A few weeks ago, the Final Fantasy Portal app, available on Japanese iTunes, posted parts of an interview with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and Final Fantasy XV director, Hajime Tabata. Last week the final portion of the interview was posted, you can read my translation of the full interview below.
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Tabata on Type-0 HD
– Type-0 HD just went on sale on March 19th, but I want to ask what motivated you to make an HD version?
Tabata: In 2014, Square Enix Europe asked what title fans were looking forward to on their blog and the overwhelming response was for a localized version of Type-0. I was unaware that fans had a need for it, but apparently there was demand for its release overseas. With that in mind, I started the framework on an overseas version.
After development ended on the original PSP version of Final Fantasy Type-0 which released in Japan, I became involved in development for Final Fantasy XV, and after learning so much by working on the next-gen systems, I thought why not develop the HD version on PS4 and Xbox One.
But even though I had started development for it with the “anticipated titles of 2014” mindset, I regret to say we didn’t finish it in time to release it within 2014.
– Even though it missed 2014, I thought development went by at a fast pace.
Tabata: We were working on it during E3 2014, but the images weren’t ready yet. The screenshots released at that time were actually Type-0 characters operating in FFXV’s production environment. The early productional images were produced to a certain extent in FFXV’s production environment, and we developed with those completed visuals as guides which I think reduced the amount of trial and error.
– What are the highlights of the Type-0 HD?
Tabata: Of course since it’s in HD now, the graphics are much improved, and with that, the things that appealed in the original Type-0 are even better. I imagine that being able to see the characters as they were meant to be seen makes the time spent playing with them more enjoyable.
Also, the representation of light and shadow is remarkably different compared to the PSP, so the world has a more realistic environment than before. There is a realistic sense of space between objects which I think gives it a strong sense of realism.
– In Type-0 HD, players can choose the level of difficulty, what brought on that change?
Tabata: When we released the PSP version of Type-0 in Japan, we received a fair amount of feedback saying that the action was difficult. Even though the game’s world outlook and story and characters were all selling points, the action bits were another special feature but for some players, it became a hurdle in reaching the ending. There were some enemies that no matter what some players did, they just couldn’t defeat them and progress. So I figured to give them a break, this time we would put in an easy mode. We put in that option so players could enjoy everything from start to finish without breaking that flow.
– What is your impression of the renewed, HD-ified Class Zero members?
Tabata: As for the characters, I my plan was to adjust them so that in the end, they felt as true as possible to their PSP versions. The character models used in the HD version are based on the models from the movie sequences in the PSP version, but those movie models were more mature looking than the ones used in real time gameplay. When we brought them over as they were, it felt like they looked older, so we adjusted their facial expressions among other things to give them the same tone as before. I was pretty surprised, their movie models really looked like adults.
From there, we adjusted to make the girls even cuter and the boys even cooler. Since you can see the character’s motions in detail in the HD version, I felt like we had to make them even more charming. Though, some characters were more difficult to get right than others.
– What can you tell us about the secret movie in Type-0 HD?
Tabata: We showed a little bit of it just to the attendees of the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary event, and it had a Japanese-esque Final Fantasy feel about it. As a continuing series, I’m calling it the “Type series”, but the armored warrior outfit that you see in the secret movie is actually reminiscent of the ideas I first had with the series, and it ended up as an unrealized Type-1 concept.
Our team has shifted to Final Fantasy XV’s development so we have stopped temporarily, but if the series continues, I think that’s the sort of direction I’d like to take it in. That’s why this time I asked Visual Work’s Ikumori to direct a movie based on those ideas and the result is that secret movie. I’m not saying it’s wholly representative of the next game in the Type series, but as it’s a hint of the direction I want to take, I hope that you will watch it.
Tabata on FFXV
– Why did you decide to release a demo of Final Fantasy XV now?
Tabata: The truth is, I just wanted to release a FFXV demo. I’m sure there are a lot of fans who have waited this whole time, and I wanted a spot to report the game’s current condition. Moreover it’s my first time working on an HD title and rather than say, aiming for a huge launch, I thought that giving fans a clear idea of the progress we’ve made by releasing a demo was a better goal.
When I thought of that, the release of FF Type-0 HD was approaching, so I halted that in order to release the demo at the same time.
– Volume-wise, how much can we expect in this demo?
Tabata: Normally playing the main route takes about 2-3 hours. It’s an action RPG, but as far as playthrough goes, the RPG type components are a little emphasized, for instance, things like preparing and figuring out a strategy, as well as raising your levels. But it’s designed with balance in mind, so you can get through it at a low level if you focus mainly on the action. We also included extra elements to play after you complete the main story, so I imagine you can play end up playing for a good amount of time. As a whole, it’s probably 4-5 hours worth of content.
– What kind of system is used in FFXV’s battles?
Tabata: It’s a system where Noctis is equipped with an arsenal of weapons and you use them according to the battle situation. They are equipped to suit your needs. For example, this weapon is good for preemptive strikes, this one is good for consecutive attacks, and this one is good when you counter attack.
The weapons themselves have their own characteristics, some deal more damage or have better speed stats, so you choose your equipment with a battle strategy in mind. There are also weapons with abilities, so that’s something to consider as well when you are choosing equipment.
I wanted players to check out the abilities and get a feel of their differences, therefore you can change around your equipment even in the demo.
– Regarding the party members, how do the guys other than Noctis fight?
Tabata: In the final product you’ll be able to direct your party members’ battle strategy, but in the demo, each one behaves independently.
- Ignis stays close to Noctis, providing support by attacking the same enemies he does. He operates as your closest partner
- Prompto aims to hit each enemy, fights by moving around and shooting.
- Gladiolus has strong fighting power and durability, so he act’s as Noct’s shield.
They follow this basic pattern. I imagine it’ll be pretty fun to see each of their personalities and how they act. Also, out of the group, Noctis has the least amount of battle experience and when you start out, your party members are at a higher level, so from the beginning they are stronger.
– How much can you tell us about the monsters that appear in the demo?
Tabata: As a whole, there are five types, with slightly stronger subspecies existing too. There is the hyena like monster called Sabertusk, as well as the Garula that move in herds. Garula usually mind their own business, but if you disturb them, the herd will rush in on you. They range in sizes, from small to large, and there is also a boss one called Garulessa. The familiar Goblin appears too. You’ll find those guys mainly in the cave, but they do wander out into the field at night. Monster behavior is something we are paying special attention to as we create.
There is the Behemoth as well which is the target of the demo, and though they aren’t monsters, the magitek soldiers of Niflheim are there too.
– Are there any summons appearing in the demo?
Tabata: The biggest inspiration for this demo was the demo version of Final Fantasy VII. When I think of the FFVII demo, the thing that stands out most in my memory was Leviathan. Wherever you were, you could summon him at the press of a button, and with the impact of graphic developments at the time, you could summon this amazing technology freely. With that sensation in mind, FFVII’s demo was a major inspiration, and so in this demo I also wanted to unveil some amazing summon visuals using the latest technology at the touch of a button. That was one of the goals we had in packaging the demo. We made it with intention of showing fans something that left an impact the way Leviathan did.
– What part of the demo do you want fans to experience the most?
Tabata: The battles. It’s not a simple battle system, since we are focused on making an open world action RPG, it’s something I really want you to enjoy. It’s an actual open world, where time flows and the monsters behave accordingly, and as an action RPG with these elements, I want players to experience fighting in it. It might be a little different than fans are imagining. The action of fighting in an open world is something that can’t be realized by just imagination. I want players to taste for themselves the mechanics we’ve created. Circumstances change moment by moment and it was especially challenging to create an action system that can respond to each situation.
I hope that the fans who will be downloading the demo have fun battling in the FFXV world and feel the joy of playing an RPG as well. But foremost, I want fans with the demo to get a feel of the FFXV world.
– When you were creating the world of FFXV, what parts were you particular about?
Tabata: We were particular about the environment and world scale, including of course the monsters and animals as well. FFXV is being made with a realistic scale in mind. Our intention is to make a world where the realistic scale is easy to imagine, so even when the field of vision becomes narrow, big things are made big, tall things are made tall. This could be said for FFXV as a whole, but we are developing assorted techniques with the keyword secchikan in mind, which is a Japanese word that describes the feeling of being grounded in something. Even in our staff meetings abroad, we use this word secchikan for emphasis.
What that means in terms of game development, is that we want the player to feel integrated into the world through the character without disruptions. The characters are living in this world, they get hurt, they exist, they even get tired when they run. It’s important that the player connects with the world through playing. The world and the characters, the world and the monsters, the world and the summons; it’s all tightly tied together. By means of these connections the player feels the world we constructed through Noctis. It’s that kind of mechanism.
Ramuh appears in this demo, but when you summon him, you control Noctis until he is grasped and lifted up, attacking from the sky. Then Ramuh takes over, but if you look closely Noctis is there the whole time, which I think is another example of grounding the world and keeping it connected.
– There is a cute girl that appears in the demo named Cindy, what is her relation to the main characters?
Tabata: She’s a very important character in regard to the main character’s journey. Thus she appears in this demo, and in the final version you’ll be able to call her and she will come to you. Whether it’s natural or intentional, she is the kind of girl who is very good at dealing with men, as you’ll see with the boys in your party. She’s a major car fanatic and practically only thinks about cars, so as expected she is the one the main characters rely on to maintain their critical means of transportation.
Age-wise, she’s probably around 20 years old, but to say her actual age is unknown, I don’t know about that. [In other words, her age isn’t a mystery, it just hasn’t been officially determined.] She’s a character I personally want to be popular, so I hope you’ll produce a special feature on her, turn the Final Fantasy Portal app into the Cindy Channel! (Laughs)
– How come the main characters camp when it gets late?
Tabata: Time flows in this world, so I wanted to make a cycle where you camp and prepare for the next day. The thought was even if you aren’t tired of playing, you’ll stop to camp and level up occasionally. Additionally, the effects from camping vary by lodging spot, so I wanted the player to be able to choose their resting site with that in mind. So for instance, if the player thought they had accumulated a lot of EXP, maybe they’d stay somewhere that gives them an EXP boost when they camp. Rather than camping on the field, staying in a fancy lodging like the trailer by Wiz’s outpost will give you 1.5 times the EXP.
Also, when you pitch camp, you have a meal as well. The meal will differ depending on the ingredients you are carrying, and it will give status buffs that carry on into the next day. In the demo you can’t choose your meal, but it’s planned that in the final product you’ll be able to so you can choose buffs appropriate for what you are facing. I wanted it to be part of your battle strategy. For example, if you are going into a dungeon, you can choose an anti-poison buff to protect against Goblin claws and not worry about getting poisoned.
As for recipes, there are enough to make a cookbook. The main characters are traveling, so you’ll come across ingredients that can only obtained in certain areas. I thought it would motivate players to explore and be a nice integrating element to be able to eat certain foods found only in certain places, like trying out the local specialties.
I think that things like setting your equipment and items, as well as your status buffs before going into a dungeon are some of the elements characteristic of an RPG, and I feel like FFXV has a system that emphasizes RPG elements as well as open world action elements.
– What about the characters?
Tabata: Just like with Type-0 HD, we want the boys and girls of FFXV to look their best, creating them in a way that makes you just want to stare at them. Of course Cindy is an eyeful, but Gladious is impressive too. I probably sound kind of weird (laughs) but given how well they turned out, I look at them with an aesthetic sense, from a place of admiration. In the same manner, the monsters and animals are just as eye boggling. The concept behind them was to make them like they should appear in a National Geographic special! (Laughs)
We paid a lot of attention in creating them so nothing feels out of place, from their skeletons and muscles to their sizes and movements, that way they seem realistic. It’s my secret hope that National Geographic does a special on the world of Final Fantasy XV!
– What are the plans for FFXV from here onward?
Tabata: Rather than another playable demo, I’m thinking about releasing an operating tech demo. I want to make something that players can get a feel of, available for free download from their PS4s and Xbox Ones. Also, I want to hear the opinions regarding the Duscae demo. If we can, we will reference that information as we develop from here on out.
I also want to hold something like a playable demo meetup event using part of the Duscae demo, where players can play and get a feel of the most recent development conditions, including updates closer to the final product version. If we do that, players will release that development is further along than what you see in the Duscae demo and they’ll be able to compare. Hopefully the new version would include more like magic, different summons, and the ability to edit battle strategy. When the timing is right I’d like to do something like that.