Final Fantasy 14 and ray-tracing aren't a great match, director admits

A character in Final Fantasy 14
(Image credit: Square Enix)

Naoki Yoshida, director and producer of Final Fantasy 14, has said not to expect ray-tracing to be added to the popular MMORPG anytime soon, and perhaps not even as part of the graphical upgrade that's coming to the game in the next couple of years.

In an exclusive comment to TechRadar, Yoshida explained that ray-tracing isn't a priority for the development team right now, owing to the notion that the advanced lighting tech may not be a good fit for Final Fantasy 14 in general.

"At this point in time, I haven’t placed so much importance on ray-tracing," says Yoshida. "This is because the PC systems that can render graphics with it are limited, and it would not be very effective in FFXIV, where there’s not a strong impression related to visuals of machines in the game."

Yoshida isn't wrong. While Final Fantasy 14 does feature more science fiction elements and settings, such as the Magitek steel of the Garlean Empire and Allagan institutions like the Aetherochemical Research Facility, such locales are few and far between compared to the more fantastical settings one would often associate with the series.

That's not to say graphical enhancements aren't coming to Final Fantasy 14 at all, though, as the game is set to receive an update in this regard alongside the launch of the next expansion which, given the current rate of major patch updates, is speculated to launch sometime in 2024. Yoshida supports this announcement (made at a recent Letter from the Producer Live presentation) by stating:

"However, as we recently announced (in Letter from the Producer LIVE Part LXVIII), we will increase the power of our graphics engine as we look ahead to FFXIV’s future expansion. We will seek to add new ways of expressing graphics as we go about doing this. DirectX 12 will also be a part of that."

Should we expect ray-tracing in Final Fantasy 14 at all?

Based on Yoshida's comments, it seems unlikely that ray-tracing will arrive in Final Fantasy 14 at present, even with the planned graphical update. This is actually supported by another comment Yoshida shared with us, on the topic of the Endwalker zones that were among the most challenging to develop.

Please note that the following statement from Yoshida includes the name of Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker's final zone. Be wary of spoilers if you've yet to complete the Endwalker expansion's main scenario questline.

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

"It was equally immensely difficult to create the lighting, shadows, and build up what we envisaged for the objects to be placed with the limited capabilities of the graphics engine. At any rate, it wasn’t like any of us in the development team, myself included, could leave Earth and visit other planets for research (laughs)"

With that in mind, then, adding ray-tracing lighting technology to Final Fantasy 14 isn't quite as simple as taking a blanket approach and applying it to the entirety of the explorable zones across the game. Some zones simply wouldn't benefit, due to the lack of areas and landmarks that could truly show off the tech.

Additionally, some zones, as Yoshida mentioned, required much more work to get the lighting right within Final Fantasy 14's relatively old engine. The development team could try to implement an easier, more cost-effective solution like local shadow ray-tracing (as we saw with Cyberpunk 2077), but even that runs the risk of creating inconsistent lighting across the vast game world.

Finally, as PC, PS5 and PS4 players share the same servers with cross-play enabled, the Final Fantasy 14 team may wish to keep a relatively consistent graphical experience across the three platforms.

While it's certainly a very capable console in terms of graphics, ray-tracing on PS5 will more often than not compromise the frame rate in games that support the lighting tech. Plus, the PS5 version of Final Fantasy 14 currently can't maintain a consistent frame rate in both 4K and 1440p display modes. Adding ray-tracing to the mix risks compromising that already rocky experience even more.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.