If you’ve played a Final Fantasy game in recent years, you’ve experienced the work of Banri Oda, the main scenario writer for the series.
When talking about his job, Oda remarked that he is tasked each day with using his imagination. His work includes consistent updates the the MMO Final Fantasy XIV as well as the development of brand new titles in the long running RPG series.
Oda recently talked about the complicated process of writing for video games as complex as the Final Fantasy series. The process of writing these scenarios is often dictated by gameplay events, play testing, and player feedback.
He laid out the entire process for creating a Final Fantasy storyline.
“Quests are prepared following (structured stages),” he said. “At the conceptual stage, the general specifications – quest level and job requirements, number of quests, number of cutscenes, word counts – and the main theme or concept of the story are decided.
The first stage is to decide which main characters to feature before settling on a simple profile.
“In particular, the motive, goal, personality, and behavior of the characters are clearly defined,” Oda said. “These aspects can change as the story progresses but since a change in one’s motive is not the same as a change in one’s goal, I write them out to ensure that I don’t get them mixed up.”
Next, the required events that have to take place within the story are written out. This is where the protagonist encounters a featured character and an incident occurs. Oda said that he writes out the required elements for these events, not necessarily in chronological order, at this stage.
After that, Oda must arrange the required events chronologically and adjust the pacing as it pertains to the tension and plot of the story.
“To give a simple example, it can be making a plot development such as: ‘turn things around at a crisis point’ when ‘lose to the enemy’ and ‘defeat the enemy’ are arranged together. The excitement of the plot will change based on where and how many negative and positive ‘waves’ are formed therein.”
The arranged events are then divided based on the quest and hooks, reels, and trigger points are incorporated into the story. It is at this point that the rough plot is complete.
Then, Oda creates the detailed plot outline. Details such as the locations of NPCs, cutscene location, and battle specs are laid out.
The cutscenes are then extracted and sent along to be prepared by the cutscene team.
Once those are away, the rest of the lines are written out for implementation, test playthroughs and adjustments are performed, QA checks happen, bugs are fixed, and final adjustments are made before release.