. But you didn’t have a recipe book. If you wanted to know how to craft something you had to pay attention to what certain NPCs said and write it down. Or, as you guessed it, look at a fan site with the recipes.
It was a kind of design that just didn’t work anymore at the time of the game’s release. There was also probably more things that I didn’t see because I didn’t get to play the game much back then or that I just forgot by now.
Despite that I really wanted to love the game. There were a lot of things they did right. But every time I played I would get annoyed at something and then leave the game for a few months then come back again, give it another shot and have the cycle repeat all over.
When the news that they were changing the Main Producer of the game and were effectively relaunching it I was really surprised. They even apologized to the fans of Final Fantasy XIV for failing to deliver. Not only that they gave some free months of gameplay to the then current subscribers as a form of compensation while they worked on the new version.
This was honestly something I’d never expected in my wildest dreams. But it was definitely something that restored a lot of my faith in the company.
Yoshi-P takes over as the new Main Producer
One of the first things Yoshi-P did as the new producer was to address one of the main complaints from the players: that they didn’t feel like their voices were heard by the developers.
If I recall correctly we didn’t even have forums back then. So those were created. Yoshi-P also started to write regular “Letters from the Producer” telling what the team has been working on. These were then translated to every language officially supported by the game.
In some of those he would even address questions from the players, with links to where the forum discussion began. Showing that yes, we did have a channel of communications with the developers.
There were also live-streams whose content was similar to the “Letters from the Producer” and where they would show work in progress. After these live-streams they would post a digest notes on the site, with links to where certain parts in the video were talked about.
These are initiatives that continue to this day. It wasn’t just some lip service they did to convince people back then.
I also tried to keep a close eye on any interviews that Yoshi-P did, just to see what was in store for the relaunch of the game. The impression I got is that he is a very pragmatic person when it comes to game design.
For example, I remember him saying something that went more or less along the lines that he didn’t want a game that was just for hardcores or just for casuals. Instead the way he saw it there is a whole range of different type of players between hardcores and casuals and that he wanted the game to have something to offer for all of those.
There was also a question about if the new version of Final Fantasy XIV would have a pet class to which he replied to something like that it was something the team would have to think carefully about. Pet classes can be tricky to balance because you need to think about how much damage comes from the pet, how much comes from the player and what they would bring to a party.
Even crafting he didn’t say he didn’t want to be something that was just there to be something to tick on a list of a features but have its place in the game, even as an alternative to top level gear where adventures and crafters could work together to create.
I am horribly paraphrasing what Yoshi-P said since it has been way too long and I can’t even remember enough to google it.
As for myself, during those last months before the game was taken down for the relaunch I pretty much stopped playing. I figured I would just wait for the new game to see if I wanted to stick around.
If I knew what would happen during those last few months of service I’d have stuck around. I mean, they even added a new quest storyline prophesizing the end of the world. Since this is a fantasy game I thought “Eh, there is no way the world will end. I am sure they will just tell how we saved it in the last minute and everything will just be the same.” How wrong I was. :p
A Realm Reborn
When the beta for a Realm Reborn launched my heart broke.
No, it wasn’t because I felt lied or betrayed to. Like I said, before, Yoshi-P did a pretty good job on communicating what kind of changes he wanted to make and why. Even some of those changes like the addition of raids and more traditional quests started to be added before the game’s shutdown for the relaunch. Honestly the game turned out how I expected it to be.
The reason it broke my heart is because I was still pretty much in a Guild Wars 2 mindset at the time. Anything that slightly looked like a more traditional MMORPG were a big turn off for me.
It is like one of those cases that despite seeing the writing on the wall you still clingy to the vain hope that everything will be okay.
There is also the fact that I’d have to buy the game again. Which was fair, they did give us months of free gameplay, they did spend a lot of money basically remaking the game and the upkeep costs of maintaining a MMORPG.
Still it wasn’t money I felt like spending at the time. So all in all I decided to move on. Not with any bitterness or hatred towards the game or the developers. They did what they thought was necessary to save the game, to make it as good as they could. I wished them luck in their endeavors and went on to play other games.
Returning to Final Fantasy XIV
It wasn’t until years later that I decided to give Final Fantasy XIV a try again. My friends from Everquest 2 were giving this game a try and I too was burnout from the game (again) and missed playing with them.
By this time I also had gotten over my Guild Wars 2 mindset and just wanted to play something fun with them. There was also a promotion going at the time where you could get the base game and Heavensward (at the time, the latest expansion) at a huge discount. So, in my typical impulsive nature, I bought it and dove back in head first.
I did find my love with the game again, accepting it for what it was. Unfortunately my friends seemed to have burnt out on the game already and weren’t really playing. So I went back to my old behavior of logging in for a bit, playing a little then logging off until quitting eventually.
Just to make it clear, it is not because I mind soloing, in fact I prefer to solo for the most part. It is just that I can’t play a MMORPG for too long if I don’t have anyone to about it, to bond over or that I feel comfortable enough doing dungeons together with.
It wouldn’t be until months later, when I saw a friend live-streaming the game that I felt compelled enough to return. This time it was for good. Many things happened then, I got a few Jobs to the level cap, got mostly over my fear of PUGs, even moved servers and Free Companies and was able to snatch a small house in Shirogane (which I still have to decorate!)
All in all, I am very happy with the game now. And if it wasn’t for version 1.0 of the game and Yoshi-P I don’t think I would have had such a fond relationship with it. Final Fantasy XIV would have just been another MMORPG I played, with perhaps some stories to tell and that would be that.
So, here are my kudos to Yoshi-P, to all the development team in Final Fantasy XIV and here is hoping for many more years of playing this game. 🙂