An Early Version of Final Fantasy XI's World Map Revealed

9 Mar 2022

Last year, Square Enix opened a special site to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy XI. Since then, there have been many conversations with guests ranging from former Producer Hiromichi Tanaka, to Yoshitaka Amano, and Tetsuya Nomura. Most recently, Producer Akihiko Matsui has been speaking with Masato Kato, who worked on the plot of both Final Fantasy XI and it’s first expansion Rise of the Zilart. After leaving Square Enix, he also worked on the three add-on scenarios A Crystalline Prophecy, A Moogle Kupo d’Etat, and A Shantotto Ascension.

During the conversation, Kato mentions that after development on Chrono Cross had finished, many members of the team began their work on what would be the company’s first MMORPG. Hironobu Sakaguchi, who was still with the company at the time, told everyone “We’re going to start developing an MMORPG, so familiarize yourself with online games while you still can!” Many members of the team, including Kato, admitted to playing EverQuest whenever they could.

Kato goes on and explains that while MMORPGs at the time did have a setting and lore, the games left it up to players to “find their own ways of enjoying the game.” He felt that because of this, the story aspect was being neglected.

Despite my vigorous attitude, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate a storyline in an MMORPG, a game to be played by many people simultaneously. After much deliberation, I came up with the idea of imitating amusement park attractions, where players could experience the story with their friends, which would allow them to share their excitement or discuss their opinions among each other. That was how the concept of FFXI’s story, known as “missions,” came to be.

Masato Kato

Much of the actual lore of Vana’diel was created by the original Director of Final Fantasy XI, Koichi Ishii, who took inspiration from his previous titles in the Final Fantasy and Mana series when creating the world and its deities. The story was then left up to Kato who created a world map, giving names to regions and coming up with the history of that world. Excitingly, this early map concept of what was at the time called “Vandole,” has been shared, giving us an incredible look at an early version of what would eventually become Vana’diel.

We’ve gone ahead and translated the original map to help give you a better idea as to what Kato was thinking of when creating the world of Final Fantasy XI. Many things, such as the three nations, existed at this stage, though the names differed. Norg existed, but was seemingly its own, separate island.

Click to view full size image.

It’s fascinating to go through this early map of the game’s world and see what could have been, or to see what changed by the time we were able to explore it for ourselves.

The next part of this interview with Masato Kato will be released on March 16th.

Original images from Square Enix. Translation provided by Gamer Escape.