News from June 2015
It's the kind of question much more commonly associated with the Final Fantasy series: what is it that makes a ___ game a ___ game? Since Square Enix oversees the fate of Deus Ex, I suppose it's appropriate to turn the discussion in that direction. Patrick Fortier, the director of gameplay for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, spoke with the folks over at Polygon about precisely that. It turns out there are four essential ingredients to a Deus Ex game: stealth, combat, hacking, and social interaction. Those four things, of course, "all wrapped up into this tight rope of freedom and choice and consequences."
Fortier continued to suggest that while continuity with prior titles developed by different hands was a primary concern with Mankind Divided's immediate (and critically-acclaimed) predecessor, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the team is looking to explore new possibilities -- and of course offer more gameplay options, more augmentations, and more narrative choices.
Multiple other interviews with other personnel working on the game have cropped up on several other videogame websites in the last couple days, saying almost the exact same things: the four pillars of Deus Ex, expanding possibilities for the franchise, and no-way-is-the-wrong-way when it comes to player-drive plot choices. Eidos Montreal and Square Enix are certainly barnstorming, and from the headlines the cumulative effect looks positive: "Deus Ex left me obsessing over cyborg oppression" (theverge.com) and "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a better shooter than most actual shooters" (gamesradar.com), to name just a few.
This wave of comments comes after a successful E3 presentation: while their demo initially at Sony's main event, its successful reboot showed not only that they were actually playing live (something that is not always the case for demos at events like this); it also showed that the game is darn beautiful. They also come, however, after a bit of heat from several quarters regarding the team's use of the now-trademarked term "mechanical apartheid." It must be added that several persons, connected with the game's development and with Eidos Montreal, have made strong and sensible responses to these critiques, saying that a vital part of the franchise has always been considering complex social questions in a sci-fi world that nonetheless has bearings on reality. But for now, "social justice" isn't listed as one of the "four pillars" of a Deus Ex title -- not yet, at least.
Source: Polygon, Kotaku UK
Tetsuya Nomura has been a busy, busy fellow. He appeared in Famitsu this week to speak even more about Kingdom Hearts III -- after already doing so last week -- to add a few more tidbits to the.... tidbit bouquet. Apparently Square Enix has already internally established a release window for the title, but they aren't telling anyone yet. I suppose sharing this is just supposed to make us feel better? Nomura added that development is moving along smoothly.
Nomura clarified that Kingdom Hearts III's battle system would not be like Birth By Sleep but would instead be a bit more "traditional" and more in line with the previous two main entries in the series. Most of the worlds in the game will be new to the series; evidently the team has already talked with Disney and decided on the next new world to announce.
Finally, Nomura reiterated that the third Kingdom Hearts installment would mark the end of a story, not the end of the series (we've heard this before, but that was back in 2013). Xehanort and the Dark Seeker part of the series will conclude, but decisions have already been made about the future of various characters in the series. Nomura concluded by teasting that the team is currently thinking about secret videos and the game's ending.
Videogame website Polygon spoke to Shuichi Kobayashi, the producer of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness (the fifth entry in the series). Having shown the title's first gameplay trailer at E3 last week, Kobayashi made it clear he -- and others at Square Enix -- already have plans for where the series will go next. Kobayashi said that he would "like to make something that can work as a basis for future possibilities," alluding to the fact that the Star Ocean series has been scattered temporally, geographically, and in terms of plot relation. He reiterated that it was important this next title be a "really clearly defined game" on which future titles could build.
Reporting that he had received significant fan feedback seeking an open-world Star Ocean, Kobayashi said it is an "evolution" he wants to take place, but that it isn't the right time for that yet. A strong product in a more traditional format would certainly be a valuable step for the series, which despite being well-respected has had, in its last two titles, a botched release (Star Ocean 3) and a lukewarm reception (Star Ocean 4).
At another point, Kobayashi all but admitted Star Ocean 4 wasn't good, and emphasized that the team of Integrity and Faithlessness is looking to the first three Star Ocean games for inspiration and pursuing "a very tri-Ace creative direction." Between this title and the new Nier title, it seems that Square Enix's current theme is continuity.
Finally, Kobayashi commented a bit on how characters would work in Star Ocean 5. The trailer showed at E3 included several characters on screen at once, and he said that your entire party will be present in the field. It has yet to be seen how this will impact combat -- whether only some of these characters will actually participate in battle or whether you'll have the whole batch fighting at once. It is also reported that there will be more than six playable characters (the number shown in the trailer) in the final game.
Source: Polygon, RPGFan
A Nier sequel was announced at E3 last week, and director Taro Yoko has since been busy letting additional details about the game slip. We already reported on a Dengeki interview with director Taro Yoko, and now we have a bit more from Dengeki to share.
The game world will show an awareness of its predecessor, meaning that players will potentially hear of Nier, Yonah, and Kainé. It is confirmed, however, that Emil will make an appearance. The runic text that appeared in the announcement trailer reportedly says "doll, human, machine." The meaning is of course vague, but players of the original game will recognize these three categories -- and the potential fluidity between them -- as a major theme.
Yoko insisted that the game would have a happy ending this time around -- perhaps a surprise to players of the original Nier and certainly a surprise to producer Yosuke Saito, who was also present for the interview. Despite the fact that Saito is, um, producing the game, Yoko assured him that it would manage to end happily.
It seems, from early images and comments, that there will be larger and more ruins in the Nier sequel. The overall impression is that the world will be larger overall this time around. There will be multiple things (creatures? machines?) available for players to ride this time around (not just a boar).
There will be three playable characters; it seems that players won't be able to switch characters freely, but that these switches will be mandated based on overarching plot, player in-game decisions, and the number of playthroughs. The different characters will have different weapons with different commands and combos.
Finally, there was the customary talk of negotiating between maintaining the spirit of the original Nier while still doing new things. While Yoko cautioned that it would be impossible to capturing the same feeling as the original Nier, the staff at PlatinumGames, the company working with Square Enix on the title, have professed a liking for the original and are evidently committed to recreating that spirit. It was agreed that this new title is "very Nier." Nothing to worry about then, right?
Ed. Note: The first iteration of this post mentioned, in error, the presence of Kainé in the trailer.
Obviously, this week's news of the long-teased Final Fantasy VII remake has stolen the Square Enix spotlight. But, what of other, similarly-teased projects like remakes of Final Fantasy V and VI?
As quoted at VentureBeat, when asked about remakes of other games in the series in the wake of Final Fantasy VII, Nomura responded, "Considering that we have remakes of Final Fantasy up to IV and then we have VII — I’ve been working with Mr. [Yoshinori] Kitase since Final Fantasy V, and we’ve noticed that V and VI are missing. That bothers me. How come we skipped over those two?"
This is idle chatter, of course, but if anyone's going to get those projects off the ground at this point, Nomura would be the prime candidate. Clearly, there's no other information about the status of these projects, but one could (and should, friendly CoN posters) speculate wildly in the comments below.
Square Enix has hit the Japanese gaming magazines hard with followup information on several of the titles shown at their E3 press conference yesterday.
Taro Yoko, director of the new Nier title announced yesterday, took to Famitsu to explain the new project's relationship to the original Nier, released in 2010 (which was itself a spin-off of sorts from the first Drakengard game). Yoko said that the setting is connected but that the stories themselves are not, and that the new game will take place after the original. A few characters will make reappearances, but don't expect them to be main characters. Yoko promised that this game will also have the New Game + elements of its predecessor. He added the estimation that the game is 10% complete.
Tetsuya Nomura, who was a part of Square Enix's E3 presentation, appeared in Dengeki to talk about both projects he is currently connected with. He commented a bit on the gameplay shown in the Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer, saying that Sora will automatically engage slopes and ledges for a "more dynamic sense of action." He also explained that the conversation over chess between (younger versions of) Xehanort and Eraqus is an excerpt of a larger conversation which will take place in the game's opening sequence. Acknowledging that the scene took place well in the past, Nomura added that this will somehow facilitate a plot connect between Kingdom Hearts 3 and Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, which was announced for mobile release at E3 and takes place during the Keyblade War.
Finally, Nomura spoke with both Eurogamer and Dengeki about the remake of Final Fantasy VII. The game's announcement so early in the development process seems to stem in part from a concern for console sales in Japan, which have been slow this generation. In a pragmatic business move, Square Enix wanted its fans to know what they have coming later on before their rather impressive slated 2016 lineup hits. Nomura continued to say that the remake won't simply be a graphics update. Kazushige Nojima, who wrote Final Fantasy VII, is back to work on script. Nomura did not say whether this meant simply additions or changes, or whether these would impact just dialogue or the overall plot. He did, however, remark that if someone wanted to play the exact same game as the original, they should play the original. Yoshinori Kitase, who directed Final Fantasy VII, is also on board as producer; Nomura suggested that the choice to begin a remake was influenced by the desire to keep the game in as many of its original hands as possible. There was some speculation in CoN chat over whether Cloud would still be able to don a dress in this new version: put your fears to rest, people, Nomura apparently told Eurogamer to "look forward to it." He reiterated the promise made at E3 that more information will be coming in winter.
Source: Siliconera, Eurogamer, Siliconera
Of course, Square Enix was quite involved in press conferences yesterday, where Rise of the Tomb Raider got a fair bit of air time with live gameplay (Microsoft) and the announcement of a Final Fantasy 7 remake, as we've already reported, generated a whole lot of buzz (Sony). Today, however, Square Enix had their own dedicated press conference at E3, which brought some long-awaited news, some surprises, and some vague announcements. Here's our play-by-play recap.
Phil Rogers (CEO for the Americas / Europe) kicked things off on a serious note by reflecting on the company's new attitude, one which began with the A Realm Reborn and has been evident with the handling of Final Fantasy XV (which will not be heard from again until Gamescom, as we learned in the last Active Time Report). Square Enix, he said, is more committed to gamer feedback and satisfaction than ever before; he continued to insist that today's conference would prove that the company is "unique in the industry in terms of the variety and depth of the experiences we create."
Next up was a trailer for Just Cause 3. There wasn't much new to say: with a December 1 release, at this point it's just a waiting game. Blow stuff up. For liberty. And stuff.
Yosuke Saito (Business Division 6 Director) took the stage next for the surprise announcement of a new NieR game, as yet unnamed. A little bit of animation and a series of art pieces followed. In keeping with the world of the first NieR game, these alternated between luscious natural environments and the crumbling relics of an industrialized civilization gone before. Square Enix will be working with Platinum Games on the title; Yoko Taro will be directing. Taro appeared onstage with a mask resembling Emil, a character in the first NieR game. While the title is still very early in development, fans of the original will be happy to know that the sequel will have the same composer.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was up next, and though the game has already had some time in the spotlight at E3, director Brian Horton talked about the quality of Lara's character model, which accumulates scars, dirt, and snow over the course of gameplay. The game is due out November 10. After Horton, Patrick Naud (head of SE Montreal) introduced Lara Croft Go, a mobile title in the vein of the studio's Hitman Go. Naud promised the best elements of Tomb Raider distilled into a simple yet engaging game with, if I may add, a neat-looking art style.
Shinji Hashimoto (Kingdom Hearts series director) was next up, introducing.... the Final Fantasy 7 trailer shown last night. He stuck around to introduce..... Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key, a mobile title in development for Android and iOS. Just as the disappointment became palpable, Hashimoto introduced what fans had been hoping for: Kingdom Hearts 3. A trailer showcased gameplay and confirmed the appearance of elements from Disney's Tangled and the rock titan from Hercules. Aside from some dialogue reflecting on the legendary Keyblade War, there were no plot-related details.
This was followed by a replay of the trailer for World of Final Fantasy, which was also shown at Sony's event last night. The game's director, Hiroki Chiba, explained that his inspiration for this title was to create a game that would make Final Fantasy available to gamers of any age and any gender. We're pretty sure it is being developed specifically for CoNtoddler, but Square Enix was not available for comment. Expected 2016 release.
Hitman, the sixth installment in the series, was revealed at Sony's press conference yesterday. It got slightly expanded treatment today, with lots of emphasis on the openness of the game world and the myriad possibilities it allows for uniquely executing hits. Some hits, it was revealed, will only be available once for a brief window of time and never again, further raising the stakes of execution. Pun intended.
Next was Star Ocean Integrity and Faith, the fifth title in the Star Ocean series. After replaying the original announcement trailer, director Shuicki Kobayashi took the stage to show the title's first gameplay trailer. He emphasized seamless exploration to battle transition and said that, in an effort to respond to criticism of Star Ocean 4 being too cinematic, the game would employ a balance of "dynamic cutscenes" interwoven with gameplay in order to enable the same degree of storytelling without less interruption from more traditional "static cutscenes." Kobayashi stressed that the final project -- with an anticipated 2016 release on PS4 -- will run at twice the fps as today's trailer.
After this, we heard from David Anfossi and Mary DeMarle of Eidos Montreal on the highly anticipated Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Set in 2029, two years after Human Revolution, tensions between augmented and unaugmented humans have heightened even further, to the point of a "mechanical apartheid." As established in the game's announcement trailer back in April, Adam Jensen is returning as the game's protagonist. Today, however, we saw first gameplay trailer, featuring additional augmentations, upgradable weaponry, and some pretty graphics. Mankind Divided is anticipated for an early 2016 release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Finally, Yosuke Matsude (Square Enix President) gave a bit of air time to the already-announced Final Fantasy Portal App, available this summer, that will apparently provide news on the series. Much more mysteriously, he made one final announcement: an all-new RPG project from a new studio created specifically for the purpose, Tokyo RPG Factory. All there was to show were a few art pieces depicting a "delicate and wistful" atmosphere, the codename "Project Setsuna," and a projected 2016 release.
And with that, the 70-minute conference concluded. All in all, it is safe to say that 2016 is looking to be as busy a year for Square Enix as any.
Source: Square Enix Youtube Channel
I don't even get to watch E3 live this year, for the first time in at least five years. I'm on the road this week, but I had to pop in for this news: Final Fantasy VII, after all the non-starts, jokes, trolls, and general stupidity, Final Fantasy VII is being remade.
The details were announced at Sony's E3 presser tonight, and as such it was made clear that one could "play it first" on Playstation 4. That of course leads one to believe that other platforms will become available; both Windows and Xbox One would likely be no-brainers.
Some kindly soul has already ripped the trailer from the stream: enjoy.
The newest Square Enix Active Time Report was early this morning, and it was blessedly subtitled in English. The bulk of the report was, naturally, Final Fantasy XV, but some other things popped in as well. As in the past, Hajime Tabata and Akio Ofuji presented for a bit over an hour.
A good portion of the discussion today was seeming aimed at explaining to us as gamers what it means that the game is now truly Final Fantasy XV and not Versus, and it came across with a mildly apologetic tone and lots of reconciliation along the lines of statements like, "we tried very hard to keep everything from Versus with as little modification as possible."
Basically, Square Enix have come to a point where the game has changed significantly from what was previously known about Versus while maintaining enough to reasonably keep the game under the Fabula Nova Crystallis umbrella. Some things that they specifically called out were the loss of the previous female lead, Stella, to be replaced with the new female lead, Luna - more on that in a second. Additionally, the timeline of the events that start the game have changed, with Insomnia (Noctis' city) coming under attack from Niflheim after Noctis has left on his journey, and not as the catalyst for so doing.
Back to the female factor, it was clear that Tabata wanted to express a reaction to the oft-joked-about male-heavy look of the media released up until now and within Episode Duscae. The time spent on discussing Luna, as well as an un-named "dark-haired woman" and a "female dragoon" was clearly meant to show that there is more gender balance in the final game, but no real details emerged today to back that up.
In terms of technology, the pair brought up the Luminous Engine that was debuted a couple years back in the tech demo known as Agni's Philosophy; it's relevant now because the newest version, Luminous Engine 1.5, is a part of Ebony, the overall Final Fantasy XV engine. As such, they showed a new video showing Luminous Engine at work in Episode Duscae - the video was originally intended as an industry demo and recruiting tool, so it did contain some visuals that have not been public until now as well as some interviews with Square Enix personnel discussing the benefits of having access to Luminous. The video focused on very impressive particle and lighting effects, especially with regards to lighting of semi-opaque textures like human skin and the finish of a car. It also discussed (and showed via the use of wireframe overlays) the ways in which environmental influences like landscape and battle impact change the way that creatures and humans move in the world, and how it should avoid things like clipping or unrealistic limb movements. There was also a brief view of a city, Lestallum, that will be in the Final Fantasy XV world but had not yet been publicly discussed.
Also debuting in this ATR was a new tech demo called WITCH Chapter 0 [cry]. Yes. That is its name, and it is amazing. It's a demo leveraging Microsoft's new DirectX 12, coming with Windows 10; it was certainly used as a reminder that Square Enix are jumping on that boat early. The demo did look like a step up even from what we are seeing in Final Fantasy XV in terms of graphical capability. Real-time rendering of a day's sunlight in time-lapse over cliffs was a standout feature, as well as the realistic movement of feathers and dangly jewelry on what one assumes is the witch of the title. Even more impressive, though, was the "cry" aforementioned - the subtle changes to the character's skin and eyes as tears welled up and dried looked exceptionally realistic.
A few more tidbits of data were scattered about; one was a day out of date, confirming the release of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD for Windows. Additionally came confirmation that there would be no further new XV information until Gamescom (skipping E3), and no further Active Time Reports until after Gamescom as well. Finally, the team announced that Episode Duscae 2.0 would be released on June 9 with new scenarios to play through and refinements to the combat system.
Tabata exclaimed at one point in the middle, "Trust us!" So, do you?
Source: Square Enix Youtube, Gamespot