Q&A: Final Fantasy XII producer Akitoshi Kawazu

As the much-awaited PlayStation 2 RPG's release approaches, the Square Enix producer assures GameSpot it will be "worth the wait."

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Akitoshi Kawazu took over as producer on Final Fantasy XII in August 2005 after the original producer and director, Yasumi Matsuno, had to leave the project due to health problems. One of the original founders of the hugely successful Final Fantasy RPG series, in 1988 Kawazu moved on to create the SaGa series. He's also currently working as executive producer for the upcoming code-named Final Fantasy Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers for the Nintendo Wii and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates for the Nintendo DS.

GameSpot sat down for a chat with Kawazu during his whirlwind visit to the UK.

GameSpot: Was it difficult to take over a project partway through?

Akitoshi Kawazu: Yeah, it definitely was difficult. While it's not at all unusual to help out on a number of different projects, to come in at a producer-level role and oversee things was definitely something that was hard to do. That having been said, the original directors that were there from the beginning of the game, Ito-san and Minagawa-san, did a great job and since I only had to oversee the general flow of the project, and they were there doing such a wonderful job--that did make my job a lot easier.

GS: Can you take us through the high and the low points of the project?

AK: It's probably something that's true of a lot of projects in general, not just Final Fantasy XII, at the early stages of the project of course everyone's raring to go, and everyone's excited about what they're going to be working on. Then as time passes, you start to fall into a routine and it starts to become more of a daily grind and up until the point where you have an actual playable version of the game that you can see, people's motivation starts to fall off quite a bit.

You can even hear people blame each other, you know, it's your fault that we haven't got this done yet, or it's your fault that we haven't got that done yet...But once you actually get that first [playable code] and you can touch it and play it and see the fruits of your labor, then from that point on the motivation really starts to pick back up again, which is really useful in getting through that last push because the very end stages of a game are very difficult. But because you can start playing it and realize that it's actually turning into a good game, that gives you the extra bit of motivation to cross the finish line.

GS: Was there any point where the project seemed like it had just got too much, where you were overwhelmed and worried that you wouldn't be able to finish it?

AK: Certainly. Since the project was very long, there were times when just about everyone couldn't really see the end in sight, and so part of my role as producer is to go in there and say well, as long as you work on your area and do the things that we need you to do, then we will be able to finish and see it through to the end.

GS: How did working on Final Fantasy compare to working on SaGa games?

AK: Well, coming in as a producer halfway through, the biggest difference really between FFXII and working on the SaGa titles is as a producer my role is very much to make sure that the project as a whole is going smoothly and everything that needs to be done is getting done. On the SaGa titles, where I was a director, I was much more involved with the game itself, working on the systems of the game and the gameplay and all of those details, but in the producer role, I'm really just overseeing the project in general so there are other people there that are working on the game itself.

GS: Do you feel more attached to a project when you are the director?

AK: Certainly as a game creator myself, I'm very interested in seeing my own things show up in the game. But as a producer for FFXII, I was very careful not to let that happen--I didn't want my own likes and dislikes to show up in this game. I was there to make sure that the people making the game were able to get the things that they wanted to see into the game. So, there is that difference.

GS: Is there anything extra in the European version of FFXII?

AK: From a feature perspective the biggest addition to the overseas versions is of course the 16:9 screen support. As for scenes, there was one scene that was added because for ratings issues in Japan we couldn't have the scene there and get the rating that we wanted, and that's been restored for the European and North American versions. And there were also several scenes that were added because we didn't have time to finish them up for the Japanese version, so with the additional time we had during the localization period, we were able to add those in.

GS: Can you tell us about the contents of the scene that you originally cut to get a lower rating in Japan?

AK: It's a scene where Penelo, who has been kidnapped by some characters in the game, and at the time right before the Japanese release there were various incidents in the real world which...basically there were some similarities there that would have made it a difficult thing to release at the lower age rating that we wanted.

GS: Why did you make the decision to move away from the turn-based systems of previous Final Fantasy games to a real-time system?

AK: The real driving design philosophy behind the game is to have players exploring a world, and so in the same way that walking around a town you see people standing around, we wanted there to be the same experience if you're going through a desert and you see monsters roaming the desert, you know, and walking about as they naturally would, and so since that was the type of gameplay that they wanted to provide to the players, a real-time battle system that got rid of random encounters seemed to be the way to go.

GS: What do you personally think of the general shift away from turn-based gameplay in RPGs?

AK: I think it is fair to say that in general you do see more real-time type of games these days than the more traditional random-encounters style. As to the games that we're making, though, basically depending on what particular experience we want to provide, if we think that a game system with random encounters is more appropriate, then that's something that we will continue to make. And similarly, if the experience that we want to give the player would be better suited with a real-time encounter system, then that's what we will continue to do, too.

GS: Can you tell us about the license board and how the thinking came about for that?

AK: The battle director, Ito-san, wanted a system that gave the player a lot of freedom to develop characters how they wanted to but at the same time keep it from becoming overly complicated, so by putting it into a board layout and giving the player a visual cue to see which direction they were developing a character in, he felt he was able to strike a good balance between the freedom. That is something he likes to give the players in their development and also complements ability, which is very important, as well.

GS: Why is it going to take so long to get to Europe?

AK: The main reason is it's just that there are so many different languages that they need to localize it for, and if they were coming from a standpoint where, well, we can release the UK version first because the English is already done, then yeah, it might be possible to release it a little bit sooner, but they really want to release it simultaneously over here, so...

GS: Did the budget for the game ever get out of control?

AK: Well, any Final Fantasy title is of course going to have a rather large budget, so for whoever the producer is, there's certainly a lot of pressure associated with that, and basically all you can do at that point is really hope and pray that the final product turns out well.

GS: What is the average time it would take a player to complete the game?

AK: If they don't go too far off the beaten path away from the story, maybe about 70 hours.

GS: Can you tell us a little about the DS and the Wii Final Fantasy Chronicles projects?

AK: We'll have a release coming out for the Crystal Chronicles for the Wii soon, but in the mean time, of course Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for the GameCube was kind of an experiment in multiplayer gaming for the Final Fantasy series and the version of the game we're working on for the Wii is again looking to provide a game experience that we haven't been able to in the past in the series, something approaching a real-time kind of gaming.

GS: Can you tell us anything about Final Fantasy XIII?

AK: No. (Laughs)

GS: Do you have a message for fans of the series who have been waiting to play Final Fantasy XII?

AK: We're sorry that it has taken as long as it has to get the game out and to you, but we hope when you get your hands on it and see the sheer volume of material that's in the game and the quality of the game itself, that you'll feel it was worth the wait.

Discussion

138 comments
businessfox
businessfox

I must say that this was a really cool and interesting piece of info people, I like the things I saw on the interview with Akitoshi Kawazu man... I just hope if he going to make a Final Fantasy 14 that he make it have a really cool futuristic look to the cities and allot of hot ass female characters with full of sexiness for my eyes lol.

Cloud737
Cloud737

Best interview I ever read. Akitoshi Kawazu (as well as other great japanese producers) is my hero. :D

gforce2588
gforce2588

What does it matter whether Japanese or Western style RPGs had more influence over the game? As far as most people (excluding fanboys that swing hardcore one way or the other) are concerned, the only thing that truly matters is the content of the actual game. Having played through FFVII, VIII, IX, and X, I personally feel that the series may have traded some of the fun factor in favor a more linear storyline in FFX. I've never played FFXI, so I have nothing to say about it based on experience but from what others tell me, XI sucks since a lot of its features are better implemented in other (mostly western, for the record) RPGs. I'm not too sure about the gambit system and the license board, but I actually enjoyed the sphere grid from X, and the initial reviews by GameSpot on the combat system seem to be pretty good. As long as this makes up for the long wait and the abomination that was X-2, consider me a happy FF player.

IndieRock13
IndieRock13

lol... it's funny how you can find an argument on pretty much any forum, including the comments on an interview with the producer of a game. Honestly though, Final Fantasy wouldn't exist without Ultima and other western rpgs, just like Illumination said. However, the first Final Fantasy was really going to be the only one until it became so popular, and it became so popular because of it's unique gameplay that was so much different than western rpgs. A lot of people just prefer the Japanese rpg style. A lot also swear by Western rpgs. I don't think you can say that jrpgs are more popular, because that isn't really true. Fans of Final Fantasy do tend to be fanatical which makes it seem like jrpgs have a bigger audience, but it's not really true. I love both styles of games. I loved Oblivion and am having a great time in Dark Messiah right now. I'll be in line for FFXII tonight. The only thing I don't like about rpgs goes for both styles: they take so much time and are so in depth, and there's so many of them that I never end up finishing them all =/

daichanrox
daichanrox

So how long is the actual play time on this game? I remember when I played FFX, I put in easily over 120 hours into it. But then again, I maxed every character out and defeated every single monster in that game.

Built
Built

hey man.. i dont care about all dis influence crap... as long as i get a great game its all good.. BRING ON THE GAMES!!!!

True_Sephiroth8
True_Sephiroth8

"did ANYONE bother reading the part where I said KOTOR & FF11 combat systems are a variation of combat systems used by western rpg's since 1988? Square & the Japanease did NOT invent the combat system used in games like ff 11, ff12 etc but in fact got the idea for it from WESTERN rpg's that you fanboys wonty even look at cause they dont have half-naked anime girls & whiney metrosexual 12 year old boys as their hereos... FF12's combat system, which is IDENTICAL to KOTOR is nothing more then a real-time version of turned based strategy games, which I Might add has been in use in western rpg's since the old SSI- Pool of Radience series of D&D rpg's & Buck Rogers RPG since the late 80's. Square did NOT invent this combat system Your beloved square is directly influenced by western rpg's. If it wasn't for Ultima & Wizardry FInal Fantasy would NOT exist GET OVER IT" ^Moron.

Kwzy
Kwzy

best game of the year for sure

Eclipse83Lives
Eclipse83Lives

So the game that was the only game out of 5 total in Japans history of gamming. To get a perfect score over are entire life span of gamming. Is finally about here. Game of the year in Japan. Will see now wont we? Should be good at the vary vary least.

vercetti_dude2
vercetti_dude2

I'm a bit dubious about the new battle system and free camera system. It may turn out good, but something about staring at a boss's feet and not seeing the impressive visual effects of his special moves nags at me. You may call me weird, but I seriously liked the fixed cameras. Oh well, change CAN be good.

Illumination77
Illumination77

The ONLY thing I said is that FF12 has a very obvious western influence to it. Unless you're a blind japanease-only fanboy I don't see why you'd get offended by it. I meant it as a compliment cause ff12 inplimented a combat system I happen to enjoy very very much surrounded by the best of what jrpg's have to offer. And right now in 2006 WRPG's are MUCH more popular then jrpg's or did you not notice that KOTOR, Morrowind, Oblivion & World of Warcraft have outsold almost every JRPG ever sold except the final fantasy games? You do know that jrpg's are a niche genre right? The only thing going on here is all you fanboys taking it as apersonal offence that japanease game developers sometimes look to western games for influence...and as for why they dont mention it? Game develoeprs rarely mention where they're coming from. ESPECIALLY when they come from places that aren't even remotly popular in their native country.

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

RE: Illumination77 Maybe western RPGs did have somewhat of a inspiration for japanese RPGs, but I've never heard a director speak about one yet. And even then, they deserve to get absolute credit for making the gameplay accessible and fun for everyone to enjoy. And that's what true innovation is really about. You prefer western RPGs, that's fine. I find nothing wrong with them, and in fact I loved Wizardry 8 and a few others. The bottomline is that although they implent a lot of gameplay elements, they weren't executed very well, at least for the casual gamer. So, it's time that you get over it. Get over the fact that JRPGs have a much larger audience than WRPGs, that they usually get more credit, and that they're more often fun to play. I'm not saying one is superior over another. WRPGs and JRPGs playout and feel very differently from each other. The end result, are two respective audiences that the genres aim toward. So, Illumination77, get over that fact and be proud of who you are, instead of trying to degrade the other and make the other sound superiour in all rights. There's no shame in being a WRPG lover, it's very respectable. So, please, don't show your blind prejudice comments like FFXII's combat system is identical to KOTOR. They may not be on the opposite ends of the spectrum but calling them identical is a bit unfair.

urbanlegend13
urbanlegend13

Such a long wait... for such a good looking game. I'm so excited to see how critics will review it next week !

dnzperson
dnzperson

Illumination77 - WHO CARES, You get over it and let everybody else enjoy themselves. Can't wait for this game, bummer it's gonna be Feb 2007 before I get it.

Illumination77
Illumination77

did ANYONE bother reading the part where I said KOTOR & FF11 combat systems are a variation of combat systems used by western rpg's since 1988? Square & the Japanease did NOT invent the combat system used in games like ff 11, ff12 etc but in fact got the idea for it from WESTERN rpg's that you fanboys wonty even look at cause they dont have half-naked anime girls & whiney metrosexual 12 year old boys as their hereos... FF12's combat system, which is IDENTICAL to KOTOR is nothing more then a real-time version of turned based strategy games, which I Might add has been in use in western rpg's since the old SSI- Pool of Radience series of D&D rpg's & Buck Rogers RPG since the late 80's. Square did NOT invent this combat system Your beloved square is directly influenced by western rpg's. If it wasn't for Ultima & Wizardry FInal Fantasy would NOT exist GET OVER IT

fatal_dmc99
fatal_dmc99

hell ... kotor. square made the system with vagrant story all the fools in the world sigh

Sheiko
Sheiko

Yay only 4 more days!

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

same... but if he says its worth the wait then i'll go along with him... in the meantime we can wait for dirge of cerberus lol

diablo1000000
diablo1000000

Live in the UK... have to wait till 23rd Feb 2007 to get this. *sigh*

Illumination77
Illumination77

Martinistubs I never once said FF11 ripped off KOTOR I said ff12 stole the combat system from KOTOR cause it did. KOTOR wasnt even the first game to use that system. As I said variations of that ff11/ KOTOR combat system have been used by western games as far back as the late 80's. And Baldurs Gate another bioware game uses again almost the same combat system as ff12 & KOTOR back in 1997/8. So no matter how you cut it square is now ripping off western companies game ideas & the fanboys are giving them sole credit for it. I found the ff12 demo to be a good mix of eastern & western rpg design.

Nawras
Nawras

70 hours! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!

MartiniStubs
MartiniStubs

Illumination77 KarlzoneX - I did know of the similarities to FF11 however in NA i'm pretty sure KOTOR came out BEFORE FF11 and in any event i played the demo that came with dragon quest 8 so I know what i'm talking baout when I say the combat system is IDENTICAL to KOTOR, which pc rpg's have been using variations of since atleast 1988 (pool of radience...turn-based strategy combat). Cause it is. What ff12 & KOTOR do is fool you into thinking combat is real-time when it isn't. Well considering Final Fantasy 11 (well all FF games) came out first in Japan on May 16, 2002 on PS2 and KOTOR came out on Jul 17, 2003 on Xbox, I'm pretty sure FFXI did NOT rip off KOTOR in any way. Plus FFXII battle system is based off FFXI (even the interface is the same expect a few tweaks). So your little rip off theory is just gone. Heck you could even say KOTOR ripped off FFXI or any other game that has a similar fighting system. Next time, get your facts straight before posting. Just because a game was released in NA before another game got remade into NA, doesn't make it made before the other game.

rynmls
rynmls

i already playing this game...

lilmp89
lilmp89

I preorded the collectors edition. I can't wait!....it's so close!

doomed51
doomed51

CANT WAIT!!!! been waiting for this game soooo long

Platyphyllum
Platyphyllum

Hmm? What the....It's October 26 already!?!? Wow, I didn't realize Final Fantasy XII was so close to release already.

GhostyMcboo
GhostyMcboo

AS much as I love the combat in 11, the game is BOOOORRRRRING... I think I only play it because I love the series. And the fact that it's less fruity than 10. (GOD, I hate Tidus... and 10-2? WTF was that?) And chocobo raising. But if 12 is anything like KOTOR then I'm sold--both on gameplay and story...and I won't have to PAY MONTHLY for something more tedious than a REAL JOB.

Illumination77
Illumination77

KarlzoneX - I did know of the similarities to FF11 however in NA i'm pretty sure KOTOR came out BEFORE FF11 and in any event i played the demo that came with dragon quest 8 so I know what i'm talking baout when I say the combat system is IDENTICAL to KOTOR, which pc rpg's have been using variations of since atleast 1988 (pool of radience...turn-based strategy combat). Cause it is. What ff12 & KOTOR do is fool you into thinking combat is real-time when it isn't. Its funny, I can't stand ff7 cause it was nothing BUT cut-sccenes & mini-games with ZERO role playing elements. Ff8-10-2 I loved cause they didnt force the mini-games on you ike 7 did and the characters were actually interesting.

Game-o_O
Game-o_O

GameSpot, send me a free version :p.

bob_dartagnan
bob_dartagnan

gimme! gimme! gimme! gimme! NOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!! Is it freaking Tuesday yet?!

ffgothic
ffgothic

would it just come out already so I could play it!?

djtono4444
djtono4444

this game.. this game... THIS GAME IS DRIVIN ME CRAZY! CRAZYYYEEIIAuuauaudaldkjkJbjghjkfansklhzgzxklñhzdgbmfklzshfks

Digital-Hero
Digital-Hero

Check out the North American trailer on the official site. The voicing for Vaan and Basch are pretty fitting in my opinion. It makes me want the game a little more actually. www.finalfantasyxii.com

c_bass
c_bass

I just can't wait any more. My pre-order reciept is burning a hole in my pocket!!

Digital-Hero
Digital-Hero

lextexrex says, I saw KH designs and screenshots before FFX even released. They were in development around the same time, just FFX was 1 year ahead in development.

imbacon
imbacon

-o-o-o-o-o-o-ox, Someone's never played a W-rpg.

lextexrex
lextexrex

Uh, KH came AFTER FFX. I mean Tidus was in the fricken game. Sorry, just clarifying to a few.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-ox
-o-o-o-o-o-o-ox

Seventy (70) hours just for the main game, and that is without sidequests. Hoooolllllyyy....shnup.:|

NandoSupes
NandoSupes

my favorite is FF6 without a doubt one of the best, if not the best ever , great story and characters

wild_world_girl
wild_world_girl

Digital-Hero: I agree with all that - FFX didn't have an overworld map as much as just a list of warp destinations. I think that if people played FFX first and became FF fans, they would be in for a huge trreat if they went back and played FFVII-FFIX (and perhaps even FFVand FFVI if they were really diligent) I think that the peole who say "my favorite was FFIII, or FF1" are kind of name-dropping at that point. I don't think it is much of a debate that the PS Final Fantasies are superior - even if it doesn make me look like a newbie! (and yes, I have played them all!)

TintedChimes
TintedChimes

battle system sucks, need a review or more hands on time.

xVxObliVioNxVx
xVxObliVioNxVx

The battle system can be compared to a number of games. But I believe that the battle system was mostly influenced by Vagrant Story. Anyone who has played Vagrant Story and the FFXII demo knows this. And yes I have played FFXI and it is not as similar to FFXII as Vagrant Story. Plus keep in mind that the original developers of Vagrant Story made FFXII.

KarlZoneX
KarlZoneX

Illumination77: Actually, the battle system is similar to Final Fantasy XI, but you probably wouldn't know that. However, FFXI came out a year before KOTOR did, so you really can't say those things. Anyway, let's hope FF12 is decent. I personally couldn't stand FF8-10.. too many cutscenes and minigames forced in for my tastes.

gtrslinger
gtrslinger

I don't know about this game. I"ve played the demo's and played it at E3 and i HATE the battle system. It's just horrible. Plus the game doesn't look that good. And this guy made the utterly crappy Saga series. Personally this game isn't making me go FINALLY ANOTHER FF YEAH! In anyway, i'm kind of in the "pass" mode right now.

Digital-Hero
Digital-Hero

wild_world_girl says, Heh, I have been a fan since FF4, but I believe FFX is where some problems began. If you look at FFX it was the first one to really start straying from the roots. FF9 is the last FF game that I got excited for and was pleased after beating it. My Problems: 1. No true overworld map. (The one in the airship was totally lame and halfa**ed) 2. Series veteran music composer only contributed a few tracks. (Nobuo Uematsu) 3. The Battle System had a uneeded modification which allowed players to switch during battle. This also made the game easy. I guess that is what happens when they let a guy who worked on the Front Mission games design the battle system. 4. The character designs were a little uninspired. Tidus looked like Squall, Sion, and Sora all put in one. 5. The game had this radar/map on the HUD which pointed the player in every direction that they needed to go. It was almost like someone was holding the players hand. Conclusion: I'm not saying I hate FFX, but I truly think that if people became a fan from FFX, they are kidding themselves IMHO.

Lion_heart_
Lion_heart_

@kagemand, you forgot the Germans and the French. They get dubbing. Thats what is taking time... Damn it, we have to wait till March 2007 before we get this game. And extras? Blah, no black borders. As if I care! The cutscenes will have borders, so whats the use of removing them ingame... I really dont understand it... especially since that is all we get... for all this waiting, we get removed borders... I want a Bonus DVD or something. Something like US gets!! *desperate FF fanboy*