Kazuyoshi Mochizuki Part 3

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 third and final part, we asked Mr. Mochizuki about the highly successful Vana★Fest 2012 and his ideas on planning and managing a fan festival.

Mochizuki Kazuyoshi

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.”

The ideal fan festival

  • Is there a reason behind the progressively increasing number of audience participation elements in your events since Vana★Fest 2012?

  • Mochizuki

    My eventual goal was to realize a Fan Festival that incorporated spectating, participation, and socializing.

    The first fan festival I ever attended was for EverQuest* in Las Vegas, a massive celebration that took up an entire hotel. Various stage events and activities were going on throughout the venue, and players were getting to know each other over food or casino games, sometimes with members of the development team. I was so stunned by the exhilarating atmosphere of the event that I was utterly convinced that was what fan festivals were all about.

    Since then, whenever we worked on our events for FFXI, I could only think about recreating that same feeling, and my goal was finally realized in Vana★Fest 2012.

    * EverQuest is an MMORPG released in North America in 1999.

Learning more about the rest of the world

  • Planning and managing Fan Festivals must be an experience like no other. How did that influence your subsequent work?

  • Mochizuki

    One particularly crucial aspect I was reminded of was how important it is to maintain an overview of an entire event. Fan Festivals are planned more than a year in advance and their budgets are enormous, and a slight misunderstanding could lead to a major and irreversible mistake. Numerous staff members from a multitude of departments and other parties are involved, and I’ve learned the importance of keeping them in mind as I go about my own business.

  • The number of people involved in those events is truly tremendous, so I can certainly understand why you’d need a broader perspective.

  • Mochizuki

    The other idea is to maintain a global perspective. We interact with overseas players at E3 and gamescom, but it’s a whole different level when it comes to Fan Festivals. Seeing so many people come together simply bursting with excitement and awe helps me think globally even after I’ve returned to Japan. For example, it opens our eyes to considering things like how certain explanations might only make sense to Japanese players and aren’t suitable for a global audience.

  • Sounds like being exposed to that global atmosphere is a valuable experience.

  • Mochizuki

    It’s very much essential and I’d like for as many of our staff as possible to experience that atmosphere. The events are also meaningful in how they provide us with opportunities to work more closely with our overseas counterparts and learn about their values.

    Understanding how people may have different mindsets and values from you and that there’s more than one right answer is a big boost to communicating more effectively. There’s still so much more we can learn through our Fan Festivals.

The determination that led to us to today

  • The Vana’diel Project was announced in 2015, and major version updates to the game concluded in March 2016.
    How did you feel when FFXI announced that the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 versions of the game would be discontinued?

  • Mochizuki

    I don’t remember that much, since we’d been told long in advance to prepare for the announcement. So, to answer your question, I was basically thought, “Oh, word’s finally out.”

  • Then how did you feel when you were first informed?

  • Mochizuki

    I felt the same as anyone else would. My initial reaction was “Are you serious!?” As a player, I felt empty without our PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 players, and as a staff member I couldn’t stop worrying about what we’d do about this and that; basically, it was all questions and concerns, and I couldn’t think positively.

  • It certainly carried the notion that everything was coming to an end.

  • Mochizuki

    Yes, it did. That said, I also wondered if there was a way for us to change our players’ outlook on the situation. Even if our players ultimately decided to stop playing, I didn’t want them to hate FFXI or leave the game out of resentment, so I was desperate to come up with something we could do.

  • Eventually, FFXI would decide to continue with version updates after March 2016. But considering the shrinking scale of development, it must’ve been difficult to meet players’ expectations.

  • Mochizuki

    The development team gave their all to implement content, but even then, their efforts would never add up to something as large as an expansion. I’m sure our players saw it as, "This is how things will be from now on, I guess…” and we felt powerless to do something about that feeling of entrapment.

    But in the midst of that, we were determined to keep working on Vana’diel the best we could and pushed through one year after another.

Passing on 20 years’ worth of history to the next generation

  • I assume you’re currently working on both FFXIV and FFXI, but could you tell us more about what exactly it is that you do?

  • Mochizuki

    I’m currently the Community Manager in Japan, and I’m responsible for training our operations team members and supervising their growth.

  • Does that mean you have fewer hands-on jobs to do?

  • Mochizuki

    ’m gradually delegating more tasks to the next generation, but there’s still plenty of hands-on work for me to do. Regarding that, if everyone in the team is willing to let me keep doing what I do, then I’d like to continue.

  • So some aspects of your role have stayed the same in your 20-year career.

  • Mochizuki

    I know my experience would only go to waste if I kept it to myself, but I think it’d be best to pass the torch when they’re ready to handle the hands-on stuff with me. After all, there’s a mountain of mistakes and reflections I’ve had over the past two decades… (laughs wryly)

    There’s only so many types of pitfalls, so it’s valuable in learning from someone else’s experiences. But our trainees won’t listen to me if I don’t have their respect, right? That’s why I value hands-on work right now, which keeps me recognized among our newer members.

Reflection on the past two decades

  • What do these past 20 years of FFXI mean to you, in terms of your career?

  • Mochizuki

    What it means to me… that’s a tough one. If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say "trail.”

  • Is that supposed to be a pun on “miracle”?*

    * The Japanese words for “trail” and “miracle” can both be pronounced “kiseki.”
  • Mochizuki

    "Trails" and "miracles." Let's go with that! (laughs) After all, the past two decades have been a series of events that just happened to work out, especially the ones that were rather unlikely to turn out the way they did.

  • Last but not least, do you have any words for FFXI and our adventurers as they continue to celebrate the 20th anniversary?

  • Mochizuki

    It’s a little embarrassing to address the game in this manner, but to me, FFXI is like a parental figure, but also an older sibling, a cute younger sibling, and maybe even a son or daughter. I’d like to express my gratitude towards the game for the many experiences it’s provided me over the past 20 years. But at the same time, FFXI might still be hiding a personality or two that we’ve yet to see, so I hope we’ll get to witness those sides of the game soon.

    And to our players who are currently active, I’d like to say an even bigger thank you. There are so many other forms of entertainment nowadays, but your persistent play and love for the game is what allows FFXI to continue to exist. I can only express my utmost gratitude. Thank you.

    Also, those of you who aren’t actively playing now may read this, so I’d like to extend the same gratitude to them. It’s because of your presence that we are here today. We’ll always be waiting for you in Vana’diel, so please come visit us again if you’d like.

    To our active players, if you see a returning player, it’d be nice if you could greet them with a warm welcome like you might expect from your grandparents, along the lines of, “Hey, how are you? Good to see you! Things have changed quite a bit since you were last here…” Sorry to impose on you with such a request, but that’s how I’d like to wrap this up. Thank you all very much.

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