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GDC:  FF XIII  Director - Production Drove Content Decisions, Elements Will Return
GDC: FF XIII Director - Production Drove Content Decisions, Elements Will Return
March 10, 2010 | By Christian Nutt

March 10, 2010 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

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.

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Jason Pineo
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*laughs* You can wait longer for me to spend my money on your game!

Jesse Tucker
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I'm actually really interested to see how they streamlined the Final Fantasy game style. The "take me directly to the action" theme they're going with could be promising.

Josh Milewski
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I love the strong focus and fast pace that FFXIII has, and that's made it my favorite Final Fantasy that I've played. It comes partly from removing towns, but also from streamlining and speeding up so much else in the game. When they do add in other elements for the next Final Fantasy, and for old elements improve them beyond what we've seen in the past, I hope they keep a similarly strong focus, and make sure nothing is added that could bog down the experience.

Brian Kirk
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It's interesting that as the tech increases, certain aspects of the genre get left behind. I'm sure they could've included towns and tons of characters with text speech bubbles, but it would be difficult to package that in the same game as those incredible visuals and cinematics.

Robert Green
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I find it somewhat fascinating that a game could cost so many tens of millions of dollars and spend so many years in development and still have to cut out major parts of the game fans had come to expect. It really makes you wonder how many companies could ever afford to make a final-fantasy-like game for a theoretical PS4 that's at least twice as powerful as the PS3. It seems like they might have just designed themselves into a corner, where in order to make the kind of game people expect them to (or something close to it), there's no option but to poor as much money into it as it takes. The same could be said for GT5, which probably could have been out years ago if the fans of the game didn't expect such a huge number of cars and tracks.

Mark Harris
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Honestly, story comes from the characters, and from what I've seen of the characters they don't interest me in the slightest. The greatest macro story in the world is ruined by flat, stereotypical characterization, but one great character can make even a lazy day at the waterin' hole a moving experience.

We don't associate with "a world in chaos" or "blind prejudice and exclusion", we associate with how those things effect people. We associate with the feelings, reactions, mental states, the struggle with emotion, etc. The human condition is what resonates, and if the characters don't bring that to us then nothing will.

FF needs to seriously rethink their characters before their stories can connect with me again. I'll give this version a rent because I'm curious about their design decisions and the lauded battle system. I hope I'm wrong, and there is something about the characters or story that can cut through the same old FF stereotypes and connect. If so I'll gladly buy a copy and support it.

Felix Adam
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I've left behind the FF series since 9 (Last decent one I played, according to me, wasn't much a fan of 8 either... that's my excuse to say im not a FF Fanboy if you didn't notice!) but i've been tempted by 13, and so far i'm not regretting it.

It's fast paced, its "Guided Auto-Battle" is fun and let you enjoy the visuals while keeping you on your toes. I don't mind the exclusion of towns, if the story don't need them, why have them?

Mark Harris : Regarding characters, you say we associate with feelings, and so far I can see more than half the cast (At least, those I saw!) that have believable feelings, its not all about "Save the world!" altought there is some of it ;)

Just rush in FF13 without expectations and enjoy :) Not like the FF series tied together a lot to begin with!

2 cents.

Robert Zamber
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Wow... so much heat thrown at this visual and technical marvel!

*laughs* You can wait longer for me to spend my money on your game!

Yea... lets all throw are money away on yet another UE3 clone :P

How many AAA games in the last 3-4 years have been built with new technologies (from scratch), and manage to deliver on as many fronts as FF13?

Granted the story, and some mechanics are not all there from previous iterations... but if I do recall oblivion suffered from much of the same (allot left to be desired from previous installments, but built with new tech)... but still managed to some how, some way, pull game of the year, with little criticism from (all praise) from industry crits ?

Long story short...

The crystal engine is a game changer, and what this iteration of FF is all about. Its breath of fresh air for the industry, fore shadowing many many great titles to come, and break up the monotony that is the swell of tired EU3 clones: to bring us the kinds of awe inspiring games on the PS3, that we (many of us) have come to love, and miss dearly from the PS2.

We should not be so rigid in support as the competition it brings is good for everyone. Sometimes I feel like industry politics in the western hemisphere down plays the achievements that come from the Eastern hemisphere, to promote their own bloated, and more often than not....buggy EU3 clones.

Lets have a level playing field here guys.... shall we :)

Mark Raymond
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Chris Kohler wrote a fantastic review on Wired that, almost down to the smallest detail, transcribes my thoughts about the game. Check it out here:

From this article, it sounds like FFXIII was a troubled production and that compromises were made just to get it out in "reasonable" time. All this stuff about features being cut because HD consoles take longer to develop for comes across as an excuse for botching the production of the game. It is to SE's credit, though, that in spite of all the missing features the game's still fairly enjoyable to play through.