Final Fantasy XV - Aftermath of Uncovered

FinalxxSin

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The Wraith of Final Fantasy XV

Since the Uncovered event, news has been coming out at a high frequent rate. I'll use spoiler tags to help condense the post.

Tabata interview with PlayStation Access:

Tabata interview with gamereactorTV:

What I found interesting with the gamereactorTV interview is how Tabata explained how FFXIII at the core was still built with the same traditional structure as FFVII and beyond (probably excluding the online titles). FFXV is taking a different route by using modernizing methods to help create FFXV. The summons are going to named Astrals this go around and will have different conditions for being summoned.

Tabata interview with GameInformer:

I don't agree with Tabata's stance on the title being make or break in terms of Japan with everybody following suit afterward. Japan has been going toward mobile gaming more and more for years now. Consoles are still fairly popular in the rest of the world.

Game Infomer interview with Yoko Shimomura (April 2016):


Game Infomer interview with Art Director Yusuke Naora (April 2016):


Game Informer interview with lead animator Taisuke Ooe on animation (April 2016):

Famitsu interview with Tabata & Sakaguchi:
http://www.famitsu.com/matome/ff15/2016_05_13_eng.html

  • Sakaguchi and Hajime Tabata Discuss Their Passion for the Series and Behind-the-Scenes Episodes from the Final Fantasy XV Reveal Event
Hironobu Sakaguchi and Hajime Tabata Discuss Their Passion for the Series and Behind-the-Scenes Episodes from the Final Fantasy XV Reveal Event

公開日時:2016-05-13 21:00:00




Hironobu Sakaguchi and Hajime Tabata Discuss Their Passion for the Series and Behind-the-Scenes Episodes from the Final Fantasy XV Reveal Event

The FFXV reveal event, “Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV”, was held in Los Angeles on March 30, 2016 (local time).

Opening the event was Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator and father of the Final Fantasy series.

How does Sakaguchi, a legendary figure who has worked on numerous Final Fantasy titles, view the series' newest installment, FFXV - a title presented as a challenger in the world market?
(Interviewer: Katsuhiko Hayashi, Famitsu Editor in Chief)

Translation: Jake Ayres (Impetus)






In the wake of the big reveal

--”Sakaguchi-san, you took part in an official Final Fantasy event for the first time in a long while.”

Sakaguchi: That's true. The last event I participated in was the reveal for FFXII. I mentioned my love for Matsuno (Yasumi Matsuno, creator of numerous popular games including the Ogre Battle series. Supervised the production of FFXII) at the event, and there were all sorts of rumors flying around afterwards. (laughs)

--”I remember that now. (laughs) Was it Tabata-san’s suggestion that Sakaguchi-san appear at the beginning of the event? ”

Tabata: That's right.

Sakaguchi: When Tabata-san came to my office and asked me to open the event, my reaction was “Hmmm? Are you sure?” (laughs)

--”What led up to this request?”

Sakaguchi: I'd enjoyed several meals with Tabata-san, and we’d had a passionate discussion at one point, not related to this event. Apparently I can be pretty inspiring with a glass or two, though details are sketchy. (laughs)

Tabata: Wait. You don't remember? (laughs)

Sakaguchi: I do have a vague memory. Something along the lines of “You need to challenge yourselves! I'm doing so myself!” A while later, he asked me to share that discussion at the event’s opening, so I agreed.

--”Tabata-san, what made you seek Sakaguchi-san’s help for the event’s opening?”

Tabata: I could give you any number of reasons, but the biggest reason was my gut instinct. I wanted Sakaguchi-san, the creator of Final Fantasy, to stand on the FFXV presentation stage and invite our users to enjoy the event together. When we were eating out together, I told Sakaguchi-san that I wanted to bring Final Fantasy back to its roots as a challenger. His response to my words was the first thing I wanted everyone to hear at the event, so I asked him to tell them what he’d told me. I wanted to open the event with a heartfelt message from us to the fans.

--”Sakaguchi-san, what ran through your mind when you were offered this role?”

Sakaguchi: Thinking about it objectively, I found this an interesting twist. Wait, I’m the first one in…? (laughs)

Tabata: You told me the crowd would roar! (laughs) You were immediately seeing things from a producer perspective.

Sakaguchi: I requested subtitles, as waiting for interpretation each time would disrupt the flow.

Tabata: The idea was to display subtitles behind him so the audience would get excited at the same pace, also allowing him to talk at his own pace. We knew the event was going to be streamed online too, so we discussed and agreed that this would allow both the online viewers and attending audience to see the same thing.

Sakaguchi: That's right. I found myself thinking about how to showcase myself. (laughs)


--”So the message conveyed at the event was written by Sakaguchi-san himself.”

Sakaguchi: It was. The message was a condensed version of my dinner discussions with Tabata-san; we wanted to get across that XV would be returning to Final Fantasy's roots as a challenger in the market. Not to say that the previous titles weren’t challengers in their own right.

--”Each installment did indeed have its set of unique ambitions.”

Sakaguchi: What we meant is that the challenge this time around is as big as ever.

--”After opening the event you got to sit down and watch; what did you think of the presentations?”

Sakaguchi: When a Japanese product or company is presented to a Western audience, the presentation tends to be one of two extremes: very Japanese, or completely Western. This event, though, struck me as featuring Japanese elements while also being relatable for a global audience. A combination that has been hard to pull off. The atmosphere was fantastic.

Tabata: That happens to be something at the very heart of the Final Fantasy series. It’s an IP with strong Japanese elements, while also being popular worldwide. The event was designed to reflect that.

--”Tabata-san, what was your impression of the event, in retrospect?”

Tabata: I felt a strong sense of accomplishment that day, while also knowing that there was no going back now that we'd finally set the release date.

Sakaguchi: Tying our own nooses in front of everyone with the actual date! (laughs)

Tabata: Precisely. (laughs) That being said, the announcement gave our team a sense of resolve and responsibility; we’re feeling more driven as a result.

Sakaguchi: So it's been a good experience for the team.

Tabata: We're really grateful for the event. The cheers and support of the audience really pumped us up. Though Sakaguchi-san did have some qualms after the event. (laughs)

Sakaguchi: I did?

Tabata: “Air Button*? Are you serious!?” (laughs)

*Air Button: a physical button held by Tabata, and not a button carried by the MC, was meant to be pressed to announce the release date. However, Tabata had to improvise after appearing onstage without being handed a working button. He took out an imaginary button from his pocket and made a show of pressing it, announcing “It’s Air Button!”

Sakaguchi: That’s not what I meant! I was impressed that you improvised in English!

--”An impressive feat indeed.”

Sakaguchi: Right! That was well played. By the way, I'm not complaining, but because my appearance on stage was meant to be a surprise, I was driven up to the rear entrance of the venue and hastily ushered in before anyone notices me. Not all fun and games behind the scenes. I realized how much effort goes into springing a surprise! (laughs) I had another ordeal onstage too. Under orders from my wife, I was doing my utmost to suck my belly in.

Tabata: Really? (laughs)

Sakaguchi: At the rehearsal she told me it was fine when I was talking, but stuck out when I walked. I kept worrying about it. (laughs)






The team’s colors make the game

--”Both released on the same date as Uncovered: FFXV, how have users responded to Platinum Demo: FFXV and Brotherhood: FFXV?”

Tabata: Thankfully, reactions to both were better than expected. One of our goals for Platinum Demo: FFXV was to have something playable immediately after the announcement, so the phenomenal response from our fans has been a massive encouragement. I'm really glad we did that. The feedback we’ve received has given us an objective sense of what we’ll need to fix and improve for the game itself. As for Brotherhood: FFXV, the venue audience’s reaction was better than we’d been hoping for. We’re getting many more views than we’d estimated, and it’s turned into a major new point of contact for newcomers to FFXV. We've received a lot of feedback for it too, which we'll be keeping in mind as we work on the series.

--”FFXV does seem to evoke a lot of discussion among the users.”

Tabata: Final Fantasy is indeed something else. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that passionate about the series when I started working at Square Enix. I’d played the first game a lot, stopped mid-way through FFII.

Sakaguchi: That's because FFII was made by Kawazu (Akitoshi Kawazu. After working together with Sakaguchi on FF and FFII, he went on to create the SaGa series). (laughs)

Tabata: I really don’t know how to respond to that. (laughs)

--”I don’t think that was the implication there.” (laughs)

Tabata: I have no intention of bad-mouthing Kawazu-san. I felt real promise in the fighting system where the characters grow stronger by being attacked. Yet the system made it a valid tactic to attack your own party to boost yourselves. I messed things up a couple of times and it started feeling like a chore. (laughs) Of course, the release of any Final Fantasy title would draw my attention, and this was still true after I became a game developer. I was conscious that I wouldn't be able to make games like that at the company I was with then, so I was also trying to avoid falling in love with the series.

--”So you were almost envious of the series?”

Tabata: You might say that. Only after joining Square Enix did I realize how many people were involved in making Final Fantasy happen, how hard they’d work, and how passionate and sincere the fanbase was... This all became very tangible. The many people here are doing their best to respond to the expectations, criticism included, in creating Final Fantasy, a series which is one of the pillars of the whole company. It was through witnessing what goes into its production that I've come to love the series as I do now. Our recent event made me feel I'll finally be able to actually contribute to Final Fantasy.

--”So you grew an emotional attachment to the series over time.”

Tabata: Ten years ago I would never even have contemplated working on a numbered Final Fantasy title. Now I'm hoping to do my part to truly add to the series.

--”Sakaguchi-san, in the past you commented that in your eyes, all a game needed to be a 'Final Fantasy' title was its trademark blue text box. Tabata-san, how did you come to grips with what a Final Fantasy game is about?”

Tabata: Working together with Kitase-san (Yoshinori Kitase. Joining the team for FFV, he both directed and produced several games in the series) and Nomura-san (Tetsuya Nomura. Selected to design the main characters for FFVII, he has been involved with multiple series titles since) probably influenced me the most. The passion with which the two worked gave me a good sense of what Sakaguchi-san expected from a Final Fantasy title, and what challenges he tackled in its name - including what it takes to be worthy of the Final Fantasy banner.

Sakaguchi: Great to know Kitase had been doing his part too. (laughs) As far as I'm concerned, he’s the one I handed the torch to. It’s heartwarming to know that Kitase's values are living on through you.

Tabata: He never directly told me how things should be done, but I learnt a lot by working with him.

Sakaguchi: His mindset, if you will. Where NOT to compromise.

Tabata: Another essential element of Final Fantasy is the team itself. These aren’t games that could be created by individuals. I feel it’s the sum of what the team’s members bring to the table that counts.

Sakaguchi: You're right. From the very beginning Final Fantasy was the fruit of a team effort. To compete with games like Dragon Quest or Mario Bros., both of which clearly show the presence of highly talented individuals, I realized we’d need to aggregate the energies of multiple people. Maybe this team approach has grown into a tradition of sorts.

Tabata: I strongly feel that way. It puts you in the mindset of ‘with such a great team, we can aim this high’!

Sakaguchi: It was because we were working as a team that we were able to incorporate CG into the games. If Final Fantasy had been more of a solo effort, the series might have looked quite different now.

--”Sakaguchi-san, do you have any advice about making a numbered Final Fantasy title?”

Sakaguchi: This isn’t just about Tabata-san, but also Yoshida-san (Naoki Yoshida. After working on titles in the Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road series, he was appointed Producer and Director of FFXIV), who asked me when we met whether his work was worthy of the Final Fantasy name; My answer was to proudly call it so. Both of them were clearly ready and in the challenger’s mindset.

Tabata: You told me to do it my way - words that left a strong impression on me.







First encounter between Sakaguchi and Tabata

--”You were both at the company at different times, so there wasn't a point of contact between you back then. How did you two meet?”

Tabata: We didn’t have any connection, besides almost bumping into each other at PAX Prime 2014. I’d heard that Sakaguchi-san was coming and was hoping to introduce myself, but my timing was off.

Sakaguchi: I only heard this after the event. I was there promoting Terra Battle, and press commitments prevented us from meeting.

Tabata: I was musing on the missed opportunity when I heard about Sakaguchi-san congratulating us on our 10th anniversary (a joke about the lengthy development period of FFXV)! (laughs)

Sakaguchi: Sorry about that. I was tired from the interview and went a bit far.

Tabata: The comment didn't bother me, but Sakaguchi-san contacted me at a later date saying he wanted to apologize and chat about FFXV. Kitase-san and Sakaguchi-san met as part of Famitsu's Mobius Final Fantasy coverage, so the three of us went for a meal afterwards.

Sakaguchi: That's right. Kitase was there too when we first met.

Tabata: Yes. Sakaguchi-san knew that I was working on FFXV, and his first comment was “Sorry about that '10-year' remark. I finally get to apologize.”

Sakaguchi: I’d been feeling remorse over that comment.

Tabata: Then I introduced myself as working on FFXV, and we talked about many things.

--”What did you discuss?”

Tabata: Our first meeting was pretty casual. My impression of Sakaguchi-san was far more laid back than I’d heard. (laughs)

Sakaguchi: Curious about those rumors. (laughs) Kitase being there might have helped.

Tabata: Over the meal Kitase-san and Sakaguchi-san told me about how they used to work together. Sakaguchi-san also told me to ask him anything, so I asked him how much he was earning! (laughs)

Sakaguchi: That’s one I didn't answer! (laughs)

Tabata: The only one you didn’t, actually. (laughs) We didn’t discuss anything too deep that first time, but our discussions grew deeper with time.

--”Sakaguchi-san, what did you think of Tabata-san’s take on Final Fantasy?”

Sakaguchi: Up until FFXIII, the games were made by members originally from Square, including Kitase, so FFXIV and onwards constitute a new generation of Final Fantasy. Although calling them a 'new generation' may be a stretch, I do feel that the series is evolving into something new. For FFXV, I played the demo and was shown raw footage of the game, and was moved by their dedication to the franchise.

Tabata: You even told me so back when we met.

Sakaguchi: Final Fantasy is my baby in a way, so seeing you working hard on it really makes me happy.

--”The team’s passion for the series must have helped deepen your discussions.”

Sakaguchi: Indeed. I also realized that things probably aren't easy for Tabata-san. It was the same for Chrono Trigger; taking over from someone else and rebuilding a project is hard work. So I was commending him on his effort; “It's actually pretty rough, isn't it?” (laughs)

--”Those words must have been encouraging to Tabata-san.”

Tabata: They were. I was really happy Sakaguchi-san felt I was part of the effort to look after his baby. But what I really appreciated was, when we met before the Uncovered: FFXV event and Sakaguchi-san asked me how I was tackling FFXV, his delight on hearing that I was hoping to return Final Fantasy to its challenger roots.






Masterclass comment from Sakaguchi

--”What else did the two of you talk about?”

Tabata: When we first ate together, Sakaguchi-san told me there was one thing he was concerned about. I was immediately anxious about his upcoming comment.

Sakaguchi: In the first in-game demo, a Behemoth’s hind leg was sticking through a fence. I told him “You can't have that.” (laughs)

Tabata: Suspension of disbelief.

Sakaguchi: I love getting nitpicky over little details like that. I was all over that hind leg! (laughs)

--”I myself remember Sakaguchi-san mentioning that back then.” (laughs)

Tabata: It must have really bothered you. (laughs)

Sakaguchi: The heinous case of the Behemoth leg!

--”I don't suppose many people would have noticed that detail. You saw it because you cared so strongly.”

Sakaguchi: I figured pointing out this minor detail would let the team know that I really care about their work. Just another reason to pay attention to detail. My own team’s programmers prefer having the finer issues pointed out to them. That being said, the consensus seems to be that this was a drunk outburst from me. (laughs)

Tabata: It was! (laughs) Sakaguchi-san doesn’t pull punches when we’re sharing a drink. There’s usually a comment somewhere pretty much every time we meet. The second time we met, he told me that the character animations looked creepy! (laughs)

Sakaguchi: Oh no, I didn't say it like that, did I? (laughs) I was playing the demo, and when you’re fighting, your companions go out of their way to run up and heal you. My gut feeling was I don't want to be healed by another guy!

Tabata: Sakaguchi-san’s gripe was, they all look so tough but act so touchy-feely. (laughs)

Sakaguchi: Not a sober comment at all. (laughs)

Tabata: He begged me to make the healer a woman, and was disappointed when I told him we simply couldn't. His take was that we then should at least make sure the characters felt more human, lest we alienate our younger users.

Sakaguchi: Did I say that? I sound so self-important. (laughs)

Tabata: At the time the AI was still pretty weak, so character behavior wasn’t organic enough to convey their mutual relationships. So some players may have found their actions creepy.

--”Do you feel this kind of feedback helps the development process?”

Tabata: Of course. When we met for the third time, I showed Sakaguchi-san Kingsglaive: FFXV. A non-sober comment that time was “Sure, the graphics look good, but look right here! The eyes are immaculate. Far too so.”

Sakaguchi: The father (Regis)’s eyes were clear and child-like. Not the eyes of an aged man. I remember telling Tabata-san that they weren't the eyes of someone with a lifetime’s worth of experiences.

Tabata: You mentioned here too that Regis' eyes took away from the immersion. That the visuals were high-quality enough to convey the illusion of watching a movie with human actors, but it was those eyes that betrayed the characters as CGI.

--”Did you decide to fix this?”

Tabata: The director of Kingsglaive: FFXV, Nozue (Takeshi Nozue. Worked on numerous high-quality movies including FFVII: Advent Children), was also there, and he took this feedback back to the team right away. They discussed and decided to do a polishing pass.

Sakaguchi: Now the users are bound to complain about the *jaded* eyes in the final cut. (laughs)

--”That’s some fairly detailed advice, I must say.” (laughs)

Tabata: Another of Sakaguchi-san’s comments was that FFXV’s action-packed battle system might be too much to handle for users more used to turn-based combat. He reminded us to think about our long-time series fans.

Sakaguchi: Something you always need to keep in mind.

Tabata: The actual feedback from the demo is clearly divided between those who want more depth to the action, and those who prefer having it simpler. When Sakaguchi-san asked me what we were planning to do, I told him we're considering adding an Easy Mode; a decision he approved of.

Sakaguchi: Tabata-san was worried because there's never been a numbered FF which allows the user to select difficulty. Personally, I think it should be fine if that’s the solution they arrived at through thinking about the current generation of users.

Tabata: Sakaguchi-san told me “there’s no need to stick to tradition as long as you’re doing it for the fans.”







A message from Sakaguchi to Tabata

--”Tabata-san, will you continue asking Sakaguchi-san for advice in the future?”

Tabata: I definitely will whenever there's ever something I’d appreciate his opinion on. Every discussion is a masterclass in game creation. For example, I don’t really know about the planning and efforts that went into creating FFVII, as I was in another company back then. It amazes me each time how different and how deep the process was back then compared to what we’re trying to do. It really reminds me of all the effort so far to establish the Final Fantasy brand, and how passive we’ve been in just building on the IP’s existing success. That's why it helps to discuss things with Sakaguchi-san every now and then. To keep our eyes open. The proverbial wake-up call. (laughs)

Sakaguchi: Feeding me alcohol ensures my comments will at least be blunt. (laughs)

--”Aren't you worried that you're going to show him the final game and he'll tear it to shreds?” (laughs)

Tabata: That might well happen. (laughs) But Sakaguchi-san created and produced the Final Fantasy brand; there aren't many people around with that level of know-how. I count myself lucky to be able to go to him for advice. (laughs)

--”Sakaguchi-san, did you ever share your opinions on any of the previous numbered Final Fantasy titles?”

Sakaguchi: I did. I spoke to Matsuno when he was working on FFXII, and both Kitase and Toriyama (Motomu Toriyama. Worked on FFVII and FFX, Director for the FFXIII series) visited me at my home in Hawaii as part of a holiday trip. We had an intense discussion in a yakiniku restaurant. I’m pretty blunt with my opinions, but Kitase doesn't flinch either, so he was probably shaking his head at the old guy asking for the impossible again. (laughs)

Tabata: Kitase-san is a tough debater. I was witness to a heated exchange, where Sakaguchi-san was pointing out that Kitase-san knew in his heart what he should be doing, yet not doing it, while Kitase-san’s argument was that some efforts are simply not realistic.

Sakaguchi: I recall saying something along the lines of “Nothing is impossible, you're just not trying, break the box and think outside it!“ (laughs)

--”There might be a Sakaguchi vs. Tabata version of that debate before this is all over, then. (laughs) With the final stretch around the corner, any words of encouragement for Tabata-san?”

Sakaguchi: With the release date set, you're starting the final struggle uphill and it’s the toughest stretch of them all. When you look back, though, going gold is a very fulfilling moment. Both FFIII and FFIV were finished around the break of dawn, and I couldn't help striking victory poses on my way home alone. (laughs) I still remember those moments as the most enjoyable and fulfilling moments of my life. I'm sure this will be a shining milestone in Tabata-san’s own life, so do what you do, and enjoy every moment of it. This is your Final Fantasy, and the start of a new era.

Tabata: My team will take those words to heart, and hope to bask together in the morning sun as we go gold. We'll be sure to enjoy the process, and won't let up until we're done!






 
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FinalxxSin

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IGN Interview video with various developers and some gameplay footage from FFXV (May 25, 2016):

My apologies for not putting this in the OP. I didn't know there was a video limit for a single post. This video covers some of the detail going into FFXV, while showing off some of the gameplay and getting thoughts from various members of the development team.

Final Fantasy XV E3 2016 Live Stage Presentation Day 2 (June 2016):
For those of you that were worried with the combat, "Wait" mode is your answer.

Kotaku Q & A with Tabata (Jun 2016):

We’re nearly three months away from the launch of Final Fantasy XV, which means there’s a whole lot of pressure on director Hajime Tabata.
This summer, Tabata and his large crew at Square Enix will spend their waking hours optimizing and polishing the fifteenth Final Fantasy in hopes of getting everything as stable as possible before September 30. They’ve got a lot to do. Both Final Fantasy XV demos released so far have had framerate drops and camera glitches.
Still, Tabata was smiling when I sat down with him for a wide-ranging interview at E3 in Los Angeles last week. He asked how Kotaku was doing after recent news—we’re fine!—and he shared insights about optimization, airships, and the Niflheim invasion. We also talked about what it really means to be a Final Fantasy game. You can read the whole Q&A below.

Interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Schreier: We’re very close to launch... how are you feeling?
Tabata: I do feel like it’s in front of us now. The release is coming up soon. We still have so much left to do on making the game itself, so until the actual day when we’ve got it out and there’s nothing left to do but wait for the release, I’m not gonna feel that it’s really done until that point.
Schreier: How much development is left? What stage are you at now?
Tabata: We’re really at the stage where we’re polishing up the final content and optimizing it for different consoles, and also the debugging phase is what we’re into now. One other thing there is that we’re doing a little bit of changing, switching up the UI to make it even better. That’s what we’re doing at the moment.
Schreier: Yeah, I keep noticing—in the Platinum demo, the UI is a little different than it is in the Trial of Titan.

Tabata: We’re gonna do one final round of brushing up to improve the usability, playability of the UI. We’re doing a little bit of brushing up of the NPCs too. We felt there was a lack of reality in some of the NPCs—they were still mockups a lot of them—so we’re brushing them up too.
Schreier: How has the optimization been going? There’s so much going on and there are so many graphical effects that it must be tough to get a stable framerate on consoles.
Tabata: I’m not gonna lie, that is a very difficult thing. It’s hard work. It’s troubling us doing that. If we just said ‘we’re gonna cut this off to make it better,’ that could be quite easy, but we really don’t want to do that. We’ve been keeping some people waiting about ten years for this game now, so we really don’t want to cut anything. For example, we could take away the number of enemies who appear at once or cut down the number of effects on screen—itwould be very easy to optimize it then, but we don’t want to do that.
u548zjt1gtg7drqr4ub5.jpg



Schreier: Now that Sony and Microsoft are both announcing new consoles, the Scorpio and the Neo, have you guys been working with that stuff at all?

Tabata: No, we haven’t started anything... I first learned about Scorpio at the [Microsoft] conference. I was there waiting in the green room and I go “ooh wow, what’s that?”
Schreier: That’s pretty funny. Do you think it’s cool? What do you think?
Tabata: Until I actually see something moving on it, I’m not gonna get a real feeling of what it can do and grasp it, but certainly listening to the specs being reeled off, I think that did sound like something that’s got quite a lot of potential. It’d be really great though if we could have Final Fantasy XVsomething we can play on the current-generation Xbox One and PS4, also give them that choice that when the new, stronger-generation hardware comes out, to have them play at that level as well. I’d really like to be able give them that... I think you’ve probably got a 4K TV in your house, haven’t you?
Schreier: (laughing) No, I don’t!
Tabata: It’d be really great if we could give people the option, so the people who have hardcore 4K TVs, they could play on those. Just like you I don’t have a 4K TV, so we should play on the current generation.
Schreier: (laughing) Yeah, let’s focus on that.
Tabata: (laughing) Let’s all focus on the current generation.
Schreier: 100%. So you’re talking about optimization right now — what happens if you get a month or a few weeks away from release and you find that you can’t get it totally optimized, would you decide to cut things? What would you do then?
Tabata: The decision I would have to make would very much vary depending on that situation. Though certainly by managing to get the PS4 and the Xbox One demos out on the show floor, and complete those versions to the level they’re at, it’s looking really positive now to get both of those done in the way we want them, so I think we’ll be OK.
One thing we definitely won’t do is change in any great way the game experience we’re providing. I think at the very last resort if we have to change something we may lower the resolution. They’re both moving at about 30 frames per second. The Xbox One version is about 900p, and the PlayStation 4 version is pretty much full power. We want to keep that level as much as we can.
fiwkkqju43jaaxzfhqjn.jpg



Schreier: So that airship, I just saw that this morning, it looks incredible.

Tabata: You can fly around freely in the world, and if you really wanna explore in a lot more ways, you can fly around with the airship, it’s really great.
Schreier: You can fly anywhere?
Tabata: You can fly anywhere you’d like, but you need to find a road to land on. It’s not 100% land anywhere, take off anywhere, fly everywhere, but we really wanted within the system we’ve created to give the player the freedom to fly as freely as possible, anywhere they could. There’s a great level of freedom they can get from that.
Schreier: Was this developed with [Just Cause developer] Avalanche?
Tabata: The actual development work wasn’t done as a collaboration with their guys, but we had a big meeting with them. We sat down and discussed their LOD development methods they use for that, and certainly the way that the LOD system handles textures was something we really learned from. We used the information we got out of that meeting to develop the system ourselves. But obviously the way our game’s created, and structured, and all the rich parts and systems, the way they interact with each other, it’s completely different FFXV with their game. So we can’t take their technology straight away and just block it in, there’s no way we can do that. But it really was a great reference for us, we learned a lot.
Schreier: Have you watched people playing the demo? Have you seen any reactions?

Tabata: I really haven’t had any time to do that. Have you played it? I want to hear what you thought.
Schreier: I thought it was really interesting, and there were a lot of cool things in it. The combat feels very different than it did when I played Platinum and when I played Duscae.
Tabata: You feel it’s been improved?
Schreier: I think so, yeah. So I wanted to ask—in the Trial of Titan, at a certain point you get a message saying “Strategy: use Blizzara” and that’s how you break his arm. I’m wondering: are bosses gonna fall along that same style, where it tells you what to do and you have to do it a certain way for these big boss fights? Sort of like the behemoth in Duscae, where you could beat it one certain way? Or will there be multiple ways to defeat big bosses like that?
Tabata: There’s both styles really in there. You’ve got those where you’re pretty much free to beat the boss any way you’d like, and you’ve got lots of different options to choose from. And then there’s others where you’re more guided to a certain way to do it and it’ll tell you this is the best way to defeat the enemy. Actually this is a cut-away part of the game, it’s a ten-minute demo, we had to make it complete in ten minutes, in a short period of time. The original design for Titan has a number of different strategy options that you can choose from, but we wanted to make sure to lead people through it in an easy way so it can be completed quickly.
And I’m not sure if you saw the Titan demo showed at the Microsoft conference, but if you take a look at the product out there, which you can play, I think you’ll be able to see it’s actually advanced further than that — it’s a lot more of a modern version than that one. We’ve fixed up the bugs in the version you saw at Microsoft. It really has improved the freedom for the player during the battle scene.
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Schreier: Can you talk about how the combat system has evolved over the years? It’s almost like fans have been part of the development, because we saw Duscae and then Platinum and now the final product. Can you talk about why you made some of the changes you’ve made?

Tabata: I think the fact that we had people play Episode Duscae first and got the feedback was a very important step. In theory, the Episode Duscae demo when we released it was very much just about an alpha state in the development. We’d created the alpha build of the game, and we put that out there and had people really engage with it in depth, got their feedback on it. And certainly, the first thing it did was get it out to the fans and get them to understand that yes, we really are making this game, and get that sense of ‘we’re working on it.’ But also we got so much feedback from people all around the world as well, and that global level of feedback was something we really didn’t have any idea what kind of responses people from all around the world would give. It was a really useful thing, an important step both for the fans and for us.
It was really a great thing to get that feedback from people. And we weren’t really just taking feedback and putting that straight into the game and just doing exactly what people told us to do, but that communication with fans was such a useful experience, an experience we wouldn’t swap for anything else really. It was such a useful thing. I think through that process, refining it, and making the final form of the game something which convinces the fans it’s slowly coming together on the development side, and the fan side, what we’re expecting and our hopes for the game come together. It was a very useful way to get the final product the way it should’ve been.
(laughing) And you wrote that “ten years” article but you’ve been supporting all those ten years, so that’s good. Because of that, it gives us our energy and our strength, it really does motivate the team to see that.
Schreier: (laughing) I enjoyed that [Famitsu] interview with Sakaguchi, watching you guys talk about that.
Tabata: (laughing) I remember something to do with the conversation at PAX Prime, about ten years…
Schreier: (laughing) He made that joke
Tabata: He felt sorry for that. (laughing) He apologized to me after.
Schreier: Has Sakaguchi played the game?
Tabata: He played Episode Duscae. I think that’s what caused him to come around on our side and support us — it convinced him. He told me that he really felt like Final Fantasy has moved on to the next generation.
Schreier: It feels like you guys have been talking about the game a lot and showing a lot of footage, and you guys do the Active Time Reports. It’s really good to see that kind of transparency, but there’s also a worry that there are no more surprises left. Is that something you guys are concerned about? Are there still going to be surprises for people when they play the game?
Tabata: The big prerequisite for that is that, regardless of whether we’ve got surprises left in store, it’s that game experience that’s the important thing. Because what we’ve released has just been points throughout the game, you don’t get the feeling, and you don’t get the same idea of what it actually feels like to play the game, the open-world experience and the emotional resonance of that. That’s something that people can’t get unless they play the game. Having said that, we are very much working with all the marketing guys to keep back stuff so that we don’t give people impressions like “I’ve seen it all.”
On the other hand, as you said yourself, because it’s been ten years, there are so many people who have been waiting for this for a long time. They really want a lot of information about it. There are those people who are just ‘Don’t hold it back, just give me everything, let me know about the game.’ And obviously we want to please those people as well. It’s a very difficult balancing act between people with the way we send information, and obviously I’m doing a lot of experimenting and trying things out and struggling my way through. I think in the end we really have got that balance there, we’ve done the best way possible for that, give both groups what they want.
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Schreier: At this point it’s become clear that the E3 2013 trailer, where FFXV was first revealed, that was CGI—that was more of an idea than an actual product. But a lot of people are wondering—because it came out that the Niflheim invasion, you won’t actually see it now, just hear about it—people are wondering why you decided to make that change?

Tabata: When we first sat down to re-plan the project that’s Final Fantasy XV, we really looked at which elements we need and should use and could do to create that kind of unique gameplay experience that we wouldn’t really get anywhere else. It was a very in-depth discussion about what elements to keep and what to throw away or change. We felt because the theme we’re trying to handle here with the story is such a massive epic tale, we really couldn’t fit all of that into the game that we had the time to make. So we wanted to show the essential things to get the best story across, which is where we decided on that—that’s reflected in the final form of the game.
It’s not that we don’t need to show the Niflheim invasion to get the story across, but because that episode is something that would take up so much effort and time that rather than force it into the game, we started up its own separate project independently, and that’s the tale we wanted to tell with the film. That’s why we moved that to Kingsglaive. From a story perspective we’d have to have both the game and the film, both of these together in one package, but realistically that’s not something we could have done in one game, it’s too much.
It’s very similar to the kind of decision we had to ask ourselves, OK do we spend another six years to develop that whole complete package as one game or do we spend three years to do it in the way that we’re doing now? I think, it really doesn’t affect it which one you get to see—from a story perspective whether you see it as part of the game or through the film, and how we tell that story is not such a thing which is affected by that choice. We really are confident that we’ve made a really great experience with that. We felt the most important thing we needed to depict through the game was that idea of traveling together with these comrades and watching them all grow and develop as people emotionally at the same time. We really have gotten that in there, so from a story perspective I think we’ve done the best we can.
Schreier: You mentioned before that you took a lot of fan feedback from Duscae, and I know a lot of fans have been requesting things like the airship and rideable chocobos, and that you guys were able to put in a lot of that stuff. Was there anything that fans requested that you guys weren’t able to put in?
Tabata: It’s not that simplistic relationship really where the fans want it so we put it in the game — it’s a bit more complicated than that.
The thing we really felt like we had to do when we switched over from being Versus XIII to XV was to overhaul the technology behind Final Fantasy XV, to make it a new modern up-to-date game technologically. The way we approached making it was very much to have that technological base that we worked in, include the combat system that we feel the game needs, and the world-building the game needs, have that whole technical base. From that perspective when we’ve got that realized, we’re gonna work in all the elements from Final Fantasy, the classic things, which ones of those can we do in this world well, and as a result appeal to people and really feel Final Fantasy and work with the new things. We’re really building it up using the old elements as bricks on our technological base.
The one thing perhaps that we didn’t manage to get in that a lot of people did say they wanted was the kind of more classic medieval fantasy style of airships, with the vertical take off and go along like ships in the sky. That was one thing we didn’t get in. (laughing) That would’ve been impossible. That would’ve been hard to do.
Schreier: I think people are OK as long as there’s some sort of airship. That’s what’s important.
Tabata: If that’s it, then I’m very happy.
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Schreier: So there’s a lot of focus on little details in Final Fantasy XV. Like I noticed when I was playing the Trial of Titan, when you use Blizzara there’s snow everywhere, little ice particles. Do you ever worry that you’re spending too much time on little details and sacrificing framerate, optimization, and bigger-picture stuff?

Tabata: We are very much aware of that danger of going too much into detail, so we very much do concentrate on controlling that and working so we don’t fall into that trap. It really is decisions at different points in the game — does this section require that level of detail, does it not need that level of detail? It has to be done on a case by case basis. We really made sure not to make the wrong decisions in each of those individual cases.
Certainly in the case of the magic, we felt it was really important for the magic and why we needed that level of detail for it was because it has to be convincing as a phenomenon and as a fantasy element within this believable world. So that’s why we really want to concentrate on having all these physical effects for it and really make it feel realistic and like it’s integrated in the world.
Schreier: I don’t want to ask you too many specific questions about the story or anything like that because I want to be surprised, but I do want to ask: what do you think makes Final Fantasy XV feel like a true Final Fantasy game?
Tabata: (pauses a few seconds) I don’t want to try to dodge the question or anything, but I really feel like depending on players, everyone’s idea of “this is what Final Fantasy is, this is what makes Final Fantasy” really depends on which numbered Final Fantasy they like the best.
Schreier: Sure, sure.
Tabata: I do think very much that when the players play XV, they will quite naturally compare XV to their favorite Final Fantasys of the past, and say “oh yeah, this is the kind of Final Fantasy I really want, this is what I like.” In a very broad sense, the biggest sense really of what makes Final Fantasyfor people—and obviously I really do think it prerequisites on that idea of what everyone different likes—is the idea that this is a cutting-edge Final Fantasy, it’s a AAA truly large-scale great quality game, and that’s what makes it Final Fantasy is that scale.
I really think people’s impressions and interpretations of what that scale is and what it means can vary. So there’ll be people saying it has to be an epic story and that’s what makes Final Fantasy, or that cutting-edge top-level RPG, that it’s the latest evolution in RPGs, the different things they take. You take it all together in one overall form now—I think that’s what makes it Final Fantasy, that’s the best thing you have playing for you is that scale, to challenge yourself to take it to the next level.
Schreier: For a while now I’ve had a theory that people became really attached to the older Final Fantasy games because there was no voice acting and there wasn’t a lot of detail so players’ heads kind of filled in the blanks. Do you think that’s true? Is it more challenging to do something that’s more realistic and has very specific voices and characters and personalities, where people can’t create it as much in their heads anymore?
Tabata: That’s a really interesting thing... I completely agree with you. I think certainly that bit that you fill in with your imagination, you do really think back to it. That is something that whatever spec of hardware you’ve got, you just can’t recreate that in people’s heads. So yeah I think that’s a very difficult thing—I think people do remember the old games in that way.
Having said that, Final Fantasy is about taking that challenge and trying to improve on that, give people those great memories that they can look back on so fondly. (laughing) So it really gets me fired up to do that.
Schreier: Well I hope we have a chance to talk after the game comes out so we can see how well you did!
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Tabata: What I really want to see the most of all is the people who have been waiting ten years for this game to buy this game, on the release date even, play it, and then come back and say ‘yeah it was a good thing, I’m glad I bought that game I’m glad I played Final Fantasy XV.’ I’ve got my own images of what I think Final Fantasy should be, but that’s the goal I really want to achieve.

Schreier: So I have to ask - I know you’ve talked about this a little before, but my readers would kill me if I didn’t ask: is it gonna come to PC? Everyone wants to know.
Tabata: (laughing) We are thinking about a PC version. But until we’ve got the console versions finished, we really aren’t gonna think anymore about that. That really is our top priority and one thing we’re not gonna bend on is getting those console versions finished on time. You saw we released the PlayStation VR demo at E3—that is something that was very much designed to be completed in a very short period of time by a team so it didn’t affect the main console development cycle. That’s the will of the whole team—they want to get it done. We don’t want to be making excuses. We don’t want to be having regrets. We want to get these out and done in time.
Schreier: For Kotaku readers, tell me something that you’ve never told anyone else about Final Fantasy XV.
Tabata: (thinking) You’ve got loads of readers reading it, what can I say? We got wait mode in the game!
Schreier: (laughing) We know that already! I already wrote an article about it.
Tabata: Okay, so have you seen the option mode yet? Where you can turn wait mode on and off? You’ve got an option there to turn UI off as well. There’ll be an option to turn everything off. Like if you were taking a screenshot. You can also turn them off individually. That’s new information! (laughing) I’ll be angry at you if you don’t get user comments on that.
Schreier: I don’t know, I feel like people might have seen the menus.
Tabata: What about the stamina gauge? That’s actually only a temporary small thing. There’s mixed opinions—some people don’t like it, some people like it. We’re gonna make it much better for the final version.


~end~

IGN Video on the Premise of FFXV's Story and Story Format (Jun, 2016):

Game Reactor Interview with Tabata(July 14, 2016):

IGN FFXV Tech Video (July 19th, 2016):
 
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Famitsu interview with Tabata and Sakaguchi updated in opening post. I'm glad there ended up being an English translation for this interview. Sakaguchi had quite a few interesting things to say imo.
 

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The Wraith of Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV E3 2016 Live Stage Presentation Day 2 updated in 2nd post.
 

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PlayStation Access with Tabata on How Magic Works (August 30th, 2016):


Also, today is Noctis' birthday!!!!!
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New Weekly Jump scan shows images of Noctis using different weapons such as a sniper rifle and circular saw (September 2nd, 2016):
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FFXV Live Pax West(September 3rd, 2016):
Full Presentation (NOTE: Video starts at 21:20)


Gameplay 1:


Gameplay 2:


Chocobo Racing:

Final Fantasy XV Skill Tree break down, weapons, and magic (September 3rd, 2016):
 
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FFXV Live at Abbey Road Studios performance of some of the FFXV OST with some commentary from legendary Yoko Shimomura (9 - 7 - 16):
 

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Final Fantasy XV: The English Voice Cast pt. 2 (September 14th, 2016) -

Final Fantasy XV Tokyo Game Show Full trailer (September 14th, 2016):
 
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