As most of you probably are aware, quite a lot of things has happened on the “Final Fantasy XIV” front as of lately. That’s also why I decided to reach out to Square Enix and do a series of interviews for FFXIV. So, in our first interview I got a chance to sit down with Natsuko Ishikawa (Lead main scenario writer for FFXIV) and Banri Oda (world lore creator for FFXIV).

So we talked about everything from FFXIV’s story telling process, what it is like to work at Square Enix, what creative process looked like for Stormblood, to what awaits FFXIV in the future. So without further ado, please enjoy our interview with Ishikawa and Oda =)

final fantasy xiv online

I think it’s safe to say that “Final Fantasy XIV online” has come a long way since its original release back in 2010.

Robin TGG
As some of our readers might not be familiar with whom you are, would you be so kind and give us a brief introduction of yourself and what you’ve worked on in the past?

Oda:
Before I joined Square Enix, I worked in the publishing industry for just under eight years as a writer and editor. I came to the company just after Mr. Yoshida had taken charge of FFXIV and joined his team, participating in world building and writing the lore for the final act of the original FFXIV and the launch of ARR. From the Heavensward expansion onwards, I was also responsible for writing the main story.

Ishikawa:
I have always been a game planner who also writes scenarios. I used to make RPGs for a different company, and I transferred over to the FFXIV team during the development for ARR. I would say that the largest scale scenarios that I have written for FFXIV so far would probably be the Binding Coil of Bahamut, the Crystal Tower and the job quests for the Rogue and Black Knight. The first main quest that I wrote was the Central Coerthas Highlands episode from 2.0. More recently I have been working on the post 3.2 story, together with Mr. Oda.

square enix

I have always wondered what it would be like to work at Square Enix. Well, now I got a better idea what it’s like at least.

Robin TGG
What has it been like working for Square Enix and writing for the FFXIV series? And what have you enjoyed the most with the FFXIV series so far? (both in terms of working on the games, and the actual games itself).

Oda:
In my case, I did not join Square Enix with the desire to be a scenario writer from the start, but wound up doing my current job from a coming together of random circumstances. It feels very strange indeed to be writing the scenarios for a series that I have been playing as a gamer since childhood. When we are in development, we are constantly chasing deadlines, so for me the most fun thing is probably reading player reactions online and talking to the fans directly at offline events after release. Going to the Fan Festivals was a very special experience for me.

Ishikawa:
FFXIV is certainly the largest scale title that I have ever been involved with. However, the team communicate as meticulously and passionately with each other as a team on a small-scale project would. Of course, everyone wants to do their best work, but a majority of the staff look at things from a perspective of “what would be best for the game overall” and I very much take that to heart when writing the scenarios. Developing this game is very stimulating and great fun!

final fantasy xiv stormblood

“Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood” the second expansion for “Final Fantasy 14” (“Stormblood” launched back in June of 2017 for PC and PS4), and it injected some new life into the world of FFXIV.

Robin TGG
What did the creative process look like for Stormblood? How long time did the story take to create? And did you at anytime have to use the “kill my darlings” method?

Oda:
This game is an online title, and we are adding major patches every 3.5 months, with full expansions every two years. Accordingly, we get to experience the development to release cycle many times over in a short period, and can thus review the process and make it more efficient each time. One of the new things we tried when making Heavensward was for our producer and director, Mr. Yoshida, main scenario writer Ms. Ishikawa and myself to get together for an intensive three-day discussion to create the plot and storyline for the expansion.

Ishikawa:
I work on the patches alongside creating the new expansions, as well as writing text for the official site and publications and also helping out at promotional events… I am just so busy that I honestly forgot!

final fantasy xiv the fanbase

Oda and Ishikawa are very proud to be able to continue to work on with FFXIV with the support of its fanbase.

Robin TGG
What’s the one thing that you’re most proud of when it comes to your involvement in the FFXIV series? And if you could go back in time, would you then like to change or make anything undone?

Oda:
However I look at it, what I am most proud of is how we have managed to continue running the game with the support of all the fans.

Ishikawa:
That’s exactly it! I would not like to turn back the clock, even if I could, because we give everything to the project each time (laughs). I use my regrets about the last project to make the next one better.

final fantasy xiv a story to be told

One could argue forever about the role of a good story in a video game (it differs from genre to genre of course), but on a personal level, if the story isn’t well made. Then the game falls flat for me, as it’s very hard for me to take the said game series if the story and the game’s characters aren’t believable and thought through.

Robin TGG
I’m one of those players who feels like the story in a game is just as important as the gameplay or having an awesome soundtrack. Well, at least when it comes to deeper games (games such as “Doom” don’t exactly need a deep story to push the game forward). Anyways, my question for you would be if you think that story telling has evolved and matured in the world of games since the 80s and 90s?

Oda:
It cannot be denied that the efforts of those developers who went before us, with their drive to make more exciting experiences, has led to the development and maturation of storytelling in games. However, I personally get the impression that creators have always optimized their efforts to the technology and capacity to depict worlds available at the time, in order to create the best fit. There is obviously a gulf of difference between the volume of story content that you could fit into the limited memory cartridges of the NES era and what you can achieve today. In short, developments in the technology have allowed us to depict even deeper stories.

In addition, back in the days of simplistic pixel sprite visuals, you could get away with equally simple dialogue, but in a game with realistic 3D visuals, just having that capacity for more detailed portrayals requires more fitting dialogue. If you go further into that, the depth of emotion created is completely different between text dialogue that you read and spoken dialogue that you also listen to. Those are the points that I feel have become more optimized.

Ishikawa:
When you are working in the medium of games, what you should try to deliver is an “experience”. Both the more simplistic depictions and stories of past games and the more complex ones of today can deliver the kind of experience that moves people. Just like Mr. Oda says, even though game creators have optimized the way they work to what is available at the time, the fundamental objective they aim for has not changed.

However, (and this is something that you could say about any era) the environment that players actually play our games in is constantly changing. With new culture and new trends being created all the time, I think that we will continue to experiment with what kinds of stories provide the best game experience for a good 10 years to come.

the elder scrolls online

I had no idea whatsoever, that Oda was a huge fan of “The Elder Scrolls”, “Fallout” and “The Witcher” series, but there you go.

Robin TGG
It might just be me, but isn’t most of the stories and quests of FFXIV rather happy and optimistic? I got nothing against that, but is that something that you normally aim for by default? And would you be open for darker stories in the future? (a mix of happy and dark stories sounds like a good idea in my book. I mean, it works really well in the “Elder Scrolls” series, for example).

Oda:
Firstly, I must point out that I love the Elder Scrolls series, as well as Fallout, The Witcher and others. Outside of that I really do like so many other things with dark stories, such as the novels A Song of Ice and Fire!

Having said that though, I cannot ignore looking at the issue of how far the fans of the Final Fantasy series actually want darker stories. Considering the FFXIV user base, I feel that we definitely need a level of reality that stands up to the expectations of adult players, but don’t think that we necessarily have to make dark themes a selling point. However, I am not completely ruling out all dark developments in the story!

Ishikawa:
We aim to make FFXIV a game that people will play for a long time, but at the same time we want to allow a more casual play style too. We have tweaked and fine-tuned the lore, setting and the cheeriness of the story so that people who have come home from work tired can still log in and have fun. Personally, I am the type of person who wants to get absorbed in great dark stories and entertainment on my days off.

the walking dead

Just like Robert Kirkman (the creator of “The Walking Dead”), Oda has no problems with killing off of a character that he likes if it’s something that will push the story forward. Simply put, if it’s done right, then it’s alright.

Robin TGG
One of the hardest things that a writer might have to deal with is the killing of his or her own characters, (just ask Robert Kirkman, the creator of “The Walking Dead”). So my question to you would be the following. Have you ever become over attached to any of the characters of FFXIV? If so, how do you handle the outcome of a potential death of a character that you like?

Oda:
I might be quite a dry person in that regard, but I don’t have any resistance to killing off characters if I feel that the story development needs it. However, Haurchefant was a character who was widely loved by many players, so I was reticent to have him die and had many discussions with Mr. Yoshida about it, over the process of writing the plot for Heavensward.

Ishikawa:
I see both having a character die and having them come back alive as ways that they can fulfil their role in the story, so I am not particularly resistant to doing it. However, having the characters that I created killed off by other people of the staff makes me wonder if they want to start a vendetta! There were so many examples of that between 2.5 and 3.0, so recently I have been taking on responsibility for the main story.

final fantasy xiv cold as ice

Where will Final Fantasy XIV’s story take us next? Only Square Enix, Oda and Ishikawa knows, and they are very secret about the future of FFXIV’s story and realm.

 

Robin TGG
I’m not sure how much that you are allowed to say…But where will you take the story of FFXIV next? And if you’re not allowed to say anything, then perhaps you could give us a hint of the direction at least.

Oda:
I am not ready to lose my job yet, so I cannot talk about any future story developments here!! If I were to give you a hint though… because we have now been running the game for five years, I really want to explore new ideas and ways of telling stories so things don’t get staid and boring!!

Ishikawa:
I often get asked what “a story that never ends” is, but we do envisage a proper conclusion to the current main story in FFXIV and are slowly but surely moving towards that. You can rest assured that this conclusion will not mean the end of the game service though!

final fantasy xiv namazu beast tribe

Oda had us know that he had a real blast writting the Namazu beast tribe quests.


Robin TGG

I sure would love to hear what your sources of inspiration where when you wrote up stories and whatnot for FFXIV. Furthermore, is there any specific part of FFXIV’s lore, quests or stories that you like more than anything else? If so, why?

Oda:
Personally, I get a lot of my inspiration from history, mythology and folklore. I think I have also been influenced a lot by fantasy and sci-fi novels too. It is very difficult to narrow it down to just one section of the story as my favorite. Recently, I had a lot of fun writing some crazy stories for the Namazu beast tribe quests. I hope you look forward to seeing them!

Ishikawa:
Music is essential to me when I am stretching my imagination. It is a very important tool to help connect me with the emotions of others. I don’t think too hard about the original purpose of a song or the lyrics, and just lose myself in the overall feel of it, which is when I begin to see the scenes that I want to illustrate.

What I like best from the story of FFXIV are many of the scenes where we say good-bye to characters. Some of them are joyful partings, while others are filled with sadness at a death. I hope that these kinds of scenes will stay in the minds of the players, alongside their own meetings and farewells between each other.

square enix e3 2018

Yep, Square Enix may have skipped E3 2016 and E3 2017, but they are coming to E3 2018. So don’t miss out on their showcase at this year’s edition of E3!

Robin TGG
What’s your plans, hopes and expectations for the rest of the year? And is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?

Oda:
Thank you for reading this far! I have been involved with the development of FFXIV for seven years since the original and five since ARR, and I really am so grateful to our fan community. I will continue to try my best to satisfy all the players, so please keep supporting us!

Ishikawa:
Thanks to everyone out there, we managed to exceed 10 million registered players worldwide after the release of Stormblood. The whole development team don’t want to lose momentum there though, and will continue to do our best to entertain all our players! There will be three different Fan Festivals held at different locations across the world from the end of the year into next year, so I would love to share the excitement with you all there!

tgg author avatar robin ek
Robin “V-Act” Ek
Editor in chief
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @TheGamingGround

More by Robin Ek:

Tags: , , , , , ,

Save 3$ with our Play-Asia coupon code "thegg"

0 Comments ON " Final Fantasy XIV interview with Natsuko Ishikawa ... "

TGG categories

Advertising spot

Help us stay alive

Paypal Patreon logo

Google ads (please turn off your adblock)

Advertisement

 

Play-Asia.com - Buy Games & Codes for PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U and PC / Mac.

 

 

Recent posts

"Forged Battalion" has left its early access program via Steam

"Forged Battalion" has left its early access program via Steam

Press release: 13th August 2018 – Team17, a global games label, creative partner and developer of i[...]
“2064: Read Only Memories Integral” is out now for Nintendo Switch

“2064: Read Only Memories Integral” is out now for Nintendo Switch

Press release: SAN FRANCISCO - August 14, 2018 - 2064: Read Only Memories INTEGRAL, the cyberpunk n[...]
Oppaidius Summer Trouble! PC preview - A very funny and interesting +18 lewd visual novel

Oppaidius Summer Trouble! PC preview - A very funny and interesting +18 lewd visual novel

"Oppaidius Summer Trouble!" is an ecchi visual novel by Vittorio Giorgi (SbargiSoft). The game follo[...]
PAX Aus 2018 has revealed its indie showcase winners

PAX Aus 2018 has revealed its indie showcase winners

Press release: MELBOURNE, VIC – Aug. 13, 2018 – PAX Aus 2018, taking place 26-28 Oct. 2018 at the M[...]
"The Bug Butcher" is coming to Nintendo Switch this summer

"The Bug Butcher" is coming to Nintendo Switch this summer

Press release: Indie Dungeon, The Netherlands – August 14h 2018 – 2Awesome Studio is proud to annou[...]
Overcooked 2 PS4 review - A great and worthy sequel to the first game

Overcooked 2 PS4 review - A great and worthy sequel to the first game

Team 17 rarely ever publish a bad game. As a matter of fact, Team 17 is one of the few publishers th[...]

Google ads

Our sponsors

Kinguin
EwinRacing Calling Series Gaming Chairs
TGG v2.4 © 2014 - 2018 *The Gaming Ground* all rights reserved
twitch icon youtube icon google plus icon twitter icon facebook icon rss icon
alexa
Privacy policy
TGG ethics policies