Kazuyoshi Mochizuki Part 2

WE GREW VANA’DIEL is a series of interviews with those who were involved in the development of FINAL FANTASY XI (FFXI), as well as guests from other companies. In this installment, we interviewed Kazuyoshi Mochizuki, the Community Manager entrusted with creating and revitalizing the FFXI community. In this second part, Mr. Mochizuki recounted his memories of serving as wedding master for Wedding Support and also shared his ideas of providing support for the player community.

Kazuyoshi Mochizuki

Member of the Community team since FFXI’s launch. In addition to partaking in the planning and operations of Vana★Fest and other official events, he also hosts the official broadcast Freshly Picked Vana’diel since November 2013. Mr. Mochizuki is also the Community Manager for FFXIV and is affectionately known by the developers and players as “Mocchi.”

We can’t create the player community

  • In the early days of FFXI, many players were new to online games and the whole community was inexperienced overall, and yet they very quickly began holding their own events.
    How did you feel about that as a member of the Community team?

  • Mochizuki

    Oh, we were thrilled!

    It took courage and effort to take on a challenge like that for the first time, and we could only wait for someone to raise their hand and say, “I’ll do it!” Game companies can produce games, but they can never create communities.

  • The Community team also used to facilitate in-game weddings between players as the wedding master, which would be hard to imagine nowadays. (laughs)

  • Mochizuki

    Wedding Support began sometime after I was entrusted with writing the text for seasonal events. A promotional team member had relayed a request from an editor at Dengeki PlayStation magazine asking for our support in holding a wedding in Vana’diel. Hearing that I thought, instead of holding this wedding ceremony as a one-off, why not make it something all of our players could enjoy?

  • How were you involved in that project?

  • Mochizuki

    I worked on the project in tandem with Mr. Iwao*. The first thing I did was to consult him, and he replied, “That sounds interesting, let’s do it!” I was really grateful for his positive response.

    * Kenichi Iwao, former Planner who worked on the lore for FFXI.
  • The format of the wedding ceremony changes quite a bit depending on which nation it’s held in, doesn’t it?

  • Mochizuki

    I don’t remember all the details, but I believe we eventually settled on that format as we talked at our desks and discussed over meals. In our discussions, Mr. Iwao would always say, “I’ll put it together, so could you look through it when it’s finished?” and we repeated that cycle while creating Wedding Support.

We’re not meant to be in the spotlight

  • The Community team acts a bridge between the players and the Development team, but do you have any guidelines when it comes to interacting with players?

  • Mochizuki

    We do, of course. It’s important to remember that while our team is a bridge, we’re also the stagehands. I tell our team members that the most important thing is recognizing that our role isn’t one that should take the spotlight. That should instead be reserved for our company, the game, the game content, as well as our players along with all of their memories and fan art. That said, I’m sometimes told I’m too withdrawn from the scene, which I don’t think is a good thing either… (laughs wryly)

  • You seem exceptionally aware of this concept.

  • Mochizuki

    It could be because I’ve experienced the intensity and excitement of being in the spotlight firsthand. Someone more disciplined would be able to control themselves, but with my personality, I’ll get carried away if I’m not strict with myself, so I think it’s just right for me to be extra, extra cautious.

Our players' smiles are our inspiration

  • How did you end up with a frontstage role at Fan Festival and other events?

  • Mochizuki

    That originally began with an event we held around 2006 or so. We were going to present a roadmap of our future plans for FFXI and had two ideas for who would facilitate the event: a professional MC, or someone familiar with FFXI. Someone who met both criteria would’ve been the most ideal, so I looked for a professional MC who played FFXI, but I couldn’t find anyone who fit the bill at the time.

  • I can only imagine that criteria grows progressively harder to meet for games like FFXI, which have been around for a long time.

  • Mochizuki

    As I was wondering what to do, Mr. Tanaka* pointed out, "Our active players are the ones who’ll be most interested in our roadmap. Having someone unfamiliar with FFXI present to those players may not be for the best.”

    * Hiromichi Tanaka, original Producer for FFXI.
  • That’s certainly true.

  • Mochizuki

    His idea was that the event should be hosted by someone familiar with FFXI, even if they weren’t an amazing public speaker. That decided our direction, and it was just a matter of who was going to do it, but then my superior* weaseled out of it. (laughs wryly)

    * Referring to Toshio Murouchi, current Global Community Producer for FFXIV who frequently hosts live broadcasts and events.
  • You must’ve been like, “Dang, he got away.” (laughs)

  • Mochizuki

    It’s really difficult to get up and talk in front of everyone, not to mention embarrassing. At the very least, I didn’t want to do it. In fact, I’d prefer not to do it even now.

  • But you couldn’t say no.

  • Mochizuki

    I couldn't, even though I must’ve been the worst speaker out of all of us. (laughs wryly) But because I’ve been allowed to keep working at it, I’ve been able to see the smiling faces of our many players face-to-face more closely than anyone else. Their smiles have helped me to continue in this role, which I’m grateful for.

The “ship” of the FFXI team

  • When Mr. Tanaka announced his retirement at FFXI’s 10th anniversary event in 2012, how did you feel as a member of the team?

  • Mochizuki

    My biggest feeling was “I guess I have to accept it, huh?” I still get teary-eyed thinking back to that moment.

  • After all, it happened very suddenly at the end of the event.

  • Mochizuki

    When I joined the FFXI community team, it was Sage Sundi*, Murouchi, Gondai*, and Mr. Tanaka who taught me the ins and out of community management. Mr. Tanaka was the head of development but also knew his way around community management, and could handle game development, programming, and designing; he seemed superhuman.

    * Sage Sundi, Global Online Producer for FFXI at the time.
    * Mitsutoshi Gondai, former Battle Planner for FFXI.
  • I’ve heard from many others who were involved in FFXI’s development and operations how they also relied on Mr. Tanaka.

  • Mochizuki

    I always went to him when I was stuck on a problem. This one time, I asked him, “Mr. Tanaka, on a scale of 1 to 100, what would you rate today’s event?” To which he replied, "Well, our attendees were happy, so wouldn’t it be 100? Your personal rating of the event doesn’t matter to them.”

  • That’s some great advice.

  • Mochizuki

    He even addressed my actual concerns by saying, “But if you have any regrets, use this event to build your confidence, then set out to create another event that the audience will think was 100/100.” Mr. Tanaka’s many hints were crucial in forming my core values, so when he announced his retirement, I was bewildered and wondered how on earth I was going to make it from there on out.

  • Sounds like Mr. Tanaka was an emotional anchor for you as well.

  • Mochizuki

    Yes, he was. You could say he was like our ship. Even though Mr. Tanaka was our leader, he supported us at the very bottom and ferried us to all sorts of places to see various sights. Then one day, we were told, “The ship is gone, but you’ll be okay,” but it only sounded like an empty promise.

Part 3 will be available on December 21, 2022.

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