News from Japan
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
In what should be a predictable theme nowadays, Square Enix today announced that Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age will be released for Steam on Windows on February 1. The HD remake of the original Final Fantasy XII, released on PlayStation 2, first added new gameplay modes and a fast-forward feature, as well as reconciling some other updates between the original and the International Versions of the game. The PC version will take it a bit further, adding in some cheat options to make the game easier, as well as support for 60fps and ultra-wide 21:9 monitors.
Once the game is released, the game's producer and director will be taking to a YouTube livestream to walk through the PC version's new features and respond to players' comments pre-organized from Twitter. That will happen in the wee hours of February 2 for us in the Western Hemisphere.
I personally had waited a while to pick up this game, intending to grab it used at some point. Now that I know it will eventually end up on Steam sale, well, I might just wait a bit longer.
For all you readers out there still using TWEWY pin avatars, this one's for you. At today's Nintendo Direct Mini, a release for the 2007 Nintendo DS game The World Ends with You was announced for Switch. Entitled "Final Remix," the game will provide higher-resolution graphics and controls via both the touchscreen and the Joy-Cons. Additionally, new story content will be added in what Gematsu calls an "epilogue scenario" and the Nintendo Direct video describes as "getting right to the heart of the story."
TWEWY never really did it for me on DS; I found the art style interesting but overly complicated and in the way of the gameplay, and the constant switching between the two screens to be a chore. The graphics still look pretty busy in the announcement video, but perhaps moving it to the larger screen will make it more playable. In any event, the game should find a new audience when released for the first time on console, and it will be coming sometime this year.
Source: Gematsu, Nintendo on YouTube