Hello, everyone! This is Matt “Bayohne” Hilton from the Final Fantasy XIV Online community team, this time sitting down with one of Final Fantasy XIV’s battle content designers, Yoshito Nabeshima.
When it comes to MMOs, one of the most exciting elements for the team is creating something that truly challenges your players–and a raid is a perfect example of that.
Providing tough-as-nails encounters and new mechanics, these battles are not just a test of skill, but a test of teamwork. In the last five years we’ve released three different series’ of raids to challenge our players in Final Fantasy XIV. It’s not as easy as you might think to come up with not just new mechanics, but bosses that fit with the story and have a unique visual look!
We wanted to give you a first-hand look at how the development team creates a raid boss from start to finish, and with four all-new bosses in the recent 4.4 patch, this is the perfect opportunity! Let’s take a look at Omega with Nabeshima-san, a boss who should be familiar to anybody who has played Final Fantasy V!
How did the creation of this boss fight begin? Did it start with gameplay concepts, fitting the boss to the story or something else entirely?
Yoshito Nabeshima: When we first started work on the Omega boss battle, we had to consider the storyline of the raid series: Omega fights in order to learn and grow stronger, and is holding a ‘tournament’ to find a worthy opponent. Our team took this base and considered how Omega might behave in an encounter with the Warriors of Light, who continued to triumph in each of the tournaments bouts.
It boils down to the very simple theme of “who is stronger?”– Omega or the Warrior of Light. Because of this, we didn’t want to have a monster swoop in and assist Omega in battle, but instead utilize only Omega and its own battle capabilities when creating the battle.
How did your team decide on the battle mechanics (attacks, AOE patterns, etc.) for this raid?
Yoshito Nabeshima: With this basic idea in mind, we started to think about the battle mechanics.
If you’ve raided in FFXIV before, you might have noticed we include mechanics that require teamwork from the group–think of it as something like a three-legged race, or having a giant jump rope and having a whole group jump in sync. Unfortunately, including these kinds of mechanics have never been my strong suit, but I challenged myself to do it for this fight!
I think it’s easier to get a grasp of this by looking at some specific mechanics, so let’s dive into two particular parts of this fight a bit deeper–the “Level Checker” phase and “Pantokrator.”
The Level Checker phase is inspired by the “Encircle” ability, which you might remember from the very first fight with Omega in Final Fantasy V. I’m sure there is a rhyme and reason to it, but the “Encircle” in FFV was pretty hard to understand since it is never really explained during the fight. I took that idea for our FFXIV battle and built it into it one of those “jump rope mechanics” I mentioned previously.
The way it works is that two players are marked with a debuff called “Chains of Memory.” These players need to move along the edge of the battlefield opposite each other in an arc–they’re essentially drawing a circle. That was my way to tie-in my own Encircle into the fight.
Handling this mechanic isn’t as easy as it sounds, as these two players are linked by a kind of particle beam which rotates with them as they move. It gets pretty hectic since the other players in the raid not only have to deal with avoiding this beam, but also pay mind to other mechanics at the same time.
Now with Pantokrator, the idea was to have a weakened Omega retaliating against players by unleashing a barrage of its strongest attacks one after the other. We wanted the eight Warriors of Light fighting Omega to band together as one to conquer this challenge.
Pantokrator is a slew of different laser attacks brought out one after the other, and all party members need to know the characteristics and patterns for each. We designed this portion of the fight so that without complete teamwork, you won’t be able to succeed!
These are just a few examples, but in both cases, we thought of the overall goal for the mechanic, and then fit it into the parameters of the specific boss.
I’m sure several teams worked together to make this happen. What is the overall flow in working with these teams to create the boss model, the battlefield, the animations, and everything else that is needed to bring the fight to life?
Yoshito Nabeshima: Creating a boss doesn’t start off with creating the mechanics. Typically, the first thing to happen is the story and setting of the raid get hammered out, and then the art team works on the initial design. We work together during the design process, letting the art team know our vision for the battle so they can incorporate those elements into the design.
Omega was unique though, since it had been around since Patch 3.5. It was a rare case where the design was finalized well before we began designing the fight.
We continue planning out the battle content, working with the lore team to incorporate any enemy lore into the overall fight. This stage of planning is where most of the battle mechanics are decided upon: the shape of the battlefield, the flow of battle phases, and other key features.
The next step is a team review of the content that includes the battle and monster teams. If we receive feedback or revision requests, we go back to the drawing board here to make those adjustments. We’ll actually repeat this process as many times as needed until all teams are in agreement with the proposed content.
We also need to make sure our plan is actually going to work in game. We share our full plan with the programming team and they review the battle to make sure there won’t be any problems with making our boss fight a reality.
As you can see, every step of the creation process is a group effort. We talk not only with the teams I’ve mentioned so far, but also with the graphic and sound teams. It’s important to make sure all of us are on the same page in terms of the battle concept, and ensure all parts of the fight match the overall vision.
The pieces start to come together as we put the puzzle pieces from each team together to build the fight for the first time. The battle and monster teams do a lot of play testing, and FFXIV’s Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida joins in for these in the later stages. With his approval, we move on to QA to hammer out all of the bugs, and then all of you get to enjoy the fight!
Well, at least that’s the typical flow…
Omega: The wild card
Omega had another rare occurrence: for the first time in FFXIV boss history, we had to do a major overhaul of much of this fight.
Around the office we call the reviews from Producer and Director Yoshida “P/D checks.” Most of the time, Yoshida will request small tweaks or adjustments, but with Omega things were a bit different.
It was a bit of a shock, but during that first check Yoshida was very blunt in his feedback: “it doesn’t feel like you’re battling Omega at all!”
The Omega Savage fight at the time had two parts to the “Level Checker” phases that I mentioned earlier, and he felt it dragged on for too long. Yoshida also told us the fight didn’t have that climactic feel other bosses up until now did.
Reworking the fight
I took that feedback to heart, and went to work on a revised plan right away. I worked with some of our raid design veterans, and went through the entire process again talking to all of our teams. It was somewhat of a miracle, but the revised plan was approved by Yoshida.
The new plan required changes from all sides. We were adding new mechanics, changing existing mechanics, adding animations, graphical effects, and sound effects. It was another huge team effort that went all the way to our QA team again–I was the one who had to bear the bad news of needing to retest the fight because of the new mechanics…
So what did we actually change? First we removed the second “Level Checker” phase, but we also bumped up the intensity of the fight following that phase. We added in new animations to visually show Omega’s rampage in the later stages of the fight, as well as two new laser attacks: Condensed Wave Cannon Kyrios and Diffuse Wave Cannon Kyrios. Our teams also created the “Rocket Punch” attack for this fight in record time.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at that second Level Checker phase we took out. This image is clipped from the design document, and shows the different positions players would need to be in and move to in order to succeed. Looking at this now… I’m actually glad I was able to rethink this phase!
As you can see, Omega was born out of very tough labour, and I probably caused more than a bit of trouble to many of the teams. They might not have the best memories coming out of all of this, but their willingness to go back to the drawing board is why this battle turned out as well as it did. I’m filled with nothing but gratitude for their support.
When the modeling team created this raid boss’ 3D model, what factors needed to be taken into account in order to translate the concept art into the game itself faithfully?
Yoshito Nabeshima: Hello! Lead character artist Yuji Mitsuishi jumping in here to talk a bit about creating the Omega model!
Omega is comprised of an extremely large number of parts, so getting each of those elements in order and putting them together to create the model was a very time consuming task. My team did not want to deviate from the envisioned design we were given, so we would make even the slightest adjustments to the position of each part of Omega to fit the design.
If you’ve fought Omega, you might have noticed the relief on the surface of his body. I think this is a very important element that makes Omega a memorable foe, but it was important to not lose the sense of three-dimensionality in the design or create a frail-looking Omega in the process.
Did you or your team had any “Aha!” moments during development that changed the outcome of this raid’s design?
Yoshito Nabeshima: Sometimes we do have those moments where something just clicks and you end up with a great idea that might change the fight entirely, but again Omega was a unique case. Almost all of the fight from the Level Checker phase onward was born from reflecting and brainstorming the fight as a group following Yoshida’s orders for the overhaul.
Omega’s ‘frenzy’ after the Level Checker phase was actually a suggestion from my team leader. He told me, “why not just make Omega go completely berserk?” That alone was an eye opener to create that feeling of a true battle against Omega that Yoshida was looking for.
Were there any moments during the creation of this raid that sparked new ideas for other content we might see in the future?
Yoshito Nabeshima: When working on mechanics for one fight, there are times when new ideas come to mind that you can’t always realize right away. I actually thought of a few new ideas when working on the Chains of Memory mechanic for Omega–I’m hoping I can fit them into a future boss fight!
If the boss is inspired from a past Final Fantasy boss, how do you and the teams balance keeping true to the original, but also providing a special flair for Final Fantasy XIV.
Yoshito Nabeshima: When working with bosses from a past Final Fantasy we do make sure to provide a unique experience in Final Fantasy XIV, but at the same time it’s important to consider the original.
You’ll only see this in the Omega Savage fight, but we actually included an “Encircle” ability (known as “Loop”) in the battle. It’s basically the enrage timer for the fight, so you’ll only see it if you can’t finish the fight within a certain time limit.
Encircle was an ability used by Omega in Final Fantasy V that would remove a target from the battle–no questions asked. Unfortunately, mimicking this exactly in FFXIV and removing players from the raid instance wouldn’t really work, and honestly just randomly killing players during a fight isn’t that interesting.
However, after thinking about it I came up with the idea of using this as the boss’ enrage, since we would be able to preserve the original concept. If you happen to encounter this in FFXIV, you can see your raid party get exiled to another dimension!
What part of this new raid are you most excited for players to experience? Which gameplay moments or lore should players should keep an eye out for?
Yoshito Nabeshima: I’m sure many of you have already had a chance to play, but I’d say my favourite part of this fight is when Omega goes berserk after the second Pantokrator. You can only see this in Savage mode, but the visuals and animations of Omega filling the screen up with its onslaught of attacks are truly amazing.
This might sound a bit weird, but if you do get a chance to do Savage, make sure you hit that Enrage timer and see the full Loop effect! You won’t be disappointed!