It’s just a couple of weeks to go before the complete edition of Final Fantasy XV, the latest game in the long-running JRPG franchise, comes to PC for the first time. There are still questions that need to be answered about the Windows Edition, but it’s also a big undertaking that’s been a long time coming – so we sat down with a couple of developers on the Final Fantasy 15 PC project at Square Enix and put our questions to them.
We went along to the Square Enix offices to talk with Takeshi Aramaki, Technical Director & Lead Programmer, and Kenichi Shida, Game Design & Development Manager (through a kind translator) all about Final Fantasy XV and its long journey to PC. Expect questions about Mod Support, First-Person Mode, VR, and even Final Fantasy VII Remake – although don’t expect answers to all of them…
Takeshi Aramaki went into more detail, making it clear that the team really wanted to make the PC audience happy. “We’re supporting a lot of different hardware, different versions of HDR for example, and getting all that in place took a long time as well. Getting the game to run on a wide breadth of PCs, from a 1 teraflop CPU up to a 12 teraflops CPU, took a lot of time and optimization. Different users have different standards. Some users want 4K but are happy with 30 FPS, others will say it has to be 60 FPS or nothing. We wanted to be able to cater to all these people, so it was important to us to put in all these customization options.”
Shida added, “we’ve got support for up to 120 FPS, at the moment. We know that there are a lot of PC players looking for the highest FPS and we want to give it to them! With the console version we had to limit the assets due to technical restrictions, but with the PC those restrictions are removed so we can put the game in the maximum quality we wanted to do from the start. The artists were very happy! With the higher graphics it really shows off the world they’ve made.”
Of course the Final Fantasy XV Benchmark Tool was released earlier this month and players were a little concerned, as the options for it were very basic, and worse there was stuttering and slowdown problems. Aramaki was quick to assure us, “the release version has a lot more options.” And the issues players discovered? “We took in a lot of feedback, and we have worked hard to fix all those problems.” Great news.
Of course talking tech, a large part of the PC version’s advertising has centered around the involvement of Nvidia and the various graphical features they’ve helped implement. Shida confirms, “we had a lot of help from Nvidia to optimize fully their Turf effects, HairWorks, and lot of the lighting features. They contributed a lot to the results of the PC version here, because these effects allow for a much more involving world with impact, depth and immersion. These visual touches really raise the reality bar.”
However don’t worry if you’re running a graphics card that’s not Nvidia, since apparently all these cool new features will still be available on non-Nvidia hardware. As Aramaki explains, “there are only two options that are available only to Nvidia hardware – Ansel and Highlight. If you’re running AMD hardware for example you can still run Turf effects, HairWorks, and the other graphical touches.” We’re sure that’s a relief to Radeon owners.
Shida told us, “the PC version was something we had on the cards right from the start, and in particular putting the Comrades multiplayer on PC from launch.” Ah yes, the multiplayer. We’d already heard Comrades was getting a big update on consoles, but will the PC version get that update? Apparently so, according to Shida.
“Comrades will be available the day of release. There are extra story quests, and alongside that some really good boss battles, which are some of the hardest to beat in all 15 games! There’s also a new gameplay system we’ve added that’s breeding and raising Chocobos to fight them against monsters in the Battle Arena. We also added a number of new costumes and options to the Character Creator, including a lot of costumes from the main characters in the Final Fantasy series. There are a lot of updates to the main game too which are all included.”
So are all updates for Final Fantasy XV coming to both PC and consoles at the same time? “All story-related updates will be the same for consoles and PC, so there will be no differential between them. We’ll have to look a bit deeper into actual release timings to see what will be possible for each individual update, but we very much have a policy of not having any content difference now between the two versions.”
One of biggest additions to the Windows Edition is the First-Person Mode. We’ve already played it and it works great, although it’s part of the reason the game took so longer coming out. Aramaki said, “that took a long time in development, making all the fine touches to make it work right. Changing the camera position so players don’t get disorientated, the level the screen shakes when you take damage, and all those other little tweaks to make it playable did take a while. The original time we set down for First-Person Mode’s development, we exceeded that by a long way!”
Shida added, “there was certainly a lot of call for First-Person from PC players, but we certainly think it’s a great addition for the Windows Edition to allow you to get up close to the world, with all those graphical upgrades, to experience all the details we’ve added.”
One of the things we felt, especially when riding a Chocobo in First-Person, is that the game was now seemingly perfect for VR. Is that a possibility? Aramaki says yes, but it wouldn’t be that simple. “The one thing you have to be careful with is you have to create content especially for VR. If you try and transfer existing content the camera and disorientation can get quite bad. If there is a big call for it from the audience we will certainly look at doing it, but at the moment we don’t have any solid plans to implement VR.” Shida added, “there’s a good possibility we’ll do another VR Final Fantasy title”, but he agrees that it would have to be built from the ground up and not just patched in.
Aramaki then told us how useful developing the Final Fantasy XV PC version was for them. “It’s really given us a great base to work on for our next project. The experience of working with such a range of hardware, and all the different graphical options and tweaks have been incorporated into our Luminous game engine. The next game we make using Luminous will be much quicker in coming out on PC, and there’s a base for us to challenge ourselves further. It’s really been great developing Final Fantasy XV for PC.”
Then we asked our cheekiest question – should we then assume all Final Fantasy games from now on will come to PC? That got some laughter, but Aramaki was positive. “I can’t comment on that, but certainly as a company we have moved on to a strategy of trying to get our games on as many different platforms as possible, in order to reach as big a user base as we can. We’re a lot more pro-active in doing that than we may have been in the past, so it’s a good chance!”
No, wait, the next question was even cheekier – how about Final Fantasy VII Remake? More laughter. “We honestly can’t tell you what they’re planning!” Shida told us. That sounds about right.
Finally we wanted to confirm – is this the definitive edition of Final Fantasy XV? Not exactly, as Kenichi Shida explains, “we don’t want to call the Windows Edition or the console Royal Edition a ‘definitive edition’, we call it the culmination of everything up to this point. We do intend to keep on adding more to the game, so it’s not ‘definitive’ because we haven’t finished with the game! Final Fantasy XV is still an actively developed game, and we’ll be listening to the community and putting in what they want to see. It’s not the end!”
And on that positive note, we ended the interview. Thank you to Technical Director & Lead Programmer Takeshi Aramaki and Game Design & Development Manager Kenichi Shida for talking to us, not to mention their great translator and everyone at Square Enix for setting this up.
Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition will be out on March 6, and you can bet we’ll continue to cover the game and have a proper PC version review once we’ve had a thorough play of it.