GDC 07: Looking back on Final Fantasy XII

Square Enix had wanted to avoid a long development period, but things don't always work out the way you want them to...

SAN FRANCISCO--When Square Enix started work on Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2, it was determined to have a short-term turnaround for the project, according to Taku Murata, Square Enix's head of research and development.

He told a packed room at GDC during a session titled "Final Fantasy XII Postmortem" that the company had employees working on a variety of specialist subtasks. He said, "We wanted to avoid a long-term development period, [and] to solve that problem we just hired so many employees that you can't imagine." In the end, the game was five years in development.

There are three core aspects to the Final Fantasy franchise, Murata said: innovation, quality, and volume. "We thought about what we needed to focus on, and in the end we decided we needed a seamless battle system, and this was at the core [of the game]."

He added that although this might not sound like a major innovation, since many other games on the market at the time were already using this kind of system, for Final Fantasy, it was a big step with many possible pitfalls. Murata explained, "That's because role-playing is about inputting commands, so those who are not good at action games can also play."

FFXII had a huge amount of non-player characters as compared to previous installments of the franchise, Murata revealed. The game had approximately 1,000, as opposed to 300 in Final Fantasy VII, and a meager 200 in Final Fantasy X.

The number of monsters remained static, with 250 beasties in XII, the same as VII, and slightly more than the 200 in X. There were also fewer bosses than in previous games, approximately 30 in total as compared to 50 in the two previous games named.

At the end of the session, Murata referenced the announcement in January that the company would be licensing Unreal Engine 3 for future games. Murata said, "We have a team that is going to use this wonderful engine, but we need to work out how to use this to create our games," adding that the process would take some time to integrate.

He wouldn't be drawn on which particular titles Square Enix would be utilising its recently acquired engine on, except to say that an announcement would be made "soon."

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146 comments
DiSSox
DiSSox

I personally don't understand why the real-time battle system is popular. The turnbased or semi turn based battles of FFX were more strategy oriented, and less how-quickly-can-you-operate- the-action-menu=before-something-kills-you. The story is okay, but unlike previous titles, its not so engaging that it permits you to stop playing for a several weeks and still have an idea what the heck you are supposed to be doing. The story also can easily leave you without an indication of what direction to head in. Finally, this is the first FF title that I have stopped playing because the battles are unfair. I regret ever accepting the hunt for that rabbit eared woman, as the damn thing kills me every time i try to advance in the game. Ironically, when I purchased the game, I made the mistake of going to GameStop, which only carried a more expensive dual disc special edition.

Marcos91
Marcos91

Well I been playing this game, well compare to others little... around 10 hours, I like the battle system, I never played a game with this system, so it was completely new to me and is just amazing. The story really helps out a game, since the story could make you very addicting to the game and also the one that lack story could really bore you in a few hours, So Square Enix keep suprising us just like you did in this game and a lot of your other games. -----/v\@R©õ$------

Chaudzff
Chaudzff

I like the battle system, to me it was the only step FF could take forwards and i dont see any ways the system could be improved. I think FF should definetly keep menu-based battle but i think we should see a game with both turn and real-time systems.

fionndruinne
fionndruinne

There's little ground-breaking in FFXII, but there doesn't exactly need to be. But if anything is ground-breaking, it's the fully-integrated minigames. Now, many FF games have had minigames (I remember the arcades of a sort from VII, or blitzball from X), but in XII, they're behind-the-scenes. I'm talking about a) collecting the full range of espers/bosses, b) participating in the clan hunts, c) collecting trophies for particular accomplishments, and d) filling out the bestiary, by not merely killing one of every monster, but killing enough of them to provide the added "lore" information. All of these are participated in to some extent through the storyline, but completing them is optional, providing some goals which function as minigames. Also, I love the ability to jump into the game at a time when I don't really want to invest myself in the storyline for an extended time, instead just hunting down a mark, which provides about an hour's interesting diversion. And there are always enough marks to engage. I know these aren't, on the surface, minigames. But their underlying purpose is the same, and while not universally ground-breaking, it is something of a breakthrough for FF games, in my admittedly not-terribly-large experience with them.

el_rika
el_rika

FFXII is an amazing achievement in all areas, i don't mind waiting another 4 years for a game of this quality !

Sphire
Sphire

I don't mind this game, I think it warrants it's place in the franchise, I mean if you remember back to the early games, not all of them had engaging storylines, so it's a give and take sorta thing (but which surely can be improved). But the way people are saying it's combat is revolutionary is kinda funny, since there are many otehr games out there that either deal with 'random battle problems' or are more action-rpg oriented. It was a good game nonetheless, just accept that not everyone has the time needed to get through all the grinding, making people just stop. Just look at chrono cross (a square game) where battles were still turn-based, and yet no random battles. That game had I would say had a more revolutionary system than this one. But on its own, FFXII is alright, brings more people into the franchise as well.

Hikosan
Hikosan

Ok!!! This Battle System Action is slowly that other battle system I'M prefer the Traditional RPG with I'M Familiar with Traditional Battle System.

TTDog
TTDog

Cheers CMakaCreative, looks like a rent before buy job then, been playing too many Action RPG's to jump straight back into the turn based thing without testing the water first.

fionndruinne
fionndruinne

I for one am glad for the long development process for XII, for it turned out a landmark FF game. Being a perfectionist, I've always approved of taking time over these things.

ratamahat
ratamahat

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

ratamahat
ratamahat

Though there were lots of possible pitfalls as they said with the battle system, I don't think that explains the lengthy development. Wasn't there lots of internal trouble and staff quitting? Man, anyway, I'm so happy we got to see this game reach the shelves...

CMakaCreative
CMakaCreative

TTDog & ChowLee 88, there definitely monsters on the field of sight in XII. No more walking into invisible enemies (unless they really are invisible). You can chose to pick a fight or not. The battle system is a love it or hate it thing. If you hate turn base but like to command everything you're party does, you can do it or just enter pre-programed commands so your party fights, heals, use black magic on their own, given the situation. Not as complex as it sounds (though you will have to fiddle with it every now & then). Personally, it didn't sound so good to me at first but by the end of the game, it just felt right & couldn't see playing the game any other way. But I know there are people who just hated the battle system. I say rent it & give it a try. Especially if you don't like random battles.

SephirothZero
SephirothZero

In this day and age the usual FF fan is nothing more than a group of people who never think that the FF games could have been worse I mean come on if you think you could do better then why not try to put yourself in the creators and designers shoes how about the musicians and script writers these people work hard to bring a good title and or series to us if you think it's starting to get dull and boring im sure there are other RPG's out there but if you claim to be an FF fan or the like why is it you are not satisfied with the hard work of square enix I do admit they have their bad moments but all in all the titles are solid and if something sucked so badly it wouldn't be popular so tell me why is it that it is popular ? it's because people like me or the small group of people that consider themselves to be true FF fans that dont bash the game depending on certain aspects see the real beauty in the work of all the people who help create the game its truely saddening to see so many people talk down on it but like i said if you dont like the way they are headed there are other RPG's my favorites include Tales of destiny series and some others if you think really hard about this one way or another all RPG's will take this path when technology advances so does everything else.

ChowLee_88
ChowLee_88

I've only played FFX and I finished it back when it was still knew and thought it was a boring game partly because of what ttdog said about walking through fields and that then a battle appearing out of thin air. turn based combat sucks too its too slow. FFX was also a like walking around in a daze which made it a bit dull like walking around in a dream where nothing happens for ages like the roads and grassy plains i hate so much. A straight road can also be compared to the story in that you don't really have any control over what direction it goes in. open ended rpgs are better. and can anyone tell me if FFXII is any better than FFX?

TTDog
TTDog

"crithon: that's really unsatisfying. I wish they would talk more about the director, Yasumi Matsuno, who suddenly left halfway through production" Presumably there was more said than was reported here, which amounts to little more than trotting out dull facts and figures, you'd have thought that the director's resignation would have been covered in a lot more detail, and possibly include the reasons they believe were behind his departure, whether this was because he didn't agree witht the way it was heading or something else. At least the game he started development of after he'd left (Blue Dragon, worth a look) is set to hit the shelves in May/June and obviously hasn't taken so long to produce as FF12. Finally, I have been trying to find an answer to this for a while but seem to have just come up against a wall ot retards, back when I play Ff7 and FF10 I got really annoyed with running along a road or across a grassy plain, with NOTHING in sight anywhere and then suddenly I'm thrust into a battle situation against creatures that have appeared from nowhere... does this happen in FF12?

crithon
crithon

that's really unsatisfying. I wish they would talk more about the director, Yasumi Matsuno, who suddenly left halfway through production and also created FFTactics and Vagrant Story. Why they cut back on the story in FFXII compared to other Square titles, development of the combat design, lack of direction within the game, their faults, and their goals with their new Ivalice Alliance. I don't really care about the use Unreal engine 3, I really want to knnow what they learned from developing FFXII. Isn't that what a Postmortem is about?

OpalDecept
OpalDecept

Ah, I remember the good old days where there was a new Fantasy every year. Are you telling me we'll have to wait 5+ years for a new FF?

raziellich
raziellich

My lord. Do most people who like Final Fantasy have a taste for Days of Our Lives or something? That's all X was. A soap opera rip off. At least XII tried to be about something else.

gamermasterwiz
gamermasterwiz

Well I can't believe the FF fans don't like the storyline. No offence FFXII players especially those who didn't like the storyline but I believe that it might be you who is screwing the game's great interest. I mean FFX and FFX-2 are kind of about love stories and the characters in the game kind of look like Japanese people. What the creators tried to do is to give FF a new flavour with different nationalities and different parts of the story and I kind of liked it how they made the characters look more European than Asian because they want Final Fantasy to not just symbolise or make the JPs stand out to their look but also to recognise how cool and stylish Europeans can be. They may be moving a little out of the "cool catches" in this series but I believe that the producer is just adding other flavours to the series. Look what I am trying to tell those who didn't like the storyline is that FF is just adding exotic flavour into the game. From what I have seen so far in the game is that they have made FFXII's style look like Prince of Persia and Ages of Empires combined with some JP blends it made the game look cool What I have to say to some of you who said that this game was a screw up chill.This FF is the very first one in PS2 to not have a love story as for those who have FF Advances you will realise that not all FFs started out as a love story. Basically I think that you guys are just sort of have grown too attached to the old Final Fantasies. I know that there had been many changes of style and stories made but lets just give FFXII a chance?

_JPH_
_JPH_

FF XII is a good game. I mean i enjoyed the Battle System (like FF XI), and it had stunning graphics, but the storyline OMG did they screw it up? I mean FF games were popular for its storyline. I enjoyed the storyline of all FFs except FF12. Even FFX-2 has a bit good storyline. They screwed it up 100% in FFXII. Although it's a good game, it doesn't come near FFX. I even played FFX again after playing FFXII.

ChocoboHater2
ChocoboHater2

I can't believe they spent 5 years on that game. Obviously they didn't spend that time writing an engaging story.

DeathMerchant80
DeathMerchant80

this game was horrible compared to the other final fantasy games, if yor gonna make battles real time then dont try and keep the same old basics as well like waiting to attack and i dont think the liscence grid wasnt smart either (deja vu on how stupid the sphere grid was on 10)

Abed_1990
Abed_1990

i don't care what anyone is gonna say this game rocks!!!!!

Lightbarier
Lightbarier

Ok will that made very little scence at all.

zenithplacidity
zenithplacidity

Silicon_Noob "The FF XII crew should have spent less time creating 1000 npc's and more time writing the core storey.......Don't ya hate it when you spend FIVE years developing a game only to forget to write it's storey at the last minute." Don't you hate it when you don't know how to spell the word story?

Chatotic
Chatotic

Nonononono. The three main aspects of Final Fantasy are Turn Based Battles, Storyline and Music! All 3 of which XII screwed up. God DAMMIT.

Lonewolftom87
Lonewolftom87

Silicon_Noob STFU man, It's amazing game much better than X, which Is see is you Display Picture. Go replay X after playing XII and you will see it for yourself!

Bavoke
Bavoke

atleast they don't have to make an engine for there future games, the unreal engine has amazing graphics in-game and that in combination whit there cut-scéne engine their future games just have to be amazing, i hope too see some real good games coming out on the PS3 :) Bavoke 8)

Windblade91
Windblade91

unreal is good but they got the white engine which is just as good.

guardianlegend7
guardianlegend7

Woah Unreal Engine 3 must be pretty awesome if it can be th engine for a big FF-like RPG.

Silicon_Noob
Silicon_Noob

Well i'm sorry professor if my spelling doth offend.

hiimfletcher
hiimfletcher

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Silicon_Noob
Silicon_Noob

The FF XII crew should have spent less time creating 1000 npc's and more time writing the core storey.......Don't ya hate it when you spend FIVE years developing a game only to forget to write it's storey at the last minute.

theKSMM
theKSMM

It's interesting to me that gamers can get so excited by the possibility of their favorite franchise using the Unreal Engine 3. That's a testament to the strength of that engine and the Unreal name.

esplender
esplender

Whether Square uses large or little number of crews making the game, still they produce such a nice, inviting, playable, and masterpiece game. Final Fantasy XII really teases your eyes, ears, and heart, although there are some lacks in battle system (with this system, magics and curses aren't usable enough compared to the melee attacks). About Unreal Engine 3, i'm looking forward to see that engine works. If it can produces fine games, than it works for me.

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

I think that the Unreal Engine 3, will just have parts of it taken out and mixed into the white engine (or the other way aaround) 'cos they wouldn't spend all that time making the white engine just to ditch it... then agian they could just be using the white engine on some other games for the Xbox 360 or somethin since they havn't said what they will be using it for yet. C0smosis said: 'It baffles me as to why people want an FF7 remake... no offence but it really isn't that great a game by a long way for today's standards.' your kinda shootin yourself in the foot with that statement... you pretty much gave the reason why it should have a remake, plus they have remade FF3 and have had 1-6 put onto different platforms... i think it would be great anywho yeah FFXII was worth the wait, i'm still enjoying it 2 weeks after the release (lol, not that thats a long time, but i think it will bring enjoyment to me for a long wile yet to come, after this courseworks done!!!)

Lonewolftom87
Lonewolftom87

This is interesting, I wish the lecture was recorded I would of liked to of seen the whole thing. I didn't know that Square where working on XII for so long. I knew it was in the pipeline for a long time but not five years. 1,000 NPC's is an amazing leap from 300, it really shows how far the series has come. XII is a great game, I recommend you pick it up.

kicksjustsilly
kicksjustsilly

The wait for it to get to Europe did become annoying. But the game was well worth the wait in my opinion.

titus124
titus124

They still are using the 'White Engine' I think, I HOPE!!!

anamnawshad
anamnawshad

What happened to the 'White Engine' :?

c0zmosis
c0zmosis

It baffles me as to why people want an FF7 remake... no offence but it really isn't that great a game by a long way for today's standards. It's like Half-Life; in it's time, the best by miles, and years ahead of it's time - but pretty bland by the standard of what there is today. It's appreciable how when playing it, yes, it was amazing and people have a special place in their hearts for FF7 - that is where it should stay. It would just insult it and all the other games since to remake it when some of the others have been pretty damn good too, and in my personal opinion, better. None have been quite as impactful/groundbreaking as FF7, but more than half have been better.

rpgisforme
rpgisforme

Like the others I love the FF franchise. I wish the games didn't take so long to come out but if the trade off is games that continue to be so awesome I'll deal with it. I was very upset when I heard that they had changed the battle system but now that I have had a chance to try it out. I think it's a good change. Here's to hoping we never see a final, Final Fantasy

CitizenGeek
CitizenGeek

Well, FFXII tuend out great. I wish it wouldn;t have taken so long to get to Europe, but regardless it was well worth the wait.

molobok
molobok

I remember reading something that they are developing a 'white engine' for ff13... but it mentions 'unreal endine 3'. Are they the same?

dragonbattousai
dragonbattousai

Final Fantasy XII was alright. I already experienced a similiar battle system in Final Fantasy XI, but the story was a little too Star Wars like. Still, it had great chracters, graphics and everything, but the music wasn't Uemetsu. I am looking forward to Final Fantasy XII though because I read an article on the battle system and I am excited to see it in action.

rockko666
rockko666

I dont care for these long projects...as long as they turn out to be as good as this.

RoC1909
RoC1909

A company makes changes of ANY sort to a storied franchise and of course, you are going to have the haters come out and nitpick it to pieces. They took a chance and in my eyes, worked out great. All these others who hate change, go find another game to play. I don't mind it in the least.

Ineedtofindyou
Ineedtofindyou

The battle system was superb, leave it to square to make magic and summons absolutely worthless as a result of this battle system. Healing and offence is all you really need.

fs_metal
fs_metal

Final Fantasy XII is, without a doubt one of the best games in the series. The story, characters, music, scripting, voice acting, directing and graphics were all fantastic. This game even got the gameplay right. FFXII has the best gameplay of hte entire series. It doesn't get tedious like random battles tend to do. I loved that about it. The gambit system was brilliant as well