At Game Developers Conference 2010 in San Francisco, Gamasutra had the chance to speak in-depth to Final Fantasy XIII director Motomu Toriyama about the game. Released this week, the game has drawn both strongly negative and positive reviews and fan reactions.
One area of criticism that the game has consistently faced is that major traditional RPG elements that the series is known for, such as explorable towns, are not present in the game that was released.
Toriyama chalks this up to a mix of his own personal strengths, the advent of the challenging production required by high definition consoles, and production of the Crystal Tools engine which drives the game.
"Personally, the Final Fantasys that I have worked on have been very story-driven, so in terms of the development I wanted to, of course, use my personal strengths which where those," said Toriyama.
However, he says that production on the current consoles does not allow the freedom the team has known in the past. "In the Final Fantasys on previous non-high definition consoles, we were able to kind of take everyone's ideas and include them in the games."
"I call it a bento box system, where you have all of the different little things in there. So we had minigames or towns were you were able to talk to all of the townspeople. But with the HD console you're not really able to do that because it takes so long to develop," said Toriyama.
"If you think about how long it's already taken to develop this game, to have to have included all of those other aspects, it would have been too long. So what we did instead was define what was truly important to the game, and include those aspects and really emphasize those items we wanted to include," he continued. "We had to consider the amount of time it took to create the game engine, which we built from scratch, as well, and so with that additional time included we had to decide what we could and couldn't do."
However, this will not continue for future games, he said. "Now that we have that base technology... The next time you see a Final Fantasy, we might be able to pack in more of those elements that existed in the past. And I also think that a game doesn't need to have all of those items in the future. We can create additional downloadable content for people to add, too. It doesn't have to come with that game itself."
So far Square Enix has not announced any plans for Final Fantasy XIII DLC, though the game's creators have left the door open to the possibility in prior interviews.
When asked if the team should have striven to improve elements such as towns, rather than cut them, Toriyama laughed and said "You can wait longer for the game where we can improve those elements!"
However, he said, "The next title that we will create will have those elements, and the improvements to those elements that you were mentioning. However, it's important for us to choose what we can and cannot include, and that's the role of the director to decide what we can accomplish in that amount of time."
The full interview with Toriyama will appear on Gamasutra in the near future.