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I found this history of Final Fantasy on reddit and it mentions about Final Fantasy 1:

battle screen

it was one of the first games to adopt the right vs. left fighting style. Other games in that genre had been utilizing a first person turn-taking combat mode.

I'm wondering why they decided to put your characters on the right and the enemies on the left. I think a much more natural way to do it would be to put your characters on the left. Is this somehow a cultural decision, was it because UI design was new and amateurish back then, or is it for some beneficial reason that I haven't thought of?

This decision has persisted in multiple games after the fact.

Final Fantasy 2

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Final Fantasy 3

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Final Fantasy 4

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Final Fantasy 5

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Final Fantasy 6

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Final Fantasy 7

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And so on... I'm having trouble figuring out if FF8 used this UI from screenshots. But I figure they must have stuck with this UI for this long for a good reason.

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    Some people drive on the left, some on the right. It has to be one or the other. I fail to see why any particular side would provide a UX benefit, and don't really understand why you'd think left was 'more natural'.
    – Brendon
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 0:51
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    I don't think this is something that can be answered with certainty. I though I was on to something when I checked what else FF's creator had done before. Turns out he developed this game called Cruise Chaser Blassty (screenshot), where you have fights... but I can't figure out if the player's character is on the left or the right. Take a look at the video.
    – Yisela
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 1:46
  • It's more natural because that's what all other games I can think of do whether they come from Japan or America. Final Fight, Mario, R-Type, etc. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 1:49
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    If I had to venture a guess, I would guess reading order. In English we read left to right, so that is our natural flow. Japanese by contrast is top to bottom, right to left. The character at the beginning of the mental flow of information, from a Japanese perspective makes sense to start on the right as much as American games starting the visual cues on the left. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 2:17
  • Could the it be a similar rule as to why your own message bubbles are ordered to the right in messaging applications perhaps? That the enemy you're fighting takes priority and should therefore be displayed in the visually prior area of the screen? I haven't played FF myself so I'm not sure how the strategy goes. Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 6:07

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It may depend on where the emphasis is meant to go, and from there it could be related to culture.

In the English-speaking world, we read from left to right, top to bottom.

That's why it's general practice in newspapers to have the heading and initial print on the top / top left, and picture on the right (and of course, this interesting stuff above the fold line).

So, this implies that our attention is naturally going to be top left of the frame.

A monster or encounter in a game could make sense to be to the left side, as that's where our immediate focus is going to be. Having our focus on the threat is better than something we don't need to pay much attention to due to familiarity i.e. our character(s)... in the same way that if you're going to throw a punch at someone, you're not looking at where your feet are placed, or how your hips are positioned, or even your own fist; you're looking at the target.

Now what makes this answer more complicated and throws me off is that Final Fantasy and a lot of similar games are Japanese, and the Japanese read from right to left.

So the designer may actually be wanting the eye to start from the right on your characters, then read across to the left, to the monster.

So in summary, it's hard to tell what the designer's actual intentions were (whether to place initial focus on the monster of the characters), because of cultural differences, but you could easily make an argument for either side.

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  • Modern Japanese is not a right-to-left language. It's written left to right, just like English. Traditional Japanese was written top to bottom, with lines proceeding from right to left, but that's not used in daily life. The main common RTL languages used today are Hebrew and Arabic.
    – user46790
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 16:40
  • Thanks for the comment. I'm referring to the positioning of elements rather than the direction of the text (for example, reading a manga, reading from the back of the book, from right to left, for both the pages and the panels). Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 10:42

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