Yoshi-P reflects on Final Fantasy 14’s stress-free casual content: ‘looking back over the past 10 years, I think we may have overdone it a little bit’

I like Final Fantasy 14 a whole lot—but, like so many in the non-raiding crowd, I’m thirsty for a little more challenge. As I mentioned in my retrospective earlier this year, the game suffers from a kind of polarised difficulty, where non-organised raid content is a smidge too easy, and organised raid content is appropriately hard—but really the only thing going when it comes to challenge.

Fortunately, that’s something the game’s director Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) seems to be aware of, as per a Famitsu interview translated by Automaton. Speaking with Famitsu, Yoshida says: “In the course of FFXIV’s development, we have tried to make the game more comfortable and stress-free for players, but looking back over the past 10 years, I think we may have ‘overdone it’ a little bit.”

He goes on to compare Final Fantasy 14 to a platformer without pits to fall into—maybe a little harsh, but a good way to phrase it. Stress, he implies, can be a cause of frustration. But it’s also required for excitement, something he wants to put “back into FF14”. It’ll be slow and steady, though, since he doesn’t want to “simply increase the game’s difficulty.”

I’m glad to see this brought up as an actual problem to tackle—in Final Fantasy 14, endgame content can largely be split into two categories: organised group content (which is mostly raiding) and solo content. 

Endwalker has been a stellar expansion for organised group content, adding a very solid set of raid fights, some well-received Extremes, and two whole Ultimates—20 boss gauntlets which ask for top-of-the-line gear and can take months to learn and beat. Solo content is another story.

When it comes to Endwalker, everything you don’t have to team up for is fun on the first couple of goes, but easy, becoming boring on repeat playthroughs as a result. Which is a problem, since grinding forms the hearty potatoes of an MMO’s stew. Variant Dungeons were an exception to this rule, but they had bad replayability for an entirely different set of reasons. 

I think this ultimately hinges on a design assumption that’s thankfully getting less popular: ‘Casual’ players and ‘solo’ players want the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to chill out and vibe in your MMO—but some solo players aren’t doing organised raiding because they simply don’t have the time, but they still want a challenge. 

I only started playing during Shadowbringers, so I can’t speak to whether FF14 has grown easier over its 10-year tenure. But I remember the field exploration zone Bozja filling this gap nicely. The fights were punishing, but only on a personal level—and if you were really ambitious, there were raid-difficult 1v1 duels with boss enemies you could be randomly selected for. Other players could even cheer you on from the sidelines. Bozja had its own problems, sure, but I’ve definitely felt its absence in this expansion.

Fortunately, Yoshida’s already confirmed that field exploration zones are making a comeback—and I can’t help but wonder if they’ll herald the return of a healthy amount of stress coming back to one of my favourite games.

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