Seven years and a month after it was first announced in E3 2006 under the name Final Fantasy Versus 13, Final Fantasy 15 finally had its first "real" debut trailer revealed at the LA Convention Center last week; However, as director Tetsuya Nomura revealed to Famitsu magazine in this week's issue, the decision to rename the project got its start a lot earlier than you'd think.
"Around one or two years after we announced FF Versus 13," he said, "it was suggested to us to shift to FF15 as part of the company's direction. By that time, a fair amount of time had already passed since the announcement and Versus was a well-known title, so it wasn't a given that this would be 15; it could have still been Versus. Personally, I came to accept the idea once FF Agito 13's name was changed to Final Fantasy Type-0."
As Nomura said, the final decision to switch to FF15 was made around two years ago. Why wait until now to mention that to the public, though? "As for the timing of the announcement," Nomura responded, "given that we were changing platforms as well, [the timing] wasn't something we could decide on our own discretion. We worked together with assorted other divisions to get it announced at this E3."
As for that shift in platform to the PS4 and Xbox One, "there are several reasons," he explained. "We had originally thought about making this announcement last year, but due to assorted reasons that got delayed. This meant that the lifespan of the current generation of consoles was starting to pose a problem to us. If we were a year later, other companies will have more time to research the next generation, and releasing the game against their products on the older generation could have caused us to look inferior when people inevitably compared us."
Nomura and his team also found themselves hitting a wall graphically with the PS3 and 360. "With current-gen systems, we couldn't fully express what we wanted to do in this project," he said. "There were more and more things that we would've had to change the form of. However, the assumption was that we'd go ahead with a current-gen release, so went through a trial-and-error process to do as much as we could. So we built an alpha version about a year ago, and the company response was 'If you remained bound to the current generation, will it will be the product you envisioned?' They suggested shifting fully to next-gen, and that was the spark that led to the move."
What are these things that he envisioned, or wanted to do, with this project? "It largely had to do with the display," Nomura responded. "I wanted FF15 to be as seamless as possible, and to achieve that, we needed to have all the actions you could potentially do always be available in memory. Since this is FF, after all, you have lots of potential factors, from the varied weapons to the party members' individual actions and magic spells. Keeping this massive amount of RPG character data around, and having them fight all kinds of monsters on a large map, is a lot of stuff. To that we're adding light sourcing, physics, filters, and other graphical elements, but there's only so much we could display at once, so we were forced to go through a weeding process."
"The trailer we showed at E3 has battle scenes that make use of a wide swath of space," he went on, "like how Noctis warps up to a higher area. Characters can go around this large yet intricately-detailed space, and it feels like an FF battle. This presentation takes a lot of processing. Trying to do it on current-gen systems would mean that the display of objects may not be able to keep up within a world map-sized space. The map changes and destruction we showed in the video was also something we really wanted to do."
So FF15 is now a PS4 and Xbox One title, but Nomura is quick to point out that he's favoring no console over the other. "Previously we proceeded with development based on the capabilities of consoles like the PS3," he said. "Now, though, we're developing on DirectX 11, not based on the PS4 or the Xbox One. This lets us develop full-spec without worrying about individual platforms, then port it to each console in the most appropriate way. As a result, the original FF15 runs on a pretty high-spec PC, and how close a console gets to this original depends on its specs. The idea is to keep our options open; if a console comes out in the future that can recreate the original, we can handle that. It's the opposite approach from your typical 'multiplatform' project which bases itself on the specs of a single console."
So a PC port is possible? "This isn't something we've really discussed, but it depends on the demand. Currently it'd require a pretty expensive PC, but if we get a lot of people in the future who want to play it with full specs, I think we can discuss supporting that."
Versus 13's renaming to 15 is a surprise in part because, over the past half-decade or so, Nomura mentioned once or twice in interviews that the game's story and content was possible precisely because this wasn't an "official," i.e. Roman-numeraled, Final Fantasy. However, Nomura doesn't see this as a problem - in fact, while he declined to discussed release dates or how far along the project was, he already began talking about the apparently-inevitable Final Fantasy 15-2 we'll see someday. "When we started talking about the shift to FF15," he said, "we discussed with the company about whether it was really okay considering we had action-based battles and all these other things we tried to do because it wasn't a numbered title. That was not a problem for them, so our direction hasn't changed. However, as the 'A World of the Versus Epic' hints at in the end of the trailer, FF15 ends with a climax, but we plan to continue the story. That's something we have in mind as we complete the game."
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