[GV25 Film Shorts] Animating 16-bit Final Fantasy games and mysterious photo shoots for posters

Inspired by the 16-bit FFXV mobile phone cover that I ended up not buying sigh.
Inspired by the 16-bit FFXV mobile phone cover that I ended up not buying sigh.

“Raffles v Utama: Dawn of Singapore” is my entry in the GV25 Film Shorts Competition. I tried to squeeze in as many homages as I could, but the one that took the most effort was the mobile 16-bit RPG that Alvin (Nat Ho) is constantly playing.

If you’re an 80’s kid (I was tempted to use a clickbaity “If you’re an 80’s kid…” type of title, but I don’t want to be known as another goodyfeed) (no please no) then you’ll definitely recognise “Founder’s Fantasy” – the name of the game he’s playing – which was animated by Desmond (my graphic designer + animator + second boom operator).

Animation designs. (Desmond)
Animation designs. (Desmond)

Why is there a game?

I needed a visual, graphical representation of the main theme of my story. I know it sounds a little arty farty and all, but there you go. Well, more like I wanted to have it, as part of the resolution to the central conflict of the narrative.

Animation notes.
Animation notes.

2 scenes gave birth to many more

When Desmond came on board, I was quite confident that we could have at least 2 animated 16-bit RPG sequences inside (and wrote it as such). I thought it would be insanely difficult to do anything more than 1 sequence – until he said that it looked manageable when we actually sat down to discuss and go through what I was looking at.

So that gave me more confidence to add more RPG sequences in, and for me to achieve a particular narrative effect. That meant that in the later drafts of the script, the gaming sequences became an integral, rather than optional, part of the story.

Layers of animation. (Desmond)
Layers of animation. (Desmond)

From concept to animation

Okay one of my worst fears is to be one of those nightmare clients who don’t know what they want and end up requesting a billion changes, since I’ve seen for myself what those people are like and I’ve had to communicate those changes to the poor designers involved.

So I tried to provide as many references as possible (Desmond was patient enough to wait and gently chase whenever deadlines were coming) so that, you know hopefully, I didn’t become a nightmare client. And having a clear idea of what you want is a lot of work.

Then he bounced back with ideas after receiving the information from my end, and after that it was most fine-tuning. But here are two of our slides to show how the artwork evolved.

The references I sent.
The references I sent.
Concept art and notes. (Desmond)
Concept art and notes. (Desmond)

It’s Final Fantasy because…

I like way too many things (Transformers being one of them), and that includes Final Fantasy. Granted, I haven’t been able to keep up with all the Final Fantasy spin-offs (didn’t play Final Fantasy XII-2), but I’ve managed to complete all the mainline, non-MMORPG titles (except for 2 & 3). 100% completion is another thing – my thumbs ached after the Adamantoise battle in Final Fantasy XV.

But growing up, I spent a good portion of my time on Final Fantasy 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (from 10 onwards, I wasn’t so enthu, mainly because I think that “dodging lightning 100 times” is one of the laziest and most tedious minigames I’ve ever seen). Also, I renamed all the characters after my friends. I loved doing that.

So if I had to homage a game, what else would I homage?

Oh btw you can buy FF1 to FF9 on the App Store now, how cool is that?

The Singaporean backdrop - did you spot all the landmarks? (Desmond)
The Singaporean backdrop – did you spot all the landmarks? (Desmond)


(One of my) secret ambitions

Oh yes one of my secret ambitions was to be a RPG designer, and I think I have 2-3 notebooks of concepts for it.

I tried to do a modern Singapore RPG using the D20 system (Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition) (or to be more accurate, D20 Modern), but the nitty gritty parts got very tiring and character/monster design using D20 takes very, very long. Plus, using a game system that’s based on a random number system of 1-20 (instead of 1-256) doesn’t really work when your HP numbers in the 1000’s (like they do in most Final Fantasy games) and your stats are in triple digits.

So I had things like this scribbled inside:

  • Wooden Ruler: Atk + 2
  • Plastic Ruler: Atk + 4
  • Metal Ruler: Atk + 6
  • Stapler: Ranged Atk + 10

But I digress.

Poster concept.
Poster concept.

Movie poster

Desmond also agreed to help with a poster which was a huge bonus (it wasn’t a requirement of the competition), and came up the concept while I mostly just commented. After the poster concept was finalised, I didn’t think about it because I was focusing on the shoot (I think someone told me something was happening while I was doing something else).

The mysterious photo shoot that happened 

Then the final poster came and I realised that a photo shoot had gone on at some point while I was not paying attention. I think Wee Han (technical consultant) was working with Desmond to take the photos for the poster, but I somehow do not have any memory of this.

I have no idea when this occurred. But glad that everyone liked it and we have a proper poster to use as collateral and marketing!

All the Final Fantasy merchandise in the Square Enix Cafe that I DIDN'T BUY.
All the Final Fantasy merchandise in the Square Enix Cafe that I DIDN’T BUY.

I’m still grumbling about it, but see those 16-bit pins up there?

I didn’t get them when I had the chance in Tokyo last year and now they’re gone (the Square Enix Cafe changes their merchandise based on whatever has been released most recently).

Somehow, I think Founder’s Fantasy is the sublimation of my subconscious desire to buy them (because I cannot find them anymore anywhere).

In my next (and last post), I’ll share my final thoughts on the whole production process!

Follow my GV25 Film Shorts Competition Journey!

[GV25 Film Shorts] So I’m in a short film competition…

[GV25 Film Shorts] I met my mentors (Tree Potatoes)! Rewriting in progress

[GV25 Film Shorts] I found all my cast! Plus more help appeared

[GV25 Film Shorts] Equipment check and feelings of inadequacy (not that kind of inadequacy)

[GV25 Film Shorts] Secretly kancheong during that nobody would laugh during the script read

[GV25 Film Shorts] Prep before the big day and whining about carrying equipment

[GV25 Film Shorts] The very, very, very long shoot days that we pulled through [Part 1 of 2]

[GV25 Film Shorts] The very, very, very long shoot days that we pulled through [Part 2 of 2]

[GV25 Film Shorts] Editing and the great escape from post-production hell

[GV25 Film Shorts] Animating 16-bit Final Fantasy games and mysterious photo shoots for posters

[GV25 Film Shorts] The finale: I didn’t win and here’s how I dealt with it

Raffles v Utama: Dawn of Singapore

And my hashtag is #RafflesVUtama if you want to check it out on Instagram!

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I’m a a Singapore television scriptwriter who’s written for Crimewatch, Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, and Point of Entry. I’m also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find me on social media as Optimarcus and on my site.

Send me an email if you want to get in touch!


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