We catch up with Yoshida in the wake of FF14's latest expansion reveal.
The story of Final Fantasy 14 has been well-told in many places and in multiple formats. That tale of horrifying failure and improbable, wonderful redemption has granted FF14 producer and director Naoki Yoshida legendary status in the industry. Yoshida is now also producer of Final Fantasy 16, but he's still absolutely focused on FF14 too, and is currently in the process of bringing home Endwalker, the fourth full expansion to FF14.
While the most dedicated residents of the world of FF14 couldn't gather in the real world this year, Square Enix was still able to hold a digital celebration of the game - and that culminated with the announcement of new expansion Endwalker, as well as a PlayStation 5 version of the game.
After the announcement, we had a brief opportunity to chat with Yoshida about the expansion. We touch on its lunar setting, music, the future of some specific kinds of content, and what exactly is going on with that much-discussed Xbox port. Here's our chat in full.
VG247: Over the weekend, a clip of you from the 2019 fanfest went slightly viral. In it, you asked the crowd where the next expansion might take players, somebody shouted "the moon!". You laughed and said "Maybe in 7.0..." So... did you know back then that you'd actually be going there a little earlier? And can you explain a little about the origins of that location? Was it inspired by FF4 fanservice, or is there more to the decision to go there?
Naoki Yoshida: With respect to the theme of the moon, I had already decided it would be a location players would eventually visit for the completion of the Hydaelyn and Zodiarc story at the time of the Fan Festival keynote address in 2019. As the saga I envisaged back then, I was considering the conclusion would be in 6.0 or 7.0 and that’s why I jokingly answered as I did. [laughs]
Moons serve an important element in FF14. The moon Dalamud was constructed by the ancient Allagan Empire as a prison to hold Bahamut. There’s also a huge secret hidden in relation to the greater moon itself and we have briefly touched upon this partially in the story of FF14 so far while skillfully hiding some things from the player. It would be senseless if I were to divulge those details, so definitely try looking out for them yourself.
Of course when you mention the moon in the FF series, the first title to pop up would be FF4. It is because I had anticipated this time would come that I had intentionally decided to avoid including strong references to the essence of FF4 in FF14 up until now.
VG247: Forgive me for asking this - as I know you've spoken about it at length before, even to me. But what's the deal with Xbox? In 2019 and 2020, statements by yourself and Phil Spencer seemed to suggest that you were edging closer to a solution to bring FF14 to those platforms. So it was a surprise to see the PS5 announcement without any further news on other platforms. Switch has been mentioned in the past, too, but Xbox in particular. Can you give us an update, and possibly explain what obstacles remain?
Naoki Yoshida: There are no obstacles for developing the Xbox version. We were able to undertake development and provide our service thanks to the immense efforts that Phil has invested. For that we are truly grateful!
The sole factors are the workload and the order of steps. Now when it comes to the Xbox version, there’s unfortunately not much I can say presently but just that we cannot work on all the steps simultaneously and need to follow the order for proceeding with these things. Since we’re currently involved in the development of Endwalker and preparing the PS5 version to follow on from the title’s service on PS4, it’d be appreciated if we can return to touch upon the Xbox version once things have settled!
VG247: I just wanted to give you an opportunity to talk about the music of Endwalker, given I've seen a lot of fans loving the music in the trailer and trying to decipher the lyrics. Is there a particular theme or style that you, Soken and the rest of the team are aiming for the music to embody this time? And will there be any new contribution from Uematsu-san for this expansion, as with others?
Naoki Yoshida: From both my and Soken’s perspective, the music used in the teaser trailer is far from complete. We’d definitely like you to check the final product in the full trailer. Endwalker marks the very first ‘climax’ in FF14 from a story that has continued for more than 10 years. I asked Soken to aim for something with a direct impact in terms of the music as we approach this dramatic climax. However, we’re only just getting started so I’d say that a fair deal of trial and error will probably continue for both myself and Soken. [laughs]
As for Mr. Uematsu, we’d like him to prioritise his other projects in consideration of the fact that he had a health issue before. By the way, although Soken composes the majority of FF14’s tracks, there are of course others that have been provided by other artists. Try having a look through the soundtracks we’ve released so far!
VG247: While Shadowbringers started the Role Quest concept that is now being expanded upon in Endwalker, players still had access to completely optional Level 80 Job Quests for each respective Job. Will we see Level 90 Job Quests in Endwalker, or are Job Quests as we know them dead outside of the newly announced jobs?
Naoki Yoshida: Of course we will implement job quests for the new jobs. As for the episode quests for each job that we incorporated in 5.0, we prepared them as a sort of ‘highlight’ of the job quests from previous expansions. The episodes that would take the place of those are not fixed at this point in time.
VG247: Both Heavensward and Stormblood had Deep Dungeons, while Shadowbringers lacked a Deep Dungeon of its own – instead incorporating the leveling aspect of the concept into the Bozjan Southern Front. Is there any chance we might see a return to the Deep Dungeon concept with Endwalker?
Naoki Yoshida: When we announced that we wouldn’t be including a Deep Dungeon in the 5.X series, we realised that there were more players that had been looking forward to it than we had expected. We’re already preparing the concept and discussing about what to do for our next Deep Dungeon so we will proceed with development once this plan fits in with our development milestones.
However, since this is for some point in the Patch 6.X series, please don’t take it as guaranteed just yet. After all, we first need to get past the high hurdle of rounding off development on Endwalker with an aim of delivering the best story to our players. [laughs]