FFXIII director intends to keep series story-driven

GDC 2010: Director Motomu Toriyama shares his experiences and offers a postmortem on the recently released Final Fantasy XIII.

Who Was There: Director and scenario writer Motomu Toriyama from Square Enix went over the crystal mythos and shared his thoughts on the direction of Final Fantasy.

Human drama takes priority in FFXIII.

What They Talked About: Motomu Toriyama began his 2010 Game Developers Conference session by introducing himself and then telling the audience that Final Fantasy XIII, which launched March 9, is selling well across North America and Europe. As a scenario writer for Square Enix, Toriyama joined the company in 1994, around the time when Final Fantasy VI was launched.

Shortly after he began, he remembered meeting with the entire development team of 40 people, including the founding fathers of Final Fantasy: creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, character designer Tetsuya Nomura, and producer Yoshinori Kitase.

Toriyama explained that, at the time, it was a brainstorming session for Final Fantasy VII, and members of the team would present their ideas to everyone. There were no story- or battle-specific job titles to assign to anyone. It boiled down to whoever had the best idea and was able to present it with the most enthusiasm. The basic storyline was determined by Sakaguchi, Nomura, and Kitase, and everyone else would provide their input.

As a new employee with no experience making games, Toriyama was assigned to work on Bahamut Lagoon and was in charge of scenarios and cutscenes. He reflected how things were more flexible back then and that there was a lack of integrity. At that time, Square helped employees learn the skills and techniques that they would need to grow. Once the number of developers reached 200, specific jobs were formed to establish order.

When Square merged with Enix, there were a lot of new employees to train and more platforms to build on when the Nintendo DS and PSP were released. Toriyama put together and directed a team of scenario writers and began to work on a number of projects, which included the Crystal Chronicles series and Dissidia Final Fantasy.

With the introduction of voice acting, Toriyama said that the scripts needed to be more sophisticated, so they hired more professional writers and attempted to improve the overall scenario quality.

Before jumping into the next part of his presentation, Toriyama played the European and North American versions of the Final Fantasy XIII commercial.

The original purpose of the session was to go over the crystal mythos of Final Fantasy XIII, which, he said, began five years ago. He explained the crystal mythos as a story that portrayed the history between gods and humans that is told from a human perspective. Even though the story is original, he compared it to Greek mythology and mentioned that there is a sequel that he can't quite talk about yet.

Fabula Nova Crystallis is the name that is given to the crystal mythos that serves as the backdrop for Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Final Fantasy Agito XIII. Toriyama stated that the mythology doesn't become an obstacle when working on a new game or sequel because the gameplay, characters, and story will be different each time.

In the next part of his session he went over the specifics of Final Fantasy XIII and the two worlds within, the primitive Gran Pulse and the high-tech Cocoon. The two worlds are governed by gods who are at odds with each other. Toriyama explained that the theme of the game is about going against fate and that he wanted the players to be able to relate to the characters and their struggle.

He went on to explain that Final Fantasy XIII is like the television series Lost, with character flashbacks and unknown factors. This formula is different from a typical Japanese role-playing game in that it's more focused around a group dynamic.

The next part of the presentation was a postmortem, where Toriyama talked about how it took much too long for development because of the emphasis on cutscenes. He explained that the scenarios needed to have the highest quality and were treated like an animated film.

His Power Point presentation listed the level design methodology that he followed, which involved deciding the total number of in-game battles, dividing the battles among game locations, determining spacing between battles, and then finally inserting an event in every three to seven battles.

Priority is set for cutscene locations because the number of people involved with the art makes it difficult to go back and make the necessary changes. The intention was to make Final Fantasy XIII a cutscene-driven game.

Toriyama addressed the criticism on the lack of towns, saying that he wanted to prioritize monsters and main characters so that the extra non-player characters and text were reduced.

He went over some focus-group data that was collected in Japan and the United States, and it seemed that the Japanese audience liked the story and characters more than the American audience. He felt like the team made the right choice by focusing on cutscenes and the battle system, because players in both regions responded well in those categories.

The scenario writer concluded his presentation by discussing the future of Final Fantasy and said that the team intends to use the best technology out there. He also indicated that there may be a shift to interactive cutscenes. As an example, he said that hopping along the backs of a thousand flying dragons would be "great fun."

Toriyama also compared Japanese RPGs to Western RPGs by using screenshots of Hit Man and Tomb Raider as examples. His point was that in Western games, the game is played through the player's perspective, not the character's. In Japanese RPGs, the view is a third-party bird's-eye view. He said that in Japan, people want to see a film and not necessarily identify with the character but observe and enjoy the movement and emotions of the character. The Japanese feel comfortable as third-party bystanders.

As for the question of whether Final Fantasy should be an open-world or story-driven experience, Toriyama said that open world does offer more freedom, but it depends on the balance. In Final Fantasy XIII, the human drama was portrayed through cutscenes, but if it were to be in a free, open world, it would increase the number of cutscenes, which in turn means more scheduling and more resources and could mean a decline in quality. He said that for future games, it will be up to the scenario writers and designers to try to increase the freedom, but Final Fantasy will always focus on the story.

Quote: "It will continue to change for each product, but the ultimate technology will be pursued and it will remain a magnificent global story centered on human drama. This will be applied to every Final Fantasy story. I promise we will protect this trend, but no one can predict the future." --Motomu Toriyama, scenario writer on the future of Final Fantasy.

Takeaway: Cutscenes and story are still the focus for the series, and it doesn't look like Final Fantasy is going to change drastically anytime soon.

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Discussion

363 comments
silvergol
silvergol

look the date! no versus 13! 

noodlzethegreat
noodlzethegreat

can we just get versus allready.. and a final fantasy 7 remake.. with interlude n after years such as the final fantasy 4 complete collection.. can i get n amen?

Naicco
Naicco

Nomura and Versus dont mix, just saying...

Naicco
Naicco

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Ryan6969
Ryan6969

Square/Enix: Have all the programmers that made all those great FF's in years past retired?? Looks to me like its become a watered down corporation with a group of young programmers looking to impress people with their graphics and visuals, rather than with immersive gameplay. The days of squaresoft being a gumball machine manufacturer/seller on the verge of bankruptcy making a last ditch effort at a great original video game "Final Fantasy" are over. Welcome to capitalist Squaresoft!! (go back to unassigned roles... Obviously the employee's making the storyline and characters aren't suited for that role. Having EVERYONES input in the company obviously has produced better results in the past)

Ryan6969
Ryan6969

Final fantasy XIII was a HUGE disappointment for me. Like some fans of the series, I have been an ultimate FF fan since FFI (the NES version, I've since bought every other FF THE DAY it came out since then). FFII on SNES was definately breakthrough at the time... LOVED the game. FFIII just left me in awe. FFVII left me speachless... ultimate RPG in my opinion!! (wheres the PS3 remake already?!?!?!) FFX was good, but I was really alarmed at the direction they were taking. Without reiterating everyone elses opinion of linear play, blah blah blah, this was the first FF that started this and I hoped they realized their mistake. THEY DID NOT!! HERE'S THE MOST VALUABLE ADVICE SQUARE ENIX COULD GET FROM ONE OF THEIR MOST FAITHFUL FANS!! Instead of combining the elements of FFX and FFXII, which you did for FFXIII..... WHY DON'T YOU COMBINE THE ELEMENTS OF FFIII and FFVII??? THE TWO BEST ONES OF THE SERIES??? VII was a best seller of the series, and if im not mistaken, FFIII on the SNES did extremely well as well.

byrt
byrt

After playing FFXIII, I can now mash X like nobody's business! In all seriousness though, I really wanted to like this game, but I just couldn't get myself to finish it due to its linearity and uninteresting story. It barely qualifies as an RPG due to its battle system. Never at any point did I feel like my choices had any sort of impact in the game. In reality, it's just the most advanced corridor simulator ever made.

theGrynch
theGrynch

I'm playing through FFXIII right now, and honestly, I'm really bothered by it. Not by the gameplay, because I think it's quite good and balanced, but the dialogue and characters... They're awful! Maybe I just never realized how bizarre and awkward Japanese games can really be, but the characters and their energy is just so... weird! All the overwrought gestures and mannerisms, all the needless voicings... Perfect example, SPOILER WARNING!!!: After crash landing on Pulse, when Hope is missing, when they run up to him during the cutscene, EVERYONE makes some sort of sound while they run... WHO DOES THAT?! It's so needless. It's everyone in the game. It's just too much for me. I hope it's less obtrusive in future installments.

gridsinister
gridsinister

"He said that in Japan, people want to see a film and not necessarily identify with the character but observe and enjoy the movement and emotions of the character. The Japanese feel comfortable as third-party bystanders." That statement should be an insult to the Japanese.

MrHanky35
MrHanky35

i love FF, played all the main games and about half of all the sub games, and a great many Square/Square enix games. I am not happy with the direction its heading however. Cutscenes are great, the combat is great, but the characters are not, the story is so so, and its way way too liner. "thats what the jp like," is a poor statistic, when you look at Squares best hits, none were this liner, and all scored better then 13. i still enjoyed 13, i rented it, and i dont plan on purchasing a FF till they break this liner "trend."

BlackBaldwin
BlackBaldwin

FF13 was super boring and I actually looked forward to playing it... Maybe versus will be better but I doubt it... Not preordering anything this time I'll wait for the review first....

bisonfan2010
bisonfan2010

you know instead of combining what X and XII were...couldn't they just copy one or the other and make the storyline great? Seriously both of their fighting systems are 20x better than XIIIs

bisonfan2010
bisonfan2010

got 24hours into gran pulse...cuz i thought thats when the fun begins...heck no! Normal battles can last up to a half hour when you get that far...WTF!?!? so leveling up takes forever and the fact that i'm stuck at the frickin tower boss battle that one hit kos my entire team at the start of battle........yeaaa but I saved money by switching to GEICO at least.

andymilonakiss
andymilonakiss

im a huge ff buff and i thought 13 was a good GAME, not a good FF GAME. i missed the days when summons were just videos with ultimate powerful attacks....

The-MightyGypsy
The-MightyGypsy

"They hired professional writers" Really!? My two-year old little brother could write a better story, better characters and better dialouge.Did i mention the fact that he's two years old?

OniSwordsman
OniSwordsman

scratch the i dont, forgot to edit before finishing. but yes i only hope that this one isn't as disappointing like the last.

OniSwordsman
OniSwordsman

FFXIII to me was quite a disappointment, the graphics were great story was alright but nowhere near what it usually is, it felt too distant. Forced to control only one character and if they die its all over... what the hell were they thinking? they speak of a third party experience and yet they narrow down the character choice to the most likely to survive.. which was usually the main char, while at the same time making us feel distant with "auto-battle", as well as the disjointedness of giving us zero control over our chars feet. i dont i am hoping that Versus will redeem the final fantasy series. With the crisis core and KH teams working on it i think we may just see a fresh new battle system, that which incorporates more of what you see in the cutscenes as well as the individuality of the chars in their attacks as well.

Granpire
Granpire

I'm afraid that we won't see Agito. :( No signs of life for some time now.

admund
admund

Love Squaresoft/Enix, but I'm not impressed with FFXIII that recently released. Only the graphics are great. I'm sure players would know why. However, I am looking forward to FFXIII Versus, as its being made by the KH2 & Crisis Core team which were 2 wonderfully immersing RPGs. Hope this XIII doesn't get washed out like the 1st one.

fkbwii
fkbwii

FF is one of the best series ever!

MrFinalFantasy
MrFinalFantasy

i find Final Fantasy XIII to be a let down amongst the other numbered Final Fantasies. it's a good game. but it don't shine against the rest.

kevinlor
kevinlor

" He felt like the team made the right choice by focusing on cutscenes and the battle system, because players in both regions responded well in those categories" wow really?! i didnt like the battle system at all, its a great idea to try something new but damn u could pretty much play only one character and at the start of the game wow all you had to do was click on Auto-Battle as fast as you could. I hated the paragram switch just to be able to use magic or attack. The story was weak no twist and turn at all. Last boss was crappy and so easy. But HEY w/e i like the characters. OH and i hated My Hands F U! but the rest of the songs were good but wasnt good enough for me to remember like FF7,FF8,FF9 and FFX.

GenoForPrez
GenoForPrez

I'm sure that like everyone else who didn't like the game I'll get a thumbs-down for saying so, but I was extremely disappointed in FF13. The infinite hallway world had beautiful wallpaper, but it was incredibly boring. For a story-driven game, I found the characters anything but interesting. They were boring or annoying and their dialogue was so terrible I could hardly bear it. (You could make a drinking game out of every time Snow mentions being a hero.) In fact, Lightning was probably the only character with appeal, but she was too little to late. Of course, I didn't finish the game, and those who did will surely sputter and insist that I have no right to judge it, but I did put in over 10 hours, and if a game isn't deliver 10 hours in, it's not worth my time. I could be wasting those hours on something that's actually fun. It's ridiculous to expect me to waste an entire day of my life before you let me start enjoying your game. In short, I was not impressed by their experiment.

john7797
john7797

I think the way they did 13 was great. The story and of course cutscenes are what made me want to keep playing to the end, I always wanting to see what would happen next. This one I'll play again, for the story and to try leveling up characters more. Same reason I've played FF7 multiple times, first time I fell in love with the story, then I played again to experience the story again and to try leveling up my characters even more than before, what it comes down to is having a great story, no story and I wouldn't care about the games. I loved how 7 had all the extra stuff you could do, like all the games in Gold Saucer for example. But these days I don't have endless hours to mess around in games like that, so FF13 being mostly story and not so much side-stuff I didn't mind at all. So thank you SquareEnix for making the best game I've played in a long time(FF7 being the last one I loved enough to play multiple times).

richardlma
richardlma

I dont think vanille is anoying, in fact i liked her a lot shes kindda the possitive one one the game along with snow

jeebzski
jeebzski

i think that kingdom hearts and final fantasy are the best games squenix has ever produced and hope they keep up the good work and dont change the winning formul awhatsoever :D

SnowyComet
SnowyComet

IMO kingdom hearts has the perfect balance of story-driven and battle mechanic gameplay.

jemrax
jemrax

i dunno... but so far... this is what i think FFVII - overall breakthrough in almost all areas (story, battle, growth, graphics) compared to predecessors FFVIII - great love story, battle system is good gets limit break dependent towards the end. growth system is pointless. gfx was excellent for its time FFIX - the story is good enough but everything else is ... meh FFX - story is good but doesn't get any more linear than this. sphere grid was an excellent growth system that had a few holes in it (the only thing differentiating the characters when you fill it up would be their overdrives). FFXII - jaw dropping gfx. vastly open world that allowed for a great story and a whole lot of extra content. growth system is highly dependent on equipment. FFXIII - SE pretty much took the principles behind FFX and FFXII and combined them together. linear story frame and sphere grid like system from FFX. similar battle system to FFXII. summoning system based on combined elements from FFX and FFXII.

hazemxxx
hazemxxx

okay listen up producer of final fantasy and tetsuya of character design, hope u read this, ive been a fan of ff, since ff3, ok played all of them , and my favorate was 7,8,9 and 10 after that it was getting stinky, ff13 was annoying, first of all the lightning character doesnt give a deep feeling of wow, like cloud or squall. second ,snow which i prefer him to be main, what the hell a brown coat, and no sword, atleast make the coat black and with out a bini in his head, he would seem then more mysterious and he should be a bit cold not too happy and cocky, 3d the game didnt have any fricking good towns to walk around and have the fun of feeling that ur in the game, what happened to inns, moogles, mini games, thats one of my favorate things in ff ,what the heck happened? and the aeons, shiva luks great but bahamut common maaaaan, and why cant any one just use any of them, then the magic and skills 2 limited , wheres the exciting special skills and stuff, i hope the ff versus is better, but for future wise make something like ff7, same play time and game style plz, trust me people will love that

KennyKB
KennyKB

Get rid of voice acting altogether. Unless its at its absolute best (and even THEN, character personalities are being force-fed ), it only hinders. remember how emotionally engaging the older generation(s) of RPGs were? You know, where your experience was based on your imagination? Remember that somber moment when Cloud and Tifa talked under the stars about the promise? YOU created that scene, the emotional inflections, the voices, etc. Now think of FFX when Yuna was crying in the water with big T and remember the horrid voices that ruined the entire experience.

Khatjal
Khatjal

@ zackblack17 Agreed. You said it perfectly. Story driven is one thing, but to make it essentially NOTHING but story? Fail. Off to the bargain bin you go as I lament wasting 60$ on you...

zackblack17
zackblack17

personaly i think this game was the worst to come out from the series, sorry to any fans that aproved. it has a good story and graphics but thats about all it has going for it. you might as well just make it a movie. the reason you pick up a game is to play not sit and watch. i perfered ff7 style play were you could customise alot of stuff and for your own stratagys and you could EXPLORE. im sorry to say it... but i fell asleep mid battle because all i was doing was pressing the x button over and over -.-

triggercy
triggercy

Being said that exploration is an illusion.. I'm not sure about that... I did a lot of exploration back and fort playing this game using Cieth portals and Chocobos. played the game more than 120 hours lol

sugrim
sugrim

And that is why i love this series so much. It is story driven.

VezTheNoob
VezTheNoob

Oh and one more thing, I have played and completed FF's VII through XIII (excluding XI) and ya know what? They are all pretty linear (save for maybe XII), meaning you can only go to specific places at specific times. FFXIII is very similar to it's predecessors in that regard, only this time, you are always moving forward, which makes sense given the context of the story. The linearity also serves as a great pace-setter for the combat as well. Ive never played a FF and felt like I had open world freedom. That is not what this series is about. This series is about story and strategy. Which is what I love about the series. I guarantee, if Square Enix tries to make an open world FF that is not an MMORPG, its going to be a mess. Its nearly impossible to tell a story compelling enough to be a FF story, and pull it of in an open world type of game it just wouldnt work. Dragon Age for example had a great story, and it was cool that you could put your own twist on things and make different things happen, but in my opinion there was never a moment in the story where I felt just completely floored. There where no "OMGWT CRAP?!?!?!" moments. And I played through it twice, both times very differently. Dont get me wrong its a great title, but thats beacuse that what BIOWARE does well. AND SE does, story, cmbat, and cutscene driven games well. I think they should stick to that. (inb4 tl;dr)

VezTheNoob
VezTheNoob

Ive noticed a strange duality in a large portion of the opinions I hear about this game. Most people will tell you that it's way too linear in the beginning and that the story is not that great. Then those same people will tell you that it gives you more freedom late in the game but darned if the story doesnt grind to a halt. I swear to The Maker the same people who think the "story sucks" are the same people who complain when it slows down late in the game. I guess my question is, what will it take to make people happy? They hate the story and the linearity, yet when they are given freedom, they complain about the story slowing down. It just seems silly that people will complain that the game is linear, complain about the story, complain about the characters, and then when they are given freedom, that they complain because all of that changes. Anyways, I think SE got it right with this one. I can't really think of anything I don't love about it, except for lack of a new game + feature and a theater feature would have been nice too. But really, its amazing, epic and addictive. Great cast (I like Vanille, a lot. If you havent played the game yet, just know she is an integral part of things story wise and gameplay-wise.), great story, great combat. A lot to explore late in the game. Final Fantasy XIII is fantastic!

CaelumNoctis
CaelumNoctis

@ arealunderdog1 Totally agree! I just don't get how people can find this game "linear" and repetive. Worst of all they compare that to other FF games. As if dodging 100 Lightning Bolts in FFX wasn't repetive? As if farming CP in Wonder Square wasn't repetitive in FF7? (And after that, it's hell off to Battle Square farming BP's) Most games are repetitive in some way, it's just not a reason to say the game is bad. As for the characters in FFXIII, I have no idea how people can't just love them. I mean, do you have any heart at all? They get first impressions like "That one's annoying, that one is wannabe, that one is a crybaby", without even thinking people might change through the course of the game. The story in FFXIII is great. If you somehow fail to see that, for whatever reasons, I really think you should consider stop playing story-driven games. Peace out~ ^^

arealunderdog1
arealunderdog1

To those who think FFXIII is a linear game, how far are you in the game? and are you just saying that because of the review? I'll admit after hearing the gamespot review i was skeptical as to whether it would be a flop or not. FFXIII is not at all. I do not find sazh obnoxious or ignorant. If you even played through the game you'd find he is a perhaps one of the most intriguing characters just off his story. Vanille's voice actor may be annoying, but there is a good story behind vanille. Each character has wonderful backstories and as you play through you watch them grow and become more mature. FFXIII did good with the characters in my opinion, Hope- a boy angered by the death of his mother, lightning- trying to save her sister, snow- trying to save his fiancee, vanille- a girl who acts cheerful despite the secrets she hide, fang- she just wants to protect vanille no matter what, and sazh- a father who is at ends because his son is gone. FFXIII is great. i loved every moment especially the end because it surprises you.

gridsinister
gridsinister

I absolutely agree with karnis, It's a given. The thing that irks me when I delve into a FF game, or maybe just this one in particular, is the ABSOLUTELY embarrassing awkward spectrum difference in personalities. In FF-XII, You've got personalities ranging anywhere from the short tempered Lightning, to the ( and this really is what pisses me off about Japanese theatrics directors blindness) stereotypically typical obnoxious and ignorant black man(not so in REAL life), and then to the even more so annoying "blond/pink" b***h that never shuts the F&%K up, and bounces around trying ever so desperate to look, um...cute??! Don't get me wrong, I CANNOT GET ENOUGH Final Fantasy. Its just that when you have no choice but to watch the overacting, overbearing theatrics in order to follow the storyline, you can't help but get annoyed. And yeah, I am Black. *sigh*, I guess someone should just ask me "Why so SERIOUS!?"

karnis
karnis

story driven is a given in final fantasy

Kou-Nurasaka
Kou-Nurasaka

I'm kinda disappointed in FFXIII. I'm in Taejin's Tower on Gran Pulse and the story just stopped. I'm running through a tower for what reason? Because there's a village on the other side? I was really trying to like this game, but now, I'm not so sure. Really, the only thing I know about the story is what is told about 8 hours into the game; were fighting the Fal'Cie.

Kou-Nurasaka
Kou-Nurasaka

I'm kinda disappointed in FFXIII. I'm in Taejin's Tower on Gran Pulse and the story just stopped. I'm running through a tower for what reason? Because there's a village on the other side? I was really trying to like this game, but now, I'm not so sure. Really, the only thing I know about the story is what is told about 8 hours into the game; were fighting the Fal'Cie.

frazzle00
frazzle00

@ iikefkaii I'm definitely getting Resonance of Fate and Metro 2033 next. Both games look great.

Footos_mints
Footos_mints

@negativeions No I never said that... I was pointing out the fact that linear does not fit ff10 never mind ff13. And you also only used the term "linear" after watching a review on ff13. Linear is a way of describing a straight line. Neither of those FF's are a "straight line" therefore i don't see how that term fits into this context. If you are suggesting the games storylines are straight and predictable... No they were not If you are suggesting the games movement aspects were "linear" ... No they were not. Combat systems... Diverse not "linear" Character development... Diverse again, not "linear" Graphics... Great considering it was ps2. I don't think "Slow and cumbersome" is the absolute choice... but it was a useful tool in ff10 as it allowed strategy to be made up on the spot, almost like a game of chess (ironic that chess is slow?). FF12 probs had a better battle design, story line was incomprehensible. And i was more picking up on the point that you used the term linear. Stupid nonsensical description created for moronic dismay on games that have excellent stories.

negativeions
negativeions

@ iikefkaii: how do you have any less control over your characters in real-time combat? You have just as much control except they'll attack right away when their time comes up. You pause the action and give commands to all your characters. Do I have to explain such basic nonsense? All I'm saying is that a combat system like, say, Dragon's Age is far superior to a turn based one typical of JRPGs because turn based, and especially random encounters, are completely stupid. And what is Dragon Age? Real-time is it not? Do you not have complete control of your characters if you want to? Are people world wide complaining about how out of control they are playing it? What did that game get rated? Oh ya. @Footos_mints: you think I haven't played FFX? seriously, How is slow and cumbersome a preference? It's mentally retarded. It's like saying I prefer dog crap to chicken. You discovered chicken you don't have to eat dog crap anymore. It's over. It's obsolete. It's stupid.

iikefkaii
iikefkaii

Anyone here playing Resonance of Fate?? I'm thinking about getting started on mine tonight & was wondering what everyone thought about it since Gamespot's dragging their feet on writing the review...

sj_nehama
sj_nehama

talk about the leader dying=game over when there are 5 healthy and able people to bring him back...