Final Fantasy VIII Kitase, Nojima, Naora and Nomura Interview
This interview originally took place in February of 2001. Kazushige Nojima
was in charge of Final Fantasy 8's plot, Yoshinori Kitase was the project
director, Yusuke Naora was the art director, and Tetsuyu Nomura was in
charge of character design.
UK PSM: Final Fantasy is moving closer and closer to becoming
an interactive move. Do you use motion capture to attain this realism
Kitase: The CG movie scenes in FFVIII were created using motion
capture. We employed actors and covered them with sensors to capture their
movement. Other than that, we didn't use motion capture but preferred
manual animation. We invited TV animation specialists to supervise us
UK PSM: Another change from previous Final Fantasies is the look
of the in-game visuals. Why have you made the big change?
Naora: As for the general imagery, FFVII was dark, weird... All
sorts of darkness! [Laughs.] We wanted to leave that because we already
did the darkest of darkest with the previous game! Thus for FFVIII, we
intentionally chose a very bright style. Considering most of the FFVIII
staff were involved in FFVII, it was quite a conscious group decision
to move to this very bright side.
UK PSM: Again thinking about movies, modern films have to go through
test screenings with the public before they hit the screen. Was there
a similar pre-release process where you tried the game out on games for
Nojima: A version was given to players right at the very end of
the development stage. I think the feedback from gamers should always
be balanced - 50% for and 50% against. Why? Because when 100% of players
are in total support of the game, it means they have seen it elsewhere...
UK PSM: What do you think is the particular strength of the Final
Kitase: My personal feeling about the Final Fantasy series is
that we put everyday emotions - sadness, happiness, rage - into the characters.
Along with the continual development of the hardware, that is what we
are good at.
UK PSM: The characters in Final Fantasy VIII are very well defined
- more so than any previous game. What's the development process in creating
the likes of Squall and Seifer?
Kitase: As far as the characters' general appearance or CG movies
are concerned, Nojima gives him input on what is required, but in most
cases he re-does his work without us pushing him. We might say "okay"
but if he doesn't like it, he changes it again and again!
UK PSM: It must be a shame to have to leave such well-defined
characters at the end of a game's development. Isn't there any way that
we could get to see something like the earlier adventures of Squall, say?
Naora: Each character is made 'complete'. You experience each
character from the very start to the very end - their past, how much they
have improved themselves, how much they have grown... You have lived with
the game and know everything about that character. What else is there
left to do with such a creation? Thus no matter how good the character
you have created is, you have to leave it. It makes for another level
UK PSM: The use of CG in Final Fantasy VIII is breath-taking.
With the onset of PlayStation2, will this be something that we see increased
in future Final Fantasies?
(Breath-taking CG? What an understatement;
Final Fantasy 8 had quite possibly the most impressive introduction
to hit the PSX yet...)
Kitase: Currently, we are recruiting specialists from the animated
world for CG work, rather than pure game designers. For FFVII and VIII,
we have been actively inviting non-gaming people, and for the Final Fantasy
movie currently in production, the Hawaii studio invited people from Hollywood
to come in - thus we have these Hollywood specialists in our team already.
For the PlayStation2 version of Final Fantasy, perhaps we will get even
more staff from this non-game world...
UK PSM: It's been said Final Fantasy VIII is much harder than
the previous game. Was this a conscious decision to make it so?
Kitase: We producers don't think that FFVIII is much harder than
FFVII! However with FFVIII, we have tried to bring in a mode of play which
requires more active thinking from the players. Yes, you can play it all
the way through without thinking much about strategy or combination of
energies but you have to move very, very slowly.
However, if you become more involved with the game and think more 'actively',
it's much more fun. The harder you think, the better you play. It's wrong
to say simply 'easier' or 'harder'...
UK PSM: Another new element of Final Fantasy VIII is the card
game. Whose idea was that?
Kitase: We had both a specialist programmer and a card game 'planner'
to program the game itself. However, the concept came from everyday Japanese
life. In some parts of Japan, card-trading is very popular and many people
have it as a hobby. So we thought in the FFVIII world, we would like to
make card trading just as popular. In FFVIII, card-playing is fun.
(A very unique mini-game, Triple Triad
was one of the first card games to reach any RPG. It was the first
for Final Fantasy, and set up the path for the next card game in Final
UK PSM: Japanese gamers are very different to European ones in
that the hardcore 'otaku' gamers like to dress up as their favourite game
characters - the Tokyo Game Show had a lot of people dressed up as Squall
and Rinoa. What do you think about this phenomenon?
Nomura: Not much! [Laughs.]
Naora: Isn't it scary to think about the impact a game can have
on people's lives? That said, I really admire them for the time, energy
and money that they spend on their costumes...
UK PSM: Do you think it possible that future Final Fantasies will
be populated with totally AI-controlled characters?
Nojima: That may be possible, but if there is no script, I will
be out of a job! It will not be in the very far future that one character
in a story will have full artificial intelligence, but I think it is pretty
difficult to make all the characters with AI. That's in the very far future...
UK PSM: So what did you find the biggest challenge while you were
making Final Fantasy VIII?
Kitase: The biggest challenge was in the CG development, because
the technology in this field has leapt forward so much. By using this
and new 3D technology, we were able to incorporate more realistic facial
expressions and emotions. Such increasingly realistic characters mean
you must have a sophisticated script. And such sophisticated characterisation
means more sophisticated dialogue. In order to balance this with the gameplay,
however, we also had to incorporate pioneering technology. The Guardian
Forces, for example. You must always take care of the total balance -
visuals, music, gameplay...
UK PSM: Final Fantasy VIII has arrived on shop shelves around
the world. What games are the team working on now?
Kitase: At the time, we're not committed to a particular project.
We have just finished the non-Japanese version of FFVIII so most of the
staff are taking a holiday!
UK PSM: Do you get time to play games yourselves - and if so,
Nomura: I don't have time - I wasn't given any holiday at all!
Naora: I like fighting games.
Kitase: I play Age Of Empires with my wife.
Nojima: I like racing games.
UK PSM: Finally, an obvious question. Why call it Final Fantasy?
Naora: That's usually a Japanese-only question - now we know non-Japanese
people are interested. Every time we produce a Final Fantasy, we think
it's going to be the last one. A final Final Fantasy? I don't know...
Thanks to The Official UK Playstation Magazine for the