GC 2015: Final Fantasy XV interview with Hajime Tabata

Gamescom is a new beginning for Final Fantasy XV – a project that has undergone countless changes since its original reveal as Final Fantasy Versus XIII in 2006. Having skipped E3 in favor of turning over a new leaf and kick-starting the game’s first steps into marketing the final game, there’s no doubt expectations were high.

On the first day of the show we sat down with Hajime Tabata, Director of Final Fantasy XV together with our German media colleagues from JPGames.de and Koneko ahead of the Final Fantasy XV Active Time Report at the booth stage. While we also received more information about the game in general, Tabata also shed some light on the motives behind the new PR campaign.


Nova Crystallis: In previous Final Fantasy games, the character design of the party usually featured a clear variety in terms of looks. Characters usually had colorful outfits, which also differed in style. In FFXV the whole main cast will wear black. What was the reason for such a choice and will we see more interesting outfits in the course of the game?

Hajime Tabata: So the characters we will show afterwards are not entirely dressed in black. For XV we are trying to introduce more realistic, grounded in reality-like designs into the game. As part of the main game – including the overall aesthetic – we’ve got several character clothing based on real clothing designs with similar things you wear in real life.

Talking about the trailer we released today is called “Dawn” because it represents the start of things. So the image that you get with “Dawn” is actually the darkness before a dawn. Something really big is going to happen to the game and before that it’s really dark. The color black is used to represent that and to embody the feeling at that time in the game.

Nova Crystallis: Will the suit for Noctis as designed by Roen still be in the game?

xUXdBTtTabata: The contract we did with Roen when we first started making Final Fantasy Versus XIII contained a number of designs for the game. The designs from Roen that were contracted to us during that point are still being used for Final Fantasy XV. There are no additional ones, but the ones from before are still in the game.

You are very well informed on this! When we rebooted the game and turned it into XV rather than Versus XIII we would have been ashamed not to use those. We redesigned the story and the look of the world to include those in another fashion.

Koneko: We already know that there will be various locations based on real world locations with examples like Shinjuku or Venice. Are there any other real locations we can expect? How about Germany? For example, the kingdom of Niflheim sounds very German and there is a lot of medieval style in the game. Cars also play a big role – why not make German cars?

Tabata: There is no town in the game directly based on a German city. Certainly, the country of Niflheim is a very medieval or pre-modern kind o feel to it. The design aesthetics were taken from a lot ranges, starting with the Roman Empire and then maybe starting with the good pre-German, the Germanic. There are sorts of different aspects in there.

NiflheimBut I think cars are more important than that (laughs)! We really looked at a lot of German cars. I personally really like German cars. We would have loved to do some collaborations with German car manufacturers. I can’t really tell exactly you which company we looked at, but certainly the design of the car in the game was inspired by German car manufacturers and a couple of British cars, as well.

The car obviously plays a very big part in the story. The boys are driving with it, but it actually belonged to Noctis’ father. It was has car that got handed down.

It’s like a metaphor so that the journey will be preserved by his father. It also represents the relationship between Noctis and him.

For Japan and probably elsewhere, as well, the idea of the car that your father drives and being linked to him is a very strong thing. For most Japanese kids and not only the fathers and sons, but also the daughters, being taken for a drive has a special meaning.

I really wanted to point out that we looked at German cars closely.


Koneko: Well, Mario Kart had a Mercedes DLC!

Tabata: (Laughs) I am very jealous about this one! If we can’t get Mercedes, we get BMW, Porsche or Audi maybe (laughs)!

JPGames.de: When Final Fantasy Versus XIII was introduced back then, the style was very dark and sad. I believe it was Nomura-san, who said this would be the saddest Final Fantasy. The more recent trailers showed more light-hearted, roadtrip themes, though. How has the game changed and is it still dark and sad?

Tabata: We mentioned this very often to the media and the fans: Final Fantasy XV and Versus are different games. It’s not always that they share the same tone and feel.

The best way to look at it is that Final Fantasy XV is a much bigger scaled game than Final Fantasy Versus XIII was going to be. It contains the things that were very important to Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but that’s not all – there is more to it.

C1I just want to tell you more about the new trailer, because that fits in. The trailer is entirely made of in-game footage. It’s not pre-rendered at all. With the technology we’ve got now, we are able to put in those emotional expressions in the game and really show those human feelings. We are not ashamed to use it to its fullest. It’s not that we got the happy emotions only, we got the really tragic and sad stuff as well. That’s what I wanted people to see, when they see the trailer.

Going up to the Episode Duscae demo, we really wanted people to experience what kind of game they get. In the change from Versus XIII to XV we wanted to ensure people about what it’s going to be and how it’s going to look and feel. We wanted to ensure people that this is what they are going to get and that this will be a good game.

The other thing we wanted to do with the demo was to get feedback by the players. That is something we had never done before with a standalone Final Fantasy or a non-MMO Final Fantasy. It was really a great experience and valuable to get all that feedback and opinions on the game and use it to complete the game until its final form.

Starting today at Gamescom we are moving to the next phase. We are putting everyone at the same starting line. You don’t have to know about the game, you don’t have to follow it up until now, because it all starts from here. We are going to release more information and get people to know about what is finally going to be in Final Fantasy XV. That’s what we are trying to do with the new promotion and trailer at Gamescom.

Final_Fantasy_XV_LeviathanThere seemed to be a lot of rumors and people believed we were going to announce the final release date of the game this week at Gamescom. We are very sorry to disappoint those people, but we are not doing that.

There is a good reason for that, though. Like I explained, we now entered our promotional reboot phase and going back to basics – explaining the game to everyone. We feel that it’s not the time to do that.

Rest assured, because we’ve got a solid plan now and pretty much decided when are releasing the game. There is other information we want to get out before we make the announcement.

Nova Crystallis: Usually a Final Fantasy game features six to eight summons. How about Final Fantasy XV? We already know about Ramuh, Titan and Leviathan. Can you tell us more? And what about that giant creature we saw in the end of the new trailer?

Tabata: The big fuzzy thing you saw at the end of the trailer is not a summon monster or Eidolon. But to come back to your question about other summons – of course there are more. The idea behind the summoning monsters in Final Fantasy XV is that they are not such random creatures, where you’ve got no idea where they come from. They not only show up and suddenly disappear – they all have reasons and purposes. They fit into the world as something that lives there.


Even the ones you have seen so far – they all have some sort of function or role in the structure of the world itself. The future summons that we are going to show also have that strong link to the game world.

In previous Final Fantasy games the summons never played a massive part in the main story. They were there, but they were more for combat. In XV they play a key part.

Nova Crystallis: You previously mentioned that there will be different ways to obtain a summon in the game. What other ways than a fight could there be to recruit them? A puzzle maybe?

Tabata: The idea of recruiting or obtaining them is not the best way to look at them (laughs). You get them to help you. You ask them to let them agree to help you. In the world of Final Fantasy there is one word given to them and that is “Guardians.” They are protective deities. So the relationship that Noctis has with them is that he besieges them to request them to lend him their power.

008It’s a bit misleading, though. In the demo, you just obtain Ramuh and it seems quite easy. In the real game there is a lot more to it how you get him to support you.

Koneko: After watching the movie Les Miserables, Nomura-san once said he wanted to turn the game into a musical. So now there is a Persona 4 dancing game. Can we expect a return of elements like that? For example characters singing or dancing together?

Tabata: Yes, you mentioned it, there are a lot of Japanese games or properties which are doing musical stuff these days. I think people enjoy seeing characters from a different angle. If people are really looking for it and want it or we maybe have the offer by someone to do one, we will definitely think about it (laughs)! I’ll keep that in mind!

JPGames.de: It has been announced that Kingdom Heats 3 changed the graphics engine to Unreal 4. For XV, you use the Luminous Engine, which was universally designed for several games. But now it seems it’s become an exclusive engine for Final Fantasy XV. Will future Final Fantasy games still use it?

Tabata: No, we are not planning making them all on Luminous. The first version of the engine was designed as a generic game creation engine. But it turned out that the first one wasn’t particularly powerful to make high quality games.

In order to make it the engine that could really make high quality games there was really the need to have a title entirely based around it with developing the engine at the same time as developing the game.

j0ffxdv9wtxoes2aqqakThe way this worked was that we took the original Luminous Studio team working on the engine and combined the team with the XV development team. We created a new Luminous team in some ways.

There is certainly a chance after we finish Final Fantasy XV. We developed the engine alongside the game so there so there is a good chance that we may use it again in another game. But there is no solid plan at the moment. It could happen.

Nova Crystallis: For example, the Final Fantasy VII Remake!

Tabata: Final Fantasy VII (Remake) is not planned to be made with that!

Nova Crystallis: We know that there is a female Dragoon in the game. Maybe she is going to be summoning Leviathan, we don’t know. But are there any other classical Final Fantasy character or job types making a return, like Black Mages?

Tabata: There are no solid plans to include a lot of classic Final Fantasy jobs to be in the game. But people want to see these things. We try to include them in some way in the future, but that is very much under discussion.

By the way, the female Dragoon is not summoning Leviathan, that’s not what she does. Sorry! But the Dragoon shows up during a very important time in the game, she is one of the key characters.


Koneko: Just a short question – one that I also asked Mr. Yoshida: Japanese beer or German beer?

Tabata: I don’t drink, so I cant answer this freely. I would say German, If you force me to drink I would pick German beer (laughs). Prost!

JPGames.de: Would you say that Final Fantasy XV is a character-driven or story-driven game?

Tabata: I only got two choices? …Player driven! (laughs)

What really is most important about XV is the story experience. The way I see Final Fantasy and its origins is the best possible story experience, supported by the best possible technology of that time.

We’ve got the art, the gameplay, the character development system, the battles and the best possible technology. They are there to support the story and make it as good as it could be. It’s not the other way around – they really tell the story. We think we got priorities right there.

JPGames.de: And you need the characters.

Tabata: Yes! We’ve got this amazing level of technology right now to really show human emotions in such detail and realistic way. We are maybe moving away from the more stylized expressions of characters. With the past hardware you were limited in what you can do so you had to stylize things to a certain degree.

re4rfweWe want to move to make the characters feel like real people.

Nova Crystallis: We just talked about many German things and the story. Was there a time when you considered the voice cast being in German, French, Spanish, Italian, too? Many players are maybe not good at English or Japanese. Some are maybe not concentrated enough to read subtitles and it becomes exhausting. It’s somehow a break in the immersion of the game if you are not listening to a game in your mother tongue.

Tabata: Obviously, there are times where as developer you have to think about it. It’s a very big consideration. In general terms, because of the budget it will take to do that most people give up on that quite quickly.

So where XV is at the moment, we really would like to have French, German and other voices in there if possible, but at the moment we only locked down the Japanese and English voices. We have to consider all sorts of different aspects – for example if we had time to develop that within the workflow. It’s looking very difficult to get that in and to keep everything else in the game.

Nova Crystallis: How about after release? You for example added the Japanese voice track for Lightning Returns as a DLC.

IMG_5921Tabata: We are positively looking into the idea of expanding the voice support for the game after release or as DLC. Also if we bring the game to other platforms in the future. We would very much like to expand languages on that, as well.

So when it comes to localization and our priorities, we think that before we want to introduce French, German or other voices, we want to expand the number of text-supported languages. Traditionally, Final Fantasy is only translated into Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. It has been just those five languages, but it is just a small amount compared to games that other companies are doing… it’s probably a higher priority to get more people to play the game before we enhance the experience for certain languages.

But we still fall behind after other people on that, unfortunately.

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André Mackowiak