Look at that food. Never mind that it's called 'jambalaya' and I have never personally seen jambalaya that looks quite like that, it still looks good. Look at that sauce, those glazed vegetables, that brothy rice. OK, the rice gets a little weird in places, but you try texturing hundreds of grains. Bet you give up after, like, ten.
But not Final Fantasy 15. Much has already been said about the meticulous work put into its shiny meats and cheeses and broths—the game is over a year old now—but the release of the Windows Edition this week has me once again entranced.
Last year, I called food 'the most powerful game design tool,' and while Final Fantasy 15 doesn't use food in a radical new way (it's buffs), it does use it to express bonding and culture, two things food is great for. As I said in that article, "The act of cooking for someone else is full of existing meaning, and that intimacy isn't necessarily lost in the translation to virtual food."
If you're wondering how the best-looking food in games was created, Eater has a feature from 2016 on the subject. In short: they made the food.
"Our team members took out their gear and went camping to cook outdoors," said art director Tomohiro Hasegawa in Eater's interview. "You know how even the simplest foods can taste really delicious when you’re out camping? We wanted to focus on that same feeling while we created them."
The real dishes were photographed and scanned to provide the basis for their in-game simulations, but the artists were also sure to touch and taste them to inform their rendering. Rarely will you find such dedication to virtual food.
It makes a difference. I haven't played very much of FF15 yet (mostly just enough to complete the preliminary performance testing we published earlier) but the food already makes the world feel more real. I salute those food artists. Brilliant work.