Q&A with Naoki Yoshida on Final Fantasy, MMO markets and economies

ByJose A. York

Nov 7, 2020

You may remember that last year I got to meet and interview Naoki Yoshida, talking about Final Fantasy XIV, what was the determining factor in the success of the game, how to develop a successful live service title and the future of Final Fantasy XIV. I was recently offered the opportunity to send in a few questions regarding the formation and function of markets and economies in an MMO, specifically that of Final Fantasy XIV.

After playing a lot of MMOs, it’s always interesting to see how an MMO can balance an economy as runaway inflation can occur, essentially reducing the possibility of any new player being able to afford things much later. than would be normal. It is also interesting to see what an MMO economy is based on, the rules it follows and what is taken into account during drastic changes. These are things that I tried to address in the seven questions that I was able to send to Naoki Yoshida.

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With Final Fantasy XIV now in its tenth year and eight years since A Realm Reborn, I’m very interested in examining a fundamental element of every MMO: the economy. The first question I ask myself is, when creating the game, what thoughts go into creating an MMO economy?

Naoki Yoshida: For recent MMORPGs, there’s not just the subscription-based model we had back then, but rather microtransactions are becoming more of a mainstream model. First, the design of the game economy will change based on the difference in economic model. Additionally, there is no unconditionally “correct” economy system, as the game design itself differs depending on whether the game is based on consuming content like WoW or FFXIV, or whether it’s based on a “time to win” approach.

In the case of a subscription game, there aren’t really many restrictions placed on the amount of items that can be obtained. In contrast, in the case of a microtransaction model, games tend to place restrictions with real money on the capacity of players’ bags and items obtained. Of course, for this reason, the value assigned to in-game items will be very different, and this will translate into a difference depending on whether the main economy revolves around personal selling and trading or whether the focus is on a market Game.

For FFXIV, we set the average amount of gil that can be obtained per day, and while maintaining inflation as much as possible, we intentionally create the areas where gil must be collected with the system. Since we designed it to make rewards from high difficulty content more valuable in-game, we limited the possibility of gil prices skyrocketing for Disciples of the Hand synthesized gear. But, we incorporated intentional design decisions so that at the start of scavenging raids, this Disciples of the Hand synthesized gear is the one to lean on to deal the most damage or provide the most protection. . Consumables like medicine and meals also play an important role during these times. If I elaborate any further, I’ll probably end up writing 10,000 words, so I’ll leave it at that…

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When creating the financial system of the game, do you look at other video games or real examples, using them as references? Were any particular examples used in the creation of FFXIV’s economy?

Naoki Yoshida: No, we are not referring specifically to concrete examples. However, using our knowledge of the types of currency systems used in other games, we strive to assess how currency is transferred between players. Apart from that, the main thing comes down to our experience as players and performing numerical simulations. It goes without saying that we also need personnel familiar with these thinking, design and simulation processes. One point though is that when we are preparing something like an auction system for the game, we strive to study real world auction sites and auction systems. Indeed, a reliable and durable system offers high stability and functionality.

As with any currency, the gil must have intrinsic value. This can be judged by the set prices of items like potions, food, etc. How do you decide the prices of these items? As more and more money enters the system thanks to the increase in the number of players and the natural flow of gameplay, do you ever consider changing the value of these items?

Naoki Yoshida: We continuously monitor data from the Eorzean economy. We have the total amount of gil provided to players by the system for a given day and the total amount of gil collected by the system on the other hand. We’ve also implemented comprehensive support mechanics such as visibility into the average amount of gil held by each player in a given level bracket and alerts for players that dramatically increase the amount of gil they hold over a short period of time. period. In addition to containing inflation, these are useful to us in detecting so-called RMT providers, dupe issues on our servers, and gil farm. By monitoring these factors, we try to contain price disparities by adjusting the market trade value in gil for newly added items and the amount of gil fetched by the system, while leaving the prices of most items sold by Unchanged NPCs (because they are fixed based on indicators that serve the base).

To sum up, we will not adjust the fixed prices unless there is a very important event that would justify it. We ended up adjusting the price of several thousand items with the latest patch 5.35 update because the buy price was deemed too low or the sell price too high for these, but this was the first times since the launch of A Realm Reborn.

In this sense, it is natural that even more money enters the system. To avoid excessive price inflation, do you plan to create other money-out systems like player housing? The added value is that these also act as goals for players to work towards.

Naoki Yoshida: It is indeed true that player housing is one area where accumulated gil funds can be spent. But it doesn’t just stop at housing. Items such as stylish equipment with unique designs are also part of our mechanics. The main goals that players would have in mind for fundraising are things like collecting garden or house furniture, or maybe acquiring their favorite gear to dress up their character. I’m also working on generating gil myself for all the gear, materia, food and potions I need to deal with raids… (laughs)

For player-to-player trading, Final Fantasy XIV made a particularly big change from Market Districts to the Market Board. What was the motivation behind this change?

Naoki Yoshida: The answer is simple. Market districts were too inconvenient for players because they couldn’t immediately find the items they wanted. What players want to do is go on adventures, not rummage through the contents of a restraint bag to prepare for adventure. A market system was not implemented with our server system on the original FFXIV, but we made sure to prepare the specs for this in good time when we went into production on A Realm Reborn, and we designed the servers to withstand it. Time is very precious for all our players. We took action because I’d rather players spend their time adventuring than shopping. (smiles)

A convenient market system will increase the sellers and because of this the buyers who make up the demand will also increase in turn. Convenience is of the utmost importance. Amazon ftw!

In line with player-to-player trade, prices naturally fluctuate, but are prices still managed by increasing or decreasing drop rates for items or materials?

Naoki Yoshida: Yes, as we monitor the gil as I mentioned earlier, a remarkably high sell value for certain items would tell us that those items are not sufficiently available. At times like this, we employ various forms of control such as increasing the drop rate of items with fixes or reducing the number of materials required in crafting recipes.

As a final question, have you seen any in-game similarities or trends that reflect anything from the real world? If so, what was it and, if not, could you see it happening in the future?

Naoki Yoshida: Hmm, it’s quite difficult to give a concrete example… What I can say is that even when a person is playing in the game, his way of thinking is the same as in real life. Those who want their items as quickly as possible won’t mind paying a higher price to some extent, while others who aren’t satisfied unless they can find the best deal will buy only after they’ve traveled to other worlds to check prices. These types of behaviors aren’t that different from the buying mindset that consumers actually have, nor do I think we’ll see a trend toward any particular buying style. In recent years, we have even seen virtual “trial” functions appear on real e-commerce platforms, which were previously available in video games. Well, I can’t really think of much…