FINAL FANTASY® XIV Online x Gaming Speaker HTB01
Gaming Speaker SC-HTB01
Creating an experience “surrounded by sound” with the game’s specialized sound bar
The HTB01 gaming speaker recommended for SQUARE ENIX®’s online game FINAL FANTASY® XIV has now been released by Panasonic. The HTB01 is equipped with three sound modes for gamers, including the RPG(Roll Playing) Mode, the FPS(First Person Shooting) Mode, and the Voice Mode. In this special interview, we sat down with sound director Masayoshi Soken, who worked on the music for FINAL FANTASY® XIV, and sound designer Go Kinuya, who worked on the sound effects for the same game, and talked with them about the HTB01’s features and benefits.
Q: A new gaming speaker product recommended for FINAL FANTASY® XIV has been completed. What were your thoughts when you first heard about this project?
Masayoshi Soken: I was very happy. I’ve been involved in several projects for products recommended for FINAL FANTASY® XIV before, but games are a form of entertainment to be enjoyed in a personalized space, so there tends to be many headphone-related projects. Especially FINAL FANTASY® XIV is a game that you play alone with other players online and not side-by-side while looking at the screen, so it’s normal to think it’s better suited to wearing headphones and immersing yourself in the game’s world. But as people who work with music, we want players to experience the real thrill of the sounds through a speaker. When the discussion about developing a gaming speaker was brought to us, I thought, “Finally a sound project!”, and I was really happy about that.
Go Kinuya: FINAL FANTASY® XIV is a 3D game, so the sounds not only come from the sides but also from the front and back. Of course there are parts where players can feel this by listening with headphones, but this gaming speaker lets players feel the sensation of being surrounded by sounds and lets them immerse themselves in a 3D space. So, as a designer, I’ve been waiting for a product like this to be released.
Q: This product is equipped with three modes that specialize in gameplay, like the RPG Mode, the FPS Mode, and the Voice Mode. What developments led to the creation of these modes?
Soken: During our meetings with Panasonic, we were originally planning on developing just one game mode. But we pushed for three game modes instead. The reason was because there are games of various genres in the world, and each has music and sound effects that are best suited for them. We didn’t think we could develop something that would satisfy all gamers with a single game mode. So in addition to the RPG Mode, which is perfect for FINAL FANTASY® XIV, we also developed the FPS Mode, which is best for first-person shooting, or FPS, games, and Voice Mode for picking up character voices.
Kinuya: To differentiate between each mode, we were very particular about adjusting the sounds up to the very last minute. For example, FPS are games where players use the information they hear. They can only win if they can accurately pick up the sounds coming from the enemy’s footsteps or presence. In other words, they are games where players get information from sounds. So we continually adjusted the FPS Mode until we could develop the proper sound outputs.
Q: What parts were you especially conscious about when supervising this gaming speaker?
Soken: Having players experience the sensation of being surrounded by sounds. With games these days, the 3D positions of the sounds are designed in real time, so the sounds get closer when a character approaches the target, and the sounds follow the characters when they move from right to left. As creators, we pay attention to the placement of the sounds, but actually there is very little hardware that can faithfully produce the details of these sounds. This gaming speaker lets users feel the sensation of being surrounded by sounds with a single speaker, and it provides a sound experience achieved with surround sound, so we hope gamers will try using it.
Kinuya: I’ve actually tried playing games using this gaming speaker, and it really does let you enter the game. You can truly experience a sense of immersion.
Q: How do you two compartmentalize each other’s tasks when creating sounds for FINAL FANTASY® XIV?
Soken: I mainly work on the music, and Kinuya mainly works on the sound effects(SE), but we both handle sounds, so we carry out production and adjustment work while communicating with each other closely. Like when creating sounds for a battle with a boss that manipulates the wind, Kinuya will create the sound effects of a tornado when a tornado appears during the battle, but the sound of a tornado isn’t powerful unless low-pitched sounds are generated. If the music that I’m ordered to create is a heavy rock ‘n’ roll sound, the bass sounds and the tornado sounds clash (laughs). That’s why we create sounds while understanding each other’s intent, such as “I’ll be using this range for this part of the background music, so how should we proceed?” or “This range is needed for the SE.” When creating a production for an upset victory, we want to play the SE to the max, so we often choose to stop the background music.
Kinuya: In previous FINAL FANTASY® games, particularly in the boss battles, this exchange was very challenging when developing the background music during a battle with the primals, which are known as summoned beasts in the game.
Soken: Because we express this with the SE, we sometimes talk about developing a simpler arrangement for the songs, or rearranging the songs depending on the situation.
Q: Are there times when the sounds that you want to express clash with each other?
Soken: I used to make SE, so I know very well what Kinuya wants to do. I understand that a certain scene may not be powerful enough if we don’t use SE, and SE are very important in a game, so we don’t fight each other over them. I create the music, but I’m more of the type who wants to push the SE to the forefront, so we often lower the music’s volume.
Kinuya: When I receive the music data from Soken, it’s common for him to tell me, “I left space for low-pitched sounds for the SE.” It’s very helpful.
Soken: After working together for such a long period of time, we understand each other well. I know that “if it was Kinuya, he would probably be more aggressive with these kinds of sounds.”
Q: What kind of environment do the both of you enjoy when playing games at home?
Soken: I prefer 5.1-channel surround sound. I enjoy the sensation of being surrounded by sounds, so I like to play games in a sound environment that’s as good as possible. But when I play FPS, I wear headphones (laughs). That’s because I want to accurately sense the sounds of the enemies. Of course, with the HTB01, I don’t think headphones are necessary.
Kinuya: I generally prefer 2-channel speakers. That’s why I want to hurry up and install the HTB01 in my house.
Q: Are there any titles other than FINAL FANTASY® XIV that you want to enjoy using the HTB01 gaming speaker?
Soken: I want to listen to lots of live recordings. The HTB01 not only has Game Mode, but also Music Mode, and I wanted to try it out today to see how live recordings on Blu-ray sound ... (Here we will play a live recording on Blu-ray).
Kinuya: Amazing! The sound output of the live recording is really nice.
Soken: It’s a really beautiful sound. I just asked Panasonic earlier, but apparently the sampling rate of the input source is monitored by the device, and with a high-resolution input, it purely plays the high-resolution sounds as they are. So, in order to reproduce the acoustic space that users experienced in the standing area of a venue, the sounds that were adjusted through hard work are directly reproduced and it has a very realistic feel to it.
Q: Mr. Kinuya, what kind of titles do you wish to enjoy with the HTB01 gaming speaker?
Kinuya: Mine is a game that I want to play right now, which is Kingdom Hearts III. It’s an RPG game with lots of character voice recordings, so I want to enjoy the HTB01’s sounds while changing the modes for the scene.
Q: On a completely different note from the discussion about the gaming speaker, Mr. Soken, I heard that you took part in the development of a new flavor in the collaboration between “FINAL FANTASY® XIV” and “Karaage-kun*” that was sold in Lawson** convenience stores nationwide in January.
Soken: I’ve been a “heavy user” of Karaage-kun since a long time ago, and a representative from Lawson happened to overhear this. At first, I was asked if “I wanted to collaborate with them”, and since I thought that it wouldn't make sense in collaborating with me personally, I proposed a “collaboration with FINAL FANTASY® XIV”, which resulted in the development of the “charred garlic oil flavor” (Limit Break Flavor).
Q: I heard that you were very particular about the development of the new flavor.
Soken: After having deep discussions with Lawson about the appeal of Karaage-kun, such as the scent that passes through your nose when you take a bite of the chicken and how it tastes delicious even when it is cold, the person in charge of development told me that, “I was the first person he had met who talked about it in this way” (laughs). I was supposed to have just one tasting event, but they ended up letting me do it four times. Initially, it was scheduled to be released around the fall, but the timing deviated. As a result, we decided to release it in the winter, but the people at Lawson asked me to “hold another tasting event because the flavor that I liked may change with the changing of the seasons”, and suggested that we conduct another tasting event. They were really serious about it (laughs). Personally, I think that we were able to pull off a really great collaboration.
Kinuya: It was very well received by people within the company. They all said it was delicious.
Soken: That’s good to hear. However, I realized during this collaboration that the flavor may change slightly between the trial product and the mass-produced product. And I also felt that there were slight individual differences in the taste among the different Karaage-kun flavors, and that the taste was slightly different depending on the store...
Q: You were very serious about this too, huh? (laughs)
Soken: Next time we collaborate, I would like to be involved in the development during the flavoring process to resolve this error.
Q: By the way, which was more challenging, the development of the HTB01 or the supervision of the Karaage-kun?
Soken: To be honest, they were both extremely challenging... Just like there are things I want to try in the next Karaage-kun collaboration, I talked with Mr. Kinuya about what I wanted to try next with the gaming speaker.
Kinuya: “We talked about “wanting to add a headphone jack to the theatre bar next time,” and also “wanting to add different modes other than the three current modes.”
Soken: I believe that we will be able to work together on the Karaage-kun and the gaming speaker in the future, so I want to continue keeping a stock of different ideas. There are still many things that I want to achieve!
*A line of fried chicken that is one of the main fast food items of Lawson.
**A major Japanese convenience store.
Sound director, sound designer and composer at SQUARE ENIX®
After working as a sound creator for arcade games, he joined SQUARE Co., Ltd (currently known as SQUARE ENIX®) in 1999. FINAL FANTASY® XIV, a game in which Soken worked on as a sound director, was certified by the Guinness World Records as the “title with the most original pieces of music in a video game.” In 2014, he formed The Primals, the official rock band of the game, and appeared in tour events in North America, Europe, and Japan. He is expanding his fields of activity worldwide. Some of the games that he has been involved with include FINAL FANTASY® XIV, the Lord of Vermilion series, the Nanashi no Game series, Dawn of Mana, Mario Sports Mix, Mario Hoops 3-on-3, Drakengard 2 and Drakengard 3. His father, Hosei Soken, who passed away in 2013, was a trumpet player in the NHK Symphony Orchestra as a representative of the Ryukyu Symphony Orchestra, and he participated in the Dragon Quest Symphonic Suite from Dragon Quest 1 and 2.
Sound designer at SQUARE ENIX®
After working as a sound designer and planner for music and educational games, he joined SQUARE ENIX® Co., Ltd. in 2012. He utilized his development background in a wide range of platforms and has been involved in work as a sound designer. On FINAL FANTASY® XIV, he produced sound effects primarily for battle effects and system sounds, and developed a wide range of sound developments such as environmental sound designs and specification designs. His representative works include FINAL FANTASY® XIV and Otome Break. He is a huge fan of games, and mainly plays MMO and FPS games almost every day.
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