Final Fantasy 14 has been pretty well received since it relaunched as "A Realm Reborn," but that was only after Square went back to the drawing board after the original tanked. At the Game Developers Conference, director Naoki Yoshida gave more detail on just what went wrong, and how they began the process of fixing it.
Polygon reports that in his panel, Yoshida noted three major issues with FF14 as originally conceived: an obsession with graphical quality, a lack of MMO experience among staff. and the belief that problems could simply be patched post-launch.
As an example of the team prioritizing indulgent graphics over gameplay, he showed a flowerpot outside of an inn that appeared in the first version. Calling it "the loveliest flowerpot in an MMO," it apparently had as many resources devoted to it as a player character. Detailed models like that meant Square had to cut back on resources in other ways, like limiting the number of players on screen to 20.
When Yoshida was put in charge of revising the failed MMO, he opted to rebuild it entirely. He made around 400 design decisions himself that he felt were absolutely vital, and made sure lead positions were given to the developers who had experience with other MMOs. He even made some of the staff play the original repeatedly, to make sure they understood its pitfalls. Finally, he reached out to the community, and insisted that Square continue making content for the original game to regain fans' trust.
He still seems to recognize that it's not as mature as other MMOs on the market, but the heavy revisions have given him reason to be optimistic. While the original still sits at a negative score of 49 on Metacritic, A Realm Reborn has a generally positive rating.
"A Realm Reborn is still a baby chocobo in the MMO field," he said. "I look forward to continuing to nurture it."