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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 of character?

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 on that.

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 FFVIII?

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 Fantasy series?

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 of beauty.

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 Fantasy 9...)

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, what kind?

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... [Laughs.]

Thanks to The Official UK Playstation Magazine for the transcript.

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The Scholar
03.07.04

Art Junction
08.20.04

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05.26.04

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