The Final Fantasy XIV development team recently participated in a round of in-house interviews. One of them featured Soken-San, the composer of the game's soundtrack. In this interview, he speaks to creating the perfect mood for the game as well as the challenges he has faced over the years.
Question: How did it feel to be part of a project where the initial product was totally destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch? Was it liberating, stressful etc.?
Soken: We had some very tough times back then, but it was all very exciting and we had fun every day. I don't think I will ever get another opportunity like that again, so looking back I feel it really was a hugely valuable experience.
Question: What was the biggest challenge for your work during this period of transition?
Soken: The big challenge was making a new game from scratch while simultaneously continuing to run the original FFXIV game. This was the same on the sound design side, with us having to update the original game's sound while preparing the music and effects for ARR at the same time, and this was rather tough. One other big challenge was that we needed to create a new image to brush away the problems of the past, while still getting across the feeling that this is Final Fantasy.
Question: Having worked on both FFXIV and ARR, how did you tackle composing and arranging music on ARR that felt fresh and new without betraying its roots in XIV?
Soken: The old FFXIV stopped at having BGM for only the major sections, but that was not really very interactive. From ARR onwards we paid greater attention to making the musical presentation enhance the game experience, with music broken down more finely for each individual screen and also changing in real time depending on the situation the players are in. For ARR we re-worked the whole game from the core design upwards, and this allowed us to completely re-work the composition of the game sound and the sound management engine. Because of this we could incorporate music into the game in a more effective way overall.
Question: How do you tackle musical continuity across FFXIV expansions when each one presents new opportunities for creativity in their themes and worlds?
Soken: I always sprinkle in various elements that tell you that the game is Final Fantasy, while still trying new things. So for example you will get a smattering of melodies that will be familiar from ARR and Heavensward when playing through the newer quests. To go even further, some of the music in battle content is modern re-interpretations of classic FF tracks.
Question: How do you start deciding the "sound" and feel for these expansions?
Soken: We always set down core concepts for each expansion or new story category, such as "Reclamation", "Ending" or "Revolution" etc. We then decide on the direction we want to take the musical expression in based on those key words.