With spot 5.3 collection to start on Aug. 11, Final Fantasy XIV is reaching greater heights 보다 ever. Due to the fact that Patch 5.2, it’s reached over 20 million registered players, through that number only set to flourish now the its cost-free trial is being expanded to cover every one of A realm Reborn and Heavensward, the MMORPG’s very first sprawling story expansion. Last week, i spoke for virtually an hour with Naoki Yoshida, the title’s esteemed director, concerning the upcoming final Shadowbringers story patch. Us talked about the actions the team took during the an initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, plot armor, sex expression in Final Fantasy XIV, and also much more.

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Patch 5.3 competent an practically two-month delay. By the time that the pandemic hit and also Tokyo declared a state of emergency in April — forcing everyone in the urban Tokyo area to stay residence — breakthrough progress was about 50% complete. At first, the team confronted logistical issues. For the an initial seven work after the state of emergency, as Yoshida and other members of Square Enix’s board of executives disputed how to relocate forward during the emergency situation, the company’s developer were urged to no think around work at all. “Priority is going to it is in on your health, your family’s health, so simply concentrate on the for a while,” they were told.

Since work had currently been laid out for spot 5.4, the team was able to shift tasks and split increase duties on spot 5.3 and also the upcoming 5.4, so as to not waste time or effort in the circumstances. “We didn’t want our initiatives to be zero during this sort of paused time … it was a really unusual and special case,” Yoshida states.

However, Final Fantasy XIV‘s developers controlled to stay positive amidst the uncertainty and chaos. “People were still determined to continue work so that they sacrifice the high quality or the volume that the video game content the we wanted to supply to the football player as easily as possible,” Yoshida says.

How to lug out advancement wasn’t the only facility topic leading up to this patch. One topic of debate was the decision to broaden the game’s free trial. Roughly a year and a fifty percent ago, the team started thinking about making every one of A kingdom Reborn, the basic game, free. Before Patch 5.3, the cost-free trial to be capped at level 35 — a rather awkward level considering A realm Reborn‘s quests end at level 50. While play up till level 35 offers you a fine sufficient understanding of Final Fantasy XIV‘s foundation, it’s in the middle of what many players consider to it is in the weakest component of the entire MMORPG.

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“We and also our marketing teams around the civilization had to think around well, ‘are we okay with having actually those sales number be impacted?’ If, quite much, we’d be giving away the starter pack,” Yoshida elaborates. “The goal would be to get everybody come subscribe through that. But will the sacrifice be sufficient?”

In the end, the team made decision that although there might be fewer sales, expanding the cost-free trial could carry in an ext people and pave the means for an ext subscribers. Now, the free trial’s level cap has been elevated to level 60, which method players will be able to play the whole of Heavensward, consisting of the 3.x patch series.

Additionally, players are also able come play as six races since the team is incorporating the Au Ra — a race that was presented in Heavensward — come the formerly playable five. 13 jobs, including the DPS Machinist, the healing Astrologian, and also the tank Dark Knight, can now be played as part of the totally free trial. Lastly, you deserve to traverse up to Floor 200 of palace of the Dead, the game’s famous in-game Deep Dungeon, contrasted to the previous border of Floor 10.

“We constantly compare Final Fantasy XIV to a TV drama series,” Yoshida explains. “But with A realm Reborn and also Heavensward being seasons one and two, us felt that enabling for players to experience those first two seasons would actually make it an ext smooth and also helpful for players to transition into the an excellent content that is Shadowbringers or future seasons. And, if people did discover it interesting, they would certainly be much more motivated come experience periods three and four.”

Shadowbringers has been — and continues to be up until this allude — one of my favorite stories in not just the whole Final Fantasy series, however also video clip games, period. I’m far from the just one that feels this way, too. The expansion’s reception to be overwhelmingly positive, ushering in a big new tide of Final Fantasy XIV players. Ns ask him about how Shadowbringers‘ reception has impacted the advancement team.

“At this point, we are just trying to proceed with this momentum,” Yoshida says. “There is a benefit with having an ext and much more people join us — that we’re able to reinvest and put in more costs into both the breakthrough and marketing.”

As the player base has grown, Yoshida states the team has, too — miscellaneous that makes me particularly happy come hear. Final Fantasy XIV‘s advance team is among the much better teams at listening to and also incorporating player feedback. Contents is constantly being released, whether we’re talking small holiday-themed occasions or the brand-new expansion released roughly every 2 years (though this has surely readjusted because of COVID-19). The team’s exhausted is constantly a resource of concern for me, not just as a games industry writer, yet as a fan.

One of my favorite elements of Final Fantasy XIV is that is willingness to tackle themes of politics, social justice, equality, and also morality. It’s among the mainline title that address politics an ext straightforwardly, prefer Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, and also Final Fantasy XII. I ask Yoshida around how he feels the game’s politics, i beg your pardon feel less theoretic than they did throughout Shadowbringers‘ release in many ways, have advanced alongside our own political climate.

Human history has to be rife with conflict and wars because its inception. When writing the story’s scenarios, Yoshida claims that what the team is trying come depict is, “How do we take those conflicts? and also what do we discover out of it? just how do us take that right into the future? and also how execute we grow from it?”

Sometimes those facets overlap v what’s continue in the actual world. Yoshida says that if you feeling those kinds of themes come up while you play, if they apply to her reality, or if Final Fantasy XIV help you through sorting your life in the genuine world, the team feels they are successful in what they have actually strived for. That mission is, “having our players feel something out of what we deliver in our story.”

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Yoshida claims that, also with the antagonistic forces you encounter, the team works tough to produce their viewpoints — for they, too, have actually nuanced beliefs. Among the ideal examples that this is Shadowbringers‘ main villain, Emet-Selch. Although I’ve written around how exciting Elidibus, Shadowbringers‘ official brand-new antagonist together of the vault patch, is so far, i still deeply miss out on Emet-Selch. I consider him to be both the best villain in the entire collection and one of my absolutely-canon lover in the video game (Aymeric de Borel, G’raha Tia, Y’shtola room all in the group, too). I ask him about Emet-Selch and also whether we have the right to hope to view him again.

“I mean, ns can’t say that you’ll never watch him again, the course. Ns can’t specifically disclose it… yet we don’t know,” he grins.

I find it tough to imagine no seeing that again, given that he’s end up being one that the many popular personalities in the series. Natsuko Ishikawa, Shadowbringers‘ brilliant key scenario writer, is deservedly proud that striking the balance in Emet-Selch’s cruelty, humanity, and tragedy. However, Yoshida claims the fates the many characters in Final Fantasy XIV are quite much already decided. A character’s popular has small bearing on their fate.

“Some fans bring up Haurchefant, and also some civilization say that, ‘oh, he was killed since he was popular.’ and we think it’s in reality backward,” Yoshida states. “We had really fleshed the end his character. We wanted to have actually him know what he’s fighting for, what his goal was, what his stance was in everything. He was fighting because that a specific cause. And that was currently determined prior to he was also introduced in the narrative.”

Although Final Fantasy XIV hasn’t had actually trouble v killing off sustaining characters, one criticism among some fans is that it’s a little bit reluctant come raise the stakes and also sacrifice several of its an ext prominent characters. While Haurchefant is still mourned by much of the player base, his shocking death occurred all the method back in Heavensward. Several characters in Stormblood, consisting of its significant villain, had fake-out deaths. In Shadowbringers, that was only expected that Emet-Selch would certainly die together the major antagonist. Ns ask him if the team is aware of this criticism, and also if, given the suspenseful trailers for Patch 5.3, it’s miscellaneous they want to tackle.

Yoshida says that he’s often heard people make assumptions about characters and also their plot armor. He uses Urianger, one of the main characters, together an example. He’s checked out fans believe that Urianger can’t die simply due to the fact that he’s the holder of a quest. And, to that, the says, “You know, that sort of thinking… you should not have that type of thinking!” that laughs.

“We don’t like adlib in regards to like, ‘Oh, this character is going to walk or this personality is going come die.’ It’s not random, either. In ~ the exact same time, yes, world might notice that those in the core cast may no have died over the food of the story,” that explains. Because Final Fantasy XIV constantly depicts wars, conflicts, and also battles, he says it’s “unrealistic to not have any type of sort that sacrifices even on the allied side. So i mean, i don’t typical to scare you… this is not, through any means a risk of any type of sort, yet don’t acquire too comfortable knowing that, ‘Oh, these characters are safe’ because you might be in for quite a shock.”

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Final Fantasy XIV‘s ar is exceptionally passionate and also diverse — a truth that will just become much more true together the game continues to carry in brand-new players. Its enjoy of the diversity v the freedom it offers to its players has always been one of my favorite aspects.

Recently, World that Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV‘s biggest competitor, announced a significant change in regards to player freedom and expression. In a recent interview through Eurogamer, executive, management producer man Hight revealed the the upcoming expansion, Shadowlands, will eliminate the long-standing fee of $15 for players to change their character’s gender. Now, players will certainly be able to readjust their gender for complimentary with one in-game barber. In the end, Blizzard feel the old decision of questioning players to pay in stimulate to change their gender wasn’t “the appropriate message.”

I recognize that inclusivity is other Final Fantasy XIV tries to tackle with sincerity, noticeable through functions like the game’s ceremony of Eternal Bonding. This is the game’s marriage system, which permits you to marry anyone regardless of your character’s gender. Together of earlier this year, the ceremony’s wedding attire is no much longer tied to your gender — meaning that you have the right to wear a tuxedo or a dress whether you’re playing as a guy or woman. However, if you desire to change your gender in Final Fantasy XIV, girlfriend still have to pay genuine money for a Fantasia potion, the item that allows you to readjust your character’s appearance. Ns ask Yoshida around whether this and opening up an ext avenues that self-expression room things the team is spring into.

With his answer, he takes a while to formulate every his thoughts. Rather than someone doing their ideal to avoid saying other clumsy or offensive, he comes throughout as a director that recognizes the weight of the trust Final Fantasy XIV‘s ar has placed in him and also who wants to it is in respectful. The doesn’t happen on the question, undermine the importance of the subject, or carry out anything much less than take into consideration it carefully and thoughtfully.

In the end, he provides a various perspective from that of the World the Warcraft team. “By no means do we want to criticize anybody or say that, ‘well, this has acquired to it is in the way.’ But… so, v anything that you readjust like her hairstyle or putting in a color contact, miscellaneous that’s more instantaneous. It’s something the you readjust all the time,” Yoshida begins. “But gender is such a perceptible topic since this is no something that’s instant. That’s why human being are very proud of what they recognize with and also they try to live their lives to their fullest come express themselves and the gender that they recognize with. And also so execute we desire to treat this in a casual manner?”

Yoshida clarifies this is fully his personal opinion and also that it’s miscellaneous many civilization — consisting of members of the team — are greatly torn on. But he feels uncomfortable through the concept of something the is akin come flipping a switch. He issues that, by enabling for much more freedom, “it might actually take it the problem a little bit too lightly.” It’s something he continues to think around as both a video game designer and a human for the future of Final Fantasy XIV.

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Ultimately, I usage my last question to circle earlier to the present and ask him about the upcoming dungeon, The Hero’s Gauntlet. He contrasted it to among my pure favorite dungeons, Stormblood‘s The Ghymlit Dark.

“You have the player as the Warrior of Darkness, who conserved the realm of The First. And so now, the human being of The very first come with each other to help,” Yoshida shares. “It’s going come feel favor a most things the the player was connected in throughout the story connect in this content. The course, it’s an circumstances dungeon, yet as friend fight with this dungeon, you’ll see. The script is walking to get really exciting as well. So maybe it could be nice come take your trust NPCs to go in there and also enjoy the story.”

Before pack up our chat, he teases, “There is a kind of concealed feature, so to speak. So, once everything is settled down, you might want to try to view what the is.”