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Even Final Fantasy 14’s director cries during story quests

Naoki Yoshida shares his experiences during playtesting

A red and white haired Final Fantasy character holds up a staff that shines with white light Image: Square Enix

Final Fantasy 14’s patch 5.3 added a boatload of content, including new story quests to conclude the Shadowbringers story, cosmetics, Nier raid content, and the ability to fly in older zones.

While Shadowbringers focused on being the Warrior of Darkness in a different realm, our characters are now refocusing on the Garlean Empire that’s been threatening peace for a while now. Old foes have found new allies and a new expansion will likely release sometime next year, pending any delays.

We talked to the game’s producer and director, Naoki Yoshida, about the game’s story, new characters introduced, and the livelihood of the precious Qiqirn in an email interview.

The interview, which has been edited for clarity, contains spoilers for patch 5.3’s main scenario quests and the Sorrows of Werlyt quest line.

Polygon: The emotional response to the main scenario quest this time around was pretty brutal. Of course, FF14 fans avoided spoiling things for others, but there were many instances of fans saying they were crying for hours after completing the story. Did you expect this type of response?

Naoki Yoshida: We truly appreciate the many words of praise and the great reception from all of our players. The development team has seen a lot of the reactions and were of course ecstatic about it. In particular, the scenario writers were under a great deal of pressure, so I’m sure they are relieved.

I can’t say that I had no worries about how players would react to patch 5.3, but I had a certain amount of confidence. This confidence came from my own playthrough of patch 5.3’s main scenario during development checks—each time I did, there were tears streaming down my face (laughs).

The new Sorrows of Werlyt quest introduced us to a new Garlemald officer, who is quite ... different from the others we’ve seen. We didn’t see too much of him, but he already sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to the other characters in this game. Why did the team decide to go in this type of character design direction?

Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail because a lot of it relates to what will happen further down the line in this story, but what I can say is that his appearance in the Sorrow of Werlyt story has somewhat grounded the fact that he will have a major impact in the story.

The Garlean Empire is in the midst of conflict, much like a civil war, due to Zenos having killed Varis—this has led to a fight for the seat as his successor. The IVth Legion escaped Dalmasca, but they have now set up camp in Bozja, working to push their own unique agenda. As you can see, the Empire is beginning to spiral out of control …

Alisae leaps into the air holding her rapier, with the bright blue sky behind her
Sweet freedom!
Image: Square Enix

There are tons of moments in this patch that really flexed the animation capabilities. Alisae’s leap at the end of the main scenario quest looked really great and it was refreshing. Did something change to allow this type of animation?

I think with Shadowbringers reaching its climax and conclusion with patch 5.3, the staff on our cutscene team were very excited and wanted to push the boundaries. I think another factor was very clear and good cinematic direction from the scenario team.

In general, the cutscene team is always looking to take on new challenges and create new cinematic elements in game, and I think those scenes are proof of their hard work coming to fruition. Cutscene animation is built from motion capture, but implementing the animation and adding cinematics requires meticulous, tedious, and time-consuming adjustments. The delay in our patch schedule due to COVID-19 may have been a blessing in disguise in this particular case, and the cutscene team worked hard over the course of two months to reach the quality we see in the final product. I think it’s safe to say you can expect to see further improvements in future updates as well!

Surely the Qiqirn that run the ferry in Upper La Noscea are going to see a huge dip in sales now that you can fly in A Realm Reborn zones. How will they be making up for the gil loss? (I’m sure the other ferry runners in the ARR will also take a hit, but I’m mostly worried about the Qiqirn, to be honest.)

Indeed, it’s true that for the Qiqirn, the ferries are their livelihood. I would hope that the Qiqirin are able to recoup some of the loss by collecting ferry fees from all of those rookie Warriors of Light, who have yet to defeat Ultima Weapon and are unable to fly yet … And hey, they might even resort to price gouging. (I’m joking!)

A Qiqirn ferry skipper waits by its boat
I will still give you gil, Ferry Skipper ...
Image: Square Enix via Polygon

When we were developing A Realm Reborn, I brought up two features to the team I was thinking to implement: flying mounts and swimming/diving. You may already be aware, but the development period for ARR was quite short all things considered as we needed to release the game in a very short period of time, so we ultimately made the decision to implement these additional features in a future expansion. We did achieve this with flying became available in Heavensward, and the addition of swimming and diving with Stormblood.

However, we did not include ARR areas in these updates at the time, but I had always thought it would be great if we could at least allow for flying. Seeing high level players take to the skies is quite exciting for new players. I think it’s important to give newer players that motivation to reach that goal of being able to fly. I always wanted to make that a reality, and with the support of the level design and background teams, we spent about nine months of time developing the update. We did this in tandem with our normal patch development, and we essentially found the time between our normal work to make this happen.

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