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FFXIV Backstage Investigators (No. 10): Character Concept Artist Tetsu Tsukamoto

Hello everyone, this is Miyamiya from the Promotional team!

FFXIV Backstage Investigators is a blog series that shares behind-the-scenes stories from the team members who work on all aspects of FFXIV.

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The subject of our tenth interview is...

Character Concept Artist Tetsu Tsukamoto!

Before we get into the interview, here are just some of the myriad designs that Mr. Tsukamoto has worked on!

* You can click on certain images in this blog to view them in a larger size.

20220912_mm_02.png ▲ Alexander Prime

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20220912_mm_04.png ▲ Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg

20220912_mm_05.png ▲ Hades

20220912_mm_06.png ▲ G-Warrior

Every one of them has been unforgettable! Today we'll be learning how these impressive designs are created.

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Miyamiya: Mr. Tsukamoto, what other titles have you worked on aside from FFXIV, and since when have you been a part of the FFXIV team?

Tsukamoto: I joined the company in April 1996, and after building up experience throughout the FF series (including FFVII, FFVIII, FFIX, FFX, FFX-2, FFXIII, and FFXIII-2), Parasite Eve, and Kingdom Hearts, I joined the FFXIV team just before A Realm Reborn was released. The first designs I worked on were related to the Crystal Tower quests, such as Xande, Amon, and Cloud of Darkness.

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Miyamiya: You have quite the impressive resume! As for FFXIV, do you have a design you've worked on that stands out to you in particular?

Tsukamoto: That would be Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg. Their designs were requested in the early stages of Heavensward's development, and although the reference materials included some basic lore on the two, I pretty much designed them based on just the ideas of a "white dragon" and a "black dragon." I thought they were going to be "somewhat powerful bosses" akin to something like Behemoth.

Later on, I was very shocked when I learned that they were characters with far more significance than I'd expected. (laughs)

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Miyamiya: It's a glimpse into the turbulent development schedule where tasks are split up and worked on in a short period of time. In the end, Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg's designs turned out to be a perfect match for the commanding presence of the First Brood and the dark fantasy theme of the story!

You also designed Anima, which was revealed in our first look at Endwalker during the Announcement Showcase. It was very well-received by our Warriors of Light, but do you often pay attention to players' reactions?

Tsukamoto: Of course! I try to show up to announcement events for titles I've worked on whenever possible. When I see how pumped up everyone is, it makes me pumped up too, and those kinds of moments make me truly happy.

20220912_mm_11.png ▲ Above is the version of Anima that appears in Endwalker. Incidentally, Mr. Tsukamoto is the one who designed the original Anima that appears in FFX!

Miyamiya: You're an avid player of FFXIV yourself; is that because you're trying to maintain the players' perspective?

Tsukamoto: Playing the game myself to have a firsthand understanding of what makes it enjoyable or appealing is an essential part of coming up with new designs. Concept art provides a foundation for everything else; by adding various other elements and limitations such as animations, 3D modeling, and textures, you end up with the final design. In other words, my art isn't about delivering enjoyment and appeal to the players directly.

Instead, I try to squeeze in as much detail and atmosphere as possible to convey my points of interest to my fellow staff members, who in turn convey those concepts to our players. It becomes a matter of how much detail I can cram in, and to that end, it's necessary for me to play the game myself while mulling over "It'd be cool if it turned out this way," or "It'd be a shocker if I presented it like this!"

On a different note, when I repeatedly fall victim to a monster I designed myself, it makes me feel like a father dealing with a rebellious teen. (laughs) A recent example would be the Extreme version of Zodiark... It could be that I just can't get a handle for those kinds of mechanics, but personally, I found him to be more "rebellious" than the Savage raids.

Miyamiya: Now that's a unique perspective that only the creator could have! (laughs) I can imagine you've worked on a lot of artwork for Endwalker, but do you have any favorites?

Tsukamoto: That'd be Sanduruva, Cinduruva, and Minduruva (the Magus Sisters). I originally planned to have them show their faces, but Mr. Oda (Lead Story Designer Banri Oda) quipped, "It might be good to hide their faces, since the original characters belong in another world," and I ended up having them wear masks. I also intended to make their costumes a little more elaborate, but the final version was simplified in order to stay true to the original design and also heed possible limitations when implementing them into the game. I think the final version was able to express the vibrant colors of Radz-at-Han. I changed the design direction several times before coming up with one that I was satisfied with, so it's a memorable piece for me.

20220912_mm_12.png ▲ Another piece by Mr. Tsukamoto. This and the concept artwork are included in "FINAL FANTASY XIV: ENDWALKER | The Art of Resurrection - Among the Stars -" available starting Tuesday, October 18, so be sure to take a look!

Miyamiya: As a fan of FFIV, I was really happy to see the Magus Sisters reintroduced in a way that fit FFXIV perfectly! Your designs are published in the artbook, and my favorite one is the Ktiseos Codex from Ktisis Hyperboreia. Not only is it embellished with fashionable accents, but you can also see through the book when you look at it from the outside.

Tsukamoto: That was another really tough design. Initially, the idea was met with various concerns like, "It'd look like the game is bugging out," or "It'd be hard to make this work with the polygon limit," but I pleaded with the 3D modelers, who managed to create a beautiful result.

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▲ You can see the gold lettering on black paper when you look at the pages of the book, but the cover is see-through! The rose and crown motif is also really cute!

Miyamiya: There was no other scholar's arm like it before, and it's become a favorite of mine as a scholar main.

You also designed Byregot and Nald'thal, who appeared in Aglaia, the first installment of the Myths of the Realm alliance raid series. They have very distinctive personalities and have been very popular among the community, but was there anything you struggled with when designing them?

Tsukamoto: When I was requested to design Nald'thal, I was asked if it would be possible to combine Nald and Thal into a single body. However, simply making the two front-and-back came with certain concerns, one example being that they would be able to see behind themselves in a scene where everyone is supposed to have their back turned away. Since I couldn't just make them front-and-back reversible, I ended up making them rotate vertically.

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Having the torso flip vertically was an idea I came up with right before the deadline. (laughs) Designing him was tough, but it made me extremely happy to see just how much everyone adored him on the forums and social media.

Miyamiya: Surely I'm not the only one who visits Aglaia week after week just to see the Twelve! The mecha and monsters we've covered so far are incredibly memorable, but what do you have in mind when designing them?

Tsukamoto: Something I keep in mind is to include one unrelated element. For instance, I looked at motorcycle references when designing coeurls, and looked up furniture and fashion designs to design monsters... by adding a flavor of something unrelated, it gives them an otherworldly appearance. After all, when you design something straightforwardly, you end up with something that doesn't seem all that new.

I learned this concept from my mentor figure back when we were developing FFVII and FFVIII. They taught me to practice the art of "having many sources to draw from but extracting only their essence." It's been an incredibly helpful mindset for me.

Miyamiya: So that's the secret behind these creative designs! Last but not least, do you have any words for our players?

Tsukamoto: Thank you all for always sharing your feedback with us on the forums and social media. I'm always keeping a close eye on your comments and would be glad if you could continue to share your requests and opinions with us. I hope you'll continue to enjoy FFXIV together with us!

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Before we wrap up the interview, here's a first-ever look at the concept art for Nald'thal!

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Oh, how divine! It's exciting to know more of Mr. Tsukamoto's designs will be appearing further installments of Myths of the Realm and other content!

Our official artbook, "FINAL FANTASY XIV: Endwalker | The Art of Resurrection - Among the Stars -" will be available starting Tuesday, October 18. Art enthusiasts won't want to miss this opportunity to check out the beautiful behind-the-scenes artwork!

Miyamiya
- Promotional team

Previous Editions of FFXIV Backstage Investigators
(No. 1): Main Scenario Writer Banri Oda
(No. 2): Lead Level Designer Arata Takahashi
(No. 3): Web Director Hiroyuki Takachi
(No. 4): Lead UI Artist Yoichi Seki
(No. 5): Character Concept Artist Hiroyuki Nagamine
(No. 6): Community Planner Takeshi Kato
(No. 7): Lead Technical Artist Tatsuya Okahisa
(No. 8): VFX Artist Takayasu Ishii
(No. 9): Localization Team (Pt. 1)
(No. 9): Localization Team (Pt. 2)