The all-male playable cast of Final Fantasy XV was influenced by Tetsuya Nomura's desire for the game to have a "road movie vibe" as well as personal experiences from when Nomura was young.
Tetsuya Nomura's desire to create a much darker Final Fantasy game was in light of how family-friendly and light-hearted Kingdom Hearts was by comparison. He originally intended the game to be a spinoff instead of a main installment in the series as he felt the overall theme to be too dark for a Final Fantasy game.
Tetsuya Nomura wanted to turn the game into a musical after seeing the 2012 film adaptation of Les Miserables, but this was refused by higher-ups at Square Enix.
Director Hajime Tabata grew concerned about the game's budget and development time late into the making of Final Fantasy XV. Tabata instructed that experimentation with technology and the game's budget be kept under strict control. Tabata also arranged a non-hierarchical staff structure to help speed up the exchange of information and feedback between departments while the game was being made. This change was very drastic and unheard of for most Japanese game developers, and was met with a mixed reaction from staff. While some team members were very happy with their new freedom, other staff members felt demoted.
The very first monster designed for the game was the Behemoth.
Hajime Tabata told art director Tomohiro Hasegawa that the goal for the monster designs was a sense of realism equivalent to National Geographic.
During development, the initial planned size of the game's open world increased dramatically; more than the developers anticipated. This was another reason the game was switched to the Luminous Studio engine, favorably abandoning the Crystal Tools engine.
Development of Final Fantasy XV began in 2006 shortly before its announcement at that year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) show. The game's development took approximately 10 years.
Yoshitaka Amano's logo for the game went almost entirely unchanged throughout the game's development.
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan was the main inspiration for Insomnia, the capital of Lucis.
Tetsuya Nomura offered comment on writing the story of Final Fantasy XV, saying: "The stories from the past entries in the Final Fantasy series are not exactly as I would have done, but that's as it should be because I didn't direct them. My only concern in terms of Versus XIII is that Final Fantasy always talks about human emotion and psychologies in a broad way, and I want to go deeper in terms of offering some crude reality in terms of human emotion or human behavior. The goal, when a player holds a controller and plays a role-playing game, is to make them believe in another world – to experience a dream in a fictional world. It will be different in Versus XIII because of the intrusion of the real world, and things that are really happening. There will be less fiction and more reality."
The game originally started off as a spinoff title called Final Fantasy Versus XIII which was being directed by Tetsuya Nomura and produced by Shinji Hashimoto and Yoshinori Kitase.
The original product, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was going to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive built upon Square Enix's proprietary Crystal Tools game engine. This project was cancelled due to the PlayStation 3's diminishing market.
Initial development of Final Fantasy XV started off very slowly until 2007, when the project generated significant discussion among Square Enix staff and it was decided to rebrand the game as the next main entry in the series when it was still under the Versus XIII name.
Hajime Tabata, who worked on Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Type-0 was brought in to aid development of Final Fantasy XV. He later became co-director, and then became the game's solo director after Tetsuya Nomura was transferred to work on other Square projects.
Originally being developed under the Crystal Tools engine, Final Fantasy XV's development was later changed to the Luminous Studio engine to be better suited for eighth generation game consoles, as the game was originally being developed for the PlayStation 3.
Shortly after its official announcement, rumors of the game's cancellation began surfacing as information regarding the game's development was sporadic. The project was rebranded in 2013 and its first appearance was at the 2014 Tokyo Game Show which renewed public interest. Promotion of the game restarted at the 2015 Gamescom trade fair in Germany.
Final Fantasy XV's initial release date was pushed back due to polishing work and for Square's desire for the game to have a simultaneous worldwide release.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII was about 20%-25% completed before it was decided to rebrand the game as Final Fantasy XV.
While the game began development as Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006, there was talk about changing the game into a main entry of the series as early as 2007. Final Fantasy XV began development under its rebranded form in July, 2012.
In writing the story, Tetsuya Nomura wanted to create more realisitc characters with Final Fantasy XV about "man in the real world' and include fewer fantasy elements from the previous games. Some changes from Final Fantasy Versus XIII had to be made for economic reasons or out of good sense for the developers and the project. The overall finalized concept remained faithful to the original story idea, with the most notable change being the character Stella replaced with Lunafreya.
The concept of reaper-worship in Lucis from the game's original scenario had to be toned down, as it would have violated the age-rating system in some countries. Explicit references to those elements were replaced with the general impression of black being a special color.
The characters' clothing was designed by Hiromu Takahara, lead designer for Japanese fashion house Roen, who was brought in when Tetsuya Nomura was occupied with other duties at Square Enix. Takahara was brought in on the grounds to preserve the game's realism by creating designs influenced by Western fashions. Roen's designs were retained during Final Fantasy XV's transition from Versus XIII as they were a major part of the game's initial development.
Tetsuya Nomura wanted to use a present-day setting for a Final Fantasy game for many years, but this idea was initially abandoned during the development of Final Fantasy VII.
Many of the locations in the game's world design are based on real locations including the Piazza San Marco and St Mark's Basilica in Venice, the Bahamas, and a natural cavern in Chiba Prefecture. The highway and tunnel are identical replicas of the Shuto Expressway and a tunnel in the Ginza district, respectively. These locations were created when the development team drove down these real-world locations repeatedly during their research.
The older car designs found throughout the game when compared to the party's vehicle Regalia are intended to reflect the lack of current technology outside of Lucis.
One of the more difficult monsters to design was the Catoblepas, one of the game's larger monsters. The design team gave extra attention to the head and legs of this creature as these two body parts are the most visible to players.
The design of the Mesmerize creature was inspired by the appendages on seahorses.
The designs for the Goblins and Naga were taken directly from their original artwork by Yoshitaka Amano for earlier Final Fantasy games. Because these sketches were for earlier Final Fantasy entries, the team was challenged with the task of inserting these designs into the game with an appearance that looked as realistic as possible.
Moogles were originally not going to appear in Final Fantasy XV when a Twitter poll in November 2015 garnered a favorable result for them to be included in the game.
This is the first Final Fantasy game to be composed by Yoko Shimomura.
The theme song of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, "Somnus", was performed by Aundréa L. Hopkins. The lyrics were written by Tetsuya Nomura, which were translated and adapted into Latin by Taro Yamashita and Kazuhiro Komiya. This song is still in the game but has been replaced as the main theme by a cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me performed by English indie rock band Florence and the Machine.
Tetsuya Nomura wanted to create interactive real-time event scenes to help tell the story. He made this decision on the grounds that regular cutscenes frequently interrupt game play and that players would skip these scenes for that reason. This was among the difficult tasks to achieve for the game as it increased development time.
Final Fantasy XV has far fewer cutscenes than originally intended due to Tetsuya Nomura's desire to make these scenes more interactive, thus reducing game play interruptions.
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