Hajime Tabata and Takeshi Nozue on expanding Final Fantasy XV universe

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Before the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, Square Enix invited a few members of the media to sit down and chat with Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV director Takeshi Nozue in a roundtable interview.

With the mixed media being introduced with Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, do you find it harder to reach audiences nowadays even with a huge brand like Final Fantasy?

Tabata: The reason we took on this mass media approach with mixed media outlets for the Final Fantasy XV universe is because we wanted to give new fans who haven’t experienced FF in the past a way to experience it. [We also want] to give traditional fans who’ve played the franchise and series other ways to experience the 15 Universe and enjoy it. It’s not necessarily a spin-off from a game. Each one is independent and can stand on their own. You don’t have to experience one to understand the other one. That’s the approach we’ve taken.

With the game having a long development time, do you feel that making it a bigger event and making it an all-encompassing event is better?

Tabata: Yes, one of the reasons was to make it a big event for a lot of people to get into, but with the FFXV universe and the various media, we want to give people various different entry ways into the franchise and to get more opportunities to get more people interested in the FFXV brand and experience it.

Nozue on Kingsglaive: So first and foremost, the positioning we’re going for is an entry way for more people to get into the FFXV brand. And as it’s a movie, we’re not restricted by a specific console or hardware, and it is a typical movie, so it’ll be around two hours or less, somewhere in that time frame. It’ll be a very casual experience that anyone can enjoy. It’s a completely standalone title, so you don’t need to see it to understand FF15. One of the main overall themes of the FFXV brand is this relationship between father and son, parent and child, and you can really experience that in depth thru this movie, so for core fans, I think it’s a good way to get a further understanding of that, and for non-fans, it’s another way of getting into the franchise and game.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s really a more realistic depiction in terms of the visuals we’re using, so it’s a different take from the game itself. I think it’s very important to get these expressions across, realistic true emotions and true feelings expressed in a realistic manner. So there’s this idea of getting into fantasy in reality with FFXV. I think it’s even stronger with Kingsglaive, and you can really immerse yourself in this world with this movie. I also mentioned this earlier, the collaboration with Hollywood writers and staff. Let’s be honest, Hollywood movies almost anyone can get into it. It’s very open and welcoming to a broad mass market and audience, and so with that collaboration, we’ve tried to make that the case for FFXV, and take it to the whole XV brand itself. And because of that collaboration, some people are afraid we’re losing some of the FF elements in this movie, but that’s not the case; it’s really an entry point for this franchise. Once you get into it, the further you go, it’ll become more FF-like.

Tabata: So you’re all FF fans, from my understanding. So you may not feel this way, but when you see that number XV attached to the title, it’s a large number and it can be intimidating. And when you see a number like XV attached to a title, people who haven’t played a previous title in the franchise probably won’t begin playing from the fifteenth installment. I think if you see GTA XV, it’ll be easier for you to comprehend. If you haven’t played the previous 14 installments, are you really going to start with the fifteenth one? So that number fifteenth is a sign of our history and encompasses the history of the entire franchise, but at the same time it can be a huge barrier for newcomers, so for XV, we’ve taken this new approach of having other ways of entry into the franchise with the anime and movie as other ways of getting into this world and immersing yourself.

So in that same vein, there’s so much focus on bringing new fans into the franchise, but what do longtime fans have to look forward to? Specifically from a gameplay perspective, what can they sink their teeth into with this game? What do you expect the excitement to really be about?

Tabata: The most amazing story experience you can imagine. Along those lines, you need the technology, great combat and game system features that goes along with the traditional FF games, but we’ve made further improvements on it. We’ve evolved and taken it a step further, and we can say with confidence that this is going to be the best FF and the most amazing FF experience. So a key thing to keep in mind for us is messaging. If we go out and message everything towards the traditional fans, then we’ll lose those new users and they’ll shy away from the new game. We’ve constantly kept in mind two messages: one geared towards our traditional fans, and another towards new fans, and we really have to mesh and balance it out between those two audiences. And so going from that, I can already imagine the next question will be, “but isn’t that difficult, and what challenges have you faced, etc etc etc”. Because FF is all about challenges and making challenges. That’s why we’ve chosen this path.

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Hajime Tabata with Hironobu Sakaguch after the conclusion of the Uncovered event.

NR: One of the most important things about FF series has been the lore. We’ve seen things like Chocobos evolve over the course of the series, as well different variations of Summons (Ifrit, Shiva, Bahamut) including Guardian Forces, Eidolon, and Espers. What was important for you to add to the series for the core and new fans?

Tabata: I think this is the same for any of the numbers. It’s not like we create a list of items 1-50 that a typical FF game has and we pick and choose. That’s not how they’re made. In terms of traditional functions or design elements, it’s up to the creator, developer, the people in charge what to use and what to not use. And there’s no minimum of if you have to use 5 elements or key features. If you think about it logically, if we use these elements in the next FF, when you really dive in, it’s not really FF. It’s just on the surface. So we’ve talked about being on the cutting edge and using cutting edge technology. Our goal is to create a great RPG with connections to FF in a sense, with FF elements. That really has been our goal. So we’ve actually decided on key elements to incorporate, and THEN add the FF elements on top of it. With this key design, this sort of FF element works best. Let’s blend it together. So in terms of say the new users, for traditional long-term users, you see the term Cure, and you understand it’s a healing spell. But for new users, they may not necessarily understand that, so we have to be careful to fully explain what that spell does and what it means, and we’ve been very careful to localize that to all the languages so that native speakers truly understand that even if they’ve never played an FF game.

The battle system has evolved since you have four attacks you can cycle between. Other FF games, including Type Zero, traditional roles, you have a DPS character and heavy damage character. How can you arrange these four attacks to make different roles? If you make all attacks heavy, you can be a berserker character. You make all four attacks light, you’re a ninja. Can you tell us about how you’re planning this system?

Tabata: With the combat system in XV, when you change the weapons, you’re essentially changing the role. So depending on what weapon you’re using, you’re going to change the role and combat style. So instead of changing characters in XV, you’re doing it with the weapons. But since it’s on such a short span in terms of time since it is action-based combat. It’s very quick. You might not necessarily realize it because you don’t see it on the long term in terms of time, but it’s actually happening as you change your weapons. But there are weapons where you get the full experience where you’re taking on a completely different role.

You can read part II of the interview soon.

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Chris Del Castillo
Chris Del Castillo 2588 posts

Growing up Chris watched a lot of the original Saturday morning cartoons and developed a love for arts and animation. Growing up he tried his hand at animation and eventually script writing, but even more his love of video games, anime and technology grew.