Free-to-play mobile RPG Final Fantasy Brave Exvius has just been updated to Version 2, headlined by a revamped summoning system that has the player base all abuzz. Now in its eighth month, the game recently courted attention for its collaboration with American pop superstar Ariana Grande, catapulting worldwide downloads past the 20 million mark.
Global version producer Hiroki Fujimoto, clad in his signature hoodie from Venice Beach, was back in town to talk about Version 2 and more. We asked the Square Enix developer what the update entails, why they’ve been doing things the way they have, and what we should (or should not expect) in the near future.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity, with live translations provided by gumi Asia.
Congratulations on hitting 20 million downloads! What can you tell us about Version 2?
Hiroki Fujimoto: Thank you. The main focus of Version 2 is to make it easier for players to enjoy the game, with quality of life improvements and by making it more accessible.
One of the main changes is with the home screen, where users will now be able to see and access the events that are currently being run.
Another major change, which users are very interested, in is the summoning system. Ever since launch we’ve been adding a lot of new characters to the game, making it much more difficult for players to obtain the units they really want.
In addition to the summoning system, we also made changes to the crafting UI so you can see where the materials come from, making it easier to craft. There are also other changes like adding new rewards for trophies and adding new world maps. Details on the complete changes will be in the in-game news as well as Facebook and Twitter.
One of the new additions in Version 2 is Odin. Are there any plans to allow stat resets for the previous espers?
It is something that we might do in the future. We do try to take into consideration what players want and if we can do it, we’ll do it.
So it’s not exactly on the development roadmap at the moment?
We have to consider things like balance when we introduce new features but, if it’s something that the players want, we’ll do it if we can. We just need to consider when we can do it.
Brave Exvius has a multi-party system but equipment is always tied to one character. Will we see this change in the future?
That’s currently not in the works because one of the features of a RPG is that you train and develop characters by themselves, so each character should have their own equipment.
The recent Ariana Grande character comes with her own unit-exclusive equipment. We’ve also seen that with a few other characters lately. Wouldn’t this limit player options?
It’s actually done deliberately. If you have these kind of restrictions in place, what you can do is create equipment with extreme parameters on them and have more character flavour. Without these restrictions, if you equip the item on a character who’s strong in that particular stat, it’ll become unbalanced.
Speaking of character strength, you recently announced Olive, who looks promising in terms of physical attack. Is this something we can expect from future Global-exclusive units? More viable selections?
It’s possible we might do this in the future but Olive was created to commemorate Version 2.0, so we upped the stats a bit more for that. When we create units we look at the current units in the game, look at areas that may be lacking – these kind of skills, these kind of abilities, maybe there’s not so many of those units around – then we decide, “OK, maybe we could use one more of this.”
In the video update, Fujimoto-san was quite excited when talking about Olive and her massive cannon. What inspired her design?
Right (laughs). When the designers were making the characters, they decided to make Olive the way she is. So when they submitted it, we looked at it and said, “This is it. We’re going to use this and we’ll make it 5 or 6-star.”
How would you say Brave Exvius provides value for its players?
For Final Fantasy, one of the main elements is the world and the grand storyline. It’s one of the areas where players can find value as they go through this continuing story. We also run events regularly and we hope that when players train their characters, develop their characters, they can find value through these things.
It’s also all about the game systems. If players encounter a battle where they can’t win, they can think about: “OK, I can’t win with my current set-up. Maybe I’ll exchange a character or swap out abilities.” It’s through this process of thinking of how to clear difficult enemies where players can find value as well.
And it’s also a free-to-play game, so having players return on a daily basis is something that we feel is important.
You mention events. Final Fantasy is a huge franchise with plenty of games to tap onto but, recently, we haven’t been digging into the FF brand itself – we had Secret of Mana and other collaborations. Will we return to the older games in the future?
When we use other Final Fantasy titles in Brave Exvius it’s not considered a collaboration, it’s more of a reinforcement or a joining in the fray. It’s only when it’s other franchises, such as Secret of Mana, that we consider it a collaboration.
With regards to whether or not we’ll have other Final Fantasy events in the future: definitely, at certain points in time. We’re always looking into collaborations with other franchises, like Mana, but currently there’s no information that we can share.
One of the most memorable events we had was the Autumn Moon festival last year, which was unique in the sense that players could farm materials from any region in the game. Is that something we can look forward to again?
That’s a good question (laughs). Hmm. It is something that we are considering but, again, we can’t say anything about it yet. That type of event was something that was only done in the Global version but it was certainly well received. Creating an event of that nature is quite difficult.
Final Fantasy XV resonated in Southeast Asia for featuring local foods, thanks to a collaboration with a Malaysian studio. Will Brave Exvius ever try anything similar?
Final Fantasy is all about challenging new things but, at this point in time – it’s not a matter of whether we’ll do it or not going to do it – but we’re currently not in any talks or negotiations to do something like this yet.
As you mentioned earlier, Final Fantasy is celebrating its 30th Anniversary; at the Tokyo event, Square Enix announced that Cloud is coming to FFBE. Is that all there is?
Rather than things specifically for the 30th Anniversary, there are other things we have in the pipeline for FFBE itself. It might be a few months down the road until we’re able to make a proper announcement.
Version 2 looks to be a great time for dropped players to come back to the game. What will you tell these players? What new feature do you think will be the most exciting for them?
One thing that we’re doing for the 20 million downloads is offering players a free 11-times summon. We think that players may return when they see this.
We also ran the Ariana Grande event a while back. That wasn’t just a one-off event so we’ll be doing further parts of it in the future. We have plans to do other interesting things for FFBE, which we feel will not only attract new players but at the same time older players. “Oh they’re doing that, maybe I’ll come try it out.”
One thing we can say right now is that BE will be running a booth at PAX East in Boston next month. Players who clear certain conditions will get to receive a T-shirt at the booth; this T-shirt is created exclusively for PAX East and is not for sale.
When it comes to events, Square Enix typically holds them in Japan or the USA but never something within Southeast Asia. Will that change?
The thing about events only happening in Japan or in the States is that they just happen to be that way. When Square Enix wants to do something, it just so happens that there are events occurring in those countries. The thing is, when they hear about events happening in Taiwan or South Korea, with their game shows and all that, there’s some difficulty in actually putting together a booth to exhibit something there.
There’s also the thing where if they want to exhibit somewhere, they can’t just come out and say, “This is just FFBE. Nothing else.” They need to also include other parts of the Square Enix brand.
There are events happening within Southeast Asia that Square Enix wants to go into, to exhibit and make announcements. It’s something we’re looking to do.
One of the defining features of BE has to be the Trust Master system. Recently, you were surprised to learn about Global players farming Earth Shrine for them. With that in mind, are you looking to revamp this system in any way?
The Trust Master system is something to keep players playing. Because FFBE is a free-to-play game, there’s a huge gap between the casual players and those who are more hardcore, in their levels and all that.
So the thing with the TM system is that it’s more for the high-level players. If we make it too easy to do, if they finish it too quickly, they’ll run out of things to do. It’s not something that is planned to be changed anytime soon.
While the system itself will not change, we are considering other avenues for players to obtain Trust Moogles.
Through events, through the shop, or…?
Through events or by log-in bonus.
So what is Fujimoto-san’s current in-game party?
Ariana Grande (laughs).
(Laughs before pondering over it.) Ariana, Noctis, Rosellia, Cecil. The last one is as needs require, maybe a magic attacker or physical attacker.
Do you have any preferred tactic, such as elemental chains, or do you just go all out with attacks?
One of the things I like to do is maybe do a lightning debuff and then attack with lightning abilities, followed by physical attacks.
Recently we have other popular games such as Fire Emblem Heroes and Sword Art Online: Memory Defrag coming out. Does Square Enix and gumi look at ways to compete against them or at what they do better?
Square Enix does keep an eye on those games, at what they’re doing and all that, but they are their own thing. We don’t feel a need to copy what they’re doing but instead focus on making FFBE the best game it can be.
So things like public pull rates are not something you’ll ever consider?
It’s not on the table.
In interviews you’re always asking for feedback from the fans but where are the best places to do so?
We have the official FFBE Facebook and Twitter channels, these are the first places we look at for feedback. Each country will also have their own share of community websites where players of these games will gather, so when looking for feedback from a certain country we’ll go there.
Recently, we did something for Chinese New Year. Since that’s an Asian thing, we looked at what the Asian people thought about it. But at the same time, we won’t ignore what people in, say America, think.
Do you have any memorable piece of feedback that comes to mind?
Most of the feedback has been positive and, as somebody on the development side of things, it’s very heartening to see. Whenever we release a Global-exclusive unit we get good feedback, when we do Global-exclusive events we also get good feedback, so we want to keep doing these things.
We’re going to keep doing Global-exclusive events like Christmas that we did in December, Lunar New Year in January, and Valentine’s in February.
So the final question: is Fina Rain’s sister?
(Laughs) It’s not something we can say right now because players progress at different rates so… spoilers!
Thanks for your time!
We know some of you have progressed through the story far enough to answer that last question but, as mentioned, no spoilers.
Anyway, there’s one more segment to that interview. In their ongoing quest for feedback, Fujimoto has thought of a few questions to directly ask you, the fans. We’ll be putting them up here once the arrangements are sorted out, so do check back soon (we’ll post on our social channels once it’s up).