Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Interview -- Director Talks Season Two Plans, a Potential Sequel, and More
DualShockers spoke with the director of Dissidia Final Fantasy NT to find out more about the team's Season Two plans as well as additional changes coming to the game and, potentially, series as a whole.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is quite divisive when it comes to the fanbase of the original PSP titles, though I enjoyed it. The game itself opts for three-on-three combat as opposed to the more traditional one-on-one fights we saw in the first two games. Currently, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is moving into the second year of its time PS4, recently came to PC, and also received a free-to-play version earlier this year.
DualShockers recently talked with the Director of the game, Takeo Kujiraoka, to find out how the team has been responding to fan feedback as well as what changes we can expect for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT throughout the remainder of the year.
Jordan Boyd: What pushed the team to bring the game to PC and to make Dissidia Final Fantasy NT free to play?
Takeo Kujiraoka: First regarding the free to play version, one of the most important things in maintaining a fighting game community is the number of players that you have. As Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is a three-on-three game, we wanted to gather an even greater number of players. Now that it has been a year since the console version released, we wanted to take away a barrier of entry, that is the need to purchase the game, in order for us to welcome more new players.
At the start of the Dissidia Final Fantasy NT project, we had already thought about releasing the game as free to play, but we were unable to do so for various reasons. As some time has passed since the initial release, it would be great if more people can become interested in the game from the free version.
For the PC version, there are not that many core PC gamers yet in Japan. However, as the PC [market] in North America and Europe is about 50%, it was clear to us that the PC market was something that we cannot avoid in order to increase our community. It did take us time to release on the PC because of the direction we focused on developing the PS4 version first, but we were finally able to launch for PC alongside the release of the free to play version. We are very sorry that we were unable to realize cross-matching between the PS4 and PC but look forward to the growth of the PC community.
“The development team will continue to do our best to meet player demands to the best we can.”
JB: What has the team learned since launching the game on PS4 in January 2018? How do you go about balancing changes between the console and PC versions compared to the arcade version in Japan?
TK: For what we’ve learned… players seek simulation and find it natural for the game to change, through character additions, game balance adjustments and whatnot, which has been the case from the arcade version. We have been making some sort of adjustment once a month to the game ever since we released the arcade version more than three years ago, but the players constantly want more. While it is not easy to update an HD game once per month, the development team will continue to do our best to meet player demands to the best we can.
Also, it previously took around one month to implement the arcade version updates in the console version, but we now plan to lessen the gap to two weeks from now on. It was difficult to shorten the time more than this due to the time in creating the master build of the console version. However, we wanted to shorten the amount of time as much as possible to keep players motivated and to allow them to enjoy the new characters as soon as they can. As for any features that only exist in the PS4 and PC versions, we plan to add or improve them in parallel unrelated to the arcade release schedule.
JB: When transitioning Dissidia Final Fantasy NT into a free-to-play game, were there design challenges that came up as the game has not originally been designed with this structure in mind?
TK: For the main battle portion, the arcade version was already structured in a way that was easy to change to a free to play game. So we did not need to apply any drastic changes. If anything, the monetization scheme was much more difficult to figure out. As the PS4 version was based on the premise that our players would purchase the full game first, we had set the price of the DLC characters and their standard skins at a low price point—which we plan to keep even now that the game is free to play.
We did investigate into having a loot box system quite a long time ago, but we decided to forego that idea. We’re also looking into releasing lavish aesthetic skins and weapons for a slightly higher price point, but for characters, which are necessary for battle, we are not changing the price. We welcome fans to purchase those they are interested in!
JB: Has the game seen an increased player count since going free to play? How has this release impacted the game’s community?
TK: We have seen many new players in each region since the release of the free to play version. As mentioned earlier, the number of people playing the game is important for a fighting game, so this is an ideal situation for us. And the percentage of people on PC is as great as we expected.
‘We did investigate into having a loot box system quite a long time ago, but we decided to forego that idea.”
The development team does understand that there have been lag issues, which have placed a damper on the situation, especially for the PC version. We are taking the situation seriously and making efforts to improve the situation step by step. As we use a P2P (person-to-person) connection, we cannot just strengthen the game servers to solve the issue, but we do want to make sure to better the situation so that fans can really enjoy what makes the game fun to play.
JB: What type of content can newcomers and veterans expect to come to Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Free Edition in the future?
TK: We will continue to adjust the game balance once a month as we have been doing — as well as rebalancing characters to refresh the initial roster. We also plan to add a new character once every three months, as well as aesthetic skins for around two characters during the other months. We’d also like to bring back characters in the PSP version, but want to add characters that were never in a DISSIDIA game as well.
We are also working on new elaborate skins. While we can’t release them together at the same time, please look forward to each of them as they are announced. Further, we are also considering releasing the music tracks that were only attainable by connecting the game with the arcade version in Japan, to the global version.
JB: How has the reception been around DLC characters that were added over the past year? Which DLC character has surprised the development team the most with its popularity?
TK: As there are fans for the various characters in each title in the Final Fantasy series, we have received really great feedback for all of the characters added. The feedback received was especially positive for Rinoa from Final Fantasy VIII, who we added for the first time voiced, as well as Zenos from Final Fantasy XIV Online, one of the latest Final Fantasy titles. Zenos was recently announced at the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival in Tokyo, and I believe it was a good opportunity for us to appeal to those who may not have been interested in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT much until now.
JB: There is a lot of banter online asking for one on one matches that replicate older Dissidia titles on PSP. Are there any plans to bring a mode like that to Dissidia at some point?
TK: We do receive a lot of requests from players in Japan as well for a one-on-one mode. I do agree that one-on-one does have its own type of enjoyment and gives a very different playstyle. However, that is why it is very difficult for us to realize a one-on-one mode as a part of an update. The way that we balance out the characters would need to be changed completely, as we currently balance the characters to have strengths and weaknesses based on their role. If we are to create a one-on-one mode, it would likely need to be a different title. It’s not that three-on-three team battle or one-on-one battle is better or worse than the other, so I personally do want to try creating a one-on-one game as well if I have the opportunity to do so.
JB: Do you think a local competitive mode could work in Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and has this been discussed in the past?
“If we are to create a one-on-one mode, it would likely need to be a different title.”
TK: Apologies, as we do not have any plans for it at this moment. We do understand that fighting on local connection is important for building the community’s excitement, and it is not that we have given up on it. However, we do have a couple of big obstacles to clear to be able to implement it.
JB: Does Square Enix plan on expanding the competitive scene of Dissidia now that the game has gone free to play?
TK: We have held large-scale tournaments a few times in Japan based on the arcade version. The hype that it created and the many great battles that we had during those tournaments greatly increased the motivation of other players and had a great effect on energizing the community afterward. We do hope to hold these types of tournaments in each region to build and energize the community as a whole.
We are actually investigating into some opportunities as we speak, but it seems like it will take some time before we can give you more solid information. If we can hold a global tournament to determine the strongest party out of all the players in the world, that would be an absolute blast of an event!
JB: How does the team balance fan requests in the east and west? Do you notice that all fans generally want the same things or are their requests quite different?
TK: Overall, we haven’t noticed a big difference in requests for things such as game balance in the different regions. However, we’ve found that the players’ opinions towards the UI (HUD) differ greatly per region. In Japan, especially in arcade games, we tend to add a lot of effects on the screen to the point that it might even be too much. On the other hand, North American and European console game UIs are typically designed to be simple so that it doesn’t interfere with gameplay.
In Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, we created the option to select between the traditional arcade UI and a simpler UI for the console release. However, we still receive a good amount of feedback that the simple UI is still too complicated. Every so often I think about ways to make the design even more simple, but it is quite difficult to do from a game design perspective.
On a different note, as developers, we do appreciate the feedback from fans and would like to create an opportunity for the development team to directly communicate with our overseas players. Even if it is difficult for us to physically go to each region, we are currently investigating into ways that we may be able to reach out to players outside of Japan.
JB: How long would you like to support Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Free Edition with new content? Is the team interested in doing a sequel to this new version of the series?
TK: We already know our schedule for at least about a year from now, which we consider Season Two. We are currently focusing on increasing the new players with this current setup, so we are putting our all into this version. In regards to a sequel, that isn’t something that the development team can decide on our own. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is developed by a small team, perhaps even smaller than you think. As such, we will need to increase the number of staff and budget by a great amount if we are to create a sequel while updating the current game in parallel. But because this game is a title that was able to grow into what it is today as a Final Fantasy game due to the fans, I believe that a path will open up on its own if we continue to create excitement.
JB: If somebody hasn’t played a Dissidia game before, why should they jump on with Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Free Edition?
TK: Dissidia Final Fantasy NT Free Edition is free to play so you can play without any worries as long as you have a PS4 or a PC with the appropriate specs. In it, you’ll find many characters from previous Final Fantasy titles who have been reimagined for the current-gen console, and you can play as not only heroes but also villains with your own hands. In the Free Edition, you can easily pick-up and play with the free playable characters that are on a weekly rotation or you can purchase your favorite character and become proficient in using them specifically. You might even enjoy just looking at your favorite character while playing in offline mode.
The gameplay has greatly changed from the one-on-one of previous Dissidia titles to three-on-three, but when thinking about it — Final Fantasy is a game in which you go on an adventure with your party right? There aren’t that many fighting games that feature party vs party fights which makes it unique. Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is also not a game where you can win if only one member of your party excels at the game. But that is why you can enjoy the exhilaration of winning through cooperative play.
We invite everyone to jump into the game and try playing it for yourself. Thank you very much!
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is available now on both PC and PS4. If you’re interested at all in the game, but wary about spending money, definitely give the Free Edition a shot. Additionally, you can check out my review of the game from back when it launched in January of 2018.