(Main picture – Kim Hansen/Ulvespill)
Eira and I had a huge opportunity at Gamescom this year. We got the chance to interview some of the geniuses behind Final Fantasy XIV. Koji Fox, Masayoshi Soken and Naoki Yoshida was present and welcomed us with a big smile when we entered the
room. But let’s rewind a little bit before we start with the Gamescom interview, because a few days before Gamescom, we also had the opportunity to interview Bethan Walker (the voice behind Alisaie) and Masayoshi Soken beforehand. This is what Soken-San wrote to us on the questions we sent;
Did you have any inspirations when you came up with the designs?
“I get a lot of inspiration from my daily life. Many of my quirks in songwriting and composition are a result of the ridiculous amount of music I listened to when I was younger, so I feel like I’m able to draw from that past experience.”
Could you tell us a little bit about the process when it comes to sound design? (Like how you bring your inspiration to life)
“Sound design in games is not just about writing the music. There are strict system limitations affecting sound effects, voices, and ambient noises. They all need to work efficiently and in a way that doesn’t break anything. These days, game sound is a hugely complex field to work in.
I use completely different parts of my brain depending on the task at hand, and things that I’ll draw inspiration from vary just as wildly. When it comes to composing music, I guess you could say I follow my gut instincts. If someone asks me to write music for a specific part of the game, little bits of inspiration start coming to me. It might be just the melody or the rhythm, or sometimes the melody, rhythm, and backing tracks all occur to me at once. I take these spontaneous ideas and flesh them out.”
What is your dream project to work on? Say you had all the money/time you needed, what’s the biggest dream you have?
“If I had as much time and money as I wanted, I’d probably just lay about doing nothing! Don’t you think that having less-than-ideal conditions is the reason why we have dreams in the first place?”
If you could invite three people to dinner, living, dead or fictional – who would they be?
“I want to smash the stuffing out of a moogle and ask Tom Morello how to make a guitar sound like something’s crawling around in my head, all the while eating noodles, and then drink champagne with a cute, sexy Miqo’te and drunkenly sink into a deep sofa as I drift off to sleep.”
Lastly, if there’s someone out there who wants to work in the video game industry, do you have any hints for them?
“Lately, a lot of young people have been asking me “How do I get into the games industry?” Try not to give it too much thought. If you’ve got time to think about it, go play some video games, and ask “How did they squeeze these graphics out of such crummy hardware?” or “Wouldn’t this interactive conversation scene get completely screwed up if something interrupted it right now?” and form your own opinions like “If it were up to me, I wouldn’t use any sound at all here,” or “This is the kind of sound I’d use!” Look for potential problems in games, and then try to find ways to solve them.
When there is something you have a passion for, you should be able to approach it with the enthusiasm to learn more about it. And if you really focus on your passions, the way forward will naturally open up to you. If that path leads you to the games industry, then give it everything you’ve got! Game development really gets the synapses firing, and is an absolute blast!“
The whole Gamescom interview started with a small introduction from Naoki Yoshida, thanking us for making room for them in our Gamescom schedule. As Gamescom has evolved into one of the biggest gaming events in the world.
“In the next few days, we will be coming upon our 5th anniversary of A Realm Reborn. The reason we’ve made it this far in the past five years, is a dedicated community, as well as a media that has always written kindly about us. We couldn’t have made it without that, so thank you very much! From a developer POV though we see this anniversary as merely as a point in a much longer journey. So we will continue dedicating our time to make more of the great stories, the great music, etc. But that’s enough from us, let’s get into your questions!”
What can fans expect regarding activities around the 5th anniversary, both in-game and in real life? (question from Gamereactor)
“We focus a lot on the fact that it is the fifth anniversary since the number five is so cool!” starts Yoshida. As usual, the game will have an anniversary event for the players in-game. The team is also cooperating with others outside of the company, in order to make for example a bracelet to celebrate. There’s also being arranged an FFXIV orchestra in Dortmund. For the third time, there will also be a fan festival, later this year.
What is your vision of the MMO genre in general?
“What makes a great MMO for me, is “Do you want to return to that game or not”. That’s the most important thing” continues Yoshida. For this, we were told that a strong community is a base for success. Obviously combined with a good game, with good gameplay. In addition, the game needs to be updated on a regular basis, to keep players interested. Finally, you have to make a world people feel belonging to.
A good MMO is a game that makes players come back to play every day, what do you think FFXIV has for those players and for those who never play? (question from Gamereactor)
“If we had the answer to that, no MMO would ever fail again. So that’s a good question, indeed” says Yoshida.
Looking at FFXIV, before it is an MMO, it is an RPG, and before that, it’s a Final Fantasy game. Keeping the Final Fantasy feel is very important for the game to succeed. Basically, FFXIV should be playable like any other Final Fantasy game, and just have MMO elements on top of that. “FFXIV has such a dime, which is pretty rare in an MMO” Soken tells us. The sound design is also very important, as it can draw players into the MMO.
What is your biggest fear in general?
“My biggest fear is our assistant producer” replies Yoshida, “And she’s not here right now, which is why I am very relaxed”
“I fear the cilantro which always says fresh herbs. But is actually cilantro” says Soken. “So if it is a cilantro dish, just write cilantro instead of fresh herbs. So if I don’t know there’s cilantro on the dish, I get scared when they bring it to me”
What is your guilty pleasure on a daily basis?
“Well, if it is a guilty pleasure, I can’t say it,” says Yoshida. Koji Fox here interrupts suggesting it might be boy bands. “I don’t really fear to say what I like and dislike, but I think many believe that I like Miqo-Te girls. However, I prefer the female Au Ra’s – especially their legs!” Soken adds, onto which both Koji Fox and Yoshida-san starts laughing.
After quite a long think, Yoshida adds; “So, say after a day like today at Gamescom. I might, just might, like to smell my own socks. At least I don’t hate it. Because that’s proof that I worked hard that day. Actually, what kind of interview is this?!” *laughter*
You said that you wanted the MMO to sound right, how did you guys work together. Let’s say, okay let’s produce these sounds for this area and event, how do you work together and say “go this way and go that way”? (question from Gamereactor)
Soken answered first by letting us know that they work pretty close together, as Soken needs specifics of what kind of base he needs for his sound and music. Such as he had to learn the concepts behind the expansions of Heavensward and Stormblood. Soken also works closely with Yoshida when it comes to creating music for advertising videos for patches and TV commercials.
Yoshida added that he truly trusts Soken to compose the sound and music they want. But he among others on the team does give him a few requests, such as they did in Heavensward since they wanted the feel inside a church with a pipe organ.
“So with Heavensward we wanted something completely different, we wanted to go with a sound like you hear in a church” said Yoshida
Have in mind that Soken has composed over 400 musics/sounds and as Yoshida said, four maybe five out of them had to be redone. For example Soken’s first attempt at the Leviathan raid, was a female singing gently, which Yoshida-san immediately knew was not right for a battle full of burly men.
“That’s how good he is at his job” added Yoshida.
Plans for cross-platform beyond the already PS4 and PC cross-platform?
“As a producer of an online game, I want as many people as possible to play my game,” said Yoshida regarding the cross-platform question. FFXIV isn’t on the Xbox One or the Nintendo Switch yet, but that would open up a lot of doors for the FFXIV team. This is something they would like to do. Yoshida also mentioned that everyone who plays MMO should be able to play on the same world and server, everything else is nonsense.
“I’ve been in talks with Nintendo and Microsoft, and those talks continue” added Yoshida. He also added that the players will know first if this happens.
So you have been teasing for a Nintendo Switch version for a while. How is that possibilities been shaping up so far along with that cross-platform thing, getting the game ported to the Switch? (question from Gamereactor)
Yoshida told us Final Fantasy XIV is a part of Business Division Five which is creating games for the Nintendo Switch. So they do have people who understand the specs of the Switch. And they also have been looking into the opportunity to stream games.
Any advice for newcomers?
Yoshida’s biggest advice is to get involved with the community.
“Our community is one of the best communities out there. The warriors of light is so kind, especially to newbies”. He also added that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, the community, especially the warriors of light will gladly help.
Soken’s advice is that you take many screenshots.
“As I said before, you can take a lot of great shots of Au Ra’s legs”
They didn’t mean it in a sexual way, of course, but in the way of helping you fall in love with you character.
I mentioned the Monster Hunter collaboration; how did that come up? And is that
something you would do with another franchise? Which would be the other franchise that he would dream to collaborate with? (question from Gamereactor)
As we only had one, two minutes left of the interview, they couldn’t exactly answer the question about how the collaboration come up as the answer might be longer than 15 minutes. But they did however come up with a quick note on that.
“It is a long process, it’s not like “Oh let’s do a collaboration let’s choose this company and it’s done”. It’s something that took many many years, and it took respect not only of that company for us and of us for that company. It’s the respect between both the companies. And getting to a certain point to decide “this is something we’re doing”.
“So it’s not something we do lightly.”
The last question was pretty much unanimous between them all, and that is they really want to do a collaboration with Blizzard.
We do offer our biggest thanks yet again to Koji Fox, Masayoshi Soken and Naoki Yoshida for allowing us to do this interview with them. The whole experience has been surreal for us, letting us meet such prominent idols for the video game industry.