Developing FINAL FANTASY XI (FFXI), the first MMORPG for consoles, was an unprecedented challenge involving a great many staff members in the timeframe between the beginning of the project and today. To commemorate 20 years of live operations, we compiled comments from those involved with FFXI in any way.
Staff in Japan
Mitsuka Ando (Localization/Project Manager)On project: 2021 ~ Present
I was living in Ireland when this game was first released, so I was able to play with my friends in Japan without being hindered by the time difference; in other words, I didn't get homesick thanks to Vana'diel. I hope to continue lending a hand to the English-speaking community as we deliver more enjoyable content.
Mizuki Ito (Director/Planner*)On project: 2001 ~ 2016
We owe this momentous milestone to the combined efforts of the Development team and all of you, the players! I believe this miracle was woven together by everyone’s love for the game and the developers’ efforts.
Works that reflect history are often regarded as art, and I feel FINAL FANTASY XI is exactly that. No other media contains this much legacy behind it, and so I hope for another incarnation (perhaps a FFXI-2 or FFXI Remake?) while also praying that FFXI will remain as a numbered title in the FF series.
I hope that we'll cross paths someday and have a chance to adventure together as a party!
Kenichi Iwao (Planner*)On project: Beta version ~ mid-way through the Wings of the Goddess
The world of Vana'diel is eternal.
A great deal was lost in these two decades.
Those no longer with us. Unfulfilled dreams. Love long forgotten...
Many of life's changes are disheartening ones.
But even during all this, Vana’diel continued to exist.
Upon my return, I see that Mithra beaming at me as always. A Tarutaru is making small talk. There are adventurers I’ve yet to meet.
That’s right, I can always visit Vana’diel.
I may not have a hometown, but I’m convinced it feels like this.
It has been around for an impressive 20 years.
Vana’diel may very well live on for 30 years… 40 years… perhaps even 100 years later, as a world for my soul –our souls– to always return to online…
The thought of that makes me feel as if a weight is lifted in my heart. It invigorates me with the strength to live in the present.
That is why the world of Vana'diel is eternal. And I imagine it will remain so for years to come...
Congratulations on the 20th anniversary! Thank you, Vana’diel!!
Nobuo Uematsu (Composer)On project: I’ll be more than happy to oblige whenever I am asked to do work.
Happy 20th anniversary, FFXI!
I may have already graduated from the class of FINAL FANTASY at the university of Square, but it still warms my heart to see my juniors still working hard. Be sure to stay healthy, and go get 'em!
Kanji Ooiwa (Background Director*)On project: Around 2000 ~ 2004
FFXI was the first and only MMO in the FF series that I worked on. Many different teams came together to work on the project and went all out for development, with the company’s fate on the line. I remember when making backgrounds, we had goals like putting historical sites in each of the expansive areas, or seeing how many photo-op locations we could include. It was also a fresh experience for our development team members at the time to be walking around in those half-finished areas to check everything. We’d find grass floating in the air or places where the textures weren’t aligned properly, but in some of those ended up in the release version and became another kind of “photo-op location”...
I’d say FFXI was built up over the years by the alliance of developers, fans, and others involved through the industry. My wish is for the game to remain in the hearts of many and be talked about for years to come. Happy 20th anniversary!
Koji Ohno (Programmer*)On project: 2000 ~ 2002
I’d been with the company a little under two years when I was assigned to FFXI, but it really helped build up a lot of confidence as an engineer. It’s truly amazing that the game has continued for 20 years. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the players and the staff members who have maintained development and operations.
Atsushi Okada (Planner*)On project: 1999 ~ Around 2006
I joined the development team in 1999, which was back in the 20th century; can you believe it? To think FFXI would continue for this long!
Over the course of development, there were many times where I stayed at the office overnight or worked without taking days off, but I found it more fun than miserable. I was in charge of setting monsters' positions, spawn timing, and spawn frequency, so I knew what monsters would be roaming around at a given time and location. When I went undercover and partied with other players, I'd notice the group heading in a certain direction and think to myself, "Oh no, we don't want to go that way..."
But I obviously couldn't tell them that and we'd get wiped out, or I'd see people camping out at a certain location for a long time in hopes of a rare item; I felt a little bad for them in those kinds of moments. That said, having fun with strangers in a game I helped to make was a very new and invaluable experience. There were all sorts of comments on the internet and I felt discouraged at times, but looking back on it now, those voices helped abridge the distance between us and our players.
Last but not least, to those who have been playing all these years, I couldn't thank all of you enough. I'm also grateful for everyone on the team who has continued development all this time.
Thank you all very much.
Koichi Ogawa (Director/Planner*)On project: 2000 ~ 2010
Thank you for everything during my time on the team between launch and roughly 10 years thereafter.
FFXI was the first time I was Director in my game development career, and it provided me with valuable experiences such as being onstage in front of many players at events, both in Japan and overseas.
I imagine development will continue as long as there are still people playing the game, so I ask that you all continue building a world where adventurers can have fun and have rich experiences in Vana’diel.
If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know!
Yasuhiko Onishi (Designer*)On project: 1999 ~ 2002
I remember just how hard it was to get my boss, Mr. Aiba, to approve my designs. I designed about a third of all the monster textures in FFXI, and there was even a time where I spent a month on a 256 x 256 texture, but the only piece that was ever approved on the first try was the Leech… It was just mentally exhausting.
I never imagined the title would be around for so long, but when I got married 10 years ago, my brother-in-law turned out to be a huge fan of FFXI and he eagerly shared his passionate enthusiasm for the game with me. I’m not a FFXI player myself so that was my first time receiving player feedback firsthand, but it made me think about how that sort of experience could only come from such a long-running series.
Yoshiaki Kasa (Planner*)On project: 2007 ~ 2010, 2011 ~ 2015
I loved FFXI so much that I ended up working for SQUARE ENIX, and was fortunately able to join the FFXI Development team. Each day at work was lots of fun and fulfilling as I pondered what to create.
■To All Adventurers
I have nothing but gratitude for all of you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Nowadays, I too, am just another adventurer, and I look forward to running into you in Vana’diel.
■Dark Matter Arcane Glyptics
As I was designing them, I figured, "Well, it'd be underwhelming if I didn't at least do this much," and snuck in some rather large values like “'Phalanx' received +5” “'Treasure Hunter' +2,” “'Refresh' +2,” and so on…
The Dark Matter Arcane Glyptics Campaign began when the Community & Service team asked me for campaign ideas. Since there were six different pieces of gear that could be engraved Arcane Glyptics – main arm, head, hands, legs, and feet – we decided that six times per day would be appropriate.
■To the Development Team
I had the opportunity to appear in Freshly Picked Vana’diel, and it was a lot of fun. I may be in a different development team nowadays, but if you were to call on me, I’d be there in an instant! Also, I’d love to see a screenshot contest or something featuring Dark Matter Arcane Glyptics, my pride and joy!
I’ll keep playing FFXI, so best of luck with future version updates.
Mihoko Kato (Planner*)On project: October 2004 ~ March 2008
Allow me to talk about Qiqirn for a moment. I first fell in love with Qiqirn when I saw their animations. The Qiqirn’s mouths are shaped in such a way that you’d expect them to struggle with a lisp, but they still manage to speak very quickly. Their eyes also twinkle innocently while giving off a sense of shrewdness.
I was convinced, almost completely arbitrarily, that Qiqirn deserved a speech pattern to match those characteristics, and impulsively threw myself into writing their dialogue. I stumbled and floundered from start to finish, but diving deep into Vana’diel and watching my personal ideas of its inhabitants bloom into something real was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.
May those who live in Vana’diel, established their lives in Vana’diel, created Vana’diel, and remember Vana’diel all remain in good health forever and ever! I’m so glad I have the opportunity to express my gratitude to all of you. Thank you so much!
Kousuke Kawakami (Technical QA)On project: 2003 ~ PresentTo everyone who plays (or has played) the PC version:
Thank you for your continued support. The PC version has continually evolved along with the rest of the PC industry, and I imagine it’s been a struggle to keep up. After all, one of the earliest characteristics of the PC version was having to get ahold of a stable gaming environment before you could even start playing.
I too, experienced many of the same problems you may have faced. The game wouldn’t launch after I upgraded my GPU, my game files were misidentified and deleted by security software, and there was even a time when my computer encountered the blue screen of death when I was casting my lot for a Duelist’s Chapeau. As I ran into the same issues as everyone else, I conducted investigations and provided feedback, and did my best to contribute towards resolving the problems even if a little bit; but even so, I’m sure there were many areas in which my efforts fell short.
Despite the issues we found over the years, which may rival the mechanics in Garlaige Citadel in number, many of you still played on the PC version and I firmly believe it was thanks to your persistence that we were able to achieve the 20-year milestone.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I truly appreciate your continued support.
Hitomi Kawahara (Designer*)On project: 2014 ~ Present
It all started when they approached me saying, “We’re looking for someone who can draw the in-game icons for FINAL FANTASY XI.” I drew pixel icons as a hobby, so I spoke up and said, “I want to do it!” and was trialed.
At the time, I was still employed with an external company and my experience was limited to web and banner design, but I was extremely happy to be drawing for a living for the first time. Back when Mr. Satoru Nishikawa was still on the FFXI team, he gave me lots of advice on how icons look different on the PC and PS2 icons as well as tips on their presentation; I owe him a lot for that. I’m still very proud of having my name in the staff credits for Rhapsodies of Vana’diel!
Fortunately, I still receive requests to design icons from time to time; I’d like to think that I’ve become especially good at drawing food-related items. (laughs) I’m currently working on the operations for FINAL FANTASY Portal and I’m glad I get to interact with FFXI from a different angle. As long as FFXI remains in operation, I’ll continue to support the game through drawing icons!
Gami (Planner*)On project: 2010 ~ 2014
FFXI was the first project I was assigned after I joined the company in 2010, and I was a developer there for about four years. Other people who joined the company around the same time were developing unreleased titles, whereas I was put on a project where I was able to see players’ reactions to my ideas very quickly, and that proved to be an invaluable experience to a newcomer like me. I hope everyone will continue to enjoy FFXI, and that the game will keep going.
Yusuke Kigoshi (Planner*)On project: Startup ~ 2006
I was with FFXI from the beginning of development and was graciously allowed to take on all kinds of work between then and 2006. I primarily worked on events in Jeuno and San d’Oria, but around that time, I began considering stepping back from the scenario and story cinematics to work on in-game systems instead. I was given the reins for the Conquest and Ballista systems, and that experience helped me land my current job.
On a different note, I also created many cutscenes, especially for Rise of Zilart and Chains of Promathia. I worked on them with Mr. Hitoshi Oguchi from the Animation team, who was well-versed in cinematic presentation and taught me a lot. The know-how I gleaned back then still comes in handy whenever I end up creating a cutscene every once in a while. (laughs) FFXI is a memorable title for me since it was a turning point in my career and taught me all sorts of things along the way.
I pray for your continued success!
Game Master C (Game Master)On project: 2002
I was a game master (GM) when FFXI launched. I worked the graveyard shift, and it was a tough job handling all the GM calls, but it's a good memory now. My job involved speaking directly with the players and feeling their passion firsthand was an invaluable experience.
Kou (Engineer*)On project: 2000 ~ 2002
Congratulations on your 20th anniversary, FFXI! I knew nothing about network-related programming at the time so it was definitely a struggle, but I was really excited when the game was finally completed. I hope we'll get to see the 25th anniversary, 30th anniversary, and beyond!
Nobuaki Komoto (Director/Planner*)On project: 2000 ~ 2008
In the early days of launch, it filled me with joy to log in and watch players enjoy the FFXI in real-time. But at the same time, the world of Vana’diel did not have an end, which made me feel that it was difficult to stop for a moment and nostalgically reflect on the past or our memories; at times, that was a source of distress for me.
But in fact, there was no need for me to fret. Vana’diel is now filled with a vast number of memories, thanks to the players and Development team who have continued to create “the present” over these last 20 years. It’s also wonderful to imagine that those memories will continue to shine on as new ones are made.
I hope you’ll continue to support Vana’diel for many years to come.
Kiyoshi Kondo (Designer*)On project: 2001 ~ 2002
Looking back to the days before FFXI… it brings back memories of dial-up modems that topped out at 56 kbps, meeting up online at 11 p.m. (due to an internet plan that allowed unlimited access but was only available from 11 PM onward), and the dawn of online gaming where we’d stay up all night playing EverQuest and Age of Empires. Back in those days, Netscape and Internet Explorer 6 could only load .jpg images little by little...
Yoshitsugu Saito (Planner*)On project: Transferred to the team in 2001, stayed until 2016
I joined the FFXI project midway, and it might’ve been because I was transferring over from another team, but I remember how the original Event Director, Mr. Masato Kato, personally welcomed me to the team. In Rise of Zilart, I got in trouble for temporarily writing the heroine, Lion, out of the story, but that was another unforgettable memory for me. I still have tons of memories to talk about, and it still feels like I was part of the development team not too long ago.
Even after departing the team after Rhapsodies of Vana’diel concluded, I still get called in from time to time to work on a collaboration or to say a word or two like this, so my ties with FFXI remain intact and I’m very proud to have been involved with the project. I hope Vana’diel will continue to be loved by many adventurers and reach the 25-year and 30-year milestones and beyond.
Toshinori Shimono (Programmer*)On project: 1999 ~ 2003
With the PS2 and Windows versions of FFXI being developed almost simultaneously, ensuring that the game exhibited the same behavior across both architectures was a rough process. One such example was level syncing, which I had to go through and tweak numerous times to ensure it worked the same way on the PS2 and Windows PCs.
Also, Windows PCs varied wildly with the CPU and graphics card being used, so I was always worried if the game would run correctly on every player’s machine. In that regard, we ended up repurposing part of the game engine and created a program to test if your PC can safely play FFXI. We also bundled in a scoring feature to rate how well your machine can run the game, and that’s how FINAL FANTASY XI for Windows Official Benchmark Software came to be.
Thank you for playing these past 20 years, and congratulations.
Shirai (Publicity)On project: 2013 ~ 2016
I joined the FFXI team the year Seekers of Adoulin was released, celebrated the “XI”th anniversary with the team, witnessed the launch of Rhapsodies of Vana’diel… and now it’s the 20th anniversary. My, how quickly time passes.
Seven years have passed since I left the FFXI team, but I still remember the hectic but fun days of working with the team and my mentor Riekom* as if it were yesterday. My in-game life was also filled with wonderful memories, but most of all, I loved hearing adventurers and developers fondly talk about their memories of FFXI. The game clearly holds a special place in many adventurers’ memories.
I was with the team for only a brief period of the Vana’diel’s long and ongoing history, but I’m glad to have been a part of it all the same.
* Rieko Katayama, Lead Publicity Planner for FFXI.
Toshiaki Suzuki (Planner*)On project: 1999 ~ 2003
In retrospect, I was very fortunate to have been part of the FFXI project from its conception. I had a general idea of how to design “one-and-done” games but had never thought about long-term titles, so I went through a lot of trial and error. It sure was fun developing all kinds of things... though that isn't to say we didn't run into our share of problems. (laughs) (To the current development team: Sorry if my specifications are giving you trouble…)
I'm thankful that FFXI has remained in operation for 20 years so far; congratulations! I pray that it’ll keep going forever and ever!
Hirohito Suzuki (Planner*)On project: 2009 ~ 2010
I was hired as a new graduate and assigned to FFXI during my first year with the company. I never imagined I’d be working on FFXI, the game I was so obsessed with that I failed my university entrance exams! I was on the project for only about a year or so, but they taught me the fundamentals of game development and live operations, so I remain grateful to the Development team even to this day.
May you achieve even more success beyond the 20th anniversary!
Takasu (Designer*)On project: During development of Ver1.0 (joined mid-way)
I worked on the backgrounds for Jeuno. In the early days, reaching Jeuno was the goal of many adventurers, and I was able to experience that joy myself when I arrived there as an adventurer. It's a very wonderful memory for me as someone who helped to create it.
Kazuhiko Takahashi (Designer*)On project: 2000 ~ 2004
It still feels like I was working on the game only a few days ago. I remember what a blast it was to work on FFXI with my colleagues. Developing the game during the day, playing until the morning, then getting back to developing the game on the next day was like a dream come true. I also remember this one time where I attended a wedding in Vana’diel and ended up being late to a real-life wedding. (laughs)
Having worked on FFXI is a precious memory for me. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the fantastic world of Vana’diel for many years to come!
Kumiko Takahashi (Event Planner*)On project: From 2006 to about 2011
To this day, I still hope the few stories I wrote were able to add vibrance to everyone’s adventures and made for unforgettable memories. May Vana’diel, the world where I met so many different people, continue on forever and ever...
Tohru Tanaka (Engineer*)On project: 2021 ~ Present
I'm probably one of the newer faces of all the members who've written a message here, but even so, my encounter with FFXI dates back to my high school years. I leapt into my first MMO experience with a bit of nervousness and immense expectations, and now over a decade later, fortune has smiled on me and I’ve been allowed to work on part of the game.
When I was approached with the offer, I tried to play it off coolly but my heart was leaping with joy; if my house were sturdier, I would’ve physically jumped around in excitement too! I was able to become involved with development thanks to the support of all our adventurers, as well as the past and present members of the Development team. My deepest thanks to everyone involved in FFXI, and I hope you’ll have me for as long as possible!
I’m usually involved in another project, so I was worried if it would be presumptuous of me to add my comment here since I only jump in as needed, but I decided it was fate and a great opportunity to express my gratitude, so I opted to participate. See you around!
Kumi Tanioka (Composer)On project: 2001 ~ 2002
They asked me, "So, will you do it?" without even mentioning the name of the project, to which I immediately responded, "Yes, I will!"; I still remember how nervous I felt when I found out they were talking about FFXI. From that point on, the FFXI project became my treasure trove of memorable moments. It was my first time composing a song for a final boss, and the first time I played the piano as a game developer… Oh, it was fun playing hide-and-seek in the game for the first time, too! My memory of various things that happened during development have been surprisingly vivid.
Last but not least, I don't know if it was because we were working on an MMO, but my biggest treasure of all was meeting adventurers face-to-face and hearing their comments in person.
FFXI was also the first project that made me glad I was a musician from the bottom of my heart. Since we've reached the 20-year milestone, I guess the next one would be 30 years. I'd love to see everyone face-to-face again someday and exchange our various tales from our time in this world.
By all means, please continue to enjoy Vana’diel!
Yasuji Tsutsui (Designer*)On project: 2007 ~ 2015
I’m both surprised and grateful that FFXI became a game that players have loved for 20 years.
I worked on FFXI’s visual effects for about eight years. My most memorable moment was during VanaFest 2010 when we announced that the Uriel Blade will become available for players to use, as well as the excited reactions that ensued throughout the venue. As a developer, I was truly overjoyed to know that something I'd made was able to make someone else happy.
I'll be rooting for FFXI to keep on being a game that everyone loves.
Takuya Nagashima (PlayOnline Content Designer)On project: 2001 ~ 2007
I was part of the team that helped with PlayOnline content and website production related to FFXI. I also had the opportunity to design various activities and merchandise for official overseas events, and handling those made for memorable experiences outside of my regular role.
In terms of playing FFXI, I remember having to deal with rogue Goblins made leveling near the entrance to Mhaura quite eventful. Sometimes people would accidentally bring over a Bogy and cause nearby parties to wipe! The good ol’ days! (laughs)
Vana’diel was my second homeland, both as someone on the team and an adventurer. It certainly brings back a lot of memories.
To everyone currently on the development team, best of luck with operations! I’ll be rooting for you from the sidelines!!
Ken Narita (First Program Director)On project: Startup to 2003
One day, I received an email from Mr. Sakaguchi in Honolulu: “I started playing this game called EverQuest, and it's been so much fun! Let’s play together!”
I set up everything as instructed and logged into EverQuest. My heart raced as I waited at the specified location in the game, when I was approached by a female character clad in gold from head to toe; that was Mr. Sakaguchi. It was as if I was playing right next to him even though he was living far away overseas, which was a very new and refreshing kind of surprise.
The whole company was like, “Online games are the future!” and came together to begin working on FFXI. Fortunately, our company was blessed with talented programmers and first-party partners, and we made our way through various obstacles to miraculously begin operations. We continued to face challenges even after launch, as I'm sure you're all aware, but they're all good memories when I look back on them now. I'd be grateful if you could continue to support FFXI, the game we were able to realize with the help of such wonderful allies.
Yuuki Hata (Chief Animation Designer)On project: 2000 ~ 2005
I joined FFXI from the early stages of development as a character animation designer. It’s both a surprise and a delight to know that the characters we created over 20 years ago are still serving as everyone’s avatars today; it’s nothing short of amazing.
・I was very meticulous about making sure the player character would look good in any piece of gear, which may have caused me to be too nitpicky with minor details.
・I put so much thought into making sure each NPC and monster clearly showed their personality... but some of those characters took an unexpected turn.
Sometimes I got ahead of myself, other times it was my lack of ability, but I caused a lot of hassle for the Animation team and many other staff members as I recklessly charged forward. Through that, I did a lot of self-reflection and built up lots of experience, making FFXI and unforgettable project for me.
I’ll continue to root for FFXI, the game the Development team and all of you, the adventurers, will be creating together.
Arata Hanyuda (Head of Online Business Development)On project: Summer 2001 ~ Autumn 2010
Our very first internal playtest took place in autumn of 2001, where a crowd of characters controlled by members of the Development team, including myself, boarded an airship in Port Bastok and took to the skies. I vividly remember being surprised by the unfamiliar sense of adventure and how I knew right then and there that FFXI was going to be a success. I also remember how, not long after launch, I was having some tea with my wife on my day off when Mr. Koichi Ishii called me, and we discussed at length how we might reveal tidbits of information on the elusive Behemoth. (laughs)
I performed in Japan and North America as a drummer for VanaFest, had Mr. Norio Wakamoto play 13 different voices in a web commercial, ran a series of blogs written by Goblins… all of them are fond memories. I worked on many business collaborations with promotions and partners over the course of 10 years, and while I did experience a great deal of challenges, our adventurers were my moral support, and I was truly blessed to be at a workplace full of innovation. Vana’diel forever!
Hamburg Noguchi -Otsumaru- (Planner*)On project: From 2011 to 2016
Looking back, it all feels like a strange series of fates.
I first encountered FFXI when I was an editor for a gaming magazine. Along the way, I was assigned to a particularly fun promotional initiative, then one thing led to another, and I ended up joining the Development team. Prior to that, I never would’ve imagined I’d be working on the developers’ side of games.
FFXI, for all of its experiences both bitter and sweet, is a part of my life. The players who continue to support this one-of-a-kind world, the current Development team and its wonderfully talented members, and the Operations team with a remarkable knack for continuously nurturing Vana’diel—all of you have my deepest gratitude and best wishes. I hope this “lifetime of strange fates,” with the many memories it contains, will continue on.
People and environments may come and go, but memories are forever unaltered. Our lives are long, and sometimes we need to pause and look back.
And every time I do, I remember: “Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever returned that Kraken Club I borrowed…”
I’m sorry. I’ll make sure to return it when I see you next time.
Aziz Hinoshita (Localization/Lead Translator*)On project: 2001 ~ Around 2003
I had the opportunity of working on the project in the early stages of developing the overseas version. I am glad to have been involved with a long-running title that has found a place in people’s hearts. Thank you very much!
Noriko Matsueda (Composer)On project: Startup of PlayOnline project
Do any of you remember the opening theme for PlayOnline that began with the vocals “Yehhh eehh…”? The request was for “an unconventional opening theme that builds up the anticipation of ‘Let’s get this started!’ to match this online world that no one has ever seen or experienced before,” and that’s how that song came about. My heart swells with joy and nostalgia remembering how I took full creative liberty based on my instincts and momentum in my compositions, or how some of my songs were used in memes (laughs).
The fact that FFXI has been loved by so many players all these years is thanks to the hard work and passion of the developers, but also undoubtedly owed to all of the players and their passionate feelings for the game. I hope you all continue to create plenty of memorable, beloved, and wonderful “fantasies.”
Yasuyuki Matsunami (Designer*)On project: 2000 ~ 2002
I believe it was around the spring of 2000 when Mr. Sakaguchi, Mr. Tanaka, and Mr. Ishii came to the development studio in Osaka for an emergency meeting. They were planning to create an online game called FFXI but didn’t have enough people, so they asked those of us in the Osaka studio to help.
The three of them spoke about the epic project they envisioned, and before I knew it, all of us were told to pack our bags and move into a short-term rental apartment in Tokyo “until the summer.” My eldest son had just been born, and I remember tearfully leaving behind my wife and newborn son to go to Tokyo. Mr. Fujito, who is still an active member of the FFXI team, was one of the developers who traveled with me at the time.
Over 20 years have passed since then, and the developers I worked with at the time have gone their separate ways, but looking back at the FFXI project and how it remains in service and beloved by fans, I’m reminded how the epic dream our three executives were talking about is now a reality.
The next milestone is the 30th anniversary, and I’ll be on the sidelines praying for the world of Vana’diel to live on.
Yasumi Matsuno (PlayOnline Development Producer)On project: Around Autumn 2000 ~ Spring 2002
PlayOnline Viewer’s development differed in thinking and purpose compared to that of a game, and I remember facing a lot of challenges in that sense. Even harder was gathering web designers and operations staff, or “non-developers,” which involved a lot I wasn’t used to and struggled with. Once the beta test was over, I left the team to begin working on FFXII in earnest.
But on a personal level, I had a lot of fun playing FFXI. I would party up with Maehiro (Mr. Maehiro Kazutoyo) and others to try and single-mindedly make our way to Jeuno, which was a good memory. (Our levels were low, so all the enemies were “incredibly tough,” and so we ran around trying to avoid combat at all costs.) I got very busy with work sometime around Chains of Promathia’s release, so I couldn’t log in anymore.
Having reached 20 years since launch is a truly glorious occasion. Perhaps this would be a good time to log in for the first time in a while. Mr. Matsui, could you handle my account recovery—“Hold up!”
Tomohiro Yajima (Sound Effect Director)On project: 2000 ~ 2004
As FFXI’s Sound Effect Director, I worked on creating various sound effects and a system for phonation and control of all sound elements. At the time, I figured it would suffice if the system held up for 10 years, but I never imagined everyone would enjoy the game for this long. I have nothing but gratitude for the staff members who continue to maintain and express the world of Vana’diel to this day, as well as for all the players are enjoying the game. I’d be glad if you could continue to enjoy it for years to come. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Daisuke Yamamoto (Publicity)On project: 2005 ~ 2014
Happy 20th anniversary, FFXI!
If I were to write about all of my memories from back then, there’d be no end to it, but I do want to mention that I had the opportunity to attend VanaFest a few times. Through those real-life events we held in Japan and overseas, I was able to experience the passion of our adventurers from around the world and their “bonds” outside of the game, and they reminded me of just how much power FFXI carries within in itself. With the current situation, it may be hard to do another one right away, but it’d be nice if there were another event like it sometime. I hope that Vana’diel, the second homeland for many adventurers, will continue on to see its 30th and 40th anniversaries.
Anonymous (Designer*)On project: 2000 ~ 2001
When Mr. Sakaguchi, Mr. Tanaka, and Mr. Ishii came to Osaka and told us about the project, I was so shocked that I still remember it now.
Then when we joined up with the team in our Meguro headquarters, I was blown away by just how skilled everyone was.
I had worked on two titles up to that point, but I realized I still had a long way to go, and I vividly remember those days and how desperate I was to improve.
FFXI taught me a lot and helped hone my skills, and I was able to leverage that experience to great effect in future projects.
Nowadays, you can work from home even if you aren’t in the office, but I prefer a development workplace where I can deliberate with everyone in person from time to time!
To those who have played or are still playing FFXI, as well as the members Operations and Development teams who have been on the title for 20 years: thank you very much!
Mr. Matsui and Mr. Fujito, please take care of yourselves, and thank you for continuing to support Vana’diel!!
Anonymous (Community Team)On project: 2019 ~ Present
I’ve been playing since the Windows version launched! [All right!] 20th anniversary!
FFXI has blessed me with various opportunities. To those who created the game, as well as those who continue to develop and operate it: [Thank you.]
People often joke that “FFXI is life,” but that’s exactly what it is for me, and nothing else. Thank you all for your continued support!
Chocochip (QA Tester*)On project: 2002 ~ 2004
Hello Development team, it‘s been a while!
This is Chocochip. (I’d be delighted if anyone remembers me, I always named my characters something with “Choco-“ in it.) I was part of the first group of testers and handled San d’Oria in the Event team.
I’ve been involved with various titles as a QA tester since the Square days, but I’m particularly attached to FFXI since it was the longest project for me. Checking all the events, quests, and every NPC dialogue in San d’Oria all by myself was quite the undertaking, but at the same time, it was very rewarding. This is unique to online games but doing a load endurance test with everyone was a lot of fun, too. By the way, I may have been in charge of San d’Oria events, but my favorite character was Ajido-Marujido.
A lot has happened since then and I’m in a different department now, but I‘ll be rooting for FFXI in the hopes that everyone will continue to enjoy it for years to come!
H.S. (Object team/Textures)On project: 2000 ~ 2004
In the FFXI team, character modeling and character textures were handled by different teams. Doing so was meant to allow the team to focus on improving the quality of their work; as such, quality checks were very strict and proved to be a challenge for me.
They had very difficult demands, such as:
“Understand the difference between a directional light source and a point light source.”
“I want you to have enough artistic ability to differentiate the orange color of the sunset and the orange color of daytime.”
“You can depict a 3D object with just three pixels.”
“This one-pixel line is too thick; please draw it at half the thickness.”
Sometimes, the directions were very abstract, like:
“The blue here shouldn’t be “Ahhh, blue!” but more like “Oh, blue…”
“Stare at the character long enough and it’ll tell you, “Hey, you need to fix this part of me!”
That said, I ultimately came to understand most of what was being said to me. (laughs)
Working on textures in FFXI was quite an undertaking, but I feel it was a project that allowed me to grow significantly as a designer. Being part of the project served as a turning point for me as a designer, and for that I am very grateful.
kazumi chan (Programmer*)On project: 2000 ~ August 2002
It’s already been 20 years, hasn’t it? I was with the team from the very beginning of development, which was two years before launch. We faced all sorts of challenges at the time. It was my first time working on an online game, and I remember figuring out things through trial and error, like how many characters would be displayed at a time, or how many characters’ worth of data would fit in the memory. Looking back, it’s truly unbelievable that we actually managed to get the game off the ground after only about two years in development.
When I think about all the operations and maintenances that must’ve taken place over these past 20 years, I imagine the current staff have gone through a lot, and the current state of the game is owed to their perseverance. At the same time, I imagine the players who have supported FFXI for the past 20 years also have had a hand in forming the world of FFXI as well. I have nothing but gratitude towards the players who have played the game for such a long time.
I imagine FFXI has come a long way thanks to the combined efforts of the current staff and players; it might even be an entirely different world compared to back when I was working on it. My sincerest congratulations on the 20th anniversary!
QA Uchida (QA Tester*)On project: 2001 ~ 2010Things I Still Remember
- The team graciously agreed to abbreviate the phases of the moon.
- Being disheartened on launch day when a certain item from the Culinarian’s Guild in Windurst required an emergency maintenance.
- Being there during the balance adjustments for the quest “Shattering Stars,” when my colleague M defeated Maat in the red mage encounter so easily that Mr. Matsui begrudgingly had to make the fight harder.
- Participating in the recording of a video guide for hunting the notorious monster Absolute Virtue, but never finding out if it was actually going to be a hint or not.
Things I Was Happy About
- The background music in Dynamis-Xarcabard and Dynamis-Beaucedine were originally different but later changed to music related to the Shadow Lord.
- For the quest “Divine Might,” the team graciously added a cutscene where the five heroes assemble like something out of a superhero show before entering the encounter.
- The team graciously made it so players can team up with Prishe in the Promathia mission “Dawn.”
sekine (Event Planner)On project: 2008 ~ 2011
The world of Vana’diel hasn’t lost its luster at all, even after 20 years since its release, and I’m glad to have been involved in it as both a developer and a player. May this “second homeland” with all of its spectacular memories continue to bring amazement to people’s hearts and be adored by all!
Staff in North America
Anthony “Zhexos” Caraway (Senior Manager, Online Community)On Project: 2014 ~ Present
I started as a player from 2002 PC release, helped communication between Japanese and English-speaking communities, and am now doing the same officially: bringing the Western community’s voice to the Development team. I want to thank both the development team for bringing this amazing game to my life, and everyone who continue to play and support this game!
Aya "Sicycre" Montoya (Senior Community Relations Representative)On Project: 2016 ~ Present
Vana'diel has been such an amazing place for me since 2002 on PS2 and it's an honor to be part of this! I'm super appreciative of the Development team, Operations team, and all the adventurers across the globe for their support of this one-of-a-kind game and experience.
Cameron Turner (Marketing Director)On Project: 2020 ~ Present
Having a chance to work on a project like FFXI has been truly special. So many people over the years have had such remarkable memories created due to their experience in the game. And all of this wouldn't have been possible without the tireless effort and dedication of the project team. Thank you to everyone who has worked on this amazing project. And an even bigger thank you to all of those who have experienced the journey as players these last 20 years.
Carmelo Cabezo (QA Tester / QA Coordinator)On Project: On and off from 2003 ~ 2012
It was amazing to see the game progress from the start of 1.0 + Zilart to where I left off at the Abyssea additions. There were so many storylines, characters, and game mechanics that added to the playability of the game. I also played the game with friends after the game launched and we played for quite a number of years. It was really fun playing with them how the game was meant to be played.
Colby "Grekumah" Casaccia (Community Relations Representative)On Project: 2 years
It was a genuine honor to have been able to support FFXI and to find my name in the credits of Rhapsodies of Vana'diel--bucket list item achieved. I've played FFXI (and FFXIV) since NA launch and still do find adventures to be had in FFXI. My sincerest gratitude to the whole team keeping Vana'diel a beautiful thriving world for new and returning players. The Voracious Resurgence is stirring up an exciting story 20 years in the making. If there was ever a time to check out FFXI, now is that time! Now to go find those Sortie secrets...
Danielle "Okieeomi" Grafft (Senior Community Relations Representative)On Project: 2019 ~ Present
Vana'diel is an irreplaceable world to spend your time in. Companionships take form, enemies are slain, and difficult encounters will never be in short supply. Thank you to everyone working on the project who helped create a thriving world to be a part of.
Devin "Camate" Casadey (Community Manager and long-time resident of Vana'diel)On Project: 2009 ~ 2017
As a player first and foremost since 2003, it's been incredible to watch and also take part in the game's history and evolution over a long period of time! The developers' passion is always burning bright, and it's amazing to see it still fueling this one-of-a-kind experience that has created so many great memories for people.
Matt "Bayohne" Hilton (From Community Relations Representative to Senior Director)On Project: 2005 ~ Present
It's been a dream come true to work so closely on an experience like FFXI. From my days adventuring through Vana'diel to helping to maintain the passionate community that calls it home, it has all been an amazing journey. I'm truly thankful to be able to call Vana'diel home along with so many others. Without exaggeration, I can say that FINAL FANTASY XI and my experiences with it have truly been life changing.
Sam "Voltenyne" Abe (Community Communications Representative*)On Project: 2017 ~ Present
On WE ARE VANA'DIEL, we have a myriad of interviews with the greats–various creators, supporters, and rivals whose lives were shaped by FFXI. And now, it's your rightful turn to tell a tale or two. What stories of your time in Vana'diel would you like to share, adventurer?
Tommy Koo (Marketing Manager)On Project: 2021 ~ Present
It's been amazing working with the team and it never fails to impress me just how dedicated everyone is to the project. I'm very happy that we were able to work with the FFXI community to create some fantastic pieces for the 20 Years Of site that celebrated the 20th Anniversary.