Interview: Naoki Yoshida sheds new light on Final Fantasy XVI

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Interview: Naoki Yoshida sheds new light on Final Fantasy XVI

In a wide-ranging talk, the producer shares fresh details on the game’s development, juggling it and FFXIV, his favorite Summon, and much more.

For those eager to know yet more about the much-anticipated Final Fantasy XVI, your wait is over.

Like us, you’ve likely pored over every piece of text, every screenshot and trailer since the game was originally announced back in 2020. We’ve had the first information about its world and characters, and most recently, a closer look at gameplay as well as that all-important release window. Producer Naoki Yoshida has guided us through all three here on PS.Blog.

Interview: Naoki Yoshida sheds new light on Final Fantasy XVI

Now, we’re able to quiz Yoshida-san to pull back the curtain (a little) on the game’s development. Here, we get his personal perspective on, amongst other things, answering the call to create the latest mainline Final Fantasy title, developing for PlayStation 5, and his favorite Summon. Let’s get to it.

Naoki Yoshida, Producer of Final Fantasy XVI

PlayStation.Blog: 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 FFXVI?

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.

“Each new installment has to be the very best game that the director at the time can put together”

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 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.

PSB: Thinking back to the beginning of the FFXVI project, do you remember how the conversation went when you were asked to produce this new mainline entry? What was your initial reaction?

NY: 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 FF 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 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 XVI didn’t affect that of 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.

PSB: How was the composition of the rest of FFXVI’s development team decided?

NY: 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!”

PSB: 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?

NY: 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!

PSB: Every Final Fantasy logo conveys a core theme of the game in some way. How does the Final Fantasy XVI logo do this? 

NY: 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.

PSB: Following the debut of FFXVI’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?

NY: 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.

PSB: It’s now been confirmed that there are some Final Fantasy XIV dev team members (including you!) working on FFXVI — 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 XVI must have been happening around the same time as final FFXIV Endwalker preparations…

NY: 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.

The Eikons Garuda and Titan, and their Dominants, Benedikta Harman and Hugo Kupka

PSB: 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?

NY: 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!

PSB: The new “Dominance” trailer also teased more of the game’s music. With Masayoshi Soken now confirmed as FFXVI’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?

NY: 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!

PSB: What are some opportunities afforded by the PlayStation 5 hardware that would not have been possible in previous generations?

NY: 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.

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  • Oh, sweet baby. Fantastic!

  • In the Gameinformer interview, Yoshi P states that the third trailer is slated for Fall. So, maybe TGS? Either way, I am tremendously excited. Easily my most anticipated game.

  • I’m actually ready for this to be the greatest single-player game I’ve ever played. I think it’ll really take me back to those Super Nintendo days of gaming.

  • So hyped for this. The music in that second trailer was so good! I hope there’s a demo like XV and VIIR

  • Peh, la lak maleh kudu tuku PS5 disek iki? Wah jan…

  • I’m really looking forward to Final Fantasy 16 & Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth . Nice that Final Fantasy is released exclusively for Playstation. I hope Sony buys Square Enix, Fromsoftware & Ember Lab and makes Playstation the perfect Place for Gaming.

    • Sony acquiring FromSoftware will never happen. They’re owned by a massive conglomerate parent company and would have to go through them, which they probably don’t see as worth the effort

  • I still don’t get why the whole Dark Souls vibe was necessary. FF always attracted me because of the colorful and beautiful settings despite of the seriousness of the story (XII and XV were my least favorite). I think it’s a shame FF is becoming part of a kind of generic games in regards of look and feel, I hope it won’t be as generic gameplay-wise. As a long time FF fan I can’t see I’m looking forward to this in any way unfortunately…

  • Really would like Sony to acquire Square Enix. Not only have they had a wonderful relationship with one another for nearly 3 decades, but the amount of finance and support their studios get would allow Square Enix divisions to make even higher quality titles due to the support Sony/Playstation will offer.

    • Square are making a multitude as is without Sony’s backing. There’s literally nothing more they could gain from being bought by Sony when they’re already a sizable firm with lots of resources and fair management.

  • Final Fantasy is dead. It used to be magical, now its just a big mess. They refuse to just leave FFVII alone. They constantly fart out spin off after spin off after mobile port after cash grab. They remix the same music over and over and over and over and over again so they can sell yet another CD. The games lost their brand flavor at Final Fantasy XIII, at latest, X if your generous. The casts get worse with each new entry. The entire cast of XV is dressed in black. How unique. They censor every remake because the player base is pretty ridiculous and just accept it.
    XV was the last straw. You could wrap XVI in a chocolate gift basket and I still wouldn’t touch it. I see no reason why any more Final Fantasy should be purchased.

    • A mess? You’re confusing this era with the PSP and JP only FF Type 0, FFXIII, FFXIV 1.0 and FF Versus XIII era in the PS3 days. Final Fantasy hasn’t been in a better position as it is right now thanks to FFVII Remake, current FFXIV, and FFXVI.

      FF hasn’t had its crap together like this since the PS1 era, I’d argue.

  • I don’t like the dark, medieval style and the character models, don’t like the look of the combat system that looks very similar to their MMO with an overabundance of damage numbers, and I’m a bit worried this is the direction they’re taking for a mainline FF. On the other hand I loved the FF7 remake, its style, combat and character models so that is definitely the direction I’d love to see this series evolve in. This I’ll probably pick up on sale to give a try.

    • It’s kinda funny your preferences are completely opposite from mine.

      I never quite like the VII Remake the first time I tried to play it on release, even though I never played the original FFVII before.

      On the other hand I do love FF in their medieval setting and seeing from XVI both trailers, I really really looking forward to it and gonna love if their direction to the future is based on XVI.

    • Are you a FFXIV player? I’d doubt you’d say that because if you were (like me) you’d know that XVI plays nothing like XIV does. Nothing.

  • It sounds like the right people were picked to step up to Final Fantasy. Glad Yoshi P is involved and appreciate the extra work he’s putting in to help FF16 be all that it can be. I think he really gets the series and understands it and how it has evolved. That’s saying a lot to me. I appreciate Kitase, Nomura, and the others, but they dropped the ball some where a long the way and only just recently regained their composure with FF7 Remake and hopefully FF7 Rebirth and FF7R3. A near 15 to 20 year gap since the last quality Final Fantasy, FF12 (which wasn’t without its issues, sadly we see Yasumi Matsuno leave square after the stress of this project).

  • In Yoshi-P we trust. Guy literally saved the crumbling bridge that was Final Fantasy XIV and turned it into one of the all-time best entries within like a year, and now he and Soken are teaming up again on a big single-player FF game that goes into dark fantasy territory. Very interested in where this goes

  • Hi,
    I have a very simple suggestion, that I think will be beneficial for players and PlayStation : please increase the wishlist limit on PSN, from 100 items to at least 1000.
    There are many games releasing, big and small, and a wishlist is a simple feature to keep track of games you are interested in purchasing.
    I will post this comment on every blog post until it is implemented.
    Thank you for your consideration.

  • Yoshitaka Amano’s design for the logo is full of meaning,

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