Cast creation and influences
Full motion video
depictions of Laguna (left) and Squall, two of the main protagonists
In Final Fantasy games, scenario writer Kazushige Nojima stresses the dynamic of the relationship between the player and the main character; thus, he puts significant thought into how that relationship will develop. With Final Fantasy VII, protagonist Cloud Strife's reserved nature led Nojima to include scenarios in which the player can select Cloud's responses to certain situations and dialogue. With Final Fantasy VIII, which also features a reserved lead protagonist in Squall, Nojima wanted to give players actual insight into what the protagonist is thinking, even while other characters remain uninformed: this led to the inner dialogues Squall has throughout the game.
Character designer Tetsuya Nomura, while exchanging e-mails with director Yoshinori Kitase between development of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, suggested that the game should have a "school days" feel. Nojima approved of the idea, as he already had a story in mind in which the main characters were the same age. Thus, they created the concept of military academies, called "Gardens", in which students would train to become "SeeD" mercenaries. Nojima also planned for the two playable parties featured in the game—Squall's present day group and Laguna Loire's group from twenty years in the past—to highly contrast with. Laguna's group consists of a close-knit group of battle-hardened friends in their late twenties. On the other hand, Squall's party is young and inexperienced, and Squall himself does not initially understand the value of friendship.
Kitase desired to give the game a foreign atmosphere ("foreign" being in relation to Japan), ultimately deciding on a European setting. The first character Nomura designed specifically for Final Fantasy VIII was Squall, initially giving him longer hair and a more feminine appearance. However, Kitase was unsatisfied and asked Nomura to shorten his hair and make him appear more masculine, which led to the design seen in-game. When designing Cloud, Nomura gave him distinctly spiky, bright blonde hair to emphasize his role as that game's protagonist. With Squall, Nomura wanted to try a unique angle to establish his role, giving him the characteristic gunblade scar across the bridge of his nose. A complete history was not yet conceived, so Nomura left the explanation for Squall's scar to Nojima. Squall's design was flourished by a fur lining along the collar of his jacket, included for the purpose of challenging the game's full motion video designers, who were also developing the CGI film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within at the time. This is but one example of the demands he has consistently extended to the programmers of the series as technology has advanced.
Most Final Fantasy games include summons: creatures who are brought into battle to attack enemies or support the party. In Final Fantasy VIII, summons are called "Guardian Forces", or GFs. Nomura felt they should be unique beings, without clothes or other human-like concepts. This was problematic, as he did not want them to "become [like] the actual monsters", so he took great care in their design. Ramuh—an old wizard summon from earlier Final Fantasy games—was replaced; other human-like designs were re-imagined as nude figures or with creature-like elements. Nomura, also the director of the Guardian Force animation sequences, wanted to create a greater impact than the summon cinematics of Final Fantasy VII. Leviathan was created as a test and included in a game demo. Garnering a positive reaction from players, Nomura decided to create the remaining sequences in a similar fashion.
In a Famitsu Weekly interview with Kitase, Nomura, and Yuusuke Naoi, the team agreed that Final Fantasy VIII reflects Nomura's preferred technique, as opposed to Final Fantasy VII, which featured characters that "weren't really his style". The team also decided to use realistically proportioned characters. The higher level of full motion video technology would have otherwise created an inconsistency between the in-game graphics and the higher definition full motion video graphics. Additionally, Kitase explained that the main logo of the game—Squall and Rinoa embracing—was inspired by the team's efforts to express emotion through body language.