New Yoshinori Kitase interview: talks about FFVII, Nomura, Sakaguchi, DQ>FF

#1
From the latest issue of LEVEL magazine:

Kitase: "I can still remember our very first meetings concerning FFVII there at the office, 14 years ago. We were just done with FFVI and simply wanted to keep going. The idea was to produce yet another SNES game, and Hironobu Sakaguchi explained to us that it was going to take place in the year 1999, in New York."
Q: When you look at Midgar and how modern it feels compared to previous towns in FF, it feels completely logical that a present-day New York was the model image. And I assume that these ideas also formed the basis for Parasite Eve and perhaps even a time period in Chrono Trigger?

Kitase: Right, that’s how it was. Many of us who took part in these early planning sessions worked in parallel on Chrono Trigger, and Sakaguchi went on to make Parasite Eve right after FFVII together with Tetsuya Nomura among other people. So some of the ideas we had at this stage ended up in those games instead.
Q: Describe a typical work day for you back in those days.

Kitase: The development of FFVII went on in several different phases, and my days were fully effected by which phase we were in. It was a big step to abandon the SNES for the PlayStation, and once that decision had been made, there was no turning back. Until then, I had always been able to visualize the games I was working on in my head; I could picture what the final game would look like. But I honestly don’t think that anyone in the team had any idea about what FFVII would look like when it was done.

At first, we just tried to come up with ideas that would be doable in 3D graphics. We studied every 3D game we could get our hands on, a lot of them from Western developers and often PC games.
Q: You’ve mentioned 4D Sports Boxing as an early influence.

Kitase: Yes, that was one of the first polygon games I came into contact with and was fascinated by. Another - perhaps a more obvious – influence was Alone in the Dark. Infogrames used 3D graphics to create horror moments, but we wanted to make something more grandiose. We kept on working that way all the time, gathered influences from everyone on the team and tried to piece them together into something that resembled a Japanese RPG.
Q: What was your role in the team?

Kitase: I received the title of director. I’d already had that during the development of FFVI, but the 3D graphics completely changed my way of working. During this time, I did a completely different kind of hands-on work compared to the overseeing role I have now. I could spend entire work days with the Softimage program and experiment with characters, surroundings and scenes in the game. The script writer, Kazushige Nojima, wrote scenarios that he sent to me and I transformed them into storyboards or tried to recreate them with our graphics engine. In many ways, the script and our entire way to work was more reminding of a film production than any of the game projects we had been working on in the past.
Q: And you were an old film student, right?

Kitase: Yes, I loved movies already as a child. My favorite pastime was going to the cinema. One of my earliest memories is when I saw The Bridge on River Kwai, and it was when was twelve years old and had seen Star Wars in the cinema that I decided that I wanted to become a film director when I grew up.

That I ended up in the gaming industry was really by chance. After I had graduated from school, I started to work with animation, but I played a lot of games in my spare time and one day I saw a job ad from Square in a gaming magazine and thought that the job sounded exciting. And all of a sudden it was there that I made a career.
Q: Did you benefit a lot from the knowledge in film when you begun to direct FF?

Kitase: The first years at the company, in the beginning of the 90s, I learned most of it from Sakaguchi. We worked very closely together and his way of creating scenarios in games was unique. He developed his storytelling that was adapted for games with each new FF project, and he taught me how things worked. But when we switched over to 3D, I and the entire team benefited from my experience and knowledge from the film industry. I saw the potential in our early internal 3D demos right away.
Q: So then it was your turn to educate Sakaguchi.

Kitase: Haha, yes, perhaps. But he wasn’t as involved in the daily work with FFVII as I was. He wrote the original script, made up the guidelines for everything and created the overarching concepts. It was he who shaped the large metropolis that would become New York but was later transformed into Midgar, and the whole concept of the life stream came from his head.
Q: It feels like FF changed when you took over the director’s chair from Sakaguchi with FFVI. Suddenly the series got a darker theme and a more serious tone. Is that your doing?

Kitase: Yes, could be. Sakaguchi is a very good person. He cares a lot about nature and the spiritual and is convinced that a person’s soul can overcome anything. It’s a general theme also in FFVII, but I probably contributed a lot to giving it a darker side.
Q: How’s the relationship between you and Nomura today? It’s been said that you’ve become rivals and would rather not work together anymore. And the fact that you’re producing a FFXIII game each of your own isn’t exactly a way of killing off the rumors.

Kitase: Haha, no… hmm, how am I going to explain this? Let me begin by pointing out that Nomura is designing characters both for FFXIII and FFvXIII and that it’s absolutely not a matter of us not being able to work together. But ok, there are differences between us, what we want to accomplish and how we create games. It’s not a hostile rivalry, but we don’t share the exact same goal. But wouldn’t it be boring if that was the case? My view of it is that we’re two creative minds who work together sometimes and then move on on different paths, but always meet up again.

When we started to plan for FFXIII, I told Nomura that there were certain ideals that we had to attain. There’s a standard we follow when we develop a new mainline FF. Back then, the plan was to develop the game for the PS2 and we decided that Nomura would make FFvXIII for the PS3. With that, he could do something different; that game wouldn’t have to follow the traditional FF format. And I’ve always encouraged him to experiment and try out completely new ideas. He’s allowed to take risks; it’s almost an end in itself with that project.
Q: What about Sakaguchi then? How’s your relation today?

Kitase: Well, we actually met up as recently as a couple of weeks ago and had sushi.
Q: What did you talk about?

Kitase: It was mostly personal stuff, the kind that two men in their 40s talk about when they eat sushi, haha. But after a while it actually became very interesting. We entered the subject of the games we’ve created together and the future for the genre that we helped establish both in and outside of Japan. We discussed how RPGs could evolve and how the command-based system is in need of renewal, all while being an important part of the genre’s popularity.
Q: What’s his opinion on the FFVII projects that you’ve produced after he left Square Enix?

Kitase: Oh, I really don’t know. I’m sure that we send all FF games to him, but he’s never told me when he does with them or what he thinks about them. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I’ve ever told him when I thought about FF before I started working at Square. It was honestly speaking really only a worse copy of what Enix was doing at the time. Dragon Quest was much better!
 
#2
The Nomura question was a bit of side stepping, but he addressed their relationship diplomatically.

I'm waiting for a few years from now when they'll be able to REALLY talk about Nomura.

At some point there's going to have to be an academic review of Final Fantasy and the people that produced it. More than just a "behind the scenes" book or article. I'd buy it. I want to know about what goes down inside the board rooms and how the series evolved through internal politics.
 
#3
Kitase: Oh, I really don’t know. I’m sure that we send all FF games to him, but he’s never told me when he does with them or what he thinks about them. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I’ve ever told him when I thought about FF before I started working at Square. It was honestly speaking really only a worse copy of what Enix was doing at the time. Dragon Quest was much better!
Kitase has excellent taste! Too bad not much of that taste actually converts into talent, but it's still appreciated! :D
 
#4
duckroll said:
Kitase has excellent taste! Too bad not much of that taste actually converts into talent, but it's still appreciated! :D
well, ff has surpassed DQ since then

The Nomura question was a bit of side stepping, but he addressed their relationship diplomatically.

I'm waiting for a few years from now when they'll be able to REALLY talk about Nomura.

At some point there's going to have to be an academic review of Final Fantasy and the people that produced it. More than just a "behind the scenes" book or article. I'd buy it. I want to know about what goes down inside the board rooms and how the series evolved through internal politics.
basically you want what..? to see him criticise nomura...? I am pretty sure nomura is probably a big reason for ffs success in Japan...
 
#14
duckroll said:
Yes, it has definitely surpassed DQ in being overhyped and underdelivering. No doubt about that.
well, DQ (and I enjoy it) promises little, so I guess it still goes in the direction of ff

having a larff, lets not start a ten page discussion on ff vs dq)
 
#17
Q: How’s the relationship between you and Nomura today? It’s been said that you’ve become rivals and would rather not work together anymore. And the fact that you’re producing a FFXIII game each of your own isn’t exactly a way of killing off the rumors.

Kitase: Haha, no… hmm, how am I going to explain this? Let me begin by pointing out that Nomura is designing characters both for FFXIII and FFvXIII and that it’s absolutely not a matter of us not being able to work together. But ok, there are differences between us, what we want to accomplish and how we create games. It’s not a hostile rivalry, but we don’t share the exact same goal. But wouldn’t it be boring if that was the case? My view of it is that we’re two creative minds who work together sometimes and then move on on different paths, but always meet up again.
FFXIII is going to be amazing. <3 Kitase.

^ Most people can agree that FFXII is a mediocre game.
 
#19
nelsonroyale said:
well, DQ (and I enjoy it) promises little, so I guess it still goes in the direction of ff

having a larff, lets not start a ten page discussion on ff vs dq)
They may not outwardly promise things like they do for FF games, but I think the bar for DQ games is set incredibly high by DQ fans, and they expect Horii to meet it.
 
#23
Considering how gutted DQVIII was, and how lousy it's overall scenario was compared to anything prior, I don't think Dragon Quest is on the highest note for delivering lately. Having Level-5 make a kickass graphics engine doesn't make up for the rest.
 
#29
Alex said:
Considering how gutted DQVIII was, and how lousy it's overall scenario was compared to anything prior, I don't think Dragon Quest is on the highest note for delivering lately. Having Level-5 make a kickass graphics engine doesn't make up for the rest.
Well, I enjoyed DQVIII more than any recent FF offerings (FFX-2 and onward).
 
#33
I'm glad to see that Kitase and co are aiming to give the genre a good kick in the pants, let's just hope he understands what it needs... Also, my interest in vs has gonna up some more, knowing that it's existence is an exercise in differentiating itself from the mainline series... explains the "versus."
 
#34
Honestly, I am not seeing how Midgar is NYC. NYC is not industrial nor have a noticable military presence. Midgar is more a depiction of industrial revolution England back 200 years ago mixed in with some Sci-fi technology.
 
#35
Q: Describe a typical work day for you back in those days.

Kitase: The development of FFVII went on in several different phases, and my days were fully effected by which phase we were in. It was a big step to abandon the SNES for the PlayStation, and once that decision had been made, there was no turning back. Until then, I had always been able to visualize the games I was working on in my head; I could picture what the final game would look like. But I honestly don’t think that anyone in the team had any idea about what FFVII would look like when it was done.

At first, we just tried to come up with ideas that would be doable in 3D graphics. We studied every 3D game we could get our hands on, a lot of them from Western developers and often PC games.
Kitase is skipping a couple of steps, so this goes well with another thread that Ceb kindly made for us back in 2006.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=98617

Kitase on FFVII's initial development: "Our first plans were interrupted, since we had to help out with Chrono Trigger, which had turned into a huge project. But as soon as we had done what we could with that game, we started over from the beginning with FFVII. And back then we were fully focused on the disk system that was gonna be released for the Nintendo 64 (the 64DD). We never actually received a working prototype, but we did everything according to the planned specifications."

Nomura on experimenting with the N64 analog stick: "We had an idea about how you would be able to look around in the dungeons with the help of it, but we never really got further than that."

Kitase: "We actually began work from the ground up on three separate occasions. First directly after FFVI, then again after Chrono Trigger, and finally when we decided that CD-ROM technology was going to be a necessity and that it would therefore be released on the PlayStation."

Nomura: "But some of the ideas we had been discussing from the beginning are actually still intact in the finished game. And other ones, like Edea, ended up in FFVIII."
- The look for FFVII was finalized after Square had created a graphics demo for SIGGRAPH.
First there was the SNES sprite-based FFVII, which was dropped for Chrono Trigger.

Then they abandoned the SNES for the N64 (and 64DD), not the PlayStation. They tried to wrap their heads around 3D and analog until the Siggraph Demo (made by Square LA, not the FF team) showed them how it could be done.

Then when they jumped from N64 to PSX, they started over from scratch again, and FF became all about the prerendered backgrounds and FMV.
 
#36
dionysus said:
Honestly, I am not seeing how Midgar is NYC. NYC is not industrial nor have a noticable military presence. Midgar is more a depiction of industrial revolution England back 200 years ago mixed in with some Sci-fi technology.
I don't think Midgar was ever really NYC. Sakaguchi probably had the idea that he wanted to make a RPG in a somewhat modern near-futuristic city. That idea spawned into FFVII's Midgar, while the actual envisioning of NYC was never executed until PE.
 
#39
manueldelalas said:
Don't worry, any thread with the words FFVII, remake and DQ>FF is bound to be destroyed anyway...
The lame duck was the one who edited in the bit about DQ vs. FF.

The duck rolleth in mysterious ways.
 
#40
I believe the only time DQ is ever > than FF is maybe DQ8. but what made DQ8 great was its music and graphic.

Its battle system, while enjoyable, was archaic and extremely unimpressive. It's story, while sweet and cute, was as generic as you can get.

Although there is one little thing I don't understand.

The mouse was protecting the hero right? Who was the mouse? Never understood that
 
#42
Tideas said:
I believe the only time DQ is ever > than FF is maybe DQ8. but what made DQ8 great was its music and graphic.

Its battle system, while enjoyable, was archaic and extremely unimpressive. It's story, while sweet and cute, was as generic as you can get.

Although there is one little thing I don't understand.

The mouse was protecting the hero right? Who was the mouse? Never understood that
So basically you don't understand Dragon Quest at all.

And for your spoiler question
you find out who the mouse is in the post-game content after beating the game.

Ceb said:
The lame duck was the one who edited in the bit about DQ vs. FF.

The duck rolleth in mysterious ways.
 
#43
Tideas said:
Although there is one little thing I don't understand.

The mouse was protecting the hero right? Who was the mouse? Never understood that
Munchie is Chen Mui, aka the Hero's old man's old man. :D If memory serves, you get to see this cut scene after defeating the first Lord of the Dragovians. It provides a simple but effective back story for the Hero.
 
#44
BlazingDarkness said:
why did they not probe him further on FFXIII info :(
I doubt he has much to say about it anyway. It's clearly deep in development now, and until it's ready to be released they won't be rolling out anymore marketing and previews. Until then there's probably very little he's even allowed to say.
 
#46
Red Scarlet said:
So basically you don't understand Dragon Quest at all.

And for your spoiler question
you find out who the mouse is in the post-game content after beating the game.
I understand DQ8 it to be a game with awesome music and art direction. But a battle system with no strategy needed and a story that is simple at best.

Didn't touch the previous DQ because personally, looks matter to me, and DQ7 was just...erg.

I mean, is my opinion wrong? What I play in a game, for an RPG at least, is graphics, innovative battle system, twists in storyline, great music, and great production value.

sennin said:
Munchie is Chen Mui, aka the Hero's old man's old man. :D If memory serves, you get to see this cut scene after defeating the first Lord of the Dragovians. It provides a simple but effective back story for the Hero.
so the mouse was one of the legendary heroes? Or the father of the legendary hero?
 
#47
Tideas said:
I understand DQ8 it to be a game with awesome music and art direction. But a battle system with no strategy needed and a story that is simple at best.

Didn't touch the previous DQ because personally, looks matter to me, and DQ7 was just...erg.

I mean, is my opinion wrong? What I play in a game, for an RPG at least, is graphics, innovative battle system, twists in storyline, great music, and great production value.
This is NeoGAF, dude, "your" opinion is always wrong and "my" opinion is always right.
 

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Jealous of the Glory that is Johnny Depp
#49
I like how everyone spoiler tags their posts and you just blurted the thing out without spoiler tagging, way to go dude.