Final Fantasy XVI producer Naoki Yoshida interviews – real-time combat, AI party members, no open-world, moreThird trailer planned for release this fall.
Interviews with Final Fantasy XVI producer Naoki Yoshida have gone live across several outlets worldwide, which include new information on the summer 2023-due numbered Final Fantasy game.
Interviews have been published at the following websites:
New key information includes:
- Protagonist Clive has an arsenal of powerful attacks and abilities based off traditional Final Fantasy summons, which can be cycled through in real-time, enabling powerful combination attacks. After Clive claims an Eikon’s (summon’s) power, he will be able to unlock its abilities in an “ability tree” through points earned in battle.
- There will be times where the player controls an Eikon in real-time, battling other Eikons. Each Eikon vs. Eikon battle is unique. One may be reminiscent of a 3D shooter, while another may be more like a pro wrestling match, while a third may transform the entire arena into a battle field. Each will have slight differences in user interface as well.
- Clive will be accompanied by one or more companions for most of his journey, who will participate in battle, as well as banter with Clive. These party members will be AI-controlled.
- The wolf-pup from the first trailer is named Torgal. As for whether Torgal will eventually play a role in combat, Yoshida said to “wait and see.”
- Creative Business Unit III chose a medieval fantasy style theme for Final Fantasy XVI becasue much of its core members, including Yoshida, simply enjoyed that style the most.
- The game uses an “independent area-based game design that can give players a better feel of a truly ‘global’ scale,” and is not open-world.
- The game will be “a complete experience” at launch, and there are currently no plans for other tertiary content.
- Players will follow the life of Clive through three stages: his teens, his 20s, and his 30s.
- Final Fantasy XVI is currently fully playable from start to finish, but voice-overs in multiple languages still need to be recorded, and as it is a very action-oriented game, much play testing is required to fine-tune difficulty, put the final touches on cutscenes, and for full-scale debugging.
- A third trailer is planned for release this fall, which will concentrate more on the world, lore, and storyline.
Get the full Square Enix Blog and PlayStation Blog interviews below.
Hello Yoshida-san. You’ve previously described the story of Final Fantasy XVI as being like an intense rollercoaster. What did you mean by that?
Naoki Yoshida: “My idea for Final Fantasy XVI was to bring to life the feeling of playing the lead in an epic motion picture – the same thing I felt when I played through the original Final Fantasy.
“To give players a breathtaking experience through a combination of an expansive storyline, dramatic cutscenes, and real-time battles, including gargantuan-scale Eikon clashes—all seamlessly connected.
“It’s a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride in video game form!”
Why have you chosen an action-based battle system for this game and what reaction do you hope it inspires from players?
Yoshida: “Each new entry in the Final Fantasy series brings with it a new world, new characters, and a new battle system.
“We get a lot of different suggestions from fans about what they want to see in future games, and unfortunately it isn’t possible for us to satisfy every one of them. There are also a lot of younger gamers out there who might never have played a Final Fantasy game before.
“With Final Fantasy XVI, we wanted to appeal to as wide a range of gamers as possible by setting the story in a classic fantasy world that’s reminiscent of the early Final Fantasy games, but combining that with fast-paced, real-time action.
“We have a comprehensive support system in place for players who aren’t too confident with action games, so even if action isn’t your thing, I hope you’ll give it a try.
“One other reason we went with an action-based battle system this time round is to push the boundaries of what a Final Fantasy game can be and expand the range of possibilities for the developers who pick up the reins of the series after us.”
Summons—or “Eikons”—are an important part of the game. What was so appealing about this element of the Final Fantasy series?
Yoshida: “The Eikons of Valisthea are similar to weapons of mass destruction in the real world. Each nation has one, dwelling inside a human host, who inherits their powers by particular rules. These hosts are known as Dominants, and each Dominant has the power to physically transform themselves into their Eikon.
“As the aether provided by the Mothercrystals begins to fade, and the nations of Valisthea wage war to seize their rivals’ crystals for their own, they resort to sending their Eikons against each other on the field of war.
“The main storyline of Final Fantasy XVI centers around the Dominants and their Eikons. The reason why we wanted to give the Eikons pride of place in the game is to deliver a unique experience where you’re controlling these enormous summons and using them to battle against each other.”
“It’s a Final Fantasy first!”
You’ve reunited with Masayoshi Soken for the game. What made him the right choice to lead this game’s music?
Yoshida: “I’ve been making games with Soken for many years now, and he’s the composer who best understands not only what I, but what our director Hiroshi Takai and creative director Kazutoyo Maehiro imagine as the right kind of soundscape for a Final Fantasy game.
“Of course, the most important factor in that is that his musical style inherits a lot from Nobuo Uematsu, the father of Final Fantasy music, and he’s always striving to follow in the master’s footsteps.”
Finally, do you have a message you’d like to share with the fans?
“I know I’ve kept you all waiting for a long time, but it’s a great relief to finally be able to bring you the latest information about Final Fantasy XVI.
“We plan to share some more details about the world and the story sometime this autumn, but I hope the latest trailer and media interviews can keep your imaginations racing until then.
“The whole development team, helmed by our director Hiroshi Takai, is pulling together to make the game the best that it can be, so please look forward to it!”
What do you think are the core tenets of a Final Fantasy game? Did the development team look to past titles in the series for guidance or inspiration when building Final Fantasy XVI?
Naoki Yoshida: “I’d say the core elements of a Final Fantasy game are a deep story, deep gameplay, cutting-edge graphics and cutting-edge sound… as well as chocobos and moogles, of course.
“In the 35-year history of the Final Fantasy series, it’s always been the guiding policy that each new installment has to be the very best game that the director at the time can put together, no matter how the game world, the characters, or the battle system might change. Because of this, gamers and Final Fantasy fans around the world have very different ideas of what a Final Fantasy game should be—but to me, it’s those elements I mentioned.
“When it came to deciding what to do with Final Fantasy XVI, I thought back to when I played the original Final Fantasy, and remembered how I felt like I was playing the leading role in a motion picture. I wanted to recapture that feeling in Final Fantasy XVI, but with state-of-the-art game design and the latest in modern technology. The whole development team, under the directorship of Hiroshi Takai, has come together to make that dream a reality, so I hope you all look forward to it.”
Thinking back to the beginning of the Final Fantasy XVI project, do you remember how the conversation went when you were asked to produce this new mainline entry? What was your initial reaction?
Yoshida: “I said ‘Thanks, but I have my hands full with 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 making the next entry in the Final Fantasy series. But, as you probably know, I’m already the producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV. I was worried that if I took on the directorship of Final Fantasy XVI, too, fans of both games would have good reason to believe I wasn’t giving either project my full attention.
“To ensure that the development of Final Fantasy XVI didn’t affect that of Final Fantasy XIV, we picked out a very small group of core team members to start with, and over the course of several years, slowly and carefully transitioned them across to start work on the new game, until we had the full team assembled.”
How was the composition of the rest of Final Fantasy XVI‘s development team decided?
Yoshida: “Being the director of a Final Fantasy game 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’re constantly under pressure from the development team, too. You always have to be up for the challenge.
“I’d worked with Hiroshi Takai for many years, and he’s one of my most trusted colleagues, as well as a veteran developer, so I asked him if he would take on the role—and thankfully, he agreed. That’s how it all started. We brought two other members into the group, and between the four of us, we sketched out the core concepts of the game and its world, as well as the key themes that we wanted to put across, and started work on writing the main storyline. Later, we brought a few more members on board to take charge of the battle system and the graphics, and through a process of building on what worked and scrapping what didn’t, we gradually moved towards full-scale development. And all the while, in the back of my mind I was thinking ‘Please don’t let this impact on Final Fantasy XIV!'”
Talking specifically about the story writing process (not narrative details), how has it felt switching from a multi-year, multi-expansion arc to a self-contained, standalone story?
Yoshida: “I’ve worked on games that aren’t MMORPGs before, so it wasn’t a major stumbling block. Plus, each new Final Fantasy XIV expansion has a similar level of new story content as a standalone RPG, or maybe even more, so it wasn’t too different to 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 a lot faster!”
Every Final Fantasy logo conveys a core theme of the game in some way. How does the Final Fantasy XVI logo do this?
Yoshida: “Yoshitaka Amano’s design for the logo is full of meaning, as you’d expect. It shows two Eikons facing off against each other… and the rest, for now, is a secret.”
Following the debut of Final Fantasy XVI‘s new “Dominance” trailer during State of Play, we finally have a release window! Where will the development team be focusing their efforts during 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 voiceover in several languages that still need to be recorded. Final Fantasy XVI is a very action-oriented game, so we’re also doing a lot of playtesting to fine-tune the difficulty levels, as well as putting the final touches on the cutscenes, and going through a full-scale debugging process. A year is a short time in game development, so we’re all straining at the bit to get it over the line.”
It’s 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 to the best of their ability across two tonally distinct games without burning themselves (or yourself) out? I imagine lots of work on Final Fantasy XVI must have been happening around the same time as final Final Fantasy XIV: Endwaler preparations…
Yoshida: “I wouldn’t call it a system per se, but the project managers and assistant producers on both projects do a great job planning out my schedule to make sure I’m not overwhelmed. I wouldn’t have a clue how to keep myself organized without them!
“Any decisions regarding the overall management of the division I try to leave in the hands of the upper management as much as possible, which allows me to focus on my work as producer and director. Rather than a specific system or a process, it’s a sense of teamwork that we’ve built up over the years. Masayoshi Soken has his own people in the Sound department who handle his schedule for him.”
Two-part question: What’s your favorite recurring Summon from the Final Fantasy series overall, and why? What’s your favorite Summon in Final Fantasy XVI, and why?
Yoshida: “It’s got to be Bahamut for me. He doesn’t just destroy his enemies, but the ground they’re standing on—even whole planets! Every time he appears, you know something incredible is about to happen. It helps that he’s a big part of the story of Final Fantasy XIV, too. As for the Summons that appear in Final Fantasy XVI, I do have my favorite, but I can’t tell you right now as it’s bound to result in a lot of speculation. What I can tell you is that they’re all as 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 share any insight into the trailer’s music? Was the music we heard in the trailer made just for this beat, or does it include themes and leitmotifs we can expect to hear in full in the game?
Yoshida: “Not all of the music is finished yet, but Soken’s the kind of composer who likes to repurpose parts of the in-game soundtrack in trailers. I’m sure you’ll have 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, only once he’s finished working on the soundtrack!”
What are some opportunities afforded by the PlayStation 5 hardware that would not have been possible in previous generations?
Yoshida: “With the boost in processing power, we can obviously make the graphics even richer than we could before, but it’s the super-fast loading times that really impress me. In Final Fantasy XVI, you jump straight from story cutscenes into real-time battles and back again without any loading times, making the gameplay flow at a breakneck pace. It’s only thanks to the power of the PlayStation 5 system that we can make Final Fantasy XVI the roller-coaster ride that it is.”
Final Fantasy XVI is due out for PlayStation 5 in summer 2023. Watch the latest trailer here.