The director confesses that Final Fantasy 14 and ray-tracing aren’t a good match

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In the MMORPG world, don’t hold your breath for ray-tracing.

image credits: theindianexpress

Naoki Yoshida, the director and producer of Final Fantasy 14, has stated that ray-tracing will not be added to the popular MMORPG anytime soon, and that it may not even be included in the game’s upcoming graphics makeover.

Yoshida noted to TechRadar that ray-tracing isn’t a top priority for the production team right now because the advanced lighting technology may not be a suitable fit for Final Fantasy 14 in general.

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“At this point in time, I haven’t put a lot of emphasis on ray-tracing,” Yoshida explains. “This is because the PC computers that can render graphics with it are restricted, and it would not be very successful in FFXIV, where the visuals of machines in the game aren’t particularly strong.”

Yoshida is correct. While Final Fantasy 14 includes more science fiction themes and locations, such as the Garlean Empire’s Magitek steel and Allagan institutions like the Aetherochemical Research Facility, they are few and far between in comparison to the series’ more fantastical settings.

That isn’t to say that graphical improvements aren’t coming to Final Fantasy 14, since the game is planned to receive an update in this respect alongside the release of the next expansion, which is expected to arrive in 2024, based on the current rate of major patch updates. Yoshida backs up this announcement, which he made during a recent Letter from the Producer Live presentation:

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“However, as we just mentioned (in Letter from the Producer LIVE Part LXVIII), as we prepare for FFXIV’s future expansion, we will boost the strength of our graphics engine. As we go about this, we’ll try to think of fresh ways to express visuals. DirectX 12 will be included as well.”

Is it reasonable to expect ray-tracing in Final Fantasy 14?

Even with the expected graphics overhaul, it appears unlikely that ray-tracing will occur in Final Fantasy 14 at this time, based on Yoshida’s statements. Another comment Yoshida made to us about the Endwalker zones, which were among the most difficult to develop, backs up this theory.

Please notice that Yoshida mentions the name of Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker’s final zone in the following paragraph. If you haven’t finished the main scenario questline in the Endwalker expansion, be aware of spoilers.

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“Mare Lamentorum (on the moon) and Ultima Thule (the last zone), which were implemented in Endwalker, were the most demanding in terms of finishing touches.

“With the graphics engine’s restricted capabilities, it was similarly tough to produce the lighting, shadows, and build up what we imagined for the things to be placed.” In any case, none of us on the development team, including myself, could leave Earth to conduct study on other planets (laughs).”

With that in mind, incorporating ray-tracing lighting technology into Final Fantasy 14 isn’t as straightforward as simply applying it to all of the game’s explorable zones. Due to a dearth of sites and landmarks that might effectively showcase the technology, some zones would simply not benefit.

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Furthermore, as Yoshida said, some zones took a lot more work to get the lighting right due to Final Fantasy 14’s older technology. The production team could try to use a simpler, more cost-effective method like local shadow ray-tracing (as seen in Cyberpunk 2077), but even that risks causing inconsistency in illumination across the enormous game globe.

Finally, because players on the PC, PS5, and PS4 share the same servers with cross-play enabled, the Final Fantasy 14 team may want to make the graphics experience consistent across the three platforms.

While the PS5 is clearly sufficient in terms of visuals, games that feature ray-tracing will almost always cause frame rate issues. Furthermore, in all 4K and 1440p display modes, the PS5 version of Final Fantasy 14 is currently unable to sustain a steady frame rate. Adding ray-tracing to the mix risks further jeopardising an already shaky experience.

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