When creating an area, at first it only exists in our imaginations
and there’s nothing actually solid for us to look at. But as we continue through the process Slowly bits and pieces start to come together Then you add in additional elements like monsters and NPCs and these areas come to life. It’s really fun and rewarding to see something that at one time only existed in your head, now realised in front of you. My name is Arata Takahashi, I’m the Lead Level Designer for FINAL FANTASY XIV this means I manage the creation of all the different backgrounds that are requested from other teams, as well as work on both dungeons and F.A.T.E.s. In terms of other tasks, I handle specifications for special movement abilities like flying mounts, diving and swimming. My name is Masato Shida, and I work on the different background environments. In terms of what I did specifically for Shadowbringers, I worked on the different weather elements as well as polishing the fields and the lighting for dungeons. My name is Takeo Suzuki and I’m the Lead Artist on FINAL FANTASY XIV. This means I oversee different departments within the XIV team that are focusing on graphics and art, This means I oversee different departments within the XIV team that are focusing on graphics and art, including character design, animation, cutscenes, background environments and technical art. Each section has a lead assigned to them, but I’m also the section lead for the background environment and technical art as well. Designing the different zones begins with receiving ideas from the game designers, and then our artists come up with ideas for how to fill those areas. Be it a lake with a mysterious island floating on it or a Beast Tribe town, Be it a lake with a mysterious island floating on it or a Beast Tribe town, we work to place fun elements in the various zones that we think our players would enjoy, while making sure it makes sense from a story perspective as well. while making sure it makes sense from a story perspective as well. We had the opportunity to go to Saudi Arabia for a business trip and thought since we were there, we’d love to go and see an actual desert with our own eyes! So we went, looked at it, and actually got to experience the location there first-hand. We then tried to incorporate that into the Ahm Araeng area. A couple of the designers that went on the trip took pictures of all the different types of textures they found, and these were built into the game as well. In the Rak’tika Greatwood, the Ronkan ruins were actually inspired by Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We referenced those for the design. As for designing Kholusia, we took inspiration from a real-life coast in the UK called The Seven Sisters. Our goal was to create a wide-open plain by the sea with a lonely feel to it. When we were thinking about what Lakeland would look like, we kept in mind the concept that the First is a mirror world that’s branched off the Source. As such, Lakeland is actually a mirror image of Mor Dhona. but we did want to retain some elements to suggest this link while making something new. We brainstormed lots of different ideas, but what’s unique about Mor Dhona is its weather with the violet sky, so we used this purple concept to build up Lakeland! so we used this purple concept to build up Lakeland! When designing Lakeland, it began with Ms. Ishikawa from the World Lore team bringing us a photo that she’d modified it began with Ms. Ishikawa from the World Lore team bringing us a photo that she’d modified to show what she envisioned the area looking like. We took that as a reference point and started thinking about how best to show this wooded area that has purple-leaved trees growing by a lakeside. While letting my imagination wander, I began to think about cherry blossom trees in a forest, and that beautiful landscape wouldn’t leave my mind. I was very careful about adjusting the colour saturations and hues to make sure that beauty wasn’t lost. In the case of Lakeland, we have a very unique island in the middle of the lake that looks suspiciously like a whale! That concept wasn’t originally included in the initial instructions, and it was something one of the artists in the Background Team brought up as an idea for a destination. So they created a mock-up and during a meeting to nail down the details of the script of the story, we were told that in the end we’ll be travelling to the Tempest area, and this whale is going to take to the sky as it takes our heroes to that zone, so there were further instructions to be expected, like being able to show and hide it. One of our designers has a rather playful spirit and, when we were thinking about the different locations within the zone, they’d sprawl things in random places because they thought it was interesting. This led to them thinking it might be quite a cool idea to have something like this in the map! When trying to depict the Flood of Light, the one thing we struggled with was… Usually, the look of a typical open field would differ depending on the weather or what time of day it is, and that allows you to give a different impression of the environment. That’s a really core element when creating the visual aspects, but in this instance having that constant bright light and that be the only weather pattern you saw, really created quite the challenge. In terms of the contributions that I’m most proud of, it would be the creation of the Everlasting Light weather because it’s such a symbolic and incredibly important part of the story. We needed to express that there’s an overwhelming amount of light, but also make it appear heavy and oppressive. The world had changed to an undesired state, and we wanted to convey that isolation and loneliness. I consulted Director Yoshida to make sure we were on the right track with this, but also worked with the effects team to explore how best to depict those rays of light – the “god rays” as we called them – shining through. For Shadowbringers, I worked on how to depict the Flood of Light in terms of effects, and how that changes as players progress through the story. Particularly the way in which we allowed there to be major environmental changes for each player that happen in relation to their progress through the story. There are certain fish you can only catch in specific weather, for example, and we had to make adjustments to the Skywatchers to make sure everything was aligned. It took a lot of hard work to get it right! As part of my research for creating the Everlasting Light weather state, I decided I wanted to depict clouds that felt like it had some thickness to them. To do this, I decided to take reference photos of different types of clouds. I actually travelled outside of Japan to Guam to take pictures of the different clouds there, and they were really rich, thick clouds, it was these that I utilised and modified to create what you see in the game. In terms of anecdotes and things that are unique, we mentioned Kholusia earlier, but there was a request for a house only Dwarves can enter midway through the story, which is very unusual! When we first received the request by Director Yoshida, to have such an element implemented in the zone, that wasn’t in the original setting, so our first reaction was “how on earth are we going to go about doing this?!” This led to quite a few discussions with the artist handling the creation of the house to figure out how to manage it! Now, when you think about Dwarves, due to their stature and their size, they can appear quite childlike, but there were directions regarding granular details such as to avoid making it seem that the interiors surrounding them were childlike too. We went right up to the wire with this one, modifying it and adding the correct utensils and furniture until the last possible moment to make sure it was just right! (Another example of these unique elements) is in The Crystarium. You may be aware the townsfolk have daily lives, and some people have taken up farming. If you look very closely, you’ll see there are sprinklers in some of those farms and they’re actually timed to start and stop at specific hours! This was done by a designer on the team who wanted to add an extra layer of fun. With Shadowbringers, we created this new realm of The First, but it went above and beyond our expectations for how much people have enjoyed playing the game, so thank you to all of the players for that! With Shadowbringers, we worked hard to create varied different zones and maps, whose skies and light also change with the passage of time. I would love it for players to pay attention to the ever-evolving environment of Norvrandt and enjoy it! There may be certain nooks and crannies within the zones that you haven’t had a chance to discover yet, so I hope you get an opportunity to just explore the world of Norvrandt. Take your flying mount and look at it from up in the air, and hopefully you’ll find somewhere that you fall in love with and that becomes your favourite place to be.