News: Casual Fantasy

Protip: attempt to get the hotplate a little closer to the fire.
Expect to be doing a lot of this in Final Fantasy XV.

Final Fantasy XV To Be a Complete, Albeit “Casual”, Experience

In the wake of Final Fantasy XV‘s TGS showing, followers have had more to sink their teeth into than any time before. Production of the game essentially started back in 2012, and the title is estimated to be around fifty-five percent complete. A convertible automobile, by way of transportation, served as a huge focal point of Final Fantasy XV’s TGS trailer, and apparently enemies will still be able to attack the player when inside the car, necessitating the need to get out and fight. Moreover, to facilitate on-foot exploration in the game, the Final Fantasy XV team has implemented the ability for players to instantly summon the car to their location – eliminating the need to return to the car’s previous location.

Due to the implementation of day/night cycles, gameplay is set to change around this mechanic, with more dangerous fiends present during the nighttime period. It is for this reason that stopping at hotels or making camp by the side of the road will take on a certain prominence in Final Fantasy XV, so look forward to doing some cooking on the game’s utterly impractical barbeque!

The key artwork we already released shows an essential element to within the actual game. They camp along the way, stay at hotels, it adheres to the way the gameplay gives the sensation of going on a road trip.”

The game’s new director, Hajime Tabata, has estimated that the Final Fantasy XV demo which will be available for gamers who have purchased Final Fantasy Type-0 HD can be completed in roughly an hour if players opt to use the car. He has also predicted that the final game will end up taking most players about forty hours to complete, which is a hefty amount of gameplay, but still falls short of the more traditional sixty hours for a Final Fantasy title. This may actually be a good move on the part of the Final Fantasy XV team, as it is better to have a dense forty hours than sixty hours with padding.

This week has also seen Hajime Tabata stamp his mark on Final Fantasy XV, both for better and worse. In an interview with Degeki, Tabata made it clear that he had to step in and scupper the plans of foolish Nomura, who was toying with the idea of splitting Final Fantasy XV into two games:

Degeki: When I spoke to Nomura previously, he had mentioned a plan to release FFXV in segments. Is that concept still progressing now?

Tabata: We do not currently plan on releasing in segments. As director that was something I was concerned with because I thought it was important to complete it as my own title.

Less welcome is the revelation that Tabata has set about casualising the game’s systems – it is perhaps understandable [though a tad fucking pointless] to include a feature which allows the car to drive itself, yet it is deeply worrying to hear his plans for the combat system. Originally the combat was to be like Kingdom Hearts, where the press of a button would result in the corresponding attack. Now it would seem that Final Fantasy is to use an action button, which, when pressed, will instruct the game’s AI to perform whatever action it deems most appropriate for the circumstance. This is sure to be great for initiating flashy combat techniques, but not so good for engaging gameplay:

With Final Fantasy 15, I do want to make it more casual. Of course the depth of the game is going to be there, but I want to make it so players can easily experience the satisfaction of the depth of the game. There’s an option to set that car to drive itself, allowing players to sit back and take in the sights – although there is also an option to drive it manually, should they want to engage more fully with the world.

Another example is in the combat, with the hardware specifications of the newer consoles, it’s possible to set it up so you have different enemies and different choices of attacks you can enter in, but I want to simplify that. It’ll basically be a one-button action, and the AI intuitively outputs an action that kind of satisfies, gives you that instant gratification, and it connects with the simple touch of a button. I myself am not getting any younger. I don’t want to be frantically pushing buttons. I also want to utilise the intelligence of the hardware spec, and not have to go through too much hassle or trouble in order to execute moves.”

In a brief transcription of a Famitsu interview, Tabata goes on to describe the battle system in more detail, along with a possible saving grace of the game’s combat. That is to say that he specifically mentions that players will have the ability to pause combat in order to adjust party behaviour. It is one’s fervent hope that by this he means that players will be able to pause the battle in order to issue commands [a la Final Fantasy XII], though he could just as easily be talking about the ability to adjust party AI on the fly:

The battle system will feature very flashy moves and abilities, and feel like an action packed flow of moves. There will be warping and magic attacks, and there will be combination attacks with party members which are generated automatically based on context.

He also mentions that because this is a RPG, you can also play more strategically, and that during combat you can pause the game into a menu and adjust party behavior, change weapons, etc.

The weapon system in the game is treated like a deck. You set weapons on the deck in the menu, and during combat the most appropriate weapon in the deck will be used based on the situation.

The evasion in the game is executed by “defensive movement” which is a stance the player goes into when holding down the defense button. This allows the player to move around defensively avoiding attacks.

This game really cost five-hundred million dollars to make?!
Not destined to last, one suspects.

Bungie Disrespects the Time of Their Players

Last week the most overhyped video game of the year, Destiny, was released to an eager public who subsequently found it to categorically lacking in pretty much everything. By all accounts the game had fantastic mechanics, yet the missions lacked even a modicum of creativity or diversity, the game was really bad [perhaps deliberately so] at giving players the resources they needed to advance to the endgame, and the game itself contained nowhere near enough content to sustain itself, forcing players to repeatedly grind through the missions they had already completed in order to reach level thirty.

In the face of this regrettable situation the game’s executive producer, Patrick O’Kelley, has blithely trotted out what is beginning to be affectionately known as the Final Fantasy XIII defense – which is to say that the game gets better after twenty hours.

Twenty hours in, I think that players will find that they’ve evolved to playing a whole different kind of game than the shooter that started them off. They’ll find that they’re immersed in a different world, and are deep into the history of their characters. They’ll have built a community of other players. And, without realizing it, they’ll have learned some sophisticated mechanics that enable them to gear up and dive into a six-player cooperative raid, in pursuit of high-level exotic weapons and armor.

It is all very nice for Bungie that they feel this way, yet it seems a tad churlish to expect players to put twenty hours into the game when they have only been given eight hours of content. To make matters worse, Bungie has been very attentive in promptly patching out any exploit that gamers have been using to try and reach level thirty. The game essentially caps players at level twenty, meaning that the only way they can reach level thirty is by obtaining legendary weapons – the process of which is reportedly quite arduous. One way around this that Destiny players had found was to sit for hours in a ‘loot cave’ shooting periodically spawning enemies. Sadly, that is no longer a viable method to ameliorate Bungie’s shitty, broken game, as they not only immediately nerfed the cave, but were also complete dicks about it:

The social experience of a cave farming run is amazing: the herding to get a team of Guardians all behind the line and firing in the right direction, the rush to grab the loot, the scramble when the panic wave starts, the beckoning glow from inside the cave. The speed at which the community organized around this activity was inspiring and humbling to us.

But shooting at a black hole for hours on end isn’t our dream for how Destiny is played.

If that does not serve as a colossal ‘fuck you’ to Bungie’s fans, then this author does not know what would.

I doubt a little Japanese could even carry one out of the store!
If nothing else, the PS4 must be physically easier to sell than that hulking monolith…

Release of Destiny Sees Surge in PS4 Sales

Destiny may well have turned out to be a wretched experience, but last week’s release of Bungie’s much overhyped multi-platform release certainly seems to have stimulated console sales, most notably those of the PS4. Last week saw Sony shift almost half a million [472,885] PS4 consoles inside of a week, which is usually the kind of performance reserved for the run-up to Christmas. Microsoft’s Xbox One also saw a healthy increase to its sales by selling 171,486 units, but this is a figure that the PS4 obviously bests by an order of magnitude.

The PS4 usually bests the Xbox One by a 2:1 basis, yet last week saw this ratio exceeded by a significant extent. One feels that there can be very little doubt that this is an instance of Sony’s partnership with a game publisher yielding some insane dividends. Several weeks ago Microsoft’s marketing department appeared more than a little miffed at not being allowed to advertise Destiny for their platform, and this right here is why. Sony has given Microsoft an absolute drubbing in terms of weekly hardware sales, and Destiny on PS4 has been able to exceed the sales of the Xbox One version by almost a million units [2,265,469 copies sold to 1,373,498], beating Titanfall‘s sales to date in the span of a week.

18 comments

  1. The way combat is described as setting a deck -almost- reminds me of the XII system, but with far less depth. It’s hard to make a comment on what this game is going to look like gameplay wise without experiencing it myself, but I’m sure my disappointment is not solitary. Can’t help but feel like they’re one step closer to ‘David Cage’s Advent Children’ or something along those lines. At the very least, it will be a treat for the eyes, but then, cinema already does that splendidly. Games should be games.

    Destiny is just something that I can’t find a care towards. I’m sure it’s a fine FPS/loot game but I mean, how many times can you shoot up the same foes across the same handful of maps. Bungie’s argument for a richer, more immersive experience based on continuous play could be made of anything. I played Dark Souls into the ground for two years straight, and it became more and more a personal experience as I battled more experienced invaders and unraveled the mythology. But the game itself did not change one bit (outside of patches to fix exploits). It’s a weak argument at best.

    And man is it nice to see the Xbox getting it’s back panel handed to it. MS spend the past decade screwing it’s consumers with shoddy hardware. I like to think that the consumers haven’t forgotten.

  2. but still falls short of the more traditional sixty hours for a Final Fantasy title

    This isn’t true at all. They’ve always promised a ’40 hour story’, and I can’t think of a single Final Fantasy game that even requires the promised 40 hours to finish. My timer for FFX HD was around 38ish hours, and that was with a huge amount of dicking about. Most of the other games in the series took even less time. I recall that my timer for my very first playthrough of FF9 sat at around 30 hours, for example. FF7 is about 30-35 hours, too. Same for XIII and VIII–so I’m not sure where you’re getting the ’60 hour’ average from, but it’s not Final Fantasy. Along with most (but not all) other JRPGs, they’ve been a ’40 hour’ experience since the beginning of the PS era (prior to which, they were less, not more).

    “We do not currently plan on releasing in segments.”

    That’s a relief.

    “It’ll basically be a one-button action, and the AI intuitively outputs an action that kind of satisfies, gives you that instant gratification, and it connects with the simple touch of a button.”

    This is fucking horrendous. Seriously, I cannot tell you how angry this section of the interview makes me. It’s as if they looked at All the Bravest and said, “You know, the reason people didn’t like it is that it wasn’t $60 and didn’t take ten years to develop. Luckily, we can put that sort of depth into FFXV and REALLY satisfy people.

    Seriously a PRESS-ONE-BUTTON-AND-THE-COMPUTER-DOES-IT-ALL-FOR-YOU battle system? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE GIBBERING ASSHEADS!?!?

    “I myself am not getting any younger. I don’t want to be frantically pushing buttons.”

    Translation: “I’ve decided that all gamers are as uninterested in actually playing the game as I am.”

    YOU ARE AN IMBECILE.

    It is one’s fervent hope that by this he means that players will be able to pause the battle in order to issue commands

    It seems pretty clear from the interview that he’s speaking about party AI, as you suggest, and not the ability to issue a manual command, as in FFXII. This is genuinely the worst interview I’ve ever heard about a main series FF game. And, if it pans out as promised, I am considering simply not buying it. They deserve to fail. They have learned NOTHING.

    THEY ARE CHASING THE CASUALS in 2015!!!! Are they BLIND!?

    this is a figure that the PS4 obviously bests by an order of magnitude.
    Well, no, it’s a bit less than 3:1. An order of magnitude would be 10:1 (a power of ten).

    I cannot tell you how furious I am about XV.

  3. Tabata: “I no longer enjoy videogames, but for some reason I’m in charge of one, so I made one where no one has to try.”

    Why not just turn XV into a movie and he can be in charge of the special features menus? It offers a minimal level of interaction (you have to push a button!) but the rest just falls into place for you!

  4. @Mel: A lot of people thought that the moves to take control ‘away’ from the players in XII and XIII were just flukes of a battle system that at least gave something with depth back in return: the complexity of hierarchical gambits (but still, the ability to enter commands manually if the player didn’t wish to use them), or the swift ‘paradigms’, which created a unique, individual-character-centred but yet deeply tactical battle system.

    But NOW it appears that the ultimate move is simply towards a movie where the ‘player’ is required to press a button every so often to keep it moving. It’s no longer about a ‘game’ or a ‘battle system’ at all. It doesn’t even have the APPEARANCE of depth. Control is taken away from the player and nothing is given in return, except for some sort of moronic platitude that equates to, “I don’t like playing video games, so I’ve done my best to disappoint everyone who was expecting a video game.”

    Good job, you fucking twaddle peddler. You’ve made the digital equivalent of one of those bird feeders from an operant conditioning experiment. Press the button, get a seed. Press the button, get a seed. Press the button, get a seed. What a load of infantilising, lowest-common-denominator bullshit.

  5. Mel’s Quotes of Truth:

    At the very least, it will be a treat for the eyes, but then, cinema already does that splendidly. Games should be games. —Wolfe

    but still, the ability to enter commands manually if the player didn’t wish to use them —Lusi

  6. I’m saddened enough that FFXV is about a group of metrosexuals on a road trip without it even really being a game. They should have made that demo movie with the terrorists into the next Final Fantasy instead of this catamite’s bildungsroman. Next thing you know, S-E will put unlimited item space and save anywhere ability into Dragon Quest XI and everything will be shot to hell.

  7. @SN: Well, if the game “was to be like Kingdom Hearts” originally, then I don’t know that I would have liked it anyway. I did try to get into that series, but… eh.

  8. So FFXV will be a complete game? I kinda wanted more installments so we can get some party members that are not part of a Visual Kei band. Then again, if it blows we can move directly to the next one instead of suffering through a trilogy of Tabata’s husbando.

  9. I really don’t think a serialized model is best for this franchise. I feel like one of the best parts of FF is that it’s always changing.

    Because XIII was stretched out across three parts, if you didn’t like the XIII style you’ve been stuck waiting until now for another entry (admittedly not terribly long, only four years which for a Japanese AAA title is no time at all).

    I’d much prefer the days where we got two or more dramatically different FF games on the same console. You’re bound to like at least one of them.

  10. @Miliardo: “Then again, if it blows we can move directly to the next one instead of suffering through a trilogy of Tabata’s husbando.”

    This is true, AND it made me laugh.

  11. I would be fine with them making FFXV aimed towards filthy casuals if it was some kind of option in the game but that isn’t SE’s style. Instead, the way things appear right now is that FFXV will be more like Final Fantasy: Heavy Rain. Also, if Tabata really is concerned with frantically pushing buttons, why not make FFXV a traditional, turn-based JRPG? Because casuals are not interested in turn-based RPGs.

    It’s really concerning that SE hasn’t learned the lesson that even Nintendo had to begrudgingly accept, casuals are a terrible target audience. It is almost as if SE believes the real reason that FFXIII didn’t sell as well as the previous entries(according to numbers on VGChartz) is because the battle system was still too complex for non-gamers. If that is the case, then it is time to put a nail in the series so that SE can free up resources for their mobile games.

  12. Tabata really is concerned with frantically pushing buttons, why not make FFXV a traditional, turn-based JRPG? Because casuals are not interested in turn-based RPGs.

    …actually, that’s a really good point. Hah, it just gets worse and worse! He wants to (or is being told to) make a shitty RPG-lite game but he doesn’t even like the idea of it. The solution is actually to make a better game and he refuses!

    “Nah, I think the answer is to just make it even shittier.”

  13. I’m just going to wait. I think we’re all going to buy the game no matter what. It’s a Final Fantasy game. I think that these comments could mean a wide variety of things including poor communication. Of course, it could be exactly what we fear too, but we do not have enough context and I don’t have enough energy to swing my excitement levels back and forth. I’m choosing to remain optimistically excited while acknowledging the possibility for a disaster. I’m going to play it either way.

  14. I’ve only enjoyed two Final Fantasies, XII and XIV (and to a lesser extent, X) the rest I either didn’t care for or haven’t played. I can easily skip this entry if more concrete info confirms it’s just Kingdom Hearts.

  15. @Ethos: I would agree if the interview had been less exhaustive. It’s pretty damning. There’s not a whole lot of ‘getting out of this’ except to start changing things in response to customer outcry (which, we’re hearing, has been overwhelmingly negative).

  16. @Lusi – True. In this case I am glad for the demo not to satiate excitement, but to evaluate the meaning of his damning comments.

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