FFXII The Zodiac Age
Note: These interviews are from the original FFXII and not The Zodiac Age.
Q: Can you tell us how the Final Fantasy XII camera system works?
Minaba: The camera system is fully 360 degrees and closer to FFXI in that you can see from the first person and third person. We aren't just working on backgrounds, but we're also creating things like the ceiling. You'll be able to view the ceiling as well.
Q: Can you comment on some of the equipment from the game and your possible role in designing it?
Minaba: I was not in charge of the design of any of the equipment - swords and shields, etc. That intertwines with the battle system so I can't say much, but there will be a lot of equipment.
Q: There seems to be a trend of FF games towards younger looking, more effeminate male leads. Did you ever consider making a more rugged looking hero?
Lot's of laughter as the super translator person tries to figure out how to describe Vaan as "effeminate."
Yoshida: In the early stages of development the hero character was more rugged -- big and tough. As we started shaping up the scenario and taking into consideration the target demographic, the character became what you see today. There were other ideas tossed around.
Until motion capture and voice actor Kohei Takeda was cast for Vaan, the main character was actually a little more effeminate. With him playing the role, the character became more active, upbeat, bright and positive. The character would have been even more effeminate had Takeda not been cast.
Q: Compared to other FF games, there seem to be more emphasis on airships. Will airships be an integral part of gameplay in FF12?
Minaba: In a sense, yes, airships will have a more prominent role, whether it be just a stage for an event, or just used as a means of transportation.
Q: Who's in charge of mechanical design (airships, vehicles, etc.)?
Minaba: Me. Plus some other staff.
Q: For Mr. Yoshida, there's been some comments that the characters in the game are similar to the style of Tetsuya Nomura (famous Square Enix character designer who heads up the Kingdom Hearts project). What do you feel about this assessment?
Yoshida: You're very direct for a journalist.
Yoshida: I didn't have anything in mind about Nomura's style or anything Nomura related when starting out FFXII. I actually begin with designing Vaan, the main character. I don't think my first rough version of Vaan looks anything like Nomura's style.
If I were to say one thing though, the perceived similarity to Nomura's style may be because of the colors that I ended up using on the characters. In FF games until now, the design of the characters and the feel and design of the world were connected. The two were very much together because the colors were consistent between the characters and the world. In this game, the colors really stand out. It's probably the different kinds of colors that I've never really used that's adding the Nomura flavor to my work. Pink is a new color for me, for instance.
Q: Is the Ivalice of FFXII the same Ivalice as that of Tactics?
Minaba: If you ask me what the world of Ivalice in FFXII is, it's something that's only in the director's mind, so it's hard to say what it's going to be or how different it's going to be. But I would say that it's another version of the world you've seen previously. We'd like to show a different version of Ivalice.
To the staff, many of whom worked on the previous Ivalice worlds, what does the world of Ivalice feel like, what does it mean and what feeling are you trying to bring to the game?
Minaba: Yes, a lot of our staff has worked on the previous Ivalice world, so in that sense the feeling we get from the world is that we get to portray the world in a different way. It's a world that we all love that we can present in a different game and in a different way.
Q: A lot of people talk about change. What has changed the most in FFXII?
Minaba: I've been asked not to reveal details on the changes. All I can say is that once you play it, the game will give a fresh, new feeling, but also at the same time shock you in a good way. From the trailer that you saw yesterday, I hope you saw that the controls and gameplay are quite different. I'll leave it to your assumption as to how that's going to tie in with the meaning of change in the game.
Q: It seems that non-human characters take a big role in this game. Can you comment on the importance of race in this game?
Minaba: The human races will have the primary role, but the non human races will play a big part in the game as well.
You might have heard Matsuno say that he and I are big history fanatics. I don't think we can talk about history or present anything about history without talking about races and the social classes. Races and social classes are things that should exist for the Final Fantasy XII story to progress as it does.
Q: It was said yesterday that some of the influences for the art style and environment were Mediterranean in nature. Many in the audience also saw some possible influence from Episode 2 of Star Wars. Can you comment on some of various influences for the game?
Minaba: I am a big fan of star Wars -- I will admit that. But, if we say Star Wars is our influence and create our game, you won't end up with an FF game nor will you end up with FF12. I'll just say that I'm a fan. I wouldn't say that was necessarily an influence though.
Kamikokuryou: These days, user demands and expectations for our games are very high. It's true that we still have do things such as, for instance, going to Turkey as we did for this project. The reason we went there is so we can see what's really out there. But if we just took that and made the game we wouldn't be able to satisfy everyone. So, we're still keeping true to creating something that's original and a fantasy world while referring to something that exits. We try to take something out of what exists and create our own original work.
Q: Are there any other influences outside of Turkey?
Kamikokuryou: Outside of Turkey, Matsuno mentioned the entire Mediterranian region yesterday. Outside of that, maybe a little bit of India. Also parts of New York, actually -- the art deco areas and the regions of New York. You'll see, hopefully sooner than later, that throughout the game, we're trying to maximize the variation from each location of the game. We're trying to maximize what you see in each of the regions and create a sense of variety.
I think that in FFX there was one very strong world and one very whole world. But in FFXII you'll see more a variety of influences that I've had in creating some of the areas.
Q: Considering Matsuno's heritage, will there be any strategy-style gameplay outside of the standard RPG strategy?
Minaba (laughs): I'll leave it up to your assumption. It's too early to tell.
It's obviously too early too comment on the gameplay -- if there'll be any war strategy elements coming into gameplay, for instance. The setting of FFXII is a place where a lot of races, beliefs and countries meet, though. Of course there are battles and wars. In terms of gameplay, though, it's too early to say.
Q: FFXI is an Online-exclusive game, different from other titles in the series. Will there be any Online component for FFXII?
Minaba: FXII will be an Offline game. Matsuno has been involved with Play Online before and has mentioned that he'd like to have an Online project, but in this game there will be no Online elements.
Q: FFX had lots of Japanese influence. FFXII has lots of Western influences Are you keeping the western audience in mind as you design the game? Do you think western audiences will receive the game differently from who they received FFX and FFX-2 as a result of the art style?
Minaba: I think everyone might have a different opinion.
Kamikokuryou: The American/western audience wasn't in my mind when I started designing.
Square Super PR Person: That's not a good enough answer...
Kamikokuryou: When designing, I look and refer to tons materials, references and drawings -- anything I can absorb. What I feel is going to be good and is going to work out is different for each project that I've worked on. If I feel it's going to be right, it comes natural to me that I should go with it.
With FFX, I worked on background design, so there may be an overlap with my personal desire to make FFXII different from my previous work.
Besides the countries or regions mentioned earlier, I do have a lot of other ideas. For example, this bottle that's on the desk. I'll just stare at it for a long time and in pops an idea. I'll look at water running in the sink and there may be an airship idea or an idea for a building. One method of designing is to look at reference materials, visit countries -- that is to say, to look at things that exist. But just putting this into writing or drawing with my own hands obviously isn't original -- not my idea. There are times when doing something completely different and I'll come up with an idea for a building or a structure and so-forth.
Minaba: There wasn't anything in particular that I had in mind for the overseas audience. The game is built both for the domestic and overseas audiences. However, I personally think that some of the Arabic cultures, even the stuff that we see in the news, reference materials, or even in the world of music, are a popular underground thing in European hot spots. I wanted to bring that out and show people that there's this world that you might have never seen or felt. I spoke to Matsuno and he agreed that that's something that while not necessarily "undiscovered," is something that should be shown in one way or another. There is a lot of influence from this area behind this game.
Yoshida: I think that many members of our team are huge fans of non Japanese games. What you see in Vagrant Story is a product that results from our putting as many non-Japanese influences as possible into a game. We didn't want to take the same strategy with FFXII. I hope that with FFXII you won't see our having worked so hard to put in foreign elements. I hope you'll something that is a couple of steps back from Vagrant Story in how influenced it is by foreign concepts.
I'm curious about what you saw yesterday. Is it natural too you? Does it look like we were forcing something?
(Final Fantasy expert, who shall remain nameless, comments that the game looks more Japanese than Matsuno's previous games)
Square Rep: That's what we wanted.
Q: Parts of the trailer featured dark battles. Are there any historical eras or war periods that have influenced the design?
Minaba: Probably the Roman Empire - maybe a little past. A lot of our staff has had influence in that area.
Q: Is it fair to say that war is a prominent theme in this game?
Minaba: The setting of the game -- yes, it is war. There's obviously a story, but the setting is war.
Q: Can you comment a bit on the Judge character He makes the logo very big?
Minaba: I thought the logo was big too.
Square Super PR Rep (to members of the press): It may be hard for you to use the logo as an image in your publication.
FF Expert: It may be hard to fit it on the box.
Minaba: It probably won't fit on the spine. However, by making the logo bigger we may get more exposure in game magazines.
Minaba: The judge plays a key role in the game.
Q: Does he have a name?
Q: Is there more than just one judge, or is there just one?
Minaba: Not one. But we can't say more than that.
Q: Are the Judges the forces behind the Empire, or are they servants of the Empire?
Minaba: He is called the judge, so...
Q: How many people will be in your party? Will it be a standard three-party system?
Minaba: As you can see from some of the assets yesterday, there are three members of the party. Anything beyond that is up to your imagination at this point. We'll be revealing more info on FFXII before the end of the year in Japan.
Q: How about support characters that can be switched into battle? How many of these can we expect?
Minaba: To be continued...
Q: How does Vaan compare to previous FF protagonists?
Minaba: Well, the person who's creating the characters is different -- that's one difference. I don't think he can be compared to any of the FF characters.
Q: Can you see all three characters on the world map at the same time?
Minaba: Yes, it's possible.
Q: What games have impressed you in this generation in terms of art direction?
Minaba: It's an old Japanese game -- you may not know it. Genpei Toumaden Kannoni (Namco PC Engine game from 80s, also known as Samurai Ghost).
Yoshida: Metal Gear Solid 2. I'm really looking forward to part three.
Kamikokuryou: The entire Front Mission series -- even though it's our own game.
Q: We noticed that Hironobu Sakaguchi was at the presentation yesterday. Will Mr. Sakaguchi have more of an influence on this FF or other FF games, or was his presence just out of respect for Mr. Matsuno?
Minaba: We may not have any communication with Mr. Sakaguchi, but Mr. Matsuno, as the game's director, has respect for him since he is the father of the series. If changing the direction of the series, Mr. Matsuno will probably discuss the issue with Mr. Sakaguchi.
Q: (from special Final Fantasy Expert who will still remain nameless): If you look closely at one of the pamphlets from yesterday, the pamphlet that has the release dates for of all the Final Fantasy games written in it, you can see the release dates for Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance hidden in the background in a light shade of gray.
Does this mean that the team feels that they are mixing the Tactics world view with the main FF world view?
Minaba: What the!? Oh wow, it is there, isn't it!
Actually, as you hold on to the pamphlet, the numbers become darker and darker.
Q: Will there be a romance in this game?
Minaba: Obviously, there's a hero and a heroine, so there has to be some kind of relationship. However, the relationship may not be as obvious or serious in terms of love as in previous games.
Q: So it may be just like "Let's just be friends."
Yoshida: It may not be just love between the two -- it may be other love.
Q: When did the development on FFXII begin?
Minaba: Quite some time ago. In the beginning, we started out trying to make a game for PlayOnline, since Matsuno [the director] was involved in that project. It was a really small project, where we were thinking of producing one game in about half a year's time. Yoshida was doing the background artwork and I was doing the character designs for the fun of it. Before we realized it, it was a full-time project.
Yoshida: That's kind of how the game began, but it's not really the official beginning of FFXII's development launch.
Q: We previously heard from Matsuno that Ashe was modeled on a Frenchwoman's bone structure.
Yoshida: The base of her bone structure is a French person's. We were given orders from the start to not make her look like an Asian. But we modified her a bit to look more like a Japanese for the sake of the Japanese audience, and also since a character that looks completely French makes some of the CG expressions difficult.
Q: What about Vaan's modeling?
Yoshida: Vaan is a Dalmascan in this world. He's something like an Asian.
Q: The characters wear skimpy outfits--whose idea was this?
Yoshida: That would be me. [Laughs] This country named Dalmasca is supposed to have a hot climate, so we were thinking of showing off more skin.
Q: It seems like there will be intense battles between the flying vessels.
Minaba: The Dalmascan army and the Empire will fight on their border, which will be the highlight of the opening scene. On the ground, the soldiers will be fighting against soldiers. And in the sky, the flying vessels will be battling against flying vessels. One of the key points [in FFXII] will be about presenting this large number and volume [of characters].
Q: The flying vessels vary in size and design. Will they serve different jobs, such as one being a destroyer and another being a cruiser?
Minaba: Yes. And there will be a battle ship that's over 300 meters in the second half of the game. That's still one of the middle-sized ships in this world, though.
Q: There seems to be a blue ring on top of the flying vessels. Is this an energy source for the ships?
Minaba: The ring itself isn't the energy source. There's something else in the center of it that acts as the energy source. It's a rare material, but there are even more rare materials as well.
Q: Would that be a crystal?
Minaba: Hmmm, We'll see.
Q: In one of the scenes from the trailer, there is a young man who is receiving a sword. The sword appears to be the same design as the one that Ashe is holding, like especially its handle.
Minaba: Hmmm, that's a very keen observation. [Laughs]
Q: There is an image where Vaan's status bar is showing off, despite being a field screen.
Yoshida: I wonder if we created any battle fields this time? [laughs]
Minaba: We hope to show that expression of "volume" that we just talked about. There's a limit due to the polygon count, so it'll be a chance for the developers to show their skill.
Q: What is the object that Vaan is holding near his mouth in the image illustration CG?
Minaba: That is called a Star Fruit. The city in the background is the Dalmasca Kingdom, where Vaan grew up.
Q: The limited edition poster that came with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance featured a Judge. It looks a bit similar to the FFXII logo designed by Yoshitaka Amano.
Yoshida: Very keen observation! This poster is actually an image of the "Judge", which governs the power and authority in the world of Ivalice.
Q: There seems to be a number of other races aside from humans, in FFXII.
Minaba: The races in FFIX were modeled on humans, but the races in FFXII are fundamentally different from humans in their biology. We hope to give different characteristics to different races, like we did in FFTA.
Q: Mr. Yoshida designed the Bangaa race for FFTA?
Yoshida: I did the original designs for the Bangaas. They were originally created for FFXII, but came out first in FFTA.
Q: From checking out the images, there seems to be other races aside from the Bangaa and Viera.
Yoshida: There will be other races that did not appear in FFTA.
Q: Will Chocobos be used for transportation purposes?
Yoshida: They'll probably be around for that kind of purpose.
Q: How far is development going?
Minaba: It's pretty complete.
Square Spokesperson: [Interjecting] It's at 70 percent completion.