Final Fantasy XV launched successfully over three months ago, and Square Enix is preparing to ramp up the support the game with plenty of updates and DLC.
In order to get a clearer idea of the publisher’s plans for the game, I visited the Square Enix headquarters in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and reconnected with Game Director Hajime Tabata.
Tabata-san provided many details on a large variety of topics, including platform support, DLC, future updates, and even what he’d like to do in the future after the work on Final Fantasy XV is done.
Interestingly, he provided us with the very first look on a feature that before was simply mentioned as a possibility, but that is now actually in development, the ability to create our own custom characters.
Without further ado, you can check out what Tabata-san told me just below.
Giuseppe Nelva: Normally, when a game launches, most studios move the majority of the staff to the next project. What percentage of Final Fantasy XV‘s staff in Business Division 2 is still working on the game?
Hajime Tabata: About 70% of the Final Fantasy XV team is still at work on it. The remaining 30% went to other divisions, but that 70% is working on various different projects inside the same team structure.
G: So that 70% is still at work on Final Fantasy XV?
HT: Yes. Some of the teams are working on the DLC, some are working on game updates, and some on VR-related projects right now.
G: Final Fantasy games have traditionally been “fire and forget” titles, that were launched and then received no further support or almost, besides of course MMORPGs like XI and XIV, while the XIII series got some minor DLCs. With XV you moved to a different model, almost similar to an ongoing service, more akin to games like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt or even Grand Theft Auto Online. What prompted this decision? Did you take inspiration from the success of other games like GTA Online?
HT: Of course I am aware of the business models that you mentioned, The Witcher III and Grand Theft Auto, however, we have sort of our original way of handling the DLC content. This is based more on the actual sales to the customers who have been buying the game.
We did have a vague idea of how we were going to approach the DLC prior to the launch, but after launch, now that we know how many units are being shipped worldwide, we have a much stronger sense of business perspective on how we can roll out the DLC.
So it’s much more of a practical-based approach that we’re taking right now.
G: There has been a lot of speculation on how many copies the game needed to sell to break even. Are we there yet? Did Final Fantasy XV break even and is now into profitable territory?
HT: Of course, we broke even on day one.
G: That’s awesome. I remember some reports about the game needing ten million copies to break even, but that was inaccurate, right?
HT: I think the articles you read were probably erroneous reporting. Our business model was based on very fair practices. We did no maneuvers to try to reap more profits, and as I mentioned, day one is when we attained the break-even point.
G: When you announced the release date for Episode Gladiolus and the release window of Episode Prompto, it sparked some curiosity, because many expected Episode Ignis to come before Prompto’s. Is it just a practical order based on which one will be ready first, or is there an actual logical reason behind the order?
HT: Putting Episode Gladiolus first is actually as planned, according to our initial design, as we want to deliver an enhanced action battle gameplay for it, because it’s Gladio, after all.
Regarding which one would come first between Episode Prompto and Episode Ignis, it’s actually something that we have been debating among ourselves, but we came to the conclusion that the content of Episode Ignis is going to affect the storyline of the game and it has much impact on what happened in the Final Fantasy XV story, so we want to create a really solid game for Episode Ignis, which is why we sort of left the best for last.
G: Is there any plan to make the Regalia Type-F (the flying Regalia) available from the start of a new game+ instead of having to replay the whole story again before getting it?
HT: About the flying Regalia, it’s a very interesting idea, but we do have other tasks that we have to do prior to that, so it’s kind of a matter of priority.
It’s not impossible, but it’s a matter of the order in which we might do that. With the flying Regalia, there is a little bit of frustration from the fact that you can’t go to every place where you’d like to go, however this is something that we’re looking into, and of course, if we can implement this, it would probably enhance the game.
G: You announced a quite extensive plan of updates and DLC within the season pass. Are you planning to go beyond the season pass? Could there be even more DLCs and updates after the end of the season pass content? Do you have any rough idea of how long you plan to support the game?
HT: Of course, we’d like to support this as much as possible, but right now the plan that we have is basically one year.
G: You talked about possibly implementing a character creation feature. For me, since I’m a big MMORPG player, that’s fantastic. That said, you said “possibly.” I was wondering, since then, did that “possibly” turn into something more solid? If yes, how extensive will that character creation be?
HT: The character creation function is actually in the works right now, however is not something that we can just show off, as it would probably not wow your readers at this stage. However, what we’re doing right now is not just implementing a character creation feature, but we want to combine that with a multiplayer feature, so that players can not only create a new character, but also bring it in multiplayer.
Right now, the current stage of development lets you change the character and morph it into another character that looks very different.
[Editor’s Note: at this point, Tabata-san shown me a video of the current stage of development of the character creation, and allowed me to take a picture for you guys. Unfortunately, that’s all we’re getting for now, and I am not allowed to say anything more.
Of course it’s still in development, and many the options aren’t yet present. You can enjoy your very first look at Final Fantasy XV‘s character creation below.]
[Editor’s Note: while only three options are available in this work-in-progress version, their names can be read in Japanese: Height, Face Size and Amount of Muscle]
G: Can you also use the characters you create in single player, or they’re limited to multiplayer?
HT: We want to implement it so that you can use them in single player as well, although this is something usually made for multiplayer.
G: Since there is a lot of emphasis on sharing nowadays, could you maybe implement a feature to share the characters you create and let other players download them and use them in their own games?
HT: I understand that idea, but right at this moment we’re not really trying to implement that. I think you can find some sort of features like that on platforms like Steam, and of course we’re trying to branch out as much as we can the FFXV franchise, so maybe that’s something that might be foreseeable in the future.
G: Well, since you went into the PC topic on your own, are you already thinking about a PC version of the game? Is it something you’re experimenting on or prototyping on already, or is it something for the future?
HT: We can’t say that we’re going to release this, but I can say that we’re looking into the technology to possibly implement that.
G: We know that Microsoft is going to launch its new console code named “Project Scorpio” in the upcoming Holiday season, and that should fall within the year of planned content you mentioned. Are you going to update the game to support it, like what is being done for the PS4 Pro?
HT: Of course we’re thinking about some implementations that we can make to update [the game] for Project Scorpio, but as far as what the variance of the specification compared to the PS4 Pro version, I’m not quite sure yet. But of course, we’re going to try to make it as good as possible.
G: During the development of Final Fantasy XV we have seen something quite new for Final Fantasy games, at least concerning single player ones, as your colleague Naoki Yoshida has been doing the same for Final Fantasy XIV. I’m talking about holding a very involved conversation with the fans.
Until a few years ago, Square Enix appeared to be a much more monolithic and unapproachable company than it is now. What changed since then, and why did you decide to break that wall?
HT: I wasn’t actually trying to break a wall. It’s just that I just wanted to share the reality of development at any given moment with the fans.
If we want want to share what is happening with the fans on an honest level, we understand that at the same time we have to provide them with dreams, but since the pace of technology right now is so fast, and the level of production is becoming increasingly high, we can’t hide anymore.
I think it’s much better to be open, showing at which level we are, during each phase of development. That way we can receive the proper feedback and try to improve our production level to meet the fans’ expectations as much as possible.
G: Final Fantasy XV has always been bound to the development of the Luminous Engine, that I believe now has been renamed into Luminous Pro. That said, Square Enix has been moving towards using Unreal Engine 4 a lot more. Will Luminous be used for other games, or will it remain limited to Final Fantasy XV?
HT: To be more specific, Luminous wasn’t used for Versus XIII. We actually started XV with an engine called Ebony. From a different section, it fused together to become Luminous, and we’re using it for the Final Fantasy XV project.
But of course, if there are other divisions within Square Enix that may require the engine, we’re open to sharing the tools with them. However, we don’t have any current plans at the moment to share it externally, with other companies.
G: In a previous interview, you hinted that there might be an unannounced project in the works related to Final Fantasy XV. Can you say anything more about that?
HT: It probably wasn’t some sort of specific package, but we’re working on VR an DLC at the moment, so I was probably hinting at some of those contents.
But at the same time, I must mention that we’re receiving numerous offers from other companies, and an example that is going to be developed in the near future is the collaboration with Machine Zone, and the Final Fantasy XV project that is going to be released through them is going to be interesting. There are going to be interesting projects rolling out in the future.
G: Do you mean Final Fantasy XV games released by other companies?
HT: About the Machine Zone project, they came to us with this offer, and we’re cooperating with them, abut we actually gave them the reins to see how they’re going to roll out their own version of Final Fantasy XV.
We don’t have as much mobile know-how and expertise, that’s why they’re in charge of handling the game’s structure, and we can provide with them with support, ideas and design.
G: Is the cooperative multiplayer for the last DLC something that is going to be just limited to four player co-op, or it’s maybe going to be more extensive in a shared world like Grand Theft Auto Online?
HT: It’s going to be a four-player co-op multiplayer game.
G: Let’s change a bit subject and let’s talk about you personally, Tabata-san. Have you started to think what you’d like to do next after Final Fantasy XV?
HT: I want to use all the knowledge and expertise that I built up with Final Fantasy XV and create a new IP.
G: This might be more of a dream: since we heard that you received advice from Sakaguchi-san [Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series], and of course I’m talking about you personally. I’m not asking to speak for the company, but would you like to work together with him on a game?
HT: We approached Sakaguchi-san in the initial phases of the project, and we received some ideas from him. Afterwards, we ate dinner together and he gave me his congratulations for the launch. At that time we did have some discussion about what I would do after the launch of Final Fantasy XV, and whether it could be a possibility for us to work together.
To be more specific, while we were having dinner, Sakaguchi-san asked me “What are you going to do after Final Fantasy XV?” and I told him that I’d like to create a new IP. That’s when I got in trouble, as Sakaguchi-san got angry (laughs). He said “You don’t want to do another Final Fantasy? What’s wrong with you?” I still haven’t made amends for that conversation yet, but hopefully it’ll be soon.
Sakaguchi-san also said “Give back the meat you’re eating! I gave you life as the father of Final Fantasy and now you’re going to quit on it? Give it back to me!” (laughs)
[Editor’s Note: at the point of the conversation, there was a lot of hilarity in the way Tabata-san described the scene and a lot of laughing, so it’s difficult to gauge how much of this was a joke, and whether there was any seriousness in the discussion.]
G: I guess now you’re bound to Final Fantasy for the rest of your life.
HT: Whether it will become a reality or not, it’s a different story, but the truth is that I do want to create something new after Final Fantasy XV.
G: That said, if i can mention a personal note, I would really like to see you direct a mainline Final Fantasy from the start.
HT: Of course, this is something the other developers say as well, and a lot of people have mentioned to me, and that’s something I’ve felt myself too, so that motivation exists.
G: You’re going to release a patch that will optimize the PS4 Pro support to run at maximum 60 frames per second. How close is it going to be to 60?
HT: It’s hard to say exactly at what figure it’s going to run at, but it’s going to fluctuate between 40 and 60. That said, while playing on PS4 Pro we did not notice any issue like the game getting clunky or the movement slowing down, so it should be ok.
G: Is there any possibility for Final Fantasy XV to be released on Nintendo Switch?
HT: There are no Plans, it wouldn’t run…
G: It wouldn’t run at all?
HT: It might run… But we haven’t conducted the proper tests on whether it would run properly on Switch or not, so I cannot say for sure.
G: So there is no plan at all?
HT: There are no plans for Switch at the moment, but overall, there is interest in the platform among the development team. We do have lots of Nintendo fans inside BD2.
Incidentally, I think that Switch would be really cool if it could run Android apps on its portable screen…
G: About Episode Prompto, it appears to be in a snowy area, so those who played the game can pretty much imagine at least some of what’s happening. Of course, I’m not asking you for spoilers, but are we going to get a deeper insight on Prompto’s character and past?
HT: There aren’t many details that I can share with you at the moment, but we might go into more depth at PAX East, but of course we want to show more from his point of view. While Episode Gladiolus is going to be much more focused on action battle, with Episode Prompto we want to shed more light on Prompto’s character.
G: Do you have any final message for our readers and for Final Fantasy XV‘s fans?
HT: To the DualShockers’ readers I’d like to say thank you very much for voting Final Fantasy XV as the game of the year. Your votes give us motivation to work hard for this full year, so that we can provide an even better game experience for all of you.