Square Enix held a “Behind the Game Designs of Final Fantasy XV” panel featuring lead game designers Wan Hazmer and Prasert “Sun” Prasertvithyakarn at PAX East in Boston today.
Sun and Hazmer are lead designers in different areas of the game. Here are brief outlines of what each designer does:
- Prasert “Sun” Prasertvithyakarn – The lead gamer designer for the Buddy team, which is in charge of the AI characters and how they behave with the player—how they battle, how they walk, how they talk, etc. Sun says that many people take these AI characters for granted, because in most games they’re just there for the sake of the story, but in Final Fantasy XV, they play a significant role, and they’re trying to create a “revolution” in terms of what these AI characters can do.
- Wan Hazmer – The lead game designer for the Culture team, which is in charge of creating cultures for the world of Final Fantasy XV. This includes building civilizations, food, and the stories behind the towns surrounding the game’s world map. Hazmer says that they don’t just want to make a town to be a rest stop, they want it to be rich with culture.
Tabata wasn’t able to make the panel, unfortunately, as he’s in Japan attending his daughter’s graduation.
The Next Final Fantasy
The goal for the next Final Fantasy is always to “create the best Final Fantasy in the series,” as well as “retain the charm of [the series] and package it into a new experience. That charm is “fantasy with believably.”
Sun explains that there are lots of games where the hero travels alone, but not in the Final Fantasy series, and especially not in XV. The follow you, not behind you, but alongside.
“Final Fantasy XV is a game about a road trip with your best buddies in a fantastical yet believable world,” a slide proceeds to read.
The Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae demo included with early copies of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is named after the region Duscae, which features a lot of vast greenland and natural land formations. The part you’ll be able to explore in Episode Duscae is only part of the region, which itself is part of a bigger world more than 10 times bigger than the Duscae region itself.
There is a reason you’re stuck in the Duscae region in the demo. Your car is broken, because one certain blonde guy (ahem, Prompto) broke your car. So for the mechanic Cindy to fix your car, you’ll need to get money, which is the objective of the demo. You can figure out how to get the money yourself, but the demo’s main quest is to defeat the Behemoth, a creature wanted for a huge sum of money. If you take on the Behemoth quest, the first thing you’ll need to do is look for it by spotting footprints and such. But you’ll also get many other quests.
When it’s nighttime, many dangerous creatures will come out. So you can choose to camp (which auto-saves the game) in order to avoid them. When you camp, Ignis will cook for you and give you buffs. Buffs in Episode Duscae include:
- Fresh – Slightly increases attack, defense, and EXP gained.
- Prime – Greatly increases attack, defense, and EXP gained.
- Sharp – Increases critical hit rate.
- Immune – Negates status ailments.
In Episode Duscae, the food cooked is chosen by Ignis, but in the full game, players will get to choose what’s made.
Here is the official fact sheet outline of Episode Duscae, via Square Enix:
When you’ve spent your entire life looking out at the serrated city skyline, it’s easy to lose yourself in the sprawling Duscaen landscape. The prince and his retinue were halfway to Cauthess when their daydreams came to a sudden, screeching halt—the Regalia’s last gasp before giving out to the unpaved backroads.
Now they were truly lost in the landscape: broken down by the side of the road with the Disc well out of walking distance. The Archaean, Titan, would have to wait. He’d been dormant for ages anyway. The first order of business was getting back on four wheels.
- A New Generation of Final Fantasy: The latest platform technology brings Duscae to life, rendering fast-paced action against breathtaking backdrops under a sky that changes in real time.
- Open World Exploration: Guide Noctis and his entourage over the plains, through the woods, into the dungeons and around the outposts of Duscae as players roam freely about the expansive region.
- Action-Packed Combat: Final Fantasy XV is the first Final Fantasy flagship title to give players direct control over combat in real-time, resulting in an exhilarating action RPG experience.
- Summoning: Uncover the astral power that will enable Noctis to call larger-than-life vengeance down from the heavens.
- Engaging Quests: Adventures great and small await in Duscae.
- English and Japanese Voice-Over: Enjoy English or Japanese audio with English, French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish text.
Sun and Hazmer note that while we’ve seen Noctis’ buddies in previous media, we’ve never been properly introduced to them. So the pair took to outlining the group.
- Gladiolus Amicitia – He’s the eldest of the group, as well as the strongest and bravest. He’s been well trained since he was young, and always fights at the front of the battle, but is always laid back and relaxed. He cares a lot about his friends, so tends to shout advice and is kind of bossy. He has the highest HP of the group.
- Ignis Scientia – He has known Noctis since he was a child an wants to be his counsel, so he has been studying a lot and knows a lot of things. He also likes to cook. In battles, he stays by Noctis’ side and always tries to protect him. He has the Cure technique in Episode Duscae, and is equipped with a weapon allowing him to use the poison-inducing “Venom Strike.”
- Prompto Argentum – He is Noctis’ classmate. Unlike the other two, he has never trained how to fight, so he’s always anxious in battle and always runs around trying to be useful and show off. Sometime he’ll miss himself, but he never gives up and that’s his good point. In Episode Duscae, he has a special bind technique that puts the enemy in a weak status.
“You (the player) are the fifth buddy,” the designers explained. You can’t go on a road trip and not be friends with the people who are there with you. The pair noted that buddies need to be functional, believable, comfortable, and emotional.
Buddy Navigation System
Some of the staff working on Final Fantasy XV went on a road trip, and during the trip, someone was always making a request and side-tracking the overall destination. So the goal of the roadtrip is always changing, and that’s been incorporated into the game. If you’re walking around and a buddy notices something, they’ll run off to it and call you over, for example. Sometimes this is served as a hint to clear a quest, or as a hint to start a new quest. But because these are “requests,” you can refuse, if that’s what choose want to do.
Relaxation and the Wiz Chocobo Outpost
“Relaxation ins a JRPG is about the towns,” Hazmer says. “We must make a memorable checkpoint for the towns.”
When you visit a new town, it has to have its own culture, the designer outlined on a slide. But at the same time, it has to be rooted culture. And you must be able to relax and get help, if needed.
In Episode Duscae, there are two outposts. One is the previously revealed gas station. The other is the “Wiz Chocobo Post,” which is was revealed for the first time today, as well as Yoko Shimomura’s new song for the area.
A man named Wiz owns the post. He is a very passionate chocobo rider, so he created the outpost, as well as chocobo merchandise sold at the post, like greens-flavored potato chips. It’s not a chocobo farm, but a place for chocobo riders to relax. In the final game, you’ll be able to ride chocobos, as well as rent them from this place. But in Episode Duscae, that functionality is, of course, limited.
There is also a caravan at the post, which you can choose to sleep in if you’d rather not camp. The negatives of this are that Ignis won’t be able to cook in the caravan. But the positive is that the caravan offers an experience multiplier, but it costs money.
Square Enix released new screenshots of the demo featuring the different enemies Noctis and his party will encounter, the shop system, and the expansive Duscae region. View the batch at the gallery.
Several outlets have gone up with new videos of the Episode Duscae demo, including a look at the newly revealed Wiz Chocobo Post. Watch those below.