Square Enix debuted a new Final Fantasy XVI trailer during a recent PlayStation State of Play. It was our biggest look at the upcoming RPG yet, and the trailer revealed that Final Fantasy XVI is out sometime in the summer of next year.
Game Informer spoke to the game’s producer, Naoki Yoshida, who is also the director of Final Fantasy XIV, about this new “Dominance” FFXVI trailer, including the franchise’s return to a more medieval setting, Eikons, boss fights and much more .
Game Informer: Final Fantasy has a history of experimenting with different combat systems in new main lines, and Final Fantasy XVI seems to be doing the same, with probably the biggest emphasis on main-series action yet. How did the team arrive at this style of combat, and what is it like to see it brought to life by combat director Ryota Suzuki (a designer whose credits include Devil May Cry 5, Dragon’s Dogma, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2)?
Naoki Yoshida: You asked me about the direction of the combat system and to answer that in order to contribute to the overall evolution of the Final Fantasy series, we decided that instead of building on previous Final Fantasy combat systems, we would shift focus to one of real-time action. And so, once we had that concept, that we were going in this direction, it made it easy for our director and our combat leader, Ryota Suzuki, to take the reins and bring something that was really action-oriented.
For the combat system, not only have we given the main character, Clive, an arsenal of powerful attacks and abilities based on this traditional Final Fantasy summons, but we also have him cycle through those attacks in real time, in order to deal with those attacks in real time. [This allows] for powerful combinations and smooth, stylish gameplay that both looks and feels great.
An example of this is as you saw in it [Dominance] trailer where you have one of the Garuda skills where you lift the enemy into the air and while in the air Clive can switch to Titan and use one of the Titan skills to knock the enemy to the ground. This kind of seamless switching and switching of actions and linking them together to create these unique combinations… all depends on the different play styles of the players. There’s a lot of room for customizing these types of builds that Clive has and the player finding a build that suits his playstyle is one of the nice things about the action system we have.
Many of our developers in our development team in [Creative Business Unit III] had no experience making an action game. It was very challenging for us. And to have the immensely talented action star Ryota Suzuki on our team, who has seen our development progress just from the combat systems to the animation and everything he’s pretty much had in his hands transformed and become something beyond what we thought it could have been. We are really happy to have him and we are blessed.
GI: Throughout the trailer, there are a number of health bars at the top of the screen, both in human-human battles and Eikon-Eikon battles. What’s up with these, and are they meant to be reminiscent of fighting games?
Yoshida: As for the health bars and UI, I saw a lot of comments on social media after the trailer was released about how the UI is a bit reminiscent of a fighting game. When we started developing the game, and we had our “Clive versus smaller enemies” or our “Eikon versus Eikon” battles, when we first developed them, we did them with almost no user interface on the screen. But playing this we found out that it was just a little too little information – we needed more information. That said, we didn’t want the screen to get cluttered and so after a lot of back and forth and trying a lot of different things, we came to the design… in the trailer, and that it just happens to look like a fighting game is just something that eventually happened.
However, the overall game design for these Eikon vs Eikon battles has to be unique and in fact we don’t use the same exact system twice. Each battle is completely unique in its playstyle, which is why we do something crazy.
For example, maybe an Eikon vs Eikon fight, if you have Eikon A vs Eikon B, that fight will be reminiscent of a 3D shooter. While another Eikon versus another Eikon, it’s more of a pro wrestling match, and maybe even a third one with one Eikon versus another Eikon will turn an entire area into a battlefield. And again, we haven’t reused these systems and each of these Eikon vs Eikon fights is unique and will change with each fight. That’s why, and because the battles are so different in nature, the user interface has to change for each battle. And so you see slight differences in the user interface between these battles. In the end, though, we had to get a lot out of the trailer because it’s going to be story spoilers and we didn’t want that.
Then you ask, “If you’ve hidden part of the UI, why didn’t you hide the whole UI like those HP bars? Why did you leave it behind?” and that was simply because if you remove all the HP bars and the entire UI, people start to say, “oh, that’s just pre-rendered, that’s not running in real time.” We wanted to show that what you saw in the trailer was in real time, so we decided to leave a little bit of that UI in there.
GI: Many players are excited about the prospect of a single-player Final Fantasy from the developers behind FFXIV. What lessons, mechanics and systems, and story techniques, if any, from FFXIV can fans expect to somehow appear in FFXVI?
Yoshida: So Final Fantasy XIV was designed as an MMORPG from the start, while Final Fantasy XVI was designed as a single player game from the start, so from the start you will have completely different design concepts. MMORPGs, as you know, are all about the long term – you string experiences together over a longer period of time to maintain that user base.
Single player games, on the other hand, are much more about, I guess you could say, instant gratification. They are fast, they get you excited. That excitement is concentrated in a smaller package. So with that in mind, you can imagine that Final Fantasy XIV won’t have had that much of an impact on Final Fantasy XVI at least in terms of system. That said, however, one of the most unique things about Final Fantasy XIV is the kind of connection the development team has with the community, [and] the amount of communication going back and forth between the development team and the community. Over the past 11 years, interacting with the community has provided us with a lot of very valuable information about what you know fans want and expect from the series. Having this 11-year knowledge base has helped us and allowed us to take some of those ideas and incorporate them into Final Fantasy XVI development.
GI: Mainline Final Fantasy games of late have moved more towards modern timelines, with heavy emphasis on integrating technology with magic, but FFXVI definitely looks more medieval or classic FF. How did the team arrive at this setting and period while developing the game?
Yoshida: The answer to that is actually quite simple: it just so happens that many of the core members in [Creative Business Unit III] I really enjoyed those classic Final Fantasies and that classic medieval European fantasy feel – myself included – and we wanted to make a game that had that feeling. When we made this game, we wanted to take that look, that medieval European classic fantasy look, and fuse that with our own unique idea that we had, and then take all that and try to express that with the current level of technology and create something that is very, very exciting.
As you know, the Final Fantasy series is a bit famous or infamous for being different with every entry in the series. That said, after doing some recent user research, we found that many users found that many of the recent Final Fantasy [games] became a bit static in that view, so we wanted to use this as an opportunity to step away from that and try something different; not just for us, but thinking about the future of Final Fantasy and future projects, we wanted to try something different and maybe show that yes, the series can go in different directions instead of focusing on one.
Although we have just released our second trailer, we are already preparing a third trailer for release this fall. In that trailer, we hope to focus a little more on the world and the lore and the storyline, and hopefully bring a little more of that information to players, to show what the story is going to be like, what the story is going to be. , and how that will fit in the world.
GI: You’re obviously very busy with FFXIV, but now you’re producing FFXVI. What is it like to work on a new single player mainline FF and what is it like to have Creative Business Unit III lead the project?
Yoshida: It doesn’t really matter what kind of project I’m doing. As the head of a game or any project, the pressure is always immense. There are always a lot of people and money involved. As you know, on Final Fantasy XIV I am both producer and director. However, this time on XVI, I’m the only producer. So in that sense it’s a lot of weight off my shoulders.
Final Fantasy XVI is the latest entry in the series, meaning all eyes will be on us as almost everyone out there is scrambling to figure out what kind of game it will be, and a lot of that pressure goes straight to the director. And again, with all this pressure not falling on the producer, but more on, like I said, the director, Hiroshi Takai, or the combat director, Ryota Suzuki, or our creative director and screenwriter, Kazutoyo Maehiro, or Even If I being the localization director and helping out with the world knowledge and things like that, there’s a lot of pressure on us. And as a producer, it’s my job to make sure that this pressure doesn’t get too much for the people who work under me. Being able to come and do these kinds of interviews and talk to the media and make sure the important information gets out so the burden doesn’t fall on the team. It’s something I can do, again, to take that burden off them and for me that’s a lot easier than being a director.
Again, I was very honored when the company came to me and [Creative Business Unit III] and asked us to direct the latest numbered Final Fantasy. But again, that opportunity would never have been possible without the time we spent on Final Fantasy XIV and the voice of the users and the voice of the media that covered us. So I want to thank them for giving me this chance to make the latest Final Fantasy.
To learn more about Final Fantasy XVI, watch the Dominance trailer and admire the beautiful landscapes in these new screenshots. After that, read how I’m excited about the Kaiju-esque combat it seems to give us, then check out Game Informer’s ranking of every mainline Final Fantasy game.
What are you most excited about in Final Fantasy XVI?