Final Fantasy XV has been in development for 11 years and undergone a number of reworks--from a new name to more drastic changes to its combat mechanics. Development began with the series' longtime producer and character designer Tetsuya Nomura at the helm. However, directing duties were later transferred to Hajime Tabata, whose previous work includes spin-offs such as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Type-0.
Of course, this tumultuous development cycle has resulted in multiple delays. On August 15, Square Enix confirmed Final Fantasy XV required an extra two months of development time. At Gamescom 2016, we spoke to Tabata about what this extra time affords the development team, as well as whether Square Enix intends to follow up with further games set in the same universe--as it did with Final Fantasy XIII--and more.
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You recently delayed the game and previously indicated you were working on a day one patch. Could you tell us specifically what the contents of the patch are and why you felt it was necessary to take that extra time?
It's not that I'm saying patches are bad or that I'm against patches, and originally we were intending on dealing with adjustments and fixes via a day one patch, but I actually changed my opinion on that. I felt that what we were going to put into the patch would be much better to put into the disc for [release].
What we're actually going to do in this two months is fix a number of issues that affect the usability and playability of the game. Things like bugs that affect the visuals and some areas where the optimization process wasn't as good as it could have been. The second major thing we're going to do is reassess and fine-tune the balance of the gameplay.
The game has had a lengthy and rocky development; do you feel like the multiple delays may have coloured the opinion of it, even before it's release?
Obviously we were prepared for people to say various things when we made this decision. We understand that people will [say things] and it is very bad to keep people waiting. Ultimately we made this game to give people the best experience that we possibly could. We feel that if we didn't do that and do everything we absolutely could, it'd be a shame and it would leave people feeling wronged. That's why we made the decision and we are confident in what we're doing.
When Final Fantasy XIII came out, its battle system was very different from what fans had come to expect. It was more active, action game-like. There was a lot of pushback towards that. Have you seen the opinion towards that style of combat change and what has been the response to Final Fantasy XV's continuation of it?
I understand that there are people who are concerned and have negative opinions about the changes in the Final Fantasy series' systems, and certainly about Final Fantasy XV's. It's also undeniable that it's part of the DNA of the series to challenge ourselves and try new things, to make explorations within the genre itself. Certainly with Final Fantasy XV, we've been trying to update and change the technology base that powers Final Fantasy games. Then to provide new gameplay experiences made possible because of that new technological benchmark. [Final Fantasy XV's] gameplay is very much part of that. We're aiming to make it a game that can be played and enjoyed by both classic Final Fantasy fans and new people who have just come into it. I really want to reassure people that we've got that classic Final Fantasy feel. We very much strive to keep that in there. I recommend just playing it and finding out what's still very much Final Fantasy about it.
It struck me that a lot of the video material we've seen about it doesn't emphasise the intricacies of battle, such as magic and team-up attacks, immediately. You have to really dig into that yourself because it's layered in and revealed at a slow pace. Are you worried people may think it's just not there?
We have taken a lot of different opportunities up until now, and also up until release, then after release, to showcase the different features and those classic Final Fantasy elements we think people will want to see in the game. Hopefully that will help get across that we have got those in the game.
The other thing I want people to bear in mind is a lot of the development staff that worked on Final Fantasy XV are people that worked on classic Final Fantasy [titles]. People each have their favourites, some like Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and it's the same people who made these trying to challenge themselves to do new and exciting things within what they think of as Final Fantasy. Hopefully that should reassure people that it really is a classic Final Fantasy, it's made by the same people with the same love and attention.
In previous interviews you've said this game is a make-or-break moment for Final Fantasy franchise. Now that you're essentially finished, is it a make or a break? Where do you see Final Fantasy in five or 10 years time?
I don't think whether Final Fantasy XV does well or not will kill the franchise or keep it living. I don't think it's really going to mean that. But certainly there are a number of things already clear that Final Fantasy XV will bring to the future of the franchise. To give you a few examples of that, first of all the fact that we're bring it out as a global simultaneous launch. I think in the future that will really be what Final Fantasy does. Secondly is the number of languages and regions that the game is localised for, we should carry on doing that. Then of course the technology used to power Final Fantasy XV means that we can depict and create game experiences that the series just couldn't have done before. I think that's going to shape the future of the Final Fantasy series.
That sounds like the path that Final Fantasy XIII took. The Lightning Trilogy was a way of using all the work put into the game and leveraging it to get the most out of that effort. It was a good business decision. Does that mean we can expect more stories in the Final Fantasy XV universe and do you want to tell more Noctis stories?
To answer the question of whether we have any intention of making further games with Noctis in them after or continuing the story after Final Fantasy XV is out, I can tell you we don't currently have any plans for that. There may be a call for it business-wise, but personally from our point of view, the way we see it is there are people that have been waiting for this game for a very long time now, and we want them to keep enjoying it for as long as possible. In terms of what we want to do with the technology, we want to use that technological foundation that we've built up with Final Fantasy XV and move on to do something completely new using that knowhow and that base. We're going to look into new directions with it.
I felt that what we were going to put into the patch would be much better to put into the disc for [release]
I'm interested in the challenges you faced as someone who came into the project part of the way through. It started with Nomura-san at the helm, then you came in and you have your own style. What were the difficulties you faced picking up someone else's work and did you feel like you may not have been able to express what you wanted fully?
When I took over the project I felt that because we'd already made a promise to the fanbase out there with Versus XIII, it was really Square Enix's responsibility to deliver on that project. There was no doubt in my mind when I took over the project that we needed to do this. We don't [think someone should trace around another creative vision]. That's not a good way of doing it because, obviously, two [different] people can't share the same vision.
When I started approaching what to keep in and what to take out, I started thinking [about] everything that we'd already presented to the world with Versus XIII that would work within my new vision of Final Fantasy XV[, all that] was kept with no problem. Anything that would have been difficult to keep in there or couldn't, I cut out. I really tried to make the best use of all the original elements from Verus within Final Fantasy XV. It was a really challenging way to approach it but I think in the end it was the best way and worthwhile.
Fairly early on in the game you find a book with the name of some Summons in there. Are those all the Summons that will be in the game or are there some beyond those? My favorite ones weren't there, which bummed me out, so I was wondering if they would appear later on down the line.
I understand that every time someone approaches a new Final Fantasy game it's a very difficult decision to choose which Summons to include and which to cut out. All the fans out there have favorites and ones they want to see, so it was a difficult decision. I'm sure all the previous creators have faced this as well, but when I approached which ones to put in Final Fantasy XV, I really felt I wanted to include Summons that could be a solid part of a story that are meaningful within the world's story, played a meaningful part, and are representative of Final Fantasy. In that sense I'm very happy with my choices and think I've made them well.
As for whether all the Summons listed in the book are the entirety of the set in the game, I'm going to keep that secret. You'll have to play the game.
I think you could figure out a pretty good way of getting Doomtrain in there.
Because Final Fantasy XV has been in development for a long time, we really do want to make it so those people who do buy it can enjoy it and keep playing for as long as possible. As part of that, once the development on the main game is finished, we looking into keep doing further developments to make new extras to add onto the game. Within that there may very well be a chance to add new Summons into the world and into the gameplay. If people really want to see some that aren't in there they should keep telling us they want to see them. There's a very good chance we may include them if we see people really want them.