In its present state, Final Fantasy XV is very different from the game we had at its 2016 launch. After several updates and content drops, which included a number of quality-of-life improvements, new missions, monsters, and world events--along with four DLC episodes--the fifteenth core entry in the JRPG series has continued to evolve in its post-launch period. And the developers still see plenty of room for more growth moving forward.
During PAX East 2018, the creative team behind FFXV announced four brand new episodes focusing on Ardyn, Aranea, Luna, and Noctis--which aim to close out the game's main story. Moreover, the developers plan to move forward with making mod tools for the PC version available. They hope this will allow players to implement new events and missions, along with a healthy helping of weird side-content.
Speaking with GameSpot, episode director Takefumi Terada and live services manager Shigefumi Tanaka spoke about their respect for the community, its feedback, along with their hopes on closing out FFXV's main story.
There's been a lot of enthusiasm from the community about experiencing the game on PC, even more so now that the new updates are coming. What are your thoughts on the response the PC version has had?
Shigefumi Tanaka: Yeah, when developing the PC version, it wasn't just a straight one-on-one port. We were going from the ground up, working really closely within our available skillset, putting the features in there. We put in a lot of effort and then made sure it appealed to our PC audience. I think that is something that has resonated well with them, which was reflected in the feedback we have gotten so far.
The level editor is gonna give the players ability to create little events on their own. Technically, you could have situations where other characters than Ignis can say, "I've come up with a recipe" and little bits of like that. Just the fact that we're gonna be letting players choose their way of enjoying the game [through custom content] is something that we're looking forward to seeing. For us, we just want to provide the platform for players to take advantage of all the mod tools that are gonna be released from us, and then have them just go wild with it, have fun and, just really enjoy their own experiences.
Is Mod support something you're maybe keeping in mind for future Final Fantasy titles but also maybe some other SquareEnix games as well?
ST: I think it's something we always consider if it's right for that particular game and that particular project. I think we're gonna be really interested in seeing what those fan reactions are, too. Once the tools are all out there and we get to see how it plays out, we'll see how we want to proceed with it. In general, I think most Square Enix titles don't really open themselves up to mods officially. It's a first in many ways. I think this will be maybe setting a new standard or maybe at least sending up a new type of gameplay ideas for us in the future.
Mods are usually something you see from Western developed games. Do you feel like you've learned a lot from how those types of games are developed over the years, and how to apply the most interesting ideas to your projects?
ST: Generally, our business is not just putting out games for the Japanese market. We've always had a global vision, especially with FFXV. With that said, that's probably one of the reasons--major reasons, actually--why when we decided to do the Windows edition, [we decided] we're gonna be supporting mods on it. Moving forward, we're gonna always have a goal in our mindset. Whatever makes the most sense in that regard, I think, that's how we're gonna approach the development. Yeah, probably gonna be natural progression into the way we think and the way how we approach.
What's interesting about Final Fantasy XV is that it's changed a lot over the time sice the game first released. It's the first mainline Final Fantasy game that's not an MMO to receive such sizable content post-launch. What has it been like for you to re-examine a main entry like this after release?
Takefumi Terada: For an offline [Final Fantasy] game like this, to be continuing to update it after launch is really unusual. Even our general audience in Japan are always really interested in the thinking behind it, and why we're doing it like this. Up until launch, it is more of a traditional approach where the dev team made the game that they wanted the players to play and said, "Here it is." Once the players got their hands on it, they played it, and we heard a lot of feedback, we heard their comments, what they like, what they didn't like, things like that, and then it gave us an opportunity to respond to all the voices in the feedback.
That's why we went, "Okay, now, we're gonna add this feature or we're gonna do this." It's been a cycle where at first, it was the dev team wanting to put the game out that they believed was the one that they wanted people to play, doing our user feedback and saying, "All right. We wanna respond to that." Now, there's two-way communication between the players and the dev team. It's been how things have progressed.
Did the extended development period of Final Fantasy XV--formerly FF Versus XIII--also influence the decision to re-examine XV? Given that the dev team had many ideas that may have stayed out of the released product.
TT: It all stems from the user feedback that we got from people who purchased FF15 on day one and their immediate responses. Then as we see all the responses and the voices, we look back and we're like, "All right. Maybe there's this thing we could have used." Because it was a long development discussion, there were a lot of things we saw, but it wasn't necessarily the objective to put all those things out there. It was more about starting from the fan feedback and saying, "Okay. What can work for that? Oh, we had this. Maybe we could try using that or playing that."
A lot of fans were surprised by the announcement of the next round of DLC episodes for the game at PAX East. The response to the previous set was very enthusiastic as well. Looking back, were you happy with how those DLC episodes turned out?
TT: From a development standpoint, it got better and better in terms of the things that we wanted to achieve. We felt we could improve the quality of episode as it went on. That was due to us working together for so long. While comrades had its own dedicated team working on their own piece of the game, the DLC episodes--Episode Gladiolus, Episode Prompto, Episode Ignis, and Episode Duscae--had the same time as the scale of the games increased. Once one project was done, we'd go to the next one. Some of the things that they couldn't achieve in the previous one, they'd apply those new learnings and they try new approaches for the next one.
Is there something in particular from the previous episodes that you wanted to implement into the game, but couldn't?
TT: There's probably some things that we could apply to the next set. One thing in particular that stands out right now is that there wasn't any character progression in terms of leveling up in skills and things like that in the previous episodes. They were largely static and situational when it came to growth. That might be one feature that we can work its way into the next four.
What's interesting is that the Final Fantasy XV game we have now is very different from the game we had at launch. The focus clearly is on expanding the world, which is really exciting to see for a Final Fantasy fan. Are you interested in seeing where it goes from here even after the release of the next episodes?
ST: As far as the next DLC goes, it's really about giving the theme of the ultimate grand finale. Right now, we don't have any plans post Episode Noctis. That is the official close of this journey of FFXV. On the other side of that, in terms of providing more story content, what the team is doing is working alongside the live services team in trying to put out content that keeps general activity in-game going. From a day-to-day level, the active users will have as many ways to enjoy the game as possible.
That's why we're doing the Mods and all the great updates like user treasures and things like that--to give some kind of connection with players around the world. Even though it's not a multiplayer experience, it still gives the feeling of you being involved in something bigger, and just that two-way approach in terms of providing more story content but also just providing things on a more day-to-day level for people to just enjoy and create their own customized experience is how we're looking at the remainder on this XV timeline.
It seems like mods are going to be the thing to keep the game going after the official content is done. Is there any type of mod in particular you're looking forward to seeing from fans?
ST: Well, the golfing bit that we snuck into [our PAX East presentation] is one of those examples--which again is totally possible to make with the tools. Those left field things that people might come up with, we just want to see what people can really do with it.
TT: I think from my point of view, I want to see things that people come up that we on the dev team are always thinking about doing. Usually for us, we'll make stuff and give it to the players. We'd love for people to come up with things that will surprise us, and we'd be like, "Damn, that's good." That would be a loud and really cool moment of excitement for us.