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...

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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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