WE DISCUSS VANA’DIEL - Naoki Yoshida Part 3

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WE DISCUSS VANA’DIEL - Naoki Yoshida Part 3
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By RadialArcana 2022-06-11 12:54:30
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Maintaining developer motivation in long-term MMO operations

-This year is FFXI’s 20th anniversary and the ninth year since FFXIV relaunched. Is there anything you’d consider a necessity, requirement, or secret formula when it comes to long-term MMORPG operations?

Matsui

It's extremely crucial for the developers to be intrinsically motivated in their work, like being able to measure their personal improvement, for example. An MMORPG isn’t something you can consider finished after developing up to a certain extent, and you must make a continual commitment to the people playing your game.


Yoshida

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Mr. Matsui. I don’t mean to be rude to our customers, but development on a game is doomed if the developers lose their motivation. On one hand, customers are absolutely right when they say, “But we’re still paying, you have to continue development!” and I believe it's an inevitable fact. But we're also only human, so if someone were to say, "I don't care if I'm getting paid, I don't want to work on the game anymore," then that'd be out of our hands.


Matsui

The key is how you go about maintaining their motivation to prevent that from happening.

Yoshida

Ambitious developers tend to have a desire to compete with the rest of the world by creating state-of-the-art games with cutting-edge technology. However, when it comes to developing MMORPGs, upgrading the base systems and graphics engine is no easy feat. As professionals, sometimes we can't help but compare our day-to-day work with what’s feasible with the latest technology and feel that the grass is greener on the other side.

-It sounds like a unique burden of developing MMORPGs that have been around for a while.

Yoshida

But that’s also why we need a motivator that surpasses those kinds of feelings. For example, it might be a substantial salary, a work environment that enables you to try new things, or noticeable improvements in your personal growth. Another one might be fostering an environment where you can receive positive feedback directly from players who enjoy your game.

Matsui

At the end of the day, I believe the aspects of content quality affected by the developers’ motivation are conveyed to the people playing the game. As such, we're always conscious of nurturing a work environment where the team can tackle their work with a challenging spirit. The same goes for the FFXIV development team, I believe.

Yoshida

That's right. We keep our team invigorated by rotating roles within the development team or Creative Business Unit III’s other titles, such as assigning long-time level designers to content planning, for instance. Like any other form of entertainment, games come to an end when the providing party loses interest, so I believe it's very valuable that our division offers those kinds of initiatives.

-Working on the same project for 20 years must require an enormous level of commitment.

Yoshida

Within the FFXI team, there are people who’ve put their career plan on hold until FFXI celebrates its 20th anniversary and finds a clear trajectory forward, which I truly admire. Given their careers as game developers, it’s a highly critical decision. Perhaps their choice is something I could keep to myself, but at the same time, I feel that it wouldn’t hurt for more people to know that there are members who’ve made that sort of commitment to work on FFXI.

-As for how you interact with your player community, do you feel that it’s changed over the course of long-term operations?

Matsui

Nowadays, there are systems in place which allow the development team to listen to player feedback and also convey their intentions. On the other hand, back in the early days of development, we still had the same mindset from when we were making conventional console games, which was to capitalize on the developers’ uniqueness and only think about the players who would find that sort of game interesting. In that sense, our mindset during the early days may have been unfit for creating MMORPGs.

-It sounds like you really had to learn as you went during the early days.

Matsui

This goes back to what I mentioned about motivation, but as a developer, the important idea is to make a game you’d personally enjoy, rather than just simply creating “what the customers want.” I don’t mean that we ignore the players’ opinions, but what we try to do is to reconcile those opinions with the development team's ideas. After all, if we didn't do that, then it wouldn’t really matter who’s making the game. However, FFXI players are very kind, and there are many who also believe both sides need to work together and liven things up. In that sense as well, I am very grateful to our customers, and thankful for their continual support.

-Mr. Yoshida started the Letter from the Producer LIVE broadcasts with the relaunched FFXIV, which have made a significant difference in the distance between players and developers. In the same sort of way, when would you say the sense of distance between the players and developers changed in FFXI?

Matsui

I’d say it happened at different timings for the overall development team and for me personally. From the team's point of view, I’d say the first fan event was when we and the customers became clearly aware of each other's presence. Becoming more aware of the humans on the other side of the screen was a turning point for us.

As for me personally, it was when I was harshly criticized by the players regarding job adjustments. While I always take their claims with a grain of salt, there’s no denying that their pointed remarks have some truth to them in terms of our shortcomings. Becoming aware of that and feeling I should be more proactive in listening to their opinions was a turning point for me.

That said, there wasn't really a moment of dramatic change; I think it’s more accurate to say that we gradually became more in tune with things during these past 20 years. Not to mention, my gratitude towards the people who've been playing the game for so long has only continued to grow.

-Like a relationship of mutual trust that’s been built up over the years.

Matsui

Nowadays, with the large number of long-term games, including mobile games, there’s kind of like a guideline for how companies should interact with their customers. But there wasn’t anything like that when we launched FFXI, so we kind of accumulated experience over a long period of time.

-As for FFXIV, the Letter from the Producer LIVE broadcasts have been a thing ever since Mr. Yoshida first took over. Was there a particular level of closeness you had in mind when those began?

Yoshida

I’d always believed that there needed to be more communication between players and MMORPG development teams. As a long-time MMORPG player, that was my conclusion after noticing how many players saw the developers as their enemies. Because I was both a player and a game developer, I could see why developers made certain implementations and understood the difficult decisions they were forced to make, but their intentions weren’t reaching the player communities at large. Of course, there was no way these intentions would have ever reached the players because the developers weren't publicizing them.

-Normally, you wouldn't really consider those sorts of things.

Yoshida

Back then, MMORPG operations teams were unaware of how important it was to explain the intentions behind their decisions. So at the receiving end of these decisions, players became increasingly frustrated from not understanding the reason behind them, and eventually would grow to think of the developers as their enemies. And since the developers are only human too, when they were confronted with such negative reactions, they grew angry thinking, “I only have the best intentions for the game! What did I do to deserve this treatment?”

Matsui

It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

Yoshida

Why do we end up with this friction when both sides want an enjoyable game? The reason is solely because the direction the developers have in mind for their game isn’t reaching the players. Not understanding the reasoning behind implementations is very frustrating, especially with game designs like FFXI’s, where players spend a lot of time leveling up. So, I thought that if I ever had a chance to lead an MMORPG, I would frequently communicate with the players and share our intentions or future plans for the game.

-And that opportunity arose in FFXIV's A Realm Reborn.

Yoshida

Of course, I wasn't expecting to suddenly appear in a live broadcast. However, we felt that the major negativity surrounding FFXIV 1.0 called for no less than the person in charge to appear, and so we decided to respond with that approach.

Matsui

Mr. Wada* also appeared on the first Letter from the Producer LIVE.* Yoichi Wada, CEO of Square Enix at the time.

Yoshida

Under normal circumstances, rather than have me appear in the broadcast, I thought it’d be better to have someone who could talk about the overall project, like a lead development manager, and have them make the announcements. That would've been similar to what Dark Age of Camelot* (DAoC) did. Sanya, their PR manager, would gather questions from the players to bring up in interviews with the development team.* Dark Age of Camelot is an MMORPG launched in 2001 by Mythic Entertainment. The game focuses on combat and exploration, with large-scale Realm vs. Realm battles being a notable characteristic.

Ah, so there was a precedent.

Yoshida

It was a column called "Grab Bag," and even if there were times when we'd be thinking, "That's not what we wanted to know, Sanya!" it made me very happy. (laughs) Everyone would be making light-hearted remarks like, "Someone do something about that Sanya!" but we all looked forward to that column on Fridays. There weren’t many Japanese players who read it because it was only in English, but those of us like me, who kept up with information on the game, would explain to others, “They actually talked about that in Grab Bag. This is what they said.”

Matsui

So that furthered the mutual understanding between both sides.

Yoshida

That's right. DAoC’s mid-service efforts to bring their team and players closer together left an impression on me, and I felt it could be even more fun if we did it on a larger scale.

But wasn’t it resource-intensive to prepare the materials for the presentation and set aside time for showing up in the broadcasts?

Yoshida

During the process of deciding what to implement into the game, we check with the development team to confirm what features and concepts we have. All of that information is compiled into a document, which the Community team has to go through and narrow down the topics we should publicize, and that’s an extremely taxing process. Compared to that, considering how we don't use a script for our Letter LIVE broadcasts, you might say it’s easier for those of us conducting the actual show. (laughs) On the other hand, I do feel that we spend more resources on following up on each category after a patch is released. In a way, you could say that we’re spending those resources preemptively.

-I see.

Yoshida

Besides, explaining things beforehand gives the players something to be excited for while they wait, so I do think there’s more pros than cons.

Matsui

I agree, a lot of the time it’s better to explain first before players develop their own misconceptions.

Yoshida

But having too much exposure is also an issue... Recently, there's been more cases where excerpts of our broadcasts and interviews have spread on social media. There's also been a considerable increase in our words being taken out of context for clickbait, so it's rough.

Matsui

I’m always impressed by how carefully Mr. Yoshida speaks to avoid misunderstandings, and how he always includes the reasoning and background information. But I guess that’s all for naught if people are removing the context...

Yoshida

It's not like I'll reduce how much I communicate because of that. But I do make sure to speak up when there's something that made me unhappy, like when I talked about how criticism and abuse are different things.

The ability to spread information in the age of social media can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

Yoshida

I believe that’s precisely why communication is so important. However, I'd also like to follow that up with a warning for my fellow game developers. I don't think you should try to mimic a broadcast half-heartedly without a goal, unless you're going for something more like a variety show. Customers play games more than we do, so trying to run a broadcast based on superficial knowledge is bound to fail. We often get consulted by others in the industry, but our first question to them is, “Do you play games?”

Mr. Matsui’s Freshly Picked Vana’diel broadcasts have become quite a long-standing series as well, since they started about a year after Mr. Yoshida began his Letter from the Producer LIVE broadcasts.

Matsui

I started Freshly Picked Vana’diel so I could relay what I wanted in a quicker manner. Going through with a professional-looking broadcast would require a lot of preparation and end up delaying my message from its intended timing. Instead, we embraced the cheapness and prioritized delivering information over broadcast quality. Now that we’re seeing the positive effects of the broadcasts, I can even have PowerPoint slides made. (laughs)

You’re broadcasting those in a studio nowadays, but you first started off in a conference room.

Yoshida

With FFXIV, we still try to avoid using the studio as much as we can. Our broadcasts often end up being long, so using the studio would mean we’d make the studio staff stay behind, and it makes me feel guilty when I must ask them for an extension. Thus, we don't use the studio outside of special circumstances.

https://we-are-vanadiel.finalfantasyxi.com/post/?id=386&lang=en
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By RadialArcana 2022-06-11 12:54:41
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Something people need to keep in mind, is that the XI developers are deciding to keep working on this game because they value it and want to do so. Even though there are obvious issues such as a lack of money and an inability to provide what we want in its entirety, I think it does need to be kept in mind they are choosing to do this when it would be pretty easy for them to ask to be reassigned to something more exciting at Square Enix if they wanted. For instance the previous director of XI moved to work on FF7 R many years ago.

I think people fixate completely on money and if the game is profitable and ignore the feelings of the developers and if they even want to carry on, too much negativity can kill their desire to keep working on a game.

It's easy to attack developers as the enemy but it does need to be kept in mind, there would be no game if not for them and that because XI is run by a corporation it's very easy for them to be moved to another project if they ask.
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By DaneBlood 2022-06-11 13:03:33
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RadialArcana said: »
It's easy to attack developers as the enemy but it does need to be kept in mind, there would be no game if not for them and that because XI is run by a corporation it's very easy for them to be moved to another project if they ask.

To add on this nothing is ever going to satisfy everyone. So no matter what a change or addon is going to make someone annoyed so maybe isntead of getting annoyed and blaiming the devs just realise We as individuals are not the entire population, and sometimes things will simpl;y not swing your way.
 Ragnarok.Jessikah
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By Ragnarok.Jessikah 2022-06-11 13:29:27
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I'll always say that the FFXI devs have done a fairly commendable job in adding to the game's quality of life without fudging with its identity.

It's great to hear that they're still enjoying work on XI and finding motivation rather than discouragement in the players hunger for "more" and "better". A lot of people take criticism to heart, but the reality is that if we didn't care we'd just stop playing.
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By Leviathan.Celebrindal 2022-06-11 13:33:38
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My God, I honestly thought that livestream was the epitome of self-indulgence by these folks, but the complete lack of reality among those two is mind boggling.

All they're doing is describing anyone who works in a field related to their passion. The emotions they describe are just a freaking normal day for most anyone, yet for some reason they (Matsui/Yoshida) feel the need to create this image of the loving engineer who will gladly die at their desk pouring over code because they love it, as long as you love it, too. Guess what- working in a field you love is so much more difficult than "just having a job", no one is ever going to care about your work as much as you do because of that, and you're not some special snowflake because of it.

Then, to take this complete blindness of self-importance and drain it in a gravy of Public Affair Speak, ugh I need a shower.
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 Valefor.Prothescar
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By Valefor.Prothescar 2022-06-11 17:18:11
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Quote:
Instead, we embraced the cheapness and prioritized delivering information over broadcast quality.

Sounds about right
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 Sylph.Brahmsz
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By Sylph.Brahmsz 2022-06-11 20:54:39
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Leviathan.Celebrindal said: »
My God, I honestly thought that livestream was the epitome of self-indulgence by these folks, but the complete lack of reality among those two is mind boggling.

All they're doing is describing anyone who works in a field related to their passion. The emotions they describe are just a freaking normal day for most anyone, yet for some reason they (Matsui/Yoshida) feel the need to create this image of the loving engineer who will gladly die at their desk pouring over code because they love it, as long as you love it, too. Guess what- working in a field you love is so much more difficult than "just having a job", no one is ever going to care about your work as much as you do because of that, and you're not some special snowflake because of it.

Then, to take this complete blindness of self-importance and drain it in a gravy of Public Affair Speak, ugh I need a shower.

Chill bruh. The interview is fine.
 Phoenix.Iocus
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By Phoenix.Iocus 2022-06-11 21:32:50
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Valefor.Prothescar said: »
Quote:
Instead, we embraced the cheapness and prioritized delivering information over broadcast quality.

Sounds about right

So cheap, so fast, so low quality. They really do hit that paradigm right on the head. I would be offended if they took the time to make it look good.
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By Onimaru 2022-06-11 21:42:43
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RadialArcana said: »
Matsui

This goes back to what I mentioned about motivation, but as a developer, the important idea is to make a game you’d personally enjoy, rather than just simply creating “what the customers want.” I don’t mean that we ignore the players’ opinions, but what we try to do is to reconcile those opinions with the development team's ideas. After all, if we didn't do that, then it wouldn’t really matter who’s making the game. However, FFXI players are very kind, and there are many who also believe both sides need to work together and liven things up. In that sense as well, I am very grateful to our customers, and thankful for their continual support.


I find that hilarious because exactly WHAT IDEAS do these developers have that would improve this game today? It seems to me that they either dont care or have little to no motivation to do anything outside of doing unimportant updates just to justify a salary.

This really showed how detached and oblivious the team is. Matsui even had to admit he had to come to terms that there were humans on the other side of the screen in reference to us. Meaning we werent being seen as ppl. Sociopathic tendencies if you ask me.
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 Leviathan.Celebrindal
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By Leviathan.Celebrindal 2022-06-12 00:45:43
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Sylph.Brahmsz said: »
Leviathan.Celebrindal said: »
My God, I honestly thought that livestream was the epitome of self-indulgence by these folks, but the complete lack of reality among those two is mind boggling.

All they're doing is describing anyone who works in a field related to their passion. The emotions they describe are just a freaking normal day for most anyone, yet for some reason they (Matsui/Yoshida) feel the need to create this image of the loving engineer who will gladly die at their desk pouring over code because they love it, as long as you love it, too. Guess what- working in a field you love is so much more difficult than "just having a job", no one is ever going to care about your work as much as you do because of that, and you're not some special snowflake because of it.

Then, to take this complete blindness of self-importance and drain it in a gravy of Public Affair Speak, ugh I need a shower.

Chill bruh. The interview is fine.

Sorry, I get very offended when people think their problems and feelings are somehow completely unique to every other living person on the planet and we should really understand theirs first. And that's the attitude presented by those two chumps SE pays.

The entire attitude just reminds of fellow musicians I've known over the years bitching and whining about how 'no one understands the passion they put into their work, and the DESERVE some respect for it'. ***, I played the *** Star Spangled Banner 447 times in one calendar year just so I could collect a paycheck as a professional musician. Did I want to give up Cannabis, cut my hair and beard, and move every 3 years? *** no, I wanted a nice symphony gig with an attached teaching position at a conservatory.

But guess what- I wasn't good enough to get that. So I sucked it up and found a way to still 'do what I love' and pay the bills. Those two from SE need to realize had their talents been greater they perhaps wouldn't have been put in charge of a 20 year old MMO and could have moved on to better funded, more relevant projects. Instead they want a pat on the head and our undying love because "they love this game, too".

Big. Whup. Do your *** job, get PAID for it the way the contract is set up. I sincerely doubt our heartfelt thanks is part of their compensation package.
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 Asura.Geriond
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By Asura.Geriond 2022-06-12 01:27:32
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I didn't get that impression from them at all. I have to agree, I think you're reading into it wrong.
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By Bahamut.Shozokui 2022-06-12 01:52:27
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Having worked as a developer for almost as many years as this game has existed and supported legacy software, I get it. But at the same time, the project is criminally mismanaged.

They have a 5 person team. That's 9600 hours per year to throw FFXI. Does anyone at any level of professional engagement think 9600 hours a year goes into rehashing ambuscade, adding master levels, raising caps, or even adding VR quests???
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 Asura.Yottaxa
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By Asura.Yottaxa 2022-06-12 04:42:20
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Bahamut.Shozokui said: »
… But at the same time, the project is criminally mismanaged.

They have a 5 person team. That's 9600 hours per year to throw FFXI. Does anyone at any level of professional engagement think 9600 hours a year goes into rehashing ambuscade, adding master levels, raising caps, or even adding VR quests???

This is probably the most perfectly concise and objective assessment of this game’s current state of affairs. Thank you for this, it made my day. Its often thrown around they are “minimally staffed” blah blah blah - But seriously, what are they really even doing with (lets round up) 10k hours a year? Very little. Wow. 100% agree “criminally mismanaged”.
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By RadialArcana 2022-06-12 04:53:21
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Most of these points were made by Yoshida, who is the manager of the entire division and on the board of directors. He isn't on the XI devteam and was speaking from above it in a managerial position.

The main point being made was that they want to work on this game even though it's kind of hurting their careers to do so, they don't have to. Which implies passion about it, just as many of us have.

Bahamut.Shozokui said: »
They have a 5 person team. That's 9600 hours per year to throw FFXI. Does anyone at any level of professional engagement think 9600 hours a year goes into rehashing ambuscade, adding master levels, raising caps, or even adding VR quests???

From what I gather they have many roadblocks, for instance they have to still use the PS2 devkits and they are not allowed to take them home, which is crippling during covid restrictions (many of which are still in place to some degree at work). They also have no programmers on team and have to borrow some from the XIV unit when they aren't busy, same applies to graphics assets.

The point isn't that we should kiss their *** or anything, but they aren't the enemy or punching bags either.

My main worry about this interview was that they stated the 20th was a milestone and they wanted to *** what they were going to do after that. If they want to keep working on the game, I wish they would say that to give people some sense of security.
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 Sylph.Brahmsz
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By Sylph.Brahmsz 2022-06-12 11:22:44
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Leviathan.Celebrindal said: »
Sylph.Brahmsz said: »
Leviathan.Celebrindal said: »
My God, I honestly thought that livestream was the epitome of self-indulgence by these folks, but the complete lack of reality among those two is mind boggling.

All they're doing is describing anyone who works in a field related to their passion. The emotions they describe are just a freaking normal day for most anyone, yet for some reason they (Matsui/Yoshida) feel the need to create this image of the loving engineer who will gladly die at their desk pouring over code because they love it, as long as you love it, too. Guess what- working in a field you love is so much more difficult than "just having a job", no one is ever going to care about your work as much as you do because of that, and you're not some special snowflake because of it.

Then, to take this complete blindness of self-importance and drain it in a gravy of Public Affair Speak, ugh I need a shower.

Chill bruh. The interview is fine.

Sorry, I get very offended when people think their problems and feelings are somehow completely unique to every other living person on the planet and we should really understand theirs first. And that's the attitude presented by those two chumps SE pays.

The entire attitude just reminds of fellow musicians I've known over the years bitching and whining about how 'no one understands the passion they put into their work, and the DESERVE some respect for it'. ***, I played the *** Star Spangled Banner 447 times in one calendar year just so I could collect a paycheck as a professional musician. Did I want to give up Cannabis, cut my hair and beard, and move every 3 years? *** no, I wanted a nice symphony gig with an attached teaching position at a conservatory.

But guess what- I wasn't good enough to get that. So I sucked it up and found a way to still 'do what I love' and pay the bills. Those two from SE need to realize had their talents been greater they perhaps wouldn't have been put in charge of a 20 year old MMO and could have moved on to better funded, more relevant projects. Instead they want a pat on the head and our undying love because "they love this game, too".

Big. Whup. Do your *** job, get PAID for it the way the contract is set up. I sincerely doubt our heartfelt thanks is part of their compensation package.

Again, I would just say "chill "

As a creative myself, I can understand that but you're blowing this out of proportion.

I do agree as Shoz pointed out that the game is criminally mismanaged, but the key word in that is management.

Again, the interview is just that, an interview. They made their point of view known and that's it.
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 Bahamut.Shozokui
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By Bahamut.Shozokui 2022-06-12 18:11:43
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RadialArcana said: »
They also have no programmers on team and have to borrow some from the XIV unit when they aren't busy, same applies to graphics assets.

I'm not going to go dig through the interviews again, but they stated that multiple members of their team have programming backgrounds, with one picking it up as they went.
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