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“The Death and Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV” – A Summary of Noclip’s Documentary: Part One

July 31st, 2017 by Raptorchan

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The Death and Rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV is a three-part video series created and released by Noclip, a Youtube channel that specializes in video game documentaries.

Noclip had set out on a mission: To hear Final Fantasy XIV’s tragic tale, but rather from outside sources, they wanted the story told by Square Enix themselves. The series of videos were emotional and at times, even shocking. It showcased just how much the company struggled with the failed launch, and how one man turned the entire company upside down to save them.

While this is a summary of the documentary, we highly recommend that readers watch the videos and provide them with views. Much love, work and dedication went into these videos and it’s important to support the creators.

Part One: “One Point O”


In the first video of this short trilogy, the crew of Noclip make mention that the original version of Final Fantasy XIV, known as 1.0 to the development team and community, has become something of a myth to the Final Fantasy franchise, and to MMOs as a whole. It is a game that is no longer playable, and only exists through word of mouth–both in game and out–and videos that quietly linger in the depths of youtube.

Heading into the heart of Square Enix, Japan, Noclip was able to interview several members who were involved in the creation of 1.0, which included in this video:

  • Yosuke Matsuda, the CEO of Square Enix
  • Naoki Yoshida, Producer/Director of Final Fantasy XIV
  • Hideyuki Kasuga, the Engineering Team Lead
  • Toshio Murouchi, the Global Community Producer
  • Michael Christopher Koji Fox, the English Language Localization Lead

Koji Fox mentions having been brought in to work on Final Fantasy XI, where the team believes their problems had originally began. The success of Final Fantasy XI had turned the company blind to the need for researching other games, and seeing what players wanted and enjoyed, and the belief that Final Fantasy XIV would succeed in all the same ways Final Fantasy XI had. With this mindset, the team had set out to recreate Final Fantasy XI with updated graphics; another weakness of Square Enix, Yoshida noted.

Because Square Enix had a reputation for having high quality graphics, Yoshida mentions that the company had grown arrogant because of it. They had become one of the top companies in the world with games that possessed incredible graphics, and from that came the confidence that only they could achieve such a status. “It became a sort of shackle,” he said, “and I think we had become very arrogant and very prideful.”

And that pride became a blindfold.

At the time, Hideyuki Kasuga explained that the game was written entirely on a script format, which had the benefits of being a quick method to creating a game. However, it would lag the servers when multiple scripts would run all at once, causing the game to feel extremely sluggish and slow, and it often limited the developers in what they could create in game, as too many scripts would stress the servers.

Final Fantasy XIV was being built on the success of Final Fantasy XI and a script engine that would slow the more functions were added; on top of that, the development team were trying to make the game up to par with Square Enix quality graphics the company had come to be known for.

According to Koji Fox, he and his team were some of the few developers who got to see the mostly completed game first. He explains that all the teams working on the game worked on their parts separate, and were very proud of the pieces they created. But when all the individual parts came together, it was extremely clear that Final Fantasy XIV was not prepared nor ready to hit store shelves, even with the looming release date. And no one knew it, saved for localization and QA. And while they felt the need to do something, Koji says by that time, it was too late.

Inconsistent graphics, punishing players to keep them from leveling too quickly, random world items having the same amount of polygons as a player character and the battle system being anything but fun; Final Fantasy XIV’s beta was not well received, and frustrations began growing within the development team. Koji mentions that Square Enix hadn’t adapted to the ever changing world of video games, with games like World of Warcraft changing how MMOs were viewed and played, and that was their downfall. They stuck with an old formula, and it cost them greatly.

Though these problems were brought to the development team, Square Enix decided to go through with releasing the game. Their reasoning was that Final Fantasy XI had problems upon release, but were able to be fixed through patches. Square Enix had hope that Final Fantasy XIV’s issues would disappear gradually through the aid of patches as well. So taking the leap of faith and hoping the problems in beta were just that, beta problems, they released the game on September 30th, 2010.

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Final Fantasy XIV’s release went well according to Noclip’s video host Danny O’Dwyer, that the game had a successful first week launch and after a month, they had 600,000 players. However, the game’s many issues would eventually come to light, and with it, came the bad reviews. Now with a stained reputation that was only growing with each negative review spreading like wildfire, Final Fantasy XIV began its inevitable fall. The development team was disheartened, disappointed and tired upon reading the negative reviews and the angry posts on forums across the internet. The development team sent out multiple apologies to their player base, but were at their wits end, unsure of what to do with the game they had spent so much time and poured so much effort into.

At the time, Naoki Yoshida was working on another game in a different branch of Square Enix, and while he didn’t have visibility on the issue, he knew the team working on Final Fantasy XIV was struggling with the game. He says that, from an external viewpoint, he had read the reviews on the game, and originally believed that players were comparing FFXIV to FFXI, as most people do when new games are released. He thought the animosity would eventually calm down after the game launched. Yoshida then explained that, after joining the project, he learned there were people who voiced their opinion on the matter; people who thought FFXIV should not continue, or else it would put Square Enix in a bad position. However the game was launched regardless of the warnings.

Square Enix eventually realized that the issues Final Fantasy XIV was facing were not usual launch issues, and that something needed to be done. So they put together a small task force, whose purpose was to research and find out what the game needed to be fixed, and what resources the development team would require. Members of the task force spoke with Yoshida after-hours, to share their concerns and worries. Yoshida had come to the conclusion that the current organizational structure would have to be changed in order to make the changes required. This resulted in Yoshida speaking to then-president Yoichi Wada to issue a company wide emergency to gather the proper resources, which lead to Yoshida being made producer/director of Final Fantasy XIV by request of the development team.

Yoshida mentions that since he had been working on Dragon Quest, he didn’t know anyone on the FFXIV team. So he took time to get to know his new team, and told them if they didn’t like how he ran things, they were free to leave under the single condition that they give each other three months first to get to know each other. And while the idea of A Realm Reborn had not come to fruition then, he still told the team that they were not giving up on the project. The reaction from the development team was mixed, and tensions were running high on the thought of spending another year on the same game that could end in another failure.

He asked his new team to believe in him, and to trust him. And while a lot of the team was exhausted, others were equally not ready to give up on the game they had poured so much time into. And having someone like Yoshida come onto the project, who did not try to take control but instead talked to the developers, provided direction and gave his team a small glimmer of hope. After that, Yoshida worked with corporate, to ensure his team had some time off and to also provide Yoshida a chance to do a lot of research into other MMOs and even FFXIV itself. It was then he realized how bad the game truly was, and that this was something that could not be solved through small patches.

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After seven weeks of research, Yoshida returned with two options for Square Enix to choose from. To either patch the game gradually and try to fix it, but knowing well it would not last a long time due to its current build and would never satisfy its player base. And though they could possibly make their money back, the damage would be already be done to both FFXIV and their company. Or. To patch the game gradually, fixing it, while simultaneously working and building an entirely new Final Fantasy XIV.

Yoshida believed that, by doing something so crazy as to patch a game while remaking it entirely under the same name, it would show the fans they were trying to regain their trust and trying to repair the damage that was done to the franchise. That they were aware of the issues FFXIV had, and were trying to make good on their promise to the community.

“Corporate did choose Plan B,” Yoshida said, “and here we are today.”

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