Final Fantasy XV is now identified as an open world RPG, but it hasn’t always been that way, and there was a period in which the team was not exactly of one mind on taking that approach, as explained by Game Director Hajime Tabata during an interview on 4Gamer.
We learn that the biggest argument during development was on whether or not to use open world technology for the game. Especially part of the engineers thought that since the game was based on a story progression, it would have been better to go with switching maps with an event-driven system, and focusing on enriching the content. There were also some who thought that by making an open world game, they would increase the chances of it failing.
Yet, for Tabata-san it seemed appropriate for an RPG set in a story in which you travel the world to be actually open word. There was also the fact that at one time in the past Final Fantasy was seen as the cutting edge in RPG, and the aim was to get back in that condition. An open world setting is a good way to convey that modernity.
A few months after the announcement at E3 2013, just after the team had merged with the Luminous Studio team, many within the engineering team thought that, with Square Enix’s know-how, making the game open world was unreasonable.
Tabata-san believes that, since the first HD Final Fantasy happened to be linear, many around the world thought that Square Enix simply did not have the technology to ship an AAA open world game. He also feels that after shipping Episode Duscae many changed their minds on that.
He continued by explaining that making an open world game was a big technical challenge. The streaming system and map design are completely different from what Square Enix has done before. Looking at games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, it was natural for developers to lack confidence.
Yet, the team now has the technical know-how to develop that map, and when they reached the stage in which it was possible to enjoy a free experience in a seamless world, Tabata-san was really happy.
While open world technology is not a mystery, and many competitors were already working with it, it’s hard to predict the results before it’s working in a game. You never know if the team will be able to keep the required performance, so they continued to progress steadily, and it turned out to be more of a mindset problem than one of technology.
Tabata-san also mentioned a few examples that were used as inspiration for the team, like Shadow of the Colossus and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. We also learn that he’d like to work on a new IP in the future, but for now he’s focusing on Final Fantasy XV.
Last, but not least, the team is aiming to get the game recognize as an excellent title, but that’s not all: they also want to help dispelling that sense of stagnation that has affected the Japanese gaming market.