The recently added Patch 6.2 was arguably Final Fantasy 14's most diverse update yet.
Front and centre was the Island Sanctuary: a farming life sim mode that offers a relaxing alternative to dungeon battling through duties and raids. That was on top of more main scenario and side quests, treasure hunts, housing options, and an extension of the Duty Support feature that lets players quest alone.
All of this variety is in line with producer and director Naoki Yoshida's idea of the ultimate MMORPG.
"My idea of the ultimate MMORPG is one in which each player playing the game can pick and choose the content they want to play, and the developers take into account the myriad values held by the players, responding to as many requests as possible," he told Eurogamer.
"So, what I mean to say is the game will further develop if it can meet the needs of many players, not just the needs of a particular type of player. In my eyes, the ultimate ideal is not 'playing all the game content' but 'being able to choose what content you want to play'.
"How much of each type of content to implement is determined through discussions among the core staff, including myself as director, the assistant director, the content director, the battle director and so on. Having said that, at the end of the day it boils down to making a judgement based on what we feel would be appropriate. So we will release the content, and then iteratively make adjustments while keeping an eye on the player feedback."
Final Fantasy 14 has proven to be incredibly popular with the series' fanbase and financially successful for Square Enix. With an ever-growing audience of players, it's clearly important to diversify content and provide something for everyone.
The Duty Support system may initially seem to be an odd fit. After all, Final Fantasy 14 is a multiplayer game, so why allow players to complete duties solo? Yoshida believes it can provide an entry point to the game.
"The main point is not that we are focusing exclusively on single-player content in particular, but rather that the scale of the game, its content, and development has finally grown to the extent that we can provide content tailored to solo players," he said.
"Another reason is that in further developing Final Fantasy 14 and expanding its scale, I want to guide people who have been thinking that 'connecting with other players is a pain in MMORPGs' so that ultimately they'll come to appreciate the 'fun of playing with others'. As an entry point into the game, being able to play the main scenario solo is a huge plus."
The Island Sanctuary is a further extension of the diversification of content.
"I wanted to provide a place where players could leisurely spend their time without participating in battles. It was also our aim to cover the needs that housing could not, such as letting one's minions roam free and expanding the area (available to players). Eventually as I was thinking about these things, a popular Japanese TV show ended up giving me the idea (of the island concept) and the content took shape as you see it today," he said, laughing.
Indeed, the team has been criticised for its handling of housing in the game - a feature that's been overwhelmed with popularity. Instead, the Island Sanctuary provides a space where players can look after animals, cultivate the land, and express creativity through customisation. Sadly, it's only available to players up to date in the story rather than being accessible from the start, but this is all tied into the plot.
"Where possible I did want this content available to players at early levels in the game but I considered that in the current story we've reached an opportune moment and we're now in the position to provide such an island to our hero. Hence, in the end I had no choice but to make clearing 6.0 one condition to access the content. You see, these types of things are tied to the fact that we're extremely particular about Final Fantasy 14's story," said Yoshida.
With so much content added to the game it must be difficult to please everyone - something Yoshida recently admitted was impacting the Final Fantasy series as a whole. But for its flagship MMORPG specifically, he believes further expansions to the game will only benefit players.
"I am not sure about Final Fantasy 14 becoming so big it doesn't quite satisfy everyone. The larger the game becomes, the more content should be available to suit player preferences. Hence, in my opinion any growth in the game's scale is basically of benefit to the players and there's nothing bad that will come out of it," he said.
To celebrate the launch of the Island Sanctuary, a week long livestream took place in Mudchute Farm, London, lovingly called Mogchute Farm for the occasion. It was a cute way to promote the update, with fans particularly taken with a male chicken renamed Zenos after one of the game's main antagonists.
Yoshida was particularly taken with the stream, but can we expect a Zenos chicken minion or mount in the future?
"I'll avoid giving any definite answer about whether or not Zenos the chicken will make an appearance in-game but I can say that the stream turned out to be a great source of stimulation for thinking up future rewards," he said.
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