Final Fantasy XV was a long time coming. After a decade of delays, it's not surprising that both Square Enix and the game's director, Hajime Tabata, are saying they aren't finished with Noctis and his bro squad. With not even a whisper of Final Fantasy XVI, the rest of this year (and part of 2018) is focused on the Final Fantasy XV universe: PC versions, more chapter expansions, more mobile iterations and a multiplayer mode. I talked to Tabata, the man who steered the 15th iteration to the finish line, here at Gamescom and he explained what worked, what didn't and somehow tricked me into evangelizing about that mobile game. (Unfortunately, he didn't say a thing about that bizarre Assassin's Creed collaboration, mere hours before it was announced.)
What was the reaction to FFXV at launch?
Hajime Tabata: Most of our fans seemed to enjoy the experience, which was great to hear. A few, however, didn't feel satisfied with the final part of the game. [The team subsequently adjusted the final parts of the game in an update after launch.]
Many thought that Chapter 13 was difficult, so we adjusted to game to ensure those players were more satisfied. After the game, we had already planned the subsequent DLC chapters and a multiplayer mode, which will launch in full later this year. These parts of the 'universe' are aimed at expanding the story of FFXV, to increase player satisfaction further.
So what is the Final Fantasy XV universe all about? We already had a short-run anime series and full-length CGI movie ahead of launch.
HT: The "universe" can be split into two halves. Firstly, with the anime and movie, we were looking to increase awareness of the game to different audiences and fans, building up to the game's release.
After launch, we shifted focus to both improve and expand the existing game -- to build upon the feeling of comradery established during the game. We also wanted to bring the game to those that hadn't (or were unable) to play the console titles, which lead to the PC version and the Pocket Version.
What do these extra parts of the universe add?
HT: If you watch Kingsglaive or Brotherhood, I think you'll get a better view of the world where the game is set. A grander scale, a more fully realized story. That said, some fans who only see one part might be left with a negative impression, or like they've missed crucial parts of the tale.
Would you do something similar to this again?
HT: Perhaps not exactly the same. In some ways, this was an experiment. We're going to build on that; we will make something epic again, but I'd like to think we'd focus on the individual parts a little more, so they might better stand alone.
Final Fantasy XV's development was notable in that the team actively sought out feedback from players and fans following beta demos and updates. Was there anything that surprised you from that feedback?
HT: The game was a simultaneous world release (a first for the series), and this meant we got to see the nuances in play style from gamers around the world. In one of the bigger demos, Episode Duscae, feedback from European and American gamers was largely positive, with many gamers praising the freedom of gameplay. With a lot of our Japanese players, however, they were less impressed with the open world style -- they didn't like the degree of freedom.
Is your house filled with Cup Noodles and tent equipment now?
HT: (Laughs) I have one tent set.
With Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, why try to cram a home console game into mobile? Won't this disappoint fans?
HT: There isn't just one type of Final Fantasy fan. Perhaps some core fans might see this as a lesser experience, but I don't think that's true. This is about broadening the audience for the game and the story. This is for those that don't have a console, those who were unable to play FFXV until now. We wanted to proved a way for people to play everywhere -- to try a Final Fantasy game. We've also tried to make a game that's focused on rapid gameplay, one that's ideal for mobile play.
Why try to make multiplayer for a game that's typically a solo experience?
HT: We wanted a mode where players could enjoy the world of FFXV with a friend -- an experience that focused again on comradery. The mode focuses on the ten year gap that occurs during the game, as players join the elite Kingsglaive squad of soldiers. The parts we wanted to deliver on included a rich avatar creation tool, where players could make a character exactly how they want, that the story was included in the game canon, and that battles and controls were as responsive as the original game. With multiplayer as part of a team of four, users can choose roles in combat based on their weapon choice. Some are healers and support, others are attackers, for example.
Will PC players be able to mod Final Fantasy XV at launch? What are your thoughts on that?
HT: There are were limitations to the game to ensure it ran on consoles, but that's less of an issue with PCs -- especially when it comes to modding. PC gaming has a culture of customization and modification, and we want to ensure that those gamers can do what they want to the game. We're looking into the possibilities of a dedicated level editor -- we want to ensure that gamers will be playing FFXV for a long time to come.
This interview was translated and edited for clarity.
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