Naoki Yoshida to Direct Final Fantasy XVI?
Naoki Yoshida is basically Square Enix royalty at the moment. He took 2010’s failed Final Fantasy XIV, and then proceeded to spin straw into gold with A Realm Reborn, which would go on to be one of Square Enix’s most profitable products. This is not all about the money though; Yoshida’s financial successes are no doubt appreciated, but they way that he helped the company to save really cannot be measured in numerical terms. He took Square Enix’s greatest ever failure, and managed to turn it into one of their most celebrated critical and commercial successes. Basically, his stock at the company could not be higher.
More importantly, in an age of Final Fantasy XIIIs and Final Fantasy XVs, Yoshida is the one guy left at Square Enix who seems to know how to make a game that feels like a Final Fantasy should. Basically, with A Realm Reborn he created an enchanting fantasy setting that series purists have wished would come back to offline series for a while now. So basically he is the right pick to develop Final Fantasy XVI, and he has the internal clout to make it happen.
This week Naoki Yoshida announced that he was developing a game for the next generation of console hardware, and that pre-producton was actually already complete, with the game now entering full-scale development. It feels like it would be premature for Square Enix to already be developing the next online Final Fantasy game while A Realm Reborn is still going strong, and none of the job listings associated with this new project are requiring a skillset that one would associate with developing an MMORPG, so at the moment most people are concluding that Yoshida is developing an offline game. If Yoshida is developing a single player game then the next logical conclusion to reach is that he is probably working on Final Fantasy XVI, an outcome which would make a large number of people especially happy, since he appears to hold the right kind of sensibilities and clearly knows how to effectively manage a large group of people in making an exquisite end product. Yoshida’s announcement that he was working on a new game was even accompanied by this piece of artwork, which looks very much like a traditional style airship drawn by Yoshitaka Amano. This could only be intended to be taken in one way, and if the artwork is in fact representative of Yoshida’s new game project, then its heavy emphasis on airships is no doubt very exciting for traditional Final Fantasy fans.
Final Fantasy XVI To Be a Battle Royale?
TDT’s Caspius has been repeatedly saying for a while now that Final Fantasy XVI will be a battle royale game. Battle royale is the flavour of the month gaming craze, and Square Enix always jumps on every gaming fad, only to be found a day late and a dollar short. Sooooo, now that we have established that Naoki Yoshida will be the director of Final Fantasy XVI, it is perhaps pertinent to ask the man what kind of game he would like to make:
I would like to make a battle royale game. I have some ideas to do that. I have some ideas to make that type of game fun. As an online game designer, I would like to make an MMORPG from scratch without any limitations or restrictions. Removing all those kind of restrictions, I would like to make one MMORPG that fits the current trend before I die. I would also like to play Diablo 4.
Well, there you go. Final Fantasy XVI will either be a battle royale, an MMO, or Diablo 4 (seeing as now Blizzard has officially cancelled their own Diablo 4). There is both a thirty percent chance that Caspius will be proven right again, as well as a thirty percent chance that Imitanis will be delighted. That being said, one can scarcely imagine seeing battle royale bros parachuting from Amano style airships! Square Enix, what are you even doing?!
Game Design In a Hugbox: The Development of Anthem
Of late many people have begun to ask questions of what industry will look like once Boomers and Xers begin to retire out of the workforce, and are replaced by the current crop of thin skinned narcissistic Millennials, who are unable to accept criticism or function outside of a safespace. One humbly submits that this week’s Kotaku report on the development woes of Anthem offers us a window into the future.
Dragon Age: Inquisition was a terrible game. The game failed as an entertainment product on almost every metric, and is bad in almost every way that a game can be bad. The combat was a shambles, the writing was shit-tier PC cringe, the graphics were abysmal, and the game’s open world environment was bland and lifeless. Indeed, the most complementary thing that one can say about Dragon Age: Inquisition is that its music was forgettable, meaning that it was not memorably awful like the game’s other elements. The game should have rightfully been regarded as a smouldering trashfire, but instead Bioware’s game journo buddies totally did them a solid by covering for them with glowing reviews and numerous ‘game of the year’ plaudits. One found this very upsetting at the time, but happily this undeserved praise has ultimately led to Bioware hanging themselves with a rope called hubris.
Bioware is an insufferably smug company that is in the habit of sniffing their own rancid farts. Readers might struggle to believe that Bioware is so far up their own back holes that they internally bandy about the term ‘Bioware magic’, and mean it unironically – but this is absolutely true. They do this precise thing with a good deal of regularity. This has been confirmed by no fewer than nineteen current and former Bioware staff. Anthem may have had seven years of development time on paper, but in truth the team was just sitting around sniffing one another’s farts until the last eighteen months of development, and even then most of the heavy lifting appears to have been done during the final months of development:
I don’t know how accurate this is, but it felt like the entire game was basically built in the last six to nine months. You couldn’t play it. There was nothing there. It was just this crazy final rush. The hard part is, how do you make a decision when there’s no game? There’s nothing to play. So yeah, you’re going to keep questioning yourself.
The reason that Dragon Age: Inquisition is so relevant to any conversation about Anthem is that the development of both games was almost identical to one another. Inquisition‘s development was characterised by a bloated and unproductive pre-production period, followed by a much shorter period of insane crunch to actually get the game out on time. Because Bioware was previously critically rewarded for adopting this inefficient design process with Inquisition, they repeated it again with Anthem. Worse still, this hugbox of critical felation gave rise to the notion of ‘Bioware magic’. Senior members of the company literally thought they could sit around doing nothing for five years, and then produce a critically well received game in the dying months of their development cycle simply by virtue of their studio being named ‘Bioware’. That is what is meant by ‘Bioware magic’. It is the nonsensical belief that the gods will intercede on their behalf and transform their bad game into a good one by dint of nothing more than the arbitrary name of their studio, but they have no divine mandate, and their game still sucks.
The major problem with Anthem appears to have been with the lack of leadership displayed by the game’s leadership team. There was nobody willing to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to ideas, and then back these decisions. The project leaders would meet to decide something and nearly get there, but then fail to pull the trigger, and walk away having decided nothing. Junior game devs would then go to the leadership team with concerns and complaints about the lack of progress being made, only to be brushed off with the promise that the ‘Bioware magic’ would kick in and sort everything out.
Reading the reviews is like reading a laundry list of concerns that developers brought up with senior leadership.
Anthem did not even begin development as a Destiny style looter shooter. It was originally intended to be a cooperative survival game set on a harsh alien planet, where players would have to band together to endure numerous procedurally generated environmental hazards. These plans eventually fell away however, as Bioware devs were unable to implement the required gameplay systems within EA’s Frostbite engine, and so Anthem became a looter shooter as a sort of path of least resistance.
Even once Anthem‘s development focus had solidified into the looter shooter that it would become, team members would be sharply rebuked for so much as mentioning Destiny, with the leadership team saying that they were not making Destiny, in spite of the fact that they were clearly making Destiny, poorly. This meant that the team was unable to benefit from studying what went right and wrong for one of the industry leaders in the game genre that their project had fallen into, and it also denied them a common language for talking about issues effecting Anthem.
Even after all this, narcissistic and out of touch Bioware is still unable to accept valid criticism, with them responding to Kotaku’s impartial report with some very noticeable butthurt:
We chose not to comment or participate in this story because we felt there was an unfair focus on specific team members and leaders, who did their absolute best to bring this totally new idea to fans. We didn’t want to be part of something that was attempting to bring them down as individuals. We respect them all, and we built this game as a team.
The struggles and challenges of making video games are very real. But the reward of putting something we created into the hands of our players is amazing. People in this industry put so much passion and energy into making something fun. We don’t see the value in tearing down one another, or one another’s work. We don’t believe articles that do that are making our industry and craft better.
So take that you mean journalist!
Bioware Edmonton must have received the shock of their lives when their journo pals who previously fluffed their pathetic little peckers over Dragon Age: Inquisition found that even they could not go so far as to shill for Anthem, and proceeded to review the game even more poorly than Mass Effect: Andromeda. This must feel like a real betrayal to a studio that has become unfamiliar with having to stand or fall on their own merits. Bioware’s company culture has become an irretrievable public urinal, and nobody has any reason to be surprised when EA decides to close the studio later this year.