**Spoiler Alert Warning for Final Fantasy XV**
Final Fantasy is a powerhouse of the Japanese games industry. Much like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the original Pokemon series, Final Fantasy VII introduced a generation of fans to the spiky haired teen protagonist of Japanese role playing games, phoenix downs, chocobos and the power of video game storytelling.
Final Fantasy XV was a game many had been waiting anxiously for. Originally announced in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the project went through a series of directorial changes with Kingdom Hearts Creator Tetsuya Nomura first directing the game until Hajime Tabata (Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Parasite Eve) took over in 2013 and rebranded it.
“Initially, I wanted to make everything open world,” Tabata tells SBS PopAsia. “However with this being our first attempt at creating an open world, we realised that would be impossible when taking into account the amount of time required in developing the technology and contents for that.”
“In game development, it’s always essential to clarify what we’re going to, or not going to, implement from both a technology and work-based perspective. So the moment I decided that we were going to make Final Fantasy XV an open world, I had to make the decision to remove Nifelheim from that open world.”
Since the game launched in November last year, Square Enix has supported it with frequent game updates and post-content story DLC based on each of Noctis’ core group of friends; Gladiolus, Prompto and recently, Ignis. It allowed Tabata and the team to resolve issues fans had with the game and, as Tabata pointed out in an interview with Eurogamer, changed the game into a games as a service model, instead of a standalone product.
“By the time we had finalised our plans for a simultaneous global launch, we had decided that we’d be providing the game as a service, including the post-launch DLC,” he explains.
“The reason for this choice was that we wanted to establish a long-lasting rapport with players who purchased the game so they’d enjoy the game for an extended period of time. While this move is definitely for the fans, at the same time, I also thought it was a necessary reform for our future business model.”
Tabata and the team have a strong relationship with the Final Fantasy XV fanbase, hosting bi-monthly livestreams updating new story content to fans. An update that astounded many was the in-game Assassin’s Creed Festival; a collaboration with Ubisoft, which had Noctis and friends dress up as assassins and take leaps of faith like the protagonists of Assassin’s Creed.
“I’m relieved that we were able to create something that was so surprising,” Tabata says.
“It’s true that there is a strong demand for a story that focuses primarily on Aranea. However, we don’t have such plans at the moment. But like Episode Prompto, if we get the chance to portray Aranea in her own episode, we’ll definitely put everything we got into her story.”
When asked about whether we’d see more backstory for the game’s antagonist Ardynn, the game’s treatment of women or future plans for the series, Tabata refused to comment. What he does admit, however, is that they are already working on a new project.
“We are focusing on a new game design that could further explore the possibilities of AI and procedural technology,” he says. “We are now aware that an entirely different development process is going to be required for a large scale global development project.”
“We also know how our game engine must evolve in the future. All these elements that we acquired from Final Fantasy XV will form the basis of what we will apply in our next project; which I believe will be a game that only we - with this foundation to draw upon - would be able to accomplish.”
What about a Final Fantasy X-2 like road trip starring Aranea, Lunafreya, Cidney and Iris?
“As to an all-female road trip,” he says, “if we have a chance to roll out some spin-offs, I’ll definitely consider it. Plus, I’d like to know if a lot of fans would have fun with it!”
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