Hajime Tabata on Final Fantasy XV's DLC, Chapter 13: "This Won't Be a Completely Different Game"
FFXV's director offers some insight into the game's unconventional downloadable content scheme (and who is FFXV's best boy).
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Last month, Square Enix announced its plans for Final Fantasy XV updates going forward, and they're quite comprehensive. They look to encompass both the mundane (booster packs and other play enhancements to ease players through the adventure) as well as more ambitious material (entire playable scenarios focusing on Noctis' companions Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto).
We reached out to director Hajime Tabata to learn a little more about the thinking behind FFXV's sweeping expansions, which greatly exceed the sort of additions we've come to expect for any single-player role-playing game not developed by Bethesda. While ongoing content pushes should be nothing new to fans of multiplayer Final Fantasy titles — A Realm Reborn completely reinvented Final Fantasy XIV, top to bottom — it's an atypical approach for a single-player, story-driven game like FFXV. By this point, most die-hard fans will have already finished the game... so what's the point, many ask?
Tabata acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding the DLC plan. "The reason it sparked debate was probably because we announced that we will continue to update a single-player game," he says. "This model has not been fully established yet. The fans who have grown accustomed to playing traditional Final Fantasy games may feel uneasy about this unfamiliar initiative. That said, I personally believe the approach to updating single-player games, as we are doing with this title, will continue on in the future as a new trend."
He also offered clarification on how the team and company are approaching future FFXV updates. "The updates and DLCs should be considered as two separate types of content," Tabata explains. "While updates enhance the main game and will be offered for free, DLCs provide new ways to enjoy the game and will be offered as paid content."
"The development team worked extremely hard around the clock to finish the development of FFXV, and the game has been well received from both media and consumers since its release. From the get-go, we wanted to continuously update the game after it releases, so we can further enrich the already complete FFXV experience. We also wanted to make sure that players can enjoy the game for an extended period of time. The updated roadmap, which was announced at the end of last year, includes plans that existed before the launch of the game, as well as our response to some of the feedback we received from players after the launch of the game."
Perhaps the most dramatic revision FFXV will be seeing consists of a top-to-bottom overhaul of the game's controversial chapter 13. Set in the "linear" back half of the game, FFXV's chapter 13 introduced a significant change in play format — an unusual twist coming so late in the game. It has proven wildly unpopular with players; the kindest critique I've seen of that section of the game has been a sort of academic fascination with how radically it changes the objectives and rules of play, albeit to the game's detriment. Generally, the prevailing sentiment (even among FFXV fans) seems to be that chapter 13 is emblematic of the game's challenging development cycle and slipped through play testing, with the upcoming revision representing the intended "finished" version of that section.
That's not the case, Tabata says. "The direction of chapter 13’s content was a deliberate decision made from the development team."
"That said, the amount of stress inflicted on the player while running through this chapter was greater than we had anticipated. We believe resolving this issue will naturally lead to a better gameplay experience."
Tabata also stresses that these running changes do not, in his view, represent a compromise to the creators' intentions. "When it comes to the overall playability of the game and not the main plot, updating the game while receiving player feedback will not make the game inconsistent to the development team’s vision," he explains. "We do not intend on making this a completely different game from what was already delivered to the players. We are making changes in order to deliver a further enhanced gameplay experience for those who have purchased and played the game, but this is not necessarily limited to Chapter 13.
"Our main objective is to relieve any unintentional stress to the player and add elements that will expand the breadth of gameplay. Furthermore, the story will be easier to comprehend as we strengthen the connection of events surrounding this chapter. Please wait a little while longer until we announce more details regarding the updates."
Finally, given the focus on Noctis' friends in the upcoming DLC releases, we asked Tabata to weigh in on the internet's greatest FFXV debate: Which boy is best boy?
"It is very difficult for me to select the 'best boy," he laughed.
"It goes to show how much I insisted we create the four characters as a team from the start to the end. As a result, I think each character is charming and likeable in their own way. But because of this, I am also now unable to select the 'best boy' [laughs]."
So in the end, FFXV's best boy is the best boy you select... in your heart.