Interview: Yoshi-P Discusses the Challenges of Making Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail
Image via Square Enix

Interview: Naoki Yoshida on Making Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail

A month before the release of Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail Director and Producer Naoki Yoshida. During our conversation, the developer discussed the painstaking work that went into implementing the upcoming graphics update, as well as the challenges of creating the new Viper and Pictomancer job classes for the expansion. This also meant hearing about the passion the creator has for the FFXIV community.

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Brent Koepp: Viper and Pictomancer seem like they could be among Final Fantasy XIV’s most ambitious job classes in the game to date. What was the greatest challenge with implementing both of them in the MMORPG?

Naoki Yoshida: With every Final Fantasy XIV expansion, the battle and combat team and I always have to come up with introducing a new job. So we are always wracking our brains like, “Oh, no! What are we going to do!? What are we going to do!? There’s just way too many jobs now!” [Laughs].

The team is always wracking our brains around like, “How long do we have to continue doing this? And that fear of “Oh, we are adding new jobs again?” is definitely a challenge during the development of new expansions. And with a lot of MMORPGs out there, whenever they introduce a new class, they tend to be OP (overpowered), and they end up being nerfed. But we don’t ever want to do that with Final Fantasy XIV. And so the team is very diligent in making sure that the balance of new job classes is always well-managed.

So sometimes, this results in a new job class that may be slightly weaker than existing jobs initially. But with Final Fantasy XIV, we make sure that with any job combination, you will be able to clear dungeon content and raid content. And we really make sure that we are always looking at the new job’s balance and making sure that, overall, we are able to keep the balance we’ve maintained with the other classes already in the game. So, while creating Viper and Pictomancer was tough and challenging, we know that the players are looking forward to both new jobs being introduced. So we work really hard. And in the end, we really just take to heart how much the players are anticipating Dawntrail’s new jobs.

And on a side note, in about three months, the team will need to start considering what new jobs we’ll have to add for the NEXT TIME! [laughs]. So yeah, that fear is going to come back up all over again [laughs].

Final Fantasy XIV is a game players have been playing for over a decade now. As a team, what was it like seeing FFXIV for the first time with the upcoming graphics update applied to it?

Yoshida: I, and specifically the artists on our team, are very happy with this graphical update. With Final Fantasy XIV historically, we had to always accommodate for the different specs of different machines, including the PlayStation 3. So, at the time, we made the pipeline so that the build would accommodate the PS3.

But now that we are applying this graphics update and updating our systems so that they are more modern, our team has been able to utilize new technology. As a result, our pipeline has now improved for the artists. So they are definitely happy with that change. For the elements the artists will be creating for Final Fantasy XIV 7.0 and beyond, they are very happy with the pipeline that has now been set up.

How much work went into the FFXIV graphics update, and were there any challenges bringing it into a game that launched in 2013?

Yoshida: We have to apply this graphics update to previous content as well, and it’s [laughs] a very significant amount of content! We don’t even want to count how many things we now need to change. And so, some things in older expansions will need to be remade, while other things will just be a matter of updating textures. But just thinking about it [laughs], it just makes the artists kind of like, “Hold their brain and be like ahhh!” They are not looking forward to adjusting those.

With the amount of hard work that was put in by the artists, I don’t think I can do it justice to try to explain all of the elements they worked on in the graphics update. We would run out of time. I wish I had more time to explain everything just to honor their hard work. It would have been nice. But I guess the challenges of making the graphics update can be summarized in one example I want to give you.

If you can imagine the character’s face in Final Fantasy XIV, let’s say we focus on their dimples or the surface of their cheeks. This is not created with just polygons, but it’s also a matter of the normal map that is placed over the character’s head. And so, with the graphics update, the resolution of the texture that is placed on top of the normal map with the polygons will have increased in resolution as well.

So the textures have been made into high-resolution, but we’ve also had to adjust the lighting to be of higher quality. Now, we have high-quality density, high-quality resolution, and high-quality processing of all the different elements that are on the surface texture of the character’s face. But because the original normal map underneath the surface texture has not been updated, there are these weird lines or shadows that will show up on a character’s face with the way the lighting hits the skin. And because that kind of weird line shows up, we received feedback from players when initially previewing the new graphics update.

Players were like, “Oh, no! My character looks completely different from what I’m used to seeing!” All of the assets were the same. It’s just how the new lighting hits. It made it seem like the characters now had laugh lines [laughs]. So, the artists on our team went in to fix the normal map so it doesn’t have the weird lines showing up when a shadow is cast across a character’s face. Sometimes, they even had to adjust the projection of the shadow itself to fudge it so it didn’t cast a weird shadow on a character. That’s the kind of painstaking detail our artists had to do.

I was actually present with the character team, making sure that okay we fixed this specific issue. We’ve pointed and checked the problem and found a solution. With this example I’ve given, I think you can grasp or get an idea of just how much effort and work was put into the upcoming graphics update for Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV Dawntrail will be available in early access on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Mac, and PC starting June 28, 2024. The new expansion will launch worldwide on July 02, 2024.

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Brent Koepp
Based in California, Brent is an Editor at Siliconera and has been a journalist since 2010. When he's not playing JRPGs or catching 'em all in Pokémon, you can find him spending time with his wife and two dogs.