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Yoko Taro on Final Fantasy XIV: ‘I may end up having to burn down the servers’

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Nier: Automata’s director discusses his latest collaboration

There is concern that Yoko Taro might destroy Final Fantasy XIV. And given the Nier: Automata director’s track record of endings to his games requiring players to erase all of their saved data, you can understand why.

It was during the reveal of the MMO’s third expansion, Shadowbringers, last February when it was announced that Yoko Taro would be helping to create a quest line that would cross over the worlds of Nier: Automata and FFXIV. In a video message that was part of the announcement, Yoko Taro and Automata producer Yosuke Saito joked about what the FFXIV director’s motivations were for bringing them on board. “What is Naoki Yoshida thinking?” Saito remarked. Yoko Taro speculated: “About how to destroy Final Fantasy XIV?”

Final Fantasy XIV is a game that’s strangely familiar with being destroyed. When the massively multiplayer role-playing game was originally released in 2010, it dealt with so much backlash from players and critics that it led to the game’s original director and producer leaving the project. It was then when Yoshida was brought in to be the new director and producer. The game would eventually shut down its servers in 2012 before relaunching as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013.

Although A Realm Reborn was developed as a new and separate game, it still connects to the original version in its narrative. The catastrophic event that played out as the servers shut down played an important role in establishing the state of the world at the start of A Realm Reborn. But it also helped establish a theme of destruction and recovery that is a core aspect of the game’s story. This is especially true in the case of the game’s most recent expansion, Shadowbringers, where players try to restore balance to a world that is almost entirely engulfed in a tidal wave of light.

The first part of the Automata quest called YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse was released in late October as part of the game’s 5.1 update. It has the player (along with 23 other people) accompanying 2P, a woman claiming to be an android who looks like a color inversion of Nier: Automata’s protagonist 2B. The game follows her as she battles through the ruins of a factory in an attempt to stop whatever or whoever is controlling the familiar machines from Automata that have overrun the ruins.

I had the chance to ask Taro, Yoshida, and Saito a bit about the process behind the quest line’s development and what might be in store for Nier: Automata and Final Fantasy XIV fans in the remaining parts of the quest line.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

With this being a series of raids that are going to be released in parts over months, do you have most, if not all, of it planned out already? Or do you wait and see how players react to the first part before deciding how to proceed from there?

Naoki Yoshida: We do have a general story overview, but it’s all up to Yoko Taro and how he’s going to spice it up in the end. I do hope that he doesn’t go so far as to try to destroy our data centers or anything.

Yoko Taro: We laid out the overall story at the onset of the crossover, so we couldn’t look into players’ reactions to make small adjustments. However, we do, of course, look at reactions and comments. And from that, I got the impression that players are expecting something more “hardcore” to unfold.

So I’ve decided that, for the fans, I will go hardcore on that final chapter. I’ll make it so that the end of this story sees all player data — including the FFXIV servers themselves — be destroyed.

I’m lying, of course.

What is it like working on a live game like FFXIV where only a small part of what will be the full quest line is available for people to play, as opposed to releasing a game in full like with the Nier or Drakengard games?

Yosuke Saito: I had a very similar experience working on Dragon Quest X, so I didn’t have any reservations about working on another live service title. At the beginning, my greatest worry was if players would accept or reject this content, especially considering that we were introducing a completely different world into that of FFXIV. After looking at the reception, though, it is clear that wasn’t the case.

YT: I’m pretty lazy, so my style is to wait until the last minute to get everything done. I was a bit taken aback by all of the hard work that goes into the development of a live service title. And in order to escape the hell of having to write scenarios at a set cadence, I may end up having to burn down the servers.

While there are some characters that seem to be in both Nier: Automata and in the alliance raid storyline, I’m curious if your approach to the narrative of the raid is to explore similar themes and concepts from Automata, but in new ways because of the different setting and ways players interact in an MMO compared to a single-player game. Or to use this new setting and people’s familiarity with Automata as a way to explore different ideas?

YT: If I were to choose, it would probably be the latter. Rather than digging deep into the settings and ideas of Nier: Automata, I put more emphasis on making sure the content turns out to be something meaningful for the FFXIV players. Additionally, I’m also excited to see what kind of outcome “Nier” — a calamity from outside the FFXIV world — will deliver to the FFXIV players. Yes, you guessed correctly: I still haven’t written the ending.

How do you feel about players who might be jumping into FFXIV for the first time just to play this alliance raid so that they can get more Nier: Automata story? Especially those who might be buying the Tales of Adventure and job level boost items to start with Shadowbringers?

YS: I’d like to say, “Thank you!” from the bottom of my heart.

YT: I’m thinking the most fascinating aspect of playing games is the freedom you have in how you play it. So something along the lines of “I bought Shadowbringers in order to play the Nier content. But I’m so busy looking after my kids, I haven’t even opened the package yet!” is a fascinating way of playing the game as well. (Wait, is this considered playing?) Time spent playing with your children is invaluable. Please don’t take it for granted!

Naoki Yoshida has mentioned in previous interviews that, for an ongoing game, the staff can fall into familiar patterns, and that part of the reason for crossovers like this is to try to break from those patterns and learn new things in order to make unique experiences. So what are some things you’ve learned from this crossover that you’ll take forward with you? Not just necessarily through the rest of the raid series, but perhaps beyond that as well.

NY: This raid series has only just started. I’m sure Yoko is on the same page, but the development team and I think that, as the raid progresses, the game mechanics will become more and more extreme. As such, I think it’s a little too early to reflect back on this. For now, I hope you look forward to what’s to come.