#91: “Stormblood Development Tales – Part 4”
Published in 2017/09/07 and 2017/09/14 combined issue
At the end of Summer 2016, all graphics-related sections shifted their focus to Stormblood in preparation for the next year’s release.
– The Character Team Created a Wide Variety of Equipment and Rewards –
The character team creates models for things like character equipment and NPCs. Unlike the background (BG) team, whose work was finished upon the completion of the maps themselves, the character team still had more work to do after modeling a piece of equipment. In FFXIV, character builds are different between male and females, so a full set of equipment needs to be compatible with all race and gender combinations. Adding a single piece of equipment requires an absurd amount of detailed work.
In addition to player equipment, the character team also creates character models with unique graphics like Hien and Yotsuyu. They also model hairstyles and apply them to the different races, as well as create facial movements, mounts, and of course, they do all of the monster modeling, too.
Of course, the character team is split up into smaller parts, with different people in charge of player equipment, weapons, monsters, faces, sensuality(?), and so on. There is high emphasis placed on communication and coordination. Since the base designs are done by the art/scenario teams and I have to do my own personal checks, the character team works with the other sections much more than any other team does.
Creating a single set of job-specific gear requires about 6 months of work, so we have the patch rewards addition schedule and task distribution running parallel with quality control and outsourced work on mass creation of equipment for the expansion pack. When a patch is released, the character team is actually already working around 10 months into the future.
It’s also tough for the planners who are making the orders, but I’m truly indebted to the character team for their meticulous task management and the amount of work that goes into completing so many assets…
– The Art Team Began Creating Promotional Art –
Along with the BG team, the art team also started working on the expansion early. Their work is divided between character art and background art, and they do a wide variety of tasks ranging from designing unique NPCs and their equipment to creating detailed specifications on how backgrounds should be modeled.
In Fall 2016, work on Stormblood had briefly calmed down, so the art team began working on PR illustrations. The assistant producer and I wrote up a general list of the materials we needed for PR, and I requested compositions and images directly from the artist in charge.
Since FFXIV operates globally, each region has different preferences with regards to colouring, character types, and compositions. Of course, it would be too expensive to prepare separate versions of each illustration for each region, so my requests were assigned like, “This art is for all regions”, “This illustration leans towards North America”, “This illustration will mainly be used in Japan”, etc.
My requests are fairly specific (or so I think), so once the rough sketch is done, we go over it once. Then, the colouring and background are added, and if it’s a character, then their facial expression is checked last. The expression is what gets checked the most carefully. PR illustrations establish the players’ impressions of the characters before they play the content, so we pay extra attention to the expression, which is where the character’s personality manifests. When the players play the game, we don’t want them to feel any contradiction between what they see and what they were expecting.
*spoken with confidence* I’m probably the worst at drawing out of all the staff involved with FFXIV! Despite that, I give the most precise directions and I do the most checks. What kind of cause and effect is this…? Perhaps my power of imagination is strong to make up for my inability to draw. At any rate, thank you everyone for always providing such beautiful illustrations. I’m sure it would be easier on you if only I could draw sketches of what I was looking for, but my drawings are just too terrible, to the point where even I can’t tell what they are. I’m sorry.
– The Marketing/PR Planning Ran Alongside Development –
And so, as the development team gradually shifted towards Stormblood while still working on Patch 3.4 and 3.5, the marketing and PR teams from all regions began suggesting marketing plans for the expansion. The biggest one was Fan Festival, which had already been in the works for a year. Aside from that, the next biggest was our overseas media tour.
FFXIV has marketing/PR teams assigned to Japan, North America, and Europe, but Europe is further divided into branches for each region, each with their own representatives: UK, France, Germany, the Nordic countries, etc. They plan marketing for their regions, search for businesses to collaborate with, plan retail store displays, and create PR materials, but the media tour is the biggest task of all. What would be the most efficient way for me, the one in charge of development, to travel around the world? And what would be the most effective way for me to explain Stormblood to the world’s media? The heated debates and proposals continued for quite a while.
Last time, for Heavensward, we held one session in North America, and instead of visiting several countries in Europe, we reserved a castle in Paris. This was both cost-effective and schedule-effective, and the media liked it a lot too. So for Stormblood, we even considered focusing on a single location for all overseas regions together, including North America.
In the end, we realized that it would be hard for the North American media to move around much since they were preparing for E3. So, just like last time, we decided to hold one session in North America and choose a single venue for Europe. The marketing/PR teams racked their brains, trying to find a suitable venue for Stormblood’s aesthetic and decide how it should be decorated. It was an intense back-and-forth between Japan and each branch…
It’d been 4 years since ARR was released, and for the sake of the game’s future, we needed to emphasize bringing in new players with Stormblood. The North American team did a collaboration with WWE, an incredibly popular pro-wrestling organization. The Japanese team started with an FF series collaboration in Yokohama as part of the FF 30th Anniversary celebrations, and collaborated with other businesses in every form they could think of.
Looking back at this really reminds me that FFXIV is built on the passion and cooperation of so many people. Now then, next up is Part 5, the end of this series. I think I’ll talk about battle content and the launch itself. See you next time!