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Development of Final Fantasy XV

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XV

Development for Final Fantasy XV started as Final Fantasy Versus XIII that was to be directed by Tetsuya Nomura for the PlayStation 3 as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, where three games—Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII—were to form a new subseries with shared mythos. The trio of games was announced in 2006, but in the end, Final Fantasy XIII went on to become its own series and Agito changed into Final Fantasy Type-0 and Versus became Final Fantasy XV with a new director and reorganized development team, now for a new generation of consoles.

There are 300 people in the development team, working on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. The team structure is flat without any of the traditional hierarchy of large-scale game development because director Hajime Tabata wants everyone to be aware of any possible issues and decisions, with every member encouraged to pitch in.[1]

Because the game was announced so early, a move later deemed a mistake, Square Enix has been unusually open about its development after Hajime Tabata took the reins, delivering status reports on its progress in a feature known as "Active Time Report", and the staff interacting with fans via the game's official forums and social media.

Development timeline Edit

2006-2012 Edit

Versus logo

Logo for Versus XIII during development.

Unveiled at E3 2006 with a trailer, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was going to be developed by the team responsible for the Kingdom Hearts series with Tetsuya Nomura as the director and character designer. Trailers were intermittently shown at different events, and Nomura spoke about the plans for the game in interviews, but it went through long periods of media silence, and it appears the game never entered full production until it was rebranded Final Fantasy XV, the work on this new version of the game starting in 2012.

In 2012 it was decided development would shift to next-generation consoles, and the name was officially changed into Final Fantasy XV within the company, although the public revelation of the re-branding would wait until E3 2013.[2] In July 2012 the company CEO at the time, Yoichi Wada, ordered the Final Fantasy Type-0 team to join the Final Fantasy XV development[3] to create a prototype for the next-gen consoles.[4]

In December 2012 Hajime Tabata became co-director to finish the project[5], which would eventually have him transition as the new director. There was both internal and external backlash to him taking on the project.[6]

2013 Edit

On February 21st, 2013, GameSpot reported that Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, said about Final Fantasy Versus XIII that "I have some knowledge, but I'm not in a position to talk about it".[7]

On March 19th, 2013, VG Leaks reported that not only had production n Final Fantasy Versus XIII been halted because of the failure and subsequent rebuilding of Final Fantasy XIV, but that it has been moved to the PlayStation 4 and was being co-developed by Sony as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, being reworked into Final Fantasy XV[8]. Square Enix refused to comment[9].

On April 17th, 2013, during the inaugural episode of Square Enix Merchandise Radio, Tetsuya Nomura spoke briefly about the game: "It's a delicate situation within the company. The date for our next reveal is set and we are working toward preparing information for that. Perhaps the details as to why information couldn't be released might be touched upon with the next information announcement."[10]

During this time Nomura briefly envisioned making Final Fantasy XV into a musical after watching the 2012 film version of Les Miserables. He charged into the Square offices the next morning intent on transforming Final Fantasy XV, but Square Enix convinced him to continue on the game's current trajectory.[11]

FFXV - Leviathan

Leviathan in the E3 2013 trailer.

During Sony's press conference at E3 on June 10, 2013, a prerecorded video of Tetsuya Nomura was played where he acknowledged that not much information on the project had been released as of late, and that while he couldn't immediately share new details, new information would be revealed in the coming days. Following the message, a new trailer played concluding with the announcement the game has been renamed Final Fantasy XV, with development moved to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Square Enix's Final Fantasy brand director, Shinji Hashimoto, wouldn't comment on how close to completion Final Fantasy XV was.[12] The game shown at E3 was running on a prototype environment (Ebony), rather than the actual environment (Luminous Engine).[13], and the footage shown was the "prototype" company president Yoichi Wada had tasked Hajime Tabata's team with.[4]

A few months after E3 in 2013, Luminous Studio team and the Final Fantasy XV development team were merged. Engineers insisted it was impossible to develop open world game with Square Enix's know-how, yet Hajime Tabata decided to go with open world design at this time with the caveat that it would be acceptable to fail at the endeavor, as otherwise people couldn't dive into the challenge with confidence, as he would take the blame if it didn't work.[14]

At this time Square Enix was already collaborating with HexaDrive on Final Fantasy XV, with HexaDrive providing technical support.[15] Not yet publicly announced, Hajime Tabata was made the director of the game in December 2013, and the game's release date, September 30 2016, was settled.[16] The main reason was to set clear a milestone. The team first estimated when titles called AAA would achieve a certain criteria, and what level of criteria those titles would clear in the current platform.[14]

At the time Tabata joined there was a lot of discussion and scrutinizing of the project and a lot of time was spent thinking about how to change the team structure.[5] The game's development was re-examined between the gameplay team, the CG team, and the game engine team, and Tabata decided to merge them.[3] The new, independent team merged with the former Final Fantasy Versus XIII team to make Final Fantasy XV, forming the predecessor to the current Business Division 2.[17]

Tabata has said that with the change of name and platform and thus the game engine and him taking the reins, it would no longer be "the exact same game" as some things had to be re-evaluated to fit the change of circumstances. He assured the game had not lost its core, and that he had sat down with Tetsuya Nomura about the direction of the title to ensure that characters, like the main character Noctis Lucis Caelum, would be maintained in the best possible way.[3]

When Tabata first assembled the development team its hierarchy was reset; some section leads had been in the position for a dozen years forcing each team member to adhere to the subjective values of their supervisor. Tabata instead told the team everyone was equal.[17]

He told each member they could decide whether they wanted to stay, as things were going to change. To get a clear idea of what everyone could bring to the team, Tabata asked what they were capable of before assigning them positions, mixing things up by, for example, assigning an all-round, balanced developer to head the preproduction phase, and telling a former lead that for certain phases they'd be working under someone else. Though this also led to arguments many were upbeat about the changes and spirits soared. The previous power balances were dismantled and the chain of command was streamlined to get the best out of everyone's abilities. Many were trying their hand at something new, something previously out of reach, and this was being reflected in the game itself.[17]

2014 Edit

In February Yoshinori Kitase, the director of many previous Final Fantasy games and the producer of the Final Fantasy XIII series, commented that the game was "quite far in development", and that the game was given a high priority within Square Enix.[18] Final Fantasy XV was not shown at E3 2014, but producer Shinji Hashimoto promised new information would be revealed some time after the event.[19]

In August Hajime Tabata assured development on Final Fantasy XV was Square's top priority, unhindered by the announcement of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD during E3.[20] When new release info on Final Fantasy Type-0 HD arose during Tokyo Game Show, it was revealed every copy would include a voucher for a playable Final Fantasy XV demo.[21] A new trailer was released on September 17th, showcasing the setting, the party and its car, battles, and a new character, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. Unlike the E3 2013 showing, the game was now running on Luminous Engine.[13] During Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix announced Tabata had taken over directing the game with Nomura focusing on Kingdom Hearts III.[22] Nomura later told Famitsu it had been Square Enix's decision to remove him from the Final Fantasy XV project.[23]

Personally, I'm working on 15 to make it the most emotional Final Fantasy title that I've worked on. My goal is to have people play Final Fantasy 15, and for them to think this is the best Final Fantasy they've ever played.
—Hajime Tabata in an interview with Eurogamer
[24]
Adamantoise-FFXV

TGS 2014 trailer.

Final Fantasy XV returning to media focus was met with enthusiasm, and Tabata showcased a gameplay demonstration showing different weather effects and elaborating on the game's battle system and day and night cycles. In his numerous interviews he mentioned the game was 50-60% done, with the team working on it from the beginning to the end, meaning the beginning portions were more complete than others.[25] He said the release date was still a way off, and lamented on the "Versus era" when the team was not able to reveal any information on release timing because the project had to overcome many problems.

In around 2012, when Tabata officially joined the project, the team did a major directional change in deciding to abandon the previous generation, and Tabata hoped people would "reset their timers" from when he joined the team.[25] He mentioned the fundamental parts of the game's systems were implemented, and did not expect "too long a wait" after the demo would be out.[3] The development team was revealed to be around 200 to 300 staff members as Tabata didn't want a 1000-plus team like for big western releases, as he'd rather have a team with people who can make the most of their individual potential.[3]

On 2nd October Square Enix livestreamed the game and Tabata elaborated on its progress and gameplay details. He said the team was in the process of migrating functions from the prototype environment into the actual game environment (Luminous), but it would take time to complete. Despite this, Tabata had wanted to show footage in the actual environment, and thus something unfinished was shown, with Tabata stressing it was primitive to what the final game would be like.[13]

Based on fan reactions to the Tokyo Game Show footage, the goal was to shed light on the concerns that had arisen with Tabata receiving daily reports from development staff about what people had been discussing on the Internet. Tabata said he'd like to release development information again in another live broadcast on November 1st, and include information from others in the development team than just himself. Tabata confirmed Final Fantasy XV had entered the phase of mass producing resource material, and after that it would be a fight against the amount of resource material and time. It was said Square Enix was hiring to help make the game. On a lighter note, Tabata mentioned he found the image macros fans had been compiling of Noctis and the party in the car looking out with different backgrounds photoshopped in hilarious, and provided official assets for people to use as a template.[13]

On 1st November lead programmer, Takeshi Aramaki, and movie director, Takeshi Nozue, livestreamed from Paris Games Week with new footage of the party traversing the map with enemies and events removed, and a tech demo showing off different environmental effects. The game's transfer from its previous Ebony Engine to its current Luminous Engine was said to be 80% complete with Aramaki noting the engine has surpassed even Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The next livestream was scheduled for Jump Festa in December.[26]

A part of the reason the team scheduled so many press meetings and gave so much new information on a half-finished game was because the team was well aware there were many fans who had been following the game since the beginning eager for news, and the more open atmosphere with giving new information was set up as a way of "apology" and to quell fans' worries on the game's development.[5]

On 20th December Final Fantasy XV featured prominently at the Jump Festa 2015 convention with a new trailer and new information on summons and the world. The trailer was made by the Square Enix marketing department rather than by the development staff, and thus the omission of some of the material the staff had requested to be in the trailer caused unhappiness among the team, but some of the cut footage was shown separately.[27]

2015 Edit

At Taipei Game Show at the beginning of February Hajime Tabata announced Taiwanese publisher and developer XPEC Entertainment as one of the many outside firms pitching in to help develop Final Fantasy XV.[28] An extended version of the snowy train scene from the Jump Festa trailer was shown, as well as a newly revealed area still in development: a big city train station. The footage was given in a "cat cam" format, following the eye-view of a cat, XPEC's take on Square Enix's "dog cam" shown at Jump Festa when exploring Lestallum.[28]

On 20th February director Hajime Tabata streamed himself playing the Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae demo and introduced the battle system. At the Q&A session afterward Tabata said the game was around 60% complete.[29] On the 26th of February Tabata held another Active Time report, this time from London. During it English gameplay was shown for the first time and videos depicting the wildlife encountered in Final Fantasy XV and the party entering a cave were released. On the same day SMU's Guildhall campus hosted a Yusuke Naora lecture on his career at Square Enix as an art director. During it Naora shared concept art of old and new games alike, along with some never-before-seen art from Final Fantasy XV.[30]

Many players had reacted negatively to the combat slowdown seen in the live gameplay footage of the battle system known as hitstun or hitstop. The inclusion of this feature was meant to convey a sense of weight and forcefulness to each attack. Hajime Tabata admitted in London that the effect was probably exaggerated at the time, and confirmed the team had already adjusted it and were working out the right balance.[31]

In early March Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae was playable at PAX East in Boston,[32] where two of the game's lead game designers, Wan Hazmer (head of the culture team working on the civilizations and towns), and Prasert Prasertvithyakarn (lead of the buddy team focused on the interactions with the player's AI comrades) also talked about developing Final Fantasy XV.[33] Final Fantasy Type-0 HD was released in North America on March 17th, to be followed by other regions couple days later. The first print included a download code for Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae demo. Square Enix set up a survey asking for fans' opinions and the results would be discussed in the next Active Time Report near the end of April.

On 28th April Tabata discussed the survey results, and said the lock-on system, ally AI and frame-rate would be improved and anti-aliasing added to the final game. He talked about adding camera options, a minimap, difficulty modes, attack-cancelling with evades and dodge rolling, and how Noctis's western voice direction wasn't quite right and was being re-recorded. Tabata concluded that he wanted the players to experience the improvements. The plan had been to keep improving Episode Duscae and make it available in different events, but said there were also plans to patch the demo so all players could experience the changes. Tabata was unsure if this was feasible, as demos are not usually patched, but if it could be done, he would like to see "Episode Duscae 2.0" come out in May, and planned an Active Time Report for around that time.[34]

Tabata described the demo's release a major milestone, calling it a prologue leading up to the big release. Tabata said he would like to begin releasing pertinent information about Final Fantasy XV to all regions where the game will be released to start promoting the main game. He said the E3 2015 wouldn't allow sufficient preparation time, and that they were considering Gamescom in August for the next major reveal where the promotion for the main title would officially begin.[34]

Regis-and-Child-Noctis

An artwork revealed during Active Time Report 6.

The next Active Time Report was held on June 4th where the team responded to more concerns on the Episode Duscae demo, such as the role of monster drops, the sound environment and background music. Tabata said programming underwater action would be time-intensive, but they were looking to include the Leviathan segment from the 2013 E3 trailer. It was said that with the feedback on the demo Square Enix has set its sights on what to do during the mastering phase.[35]

Tabata also talked about the changes made from when the game was still known as Versus XIII. After the switch the team wanted ensure Final Fantasy XV would have a complete and coherent story in one game. The team tried to keep as many elements from the original story in as possible, but some of the major changes include removing of Stella Nox Fleuret, who had been presented as the foil to Noctis, replacing her with a new heroine named Luna, who has a different role in the story. Previously shown as the opening for Versus XIII was a scene of a party after which the city of Insomnia was attacked by Niflheim forces. This sequence was deleted because the opening was changed so that Noctis and his crew would leave Insomnia before Niflheim attacks, but the reason behind the change was said to be a spoiler.[35] The patched version of the demo was released few days later with many new additions and improvements, such as tours, a new co-op move, dodge-rolling and balancing of MP use, and the addition of a fightable Catoblepas.

In August at Gamescom new footage of a Malboro was shown, said to be from a point beyond the game's halfway point. The developers explained they were looking to implement an airship, but if they were unable to include it in time, they would consider released it as downloadable content. Besides comradeship, the bonds between parents and children was said to be a major theme, and the new story revelations included Luna being Noctis's fiancée for a political marriage. It was said the game's marketing and release schedule was locked down, but that they would be unable to give further details.[36]Final Fantasy XV appearing at Gamescom was accompanied by a new "Dawn" trailer showing the events of 15 years before the game of Luna being attacked by soldiers, and a young Noctis being held by his father after "the stars had chosen him as their light". The official website was also updated with new story details.

Many fans were disappointing with the lackluster showing and still not having a release date. To reassure fans Tabata said the release date had been decided with a road map lined up to launch, and that the game was proceeding along as planned. He said the release was going to be "before 2017".[37] Starting at Gamescom Square Enix was "putting everyone at the same starting line", meaning the game was now also marketed toward people who had never heard of Final Fantasy XV before. Because this was the start of the "proper" campaign, it was deemed too early to announce the full release date.[38] Tabata admitted they had underestimated fans' expectations, and said they would keep improving to have a good relationship with the fans.[39]

Outpost-FFXV-Artwork

Concept art of Caem revealed at PAX Prime.

The next Active Time Report was held at PAX Prime in Seattle on 29th August. Tabata confirmed a 2016 release window, and it was revealed Square Enix would hold an event in March 2016 where the official release date would be announced, among other things. A video was shown highlighting various features being worked on, including Cor Leonis wielding a katana, Noctis wielding a gun, and the main menu. The team also showcased some concept artwork including one new location, Caem, an outpost where the party will board a ship to Altissia. The boat was said to be rendered in real-time and with seamless travel.

Square Enix showed new footage of the game's driving mechanics and a video message from Avalanche Studios' Christofer Sundberg who informed that the collaboration between Square Enix and Avalanche Studios regarding sharing technology for the development of Final Fantasy XV was still in early stages.[40] Square Enix met with Avalanche Studios, but the actual development work wasn't done as a collaboration. Square Enix sat down with Avalanche and discussed their LOD development methods. The way the LOD system handles textures was something Square Enix learned from and used the information of that meeting to develop the system themselves for Final Fantasy XV.[41]

At Tokyo Game Show mid-September, a new version of the "Dawn" trailer was shown with scenes of Luna and Noctis. In the Active Time Report more information was given on Luna and King Regis, and the name of Luna's black-haired attendant was revealed: Gentiana. Footage of chocobo riding and a fishing minigame was shown, and the developers talked about possible free DLC for adding extras they didn't have time to finish, among other things.[42]

In interviews published after the event, more of the game world's lore was unveiled with Luna's status as an oracle and the world being afflicted with a plague that lengthens its nights, Luna's oracle powers being used to prevent the world from plunging into complete darkness. According to Hajime Tabata, the word "dawn" has a special meaning for the trailer and the game. It was said that at the March event Square Enix would announce not only the release date, but also the tech demo's official name and specifications and other collaborations (besides Coleman whose products the party uses for camping in the game) involved with the game's settings and "real-world" feeling. It was also teased there would be a bit of news that "no one is expecting" that "will probably be huge news."[43]

Final Fantasy XV was shown at Paris Games Week at the end of October without new information, but concept art of monsters and chocobos was shown in the official social media on Twitter and Instagram.[44]

The Japanese Final Fantasy XV Twitter held a poll asking if fans wanted moogles—one of the series' mascots—in the game, and after a positive reception it was announced the game would have a small moogle appearance.[45] Upon announcing the poll results on 9th November, director Hajime Tabata also commented that the pre-beta version of Final Fantasy XV was complete, and that the team had focused on achieving this for the past six months. At his request, PR and publicity had been relatively quiet to allow focus on finishing this stage of development. He finished with asking fans to look forward to the March event for many more details.[46]

In November fans got to submit questions to the developers on the official forums, and couple of them, related to the game's battle system, were answered.[47] At the start of December it was announced that development had entered the final phase, and that the game was playable from start to the end with the first half of the game being finished with the quality of a final product.[48]

In December the development team began to answer questions from the Japanese audience, starting with issues related to the Cross-Link feature. According to Game Design Section Manager Ken'ichi Shida, "The cross-link tempo has been improved from the demo, and execution is now more nimble. Ways of triggering the Cross-Link are different from the demo and have improved. The cross-link system was overhauled for the purposes of the finalized version's release. A hitherto unreleased link system called 'Slash Link' exists, and is triggered under different conditions from the Cross-Link. These link systems are the bread and butter of XV's friend co-op party battles, so the development team will be polishing these systems up until the moment that the finalized version of the game is released."[49]

2016 Edit

In January developers answered some question that fans got to submit back in December 2015, related to the scale of Lucis and Altissia, building warp points and different battle modes as difficulty level setting.[50]

Young Noctis

Image of Young Noctis revealed during Taipei Game Show.

In January 31st a stage event took place at Taipei Game Show followed by the Active Time Report. The Progress Report Vol.2 shown detailed how far the game had progressed back in August/September 2015, followed by a new battle footage showing the updated battle system, use of magic, stealth gameplay and the re-introduction of the dragoon woman, named Aranea Highwind.[51] A tech demo featuring a young Noctis was said to be in the works. Hajime Tabata also showed a variety of information regarding the Niflheim Empire, from its leaders and infantrymen to their motives and designs. Before finishing, Tabata revealed more details on the March event: titled "Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV", it would take place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on March 30th 2016 at 7:00pm Pacific Standard Time. At the event Square Enix would reveal the game's release date, as well as additional information, new footage and collaborations.[51]

On February 1st during a stage event at Taipei Game Show focused on Final Fantasy XV, Hajime Tabata revealed that a total of nine Asian companies have been helping in the development of assets for the game, including Xpec from Taiwan and Plusmile from Shanghai, China.[52] On February 12th Square Enix closed the Final Fantasy XV Japanese forum, replacing it with a new blog[53] that would be updated every Tuesday and Friday.[54] On February 21st the official Final Fantasy XV blog looked into the of the game environment that is divided in sections.[55] On February 26th the blog introduced a staff member who talked about the design of NPCs.[56] On March 15th the official Final Fantasy XV blog provided insight on the creation of 3D monsters.[57] On March 22nd an update gave a short explanation about in-game destruction physics.[58]

On March 30th the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event took place, where new information and other media material related to the game was revealed, such as brand new trailers and a new demo, an anime, a movie and others.[59] Hajime Tabata gave extensive interviews afterward to Game Informer and Famitsu, among others, and details from the game's first chapter were shared with journalists. Game Informer had visited Business Division 2 in early March, and the footage they had collected would become the key story in the Game Informer May issue, with new information being slowly revealed in April with video interviews and other tidbits. The April 21st Active Time Event was held for the Japanese viewers recapping the Uncovered event, and the next event was announced for E3.

May 23rd Tabata appeared in a long interview with 4Gamer where he commented on the game's progress: during the final stages of development all the assets need to be polished, lightning needs to be finalized and shadows adjusted. The team required a specialist in this field, and thus the quality artists became the leaders and the rest of the team was reformed to output and support them. Final Fantasy XV had been in development for three and a half years at this point, and the people who would become leaders in the latter half were given training during that time with the aim to create an organization structure where people fluidly withstand changes in team compositions.[60]

Regalia Type-F. sunset

Regalia Type-F was revealed during E3.

Final Fantasy XV featured prominently on E3 2016 in June. Trial of Titan demo made specifically for the convention was played live on stage during the Microsoft event, and was later playable for visitors at Square Enix's booth on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. A new trailer with music by Afrojack was shown during Sony's event, where a Final Fantasy XV virtual reality "minigame" for PSVR was also revealed. During subsequent livestreams and presentations the developers unveiled a Wait Mode where the battle pauses if the player ceases input, the ultimate airship model for the player's car (Regalia Type-F), and the town of Altissia and a glimpse of its coliseum. Press got to try out the beginning of the game with previews appearing on sites like IGN and Ars Technica. New information the Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV companion movie and a new episode for the Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV prequel anime were also unveiled.

In an interview Kotaku Tabata explained the team was in the process of optimizing the game, and described it as a challenge because they didn't want to cut content to improve performance, such as cut down the number of enemies that appear at once or the number of effects on screen. Tabata said they hadn't done anything for "Xbox Scorpio" or "PlayStation Neo", the new consoles Microsoft and Sony were going to announce soon.[41]

On July 12th Streamline Studios announced their collaboration with the development of Final Fantasy XV.[61]

On August 12th Florence and the Machine's Songs from Final Fantasy XV EP was released with three songs from the game: "Too Much Is Never Enough", "Stand By Me" and "I Will Be". Soon after rumors began circulating that the game was to be delayed to the end of November. On 14th August Square Enix released a video of Director Hajime Tabata confirming the delay, saying a master version of the game was ready, but to deliver the best possible game they had planned a substantive day one patch. As downloading a large patch is not possible for all players around the world, the team decided to include what was going to be in the patch in the disc version, and push back the release by two months. Tabata assured the team was determined to release the best possible version of the game everyone who buys the disc version can play.[62]

Final Fantasy XV featured prominently in Gamescom where the beginning of the game was playable to attendees. Square Enix also released a 50-minute long gameplay video of this segment. Hajime Tabata spoke to Dengeki Online about the game's showing at Gamescom and where they were in development, saying optimization was yet insufficient and there were flaws that appeared weird, but assured there were no game-breaking bugs. They were not going to add more features, but further balance the existing ones and ensure gameplay would be smoother.[63] Once Tabata had made the decision to delay, he spoke to the important stakeholders and it was announced as soon as possible.[64]

Speaking with Vice, Tabata talked about what he had learned from making Final Fantasy XV. They now had a solid production base, groundwork for the future, and experience from global strategy: going abroad before the game is finished, and talking to people while the game is still in development.[64] A slightly improved version of the game soon featured in PAX West. This version allowed players to freely steer the car. The team had wanted to ensure the game was perfected prior to implementing that aspect, and to solve any issue that might emerge from that.[65]

2016TGS-Live-Art-FFXV-Monsters

Live artwork of the game's monsters from Tokyo Game Show.

Final Fantasy XV Live at Abbey Road Studios was a concert performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios on 7th September, 2016. The composer of the Final Fantasy XV soundtrack, Yoko Shimomura, made an appearance and the concert was live-streamed via YouTube and Twitch.

Final Fantasy XV made a showing at the Tokyo Game Show with a new trailer. The final Brotherhood episode was released, and Square Enix confirmed the game will support PlayStation 4 Pro but will be optimized for the standard version. Artists from Square Enix collaborated on a live art event at the show, illustrating various monsters and characters from the game.

On September 30th, the game entered "data lock" phase and was sent to Sony and Microsoft for testing and certification.[66] In that same day Art Director Yusuke Naora left Square Enix.[67]

Square Enix announced at Paris Games Week on 27th October that the game had gone gold, meaning development was complete and it was ready for production. Development would shift towards downloadable content, that was to include three original episodes that would take place during the game events. Each episode would take control of one of Noctis's comrades who have their own play style. Following the character episodes, an expansion pack called "Comrades" was set to introduce an online co-op mode for up to four players allowing players to take control of Noctis, Gladiolus, Prompto and Ignis as a group. Square Enix Business Division 2 producer Haruyoshi Sawatari manages the downloadable content and it is being overseen by Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata, with development led by core members of the game's team. During Paris Games Week Square Enix also debuted a new CG trailer, dubbed "Omen," made in collaboration with Digic Pictures, who worked on Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.[68]

On November 11, Square Enix released a new demo titled Final Fantasy XV: Judgment Disc that would serve as a way to "judge" the final product. The demo's contents span from the beginning to half way through Chapter 1 of the game. Expected total playtime for this new demo will be around an hour and a half. Saves from the demo won´t be carried into the final game, players who complete the demo will be rewarded with a "special" video.[69] The demo was generally well-received but players soon discovered bugs. Director Hajime Tabata assured via Twitter they were being fixed; due to the game's open world nature pruning each and every bug was seen as impossible, but Tabata said Square Enix will monitor the frequency players experience bugs and release patches. Another thing he said would be added via patches to the main game was the video shown for completing the Judgment Disc demo.[70]

The street date was broken on November 17 when retailers in Peru began selling the game twelve days early.[71] As spoilers began to circulate the internet, director Hajime Tabata addressed the issue the following Monday, saying the company regrets the situation and that they'd do their best to crack down on spoiler videos, but asked fans anticipating the game to be careful. Details on the day one patch were also given.[72] In a pre-launch event in London on 22nd November, Tabata asked fans to avoid spreading spoilers, and said that Square Enix may be looking into potential legal action against people doing it.[73]

The game released worldwide 29th November.

Development of Final Fantasy XV Edit

From Final Fantasy Versus XIII to Final Fantasy XV Edit

Noctis

Promotional artwork for Final Fantasy Versus XIII.

In E3 2013 it was revealed Square Enix was thinking Final Fantasy Versus XIII could be made into Final Fantasy XV much earlier in the game's production than what was revealed to the public. Within the company, about one to two years after Versus XIII was announced, discussions were had on its scale and concept and the talks went on for several years.[2]

In 2011, developers began to hear about next-generation consoles, and the team decided to make Final Fantasy Versus XIII into Final Fantasy XV, but this was not public knowledge yet.[2] While the game was rebranded, the ideas of having a different story from previous Final Fantasy games and an action-based battle system did not change. Tetsuya Nomura, who was still directing the game at this time, had to confirm this during talks of the game being rebranded as the next numbered Final Fantasy, but after being told it wouldn't be a problem, the project went ahead.[74]

In 2012 it was decided development would shift to next-generation consoles, and the name was officially changed into Final Fantasy XV within the company, although the public revelation would wait until E3 2013.[2] Nomura was eventually replaced with Hajime Tabata and his production team that would develop Final Fantasy XV on the premise of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but it would no longer be the exact same game, nor an official part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series. Tabata has described Final Fantasy XV as a bigger scaled game than Final Fantasy Versus XIII was going to be, and said the game still contains the core things to Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but that there would also be more to it.[38] The team approached Final Fantasy XV as a new game with new hardware, rather than a restart of the Versus project. The team wanted to show the fans their view on the "ultimate FF for now", rather than trying to recreate Versus XIII.[75]

Former Square Enix Technology Director, Julien Merceron, has shared his insight on the transition from Final Fantasy Versus XIII to Final Fantasy XV. Merceron was working on Final Fantasy XIII-2 when the concept of Versus XIII was still evolving, but its technology was becoming obsolete as the game became more open world, and so new technology had to be created causing many complications. During this time Final Fantasy XIV was in turmoil after its initial disastrous launch and eventual remake into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Yoshihisa Hashimoto was hired from Sega along with some others from his former team, who helped establish Luminous Studio as well as the custom engine in A Realm Reborn.[76]

The new team created an approximate system that allowed for real-time rendering editing. First they developed the graphics and animations followed by a cinematics editor and added in a system that would manage events during cutscenes and scene transitions. This was one of the first things they did to allow for the evolution of Final Fantasy XV seen today.[76]

When the change from Versus XIII to XV happened, the team looked at the elements that were intended to be in the former and the plan for that game, and how they would fit into the new plan as Final Fantasy XV trying to preserve as much as possible. Some things couldn't fit into the new plan and had to be altered, removed, or replaced. Tabata has mentioned they are not ashamed of doing this, because they were deemed things that "really needed to be changed."[39] For example, the entire Final Fantasy Versus XIII opening with Noctis meeting Stella at the eve of the Niflheim invasion was deemed too big to fit into the game, and instead the invasion story was used to make Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a separate project.[41] Tabata thought that rather than have something that's been announced in an unfinished state that they cannot get finished, it is more important to have a finished, enjoyable game, and thus they would have to cut things.[75]

Final Fantasy Versus XIII was designed with elements from Fabula Nova Crystallis in mind. Thus the developers felt it better to keep the elements and incorporate them in a natural way, as removing them would lose a lot of the world and its attraction. Final Fantasy XV, however, does not use the lore-specific terminology from Final Fantasy XIII so that people wouldn't confuse it being a part of the Final Fantasy XIII world and thus lose some of the identity as Final Fantasy XV.[39] Eventually Square Enix stopped associating the game with the subseries altogether so it could be marketed as its own entity, using its basic mythos and themes as a base for original lore.[39][77][78]

Tabata has described the situation with Final Fantasy XV as unique, and that he had learned that releasing information about a game early, as was the case with Final Fantasy Versus XIII—a game that never really took shape—forms a different view by the world to what the developers themselves think. The moment it goes out the information stops being just a thing for the developers, but becomes something for the fans who form attachments to things like characters, such as Stella, who was ultimately replaced for Final Fantasy XV. He said that handling the way people relate to the released information is something that will be important for the future.[39]

It turned out that the team would need to change the role of heroine to wrap up the story in just one game (Final Fantasy Versus XIII was planned as a series of games). Fans had an impression of Stella even though her traits had not been released completely. Tabata has mused it being difficult to change her role alone, since her image would be different from what fans had. Developers felt uncomfortable working on a character they have known for a long time that is completely changed, so they decided to change the character itself.[14]

Tabata has later said that when Final Fantasy Versus XIII became Final Fantasy XV, it was around 25% complete.[79]

Modernizing Final Fantasy Edit

When restarting the title as Final Fantasy XV, the team knew they had to modernize Final Fantasy to compete in the modern era of gaming. Hajime Tabata, chosen as the new director, had never personally been involved in the creation of a numbered Final Fantasy and thus considered himself able to look at the series objectively. He pondered whether the company he was previously with could make a title such as the earlier installments in the series, and found himself answering "no" for each of the numbered games.[17]

When it was decided the Final Fantasy XV project was going ahead, Tabata noticed a rapidly building feeling, both within the company and among other companies—especially in the responses of foreign developers—that Final Fantasy as an IP (intellectual property) was in danger. The games being produced weren't the games the developers set out to make, such as what had happened with Final Fantasy XIII. Tabata has cited overcoming the reality of this situation as the biggest issue that needed addressing. Square Enix needed to accept that Final Fantasy was no longer a winning franchise. The previous formula was failing in the HD market and the team needed to view themselves as challengers rather than established winners.[17]

Tabata has referred to Square's myopic view on the series as the "Final Fantasy disease", referring to people within the company who can't imagine anything other than their own view of Final Fantasy which ends up taking priority over the team's success. If that specific view of Final Fantasy isn't fulfilled, people become convinced it's bad for the series, thinking that since Final Fantasy is a special team within Square Enix, they are also special because they are making it and everyone is automatically going to love the game because it is a new Final Fantasy game. Tabata wanted to break away from this line of thinking.[6]

Development to different platforms Edit

Stella

Stella in the PS3 environment.

At E3 2013 it was said that until a year before the developers were making the game for the then current-generation consoles as well, but this was abandoned when it became clear next-generation consoles would have superior quality.[2] Tetsuya Nomura commented that the way of developing games in general has changed and that before, when going multi-platform, a game would be fit to one console's specifications and would be evened out to other consoles, but said he didn't want to make a game that compromises quality.[2] Using a different development method, Nomura chose not to look at consumer consoles to meet their specifications.[2]

The shift in platform had several reasons. The lifespan of the current generation of consoles was starting to pose a problem, as if Square Enix was late entering the next generation, other companies would have had more time to research developing for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and releasing the game against their products on the older generation could have caused Square to look inferior.[80] Nomura also thought they had hit the wall with the power offered by PlayStation 3 due to limitations of having a seamless world and simultaneously having all required actions always available in the memory; world map sized maps that can have elements change and be destroyed during battles, the myriad of weapons, party members' individual actions, magic spells, monsters on a large map, light sourcing, physics, filters and other graphical elements; and that to fully realize his vision they would need to shift the project to the next generation of consoles.[80]

Square Enix is developing Final Fantasy XV on DirectX 11, which is not based on either the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One, letting the team develop full-spec without worrying about individual platforms, then port it to each console in the most appropriate way.[80] The original Final Fantasy XV runs on a high-spec PC, and how close a console gets to the original depends on its specs.[80] Nomura has explained the idea is to keep the options open in case a console comes out in the future that can recreate the original. It is the opposite approach from Square Enix's previous "multiplatform" projects, which were based on the specs of a single console and then ported to other platforms.[81] Nomura even mentioned the possibility of bringing Final Fantasy XV out on high-end PCs if there was ever enough demand.[80]

Hajime Tabata worked both as director of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and director for Final Fantasy XV. The decision to release the former for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was in part because Square wanted to push the install-base for the consoles to ensure the success of Final Fantasy XV in turn, in Japan as well as overseas.[20]

The game is primarily being developed for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but after the game is out, the team will consider a PC port where things like running the game at 60fps would be possible.[82] At Comic Fiesta 2015, director Hajime Tabata said that a PC version is not being developed concurrent with the console versions.[83] In October 2016 Tabata said a PC port would need to be better than the console versions, and that it would take over a year to develop one because they would have to adapt the engine.[84]

PSVR-FFXV-Prompto

Promotional image of Prompto wearing the PSVR headset.

VR support was experimented with for a section of the game. It was said to have been dropped, as, according to Tabata, "we didn't feel that having that headset on for the entirety of the game and that experience would match what we were aiming for with XV," and that the player would have worn the headset for hours.[85] At E3 2016 however, a VR "minigame" episode where the player would play as Prompto was revealed.

Gameplay Edit

The game takes place in a seamless open world. Though the player is free to explore, the game was designed around clear objectives so players would not wander into the world haphazardly. The game is balanced to satisfy fans who like traditional Final Fantasy storytelling for a feel of following an epic story.[3]

When making the transition from a Nomura-led project to a Tabata-led one, the two directors discussed the game with Tabata feeling it should be more realistic. "For example, when you're battling a really strong boss like a behemoth, if you go at it from just the front you're going to get hit with his counter-attacks. You have to think about baiting it to attack forward, but then break its stance and attack it from the side. I wanted to make it so you're fighting a real animal, but with easy-to-manipulate controls as well as dramatic effects. My basis was to keep it grounded in reality."[24]

Tabata wanted to make the game accessible for a broad audience, so both casual and hardcore gamers would find something to enjoy. For example, the party's car can be set to autopilot, or it can be driven manually. The idea of streamlining was used when designing the combat system, made into "a one-button action" with the AI intuitively outputting an action that gives instant player gratification. The idea was not to design a game that requires frantic button pushing, but that still has depth.[24] Despite striving for a game "anyone can immediately be able to play", the game as a whole is said not to be casual, even if it has basic controls.[13]

The team didn't start off attempting to create combat that would satisfy both new and old expectations. Doing that became a reality when the team was working on the balancing and fine-tuning. The original intention was to have a feeling of adventure and not to break immersion. Thus, battles would need seamless transition and the combat needed to feel intuitive.[86]

When the Episode Duscae demo came out, the polarization between two different expectations towards gameplay came clear: the classic Japanese RPG style where people expect to grind on weaker monsters to become strong enough to take on harder enemies, and the Western action game-based style that emphasizes skill to take down harder enemies. Tabata wants Final Fantasy XV to appeal to both groups while recognizing this is difficult to achieve and doing it half-heartedly would lead to gameplay that doesn't appeal to either group.[87]

FinalFantasyVersusXIII combat 3

Old footage of a player-controlled Prompto.

Previously it had been said players would be able to switch characters on the fly, allowing the opportunity to create multi-character combos. Although it was shown in the E3 2013 trailer, in its current specifications Final Fantasy XV does not allow the player to switch the playable character, allowing direct control of only Noctis. The development team looked into an "Active Cross Battle system" that made free use of attack, guard, and co-op functions, but as a result concluded that changing characters would be too difficult.[13] Early footage showed a third person aiming mode for firearms, exclusive to Prompto, and the player being able to control mechanic structures, such as tanks or robots. The old footage depicted a menu titled "EX Arts," but it has been absent since the 2013 gameplay demonstrations.

Originally it had been planned only Noctis would use magic in battle as per game lore, but it was changed so all party members could wield it to make the battles more fun.[27] In Jump Festa 2015 it was mentioned the magic system's polishing had been delegated to the later stages of development.[88]

The 3rd Birthday, a PlayStation Portable action game also directed by Hajime Tabata, has an Overdrive function where the player could switch position quickly with another character. Tabata drew on that idea for Final Fantasy XV and it can be utilized strategically. He also drew ideas from The 3rd Birthday for the cover system.[89]

Visuals and art direction Edit

The team places emphasis on graphical fidelity and having the best technology because it is used to tell the story.[87] Director Hajime Tabata sees technology as one of the three pillars that define a Final Fantasy title (the other two being a willingness to challenge the status quo and provide out-of-the-ordinary experiences), and knows consumers expect exceptional graphics from Final Fantasy. He has said that open worlds' graphical quality is not seen as being on par with more closed game designs and set out to overcome that barrier.[90]

Noctis-rendered-FFXV

Final Fantasy XV uses Square Enix's Luminous Studio game engine. There are about 5,000,000 polygons per frame with each character made up of at max 100,000 polygons. The inner hair alone has about 20,000 polygons, which is five times the previous generation. Character models have around 600 bones, roughly 10-12 times greater than what was seen previous generation.[91] About 150 bones are for the face, 300 for hair and clothes, and 150 for the body. There is a bone-based physical simulation technology applied so that clothing reacts to the body's movements.[92] Square Enix has licensed technology to boost graphics performance with Umbra's visibility optimization technology that ensures that only the visible objects in every frame are being processed and rendered.[93]

The capacity of just one character's textures is about 30 megabytes. The team is using 2048×2048 texels and 4096×4096 texels for HD textures. The game's resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p), with a target of 30fps frame rate.[92]

The team remains aware of the danger of going "too much into detail", bogging down the game's overall performance. The developers dealt with it in a case by case basis. For the case of elaborate particle effects for magic, the team felt it important to have that level of detail because magic needed to be convincing as a phenomenon and as a fantasy element within an otherwise believable world.[41]

Lestallum-Streets-FFXV

Concept artwork of Lestallum.

The game's modernistic art direction derives inspiration from real world locations, as opposed to the more fantasy-futuristic feel of Final Fantasy XIII. The cars driven in the game resemble modern cars rather than the various fantasy vehicles utilized in Final Fantasy XIII, and the main characters' clothes are designed by the clothing brand Roen rather than being designed by Tetsuya Nomura. In its strive for a more corporeal-looking world, the style is somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII, although darker and more monochromatic. While the beginning of the game takes place in a more contemporary setting, as the story progresses the player will find various fantasy environments and atmospheres similar to what past titles like Final Fantasy VII did.

Knowledge gained from the development of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and a canned Final Fantasy Type-0 sequel[94] is being used in the development of Final Fantasy XV. The art division was flattened and made less section-based and more task-based allowing for more collaboration and feedback from multiple disciplines. The new team went on trips in small groups, undertaking activities like mountain climbing, cave exploring and visiting a zoo, to get practical references to draw upon. The challenge of Final Fantasy XV has been said to lie with setting the fantasy within the boundaries of reality as the team wants the world to feel simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. The towns are designed to walk a balance between delivering a culture shock while still being rooted in familiarity; the depiction of 2015 in Back to the Future II has been mentioned as inspiration for this style.[33]

This goal required a lot of resources that had to be allocated, or even outsourced. A lot of the game's architecture and feel was inspired by the area surrounding Square Enix's old office in Kyoto. To test the fantasy against the reality, art director Yusuke Naora painted over a number of photographs taken around Kyoto to see how well the balance would feel.[95] Traditionally location design starts with creation of concept artwork, which is then used for rendering the locations for the game. However, the degree of photo-realism the team aimed for Final Fantasy XV led to locations modeled after concept artwork feeling artificial, and the art team and programmers went back-and-forth in adding more detail to get the desired effect.[96]

Accordo-at-night-FFXV

Accordo from the TGS14 trailer.

With the improved processing power of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the need for prerendered cutscenes is diminished, and thus Final Fantasy XV is set to have fewer such cutscenes than many of its main series predecessors. Former director Tetsuya Nomura has commented that even in considerably dynamic scenes, the player will be in control of their character, and cited the scene where Leviathan is rioting through the city as an example.[97] In Gamescom 2015 Hajime Tabata revealed that conversations had begun about a collaboration between Avalanche Studios to use Just Cause 3 tech in Final Fantasy XV to achieve a vertical element to help implement airships that could fly around in full-scale.[98] The information gleaned from a meeting with Avalanche helped the team develop their own system for it.[41]

Takeshi Nozue was brought into the Final Fantasy XV team from Visual Works,Square Enix's subsidiary that does the prerendered cut scenes and CGI promo art for the games and made Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The team worked on how to put the prerendering technology Nozue had brought from his team into the real-time rendering in the game. As an extension of that, the team concluded to develop the game engine and the first result brought by this was the footage was released at E3 in 2013.[14]

Catoblepas-FFXV-Concept

Final Fantasy XV draws upon the good aspects of the classic Final Fantasy to recreate them in a modern landscape with the latest technology. Tabata has said that the dungeons in the early series had less order, and players could happen upon especially vicious or unexpected monsters, describing it an element he loved from the classic games, and calling it a "spectacular world exists above ground, but underground anything can happen."[99] One of the concepts of the game's graphic design is to keep the original monster designs by Yoshitaka Amano from the previous titles and to adapt them in a realistic way.[100] However, Tabata has mentioned that in creating a new game, throwing in familiar elements just to please the fans gives an impression of shallowness. Thus, he thinks carefully how Final Fantasy icons apply to the setting and ensures they are included there because they are necessary.[25]

There is a difference with Final Fantasy XV and what Final Fantasy Versus XIII had tried to depict in regards to gory content. This is not just in relation to ratings restrictions, but in relation of what the team wants to do with Final Fantasy XV on its own. Trying to work within the ratings restrictions changed how the team was proceeding with the game in many ways, such as thinking about a menu where the player could choose how much blood would be shown, or a DLC for a different rating. Despite the ratings restrictions Tabata is planning for shocking moments where brutal scenes are necessary.[101] Worship of the Grim Reaper was to be a theme in Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but it was toned down due to ratings concerns in certain countries. Thus, Final Fantasy XV has the color black be special in the kingdom of Lucis.[102]

Story Edit

Kazushige Nojima wrote the original Final Fantasy Versus XIII scenario and the plot developed during the Versus era served as the basis for the Final Fantasy XV story. The new development team led by Saori Itamuro would adapt Nojima's draft into a more detailed script. Nojima has expressed his support and said he is looking forward for the game to be completed.[35]

In director Hajime Tabata's opinion the story experience is one of the most important factors in a Final Fantasy game, and the story must progress towards a conclusion and give a decent experience on that set path. The journeys the player can go on along the way towards the ultimate conclusion should be as free and as reflective of the player's intent as possible.[75]

The theme of the story is said to be "a road trip" and adventure focusing on brotherhood.[20] Though Noctis is the main character, the party itself, that includes Noctis's friends, could be treated as main characters.[3][14] Director Hajime Tabata has said that an all-male party is approachable for players as even the presence of a female would change their behavior. To give the most natural feeling, having the main party the same gender made sense.[103]

The world might be ready to see the curtain lifted on what boys do when girls aren't around, when they come out of the tent all prim and proper. That's kind of the idea behind it… we think, male or female player, that everyone will feel a certain connection and bond with the four characters.[103]
—Hajime Tabata

Noctis and Luna's story is said to be "not a generic love story" and the characters' childhoods were be used to deepen the story and help players feel more for the characters.[104] The game starts grounded with locations based on reality, but further in will become more fantastic and otherworldly akin to previous Final Fantasy games.[39]

Tabata has stated that one of the important story threads is how Noctis goes from a young prince in waiting to the king of Lucis. The story is said to focus on Noctis and how he grows and develops as a person. According to Tabata, the direction of the game's narrative and character development are connected, and the team is aiming for something where gameplay and storytelling are one in the same. Games such as The Last of Us were looked to as an example of that concept.[105]

Tetsuya Nomura said that because he designed his game to have a modern setting and a story focused on human drama, he chose not to use the names in the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos, such as "l'Cie", instead using the concepts behind the terms and not directly referring to the mythos as Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Type-0 did.[106] Tabata agrees with the sentiment from the point of view of making the game more accessible, and has explained the developers feel that the history of Final Fantasy hinders new people getting into the series.[87]

Director Hajime Tabata has cited the ending of Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, namely Zack's final stand, as an inspiration to writing scenes for Final Fantasy XV, wanting to capture a similar emotion.[101]

The characters all dressing in black was chosen in part because the Grim Reaper worship theme present in some Final Fantasy Versus XIII material was toned down (due to ratings concerns in certain countries), and in part to strengthen the game's setting: Hajime Tabata has explained that to those newly-introduced to the world of Final Fantasy XV things must be in place to help players familiarize with the game world. He explained that the Final Fantasy series comprises so many elements it is among the most difficult to explain with brevity. For Final Fantasy XV the developers consider it important to have a clear theme that can be explained in plain words, and the development team's answer to the question "What kind of a game is Final Fantasy XV?" would be "a game to regain a kingdom once lost."[102]

World Edit

FFXV-Landscape-Artwork

The world of Eos.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII had the concept of fantasy close to reality, and the new team decided to enhance it especially at the beginning of the game, although the game would become more fantasy near endgame.[14] The developers aimed having the exploration of the world be a big part of the joy of playing. They wanted to give the player a feeling similar to visiting a foreign country and be excited about what lies around the next corner.[86]

The developers started creating the world terrain from the continental level, with the mountain ranges and the flow of the rivers, and polished it to a level where each region and location has its own climate and topography. The team went on to many location hunts to attain the feel of verisimilitude.[107]

The world continuously changes as time passes affecting player experience while journeying through it with day and night cycles occurring naturally. Weather affects the characters' appearance on the field; in wet weather, the party's hair and clothes get a subtle damp look.[108] The game world is seamless with intention of making players feel all locations are connected.[109]

DuscaeAtDay-ffxved

Duscae region in the Episode Duscae demo.

The decision on whether to make Final Fantasy XV open world or not was the hardest. Some staff were aggressively against the idea with the fear that introducing open world would lead the game feeling empty. Tabata himself felt that non-open world RPG released at 2016 would have players raising their eyebrows, especially when traveling around the world is a big theme in the game. The story remains linear, but it is expressed in an open world.[14]

The staff at first was not confident on their ability to deliver an open world game world. Tabata told everyone it would be okay for the field to be empty, and offered Shadow of the Colossus as an example of an expansive game whose world is not littered with content. Comparing their team to games like Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, some were overwhelmed thinking they cannot develop something like that, but the team gained confidence as they earned the know-how on technology. Towards the end of the development Tabata talked how looking at some of the global developers of open world games, they now see that they bring in a lot of people during the final phase, but this was something Tabata couldn't foresee, because it was the team's first foray into developing an open world game. This was one of the reasons that contributed toward the decision to delay the release for two months.[65]

Final Fantasy XV Topographical

The clay model of Eos.

The development team created a clay model of the in-game map early-on, prior to constructing the overarching game. This initial mock-up determined the overarching scheme and became the basis for constructing the actual map. The initial map helped evaluate where it would make sense to have a journey by car, where it would make sense for players to explore, and where it would make sense to have the train ride sequence planned for the game. It also helped evaluate what kind of technology was needed to achieve all the elements within the map.[65]

Tabata has explained that in the most classic Final Fantasy titles dungeons were scary, chaotic and uncontrollable with an air of "strangeness" where something that shouldn't necessarily be there would be found, and wanted to replicate this feeling of "the non-normal" with Final Fantasy XV dungeons.[109]

The sound team wanted to program the environmental sounds to change dynamically through AI control to create a system where the sounds that surround the player shift organically as the environment changes.[35]

The map map is divided into three sections: world map, locations and dungeons, with staff dedicated to each. The environment team works on improving visual quality and balancing light and shadows and additional adjustments, such as the smoothness of the ground. The team also regulates things such as walking height and the angle of slopes that can be overcome.[55]

The creatures encountered out in the field aren't all enemies. Designer Tomohiro Hasegawa has said that all creatures have been designed to belong naturally in the world, so not all will be enemies.

To create the flow of hours, the developers had to get as close as possible to the real world. They would take a photo of the real sun and blue skies and drop it into the game and employ a system called the Sky System to make adjustments. In the real world there is not one minute, or one second, where light is the same and the sun is 400,000 times brighter than the moon, though impossible for the human eye to detect. To get closer to that in Final Fantasy XV, the sun is set to shine more than 100,000 times brighter than the moon; the exposure is adjusted so that the lighting is always just right within the game.[110]

Characters Edit

During the transition from Final Fantasy Versus XIII it was decided the original main characters needed to be preserved and thus no big changes were made. Tabata has later said he originally had no affection to the characters, but rather than creating the party's looks, the team focused on developing the characters from the inside, an said the main characters are the most over-the-top character designs in the game.[60]

Versus-vs-XV-Prompto

Prompto from Versus on the left; final design on the right.

Yusuke Naora is one of three art directors on Final Fantasy XV, and one of his early tasks on the project was to update the look of the characters from their incarnations in Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The characters had initially been designed with PlayStation 2 in mind, and the higher level of detail allowed on the current generation of consoles for their faces, hair and clothes was taken into account when redesigning their looks. However, as the characters had already been unveiled and fans had already formed attachments to their designs, the team wanted to retain this familiarity.[111] In repackaging the project as Final Fantasy XV the characters' roles were re-evaluated, which in some cases affected their appearance. The developers wanting the game to be played across the globe also affected the character designs, as it needed to be considered how they would be viewed in the eyes of a global audience.[96]

The art staff wanted to make it easy to distinguish the characters even though they all wear black. The team wanted to make them come alive both in technical and artistic ways, and ways to make the characters relatable were discussed endlessly. At the beginning of the development, a special unit was formed to create the cast's personal traits. The team also paid attention to feedback from players, especially in Prompto who many found annoying in the beginning for the contrast he'd behave compared to the others. Developing Noctis was a challenge, and Tabata struggled to like him at first for how "symbolic" or artificial he seemed, and to get into the character Tabata tried to imagine how Noctis was as a child. The discussion on how to make Noctis "come alive" went on until late development.[14] Yusuke Nora has commented that because the characters' voice acting and animations affects their characterization so much, the role of a character designer has diminished as character creation became more of a team effort.[96]

The team felt it integral to keep the party system familiar from the previous Final Fantasy games. The aim was to have it extend beyond battles, the idea being that wherever the player is and whatever they are doing, they have got a party around them to interact with.[86] Thus the developers built up AI and animation system on that. The characters' movements are 80% achieved with motion capture, as opposed to monster animations that are around 80% hand-animated. For the first time in its history, Business Division 2 set up team members in charge of the character relationships, who would, among other things, review the characters' animations on how "in-character" they are.[112]

During the project, the team considered developing an open seamless world and developing realistic AI for Noctis's friends the main challenges. The allies were designed to pay attention to Noctis and walk together with him, but randomize the speed and the distance from the player character. If they get left behind they come running. Because the system is constantly calculating the friends' AI, its CPU cost is high.[14]

After the party's final designs were unveiled people compared their looks to a boy band. The developers found it intriguing and director Hajime Tabata looked into it, coming to understand why some people thought it. He found the feedback valuable, and lamented that Western-style focus testing even on small aspects of a game would be a valuable tool to discern what players want. He said there were not going to be changes to the character designs, but they would aim to dispel the image of "a bunch of pretty guys out on a trip, having fun," and focus on portraying the party as living characters with internal monologues and psychology to show they are "proper characters within a proper story, rather than just this stylized image."[87]

Worldwide release and localization Edit

Square Enix considered the global market for Final Fantasy XV since the beginning, as Japanese market alone was not going to be big enough to bring in profit. Caving in to global demands made some Japanese fans unhappy, but there was belief within Square Enix that if the game is a global hit it will in turn create demand in the home market.[60]

The first tidbit on Final Fantasy XV localization came on June 15 2013, days after the game was revealed at E3, when Jay Preston, a relatively unknown actor, announced he has received an unspecified part in the localization of Final Fantasy XV, suggesting the localization for the game was further along than previously thought.[113] In February 2014 further details on the English voice acting surfaced, with voice actress Katy Townsend having listed "various" roles in the game as part of her resume. Townsend's resume lists Chris Borders as voice casting director, which indicates the game's voice work will be performed by world leading voice over production company TikiMan Productions, of which Borders is CEO.[114] Soon after the news broke David Yang, Senior PR Manager at Square Enix, confirmed English voice casting has yet to begin for Final Fantasy XV. In a later update, Yang stated that voice acting for the final game had yet to begin in all languages.[115] On December 15, 2014, the TGS 2014 trailer with English voice over was released.[116]

In 2014 the English version of the Tokyo Game Show trailer was the first time fans could hear the English voice actors for the cast.

At the time Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae was out, they still had not planned a Chinese version, but Tabata changed his mind after seeing fans at Taipei Game Show the year before.[117]

Square Enix revealed on 23rd March 2016 that for the first time in Final Fantasy history Final Fantasy XV would be localized into Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese text. German and French versions were also announced to have their respective voice overs, players able to switch between German/French, English and Japanese audio.[118]

References Edit

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  15. HexaDrive Also Helping Develop Final Fantasy XV — PanGamers.com
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  45. Final Fantasy XV will have a 'not very chatty' Moogle (Accessed: December 07, 2016) at Gematsu
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  77. 『ファイナルファンタジーXV』発売時期を示唆、『Just Cause 3』との技術協力も決定【gamescom 2015】 QUOTE:
    ――ではもうひとつ。神話や神についての設定は、『FFヴェルサスXIII』から『FFXV』への移行により変更があるのでしょうか。
    田畑: 『FFXV』にする段階で、そこまでに固まっていた設定については、神話とは強く絡めず『FFXV』の設定として取り込んでいます。ファブラの神話として出てくるものではありませんが、ベースとして活きています。
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