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GAF Developer Spotlight: Yasumi Matsuno

Komatsu

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Hello, GAF! Inspired by ROMhack ROMhack 's recent threads on vintage titles. I decided to start a (hopefully monthly) series on key designers for us to discuss some of the more significant names in our hobby. My personal interests and experience makes me gravitate towards Japanese developers, but any suggestion in regards to names that go beyond Japan (e.g. David Cage, Corey Barlog, etc. etc.) are more than welcome.

A few ground rules I would appreciate if all could follow:

  1. Discussions about technical aspects, plot beats, etc. are more than welcome, but let's try to keep it insult and politics-free;
  2. I have purposefully avoided listing mobile titles and not yet released games - I believe it's better to focus on their dedicated gaming console catalog;
  3. Feel free to add your content (videos, screenshots, etc.), but let's credit all content creators we mention; and
  4. Some of the interviews I quote were not translated to English - sometimes the translation here is mine (with the help of a hefty kanji dictionary and machine-reader). If you have issues with my (very free, rough) translation, please let me know but let's not clog the thread with arcane discussions on vocabulary. :)

With that out of the way, the first dev to be featured is none other than Yasumi Matsuno,YiazMAT, who's celebrating this year 30 (thirty) years in the gaming industry.


松野 泰己 Matsuno Yasumi was born in Niigata, a rural prefecture of Japan in 1965. He spent his early years in his small town obsessing over movies, TV shows and books.

Yasumi Matsuno's interview with 4Gamer said:
I was born in a small village in Niigata Prefecture, and obviously we didn't have internet or mobile phones. In the summer, you could play with your friends outside or baseball, but in the winter, we were buried under 3 meters of snow and couldn't do anything. Going outside to buy magazines was a hassle, so comics, novels, movies on TV were the only entertainment. If you wanted to do something else, daydreaming was the only option (laughs).

Speaking of movies, I was quite addicted to Star Wars. [...] I also loved building diorama when I was a kid, I would go out and buy 1/72 scale plastic models of tanks and build my own World War II diorama. I would go to the library and research so I could reproduce how the Eastern Front was during World War II, looking at photos and materials.

Very early on, he decided to pursue a career in a creative industry - however, as he later admitted, he didn't want to work "too hard" to make a name for himself in an already established media, so as an avid PC gamer (a proud owner of a PC-AMIGA 88), he decided to get into gaming as the industry recovered from its early 1980s crash. A rare case of a college droupout in a country that puts a lot of emphasis on diplomas, Matsuno dropped out of Hosei University and worked as an economic news reporter for a little while before being hired by Quest in 1989.

His stint with Quest and Square is now legendary among industry observers. After working on a lackluster NES title, Matsuno became the company's main scenario writer and director and released, back to back, four legendary titles: Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story. His main collaborators in these four titles were all the same: Hiroshi Minagawa, artists, Akihiko Yoshida, character designer and Hitoshi Sakimoto, composer. In 1996, he made the jump from Quest to Squaresoft, taking his crew with him, a couple of years before Square went ahead and gobbled up Quest.

Yasumi Matsuno's interview with 4Gamer said:
ABOUT WHAT IS A JAPANESE GAME, HOW TO COMPETE, ETC.

Even if a Japanese filmmaker tries to make a Hollywood movie, it won't be a Hollywood movie. For example, a J-Horror fad went on a while. Isn't that really a specific "Japanese" type of scare movie? I think Japanese people have no choice but to compete globally like "Japanese". In other words, Japan is a niche country in the world. So I think that being niche is key.

That is why it is often said by [JRPG] fans in Japan and overseas that it is not necessary to make something like an "American" game . On the other hand, I believe that [Ubisoft's] Assassin's Creed is a Japanese game.

After his widely acclaimed games Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, Matsuno was selected to direct FINAL FANTASY XII, the next mainline FF game. This production, which took over six years and $48,0000,000 dollars, would cause Matsuno's resignation from Square. Matsuno has never directed a big-budget title since. We don't really know what happened - Matsuno claimed he had health issues, there was industry gossip about how Square Enix suits thought Matsuno's take was too dark, too inflected with political intrigue and not appropriate for their target demographic. Matsuno himself, in interviews, says he struggled with Square's "democratic development culture", where the many leads in a team of hundreds of developers would seek to have input on his vision. At Quest, his team consisted of about "ten to twelve" people and he had, according to his recollection, almost "dictatorial powers" over what would be in the game. That was not the case at Square at all.











For me, personally, though I absolutely love Vagrant Story and Tactics Ogre, Matsuno's landmark title will always be FFT. What an amazing game - indubitably, in my view, the greatest in the franchise. It is not common for a gaiden title, with a smaller budget, to be so superior in writing, setting and game play to many of its larger, mainline counterparts but that was the case here.

Questions:
  1. So, GAF, what are your favorite Matsuno games?
  2. What memories do you cherish?
  3. What do you think of his career?
 
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Turkey Master Baster

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Favourite game is Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 as it has my waifu, Frimelda Lotice.

Overall, I really like his games and artstyle that rarely changes. I believe he hasn't done much after Crimsom Shroud?

Tried Battle Ogre a few months back amd although I like the RTS of it, it does get quite boring with the micromanagement but given it was the first game he is recognised with, it seems changing up his style really helped define the TRPG genre.
 
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Pejo

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I wish I could get past the extremely slow battle speed of Tactics to see the amazing game that so many people seem to love, but I just can't. It's like rolling a boulder through mud. FFXII is the only game in the list above that I really enjoyed, but there's no doubt that he has a skill for writing and worldbuilding, and not doubt that he's a top class dev.
 
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Miku Miku

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That Miyamoto interview was an interesting read. Seems like even on FFTA he was struggling in managing a large team.

I'm not surprised that FFXII broke him mentally.
 

Helios

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Damn all those games and only 1 of them was really memorable.
Really? Even as someone that played none of those titles, I still know about FFT, Ogre, Vagrant Story and Madworld. Granted, I mostly know Madworld for the soundtrack and aesthetics.

Also, amazing thread, Komatsu Komatsu
 
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Merzbear

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He’s a freelancer, but not really doing much work. Square Enix brought him back as a consultant on the 2011 PSP remake of Tactics Ogre and he’s done scenario work for Sakaguchi at Mistwalker and for a couple of FFXIV raids.
He needs to be working on a full game, he's by far the most masterful with making adult fiction without shilling sex and violence every 5 minutes and keeps it relevant. His talent is wasted and fuck Square Enix for tampering with his vision of FF XII.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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...which was clearly relevant to the Japanese market. Oh wait, it wasn't. It was an NA thing and the other markets didn't really care about it.
The recovery period opened a window for Japanese devs to flood the Western markets. Competitors like Midway, Williams, Atari, Coleco, Mattell, etc were either taken down a peg or functionally eliminated from the market so there was every reason for Japanese devs to get involved.

This period is also when they brought over their "dumbed down Ultima homages" a.k.a Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, etc.
 
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Lucumo

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The recovery period opened a window for Japanese devs to flood the Western markets. Competitors like Midway, Williams, Atari, Coleco, Mattell, etc were either taken down a peg or functionally eliminated from the market so there was every reason for Japanese devs to get involved.

This period is also when they brought over their "dumbed down Ultima homages" a.k.a Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, etc.
That's obvious. The "didn't really care about it" was about the markets not being affected in the same way that the NA market was, if you want to be precise. The point here is that the Japanese industry didn't recover from a crash, despite what OP and some "journalists" try to tell the world. As someone who knows a good amount about the history of gaming, it's pretty annoying to see misinformation being spread like this.
 

Komatsu

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That's obvious. The "didn't really care about it" was about the markets not being affected in the same way that the NA market was, if you want to be precise. The point here is that the Japanese industry didn't recover from a crash, despite what OP and some "journalists" try to tell the world. As someone who knows a good amount about the history of gaming, it's pretty annoying to see misinformation being spread like this.
That's not what it's written in the OP. I simply mentioned that the "industry" (no "Japanese" there) was recovering from the crash, which it was. That was particularly salient to Matsuno, who was strictly a player of Western games in the 80s (such as Ultima, which he has mentioned by name more than once) and saw all his favorite companies go belly up.

The fact that you came here and decided to drive-by and nitpick a single sentence in a thread with a 1,000 words, a full gameography, scans of design documents, etc., shows clearly you're not really worth engaging so, yeah, go ahead.
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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That's obvious. The "didn't really care about it" was about the markets not being affected in the same way that the NA market was, if you want to be precise. The point here is that the Japanese industry didn't recover from a crash, despite what OP and some "journalists" try to tell the world. As someone who knows a good amount about the history of gaming, it's pretty annoying to see misinformation being spread like this.
I didn't get that impression from the OP at all.
 
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Komatsu

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I love this thread so much, inspired me to finally start playing Tactical Ogre. Please continue with this thread series, OP! It's gold worthy ;)
Thanks for the Gold, MHK! Much appreciated.

----

Matsuno and the Development of Final Fantasy XII

There are many interesting things about this particular event, which to this day remains shrouded in mystery and speculation.

This is what Polygon wrote about it in their oral history of the making of Final Fantasy XII:

The Making of Final Fantasy XII said:
The precise nature of Matsuno's resignation from the company and the game remains shrouded in speculation. Perhaps, as some people claim, he suffered a health crisis inflicted by the stress of carrying such a massive project on his shoulders. Or maybe there's something to rumors that he left due to frustration over executive meddling in the game's creative direction. Matsuno's original vision for FF12's story centered around Basch fon Ronsenberg, a knight falsely accused of regicide, as the lead character. While Basch and his struggle to restore his good name remain a critical element of the final version of the game, the company's higher-ups reportedly insisted that teenage duo Vaan and Penelo be made the game's point-of-view characters. Final Fantasy has to connect with young players, and Basch (being an elderly 28 years of age) evidently wouldn't do.

Or perhaps Matsuno's departure involved a little of both columns A and B. His projects leading up to FF12 had been smaller, more niche-oriented works: A compact dungeon dive, a chess-like tactical game. FF12 by its very nature as a numbered Final Fantasy sequel had to appeal to a far wider audience than a franchise spinoff. Meanwhile, the expansive open-world vision the FF12 team chose to pursue made for a venture as demanding as the most massive contemporary PC RPGs, such as Morrowind. Matsuno's work leading up to FF12 stood out amongst its peers due to its uncompromising sensibility. Yet a tentpole release for a corporation the size of Square Enix necessarily involves compromise on both ends.
Interestingly enough, EGM back in 2007 published this about Matsuno's departure:

Electronic Gaming Monthly 216 said:
Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was disappointed by Matsuno's departure and declined to play the game beyond its introduction.


It is clear, from looking at his work, that world-building and character relationships are Matsuno's main focus. This is what series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi had to say about working on Final Fantasy Tactics in a 1997 developer interview with Matsuno.

Final Fantasy Tactics Developer Interview said:
—When the theme is humans fighting other humans, I imagine the relationships and themes can get pretty heavy.

Sakaguchi: One time I took a look at the whiteboard that Matsuno would sometimes have by his desk, and I saw this huge chart that detailed all the character relationships . He’s quite the obsessive when it comes to his work! I remember seeing one of the connections between the characters, and it said “they have a hard time understanding each other.” I thought to myself, man, this is going to be a deep game.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: The original GAF thread from 2005

 
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Naked Lunch

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One of the greatest developers off all time. Such a unique voice and style. The dialogue in his games is second to none - and his games' serious tone is something I always appreciated - especially in the sea of many JPRGs (or just GAMES, period) that were childish, simple, and shallow.

Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and FFXII sit high atop the JRPG mountain for me. They likely wont ever be topped. Similar to rewatching all time great movies, I replay his games frequently. They are timeless.

In the same way David Lynch always worked with music composer Angelo Badalamenti - Matsuno always worked with Hitoshi Sakimoto. This gave Matsuno's games a consistency that made them all feel like they were part of a bigger whole, even if they weren't directly related. The same can be said about the consistent art style used for his games. You could just see and hear the FFT in Vagrant Story, the same way you could see and hear the Vagrant Story in FFXII.

I wish the Tactics Ogre games would be re-released on modern consoles. I also wish he made more games.
 
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Komatsu

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One of the greatest developers off all time. Such a unique voice and style. The dialogue in his games is second to none - and his games' serious tone is something I always appreciated - especially in the sea of many JPRGs that were childish, simple, and shallow.

Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and FFXII sit high atop the JRPG mountain for me. They likely wont ever be topped. Similar to rewatching all time great movies, I replay his games frequently. They are timeless.

In the same way David Lynch always worked with music composer Angelo Badalamenti - Matsuno always worked with Hitoshi Sakimoto. This gave Matsuno's games a consistency that made them all feel like they were part of a bigger whole, even if they weren't directly related. The same can be said about the consistent art style used for his games. You could just see and hear the FFT in Vagrant Story, the same way you could see and hear the Vagrant Story in FFXII.

I wish the Tactics Ogre games would be re-released on modern consoles. I also wish he made more games.
Not only that, but his collaboration with Yoshida (and, to a lesser extent, Minagawa) meant that every Matsuno game had a certain look and a certain sound.







 
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TheSadRanger

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One of the greatest developers off all time. Such a unique voice and style. The dialogue in his games is second to none - and his games' serious tone is something I always appreciated - especially in the sea of many JPRGs that were childish, simple, and shallow.

Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and FFXII sit high atop the JRPG mountain for me. They likely wont ever be topped. Similar to rewatching all time great movies, I replay his games frequently. They are timeless.

In the same way David Lynch always worked with music composer Angelo Badalamenti - Matsuno always worked with Hitoshi Sakimoto. This gave Matsuno's games a consistency that made them all feel like they were part of a bigger whole, even if they weren't directly related. The same can be said about the consistent art style used for his games. You could just see and hear the FFT in Vagrant Story, the same way you could see and hear the Vagrant Story in FFXII.

I wish the Tactics Ogre games would be re-released on modern consoles. I also wish he made more games.
He wants to make more games, I can't it find but he did an interview a few years back where he said "I need to make another tactics game before I die"

If Square Enix won't help him with a studio to make another tactics game then he needs to do a kickstarter like Koji Igarashi did. Not that Unsung Story bullshit, he needs to be directly at the fore front like Igarashi was when he did his kickstarter.

If Matsuno came out and said "Hey I want to make another tactics game, but I need your help" People would definitely support it.
 

Komatsu

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He wants to make more games, I can't it find but he did an interview a few years back where he said "I need to make another tactics game before I die"

If Square Enix won't help him with a studio to make another tactics game then he needs to do a kickstarter like Koji Igarashi did. Not that Unsung Story bullshit, he needs to be directly at the fore front like Igarashi was when he did his kickstarter.

If Matsuno came out and said "Hey I want to make another tactics game, but I need your help" People would definitely support it.
This came out a couple of months ago in one of his FFXIV AAR interviews. Here it is:

Dualshockers said:
Matsuno: Rather than looking back at the past, I’m the kind of person who loves trying out new things. But when you reach my age, you start having thoughts like “How much time do I have left to keep making games?”. And I’m not talking about retirement, I’m talking about death. Recently, I’ve been to more funerals than weddings, and it made me aware of how limited our time is. On places like Twitter, fans sometimes send me messages like “I really wish you’d make a new Ogre or FFT!!”. When I see messages like this, a part of me thinks “I probably need to make one before I die”.
I'd love for him to go down the crowdsourcing route, for I doubt he will ever be allowed to direct a Squeenix game ever again.
 

TheSadRanger

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Honestly I kind of think that Square Enix intentionally holds FF Tactics back from being released on modern consoles to spite Matsuno. Even though FF Tactics HD would probably sell really well.

Remember that Square Enix interview last year when the interviewer brought up it was FF Tactics 20th anniversary and they were like "Oh, it is? We haven't really thought about it"

Release FF Tactics HD on steam, PS4, switch and I bet it would sell.
 
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Komatsu

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Honestly I kind of think that Square Enix intentionally holds FF Tactics back from being released on modern consoles to spite Matsuno. Even though FF Tactics HD would probably sell really well.

Remember that Square Enix interview last year when the interviewer brought up it was FF Tactics 20th anniversary and they were like "Oh, it is? We haven't really thought about it"

Release FF Tactics HD on steam, PS4, switch and I bet it would sell.
I think there's a couple of issues at play here. Matsuno is very close to Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy, and Hironobu-san himself left Square amidst a lot of recrimination and nasty politics after the implosion of Square Pictures (as we all know, FF: Spirits Within was a box office bomb). He has done work for Mistwalker, Sakaguchi's outfit, and I'm certain that might have rubbed some Square Enix suits the wrong way.

People forget, but before Matsuno, only two people had ever directed a Final Fantasy game: Sakaguchi himself and Yoshinori Kitase. The fact that he quit the company publicly during development of a mainline title was certainly a huge loss of face for the company. The fact that Matsuno is also one of the highest rated directors of all time (only Kojima has better scores with Japan's game press) probably only made the whole affair more excruciating.

EDIT: I sincerely think Matsuno was only brought in to do the Ivalice raid last year because Naoki Yoshida is a fan and both Hiroshi Minagawa and Akihiko Yoshida (his longtime protegés at Quest) are the main artists for the project.
 
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TheSadRanger

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^yeah I think that for sure Square still holds a grudge.

Also here's the thing with FF Tactics though, the psp version of the game was made to natively support a 16:9 screen. IT ALREADY FITS MODERN DISPLAYS NATIVELY. That fact alone makes it a no brainer to release on modern consoles.

edit: Like if you play or watch a video of the PSP version emulated of FF Tactics the game looks good. Here's a vid of a guy playing the psp version emulated.

 
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Komatsu

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^yeah I think that for sure Square still holds a grudge.

Also here's the thing with FF Tactics though, the psp version of the game was made to natively support a 16:9 screen. IT ALREADY FITS MODERN DISPLAYS NATIVELY. That fact alone makes it a no brainer to release on modern consoles.

edit: Like if you play or watch a video of the PSP version emulated of FF Tactics the game looks good. Here's a vid of a guy playing the psp version emulated.

To add insult to the injury, the game was recently upscaled for the recent, higher-resolution phones. And yet Square Enix won't bring it to PC or any other modern platform. It's incredible, really.
 

Fictive

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Matsuno is a legend, thanks for the Ivalice universe and its rich lore. FF12 is truly a masterpiece and Vagrant Story is incredible too. Never got around to FFT or Revenant Wings but I hope to someday.
 

TheSadRanger

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Matsuno is a legend, thanks for the Ivalice universe and its rich lore. FF12 is truly a masterpiece and Vagrant Story is incredible too. Never got around to FFT or Revenant Wings but I hope to someday.
Skip Revenant Wings but if you've never played FF Tactics nor Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together and have any fondness for strategy games YOU HAVE TO PLAY THEM. NOW. JUST DO EEEEEETTTTT.



However if strategy is not thing then whatevs. Tactics Ogre does some stuff better than FF Tactics like larger maps and a bigger party size. But FF Tactics maps are more interesting because it has 2d sprites on 3d rendered maps so you can rotate the camera. Being able to rotate the camera with 3d maps allows you to create maps that are more vertical. You can make maps with large towers or cathedrals.

Where because Tactics Ogre has 2d rendered maps at an isometric perspective, the maps are more horizontal and flat in nature.

For instance you couldn't create a map like this in a 2d SRPG and expect it to work because the arch would obscure half the battlefield and make unit placement awkward. But if you can rotate the camera..........



That is what makes FF Tactics so genius in it's evolution from Tactics Ogre.
 
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Lucumo

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That's not what it's written in the OP. I simply mentioned that the "industry" (no "Japanese" there) was recovering from the crash, which it was. That was particularly salient to Matsuno, who was strictly a player of Western games in the 80s (such as Ultima, which he has mentioned by name more than once) and saw all his favorite companies go belly up.

The fact that you came here and decided to drive-by and nitpick a single sentence in a thread with a 1,000 words, a full gameography, scans of design documents, etc., shows clearly you're not really worth engaging so, yeah, go ahead.
'duh. He started working at a Japanese company, so any crash wasn't relevant to him. Also, he started playing on PCs after he joined Quest and after playing Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda etc. So no crash relevant here either, especially since it was about PC games to begin with which the crash in the NA didn't really affect.

I had already written two posts, so it clearly can't be a drive-by. Additionally, you should be happy that I'm only complaining about one thing here.

I didn't get that impression from the OP at all.
The point here is that the crash isn't relevant to the person...basically at all. By including it in there, it heavily implies that the crash which happened in the NA was relevant to a Japanese gamer...which it wasn't.

In general, this sentence is so awful:

Very early on, he decided to pursue a career in a creative industry - however, as he later admitted, he didn't want to work "too hard" to make a name for himself in an already established media, so as an avid PC gamer (a proud owner of a PC-AMIGA 88), he decided to get into gaming as the industry recovered from its early 1980s crash.
The structure is so wrong. He played aracade -> NES -> joined Quest -> played PC-88 and Amiga there (Western games) (no idea what the "PC-AMIGA 88" is in the sentence either).
 
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Komatsu

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However if strategy is not thing then whatevs. Tactics Ogre does some stuff better than FF Tactics like larger maps and a bigger party size. But FF Tactics maps are more interesting because it has 2d sprites on 3d rendered maps so you can rotate the camera. Being able to rotate the camera with 3d maps allows you to create maps that are more vertical. You can make maps with large towers or cathedrals.

Where because Tactics Ogre has 2d rendered maps at an isometric perspective, the maps are more horizontal and flat in nature.
Interestingly, in one of his dev interviews, Matsuno mentioned the reason why he went with the smaller, 16x16 maps, is that he wanted to make sure the hardware could keep up with a steady 60FPS. That's funny, since FFT could easily run at 30FPS and we'd be fine with it. That said, even with the smaller maps and lower number of units, the games does struggle whenever huge effects come into play, such as when a summoner uses one of its class abilities.
 
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I think there's a couple of issues at play here. Matsuno is very close to Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy, and Hironobu-san himself left Square amidst a lot of recrimination and nasty politics after the implosion of Square Pictures (as we all know, FF: Spirits Within was a box office bomb). He has done work for Mistwalker, Sakaguchi's outfit, and I'm certain that might have rubbed some Square Enix suits the wrong way.

People forget, but before Matsuno, only two people had ever directed a Final Fantasy game: Sakaguchi himself and Yoshinori Kitase. The fact that he quit the company publicly during development of a mainline title was certainly a huge loss of face for the company. The fact that Matsuno is also one of the highest rated directors of all time (only Kojima has better scores with Japan's game press) probably only made the whole affair more excruciating.

EDIT: I sincerely think Matsuno was only brought in to do the Ivalice raid last year because Naoki Yoshida is a fan and both Hiroshi Minagawa and Akihiko Yoshida (his longtime protegés at Quest) are the main artists for the project.
Let's not have one of those "it's about honor and shame" type posts in the NuGAF. That kind of shit should be allowed to die with the infamous poster who wrote that and the old forum.

None of what you say is believable when you actually play through Return to Ivalice and see how much love and care was put into it. Matsuno wrote the entire scenario and script for that raid sequence, and came on to direct the project and assist Naoki Yoshida. In general, corporations don't have "grudges", especially not big multi-national game publishers like Square-Enix. Matsuno left the FFXII project because of health reasons near the end of it's development and it was finished almost exactly to his vision for the game. There's no reason to assume secret corporate backstabbings and no evidence for any speculation beyond what we officially know.
 

Komatsu

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Let's not have one of those "it's about honor and shame" type posts in the NuGAF. That kind of shit should be allowed to die with the infamous poster who wrote that and the old forum.

None of what you say is believable when you actually play through Return to Ivalice and see how much love and care was put into it. Matsuno wrote the entire scenario and script for that raid sequence, and came on to direct the project and assist Naoki Yoshida. In general, corporations don't have "grudges", especially not big multi-national game publishers like Square-Enix. Matsuno left the FFXII project because of health reasons near the end of it's development and it was finished almost exactly to his vision for the game. There's no reason to assume secret corporate backstabbings and no evidence for any speculation beyond what we officially know.
Corporations don't hold "grudges", sure, but people do, all the time, and the leadership of SE hasn't changed much since then. As for "honor/shame", nobody is parlaying cheap orientalism here. The argument would have been exactly the same if this were Bethesda and, say, Todd Philips had abandoned a Elder Scrolls game halfway through production. Like, please, let's discuss in good faith.

If you don't think it's somewhat conspicuous that a designer of his acclaim hasn't worked on a major title in 13 years, I don't know what to tell you. This happens over and over and over again in the industry, see SEGA and Yu Suzuki, who was never allowed to touch a big budget again after Shenmue and retired from the company after another six year without ever directing a top billing title again. There was plenty of "love and care" to be found in MGSV and Kojima had literally been locked out of the dev room by Konami leadership.

Don't take my word for it - I've quoted Polygon's oral history of FFXII and there's plenty of stuff floating around the web. This piece of news from 2005, posted by OneUp, was quite interesting:

OneUp said:
The second revelation, and far more surprising of the two, is that FFXII director, Yasumi Matsuno, is no longer working on the game. The former Quest developer (Quest made games like Tactics Ogre and Ogre Battle for the SNES and Sega Saturn) is the mastermind behind such brilliant games as Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but is said to be temperamental. When part of the FFXII team was said to have left Square-Enix for Hironobu Sakaguchi's new development studio, Mist Walker, Matsuno was reported to have not shown up for work for a month until the crisis was resolved. In fact, we're not sure what Matsuno is working on now, and whether he was kicked off the team or if he voluntarily removed himself, although he is still said to be at Square. The RPG powerhouse is reported to have a replacement at the helm already, the choice of whom is likely to raise the eyebrows of many people who have been following the troubled chapter's evolution. As we learn more about this development we'll let you know.
Not showing up for a month as the director of a project then on its third year, with 35 million dollars already spent and 13 more to go? You bet there was bad blood all around.

Which is not to deny that his work with Yoshida in FFXIV was fantastic. But directing what in the end amount to a tiny piece of content in a mammoth MMO after being invited by the director of a project in which two of the leads were your protegés for 20 years doesn't negate his past history.
 
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TheSadRanger

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Interestingly, in one of his dev interviews, Matsuno mentioned the reason why he went with the smaller, 16x16 maps, is that he wanted to make sure the hardware could keep up with a steady 60FPS. That's funny, since FFT could easily run at 30FPS and we'd be fine with it. That said, even with the smaller maps and lower number of units, the games does struggle whenever huge effects come into play, such as when a summoner uses one of its class abilities.
It's a reason why not getting a proper sequel or spiritual successor Tactics game really upsets me. Imagine the large and creative tactics maps we could get with modern hardware. Dynamic weather that effects movement. Night time maps with realistic lighting and visibility. Larger maps with more characters.

Also I dunno maybe Square Enix is being obtuse in gauging the North American market. They also released a port of Valkyrie Profile for iOS/android phones (it had a psp port with native widescreen support as well).

While this makes sense in Japan, I don't know what their reluctance is on releasing these games for modern consoles or PC when most of the legwork has been done.
 
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Fictive

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Skip Revenant Wings but if you've never played FF Tactics nor Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together and have any fondness for strategy games YOU HAVE TO PLAY THEM. NOW. JUST DO EEEEEETTTTT.



However if strategy is not thing then whatevs. Tactics Ogre does some stuff better than FF Tactics like larger maps and a bigger party size. But FF Tactics maps are more interesting because it has 2d sprites on 3d rendered maps so you can rotate the camera. Being able to rotate the camera with 3d maps allows you to create maps that are more vertical. You can make maps with large towers or cathedrals.

Where because Tactics Ogre has 2d rendered maps at an isometric perspective, the maps are more horizontal and flat in nature.

For instance you couldn't create a map like this in a 2d SRPG and expect it to work because the arch would obscure half the battlefield and make unit placement awkward. But if you can rotate the camera..........



That is what makes FF Tactics so genius in it's evolution from Tactics Ogre.
I want to wrap my around around the genre tbh, I feel I’m missing out on some gems in the ground. As it already were, I have a huge backlog of games I’d want to get to from 2 gens ago.
 

sublimit

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I know that i haven't played what is considered his "magnum opus" works like FF Tactics and Vagrant Story (well i have played a few hours of FFT WoTL but i feel like i have barely even scratched its surface) but i was one of the few people back then who enjoyed FFXII when it came out and i was vocal about it (in Final Fantasy forums like EoFF) because even with all its flaws it was still an amazing FF experience and i absolutely loved its world Ivalice.
Too bad that was his last "big" game in general (which he didn't even finished himself) and i hope his health is better now so he could work in another big project like FFXII.

Amazing OP btw Komatsu Komatsu !
 
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Rodolink

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Damn OP thanks what a great thread!
Didn't know he wrote Madworld!
My favorite game from him would be Vagrant Story 👌
It's crazy and sad that the only thing needed before to be on gaming industry was passion. From economics writer to scenario writer. That won't happen today xD unless you're indie.
 

Khalid M.

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What a brilliant thread, thanks Komatsu Komatsu for taking the time to put it together. Yasumi Matsuno is one of my favorite creatives in all of gaming. I LOVE the political focus of this stories and how deftly he weaves them. It's such a shame that the combo Matsuno-Yoshida-Sakimoto will never happen again. The 90s truly were a magical time where everyone were at the top of their game. It's even more heartbreaking that Matsuno never really recovered from FFXII's development, as much as I love that game, judging from how little he has been involved in new projects since then, despite so much time having passed by. Who knows how many untold stories he still has in him? In any case, I hold that man in very high esteem.

I recommend you guys check out Resonant Arc's review of Vagrant Story, as it sheds light on the development of the game and Matsuno's vision for it:

 
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Bolivar687

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One of my favorites. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together for PSP is his magnum opus (Square contracted with him to return for it) and I consider it the best SRPG of all time.

edit: also, this OP is fire.
 
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ROMhack

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Somehow I managed to miss this despite being tagged...

Superlative work my dude. Really interesting to read about Matsuno's work and life. I'll confess to not being a fan of FF Tactics but I did love Vagrant Story.

I'll also be nicking your ideas for images and general presentation for my future retro games threads 😁

P.s. Have you considered making a video version of this? I think it'd work really well.
 
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Komatsu

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Matsuno's deftness with adult/mature themes has been mentioned in this thread. There's plenty of examples to tackle here, but I'll bring up something that I believe is emblematic of his writing style and approach to fiction: the relationship between Princess Ovelia and Delita in Final Fantasy Tactics.

FFT SPOILERS BELOW


The game opens up with Delita's kidnapping of Ovelia and ends with Ovelia stabbing Delita and being killed in turn. Between those bookends, Ovelia slowly begins to trust Delita who, outwardly at least, seems to have fallen for the princess and her particular brand of haughty innocence. In the end, they get married and Delita becomes king. It is altogether too easy to say that Delita's motives throughout the game were always entirely cynical - more than once he does things that could potentially harms his interests in order to avoid killing in cold blood. He spares Valmafra, for example, when it would have been best for him to dispose of her quickly. There's indeed something of a spark between Ovelia and Delita, though power does come first. But what did Delita see in Ovelia? Did he truly like her in his own twisted fashion or was he love sincere, but a love for the idea of her (a noblewoman, a princess, a gateway to power)? The fact that we can even have this conversation about a Final Fantasy game, a franchise which I love but whose plots over veer between silliness and pure nonsense says a lot about what FFT could accomplish.





 
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IKSTUGA

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I absolutely loved FFTA back in the day, props to this guy. It would be cool it they re-released all the FFT games on the Switch or something :messenger_tongue: