In a recent interview with USgamer, Naoki Yoshida, Producer of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, spoke about appealing to Final Fantasy fans who have not yet played an online RPG, as well as the issue of maintaining a consistent player base past the level cap.
It’s clear that Yoshida understands that MMOs are often seen as intimidating to those more used to playing on console, particularly seeing as aside from XI, Final Fantasy titles in particular are very much single player experiences. Therefore, the game needs to be as accessible and appealing as possible for those unfamiliar with online games.
“Someone who’s never played an MMO before will have this image that it’s very complex, that it has a very niche following, that it’s very different from the console games that they’re used to. That’s why we’re releasing the trailer that we released a couple of days ago. It’s showing that the graphics level you expect from a console game is there. The level of story, the voice acting, we have that as well. The type of combat is similar to more modern Final Fantasy games.”
He added that much of the main story content could be completed solo for those who wish to do so, and that they have ensured that there are “many systems in place” to help solo players during their adventures. Yoshida didn’t elaborate on what those systems are, but the Duty Finder may be one of them, as it should help solo players find a party for any content that does require a group. Some players tend to play alone, so it’s good to hear that they are being kept in mind through the development process whilst not pushing out the great experiences that can be had through playing in a party.
As for the level cap, it has been confirmed that 50 will be the level cap at the start of the game, but interestingly Yoshida said that he did not want players to need to spend a lot of time to get to that level, the reason being that “The real game begins from Level 50”.
He gave the example of a player reaching level 50, killing the main scenario battle with the enemy from the Garlean Empire, but then after killing him Bahamut is released. Does a Level 50 player stop there? In essence he said that, sure, a player could stop there if they wanted to, or they could get stronger through obtaining new gear and new experiences. Yoshida emphasised his belief that the content available past the level cap is important for keeping players happy.
“The story will continue, but to be able to continue the story, you’ll need to become more powerful in different ways. For example, getting better gear. Even though you’re level 50, you’ll get better gear that will help you handle these challenges. To get that gear, you’ll have to go through new quests and new dungeons, and that will in turn help you attack these new challenges. “
“Our concept is that instead of making leveling slow so that people will take longer to get there, we want to give them more. When we give them more, that’s why they’ll stay longer. They’ll have more fun and they’ll want to stay longer.”
As to what these “new challenges” are, my guess is that Yoshida is referring to things like the Great Labrynth of Bahamut and the Crystal Tower, both of which have been talked about in the past as being epic challenges even for the strongest adventurers. The fact that the development team is looking at ways in which players can progress through the game away from just experience points and levels is a huge part of creating fun and a greater sense of achievement in any game. It really seems like Yoshida is taking endgame content very seriously, as this is what will keep people playing for a long time and satisfy even the most hardcore players.
Yoshida then explained the Armory system, and its role as “something that will fit with what your mood is on that day, how you’re feeling, what you want to do, and what you want to come across in the world”, rather than simply acting as a way of giving players more levels to grind.
“We want to make it so that you can do pretty much everything. You come home from work one day and you’re tired, but you want to go into Eorzea because you like the world, but you don’t want to deal with talking to other people or doing a quest or anything. So you can change your class to fisherman, get out your line, and throw it in. Watch the sunsets, catch some fish. We want to make it so that the game fits with every lifestyle and every change in mood. That’s what the Armory system is for.”
The Armory system was already present in 1.0, but it seems that there may have been some tweaks to classes such as Fisherman in order to offer a wider variety of gameplay that should appeal to gamers of all types. Variety is vital in an MMO. Having a range of activities that players can participate in helps to create a sense of a “living” world. Yoshida is right. Sometimes players don’t feel like grouping up, or maybe they just don’t have the time or energy. To hear that he is not only considering the different lifestyles of players, but moods too, is very promising indeed.
The interview concluded with what the Producer believed to be their greatest challenge in the process of completely relaunching Final Fantasy XIV.
“The biggest thing for us is that what we have to do, our one main duty, is to make an interesting game and get back that trust that we lost. That’s the one main thing that we’re trying to concentrate on.”
Be sure to read the full interview over on USgamer, and let us know your thoughts on Yoshi-P’s approach to attracting and maintaining players in A Realm Reborn.