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A Glimpse Into The Long Development of Final Fantasy XII 65

Posted by Zonk
from the cactaur-killing-good-time dept.
In a talk Thursday at the Game Developer's Conference, attendees were exposed to a rare treat: technical information behind development at Square/Enix. Programming supervisor Taku Murata, co-director Hiroshi Minagawa, and lead realtime rendering programmer Yoshinori Tsuchida were onhand to shed some light on a game many years in the making. Though the session didn't provide any dirt on those interested in the departure of game designer Yasumi Matsuno, there was plenty to take away from the highly focused discussion. "Final Fantasy games require a lengthy development process, and this presents the very real threat of being obsolete by the time it ships. To combat this the team allocated its resources with a heavy emphasis on art."
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A Glimpse Into The Long Development of Final Fantasy XII

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  • A not worthwhile article? Very little information.
    • by dintech (998802)
      First Post? Not enough Information? Either you're Johnny 5 or you read it too fast. And if you're Johnny 5 then my mother's a snow blower.
  • Article Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stevecrox (962208) on Friday March 09, 2007 @08:19AM (#18287454) Journal
    Final Fantasy takes years to produce, to lessen the chance that the games outdated when it comes out they spend 70% on art, 20% on game design and 10% on engineering. There was mention that they built tools to output their 'art' through a PS2 onto a TV to get a true representation of how it will look. Lots of comments about how much FFXII sucked, suggesting this business plan is a bad idea.

    There i saved you the hassle of reading the article
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      Their 70% art business plan shows. And by art, I mean graphics, not plot, storyline, etc. This has got to be the most boring FF yet. After about 20 hours of the game, I finally gave up. It had only once even slightly interested me in the plot, and not at all in the characters. (Except Fran, but not because of who she was as a character, but because she's a bunny-girl that doesn't wear much and has an amazing accent.)

      The combat was okay at the beginning. Then you get a few gambits, and it's more fun.
      • by Paradox (13555)
        Wait, wait.

        FFXII's plot is hailed as one of the most interested, convoluted, and modern of any FF. People love it. Lots of people have said, "I wish it was released in book form, I'd read it." It was not just a recycled love story. And yet you claim this was one of the game's weaknesses?

        I submit to you, sir, that you are simply not the target audience for FF games in general. Your statements and tone suggest that you have not liked the genre in general.
        • I agree with the GP.

          I got to within 5 or so hours of the end, then quit. Why? Because, I checked to see how close I was to the end, found out, and realized that the story that I'd been waiting for for the last X hours (I don't remember exactly how long it had taken) was NEVER going to show up.

          They made some GREAT characters. They DID have a story, to be fair, but it was one that should have taken 5-10 hours to play through, not the tens of hours that it actually takes. They had a Max Payne 2-length stor
          • by Rei (128717)
            Five hours from the end? So, you probably got far enough to get to this little political jab:

            Mindflayer Hunt [daughtersoftiresias.org].

            I'm guessing by your preferred gameplay style that you'd hate most MMORPGs -- running around and killing stuff for hours on end amidst pretty scenery. ;) Different type of gamer, different type of game.

            Agree -- XII could certainly have done with more story. Still, what they had was pretty good. I wouldn't rate it as highly as Tactics (which was notably longer to boot), but certainly a lot better
          • by McFadden (809368)
            Apologies - I've tried not to include any serious spoilers in this one, but you might want to be wary if you haven't finished the game.

            I'm in two minds on this one. I finished the game and never really found myself doubting that I would. However, I do kinda understand what you're saying about the storyline never really materializing.

            Although I enjoyed the game immensely, I never felt myself getting caught up in the story like I did with FFX. There was something about Yuna's tragic but inevitable sl
            • Unlike the parent, I actually didn't get that attached to the characters this time around. There was no one who had the kind of personality that made me want to care about them. Ashe was a little too full of herself and didn't soften enough for me. Penelo had no depth at all other than being a sidekick for Vaan, who himself wavered between mildly likeable and slightly annoying. Balthier was amusing at times and had probably the best end-story of them all, and Fran while interesting for her voice, wasn't a p

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Aladrin (926209)
          And see, you'd be wrong about that. Final Fantasy Adventure (I believe) for the GB was my first FF. I played the SNES one when it came out. I loved all of them that I played up to that point. FF7 was disappointing for me as the intro was very boring, but it got better later. Enough better than I now count the game as a good one. FF8, 9, 10 were all great games. FF11 is amazingly lame. FF12 is boring.

          The plot in FF12 would have to change pace dramatically, and actually have some content, to save it p
          • And before anyone says 'if you made it 20 hours, it must not have been that bad' ... It's Final Fantasy. I kept telling myself it HAD to get better.

            Haha, did the same thing, but I got a lot farther than 20 hours :(

            Luckily, YouTube saved me from having to play the last 5 or so. Ugh, what a bad game.
          • Final Fantasy Adventure (I believe) for the GB was my first FF. I played the SNES one when it came out. Those are from the Mana series (Sword of Mana and Secret of Mana, respectively). They are quite different from other RPGs.
            • by Aladrin (926209)
              http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Seiken_Densets u [wikia.com]

              No, it was a spinoff from Final Fantasy. It later spawned the Mana series.

              Doesn't matter, cuz it's the wrong one. It was Final Fantasy Legend that I was thinking of. I haven't played it in over a decade, and couldn't remember which it was. And yes, FFL was actually the SaGa series renamed. But it's enough like FF1-3 that it doesn't matter.
        • What? It seems to me that the vast majority of gamers who hated FF XII are long-time fans of the series, not people who dislike JRPGs in general and are "not the target audience".

          FF XII had one of the slowest, most bare bones stories in any FF game. It was basically Final Fantasy Tactics Lite. There are maybe 2 big plot twists in XII. In FFT, twists of the same impact and magnitude happened ALL THE TIME. Vaan and Penelo are also the worst main characters in FF history, even worse than Tidus. They h
          • by Rycross (836649)
            Vaan and Panelo barely even talked in the game, other than short scenes with them goofing around with Larsa. You literally could have removed them from the game's plot with no trouble. Ashe was the main character, not Vaan. They had a couple things in there that hinted at Vaan actually being important, but they ditched them later in the plot.

            I also didn't like how espers were worthless. I spent a lot of time building up, doing hunts, and trying to get espers. Finally, I just felt like it was worthless.
      • by Rei (128717)
        You're kidding, right?

        Then you get a lot of gambits and you realize the game really does just play itself. (If you're not a complete moron, I mean.)

        You're kidding, right? Did you never step into, say, Pharos Subterra or the Henne Mines' extra dig (esp. the abysteel switch)? Did you not, say, get Cuchulain as soon as it was available? Did you not get Zodiark, or beat Yiazmat and Omega? Are you going to say that you did all of these with the exact same gambits? Obviously not. Yes, easy areas play themse
        • Not that much of that, though. Certainly nothing like IX. Also, while the voice acting was generally quite good (except for Vaan), the body motions were often over-exaggerated, overly dramatic. Kytes is a glaring example of this.

          Still better them the random emoting of FFX. The flailing really got on my nerves in FFX.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    70% was spent on art. Of the resources dedicate to art, 95% of it was dedicating to finding angles/excuses to show Fran's bare ass or make the princess give out a gasp (which sounded more like a sexual moan) every cutscene.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by robson (60067)
      Of the resources dedicate to art, 95% of it was dedicating to finding angles/excuses to show Fran's bare ass or make the princess give out a gasp (which sounded more like a sexual moan) every cutscene.

      So... money well-spent, you're saying.
  • if you have played FFXII you can see what this produced. Not every game can get a perfect 10/10 on faimitsu. The dark tactics/ vagrant story style of game really fits here.
  • I know I don't play Final Fantasy games because they're innovative. I play Final Fantasy games because they're damn gorgeous. Besides, when was the last time any of you played an RPG that doesn't suffer from the same worries/problems that FFXII does?
    • by faloi (738831)
      I know I don't play Final Fantasy games because they're innovative. I play Final Fantasy games because they're damn gorgeous. Besides, when was the last time any of you played an RPG that doesn't suffer from the same worries/problems that FFXII does?

      I don't know about FFXII specifically, but after spending a seeming eternity in cut-scene after cut-scene in FFX, I pretty much decided I was done with the series. I buy RPGs to play the game, not to watch a movie.
      • You can skip all the cut scenes and a "objective" is listed on the maps so you don't miss anythign critical if you skip them all. I know I dispised long unskipable cutscenes. Especially ones that end in a hard boss battle. That annoyed me about Xenogears.
        • That annoyed me about Xenogears.

          You don't play Xenosaga, you help Xenosaga play itself.
          • I'm not sure if you know this already or not, but Xenogears and Xenosaga are two VERY different games. There are one or two cutscenes in Xenogears (and a LOT of in-game dialogue) but nowhere near the half hour long cutscenes xenosaga has.
            • No, I did indeed think they were the same. I'll think about trying Xenogears if I happen by it in the used bin now, but still wouldn't go out of my way to pick it up. Xenosaga was just too much of a train wreck compared to the reviews.
    • I know I don't play Final Fantasy games because they're innovative. I play Final Fantasy games because they're damn gorgeous.

      Thanks for reminding me why I stopped playing RPGs (or at least the Japanese kind). When I want to see pretty CG, I go see a damn movie. When I want to experience a good story, I go read a damn book. But when I play a game, I want to PLAY A GAME.

      RPGs stopped being interesting to me when I grew up and became a busy adult who wants to maximize his ever-decreasing free time allocated to
      • by Xtravar (725372)
        I was pretty anti-RPG until I finally broke down and bought a PS2 recently. (The PS2 seems to have a ton of good RPGish games, I bought it for Katamari, but what do you play when you're done with Katamari? That's another story...)

        Honestly, I can't stand to sit still through movies. I need to be doing something. Sitting and getting involved in a book is completely out of the picture.

        The nice thing about RPGs is you can play a little bit, accomplish something in the game, and then turn it off. The game w
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          The nice thing about RPGs is you can play a little bit, accomplish something in the game, and then turn it off.

          The problem with that is that most console RPGs use savepoints as your only way to save and those points tend to be half an hour or more apart once the game gets going (some games go up to two hours between savepoints in later dungeons). Just playing for a few minutes won't let you progress because you can't save.
      • RPGs stopped being interesting to me when I grew up and became a busy adult who wants to maximize his ever-decreasing free time allocated to video games. Nowadays it's mostly arcade-ish and FPS-ish games for me, where the emphasis on gameplay is put to the maximum, with little to no time wasted on staring at pretty pictures or developing a story. Some great games manage to do all of those without sacrificing gameplay, but Japanese RPGs are basically the complete opposite of that idea.

        You have games like tal
    • by revlayle (964221)
      Fallout 1 (2 also, but 1 has a better plout - 2 has more game time), Ultima (up to 6), Planescape: Torment, Balder's Gate 1+2, KOTOR 1 (*not* 2, sorry), yes, even Jade Empire, plus others I am sure also (but I can't think of right now :( )

      True, some of these games have their own set of problems; however, in my opinion, certainly *not* any of the ones the FFXII suffers from
    • My person reasons for playing the ff series were interesting storyline + great gameplay. While not overly difficult ffx and earlier provided that for me. I like movies and i don't really care if ffx depends on being half that because it was interesting to me and it had sufficient battles that were interesting.

      FFXII's story was neither interesting (political but the characters were barely flushed out and it was more event based then anything) nor did the battles resemble anything fun after a while. The li
  • The article names exactly those issues that you will find in every game development process, not just FF12's. I can imagine that the number of people working on this specific game is much higher than in other productions, and probably makes problems in communication and verification much more prominent. But as far as the numbers in TFA are concerned, they don't seem to be any different than standard.

    Even for the simplest game, a developer will seek to develop on the target machine, and running on the targe
  • Maybe it's just me but I found FFXII to be frustrating to the point of unplayable. I love the world and how pretty it is but I just can't play the game.

    The combat system just isn't fun and makes no sense to me. Vaan stands around for ten seconds going "ho hum time to get hit" while I just told him to smash some guys face in with a sword. WHY!? All it does is remind me of laggy MMORPGs and that Vaan needs to stop being such a skinny little gimp and start hitting things if he even wants to be a real pirate.
    • by Sciros (986030)
      Characters atack every 2-3 seconds or so don't they? That's not too horrible... most RPGs have some internal timer that determines when your next attack is. In Guild Wars it's between 1.33 and 2.5 seconds or something, depending on your weapon. In Baldur's Gate there was an internal 'round' of combat that lasted 6 seconds or so, since DND is kinda turn-based.

      Maybe you haven't ever played BG or something like KOTOR, because to me it seemed like FFXII borrowed a lot from those games in terms of combat syste
      • Characters atack every 2-3 seconds or so don't they? That's not too horrible... most RPGs have some internal timer that determines when your next attack is. In Guild Wars it's between 1.33 and 2.5 seconds or something, depending on your weapon. In Baldur's Gate there was an internal 'round' of combat that lasted 6 seconds or so, since DND is kinda turn-based

        Once you get some speed licences and haste it's an attack every 0.5s with quick weapons like the zodiac spear.
        • by demi (17616)

          I don't think that's what he's talking about. I'm only a few hours in, and I think I have set my gambits correctly, but darn if Vaan doesn't just sit there in combats not attacking anything. I'm not talking about the 2-3s wait for his action bar to fill up--it doesn't fill up, he doesn't attack anything, even when he's the leader, his one gambit is to attack the foe the leader is targeting, gambits are enabled and I've chosen the Attack action to the foe I want to concentrate on. I can't figure it out--it's

          • lol. Sorry. You mis understand that gambit. IF Vaan is the leader and he has only the gambit "attack foe leaders targeting", he will never do anything because he is leader, and isn't currently targetting anyone. Try "attack nearest foe" or "attack foe targetting leader." It's obvious when someone points it out but the leader needs a different set then the rest. For optimal kill speed I have my leader target nearest and the rest target leaders target. For money and gear hunting I steal with leader and have t
            • by demi (17616)

              Granted, I'm only a bit in, but what I want to do is choose an opponent and have each of the physical fighters in the party concentrate on that one. I don't want them choosing nearest (because they will not then concentrate), and for the leader, I want to choose what to attack, so that their target does not change. From your post, it doesn't sound like I can do that (at the moment?).

              What I don't want to have happen is for the leader to change their target unless I intervene. I don't want the leader target

              • It can work exactly how you want it. if you have this set up

                Leader
                Attack -> nearest foe

                2nd hero
                Attack -> leaders target

                3rd hero
                Attack -> leaders target

                This will allow you to all attack the foe nearest the leader. If you manually change leaders target the other 2 will as well. The AI prioritizes gambits from top to bottom. The top most action with a valid condition executes. If you want to use first aid when someone is weak then you need

                Character
                First aid -> Ally hp critical

                Certain abilities like
                • by demi (17616)

                  Leader
                  Attack -> nearest foe

                  I appreciate your help! However, that is not what I want. For the most part, I want to concentrate on one opponent until it's down. I don't want the fact that a bat flies closer to the leader to stop him pounding on the spider, know what I mean?

                  I have followed your suggestion and it works "fine," I definitely appreciate it, but it's not quite what I want and I'm surprised I can't do something I want to do so early in figuring it out.

                  In a strange way it's like programing i

                  • some later gambit can allow you to kill one wihtout switching targets like

                    attack->foe lowest str

                    or

                    attack->foe lowest max hp

                    any of the foe stat conditions almost garentee single target action.

                    attacking nearest often gives you the best results since there is a slight lag between leader actions and the others. The later gambits help you taylor your behavior much better. At some points you really long for a certain condition then 5 min later you can buy it fromt he shop. it's pretty comprehensive.
      • It just looks stupid and feels awkward. You can move your characters around in real-time, run up and start humping your enemies, but each character just stands there patiently waiting for his/her turn to swing a weapon. It never really looks like they are engaged in a fight. FF X-2 managed to make its battles resemble a real fight at least somewhat, so I don't know why they failed so bad with XII.

        Even Skies of Arcadia managed to solve this problem a long time ago. In SoA, your characters continuously
        • by Sciros (986030)
          Point taken about the "continuous blows;" that's what Baldur's Gate did if I remember correctly. Characters swung continuously but only 1 attack per "round" was actually calculated. FFXII could probably have done this, but I can't say for certain that it wouldn't have created a lot of confusion for many players. Hard to say, I think, without actually trying it out.

          To be fair, JRPGs were never about realistic combat. They're slowly moving in that direction (White Knight looks particularly good in that reg
    • by dolby2 (196255)
      Wierd, I thought that was the best part of FFXII, the new Battle System. If they took that battle system and the way you could explore the world and stuck it with the plot from FFX they would have the perfect game imo.
    • The biggest problem I had with the game is the lack of character development. You would think that a game that takes over 40 hours to beat would manage to explain at least 3 of the characters backgrounds, but it really only manages to cover 2 in my opinion. Plot details like why Balthier left his country and father, why Fran left her village 50 years ago are just glazed over and never even addressed. I suppose it adds a little bit of mystique to the characters, but more than anything it just made me wond
      • by koreth (409849) *
        FFXII had more sidequests than just the clan hunting, though that's obviously the biggest one. There was the "track down the escaped cockatrices" quest, the "cure the sick patient in the desert" quest, creating sunstones, helping out the sisters on the airships, talking the viera in Rabanastre into becoming a warrior, uncovering a bunch of hidden Espers (some of which are actually powerful enough to be useful in combat late in the game), tracking down the bottles of rare liquor in Bhujerba, assembling the f
        • Yes, I did all of those sidequests. I guess it is just the fact that I did not feel fulfilled by any of them in the end that is my biggest gripe. Almost all of them took very little time to beat, and the ones that did take a while were just the same thing over and over again, like the footraces. And at no time in that game did the espers ever prove useful at all. Especially later in the game where they would die in one hit to nearly any of the higher leveled monsters. I really think that the game could
  • Bias (Score:3, Interesting)

    by king-manic (409855) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:02PM (#18289496)
    I detect a pretty heavy PC style RPG bias in all the replies so far. The FF crowd enjoy "Role playing" as is reading a book and imagining themselves in that role. Most of the replies come from the pc RPG tradition where your just a walking bunch of stats and take losts of fetch and return quests. The JRPD tradition has you being a slim empheminate walking bunch of stats that has to go on a quest on rails. Both of the styles have their weaknesses. FFXII I found to be a fairly open game for a JRPG. You could start munchkining very early and be insanely powerful. The "automated" combat basically stopped me from having to "press O" a million times a session just to get our of a dungueon.

    Apparently you guys are int he minority since it sold insanely well. Perhaps only because of the name but it was fun. Well done. And pretty. You can't even criticize an emo love story. It was all byzantine politics. This one knocked FFVI off the #1 spot for me for FF games.
    • This one knocked FFVI off the #1 spot for me for FF games.

      Wow, THAT good, eh? I just started playing it and I am having some slight trouble keeping up with everyone and everything in the story but FFVI has been my favorite since its release more than a decade ago.

      I hope to have as much fun as you seem to have with the game.
      • I just started playing it and I am having some slight trouble keeping up with everyone and everything in the story but FFVI has been my favorite since its release more than a decade ago.

        Don't bother keeping up with them, they're not going anywhere.

        Seriously.

        Don't get too excited if you see a cutscene that looks like it might give you some background on one of your characters, because it probably won't.

        Some of the characters are just great (Balthier, Fran, the prince dude) but trust me, there's nothing there
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by XMyth (266414)
          I gotta say, I somewhat agree with your statement about the characters....it all seems kinda, blah.

          The game itself, I love except for the fact that I have to do 50 hunts to be able to do freaking sidequests and get decent weapons.

          But, the story line itself....it seemed REALLY good the first half of the game, a lot of build up...and then it seems like the writers just lost their way and it got real blurry with a bunch of stuff thrown in at the last minute..."He has gotten the sky fortress Bahamut!" WTF???
          • Well they're Asian. Those same translators gave us "He set us up the bomb" and "All your base are belong to us". Superior work!
    • the combat system is new (for FF) and takes a little getting used to but I like it alot better (it feels more fluid). the game looks amazing and the story line is interesting with just the right amount of characterization. I like the license system, too. I'm only about 20-25%(est., hopefully) in and I'm looking forward to the rest, but I still don't know if I can love it more than VI. *so far*, the characters in XII are not quite as interesting or endearing as VI's BUT there is some promise. Balthier i
      • Although not stictly FF, one of my favorite villians was delita in FF: tactics. He turned from a tragic figure into a villian in a natural and understandable way (although some of the nuance was lost in the piss poor translation). You could understand his hate and sympathize. He was smart and just like any other character, not some all powerful monster (sephiroth). He was a man who was oppressed and betrayed by the system and the player sint he system. So he sets out to change the system and be a player.
  • Transcript (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zimans (1047274)
    Has anyone found a transcript for this talk yet? I'd like to hear the technical details of how they produced FFXII, and not just some fanboy drivel about 'ooh they spent 70% time on art, and that's all I can comment on because I have no idea what they are talking about'. --Zims
  • Where'd 12 go wrong? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Bardez (915334)
    I have to ponder why they spent so much time developing FF 12, and yet it was a bomb -- not in sales, mind you (it's a Final Fantasy for Christ's sake, it WILL SELL), but in plot. Final Fantasy is notorious for having a good plot and/or a good game system. 1 was bland, but by today's standards what can you expect? 2 was awful, but had a really fun battle/leveling system. 3 introduced jobs, even though the plot seemed nonexistent. Then four through, oh, let's say ten had story. And gameplay. They were FUN. N
    • I'll second that Everyone of my friends grabbed a copy quick (Accounting for the grat sales) and no one has played more than a few hours. One of my friends even commented that "It's like playing the boring parts of wow over and over"

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