Famitsu: Yoshida Shadowbringers Lore Interview (1/2)

Authors

Famitsu
Famitsu Japanese Video Games Media
Iluna Minori
Iluna Minori Translator | SEA | Chocobo
Nemekh Kinryuu
Nemekh Kinryuu Site Founder | EU | Cerberus
Pind G'yger
Pind G'yger Translator | JP | Midgardsormr
Chiela G'yger
Chiela G'yger Translator | JP | Midgardsormr
Message From AkhMorning

As part of our vision for future content on AkhMorning we are looking to expand our horizons with coverage of various overseas media to bridge together the information between regions and to help enhance the global understanding and appreciation of FFXIV.

This article is our twelfth translation article of overseas interviews. It is unofficial and all rights to the source images, assets and written content belong to Famitsu and SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. respectively.

Due to the controversy that has arisen with the mistranslations that had appeared on other platforms, we have taken extra care to go over the source to ensure not only does it retain the fidelity to Yoshida’s sentiments, but for the lore to be correct to FFXIV. As such, these interviews have taken longer to put together, and we hope that you enjoy them even more.

For ease of legibility with the article’s length, the source media has been omitted but can be found in the official article link below.

If you have any feedback, please contact us at feedback@akhmorning.com.

It is with great pleasure we bring to you our translation of:

FFXIV Producer And Director Naoki Yoshida Reveals The Naked Truth And Secret Stories Behind Shadowbringers (Part 1/2)

There Was a Rejected Concept Known As “Eorzea Awoken” That Existed During The Planning Phase!

Source Article

『FF14』ネタバレ全開の『漆黒のヴィランズ』秘話を吉田P/Dが赤裸々に語る(前編)。構想時には『覚醒エオルゼア』という”ボツ案”も存在した!

Famitsu Article Staff

With the release of Patch 5.55 on May 25th, 2021, Final Fantasy XIV (henceforth referred to as “FFXIV”) has put all the cards on the table leading the main scenario into the next expansion, Endwalker. Even though Shadowbringers, a story praised worldwide, and its subsequent wrap up stories were resolved for this expansion, the excitement and wonder gained from the journey are, needless to say, something that all players already know by now.

So, what kind of process did the team go through when creating Shadowbringers’ themes? How were ideas conceived for what is considered the best story in the history of FFXIV? Will we ever learn the truth behind various mysteries that remain unresolved even today, such as Emet Selch’s “real thoughts” behind his disappointment over the Warrior of Light’s gradual transformation into a Sin Eater, as well as what words Thancred mouthed after his final confrontation against General Ran’jit, and so on?

Famitsu made a request to the producer and director of FFXIV, Naoki Yoshida with the hope that he’ll bring those answers to light. In addition to looking back at everything that has happened up till now, Famitsu also managed to get Yoshida to share all these stories that were hidden behind the scenes.

Do note that a portion of the information was already published in the physical version of Famitsu magazine on the 26th of August. This is the full version of an already posted interview and is divided into two sections with the second part scheduled to be posted in the future.

Before we begin with the information, there are things to note. As already explained at the beginning, this interview article will contain full blown Shadowbringers spoilers. Players who haven’t reached Shadowbringers will risk getting spoiled and have their enjoyment of the content ruined, so it is advised that you proceed with caution.

Also, this article refers to the main story quest that occurred specifically in Shadowbringers Patch 5.0, Stories revolving around the First, and those that took place between Patch 4.4 to Patch 5.3 will be referred to as the “Shadowbringers arc”. The Shadowbringers story referred to in this article does not cover any story taking place after restoring the night sky to Norvandt, so be careful.

Throughout this article, there will be references to two different Minfillias, so in order to avoid confusion, the article will refer to Minfillia, leader of the Scions, adopted by F’lhaminn, as “Ascilia,” while the Minfillia from the First, the Oracle of Light, will be referred to as “Ryne.” Halfway through the article there will be segments where their names will be used despite not having said their name up to that point. Please keep that in mind as you’re reading.

Constructing the Story In Order to “Reveal 80% of the World’s Mysteries”

Famitsu
Famitsu

The main scenario for Shadowbringers has that dynamic feel, as if each character’s behavior is completely natural and as if they’re living people, going beyond the author’s will, which I think was one of the reasons why this story has been so well received by players all over the world.

Yoshida-san, I’d like to know at what point during the development stage did you get the feeling that this is going to work?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

We create our expansion with the thought of “This will work!” so to answer that question is difficult. (laughs bitterly)

Famitsu
Famitsu

I understand how that feels. (laughs)

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

So to give an answer to that question…

For Shadowbringers, we began story development by deciding to reveal 80% of the world’s mysteries, from the original version of FFXIV all the way up to Stormblood. What gave me a sense of satisfaction was seeing how beautifully connected the various pieces of the stories are as development went on.

On top of having answers popping up one after another, they were all satisfying. As new information is presented to you, the game moves quickly onto the next plot point, making it even more difficult to stop playing than ever before because I was so eager to find out what happens next.

Even when looking at this as a player, I think we were able to bring out the vibe of entering into the story’s finale. That probably was the point where I got the feeling, “Yes, this works!” and thought this could be it. If you were to ask about when that happened, I think it was right before the start of the Media Tour (which happened May 2019 in both Europe and the US).

I did have a fair amount of confidence even before then, but by actually doing a variety of checks on the game, I was able to actually see its form… or something like that.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So at that point, you’d managed to go through the main scenario in what would be close to its complete form.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right. That was when I played through it for the first time.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I replayed Shadowbringers prior to conducting this interview, and there were several scenes that I’ve enjoyed even more knowing the story that comes after.

The first scene where the Warrior of Light is exploring under the Crystal Tower, an object with the Garland Ironworks logo in hand, and then is suddenly transported to the First is a perfect way to begin the expansion.

I’ve further noticed that there is a lot of foreshadowing leading up to this during the early parts of the story. Was this created with the aim of having players replay the game eventually using the “New Game+” system?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

We did not create this with New Game+ in mind.

We have always kept our work direction consistent, but I think we were able to create foreshadowing well in some places as the story development process gradually became more sophisticated. However, as mentioned earlier, we decided to “reveal 80% of the world’s mysteries” in Shadowbringers, so it was easy to present the answers, and since there was no need to include hints or anything, it made the scenario so much easier to take in, don’t you think?

Famitsu
Famitsu

Indeed, although the story content is really dense, it remains really easy to understand.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

As you further explore the First’s history, you also learn of an event taking place on the Source where a certain percentage of the population lost their lives due to Black Rose.

Wars broke out due to those remaining struggling to survive, unable to find even food. This hastens progress towards the Eighth Calamity. In order to prevent this, Cid and his successors spend around 200 years after that event occurs to unravel the mysteries behind the wings of time and Omega’s interdimensional travel, and attempt to change the course of history through utilizing energy from Crystal Tower…

This is the event that created the story’s premise , however I don’t feel we can continue to reveal the world’s secrets in the same manner, as it wouldn’t present clear enough answers. It’s because we made the decision to reveal 80% of the story’s mysteries that we were able to increase the amount of story parts we could show to the players.

For example, since we wanted to give Ardbert’s adventure proper closure, we managed to properly depict his journey and its resolution in great detail.

If we muddle through the latter part or refrain from revealing the final outcome of that story, we inevitably won’t be able to convey everything about the story in depth.

To tell the truth, the above mentioned scene with the Warrior of Light holding the machine with Garlond Ironworks’ crest carved on it was actually a nice idea from our scenario writer Ishikawa (Natsuko Ishikawa, the Lead Story Designer), and it made us able to reveal what we had foreshadowed earlier in the story.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Which means?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

If you remember, in the Crystal Tower series’ final scene, Nero threw his small counter device off the cliff, yes?

After Nero left, the device seemed to detect something, but in fact it reacted to the machine the Warrior of Light picked up during Shadowbringers, and functioned as the coordinates for summoning the Warrior of Light. Granted, at the time we hadn’t planned for that to happen, and originally the device detection was done just in case we decided to create a new raid dungeon that would revolve around later on.

We had an idea to design a dungeon called “The Forbidden Land of Eureka” beneath the cliff. So to anticipate that, we decided to create that plot point where that device was responding to that location. But then, as you know by now, the Forbidden Land of Eureka ended up becoming side content of its own.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I’m surprised that there was a backstory behind this.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Considering the Forbidden Land, Eureka, which draws its origins from “FFIII,” was actually not a dungeon, but functioned as a kind of shop (※1), during the planning stage it was then clear to us that we couldn’t proceed with the idea. As such, we decided to cut out the name “Eureka” from the rest of the content. This resulted in whatever that happened in the Nero scene being left as inconclusive, and we were able to come up with a solution for it to be “a response to a machine similar to that cogwheel”.

In that sense, the scene that happened at the beginning of the story was also the answer to the question that was left within us.

※ 1: FFIII’s version of The Forbidden Land,Eureka was a dungeon with many mini-bosses. However, the main objective was to unlock the jobs “Ninja” and “Sage,” as well as obtain powerful weapons before entering the Crystal Tower. The deepest floor of Eureka allowed players to purchase Crystal armor as well as magic such as Flare and Holy.

The measuring device that was thrown off the cliff by Nero, emitting a noise indicating that it has measured something.
The measuring device that was thrown off the cliff by Nero, emitting a noise indicating that it has measured something.
Famitsu
Famitsu

Indeed, there definitely are players who would speculate around that.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

If I were to find any comments that say “don’t tell me the machine that Nero threw away was THAT machine!?” I’d probably think “Ah, there are players who think that way!” (laughs)

Anyway, there wasn’t anything in particular we paid special attention to when we created New Game+. Instead, it was made with the intention to find something new when playing the story for the second time. But I do think it is important for players to go “Ahh, so that was the reason why this happened!” since there are players who would want to replay the story again. I mean, I’m also a person who would reread my favourite mystery novel several times.

So there’s definitely players who would do the same with Shadowbringers, which is why I wanted those players to experience that amazement that made them go “Wow, so it’s possible for the game to express concepts utilizing such amazing mechanics?!” and “I didn’t know this game was made with that much attention to detail!”.

Like what happened in this case, we’re aware that not every detail was conceived at that time, and it wasn’t all about revealing what was foreshadowed. However, the best thing about continuing to develop the game is being able to revisit what we’d done before and make use of it.

I would be even happier if the game experiences, including surprises that we bring to the table, serve as an impetus for players to pursue a career in the game industry.

Fondly Remembered Character Cameos In Endwalker

Famitsu
Famitsu

It looks like in order to remember that feeling of amazement players once had, it’d be nice if players could review the main scenario quest one more time before the release of Endwalker on November 23rd.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

On that, there was a slight mistake in translation nuance in one of the answers I’ve given to the foreign media not that long ago.

I actually did not recommend any particular scenarios nor did I tell the players to replay the story all the way from “A Realm Reborn” to “Shadowbringers”.

While yes I’d definitely be happy if players could go through and replay the main scenario from start to finish if they have time, since this will generally be difficult for most people, what I mentioned was actually “go back and replay your favorite parts of the story from Heavensward, Stormblood and so on.”

Famitsu
Famitsu

What was the reason behind the answer?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Endwalker won’t just conclude the Hydaelyn-Zodiark arc, but is also the “first saga’s conclusion” in the entirety of FFXIV. For that reason, you will see a lot of familiar faces make a cameo appearance. Thus, if you replay your favorite parts of the story, you are likely to enjoy the game even more.

Aside from the main scenario, players who still have remaining job quests or class quests may want to play through them beforehand as doing so may provide an even more enjoyable experience.

This was what I told the foreign media, but when I tried to parse the article through machine translation, the nuance ended up being different than intended, and it was already published online. (laughs bitterly)

Famitsu
Famitsu

So there might be important parts to the story that players may have missed even in content unrelated to the main story quests, such as side quests and so on.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

This bears repeating, but FFXIV does not end with Endwalker.

However, I do think that the more a player immerses themselves into FFXIV’s world, the more opportunities they will have to smile at small details they uncover.

Since our Warriors of Light have been adventuring for quite a long time, some players’ memories may have faded. Therefore, if they can revisit their favorite parts of the story when they have spare time, I think that may provide some extra enjoyment to the players.

Famitsu
Famitsu

From what we have heard up to this point, it sounds like not only will Endwalker be the end to the Hydaelyn-Zodiark saga, but it also seems that the team has invested much more effort into the expansion compared to previous ones?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s correct.

Because it’s sad to hear people commenting on how the climax of previous stories was more hyped up than this. (laughs)

Due to the confidence we gained from Shadowbringers, I already have faith in some of the aspects players will see in Endwalker. It’s going to be a story players will struggle to keep away from, so I’d like everyone to look forward to it.

Of course, I’m also thinking about what we will create after Endwalker, so I believe players won’t feel sad even after reaching the latter half of the game.

Famitsu
Famitsu

It’s exciting to know that Shadowbringers wasn’t merely an extension of the story.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

However, we’re talking about the end of days that not even the Ancients could do anything about.

Do note that it’s definitely not going to be an easy thing to overcome, so please take this to heart.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Would it be fair to say story-related difficulties that Yoshida-san and the rest of the development staff have undergone thus far, as well as other experiences gained along the way were put into good use when working on Endwalker?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were difficulties. (laughs)

Either way, I don’t think this is going to be an easy, straightforward project.

Just because we received high praise from Shadowbringers doesn’t mean that we can do anything but create the same thing again, so Endwalker was created with that mindset, so please look forward to it.

The Reason Behind Fully Revealing the Ascians’ Story And Their Agony.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Before, we discussed “revealing 80% of the entire world’s mysteries,” so regarding the remaining 20% of the mysteries that remain, did you actually list them up and scrutinise it closely when you were developing Shadowbringers?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

No. We didn’t specifically make any lists about it.

While we can’t divulge anything further on that, I did directly instruct them to not make certain parts clear just yet. Such as “don’t make this part, or this part, and that part clear yet,” and so on.

As for other elements than the ones I’ve personally instructed that were disclosed, they were counted as revealing 80% of the mysteries in its entirety, so it should roughly be fine.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So only several points were withheld from the public.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I basically left a message telling them “we are not going to make a decisive conclusion on these specified elements yet, so let’s hold off on working on the story surrounding that.”

On the other hand, I did specify examples, for instance that it’s okay to reveal information about Hydaelyn and Zodiark being Primals.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I figured information about Ascians should naturally be kept under wraps as well, but almost their entire story was revealed in Shadowbringers.

As they are immortal, unlike regular humans, they must continue on while holding onto the bonds they have with their compatriots whom they need to save.

Was it decided from the very beginning that this would be portrayed in the main scenario quest?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right.

Until Stormblood kicked off, information about Ascians, FFXIV’s best known villains, and their existence was only vague at best. We knew the mysteries surrounding them would have to be revealed eventually, but up until Shadowbringers we didn’t have enough time and space to tell their story, so we decided to keep it in the dark at that moment. In their place, we brought to life more surface-level enemies Warriors of Light would need to fight instead.

The Garlean Empire is a great example of the aforementioned. It’s a commonly used writing technique, but we created scenes where the Warrior of Light loses to Zenos in order to give players a sense of familiarity to him.

On the other hand, Shadowbringers took the story in the direction of fighting the world’s mysteries.Doing so allowed us to place Ascians in a position previously occupied by Gaius, Thordan, and Zenos… in that order.

As such, I felt that until we give Ascians, who up until this point had been these obscure figures without much of a presence or proper depiction, players wouldn’t be able to enjoy the story to the fullest, which is why it ended up becoming one of Shadowbringers’ main themes.

Famitsu
Famitsu

And we strongly felt that clarity of depiction as we played through the story.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Even in this case, in order to avoid giving players the impression that Emet-Selch, a key character in Shadowbringers, is just “an unclear character who appears for no apparent reason,” we needed to create a proper connection that links him with the player’s adventure, as well as the other characters that appear in the story.

If we don’t do so, the story would lack necessary immersion.iWe paid close attention to that part and had Emet-Selch appear during the final segment in patch 4.4 for this purpose. I do believe that everyone had a very different impression of him when he first appeared…

Famitsu
Famitsu

I remember well that my impression was “Great, here comes another eccentric one,” when he appeared as the first Emperor of the Garlemald Empire. (laughs)

I definitely didn’t expect him to become such a memorable figure.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Players thought “Ascians up to this point have all acted like him, so is he going to be another person who would talk about things we don’t really understand at all?” wouldn’t you agree? (laughs bitterly)

The first appearance of Emet-Selch in Patch 4.4. His unique way of telling a story gave many players the impression that he's a shady character.
The first appearance of Emet-Selch in Patch 4.4. His unique way of telling a story gave many players the impression that he's a shady character.

Ishikawa, The Scenario Writer Who Elevated The Story From “The World of Mysteries” To “The One Who Inherits The Soul”

Famitsu
Famitsu

During the interview we had with you prior to the release of Shadowbringers, I remember you mentioned that the underlying theme of this expansion would center around “the one who inherits the soul.” After playing the game with that knowledge in mind, it is true that one can feel that theme utilised in various situations.

I think now would be the right time to ask this question, but I would like to learn more about the meaning behind the theme “the one who inherits the soul” and what you hoped to accomplish.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Rather than me, this theme was chosen by Ishikawa who was in charge of writing the story.

In fact, I didn’t mention anything about using this as the underlying theme.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So Ishikawa-san was the one who decided this.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Yes.

I remember when she discussed it with me, she said “The underlying theme that I found within myself was ‘the one who inherits the soul’ so I’d appreciate it if you could review the story with this idea in mind.” That was the first time I’d heard that phrase.

Although it’s better to ask her for more details about it, I believe she created that theme after being directed to “reveal 80% of the world’s mysteries,” and likely established her own personal theme which is “People are here today precisely because they’re connected to each other.”

I heard at some point that Ishikawa wrote “this is the story of a hero who saves the world” in her own notebook. I believe it’s thanks to Ishikawa-san creating that theme within herself and seeing it through that her writing around the theme, “Become as one through actions that the Warrior of Light has taken up to this point,” that she managed to connect G’raha Tia, Omega, and Alexander with each other. Ishikawa also hoped for the reappearance of G’raha Tia.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Thanks to that, it really became a story that touches the hearts of players all over the world.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I believe it was thanks to her best efforts to express the theme through the story that made the players feel the same way.

Writers’ ability was one thing, but it was also an incredible effort from the development team working with the writing team to turn it into a game experience.

Furthermore, I believe that it is because of everyone’s adventures in FFXIV up until that point in the story that they can feel so strongly about the story elements like “the path we’ve taken,” as well as “those who inherit.”

Famitsu
Famitsu

Roughly when did that exchange take place?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

We divide any given expansion’s scenarios into multiple parts called “Acts.”

An expansion’s full story would be equivalent to about 6 acts. Most of the time, I’d check on Act 1 to Act 3 at once, then review Act 4 and beyond during my second check.

So that exchange probably happened when I conducted my first review of the story, I think.

By the way, Endwalker is around up to 7 acts of content…

Famitsu
Famitsu

The underlying theme of “the one who inherits the soul” is not limited to “Shadowbringers” but also seems to be a theme for “A Realm Reborn,” “Heavensward,” and “Stormblood” as well.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I think that’s why it felt even more emotional to the players.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Listening to what you just said allowed me to realise once again how wonderful the story was.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

“Yours is a long road, my friend, and it stretches on to places beyond imagining. With your every step, these grand adventures shall grow more distant and faint. And there may come a day when you forget the faces and voices of those you have met along the way. On that day, I bid you remember this…That no matter how far your journey may take you, you stand where you stand by virtue of the road you walked to get there. For in times of hardship, when you fear you cannot go on.. The joy you have known, the pain you have felt, the prayers you have whispered and answered – they shall ever be your strength and your comfort. This I hope – I believe, here at memory’s end”…

This narration from the final scene of Patch 5.3 where the Warrior of Light ran towards the Crystal Tower really symbolised everything.

Famitsu
Famitsu

It was an amazing monologue. I’d like to follow up with the next question considering we’re in the flow here.

Is there anything in Shadowbringers that made you feel the story had not done enough? If so, what would it be?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Hmm… I’ve always wondered about this, but Shadowbringers is really full of “good people” all around.

Rather, there are a lot of relatable characters in the story.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Which is exactly why I thought you’d give that role to Sin Eaters.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

No, that’s not it.

Many in the First see Sin Eaters as simply an enemy that must be defeated.

Warriors of Darkness fought them all over the First, and saving people was the momentum that kept the Warrior of Darkness moving ever forward. This structure felt really good to us.

However, when everyone just kept moving forward, it was hard for me to understand why Tristol, the painter dismissed by the Chai’s and ordered by Vauthry to hurl himself off Eulmore, later forgave them for their actions… This bothered me a lot and still does to this day. (laughs)

Tristol, who was exiled from Eulmore, though it was closer to being executed, had his old wounds reopened in an unexpected manner.
Tristol, who was exiled from Eulmore, though it was closer to being executed, had his old wounds reopened in an unexpected manner.
Famitsu
Famitsu

That incident happened in Amity, located on the clifftop.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Tristol gave Alphinaud his art tools as his thanks for being saved by the Warrior of Darkness from drowning. That random chance of fate led him to reunite with Chai-Nuzz.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Now that you mention this, that development really was something… despite being unsure of what to do.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

For that scene, I even prepared my own line. It went something like:

“I’ll never forgive you for the rest of my life, and I never want to see your face again. However, for the sake of the person who saved me and that young man… I’ll work with you for now. But do not forget, I’m not doing this for your sake”

… or something to that effect.

Famitsu
Famitsu

The tone felt like that too.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

In the scene where the Giant Talos rises up to form a bridge to Mt. Gulg, you witness the achievements that the Warrior of Light acting as the Warrior of Darkness had accumulated and gathered into one singular moment. However, I was really troubled that someone so easily forgave the people who forced him to jump from the top of Eulmore, even with the sea below to cushion his fall.

I would think to myself, “I was just an honest painter who draws pictures,” and even though Shadowbringers was really entertaining for a piece of work, that one scene itself turned out to be a prickle and it concerned me…

However, I do realise the importance of having that slight prickle here too, hmm. That experience itself made me turn it over in my mind for 2 days straight.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So what happened to the replacement text in the end?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

After I shared my thoughts with the team, they decided to leave it as is.

For one it was Vauthry who directly ordered the jump, not the Chais. I think Tristol probably painted the picture in his own way, just like how Alphinaud did, and Nuzz simply did not like it.

But then again, everything about the First’s environment and situation at the time was truly terrible, and it necessitated a good look at the current, overall picture.

So, Tristol might have thought the same and that’s his character. That was how I interpreted it. I do think that it’s good for Shadowbringers to have a story flavor like that.

Yoshi P Chooses His 3 Favorite Scenes!

Famitsu
Famitsu

I would like for you to tell us your favorite scenes, ranging from the start of Shadowbringers to Patch 5.5’s main story.

You can answer it from the perspective of a player, or you could answer it as a developer of FFXIV.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

In a way, I was the first player ever to play Shadowbringers, so it wasn’t easy to choose a favorite among all the scenes.

But if I have to pinpoint one while speaking as a creator here, my favorite scene… would be the scene where Urianger had a conversation with Ryne.

The scene where Thancred becomes unhappy about having to relay his resolve to Ascilia. After giving Ryne a gentle pat on the head to try and ease her distress, Urianger tells her his story, bit by bit. Certainly one of the most well-known moments in Shadowbringers.
The scene where Thancred becomes unhappy about having to relay his resolve to Ascilia. After giving Ryne a gentle pat on the head to try and ease her distress, Urianger tells her his story, bit by bit. Certainly one of the most well-known moments in Shadowbringers.
Famitsu
Famitsu

The scene that KENN-san (KENN, or Kenichirou Oohashi, the voice actor of Urianger and Wedge) acted live during Digital Fan Festival 2021, I take it.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

It was the scene where Urianger relayed his own thoughts out loud for the first time.

Since he’s a person with sharp senses, he probably knew that the Warrior of Light and Thancred were nearby. Nevertheless, I was really happy from the bottom of my heart to be able to prepare a moment for Urianger to speak his thoughts so directly, and that really displayed his character growth.

After all, Urianger has been a character full of questionable and shady decision-making ever since the Meteor Project from Legacy FFXIV. (laughs bitterly)

Famitsu
Famitsu

I also thought he always had some kind of ulterior motive at that time. (laughs)

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

He finally experienced personal growth to be able to express his true thoughts. He became a character who could say “I’m not very good with crowds.

It took me a long time to figure this out.” It deeply moved me because the game had become capable of creating such a moment for growth.

Another moment that left a strong impression on me was the scene where Thancred confronted General Ran’jit, who was chasing after Ryne and the others. In fact, that scene is the one I requested to help rewrite the dialogue.

Famitsu
Famitsu

What was insufficient here?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I think this is a question maybe even the writers weren’t sure about, it was the part about how Thancred truly thinks of both Ascilia and Ryne.

I told them to make Thancred be direct and honest to both his sister (figure) and his daughter (figure).

After letting both the Warrior of Light and Ryne escape, I had him shout “Not another step! Your fight is with me!” and both of them duked it out after that. At that point I just wanted them to make clear what Thancred’s relationship is with the both of them.

After the battle, you can see Thancred collapsed with his arms and legs wide open, and I was really particular about the way in which he collapsed when we were modifying the scene, as well as his appearance.

Since he shouldn’t have much time to spare in finishing such a fierce battle with General Ran’jit, but for Thancred who is a secondary character, it’s natural to be careful about how he looked as he’s about to collapse to his death, even if no one was around to watch at that time.

Including the part where his last words left unvoiced, I do believe we managed to express how cool a man like Thancred was during that moment. Initially Thancred felt like a complete stranger to me, but the fact that I was actually able to feel how far he had come after 10 years of working on FFXIV was a big deal to me.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Then what about the story from Patch 5.1 and beyond?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

This was already mentioned previously, but my favorite was the final scene of Patch 5.3 where the Crystal Exarch’s monologue was spoken while the Warrior of Light, after returning to the Source, races to the Crystal Tower.

When I watched that scene, I felt that Nacchan (Natsuko Ishikawa’s affectionate nickname) definitely created those words for the development team (laughs).

It was a monologue that brought home the point of “not betraying the path made by oneself,” so speaking from the perspective of the development team, the words spoken by the Crystal Exarch are definitely words that we can reflect upon.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I can see that the Crystal Tower, a familiar sight since A Realm Reborn, acted as the summation of the entire story.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

For us who have been involved in the development and operation of the game for a long time, it is something akin to an adventure.

No matter what happens in the future, the game we’ve made thus far will never betray us, and we can think of that as a way for us to accept things… Therefore there’s a little part of me that thinks that she was attempting to make the development team shed a tear (laughs), and it’s just like her to come up with these kinds of dialogues.

By the way, there is a scene in Shadowbringers that acted as the counterpart to that monologue, and I wonder if you remember?

Famitsu
Famitsu

Ohhh…?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Right before the giant Talos makes contact with Mt.Gulg, there is a scene where the Crystal Exarch takes a break with the Warrior of Darkness beneath the shadow of a rock. I suggest you revisit that one.

You can also use the Unending Journey to check it out, and if you do you’ll find it’s a scene that acts as a counterpart to the aforementioned monologue. If you have the time, I encourage you to do so.

This screenshot is taken from the mentioned scene, which took place near Amity village. Players who watch this scene again will definitely understand what Yoshida is trying to get at.
This screenshot is taken from the mentioned scene, which took place near Amity village. Players who watch this scene again will definitely understand what Yoshida is trying to get at.

The Actual Words Thancred Mouthed

Famitsu
Famitsu

Another favorite scene of mine is one that’s considered a top favorite amongst players.

Right before the final battle against Hades takes place in the Dying Grasp, we hear Ardbert scream, “Take it. We fight as one!” at the Warrior of Light who was gradually transforming into a Lightwarden after taking in too much light. This triggers the soul merging process which prevented crisis from occurring.

Thinking back, there was a moment where Emet-Selch struck a deal with the Warrior of Light with one condition being “able to contain the amassed Light within themselves”. In the end Emet-Selch concluded that the Warrior of Light failed this task, but by that point the Warrior of Light and Ardbert’s soul had merged, so it technically means the Warrior of Light actually met Emet-Selch’s requirements.

I’d like to know if you can shed some light on this part?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I probably interpreted that part slightly differently to how you did.

First, Emet-Selch thought that if the Warrior of Light is truly Unsundered, then it’s a given for them to easily control even that large quantity of light.

To Emet-Selch, there’s an enormous gap between what he considers “true human beings” (the Ancients) and what he calls “pitiful, malformed creatures” (humanity as we know it).

The sentiment that “absorbing just 5 or 6 of the Lightwarden’s contained light is enough to make you turn into a Sin Eater?” is the primary factor to his disappointment in the Warrior of Light.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I see.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

While this is really nuanced and difficult to convey, but from the perspective of Emet-Selch who possesses the knowledge of unsundered souls, he felt it should be easy to contain the light emitted by the Lightwardens regardless of how fragmented the soul is.

By the end, Emet-Selch thought, “You are not Azem, nor someone similar to Azem… in the end, you were nothing but a failure”.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So he judged the Warrior of Light to be a failure.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That was the conclusion he came to.

If the Warrior of Light, even with a fragmented soul, could contain all of that light, Emet-Selch felt he might have to re-examine his views on humanity itself…

This is precisely why he had to experience the journey himself; he really thought that by joining hands with humans, he could have found a different solution to the methods that he and the Ascians had taken up until that point.

Needless to say, Emet-Selch has a very detailed understanding of the Warrior of Light’s soul, and it is very similar to that particular person he held in high regard… “but even so!” The point that made him truly disappointed from the bottom of his heart was because of that aforementioned incident. Those were Emet-Selch’s true feelings.

This particular dialogue spoken by Emet-Selch shows his true feelings pulled from the bottom of his heart. After becoming deeply disappointed in the Warrior of Light, he began thinking of them as a failure and thus should be executed.
This particular dialogue spoken by Emet-Selch shows his true feelings pulled from the bottom of his heart. After becoming deeply disappointed in the Warrior of Light, he began thinking of them as a failure and thus should be executed.
Famitsu
Famitsu

So this means, during the part after the souls were reunited…

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s where my interpretation differs slightly.

There’s really no right answer to this, and how you personally feel about it can just as easily be the right answer. It’s just a difference in interpretation.

The moment where Ardbert mentioned, “Take my soul with you!” indeed instigated the merging of two parts of the soul, bringing the Warrior of Light’s soul one step closer to the strength of an Unsundered. With that, they managed to suppress light and prevented it from going rampant.

However, I would also suggest checking out what Y’shtola said after clearing the Dying Gasp, where she mentioned that the Warrior of Light’s Aether, which was badly ravaged by the light, seemed to have been offset by the dark.

Famitsu
Famitsu

That indeed happened!

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Hades unleashed his power with all his might so that he might prevent humanity from robbing him and the other unsundered of their claim to the world.

In response to that, the Warrior of Light struggled against his might by unleashing a large amount of Light from within. That part is actually reflected in Hades’ lines during the trial against Hades, and the clash between Light and Darkness after the battle was the same as well.

As a result, wouldn’t this mean the Warrior of Light managed to balance both the Light and Darkness that resided within themselves?

In other words, if Emet-Selch by any chance took a closer look at the series of exchanges in that situation, it might be possible to create a different interpretation.

But of course, I won’t say that this is the answer here.

Famitsu
Famitsu

That was one of the various interpretations lying around.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Indeed one among several possibilities.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I would like to follow up with one more question.

Throughout Shadowbringers’ story, Thancred definitely went through a lot when facing the loss of important family members. Furthermore, that answer lies with Ryne, and it really was heartbreaking once players understood his feelings.

Although I apologise that this doesn’t turn out to be a question at all, I’d like to know Yoshida-san’s thoughts about the whole matter.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Ascilia’s feelings towards both Thancred and F’lhaminn here are indeed like a kind of replacement family, her “brother and mother” respectively.

To Thancred, Ascilia is part of his family, and he felt he should respect her own wishes as much as possible. No matter how sad he felt, ultimately he felt he should respect her wishes and had an obligation to protect it… To him, this is what family is all about.

On the other hand, Thancred also thought that he should stop her wish, even if it meant forcing his love on her. So he was very conflicted. However, Ascilia truly believed that it was her mission and her lifework to keep the light of hope alive for the sake of future generations.

That’s why Ascilia thought that by having Ryne walk alongside the Warrior of Light and Thancred, she would adopt the same hope, and would want to pass it onto the next generation. Therefore, facing the choice that Ryne made, Ascilia said something along the lines of “That selfsame hope lives on in you. It gives me comfort to know that the future is in capable hands.” and entrusted everything to her.

Looking from Thancred’s point of view, even if he felt the sadness of losing his family member, he didn’t have a single regret. Although he managed to have a direct exchange with her, F’lhaminn wasn’t as lucky. However, I do believe that after returning to the Source, Thancred did his best to explain what happened and how it ended up.

In any case, if you try to look at the scene where Thancred collapsed with arms and legs spread apart after the battle with General Ran’jit, you’ll find out that he was trying to extol all of his feelings on the matter.

I was very particular about that part as well so I ensured that the portrayal of how Thancred felt when sending Ascilia away was done properly. I thought it would give you some idea of what kind of dialogue would fit in with the words Thancred mouthed at the time.

After calling out Minfilia's name with a feeble voice, Thancred silently mouths something. This is the scene where Yoshida included an unspoken line, so the line that would fit this particular scene would be...!?
After calling out Minfilia's name with a feeble voice, Thancred silently mouths something. This is the scene where Yoshida included an unspoken line, so the line that would fit this particular scene would be...!?
Famitsu
Famitsu

I am quite interested in that part, so I’d like to check on that once again.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That was just me thinking of letting that person say that particular line if I were the one to make a choice here… but please do. (laughs)

Famitsu
Famitsu

Since F’lhaminn is mentioned, do allow me to ask a question about her. I personally think that she is the saddest character in this story.

In the final line in the sidequest “One Final Journey,” she said along the lines of “Rest now, Ascilia. My dearest daughter.”

Personally, I wish she would say something along the lines of “Even so, I wished she could have lived no matter what.” I felt surprised that F’lhaminn accepted Ascilia’s fate so easily.

What do you think about that?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

It is probably because ever since the moment Ascilia crossed over to the First and assumed her duties as the Oracle of Light, F’lhaminn was emotionally preparing herself to bid Ascilia farewell. So because F’lhaminn placed all her hope in Ascilia, she was able to say, “Rest now, Ascilia. My dearest daughter,” without hesitation.

Personally, I’m not a fan of stories about people pitying other people. (laughs bitterly)

However, F’lhaminn isn’t a character who would say something like that in front of the Warrior of Light.

Famitsu
Famitsu

There are players who were wondering about that as well.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Which is why F’lhaminn wouldn’t say something like “Even so, I wished she could have lived no matter the situation,” to the Warrior of Light, who personally bid Ascilia farewell.

F’lhaminn is that kind of character, and the writers had a lot of trouble trying to write that scene.

The Untold Twists And Turns Of The Legacy FFXIV Era

Famitsu
Famitsu

The next question isn’t exactly related to Shadowbringers, but during Digital Fan Festival 2021’s Keynote presentation, it was mentioned that FFXIV 1.0’s original plans included 6 starting cities: Limsa Lominsa, Gridania, Ul’dah, Ishgard, Ala Mhigo, and Old Sharlayan.

Each city included rough overall lore at that time, so I wondered if you already had an idea of what each city’s story would look like when you took over?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Iwao-san (Iwao Kenichi, Lore Designer for FFXIV 1.0) and Koji (Michael Christopher Koji Fox, Localisation Supervisor) were the ones who worked on that, so the inner workings had already been completed, but stories connecting each individual city to the other didn’t exist at that time.

FFXIV 1.0 was initially referred to as “Rapture”(※2), and the ability to select one of 6 starting cities existed from the first development phase. This is probably my own assumption, but since FFXI had 3 starting cities to choose from, I believe that’s why they decided to create 6 starting cities for FFXIV 1.0.

※2: Rapture refers to the working title for Square Enix’s next generation MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) when it was announced at E3 in June 2008. At that time, it was more a codename, rather than the game’s actual title. A demo was aired at the time, and an area that is reminiscent of today’s Crystarium was shown.

Famitsu
Famitsu

You actually thought to double [the number of starting cities].

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Something simple like that. Each city had a defining role that was already decided upon.

For example, the lore behind the academic city of Shalaryan is that it’s the capital of knowledge, where all the world’s knowledge is gathered.

Ishgard, on the other hand, is where everything related to “dragons and knights” is found, and Chocobos only inhabit that area… something like that.

Following this trend, we had Limsa Lominsa, the world’s largest maritime city, Ul’dah, the city of sand where the majority of Eorzea’s wealth is gathered, Gridania, a city living in harmony with nature through communing with spirits, and finally Ala Mhigo, a country engulfed in a civil war and previously involved in numerous other wars, plus a revolution. These backstories were pretty much set in stone, but to my knowledge, when I took over, there were very few stories at the time that connected each of the cities.

At some point after the early stages of FFXIV 1.0 development, we concluded that it was impossible to have 6 starting cities, so we reduced the number one by one.

By the time Yaeko-san (※3) started writing the plot, the number of cities had already been reduced to somewhere around four.

※3: Yaeko Satou is the writer who worked on FFXI’s Windurst Missions as well as the story for “Chains of Promathia,” one of the Final Fantasy XI’s expansions. After that, she was assigned to work on the main story for FFXIV 1.0. She is currently working on writing the story for FFXI’s “The Voracious Resurgence” expansion.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Even then, it still ended up being too many starting cities?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

We decided that “even 4 starting cities is impossible.”

It probably happened around the time where we had to decide whether to include Ishgard or not. We ultimately settled on 3 starting cities. Most likely we decided to cut Ishgard because of the Gates of Judgement that have served as its entrance from FFXIV 1.0 until now.

That’s why when I started working on FFXIV, I asked them for the reason behind the lack of so many fantasy elements in this game, to which they replied, “Because all of these elements are found in Ishgard”.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So the fantasy elements that make up FF all reside in Ishgard, and that important area did not exist back then. That’s why you set Ishgard as the first expansion’s stage?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right.

After all, not only did the Gates of Judgement already exist, but Ishgard was already visible from the start, so players would probably though, “It’d be great if you could just open it!” (laughs)

As I’ve mentioned before, I personally believe that when releasing an expansion for an MMORPG, it’s the signal for a new beginning. I felt that if I were to release an expansion, the only choice would be to start with Ishgard.

Furthermore, A Realm Reborn lacked two game experiences at the time: Swimming and Flying. As FF has a strong image of flying across the sky associated with it, that’s why we added flying mounts to Heavensward.

This is also where the keyword “Blue Sky” (in Japanese, 蒼天, Souten) in the Heavensward expansion’s Japanese name comes from.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I thought that Ishgard was intended to be the city for mid level adventurers to come together, similar to Jeuno in FFXI. So it’s pretty surprising that the location was once a candidate to be a starting city.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I believe that the details weren’t fully ironed out at that time as to whether all 6 cities would be starting locations or if they’d just be cities that the story would revolve around.

The First: A World That Was Born From The Idea Of Breaking Out Of Boredom

Famitsu
Famitsu

Ever since the early stages of A Realm Reborn, the existence of Ishgard and Ala Mhigo has been referred to many times in the story.

In contrast, the First, which players traveled to in Shadowbringers, had very little prior information revealed.

As a result, did you have more flexibility in shaping both the scenario and world than in previous expansions?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Without a doubt we did have more flexibility.

However, players who have supported us since the old FFXIV days got to enjoy the fantasy elements in Heavensward’s “story of dragons and knights”. For me, it felt great for us to be able to achieve that.

Famitsu
Famitsu

What about Stormblood?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Since Ala Mhigo had yet to be liberated, I felt it would be the logical next destination to go.

However, Oda (Banri Oda, Lead Story Designer) told me that I should note that Ala Mhigo would be a really small area, so I took the chance to combine the eastern region of Doma with Ala Mhigo to create the “liberator’s story”.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So Yoshida-san, you’re the one who came up with the concept behind FF’s expansions?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

The task of deciding the base concept of what an expansion will include, as well as what kind of adventures the player will experience throughout, falls to me. Because of this, I felt that players got bored with the more conventional approach and formula after Stormblood’s release.

Prior to announcing Shadowbringers, I read predictions from players who thought we’d be heading to the Garlemald Empire or how the game would finally allow players to go to Sharlayan. So I felt it’d be better to subvert those expectations when we announce new content.

As I’ve always said, I want players to be surprised every time, and so to fulfill that condition we have to fight against player’s boredom to achieve that.

Of course, it is fun to assemble the puzzle pieces as they were laid out over a decade ago, but I’d also like to go off the rails sometimes and make everyone go, “Wait, what?!” Taking into consideration that we’ve created a universe where the original world has been divided into 14 parts, and that we are developing everything from the ground up, I thought it would be a good idea to use the First of the worlds for this part of the story. That’s where the concept for Shadowbringers was formulated from.

Afterwards, I flipped the key concepts behind “Hero” and “Warriors of Light” on their heads. This gave me a lot of freedom when creating the landscape for Shadowbringers. Because the main theme was about a world being destroyed by a flood of light, it allowed me to take on new challenges.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Can you provide an example of some of the new challenges you took on?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

One example would be the story behind the Warrior of Light becoming the Warrior of Darkness, restoring night to the First.

To illustrate this, we began with the idea of angels surrounded by a halo of light about to descend from the sky. It’s true that we had more flexibility compared to previous expansions, but we tried to thoroughly maintain the foundation “a world that is a mirror of the Source”.

Despite sharing the same original Aether, the separation of the world occurred over 10,000 years ago. This would have resulted in each world having a completely different history.

To summarise, I tried to create a world that shared a similar visage of the original, but ultimately with very different histories.

In line with the policy of “a world that mirrors the Source,” Lakeland would be equivalent to the Silvertear Lake area in Mor Dhona. Since Midgardsormr does not exist in the First, Bismarck would be there in its place.

Although this Bismarck is a completely different existence to the one from the Source, we retained its whale design base in accordance with the rules we set ourselves from the beginning.

By likening Lakeland with the Silvertear Lake, players will immediately realise the Isle of Ken where Bismarck resides is likened to the Keeper of the Lake.
By likening Lakeland with the Silvertear Lake, players will immediately realise the Isle of Ken where Bismarck resides is likened to the Keeper of the Lake.
Famitsu
Famitsu

So the Lakeland was based off Silvertear Lake (in Mor Dhona).

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right.

On top of that, you’ll notice that there are many purple trees in Lakeland, while the areas surrounding Crystal Tower in the Source also use purple, so we actually brought some elements from the Source into the First as well.

On the other hand, Il Mheg is based on Coerthas before the Seventh Umbral Calamity caused it to freeze over. Therefore we strengthened the fantasy colors that were part of the original Ishgard and its surrounding areas, and made it a place for fairies to live in.

Famitsu
Famitsu

If that’s the case, then is the Rak’tika Greatwood equivalent to the Black Shroud?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right. Although it is a completely different forest to its counterpart.

Compared to the Source, where the Black Shroud is filled with tranquil and solemnity, Rak’tika Greatwood is a forest that’s been completely taken over by jungle-like growth. From within you find people living in the hollows of trees.

I wanted to create that kind of setting within Rak’tika.

Famitsu
Famitsu

So Amh Araeng is Thanalan, I take it?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

As you can imagine, we brought over elements of Thanalan into Amh Araeng.

There was a place called Naabath Araeng, which thrived in the same way as Ul’dah, that was destroyed by the Floor of Light.

And then we have Eulmore, which is of course based on Limsa Lominsa. The shape of the structure was designed with the image of Limsa Lominsa in mind.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Instead of reusing Mizzenmast’s base, was Eulmore built from scratch?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right.

Because it’s a building that has existed since FFXIV 1.0. There would have been issues with transferring it over if we had brought it as it is, so in the end we had to rebuild it from scratch. We wanted to retain the right atmosphere for Eulmore while also making it flashy and decorative.

On top of that, we positioned Eulmore as an entertainment district where wealthy people gather and live out the rest of their days in this twilight world. The premise around this area was decided during Shadowbringers’ story writing retreat.

As for the Tempest, while on the retreat we decided to put it on hold and use it depending on how the story’s flow ended up.

Famitsu
Famitsu

How did the development process continue from there?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

The usual process in developing an expansion is, after deciding on a foundational theme, to have a three-day retreat with myself and the story writing team at a nearby rental conference space.

Famitsu
Famitsu

In other words it was a story writing boarding house.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Yes.

During the retreat, we decide on the story outline, for example: “Let’s start here, and once we do this and fulfill our task, we’ll move on to the next part.”

Early stages of the game’s fundamental experiences will be laid out as well, such as, “A certain number of bosses may be required here?” By doing so, we can discuss various ideas and topics, such as, “Let’s utilise this feedback we received previously and add mechanics like this here.”

During past story retreats, Ishikawa would keep record of meeting minutes, and through that, the main story staff members would utilise her notes as a basis for developing the initial story plot. By doing so, they work on ironing out any elements that might create plot holes.

Afterwards, we decide on who writes the actual scenario. That was the overall flow.

Famitsu
Famitsu

And the assignment of responsibilities was made from there.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Assignments differ each time, so we do not have a set decision beforehand, and negotiations are customary throughout the process.

During Stormblood, both Oda and Ishikawa would split tasks, and both of them would write the story.

During Shadowbringers, Ishikawa offered to write it, saying “If I could write everything, I’d like to give it a try,” so we entrusted the task to her.

FFXIV’s development respects the wishes of whoever is in charge of the project, so if there are volunteers, it often ends with “Okay, go for it!” Once all the decisions have been made, the team begins requesting the creation of open world fields in bits and pieces.

Famitsu
Famitsu

How does that process work in detail?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

After telling the Level Design team and Background team (henceforth referred to as “BG Team”) the number of new zones required for the expansion, and telling them each zone’s theme, we’ll first ask the Art team to work on the concept artwork for the new zones.

At this stage, rather than trying to describe the plan in detail, it’s more giving the art team the overall image we have in mind.

As an example, for Il Mheg, we told the team it’s a wonderland inhabited by Fairies.After, we expand further by giving details such as Il Mheg having the same Aetherical composition as Ishgard, and thus even though the landscape has similar traits, such as steep clips, there are also unique facets, such as cascading waterfalls and beautiful lakes. We relay that explanation once to the art team, and let them draw however in their preferred manner based on the explanation.

Once the task is complete, the Scenario team and I will come together and lay out work created by the art team so that we can discuss our preferences and decide where we’ll land.

After discussing the zone, the Level Design and BG teams will work together to outline the zone’s general area using a blank map. Afterwards, they gradually embed their ideas into the same map.

Of course, we provide them with the minimum information necessary in order to design the scenario, but anything other than what we’ve provided mostly comes from their own ideas. The BG team always has someone in charge of each area, so we create polygon mock-ups (full-scale prototypes) and work with that person to create ideas and stories revolving around that zone.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I remember we were shown a document with information regarding new buildings, its location and many others on the map prior to the release of A Realm Reborn.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

It’s the same thing here.

We’re still following that approach for FFXIV.

The Struggles That Plagued Yoshi P During Shadowbringers’ Conception

Famitsu
Famitsu

When creating new zones for upcoming expansions, is their conception point based around the story, and ideas come out of that as you work your way through?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

All work related to zone creation was done in parallel.

First we decide on the expansion’s theme for the expansion, and then work to divide tasks into smaller chunks, so that team members can simultaneously work on different things.

Actually, when I started working on the concept behind Shadowbringers, there was an image in my mind of A Realm Reborn. I thought of creating an alternative version of A Realm Reborn and actually struggled quite a lot with that one.

Famitsu
Famitsu

This is really interesting. I would like to hear more about it.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

At that time, we wanted to add flying mounts to A Realm Reborn zones, but we were unable to secure the budget for it.

With the release of Shadowbringers, we added flying mount zones that are a parallel world version of A Realm Reborn zones…

We had the idea to create an experience allowing players to travel between existing ARR zones and the new parallel world’s.

Famitsu
Famitsu

It ended up being something like a reversed world. It made me really curious about what areas you had in mind.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

This is just an example, but due to the imminent threat of the First merging with the Source, zones in the First and the Source are very close to each other, as in their dimensional boundaries are on the cusp of overlapping with each other… that’s the idea.

The First would have been completely destroyed if there had been one more event triggering the Rejoining, therefore the story takes the Warrior of Light back and forth between the two worlds and to prevent it from happening.

The idea originally was, once the story progresses to the end, after the original zones in the first are replaced with their final forms, players would be able to unlock flying mounts. It was meant to kill two birds with one stone. (laughs)

I pushed for that idea for quite a while and tried to see if it could be achieved, but in the end it never came to fruition.

I’m the type of person who finds things more interesting if the system updates are made with story and plot integration in mind over just doing so for the sake of developer’s convenience. So, I thought it would be better to get that done this expansion so people would think we were doing something amazing.

Famitsu
Famitsu

It’s a really interesting idea. Why wasn’t it realised?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

The biggest issue ended up being that no matter what we did, it’d end up plain.

Even though the First and the Source were similar-but-different in nature, the areas in the Source were already too visually familiar, so I thought, “Well that definitely won’t work.”

As such, we decided to adopt the idea that zones in the First are “similar but different in nature,” and composed with the same Aether.

Flying mount capability in A Realm Reborn areas is a feature that was already implemented as of Patch 5.3.
Flying mount capability in A Realm Reborn areas is a feature that was already implemented as of Patch 5.3.

Establishing Protagonists While Keeping The Differences In Perspective Between “FF” And “Dragon Quest” In Mind.

Famitsu
Famitsu

In an MMORPG, as the players themselves are the game’s protagonist, there is a level of difficulty in how much personality you can assign to the main character.

As it is hard for the story to strongly proclaim, “This is what you really are,” throughout, it is difficult to give proper definition to their position as main character in an online game. However, I personally felt that Shadowbringers managed to subvert expectations and made this challenge its strength.

For example, during that final battle with Hades, I was very impressed during the scene where Warriors of Light from other worlds were summoned, and I think that was a scene only possible in an online game.

Was it due to accumulated past experience that allowed you to utilise players as the protagonist and turn it into a key story element?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Hmmm, it wasn’t like this was something we aimed for from the beginning…

I myself used to work on the Dragon Quest (henceforth referred to as “DQ”) series, so I do have an emotional attachment to RPGs in which the players themselves are the protagonist.

The biggest difference between DQ and FF is the aspect of players themselves as the main character. Something Horii-san (Yuuji Horii, the creator of the Dragon Quest series) has said before, “I do not wish for the main character to act on their own.”

In the past, even player characters simply nodding during cutscenes was a topic of contention.

Recently, I’ve been asked to loosen the reins a but, but I do feel it’s best to adopt a similar mindset to what Horii-san has for DQ.

Famitsu
Famitsu

May I know the reason why?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

There are many DQ players who use their own name when playing. On the other hand, characters who represent the FF franchise as a whole, such as Cloud Strife, were created with strong personalities that gave players the opportunity to experience the story being told through that character’s eyes.

However, when creating an online game for the Final Fantasy series, it’s a different story.

Something I myself know very well as a long-time MMORPG player, from the player’s perspective, the awareness that “I am myself,” can often be very strong.

Famitsu
Famitsu

In a way, it creates something akin to a contradiction.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Since players create their own character, their existence itself is truly unique. So, creating an MMORPG which keeps that fact in mind creates some difficult contradictions.

I personally want FF to be a story where the main character dramatically saves the world. On the other hand, the story portrays the players as “the character you created, your alter ego,” a hero of sorts, similarly to DQ.

First off, in revamping FFXIV, we decided that players must be the main character themselves. Players will not act as the observer that accompanies other characters to save the world; their position is at the center of the story.

Even though FF’ is a series that requires drama revolving around the main protagonist, following the decision mentioned above, I learned from Horii-san’s direction and policies and decided to impose considerably strict restrictions in emotes the player performs during cutscenes.

Thanks to this, there should be few scenes where the Warrior of Light nods their head.

Famitsu
Famitsu

The only time the Warriors of Light nodded their head was when they were presented with specific choices they had to make.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Because the player’s intent intervenes. I think it was around the end of Heavensward that we started allowing this.

After that, we gradually eased up on allowed movements as we explored player reactions as well as upped the threshold of drama we’d include in various cutscenes.

The scene in Stormblood where players were visibly frustrated after losing the battle with Zenos was probably the first turning point for expressing the Warrior of Light’s emotions.

Famitsu
Famitsu

The Warrior of Light’s expressions during the scene with Haurchefant in Heavensward was also impressive.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

We did our best to adjust that scene as much as we could, but in the end we only managed for the character to express themselves by looking down and closing their eyes, even after giving the camera a top down angle.

After that, our policy for the Warrior of Light’s emotional expressions range started to spread within the development team.

The player is the protagonist, the one who saves the world. Now that in itself is fine and all, but the final remaining question was who the other seven characters appearing in the story to defeat the Primals would be.

Famitsu
Famitsu

I remember that there used to be discussion about that during A Realm Reborn.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That happened quite a lot. (laughs bitterly)

At the time I had to give vague answers like, “Maybe they were dispatched by the Adventurer’s Guild?” or something along those lines.

Around patch 4.x, that excuse gradually became more unusable, as during that part in the story there’s a trial where the Warrior of Light and others blessed with the Echo have to prevent characters from becoming Tempered by reflecting back Aether Energy being released by the Primal Lakshimi.

The Scions are set up to have the story’s main characters in one place, in addition to characters who have the Echo.

Famitsu
Famitsu

They could be reinforcements from the Scions coming to help win the battle against the Primals.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Even the story flow was along the lines of “requesting help from you, a group of adventurers, to defeat the Primals,” wasn’t it?

Sure, the players might have used their own connections to bring together a group of friends who can’t be Tempered… which may be a bit deceptive, but I’m afraid that’s no longer possible. (laughs)

In the First, there’s no way to summon other Scion members to help them defeat enemies you face.

Famitsu
Famitsu

That’s true! (laughs)

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Since Stormblood, the whole topic, “we are catching glimpses of other worlds, so it’ll work out if we summon them.” was actually a partial joke at the time.

Afterwards, when we began discussing Shadowbringers’ story direction before the battle against Hades (The Dying Gasp), Ishikawa suggested once again the idea of using the Crystal Exarch’s power to summon other fragments of the Warrior of Light’s soul through the dimensional rift.

Thinking of the moment where the Warrior of Light’s companions rise up from the light pillar, I felt we managed to integrate it well into the story, since Azem wields the ability to “Call upon the stars when and where he needs them”.

So just as you asked, when we were planning out how the scene at The Dying Gasp would play out, as a team we felt convinced that it was possible precisely because FFXIV is an online game.

The selected soul bearers transcended dimensions to gather in one place to defeat the enemy. This scene provided the opportunity to define that setting.
The selected soul bearers transcended dimensions to gather in one place to defeat the enemy. This scene provided the opportunity to define that setting.
Famitsu
Famitsu

After looking at the scene of that final battle, I’m really convinced.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

However, you’ll see frogs and piglets summoned after the Shadowbringers’ release. (laughs bitterly)

Famitsu
Famitsu

People were saying that as this emotionally charged scene brings you to tears, you’ll see characters in a variety of costumes appearing one after the other. (laughs)

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

And now you can even see chickens appear. (laughs)

Famitsu
Famitsu

Thinking back, I believe most of the party members that time tended to equip proper, decent outfits when I experienced that moment for the first time.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

In order to make that happen, we made it possible for players to obtain job specific gear, which we call “Artifact gear” (AF) before fighting Hades (The Dying Gasp).

Famitsu
Famitsu

I see!

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I wanted the players to fight in their form that most closely symbolised “FF.”

Famitsu
Famitsu

You allowed players to obtain AF equipment prior to fighting against Hades instead of after clearing the Dying Gasp.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

That’s right. There were two issues with obtaining AF equipment after reaching max level.

The first issue was already mentioned above, where doing so will end up potentially creating a lackluster scene when battling against Hades.

The other issue is that the value of AF gear will decrease due to being able to purchase level 80 tomestone equipment. To prevent that from happening, we made job specific gear obtainable within the prerequisite main story quest.

Shadowbringers is a story that focuses primarily on the main character, so I thought this would be a chance to encourage people to queue for content while using their job-specific gear.

Since most players who cleared the game during the early stages were wearing their AF gear, they likely would have joined together with eight players whose appearance all bring out that “FF” feel.

However, I think after roughly 4-5 weeks from that point, the number of players with Toad heads & suits gradually increased…

Famitsu
Famitsu

It was the moment where I first became truly mesmerised by my own avatar, and that really left an impression on me.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Glad to hear that.

That moment during the final confrontation with Emet-Selch was precisely the scene that made players feel like, “I’m the main character”, don’t you think?

The line, “I challenge you, Emet-Selch,” was a line that players are able to say out loud.

I do feel that we really did portray that well.

Famitsu
Famitsu

Throughout Shadowbringers, I held strong to the belief that the player was not a bystander.

I feel it’s a story where the player will strongly recognise that they’re the main character, a hero.

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

During A Realm Reborn, I was often relaying messages about the remains of the world that we were withdrawing from, and as such we used the word “hero” many times throughout that first expansion. Once this reached its peak, it resulted in the lead-in to “Heavensward” that subsequently ended the Dragonsong War.

Afterwards, the terminology used to refer to the WoL gradually changed to “liberator” during Stormblood. However, the true liberators would most likely be Lyse and Hien rather than the Warrior of Light. By purposely using the term “hero” excessively, we allowed it to take bigger precedence (rather than what was actually contributed).

Afterwards, when we begin Shadowbringers, the players enter a world where they are totally unknown to the general population, and it becomes such that your ability is the only hope for saving the world. However, from the perspective of someone wanting to restore the world into its original form, the Warriors of Light become the “rebels” of the story.

Also, from the perspective those who want to protect present-day humanity, the Ancients who are the primary threat to that goal are the actual “rebels”.

I do feel like we were able to successfully combine the outlaw-like nature of the word “Liberator” with the feeling of this can only be achieved by me that comes with the word “hero” to create “Shadowbringers.”

Famitsu
Famitsu

I’m asking this just to be sure here, but through the entirety of Shadowbringers arc, were there other inner themes or keywords besides “the one who inherits the soul”?

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

I think I’ve talked about this in various places before, but the Scions are, in the truest sense of the word, the player’s comrades.

That was the theme I strongly requested my staff members to keep in mind.

The three main objectives of the Trust System are solo play, world immersion, and making you feel that the Scions are your true comrades, and I believe we succeeded in accomplishing these goals.

To Be Continued In Part 2

Naoki Yoshida
Naoki Yoshida

Closing Words From AkhMorning

Thus concludes the first part of Yoshida’s Shadowbringers lore interview. This has been by far the longest Famitsu article we have translated where part 1 alone has had more total Japanese characters than parts 1 and 2 of other interviews combined!

This was a really interesting piece for the team to cover. Many emotional recollections of the Shadowbringers story were had as we did our best to not only translate, but use the localised cutscene dialogue to carry further resonance.

As mentioned in the opening note, we wanted to do our best to ensure that not only was the translation of utmost fidelity for accuracy and to retain the essence of what Yoshida was saying, but also to ensure that the lore remains as true to the source and is factual. With that said, we would like to thank Miuna Matsui for also going over our finished work to give it the OK.

Part 2’s translation is almost ready to enter its proofing and editing pass, so please look forward to the rest of Yoshida musing on the story of Shadowbringers!

Let us know what you think about this segment in the comments below.