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FFXIV Backstage Investigators (No. 11): Lead Item Designer Yosuke Hayashi

Hello everyone, this is Miyamiya from the Promotional team!

FFXIV Backstage Investigators is a blog series that shares behind-the-scenes stories from the team members who work on all aspects of FFXIV.

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The subject of our eleventh interview is...

Lead Item Designer Yosuke Hayashi!

FFXIV features a wide variety of items and rewards, including equipment, mounts, minions, emotes, hairstyles, and more. In this interview, we'll learn how they're made and implemented into the game, then talk about some brand-new items that are coming soon!

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Miyamiya: Mr. Hayashi, could you tell us how you joined the company and the FFXIV team?

Hayashi: I began as a part-timer in the Quality Assurance (QA) division at Square (now Square Enix). After working on several titles, I began debugging for FFXI and was eventually invited by Mr. Akihiko Matsui (current FFXI Producer) to become a planner for the FFXI team.

I'd always enjoyed games but never studied game development, so I was starting from scratch when I was reassigned. Following that, I joined FFXIV about a year prior to 1.0's release and have been a planning member of the team ever since.

Miyamiya: And now you work in the Non-combat Contents team under the official title of Lead Item Designer. What sort of work does that entail?

Hayashi: My job as Lead Item Designer is coming up with rewards for in-game content, as well as coordinating the data necessary for implementing items into the game. Some examples of necessary data would be item names and system-related parameters such as item level.

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Additionally, when we create new lifestyle features such as bard's Performance and fashion accessories, I become a sort of supervisor that gets programmers, artists, composers, and other teams involved. On top of overall supervision, I also handle the planning for in-game collaborations and crossovers with other titles such as Yo-kai Watch and GARO.

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Miyamiya: I imagine the communication between relevant parties must be smooth sailing with a veteran like you at the helm. Could you give us a general overview of the item design workflow, from the planning stages to implementation?

Hayashi: To give an example, I'd like to go over the process of designing equipment, which is summarized in the following diagram.

en_20221227_mm_05v.png ▲ This diagram was originally featured in Mr. Hayashi's developer panel at FINAL FANTASY XIV Fan Festival 2019 in Shanghai.

Before we release a new expansion for FFXIV, we begin by determining an overall estimate for how much content will be added in the expansion and the number of rewards they'll require.

Miyamiya: Since FFXIV is periodically updated, it makes sense to have a long-term estimate to ensure that every patch stays within a certain volume of rewards and development workload.

Hayashi: With the overall plans decided, we enter the phase of planning out the actual equipment items, such as their appearances.

The item design concepts are determined based on the characteristics of the content, then compiled into a proposal along with developmental limitations and lore context, which is then referenced by the Art team who sketches out the designs.

en_20221227_mm_06v.png ▲ Above are the concepts that went into designing equipment rewards for Eden's Gate.

While the Art and Character teams are designing the graphical appearances of the equipment, the planner side works on assigning specifications and values to each item. This is the part I mentioned earlier about coordinating the data needed for implementation.

A single item involves a lot of data; we handle roughly 700 to 900 items for a single patch, and somewhere around 2,500 items for an expansion. Of course, I don't handle all of that on my own; the workload is divided among different teams, like the Battle team for battle-related parameters, for example.

After that, the UI team creates the icons for the items, the Scenario team provides names, everything gets translated by the Localization team, and we finally end up with a finished item.

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Miyamiya: There are so many teams involved in creating a single item!

In Patch 6.2, we gained the ability to use certain emotes even when we're using fashion accessories. We've announced that this'll be further expanded upon in Patch 6.3, but could you tell us more about what's in store?

Hayashi: As previously mentioned in Letter from the Producer broadcasts, Patch 6.3 will add a feature that automatically raises a parasol for your character in rainy weather. We also have a long-term goal to expand upon what you can do while fashion accessories are active.

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Fashion accessories use the same specifications as mounts, so generally speaking, the things you can't do when you're riding a mount are also unavailable when you have a fashion accessory active.

In our initial implementation, allowing characters to walk with their parasols out was the best we could do, but as you might expect, we received many comments that the limitations made parasols hard to use. We're currently looking into allowing for a greater degree of freedom with fashion accessories by separating their specifications from mounts as much as possible.

Miyamiya: Sounds like it'll open up more roleplaying possibilities!

In the Live Q&A segment during the 8th 14-hour Broadcast, players asked for the Fat Chocobo Head to be made dyeable and a full-body costume based on kappa ("Water Imp" in the English version).

Could you share your thoughts on those requests, or maybe even how they're coming along?

Hayashi: First, regarding the Fat Chocobo Head, we should be able to make it dyeable in the near future.

▲ Mr. Hayashi was over in the secondary broadcast during the 14-hour Broadcast, so he didn't know about the Live Q&A segment until afterward. He says he was won over by the requestor's adorable plea.

As for the kappa costume, our entire team was already chatting about it excitedly on the day after the 14-Hour Broadcast. (laughs)

We can't work on it immediately since there's already other equipment that needs to be developed, but we're very eager about the kappa costume so perhaps it won't be too long before we can showcase it. I'm sure our players have high expectations for it, so we'll be meticulous in making sure it'll turn out great.

Miyamiya: I'll be looking forward to how the kappa will turn out!

On a similar note, is there anything we should keep an eye out for in Patch 6.3?

Hayashi: As always, our teams really went all out for Patch 6.3 and it's really hard for me to narrow down such an extravagant selection to one item.

But if I can only choose one for a sneak peek, well... the latest "Tataru's Grand Endeavor" quests will be taking place in Hingashi, so we'll have a new Eastern-style outfit for the first time in a while.

en_20221227_mm_09.png ▲ What a bold and cool outfit! I wonder what it'll look like on female characters...

There will be plenty of other new items too, which I hope everyone will enjoy.

Miyamiya: I'll be looking forward to that as well!

Last but not least, do you have any words for our players?

Hayashi: I've been granted the chance to talk about my job at live events and broadcasts, but I'd like to point out that creating items is not something I handle all by myself. It's all thanks to our many reliable colleagues in the Non-combat Contents team that we're able to create new content like Island Sanctuary and a plethora of items.

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I'd also like to mention our QA testers, who are an essential part of the FFXIV team as well. Especially when it comes to new features like bard's Performance mode and fashion accessories, we start off with an unbelievable number of bugs. Those are kindly pointed out by our QA testers, which we then resolve one by one, and we continually repeat that process until the patch is released.

I believe FFXIV is the game it is today thanks to them and many other dependable allies we have in our Development and Operations teams.

With their help, we've been able to add all kinds of equipment, mounts, minions, and other items to the game, so I hope you enjoy outfitting your characters with them. We also keep an eye on our official forums and social media, so please feel free to let us know which items you liked or would want in the future.

Of course, we may not be able to consider every single request due to priority or specifications, but even so, we always reference your comments. We'd be grateful if you could continue to share your feedback and requests with us.

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And that concludes our interview with Mr. Hayashi, the supervisor who brings different teams together! I hope this interview was able to convey the warm demeanor and consideration he has for the team.

There's always many more FFXIV team members to hear from, so hope to see you in the next interview!

Miyamiya
- Promotional team

Previous Editions of FFXIV Backstage Investigators
(No. 1): Main Scenario Writer Banri Oda
(No. 2): Lead Level Designer Arata Takahashi
(No. 3): Web Director Hiroyuki Takachi
(No. 4): Lead UI Artist Yoichi Seki
(No. 5): Character Concept Artist Hiroyuki Nagamine
(No. 6): Community Planner Takeshi Kato
(No. 7): Lead Technical Artist Tatsuya Okahisa
(No. 8): VFX Artist Takayasu Ishii
(No. 9): Localization Team (Pt. 1)
(No. 9): Localization Team (Pt. 2)
(No. 10): Character Concept Artist Tetsu Tsukamoto