Art reference

The Art of FF XIV – Interview with Yusuke Mogi

FF XIV, or Final Fantasy XIV: Online to give it its full name, is one of the most popular video games in the world. There is a sense of responsibility that emerges when discussing the art of Final Fantasy XIV with art team leader Yusuke Mogi. He talks about a reference to the series as a whole, but also about creating concept art for the latest expansion, Endwalker.

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FF XIV can be free, you can try our main game and select expansions at no cost. This highlights the depth of this long-running series. As a veteran of Final Fantasy Online and involved in 2013’s Realm Reborn, artist Mogi-san is aware of the lore of the world’s greatest RPG series.

“The impression of a line drawing style has been around since the days of Akihiko Yoshida, so I try to preserve it as much as possible,” says the artist, who explains that he works almost entirely digitally with Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint,” but in my case, to give it a hand-drawn feel, I don’t use 3D elements or photo-bash at all. In that sense, it’s almost like a “traditional” way of doing things.

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FF XIV defines an art style

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Several FF XIV characters stand together in a sketch

“Since the key job this time is Paladin and the moon is an important location, I decided on the overall concept around those two elements.” (Image credit: Square Enix)
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FF XIV characters stand in a watercolor sketch

“I originally drew the paladin in a pose where he is sitting […] but because he was seated, his face was slightly below the center of the image. I received comments [from Naoki Yoshida]: ‘He doesn’t look like the protagonist; please adjust the face to be more in the center. ‘” (Image credit: Square Enix)
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FF XIV characters stand together in the paint

“Since a lot of the characters have black suits, I placed them so that they weren’t so close to each other. I tried to balance out the difference in height and size of the weapons so that the full body of the characters could be included in the image. (Image credit: Square Enix)
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FF XIV characters painted for a cover

“I decided to express the vast world of FFXIV by intentionally placing the Warrior of Light between Thancred and Alphinaud” (Image credit: Square Enix)

For many, Mogi-san’s art is the epitome of Final Fantasy style. One glimpse of an elegantly sketched figure wrapped in washes of color and flowing dresses and you know you’re in Square Enix’s long-running RPG series.

Despite the traditional watercolor feel of Mogi-san’s illustrations, he lets us in on a secret about how he captures the facial expressions that fans love so much. “I draw the faces of the characters to look like actual 3D models, instead of the faces I would like to draw.”

Even if the idea is good, it will be a mess if it cannot be effectively expressed in the game

It’s an eye-opening approach, but one that shows the artist’s connection to the game he’s helping to create. Many of Mogi-san’s designs are created as mood pieces or marketing art to promote the vibe of the new game – for example, his sublime job list – but he always considers how the modellers will use them.

“Even if the idea is good, it will be a waste if it can’t be effectively expressed in the game,” says Mogi-san, revealing his advice to any aspiring video game designer: “Designers and 3D modelers are inseparable. So if you have the chance, be sure to take up the challenge of 3D modeling. You can also learn more about concept art and it also expands your field of expression.

Produce art for FF XIV

Mogi-san created this dramatically whispy illustration to showcase the new Reaper work for FFXIV: Endwalker (Image credit: Square Enix)

The age-old artist’s dilemma of determining when an illustration is “done” can be taken out of the hands of a game concept artist, shares Mogi-san. “The design is complete (‘working’) when it can be produced in-game with modeling and animation, and without any bugs in the data,” he says.

Although the artistic creation process may be framed by the production process, this does not prevent Mogi-san from being creative and finding new inspiration for his characters and works. “Of course, there are influences and many things that inspired me,” he tells us. When I design something realistic and compelling, I start with textual references, like a novel.

Mogi-san’s biggest advice for a video game designer, even if you work in the industry, is to play other people’s games.

“When it comes to eye-catching designs, I look to anime and manga as a reference. For something that will leave an impression, I will refer to movies. In this way, I separate the way I use materials reference.

The artist believes that considering a wide range of references can foster new ideas. New artistic discoveries are made when you can be open to ideas from other media. However, Mogi-san’s biggest advice for a video game designer, even if you work in the industry, is to play other people’s games.

He explains: “I think it is crucial to play the games of our competitors in order to foster new discoveries if you find yourself in a situation (or a state of mind) where you have reached a point of stumbling over his abilities or his ideas as an artist. ”

All of this comes together when the artist begins to design memorable characters. For Final Fantasy XIV, Mogi-san reveals that he likes to give them a bit more of a manga or anime feel, “to make them more unique.”

How Mogi-san designs characters for FF XIV

Mogi-san’s dramatic artwork to promote the release of FFXIV: Shadowbringers’s Reflections in Crystal shows the mysterious character of Crystal Exarch (Image credit: Square Enix)

The artist shares his way of working: “For the face, I’m going to make the nose a little small and the eyes a little wide apart. I guess I’m trying to create a face that’s somewhere between anime and real life.

By doing so, they look great in the striking and unrealistic costume designs, but it also allows me to provide ideas that match the game’s graphics and abilities to voice those characters. However, we don’t want to create a game with only beautiful faces, and in this regard, I try to be resourceful to recreate many unique faces in the game.”

Games such as Final Fantasy XIV are successful for their costume design and must-have assets as much as character impact. Here, Mogi-san also invests time and creativity to come up with unique ideas that he knows players will love to collect.

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Concept art for a creature in FF XIV

FFXIV has some of the most inspired and detailed monster designs in the MMORPG genre. Mogi-san’s work is both inventive and functional, a necessity for great game concept art (Image credit: Square Enix)
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Dragon AF concept art from FF XIV

Mogi-san will contrast his realistic character designs with exotic armor concepts (Image credit: Square Enix)
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FF XIV concept art

FF XIV has many costume items that players can customize (Image credit: Square Enix)
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Samurai AF concept art from FF XIV

AF, or Artifact Armor, is a new piece of gear obtained through leveling up. Mogi-san says great care is taken to ensure that each new piece of equipment is unique and unified. (Image credit: Square Enix)

He explains that there is no set policy as to what pieces of gear they expect players to want or wear in-game as sets, and which are designed for. combine. “It’s not all, but as a general policy. There are certain pieces of gear that we want players to wear as a full set and some that we would like players to pick and choose from in different combinations.

There’s game design involved, though.” Raid Rewards and Token Rewards […] motivate players to collect gear, so I try to design gear that has an integrated and impactful design, which would make players want to collect the whole set,” says Mogi-san.

“On the other hand,” he reflects, “I strive to craft sets and instanced dungeon rewards with a mix of materials, so players can enjoy relative freedom in how they want to equip each individual piece as they play.”

Anime inspiration from FF XIV art

Promo art created for the FFXIV: Shadowbringers 5.4 update. Mogi-san says he is often inspired by anime. (Image credit: Square Enix)

Mogi-san speaks as an artist constantly adapting to new game design rules and workflows. But within this strict production setup, he still manages to create his own style – one that offers a graceful link between digital art and a skillful traditional approach to design.

“I constantly change my tastes for drawing and the meaning of my ideas, but I would say that my approach to design remains fundamentally unchanged”, testifies the artist. “Having said that, times are changing at a very rapid pace, and I don’t know what will happen in the future.”

He jokes: “I always give a plethora of ideas, so it would be easier for me if an AI could produce the clean versions of the designs…” In a way, we think that AI could not replace Mogi-san’s talent.

Never miss a number

This article first appeared in ImagineFX, the world’s leading magazine for digital fantasy artists. ImagineFX is on sale in the UK, Europe, US, Canada, Australia and more. A limited number of ImagineFX print editions are available for delivery to over 120 countries from our online store (shipping costs are included in all prices)

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