News from Japan
It seems like far more recently than February of 2017 that Square Enix announced the creation of their new development shop Studio Istolia, but the timestamps don't lie. We haven't heard much about the new studio or its first project, "Project Prelude Rune," in the intervening time, but this week there was finally an update to the company's official website.
The update consisted of a new piece of concept art, showing a village perched above a lake in a soft-focused, dreamlike forest setting, but also a number of job openings for their Tokyo office. The jobs are fairly typical for a game development project, including concept art, technical art, map designers, user interface designers, planners and programmers, but the list does imply that the company is not planning on shifting workers from other studios to this new one and is instead mainly aiming for outside hires.
There's still no news about what Prelude Rune might be in terms of a game genre, or when or on what platforms we might see it. But that's not surprising given that they are still clearly ramping up the team's headcount. More news is sure to follow, though I would have to assume that it won't be this calendar year.
The Pre-E3 Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour concert in Los Angeles was last night, after which Square Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts III finally had a release date. Unfortunately for CoN readers looking to get the game under their Christmas tree or other denominational holiday apparatus, that date is not going to be in 2018. However, it won't be that much more of a wait - Asia will get the game on January 25 for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and North America and Europe will get it on January 29.
The announcement was shown in a new trailer exclusive to the concert, of which the highlight clearly must be Sora cooking with Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille. Tetsuya Nomura tweeted after the announcement that there would be more information and more trailers at E3 on the show floor; I expect that this new trailer will be among them.
Square Enix have this week announced the creation of a new internal studio for games development in Tokyo. Called "Luminous Productions" in a likely nod to the Luminous Engine used to power Final Fantasy XV, the new studio will be run by Square Enix Chief Operating Officer Hajime Tabata and will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the mothership. Based on the press release, the new studio will be focused on AAA-tier games, with the implication that the studio will be targeted towards new intellectual properties.
That said, the seed of the studio appears to be the "creative team behind Final Fantasy XV," so there remains the possibility that this studio may be tasked with future Final Fantasy games; they're certainly looking for fresh blood as well, as they have nearly thirty job listings on their new website. All that information makes it impossible to predict what sorts of projects they may undertake until a planned announcement later this year, but current evidence certainly seems to say they're looking for home runs.
A job posting appeared on Friday from Square Enix, looking for "core members" of the Final Fantasy VII Remake project. It appears that this specific listing is for a level planner, laying out areas in the Remake world using Unreal Engine 4. The listing also mentions potential roles for battle planners, designers, and engineers (in this context, likely game developers), with some of those roles coming from inside Square Enix and others being outside hires.
Part of this news was new to me in the case that the development of the game was previously being done outside of Square Enix, by a company called CyberConnect. Now it appears that headquarters has fully assimilated the project, hence the need for some hiring and organizational shifting to accommodate the work.
This news is also a bit illuminating as a look inside the company's practices that I personally haven't seen before. At least for this role, they are not looking for a minimum level of experience, implying that the hiring will be done based mainly on prior portfolio. The salary starts at about USD $34,000 a year, with no upper bound mentioned; that would seem to me like they're willing to bring in a very junior person for this specific role if necessary. I don't know what game devs typically make in Japan, but I do know that you wouldn't get much of a developer here in the States for that money. They also promise a forty-hour work week, which I would find a little difficult to believe in this industry and on a game of this importance.
The other big conclusion you can draw from this is probably a bit more sad - if they're just now bringing the work in house and are hiring for roles like these currently, that would probably indicate that there hasn't been much progress in development yet. I wouldn't hold my breath to see much new this year, though the late-year Tokyo Game Show might be an option.
Source: Siliconera, Kotaku
The most RPG-related news from yesterday's Nintendo Direct came via Square Enix, who announced that SaGa: Scarlet Grace would be ported from its original PlayStation Vita release to Switch later this year. Scarlet Grace is the latest game in the series, released in late 2016 for Vita; as of yet, there has never been a release of the game outside of Japan. As of its release, it was also the first new main-line SaGa game in over a decade.
When this news first broke yesterday at Nintendo Direct, the announcement was specific for Switch, leading Western SaGa fans to worry that there would be no port this time around either. However, since that time, Squenix have confirmed that the game is also coming for PS4, iOS, Android, and Windows, all for release this year. While there's no specific confirmation of a release outside of Japan yet, it is incredibly unlikely that the company will release for smartphones and Windows and not release an English translation simultaneously. This official confirmation is sure to come soon.
While one might have predicted that Final Fantasy XV would have run its course after almost eighteen months, it's clear that Square Enix want to be able to operate the game much like an MMO, with new revisions coming frequently for the foreseeable future. We've covered in the past that the game has plans going out through all of 2018, but a number of new announcements were made today with specifics for the first quarter of this year.
While we've known since last August that XV was being ported for Windows on Steam, today we got a launch trailer and system specs for the release, as well as a date: March 6. As one might suspect, if you want this game in 4K, you're going to need a serious Windows rig, including a GTX 1080 Ti. Also worth noting for some folks is that the game isn't Steam-only now; the launch trailer also confirms that the game will be available via Origin - the first Final Fantasy game to show up on that network.
For those who don't already have the game on console, March 6 will also debut the Royal Edition of the game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Royal Edition will actually be the same game released for Windows, as it will contain the standard game, all current DLC, and a number of new options:
- Expanded Crown City Map with a new challenge dungeon and boss fights
- Control over the party's boat, allowing for shoreline exploration and new fishing spots
- A new accessory unlocking a new Armiger ability
- First-person mode
- New cosmetic items
- New quest for Regalia upgrades
- More worldbuilding content in findable items and conversations
In the meantime, console gamers will get a free DLC update next week. The big news there is that Aranea will be available as a sparring partner at camp, which could be fun for a time. There will also be a "standby" option at camp, though it's not clear what that means exactly, and new shop items at the trading post in Altissia. There will also be the usual bug fixes and minor updates.
In short, it sounds to me like March 6 is going to be the time to try out XV if you've been waiting; or, if you have been resisting buying anything but the base game, it might just be time to dust it off and pick back up. If that $20 price tag is essentially the "GOTY" version that rolls up everything released so far, that's a pretty great deal.
Source: Siliconera, Gematsu