What do you think are the core principles of a Final Fantasy game? Did the development team look to previous titles in the series for guidance or inspiration on how to build? Final Fantasy XVI†
Naoki Yoshida: “I would say that the core elements of a Final Fantasy game are deep story, deep gameplay, cutting edge graphics and cutting edge sound…and of course chocobos and moogles.
“In the 35-year history of the Final Fantasy series, it has always been the guiding policy that each new installment should be the very best game the director can put together at the time, no matter how the game world, characters or combat system may change. This allows gamers and Final Fantasy fans around the world have very different ideas about what a Final Fantasy should be game, but for me it’s those elements I mentioned.
“When it comes to deciding what to do with Final Fantasy XVII thought back to when I played the original Final Fantasy, and remembered how I felt like I was starring in a movie. I wanted to get that feeling back in Final Fantasy XVI, but with state-of-the-art game design and the latest modern technology. The entire development team, led by Hiroshi Takai, has come together to make that dream a reality, so I hope you are all looking forward to it.”
Thinking back to the beginning of the Final Fantasy XVI project, remember how the conversation went when you were asked to produce this new editorial? What was your first reaction?
Yoshida: “I said ‘Thank you, but I’ve got my hands full’ Final Fantasy XIV, so let me think about it.’ I was truly honored that the company would choose my section, Creative Business Unit 3, to be responsible for creating the following entry in the Final Fantasy series. But, as you probably know, I’m already the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV† I was afraid that if I took over the directorship of Final Fantasy XVIalso, fans of both games would have good reason to believe that I wasn’t giving either project my full attention.
“To ensure that the development of Final Fantasy XVI had no influence on that of Final Fantasy XIVwe picked a very small group of core team members to start with, and over a number of years we slowly and carefully transitioned them over to work on the new game until we had the entire team assembled.
What was the composition of the rest of? Final Fantasy XVI‘s development team decided?
Yoshida: “As director of a Final Fantasy gaming is a tougher job than most people imagine. Not only do you have the expectations of the fans and the media to live up to, but you are also under constant pressure from the development team. You should always take up the challenge.
“I’ve worked with Hiroshi Takai for many years, and he’s one of my most trusted colleagues, as well as an accomplished developer, so I asked him to take on the role – and thankfully he agreed. That’s how it all started. We brought two other members to the group and the four of us outlined the core concepts of the game and its world, as well as the main themes we wanted to convey, and started working on writing the main storyline. Later on, we brought in a few more members to take charge of the combat system and graphics, and by building on what worked and cutting out what didn’t, we gradually moved into full development. And all this time I thought in the back of my mind please don’t let this affect Final Fantasy XIV†
Speaking specifically of the story-writing process (no narrative details), how did it feel to switch from a multi-annual arc with multiple expansions to a self-contained, self-contained story?
Yoshida: “I’ve worked on games that aren’t MMORPGs before, so it wasn’t a big stumbling block. Plus, every new Final Fantasy XIV expansion has a similar level of new story content to a standalone RPG, or maybe even more, so it wasn’t much different from my work on that game. The only major difference I noticed was that if I wanted to foreshadow something, I had to pay it off much faster!”
Each Final Fantasy logo somehow represents a core theme of the game. How does the Final Fantasy XVI logo do this?
Yoshida: “Yoshitaka Amano’s design for the logo is full of meaning, as you would expect. It shows two Eikons facing each other… and the rest is a secret for now.
After the debut of Final Fantasy XVI‘Dominance’ trailer during State of Play, we finally have a release window! What will the development team focus its efforts on this final year before the game launches?
Yoshida: “Right now the game is fully playable from start to finish, but we have a lot of voiceovers in different languages that have yet to be recorded. Final Fantasy XVI is a very action-oriented game, so we also do a lot of playtests to fine-tune the difficulty, finalize the cutscenes, and go through a full debugging process. A year is a short time in game development, so we’re all doing our best to get it over the line.”
It has now been confirmed that there are some Final Fantasy XIV dev team members (including you!) working on Final Fantasy XVI-Do you have specific systems or processes in place to ensure teams can perform at their best in two tonally different games without burning themselves (or yourself)? I can imagine there is a lot of work to do Final Fantasy XVI must have happened around the same time as the final Final Fantasy XIV: Endwaler preparatory work…
Yoshida: “I wouldn’t necessarily call it a system, but the project managers and assistant producers on both projects do a great job of planning my schedule to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed. I would have no idea how to keep myself organized without them!
“I try to put decisions about the overall management of the division in the hands of senior management as much as possible, allowing me to focus on my work as a producer and director. Rather than a specific system or process, it’s a sense of teamwork that we’ve built over the years. Masayoshi Soken has his own people in the sound department who handle his schedule for him.”
Two-Part Question: What is your favorite returning Summon from the? Final Fantasy series in general, and why? What is your favorite Summon in Final Fantasy XVIand why?
Yoshida: “For me it has to be Bahamut. He destroys not only his enemies, but also the ground they stand on – even entire planets! Every time he shows up, you know that something incredible is about to happen. It helps that he’s a big part of the story of Final Fantasy XIV, at. As for the subpoena appearing in Final Fantasy XVI, I have my favourite, but I can’t tell you right now as it will no doubt lead to a lot of speculation. What I can tell you is that they are all cool as hell!”
The new “Dominance” trailer also teased more of the game’s music. With Masayoshi Soken now confirmed as Final Fantasy XVI‘s composer, can you tell us a bit about the music of the trailer? Was the music we heard in the trailer created specifically for this beat, or does it contain themes and leitmotifs that we can fully expect in-game?
Yoshida: “Not all the music is finished yet, but Soken is the kind of composer who likes to reuse parts of the in-game soundtrack in trailers. I’m sure you’ve heard some of the themes and motifs that will make their way into the in-game music in the latest trailer. You’ll have to invite Soken for an interview to find out more, but please, not until he’s finished working on the soundtrack!’
What possibilities does the PlayStation 5 hardware offer that would not have been possible in previous generations?
Yoshida: “Of course, with the boost in processing power, we can make the graphics even richer than before, but it’s the super-fast loading times that really impress me. In Final Fantasy XVI, jump straight from story cutscenes into real-time battles and back again with no loading times, making gameplay at breakneck speed. It is only thanks to the power of the PlayStation 5 system that we can make Final Fantasy XVI the roller coaster that it is.”