Dengeki: Final Fantasy XV and Type-0 HD TGS 2014 interview

More translated interview goodness with director Hajime Tabata.

Final Fantasy XV

Following the events at Tokyo Game Show 2014, Hajime Tabata, the newly appointed director of Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, has been giving interviews with all the video game news outlets.

Yesterday, I brought you the interview from 4Gamer. Today I’ve translated an interview with Dengeki Online (which can be also be found in Vol. 575 of Dengeki PlayStation). I’m cross-publishing this here, but I ask that you please also link to my Twitter profile or website if you quote it.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will launch for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in North America on March 17, 2015, in Japan on March 19, and in Europe on March 20. It will include a demo for Final Fantasy XV called “Episode Duscae.”

What is the development status of FFXV and the contents of the FFXV demo? How is Type-0 HD different than the PSP version? We ask Director Tabata the questions you want to hear!

A few days ago, it was announced that the director of Final Fantasy XV had changed from Tetsuya Nomura to Hajime Tabata. We had the opportunity to speak with Tabata, the director working on both FFXV and Final Fantasy Type-0 HD about the current development status and future developments as well.

About the development status of Type-0 HD and FFXV

— I imagine that working as director for both Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and Final Fantasy XV must keep you quite busy. Can you tell us about the development status of those titles?

Tabata: As far as their state of progress, I’d say that Type-0 is at 80% and FFXV is at about 55%. The open world we are constructing for FFXV is very vast and the amount of material we are producing is overwhelming.

— Is the same development team working on Type-0 HD and FFXV concurrently?

Tabata: The development teams are separate. A number of people were chosen from the team members working on FFXV’s development to work on Type-0 HD. Also, the main part of development has an established reputation technique-wise, plus I had management help from Hexadrive, who I have a close relationship with.

Concerning my own workload, about 95% of it is dealing with FFXV. Type-0 HD is basically a port, so I typically help out if some problem occurs or a difficult decision has to be made. It looks like Type-0 HD will be ready to sell after about a year and a half of it’s initial planning.

The differences between Type-0 HD and the PSP version

— The overseas version of Type-0 HD was initially announced in June at the overseas event E3 2014, but can you please tell us the details about how the Japanese release came about?

Tabata: The Type-0 HD project came about due to the overwhelming response from overseas fans saying, “We want to play Type-0!” The PSP version went on sale in 2011 in Japan, but that was about the same time the switch from PSP to PS Vita was occurring, so I thought that if we try to sell it overseas right now, we wouldn’t get a good result. Thus overseas development was put on hold.

In summer of last year we were sent a petition from overseas players who wanted it localized. Due to that response and the current move to the next-gen systems, I decided to do an HD version.

In response to the overseas player’s requests, we announced the overseas version of Type-0 HD first at E3 2014. Of course we wanted to release it in Japan too, so we announced the Japanese release at Tokyo Game Show 2014.

— How did the overseas fans react when Type-0 HD was presented at E3 2014?

Tabata: It was amazing. I had a little free time, and I worried, aren’t they glorifying it a little too much? The reaction was huge. (Laughs)

— Why did you choose to do an HD port on the next-gens, PS4/Xbox One, instead of on PS Vita?

Tabata: Honestly I thought about both, doing it on PS3 or PS4, but there has been development progression for FFXV on PS4/Xbox One, so I thought that putting Type-0 HD out on the same platform would be supplementing on the technical side and would result well.

When you talk about HD versions, for the most part it means things like improving the resolution, making the character models look nicer, and in general making a game look nicer than before. But Type-0 HD is an overall evolved version made from a fusion of the know-how of the FFXV development team and talents of Hexadrive.

Actually most of the assets we are using come from the PSP version as they were, but we aren’t using the PS3/Xbox 360, we are making use of DirectX 11’s functions. Because of that, I think that we are making something that has a fairly different atmosphere compared to a so-called HD version.

— It seems like the lighting aspects have changed quite a bit.

Tabata: It has. Just like the lighting in FFXV, it reacts to the laws of physics. In addition, the light and dark spectrum is greater than the PSP version, and according to the reflections and blurs, the visuals overall have become quite realistic.

Personally, I really like the visual of playing the Type-0 characters wearing their red mantles in this realistic atmosphere. (Laughs)

— Have the main character models been replaced with the original version’s pre-rendered cutscene models?

Tabata: We’ve adapted the models we used in the PSP version’s cutscenes to be used as the playable models this time. Of course, we’ve more or less regulated them though. We followed a work flow established for converting the high end CG to real time CG being used for FFXV, so we used that same know-how for Type-0 as well.

We’ve applied the next-gen technology and made the characters playable in movie quality graphics, so I think that you can see it’s closer in quality to a new game developed for PS4/Xbox One.

— Besides the graphic differences, it’s on a home console now so it uses a controller to play it. Is there anything to point out about that?

Tabata: You can play it on the big screen using a controller exclusively, so I think intuitively it is fairly different than the PSP version. Also we’ve optimized the camera, so you’ll probably feel that it’s easier to play than the PSP version was.

— As for things that changed system-wise, it seems you’ve added the choice in degree of difficulty?

Tabata: We often got the opinion from people who played the PSP version that it was a real struggle to get to the ending.

Type-0 is a RPG, but it’s not as easy as raising your level to clear it. There is a battle system with action elements, and simulation type elements that also occur in battle. There are actually several spots where many people had some trouble.

However, besides it being difficult, many people also said it was worth it. So instead of making everything easier, we added an Easy Mode so it would be easier to clear. Therefore players can choose between Easy, Normal, Hard, and Super Hard.

In the PSP version you could choose the degree of difficulty in each mission, but this time you choose the difficulty level as a game mode. You first choose at the title screen and you can also change it mid playthrough.

— As for other regulations made to balance it, anything specific?

Tabata: I thought that magic was too strong in the PSP version. But Class Zero is a part of a nation that has magic wielding as their distinctive trait, so it’d be odd if their magic was weak.

Therefore, the physical attack abilities that you learn in the latter half have been strengthened, and we’ve regulated it so you can pick at that spot at the end of the game where you choose between fighting with magic or fighting with physical attacks.

Also, we’ve regulated the war gods (summons). It was difficult to use them if you didn’t level them up, so when you summon them in rough spots you can overcome those situations now. We are currently finding a balance where you can still wipe out your enemies even when the summoned character is incompetent in battle.

Other than that, when you play on the big screen the attacks are centered in the screen, so we are raising the offensive power of enemy attacks that were originally configured weak in the PSP version since you can confirm your surroundings.

I think we’ve made a balance where you can precisely assess situations by not attacking recklessly, looking carefully at the screen, and thinking about what the best tactic to respond with is.

— The PSP version had a multiplayer function, but what about the PS4/Xbox One version?

Tabata: Type-0 HD has become a single player game. There was magic and items that could only be obtained through multiplayer in the PSP version, but we’ve regulated it so they can be obtained on single player.

If we developed a new form of multiplayer for home console use, it would probably take another year in development from where we are now. My priority was to reproduce the requested content precisely and release it as fast as possible for the many overseas fans who are eager to get a taste of the original atmosphere and battles and struggle until the game’s ending on their own.

Because of that, however unfortunate, the link up with Square Enix Members feature and save data inherited functions have been cut in this version.

— Do you have a message for the fans anticipating Type-0 HD?

Tabata: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD has become a very good RPG that can move you even more than the PSP version. I want fans of Japanese RPGs to play it by all means. I think those who haven’t cleared Type-0 yet, and those who are hearing about Type-0 for the first time now as well will be sufficiently pleased with it.

What about the PS Vita version of Final Fantasy Agito?

— It looks we’ll be able to play the current smartphone game Final Fantasy Agito on the PS Vita as well now.

Tabata: Yes. Thinking that it would please the core fans who supported Type-0 from the start, we released it as a smartphone title, but the smartphone version is very easy to play and most of the players are newcomers.

We also decided to develop for PS Vita because before we started distributing the smartphone version, there was a big demand by the core Type-0 fans asking for Agito on Vita in our player surveys.

For those who liked Type-0 but still haven’t played Agito yet, I encourage you to check out the PS Vita version.

— What’s different between the PS Vita and smartphone versions?

Tabata: The content itself is the same, but you can operate the PS Vita version with the device buttons, so the action aspect is more enjoyable. Also, many people who play the smartphone version do it in their free time, but oppositely, I think the PS Vita version can be played for a longer period of time, so in the future we’ll probably make updates that meet each need that arises. We plan on progressing in a way that can respond flexibly to how customers play.

— A package version will be released, but will there be differences in the download version?

Tabata: Agito on it’s own is basically a free to play game, so the packaged version will come with various special perks.

It’s thanks to the strong demand from Type-0 fans that we’ve made Agito available on PS Vita. Even more than in the app version, the second period of experiencing academy life to it’s fullest begins. I’ve done my best to respond to the many Type-0 fans request while increasing the number of Agito fans little by little, and I am very grateful for the continued support.

What about FFXV’s current status?

– I’d like to talk to you about FFXV from here onward. First off, when did you first become involved with FFXV?

Tabata: I became involved with FFXV in July of 2012 when development restarted on PS4/Xbox One at the request of Yoichi Wada, the company president then. At that time the hardware was changing and the development structure was reformed and revisions took place.

I made corrections to our planned trajectory while speaking variously with Nomura about what the game’s content should aim for, and development pushed forward. Even though it’d already announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII about 8 years ago, it’s been in a development period of about 2 years in it’s current form as Final Fantasy XV.

— When I spoke to Nomura previously, he had mentioned a plan to release FFXV in segments. Is that concept still progressing now?

Tabata: We do not currently plan on releasing in segments. As director that was something I was concerned with because I thought it was important to complete it as my own title.

— The recent FFXV trailer feels like a road movie kind of story development different than what we’ve seen before. How is it in actuality?

Tabata: I wanted to offer a personal experience in FFXV, but it has naturally become a road movie kind of experience. It’s a game where you go on an journey riding in a car through an extensive, seamless world. There are realistic scenes spread out, but the terrain takes a strange form and you can see a burning meteorite (astral fragment), which make it a FF-esque world.

I think you’ll have a lot of fun just looking at the scenery and running around. One characteristic is you can manually operate the car the party rides in or sit back and listen to Noctis and his companions chat while it’s driven automatically.

Their conversations aren’t merely simple chats, but are becoming the catalyst for the game’s developments.

By the way, you can also walk, but I think you’ll have trouble if you try only walking around because the world is so vast. (Laughs) When you are separated from the car you can also summon it on the spot, so it might be a good challenge to try out once.

— Are there situations where enemies attack while you’re riding in the car and you have to get out to fight?

Tabata: Of course there are. By the way, among the enemies there are really tough guys out there, so if you take too much time fighting it might become nighttime on you.

— The time changes too, doesn’t it?

Tabata: Yes. Time variation is an important element of this title. By the way, the strong monsters come out at night, so making camp is essential.

The key artwork we already released shows an essential element to within the actual game. They camp along the way, stay at hotels, it adheres to the way the gameplay gives the sensation of going on a road trip.

Also, the weather changes as well. When it rains, their clothes get wet and puddles form on the ground. When it’s clear, their clothes dry out, etc. We’ve incorporated these kind of presentations to make the world really feel alive.

— Will be able to fight the humongous Adamantoise revealed in the new trailer?

Tabata: I plan on making it fightable. It’s pretty tough, who knows how many days it could end up taking to fight it? (Laughs)

The creatures in the world are properly depicted as alive. If you think about fighting something, you can fight it. Just watching the way everything moves is pleasant. Making a virtual world that is so alive is important in making the player feel absorbed in it.

Nonetheless, that’s not to say that you can go everywhere that you can see. There is a world map, and you can go most places, but if it were a regular open world game, it’d be too free to build up that FF-esque drama. So it’s a very vast world, but important that you play a Final Fantasy there.

— Tell me about the renewed battle system.

Tabata: The battles take place in real time action. However, you are always fighting alongside your companions, so they are action battles with a stress party cooperation. The system is operated in an even simpler manner than in Type-0.

Cooperation with your companions is carried out automatically, but since there are easy to use weapon and ability co-op components, we are preparing it so you have fun figuring out which settings work through trial and error, trying out one combo and then another.

— Please tell us about your intention to put out a FFXV demo.

Tabata: Mostly I wanted fans to see the progress we’ve made to get this title to a point where we could put out a demo version. Especially since fans have been waiting so long for it. The main point isn’t to get feedback from the demo version, so much as it is just to show fans what it’s like in it’s current form.

Of course we plan to respond to the feedback we receive from those who play it to the best of our abilities.

— What was the reason for releasing the demo version together with Type-0 HD?

Tabata: Coming into this year, FFXV’s development is on track, so I thought a lot about the idea of releasing a demo version, but I understood that the cost of polishing it up to a manufactured level would be extensive and having a free digital distribution would be difficult to make happen.

However I wanted to avoid distributing it as a standalone item, so as it’s also a Final Fantasy title, I decided to include it with Type-0’s release. I thought that this way the synergy and excitement garnered by both these titles would be something fans could look forward to.

— Is the FFXV demo a preorder bonus when you reserve Type-0 HD or of limited quantity?

Tabata: It’s not a preorder bonus, it will come with the basic purchase of Type-0 HD. A download code for the FFXV demo version will come in the package of Type-0 HD, so you’ll receive it in the form of a download you get by entering a code.

By the way, Type-0 HD is releasing worldwide, but the FFXV demo in Japan will have Japanese voice acting and English voice acting in the overseas versions.

— As for the demo content, will it be something that is playable in the actual title?

Tabata: First of all, my plan content-wise is to show what playing FFXV is like. The demo version has a title called “Episode Duscae” attached to it, but this is meant to imply that the Duscae region is a playable area introduced in the actual game.

As for its place in the actual title, it’s probably just a little bit past the beginning of the game? You’ll be able to experience the fundamentals of FFXV to a certain extent, doing things like driving the car around in the Duscae region and enjoying battles. I might even throw some elements into the demo version that won’t be available in the actual game.

As I said before, you’ll be doing things like camping and it’ll be possible to catch a glimpse of part of the story. I would like to literally show a part of what players can experience with the FFXV demo.

— Volume-wise, how big is the demo?

Tabata: I think in general the play time is about an hour. However, that’s if you use the car to get around.

By the way, you can also play it for additional challenges, so you can spend more time with it. For example, in order to obtain a strong weapon, you can venture into the dungeon that has monsters stronger than the ones above ground.

I’m assuming that the actual game will take about 40 hours to clear, so comparing it in simple terms, the demo is about 1/40th of the actual game’s content. (Laughs)

— Lastly, do you have a message for the fans who are eagerly awaiting FFXV?

Tabata: As a personal thought, I am making FFXV with the hope that it will increase the number of Japanese players using home consoles. Up until now I had been centered in making portable games, but this time I am making an effort to create the best game I can for home consoles.

The whole FFXV staff is putting all their efforts into making the best experience for players to savor on home consoles. We need a little more time with the actual game, but first please experience what we’ve done so far with the demo version.

Including the elements we aimed for with Final Fantasy Versus XIII, development is progressing soundly. To all those who are looking forward to the information shown at TGS and of course, those who are still uneasy about what they’ve seen, I think it’ll be best if you try the demo version out by all means.

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