If you managed to get past the login queues for Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker and made your way through the main story, you might have stumbled upon some grapes. These grapes aren't your typical grapes; truthfully, they're more like crystal obelisks with the image of the spherical fruit plastered on each face. These grapes are low poly and proud.
You can find them if you visit Labyrinthos, one of the game's new areas that sits underneath a prestigious city of scholars. In it, the studious people of Sharlayan created an artificial environment to optimize growing different types of plants and fruit. The result was these funky grapes.
It wasn't long after the new expansion's launch that the grapes burst onto social media, with one user calling them, quite frankly, audacious.
The sheer a u d a c i t y of this model of grapes in Endwalker. #FFXIV #ffxivendwalker #ffxivmemes pic.twitter.com/nReeFoScwTDecember 4, 2021
The hard-edged grapes are now famous, making their way into many memes on Reddit and Twitter. The low poly grapes can be anything: from the mother crystal in Final Fantasy 14's grand story to the orbs worth pondering.
Grape chat also prompted some game developers to comment on the implementation of environment objects like these and why it isn't always as easy or efficient as you might think to model perfectly round grapes instead.
Naughty Dog principle designer Michael Barclay wrote about a bowl of peanuts in a Star Wars game that reduced the frame rate by five for each rendered nut. Another user pointed out classic shooter Daikatana's ridiculously large (for the time) arrow texture of 1300 pixels that probably didn't help the game's performance. And Final Fantasy 14's original 1.0 version had flowerpots that had as many polygons and shader code attached to them as player models.
Square Enix likely has to make similar considerations when adding a new zone to its already massive game: When optimizing a big game for a range of hardware, it makes sense to downscale the detail on a bundle of grapes that you're never meant to look closely at anyway. Most of the reactions to the grapes were understanding that this is an unimportant part of the Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker experience.
Earlier this year, amid a much more mean-spirited conversation around Halo Infinite's own fruit, our own Evan Lahti spoke to game developers about the effort it takes to make insignificant set dressing believable.
"Every feature you add to a game adds future potential 'technical debt' in QA testing and bug fixing down the line," Geoff "Zag" Keene, creator of Unfortunate Spacemen said at the time. "As complexity goes up, other departments have to grow to account for it. It adds up."
I've seen the grapes myself. They don't ruin the game in any meaningful way, be it frame rate or believability. If anything, they're an example of how much work real people put into games like this. You look at them and laugh, knowing that an artist probably had a lot on their plate and a limited graphical budget for grapevines. The grapes make me appreciate the detail in everything else FF14 does, like the vibrant coast of Thavnair or the book-lined halls of Sharlayan. These grapes are respectable, and don't deserve any ridicule for whatever polygons they lack.