The one thing I will say about Final Fantasy IV, looking back on it, if you contrast it with newer games... you sit down to any contemporary game and you know you're going to have two hours of boredom until you've figured out everything; but Final Fantasy IV, you sit down, and pretty much within 15 minutes you're into the world, because older games were simpler. I think that it's probably time to bring some of that back.
TT: I think a lot of current games are too high-tempo or fast-paced. There's just a little too much show; they're trying to show you too much, and there should be more of a balance between allowing the user to play and discover for themselves. There's a good balance between showing and having them experience for themselves.
Ultimately, in Final Fantasy IV, you couldn't do much in the way of stuff that wasn't along the path of the main game. I've played Final Fantasy IV a ridiculous number of times, so it's easy for me to remember.
But it didn't feel constrained because it had good pacing and good drama; whereas, with contemporary games, you will feel like "I don't want to be doing what you want me to be doing right now," but you have no choice a lot of the time.
TT: I think there are really two important points. One is that you really need to leave the important story arcs to the players; they need to resolve those things while they're playing through battle scenes, and it's very important not to use cutscenes to explain those main story arcs.
The second thing is that there can be a lot of characters, but the main character needs to be the main character and side characters should be side characters. When side characters are a little bit too overdeveloped, it takes the focus away. I think it's important for side characters to remain that.
Final Fantasy IV has a lot of side characters, and they're very memorable, even though some of them are not in the party for very long. Edward [Gilbert in the Japanese version] is not really in the game very much -- but he adds something without taking anything away.
TT: In terms of that, everyone fulfills their own role; each character has their role. I didn't used to like Gilbert when I was young, but now, at my age, I finally understand the good points of Gilbert.
That's funny; didn't you basically write Gilbert?
TT: While we were creating FF IV, regardless, the staff all had our own likes and dislikes between the characters. I liked Edge the most, whereas the current person who is handling battles for games like FFXI and FFXIV really liked Gilbert. That was part of what created the ability to hide. [Gilbert can hide from enemies in battle.]
I think that that's a real strength of this game; that it has a well-realized cast, but it doesn't get in the way of the story.
TT: Yeah, definitely. The side characters don't do too much, and that's what's important. At that time, the entire story wouldn't fit into the memory of the cartridge, and so we had to cut it down to about a fourth of what we had created. It was really, really painful cutting down everything so that it would fit, but, because we did that, we kept all of the key and most important elements; and that's what created a great game.
That's a real problem we actually face as an industry right now. The opposite thing is that, very often, we're trying to create as much volume as possible because people get hung up on "How long is this game? How much am I getting for my money?"
TT: I think partially that's just something that publishers put up a front to say "Look at how much content we're providing!" I think a lot of users actually don't want a game that's long; they just don't have the time.
They want something that would be shorter. Because of that, downloadable games that I mentioned before are perfect for the current climate, because you can choose how much you want to play.
You see that all the time. Like I said, to start a contemporary game you often have to spend a couple hours with the tutorials and stuff, but if you play some game on Xbox Live Arcade you'll be right there, right in it, immediately. You know that, so if you only have an hour to play in the evening, that's really important.
TT: I definitely think that an important thing for an interactive entertainment industry is to have the ability to play just a little bit when you feel like it, having that freedom through mobile or handheld platforms.
On the other hand, of course, it's great to have massive experiences like Avatar in 3D where everyone gets together and puts their glasses on together. But, in terms of games, it's great to have those kind of more casual, easy-to-play elements, and that will allow us to expand our user base.
Or even the sense that I was 14 when Final Fantasy IV came out, and now I'm 33. My life is very different. Even though I still really like Final Fantasy, I had to put my life on hold to play Final Fantasy XIII. Basically, I had to not have a social life for a couple of weeks. That wasn't a big problem when I was in high school, but it's kind of a problem now.
TT: And also, back at that time, there was no internet. In Japan, there was definitely no 24-hour TV, either. So, when you had nothing to do at night, it was either comics, or rental videos, or games. There's definitely that emotional nostalgia going where young, single guys, playing games is what they did at night.
Whereas those young, single guys are probably fathers now, with full-time jobs. The thing is, in America, people still play games; I don't know if Japan is exactly the same. It seems like it might be a little bit different.
I always feel like, these days, a lot of RPGs in Japan seem to be made for teenagers. If you look at Cecil... I know that kids were playing this game, but the character was in his twenties. Usually, the character's like 15 years old in RPGs these days. I always feel like, "Who are these games for?" Because in America, I think the primary audience for games is a little bit older and probably want something a little bit more that they can relate to.
TT: In Japan, I think the core game users are from about middle school to their twenties, and early thirties at the most. I think the fact that they're the middle and high schoolers is because it's really linked to the anime fandom.
There's a word called "chuunibyou," which is literally "second year of middle school sickness", where it's like you're reaching that point where your body is becoming more of an adult, but you emotionally want to stay more as a kid. That emotional state is something that happens to a lot of anime characters, and that people can relate to, and so there's that link.