There’s one particular Final Fantasy XVI development story Naoki Yoshida admits he’s unlikely ever to forget. The producer describes a particular port city the studio conceptualized. Its key feature: a colossal stretch of huge wall that runs the length of the city, separating it from the surrounding ocean and which has successfully protected those behind it from invasion for over three centuries. It’s a visually impressive sight, one that fits perfectly with the larger fantasy world of Valisthea. There was, however, one issue.
“You look over these designs,” explains Yoshida-san, “And in the far corner of the town, on the sea side, there’s a natural cliff. And this cliff is maybe 15 meters high. And the leader of this city, the most important person, is housed right there beside it. What stopped pirates just coming up, destroying the house and taking over? It made no sense.”
The result was a proverbial – and literal – return to the drawing board to correct the oversight.
It’s a recollection that articulates the careful work to make this fantastical world believable, lived in. And that story is but one of numerous examples of the complexities the producer, alongside Art Director Hiroshi Minagawa and Localization Director Michael-Christopher Koji Fox have navigated as they built Valisthea and the player’s journey through it.
A world’s design, of how Valisthea rests at a crossroads between multiple teams at the studio – environmental artists, level designers, combat teams and more – is the focus of an insightful conversation with the three midway through their two-day stopover in London. That stay is just one stage of a multi-country tour for the game they’re attached to, each stop giving attendees several hours with the near-final PS5 game.
It’s a robust hands-on. We first sample the game’s opening hours, a flashback to a key period in Clive Rosfield’s youth that sets up what’s to come. (It’s this section that players will experience in a public demo which drops ahead of the full game’s launch.) We then play through the two hours and change directly following that demo’s conclusion. Lastly, we’re left to roam for thirty minutes in one of the game’s open areas, a lush valley filled with optional beasts to defeat and side-quests to take up.
In that collective time we wander through castle grounds and hideouts, battle our way through more guided scenarios, partake in a spectacular, cinematic Eikon versus Eikon clash. As such, we get a better understanding of the game’s structure, the environment design. I have answered a question I never thought to ask: what is Final Fantasy’s version of gardening tools?
Boss battles, be they Eikon versus Eikon or Clive’s clashes with bigger threats, promise to be unique encounters. FFXVI has a speci