We Are Vana’diel Final Fantasy XI interview with KMR (part 1 of 2)

As part of the Final Fantasy XI 20th anniversary celebration, the official “We are Vana’diel” site sat down for a conversation with Kimura Yuito (KMR), the producer of Granblue Fantasy and a longtime FFXI player. The two-part interview covers KMR’s time as a player and what he wanted to bring from FFXI to GBF and why.

(Translated from We Are Vana’diel. All mistakes are vibratingsheep’s unless noted otherwise)

“A collab that shows off FFXI as it is today”

In March 2022, Granblue Fantasy (GBF) celebrated its 8th anniversary and started a collab event on May 9th. To commemorate the occasion, we interviewed the producer of GBF, Kimura Yuito (KMR), the man behind this collab and a dedicated player of FFXI. First, we talked about the 20th anniversary of FFXI and the landmark collab event.

FFXI: To kick things off, could you talk about how the GBF-FFXI collab came to fruition?

KMR: Around the autumn of 2020, we approached Square Enix with the pitch “In two years, FFXI will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Could we time a collab with the occasion?” A 20th anniversary is a momentous occasion, and the timing of a collab is key. We said “Please, let us run this event alongside your celebration.”

FFXI: Were you the one who proposed the idea?

KMR: Yes. My love for FFXI was one factor, and I wanted to promote the game however I could. On top of that, GBF and FFXI have a lot in common as fantasy RPGs, and as GBF‘s producer I thought that the two games would fit together very well.

FFXI: There are definitely a lot of FFXI veterans in the GBF player base.

KMR: Yes. I’m one of them, but there are many people on the development team who played FFXI at one point.

FFXI: So did the proposal go over smoothly?

KMR: Very smoothly. They did their due diligence, and we got the OK very quickly.

FFXI: GBF has had collab events with many different franchises, and is known for the high quality of its collabs and its loyalty to the many famed franchises it brings in. What aspects of the FFXI experience did you focus on for this collab?

KMR: All of GBF‘s collabs are made with the intent to make as faithful an experience as possible. That’s our priority, and we wanted our players to experience everything that makes FFXI so great.

FFXI: Does that mean that you wanted current FFXI players, former FFXI players, and players who have never touched FFXI before to know what makes the game good?

KMR: Yes. I wanted people who once played the game and people who’ve never played FFXI before to know how good FFXI is today. The game has an illustrious 20-year history, and I wanted the collab to show the players who were there at the beginning what the game has to offer today.

FFXI: So is that why the story of the collab takes place after Rhapsodies of Vana’diel?

KMR: That was the biggest consideration. Rhapsodies is 7 years old now, and is kind of the culmination of FFXI‘s story. It’s a good conclusion for many of the storylines, and by setting our collab event after the events of Rhapsodies we could show off its story. I hope that we can introduce more players to the current storyline, The Voracious Resurgence.

FFXI: We definitely get the sense that GBF wants to show off the FFXI of 2022, not the idyllic FFXI that you feel nostalgic for.

KMR: We didn’t just want to invoke some nostalgia, we wanted to show off that new characters and new adventures await players who stepped away from the game.

FFXI: Changing the topic a little, GBF‘s cut scenes are normally voiced, but for this collab, we hear that there is a mode that has no voice to emulate the FFXI experience.

KMR: I apologize to all the voice actors involved, but FFXI itself doesn’t have any voices – only the Final Fantasy-adjacent side games have voices. In order to keep the event faithful to the source material, we decided to add a voiceless option for our players. We think that people who’ve played for long enough have their own idea of what the characters are supposed to sound like, so we added the mode for those players. For those who don’t think that way, please feel free to enjoy the voice acting.

FFXI: When we found out about that option, we respected the commitment to the craft a great deal.

KMR: I forced it on my team (laughs). I wanted to be as faithful to the FFXI experience as possible. We even added the “shwoosh” sound to the text in our game. Without that, the voiceless mode would have been pointless. We changed our UI and our font to resemble FFXI more strongly as well. It’s different from our usual collab.

FFXI: You said earlier that the staff has a lot of FFXI players, and it seems like everyone brought their experience to the table.

KMR: Our staff has a lot of FFXI knowledge, and we worked a lot with them to make it happen. There are plenty of staff who know way more about the game than I do (laughs)

Prishe after the Abyssea

FFXI: The playable characters for the GBF collab are Prishe, Iroha, and Lilisette. Why were those three chosen?

KMR: I’ve cleared all of the story including the extra stories, but I kept thinking about how Prishe was just left alone in the Empyreal Paradox at the end. When she and Lilisette part ways, they’re both looking ahead to their own futures with optimism. Lion is gone, but she comes back at a certain point in the story. However, the Abyssean Prishe never comes back, does she? Whenever you go back to the Empyreal Paradox’s battlefield, she’s always there, and I think about that a lot. So, to address the concerns of so many adventurers, we made the story about the Abyssea version of Prishe.

Prishe (without hat)

KMR: Iroha was the main character of Rhapsodies, and she’s there to introduce that story to the players. There were other characters we thought long and hard about, but Lilisette was chosen because it seemed most appropriate for her to be the one tossed into another world. Aphmau is a princess and it wouldn’t be easy to justify her absence, unlike Lilisette. And you see Aphmau all the time in Aht Uhrgan anyway, while you don’t see Lilisette very often. That’s another reason we picked her for the collab. The Adventurer (the FFXI player character) won’t appear in the collab, but we wanted to get the world-hopping team back together.

Iroha, the main character of Rhapsodies of Vana’diel
Lilisette, the last member of the world-hopping tag team

FFXI: Shantotto would have been a very popular pick, but you chose characters who represent the current state of the story over her.

KMR: If we had another slot, I would have loved Shantotto as a playable character, but we focused on the three we had.

FFXI: Did you have any other options for character choices?

KMR: We were given a lot of freedom with this collab, so there wasn’t really anything we wanted to do but couldn’t. The universe of FFXI is very well established and we can’t do anything to contradict it, but within the rules of that universe we were able to do everything we wanted. As for characters, we couldn’t add too many to the story without bloating it, so we limited the cast as much as we could.

Cait Sith

FFXI: Even limiting the story to Rhapsodies involves a pretty big cast.

KMR: Rhapsodies brings together multiple storylines in FFXI, after all.

FFXI: What are the summon and the weapon for the event like?

KMR: The summon is Shantotto’s puppet, and the weapon is the Kraken Club.

FFXI: What a weapon pick (laughs). There are plenty of people who’ve never had a Kraken Club in FFXI who will get it for the first time in GBF.

KMR: I absolutely want one. There are a lot of popular FFXI weapons that share names with weapons already in GBF like Excalibur, so we picked Kraken Club as the most memorable weapon that isn’t already in GBF.

FFXI: Anyone who’s ever equipped a Kraken Club remembers it well.

KMR: Longtime players also remember weapons like the Ridill fondly, but we picked the Kraken Club as a signature FFXI weapon.

I did everything I could, because I love it

FFXI: On the day this interview goes up, the collab will start, so tell us more about what it was like to work on this event.

KMR: I did everything I could to make this a great event, because I love FFXI. Everyone has their own unique memories of FFXI, and I’m nervous about whether or not they will like this, since we can’t fit in all of FFXI‘s history in one go. But I think we did everything within our power and our means to make this a great GBF collab.

FFXI: There will be many FFXI players who play GBF for the first time because of this collab, and there will be many GBF players who see the world of FFXI for the first time as well. What do you want those players to see and enjoy the most?

KMR: We made this event so that FFXI players could enjoy it, so we hope that they feel that. The story is the same way, it’s not an official continuation of the main story but players can consider it to be a good follow-up. For players of both games, we hope you enjoy making parties with these three main characters. You can make all kinds of star-studded teams with them. There is also a lot of enjoyable banter, and a man who looks suspiciously like a familiar face. Each character also has a lot of story in the fate episodes, and I hope you read and enjoy those as well. Only Prishe, Iroha, and Lilisette get this treatment, but FFXI itself doesn’t have many long stories that focus on them as people, so I hope that’s fresh and fun too.

FFXI: FFXI has twenty years of history, and multiple expansions and arcs with players who came in and out of many of them. Do you want those players to enjoy the entire collab experience?

KMR: I think that players who play FFXI now will enjoy the whole story, but even players who were around for the beginning of FFXI should be able to understand most of it. Prishe was the main character of the first 10 years of the game, and people who played in that era will see that there was more adventure to be had after Chains of Promathia. I hope those players see what the later arcs of FFXI have to offer and get interested in the story all over again.

FFXI: What about the GBF players? What do you want them to enjoy the most?

KMR: I want them to know that one of the crown jewels of RPGs, FFXI, has been running for 20 years, and is still going strong. I want the players to meet its great characters, get a taste of its epic story, and maybe want to experience that grand adventure for themselves. Just seeing the characters for the first time should make some people interested in checking it out for themselves.

FFXI: In March, GBF celebrated its 8th anniversary. What do you want people to enjoy not just about this collab, but about Granblue Fantasy itself?

KMR: We have a ton of content still to come. Starting in June we will be holding Granblue Fantasy Extra Fes at 4 locations, and have plenty of other exhibits and shows in the works. We’re working toward on the 10th anniversary already, so I hope everyone will enjoy what we have in store. We have a console game scheduled to come out this year in Granblue Fantasy Relink, and an esports tournament scene for Granblue Fantasy Versus. This collab with FFXI is just one part of the many ways you can enjoy Granblue Fantasy and I hope you’re looking forward to more.

Part 2 of this interview is scheduled to be posted on May 18th.