When Final Fantasy XIV first launched, in 2010, it was such a disaster that publisher Square Enix made the unprecedented move of taking it offline and launching a brand new version three years later. What was it like to be there? Today on Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss.
Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, who heads up the translation department for the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, joins the show to talk about how he joined Square on the day it became Square Enix way back in 2003, his work on both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, and what it was like being part of the catastrophic launch and subsequent rejuvenation of Square’s biggest MMORPG.
Get the MP3 right here, or read an excerpt:
Michael-Christopher Koji Fox: Getting to work on the original [Final Fantasy] XIV was for me really exciting at the beginning, because when I joined [Final Fantasy] XI, all the groundwork had been done. The style had already been decided, the characterisations had already been decided, the world was already built. I was just hired to translate the text.
Whereas with [Final Fantasy] XIV, it was my opportunity to get in from the ground floor, and work with the world-building team, and the scenario teams to create this world and create things like the dragon language, which I got a chance to create from the ground up, or create the naming conventions for the characters and languages and backgrounds and things like that. Getting a chance to decide on characterisations, and the directions some of these stories might go was really exciting to me.
But at the same time, being there and seeing how the game development was going, and kinda realising that, ‘OK this might not be good,’ and then fully realising, ‘OK this is not gonna be good.’ But then coming to that realisation that ‘OK, it doesn’t matter what the project is doing right now, I need to concentrate on my section,’ so trying to get at least a great localisation out there. Then comes the launch, then comes the blowback from fans, then the change in leadership over here.
It was a whirlwind. People were frustrated, some people were leaving the project, some people were depressed about what had happened, they’d put two or three years of their lives into this and it’d come to this. And then [A Realm Reborn director Naoki] Yoshida-san comes in and gives us all a new hope, he gives us this vision, takes the reins and turn things around. I’d never been part of anything like that, where you’re so dedicated to something, you see it come crashing down, and then you see someone come in and bring it back up.
And it wasn’t just him bringing it up, it was him telling us that we could do it, and us believing in that, and following him, and really bringing it back.
There were major ups and downs. Literally very depressed for a long amount of time, going home on the last train, so I’d take a train at 12:30, go home at maybe two in the morning, and literally be back on a train five hours later, coming into work for the next day, times three or four weeks of crunch, only to see the worst reviews you’d ever seen, and thinking ‘Oh my god,’ but then getting a second chance. Doing the exact same thing, staying late, but not feeling bad about it knowing that you’re taking things in the right direction.
Just getting a chance to do that has been exciting, and it’s been a growing experience for me. No longer can I take things for granted, because I know that the minute you stop putting 100 per cent in, the same thing could happen again, so you’re always on your toes now. It was interesting, to say the least.