PAX East 2015: Behind the Game Designs of FINAL FANTASY XV

March 7, 2015 9:48 pm by Ashleigh Lillechurch

SQUARE ENIX held a “Behind the Game Designs of FINAL FANTASY XV” panel at PAX East today, featuring lead game designers Wan Hazmer and Prasert Prasertvithyakarn. Hazmer is the lead game designer for the Culture Team, whereas Prasertvithyakarn (or Sun, as his fans have taken to calling him) heads up the Buddy Team; the team in charge of the character AI. The pair were on stage to discuss some of the design philosophies behind FINAL FANTASY XV.

Unfortunately crowd-favourite, Hajime Tabata, was unable to attend in person as he was attending his daughter’s graduation ceremony.

The development team for FINAL FANTASY XV have set themselves the ambitious goal of “creating the best FINAL FANTASY series,” which is the goal for every new numbered entry into the main series. To this end, they plan on retaining the charm of FINAL FANTASY but packaging it into a brand-new experience. They have dubbed FINAL FANTASY XV to be about a road-trip with your best buddies in a fantastical yet believable world.

As mentioned in the London Active Time Report, the Episode Duscae demo will showcase only a small part of Duscae region. The full Duscae region will make up one-tenth of the entire game world. The story of the Episode Duscae demo revolves around the now infamous car. A certain blonde member of the group (read: Prompto) has broken the car, and in order to repair the car you need to amass enough Gil to cover Cidney’s repair costs. Yes, just like Jessie J once sang – it’s all about the money, money, money…

If you’ve ever played a FINAL FANTASY game before. Which, I’m assuming most of the people reading this site have done… You’ll know that one of the time-tested methods of earning Gil (which doesn’t involve abusing mini-games) is by killing powerful mobs out in the world. Coincidentally this isn’t something FINAL FANTASY XV shys away from. The fastest way to amass the required Gil is found simply by accepting the bounty to kill Smoke-Eye, the Behemoth found roaming the Duscae region and generally getting up to no good in the hood. Well, no-one said the fastest way was necessarily the easiest.

Hunting the Behemoth is a mini-game in itself (yes surprisingly a gigantic Behemoth is easy to lose track of), by following the beasts footprints littered through-out the region you may stumble across it. If you wander in ill-prepared, you’ll likely become good acquaintances with FINAL FANTASY XV’s rather modest Game Over screen.

The Duscae region gets very dangerous at night, with creep crawlies normally confined to the dank, dark caves, coming out to cause enough bumps to unsettle the most steeled of adventurer. At night time it’s generally a good idea to setup camp, aside from allowing for all sorts of banter between Noctis and buddies, it also allows Ignis to cook up a buff-granting storm. Oh and it has the added benefit of auto-saving your progress too. Buffs that can be obtained from Ignis’ culinary prowess include:

  • Fresh – Slightly increases attack, defense, and EXP gained.
  • Prime – Greatly increases attack, defense, and EXP gained.
  • Sharp – Increases critical hit rate.
  • Immune – Negates status ailments.

Now if you’ve got this far and are thinking “Yawn, we know all this already, blah blah blah.” Then you’re not the only one! Most of this information has indeed been covered time and again in the past few weeks. Thankfully, the presentation finally got onto some new hot deets.

Hazmer provided us with a formal introduction, quite possibly our first since the games rebranding from VERSUS XIII, to Noctis’ buddies; Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis.

Gladio is the oldest of the group and also the strongest and bravest. He was trained since a young age and regularly takes to the frontlines in the heat of battle, often acting as the “Tank” for the group, benefiting from having the highest HP pool of the party.. Despite his age and hardened nerves, he’s generally a relaxed person that cares a lot about his friends. Gladio also provides the combat tutorial for the Episode Duscae demo, teaching the players the ropes of the combat system.

Ignis has known Noctis since they were young, and wants to be Noctis’ counsel. He has studied Notcis quite a bit and makes it his goal to protect him. As previously mentioned he is the cook of the group, making meals that provide buffs and cure status ailments. In battle Ignis sticks close to Noctis, offering him protection and using the Cure ability. His combat style is similar to that of a “Rogue” using dual-daggers and dealing damage with poison.

Prompto rounds out the entourage. Prompto is one of Noctis’ classmates, and unlike the rest of the group, has never received any combat training. He is eager to prove his worth, though as a result can be anxious and prone to showing off. Even so, he never gives up. Prompto uses a gun in combat and can provide useful utility to the group, such as a blinding powder that disorientates enemies.

The trio are billed as note just party members, but Noctis’ buddies. Sun says that the team have gone to great lengths to make them feel like friends, rather than AI characters simply following along. Gladio will generally run ahead of the group while Prompto will stay near the rear. All three of them will regular point out areas of interest to Noctis, which can be hints for quests, or even serve as simple requests that may lead to side-quests off the beaten path.

The developer’s want you to feel like the “5th Buddy” in the group. Eventually they hope that you will come to view Noctis, Ignis, Prompto and Gladiolus as your friends and that you are living their journey with them – rather than simply being a benevolent observer.

The topic of discussion then moved on to Outposts. The towns and outposts of FINAL FANTASY have always been memorable in their own right, and Hazmer notes that everytime you find a new town in FINAL FANTASY XV it will have it’s own culture and vibe. We’ve seen a lot of the Gas Station outpost, Cidney’s hang-out, from the demo so far – however, there’s also a second outpost in the Episode Duscae demo. The Wiz Chocobo Outpost. A character called Wiz owns the outpost. A passionate chocobo rider himself, he created the outpost for chocobo riders to come and relax. In the final game, the player will be able to rent chocobo’s from the outpost, but this feature won’t be available in the demo.

The outpost also has a Caravan, which Noctis and buddies can sleep in for a fee. Caravans can be found throughout the game and serve a similar function to camping. However, Ignis will not cook for the group if they stay in a Caravan. Instead, the group will simply just receive a flat experience multiplier for a short duration.

The full panel can currently be viewed over on the SQUARE ENIX Presents Twitch Channel. Some highlight screen captures are below!

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