Final Fantasy XV is around half-way done, said Hajime Tabata in a new interview with GameInformer Magazine. “We kind of started from the beginning of the game, so the first part is more complete than the others.” Speaking separately with Kotaku, Tabata wanted to clarify: This is 55 percent during the two years Tabata has joined the project and the game’s systems are more or less already in – there shouldn’t be much of a wait after the demo is out, at least not years and years.
Tabata joined the Final Fantasy XV project around two years ago when the game made its move to current generation platforms. “We re-examined Final Fantasy XV’s development structure,” he said. We had the gameplay team, the cinematics or CG team, and the game engine team. And we finally merged them all together to work on this game. I think we can deliver the best that Square Enix has to offer.”
When Tabata joined the team, development also shifted from primarily making use of CGI to a mix of pre-rendered CG and in-engine content that are up to the quality of pre-rendered images. The visual’s we see today are around 70% of what Square Enix is aiming for and the demo will likely represent 80% of that visual goal with the last little bit achieved by the game’s release. “The Final Fantasy XV trailer was all in-game engine, except for the part with the spaceships flying. That was pre-rendered,” Tabata explained.
With Tetsuya Nomura’s departure from the project, Tabata assures fans that they are still making the game for those fans who have been waiting since it was Final Fantasy Versus XIII. “But, this is not the exact same game. The director is different, and the platform was switched to the current gen. And because the platform has changed, there were things we had to re-evaluate, like what we can and cannot do or even what we have to do. The various circumstances are different.” Tabata does note, however, that many of the elements that were important to Nomura, such as the main character Noctis, will be maintained in the best way possible.
Square Enix will be releasing a demo some time next year in order to let fans know that yes, the game is still coming. Not everything in the game will be “open world.” Tabata explains that it is vast and you’ll be able to freely explore with encounters seamlessly integrated into the game world. “That being said, if the game is totally open world, it kind of defeats what makes a Final Fantasy game Final Fantasy—which is the dramatic and cinematic storytelling. The game is balanced to ideally satisfy those fans who like traditional Final Fantasy storytelling so they can feel like they’re following an epic story.”
When it comes to combat, players will always be tag-teaming with the other members of their party. The game is most definitely an action RPG, but Tabata stresses he’s taking into consideration the traditional Final Fantasy party play. “The controls aren’t you simply press a button once for a single action to happen,” said Tabata. “Rather, they are a continuous flow of movements. It’s more about the movements that are associated with the buttons and building upon them for actions through the combat system.” To him, the way a game plays has to “feel good.”
When asked about release timing for the final game, Tabata noted, “During the “Versus era” – though it might be weird to refer to it that way – we weren’t able to reveal any information on release timing because that was a project in which we had to overcome so many different problems that arose. Unfortunately, while we were trying to work through the issues, the timing never matched. But about two years ago, when I officially joined the project, we did a pretty major directional change when we decided not to go with the previous generation. I also had to talk with Nomura-san about the direction FF XV is going to take. Unfortunately, it’s still going to take a while, but I’m hoping people will reset their timers from when I joined the team and restart the count from there.”
Tabata also plans to take caution when adding in classic Final Fantasy elements. “I have to think about how it applies to the setting of the particular Final Fantasy numbered title, and make sure that it’s there because it’s necessary. In Episode Duscae, there is a sort of surprise element incorporated toward the end.”