Lightning was created by Motomu Toriyama, the director of Final Fantasy XIII. Her character design was by regular Final Fantasy artist Tetsuya Nomura, who had previously served as the character designer for Final Fantasy VIII and X. Nomura has said that multiple designs—including some by staff members other than himself—were considered for Lightning, while Toriyama has claimed that Nomura's first draft "looked so cool and strong that there was no need for any retakes." Because of the graphical capacities of Final Fantasy XIII's prospective platforms, Nomura was able to include far more detail in Lightning's design than in his previous character designs, such as her cape and facial features. This necessitated far more effort on his part. Commenting on an early form of her design, Nomura explained that she is essentially a "cool character", in that she is serious and unforgiving. However, he could not make the character too masculine for fear of losing player empathy. Characteristics from earlier versions of the design included blond or silver hair and Asian-looking facial features. Her final art was made less Asian-looking than these early drafts and her hair color changed to pink, while Hope Estheim was given silver hair. Lightning's final hair color and hairstyle were intended to reflect her femininity, and to counterbalance her athletic body. Creating her promotional CG render was fairly easy due to the amount of details available concerning her.
Lightning's real name is Claire Farron in English and Éclair Farron (エクレール・ファロン Ekurēru Faron) in Japanese. During the early stages of production, Lightning's real name was Averia: "Eclair" was used to keep this name secret, but it was eventually chosen as her official name. Her English name, Claire, was chosen because the name "Eclair" is closely associated with a type of pastry. The name "Lightning" was not chosen by Nomura but by other members of the development team: Nomura had wanted to abandon the tradition of naming Final Fantasy protagonists after weather events, and was surprised by the choice. Several models of Lightning's house were constructed for XIII but were removed due to space issues. Her weapon in XIII, the Blazefire Saber (known as Blaze Edge (ブレイズエッジ Bureizu Ejji) in the Japanese version) was designed to mirror the ability of the game's summoned monsters, the Eidolons, to transform into animal-, human- and vehicle-like shapes. The game's version of Odin, Lightning's Eidolon and a recurring summoned monster in the Final Fantasy series, was intended to present Lightning as a knight on horseback. He was written as a father figure for Lightning. In later games in the XIII series, Odin was developed into a friend to whom Lightning could show her deeper feelings. Daisuke Watanabe, while writing the script for XIII, paid particular attention to fleshing out Lightning's non-romantic relationship with Snow Villiers and to showing her development as a person while protecting Hope.
Due to global demand and the development staff's desire to further Lightning's character, development began for a sequel to XIII. The game tackles the question of whether Lightning is happy after the events of XIII. Even before a sequel was greenlit, Toriyama had wanted to create a truly happy ending for the character. Lightning's outfit in XIII-2 was designed by Isamu Kamikokuryo. He worked from a rough sketch by Nomura of how Lightning should appear. Nomura "fought hard" to create the draft design. The outfit was redone several times by Kamikokuryo: a qipao and a science fiction-inspired design were both discarded because they clashed with the game's atmosphere. The final design was inspired by the valkyries of Norse mythology. The outfit was meant to reflect the environment around Lightning. It features a feather motif to represent Lightning's light, delicate side and her growing powers. She was depicted as having transcended her human limits, making it difficult to depict her as a normal person.
Her outfit in Lightning Returns was designed by Nomura. He was told by Toriyama to create something representative of her final battle, with "strength" as the main guideline. The resultant outfit, which resembles a leather bodysuit, has spinal column patterns on its sleeves and is primarily colored red and white. Nomura later commented that he felt "a strong reaction within [himself]" while creating Lightning's final look. Nomura's design was Kamikokuryo's favorite out of the many outfits created for the character. Her other outfits for the game were designed by Kamikokuryo, Toshiyuki Itahana, and Toshitaka Matsuda: many of them drew inspiration from the character designs of regular Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano. In addition to the new costumes, Lightning's in-game model was rebuilt from the ground-up. Her breasts were enlarged and several of her outfits were designed to present her in a more feminine way. For the game's epilogue, Toriyama wished for Lightning to appear in an everyday setting and normal clothes. The team considered ending the game with Lightning either meeting or speaking with her allies, but Toriyama wished the story to begin and end with her alone. He has claimed that Lightning, with her solo role in Lightning Returns, was the Final Fantasy series' "first female protagonist".[a]
Toriyama wanted Lightning to be a type of female character previously unseen in Final Fantasy games, one with an athlete's body and a less feminine nature. His guideline to Nomura was to make her strong, beautiful, and "like a female version of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII". Commenting on the resemblance, Toriyama stated that the similarities between the characters only extend to their cold personalities and their military backgrounds, and that otherwise "Lightning really [is] her own person." Nomura compared the two shortly before the Japanese release of Lightning Returns, saying that he had "desired for her to be carefully developed and loved for a long time, like Cloud." Toriyama has said that, among the characters he had been involved in creating, Lightning was his favorite female character from a video game, alongside Yuna from Final Fantasy X and Yoyo from Bahamut Lagoon.
American actress Ali Hillis
voices Lightning in her English appearances.
In contrast to other characters in the Final Fantasy series, whose personality traits were molded to fit a story, Toriyama conceived Lightning's basic personality before XIII's narrative had been finalized. She has a cold demeanor, which was meant to clash in an entertaining way with Snow's outspokenness. Nomura commented that Lightning has "a strong element of mystery about her character". She originally had a flirtatious aspect to her personality, which was transferred to Oerba Yun Fang when Fang was changed from male to female. For Lightning Returns, the developers wanted to portray Lightning in several different lights, in contrast to her static personalities in prior appearances. One of their highest priorities was to make Lightning a character who had lost much in her life and become deeply vulnerable as a result. Designer Yuji Abe elaborated that, because of her losses and newfound vulnerability, Lightning came across as darker, slightly numbed to her surroundings, and "like a puppet, like someone who doesn't quite have her real self inside." He elaborated that this effect shows "the kind of vulnerability she has, and it's the point from which she starts to change afterward." The decision to expand her personality in this way was originally suggested by Yoshinori Kitase, who was concerned that Lightning's coolness in previous games had made it difficult for players to bond with her.
Across her speaking appearances, Lightning is voiced by Ali Hillis in English and Maaya Sakamoto in Japanese. Sakamoto was impressed by Lightning, whom she called "cold" and "strong". She was asked to portray Lightning's strength and to betray the character's hidden vulnerabilities. She initially found it strange to voice Lightning, as she was used to gentler roles such as Aerith Gainsborough, a central character in Final Fantasy VII and its companion media. Commenting on the difficulty of balancing Lightning's depiction as a woman and a professionally trained warrior, Kitase noted that Sakamoto's acting helped to bring out Lightning's femininity. Hillis was given the role of Lightning after speaking a few of the character's lines during audition, and was then given a book about the Final Fantasy XIII universe, which she found a little "overwhelming" when she read it. One of the challenges Hillis faced was recapturing the emotion and energy of Sakamoto's Japanese performance in the character's English rendition. She tried to help the staff of the XIII games portray Lightning as a real person: "I think that was my main priority, to make sure that Lightning had every single layer of who she was as a person, not just a game character, but a real person with layers and history and relationships to every single character in the game...even the Chocobo!" Over the course of the XIII trilogy, Hillis felt that Lightning becomes "a little more sarcastic ... a little more hardened to everything that's going on around her and ... [evolves] into a real warrior".