Did you play the Final Fantasy 15 demo? Square Enix has taken the unusual but welcome step of addressing directly the raft of complaints players had about it.
A recent survey of Final Fantasy 15 Episode Duscae players returned a huge amount of feedback, and in a video the game's director Hajime Tabata addresses the top 15 complaints, one by one.
We've pored over the video and plucked out the pertinent information. Additionally, Tabata tackles one complaint that cropped up from North American players, and one complaint from European players. We report on those at the bottom of this report.
Tl;dr: it sounds like Square Enix really is listening, and the final version of Final Fantasy 15 will be all the better for it.
Here we go!
1. "The lock-on was useless."
The problem here is the camera is difficult to use, and the lock-on does not keeping the targeted enemy in the centre of the screen. Plus, the camera doesn't follow a locked-on enemy properly. The targeted enemy would go off-screen. Tabata said the development team is working on letting players know pressing R3 on the DualShock 4 controller locks on to a target.
2. "The camera is too close. I can't tell what's going on."
Especially during frantic battles, you can't tell where your party members or enemies are. This is being improved. "We may consider allowing the player to choose from different camera distances."
3. "Camera felt heavy or sluggish."
"We'll make sure the camera is smoother. Simple as that."
4. "The AI is dumb. Allies get in the way."
"We will probably properly address it from the programming end..."
5. "The jaggies. But the drop in frame-rate is even more concerning."
Frame-rate was the most common complaint from European and North American players (this isn't a surprise - check Digital Foundry's Final Fantasy 15 demo analysis).
On Jaggies: No anti-aliasing in the demo. But it will be in the final game.
On frame-rate: this is "a serious matter". "We consider it a high priority issue. The only option is to persistently optimise."
Currently, the bottleneck during battles is the VFX and UI, Tabata revealed.
"We are working towards full HD. But frame-rate is more important than resolution."
6. "So I get that motion is realistic. But because of that, it feels slow."
They're working on trying to increase the dynamic range of the action by differentiating the sense of speed when using a light weapon and the sense of weight when using a heavy weapon.
7. "Can you at least add a minimap or a compass?"
"Ah yes, we will."
8. "I want a dodge action that doesn't rely on MP."
"You're talking about something like a dodge roll, right? So, there actually is a dodge roll. I think it was in the E3 trailer, too. That's the default dodge, and the warp-dodge that was in the demo is a higher level dodge action."
9. "A game that's all about hiding behind rocks and replenishing MP."
"The amount of MP that recovers, and the time needed to recover is something we balanced within the context of this demo, so I think what you're seeing is a result of that. For the final release, before even worrying about MP use, there are other features that will be included. There will be various features to shorten the time or each battle. Whether it be magic, or combo-ing with joint attacks, there will be a lot of tactics at the player's disposal, so the amount of time spent recovering MP will probably go down in proportion to that."
10. "Battles are too difficult or too easy."
"There's no difficulty option currently in the works for the final release. But since we're working towards releasing the game simultaneously worldwide, instead of releasing first in Japan and then to the rest of the world, we do feel there is a sense of obligation to fulfill lots of needs. And as one of those needs, we understand that difficulty options may be important.
"So I think we'll include it. We will."
11. "It's too monotonous."
The overall controls weren't good, and many felt battles became repetitive were "too monotonous."
"One thing we were thinking about is allowing players to remap the button configuration to their liking. But there is probably more to it, so I would like to dive deeper into this and get the full picture.
"The monotony is probably due to battles feeling long. (Like the hiding behind rocks?) Yes. That probably also contributed to making the battles feel long. And also, for players who are seasoned action gamers, the demo didn't include a lot of situations to take advantage of your skills, so you probably couldn't carry out battles the way you wanted to, thus making it feel too monotonous overall.
"As I said earlier, resolving the issue of battles being too long will also resolve the issue of battles feeling too monotonous, so I think it'll change things a lot. Especially because you'll have the tools to shorten battles so that'll have a great effect on the experience. In that sense, I feel like it will become less of a problem.
"And then, if we were to add the difficulty settings, maybe it can bring out the more technical skills.
"Currently perfectly timed evades even use MP, but it will make it easier to do things like making the gameplay significantly difficult, but eliminating the need for MP.
"I think we should allow the option of players choosing an easy mode."
12. "The stamina needed for dashing is annoying. You can't even run that fast."
"In terms of dashing distance and speed, well... Improving both by eating certain foods, I think that would be a neat feature for Final Fantasy 15.
"So if you procure the right ingredients to strengthen your boost for the next day, then you can make that meal. If people were stressed out by the dash in the demo, I think this will take care of it.
"So if you're planning to travel far the next day, then you can boost your dash if you know which meal will give you that status effect. In Episode Duscae, there are two states, I think they were Fresh and Prime. You get buffs from the meals. The dash distance was actually lengthened under these states, but the speed wasn't affected.
"In the final release, it's perfectly possible to have meals that can boost both speed and distance, and I think that's the way it should be. So hopefully we can meet players' expectations in that direction."
13. Many players enjoyed warping, but would like to see it usable as a regular means of moving around.
"I can't say with absolute confidence that we'll be able to manage it in the final release. If a breakthrough happens, I'm sure we'd implement it so you could use warping as a means of getting around, but there's a good chance it will be left as is."
14. "Please let me cancel attacks by evading."
"Now that we have delivered the demo, we're already able to cancel attacks. It's already in that for sure.
"You can't cancel out every single attack. So this is going to require some strategy and technique. I'm not fully aware of all the details at the moment, so I'll go over this once we've locked in the final features."
15. "Lots of bugs."
"As we work on the final release, bugs like the aforementioned ones caused by warping in the the field, our know-how isn't quite affluent yet when it comes to action in an open-world environment, so we are honestly faced with many unforeseen bugs. So we'll be very thorough as we head towards the final release. I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience."
At this point Tabata addresses the top complaint from North American players and European players as part of a "bonus round".
First up, the top complaint from North American players:
"Noct's voice is strange. (He sounds like Batman.)"
"Yeah. I really wanted to include voiceovers in this demo, but we cut it very close in terms of the schedule. We recorded, got the data, implemented it, then we went straight to testing, so by the time I realized that Noctis' voice direction wasn't quite right, we were already checking the ROM. But it was too late to re-record, so while it wasn't ideal, we had to release it this way.
"So yes, we're aware that he sounds strange. The character's charm isn't coming through with the current acting, as he feels a bit older. So we've actually already done more takes that feels a bit younger, while also bringing out Noct's sense of ennui, and I think we've found the right direction."
"Yes, the voice acting is already different than what's in the demo."
The top complaint from European players raises an issue with Final Fantasy 15 that has been running for a number of months now: the design of Cindy, a woman mechanic who wears skimpy clothes.
"Cindy is too sexy."
"About Cindy being too sexy, she's actually not meant to be an erotic character," Tabata says.
"Her character is very energetic and outgoing, a very active character.
"With those traits paired with her appearance, we feel it wouldn't be too problematic even if, say, she shows up on screen while your parents are in the living room."
"I think it's more about the amount of skin she shows for a mechanic," the game's marketing manager Akio Ofuji counters.
"Oh, I see," Tabata responds. "But she is a very cheerful and active character, I don't think we want to change the current concept.
"So maybe it's about moderating the way she's presented, where it appears as though overly sexual themes are being brought to the forefront, because that's not who she's supposed to be. Maybe as long as we maintain those boundaries.
"Her character is not about sex. She is not supposed to be too sexy, but the male members on the dev team did their best to create her. As a result, perhaps too much of their heart and soul went into her.
"So if we put too much into her, then we should remove the excess heart and soul, and make sure she's a character you'd be completely comfortable with seeing in the living room. That's where our line will be, so please be assured."
European players also called for a woman party member.
"In terms of adding a female character to the party, our concept is that this about following the foursome's journey in an environment where they can be themselves, and thereby allowing the player to feel like they are travelling with them. So removing Prompto, who was the least favourite, and replacing him with a new female character just doesn't sound right."
"I guess people are anxious because you said there would be guest party characters - like General Cor - so I think there's a certain level of expectation coming from players," Ofuji says.
"I see," Tabata replies. "We won't be letting anyone down. Normally, it's just the four guys, so the tent's probably not in tip top shape, but if a female character gets thrown into the mix, you can expect things to be a little different than usual.
"They'll probably clean and say things they wouldn't normally say around her. Things like that. I think it'll be fun to see the differences when the guys are being themselves, and when it's not just the four of them. That's how I want the players to journey with them. We're working hard to make sure this really gets across. Please look forward to seeing the differences when a guest character joins your party."
There you have it. Expect more on Final Fantasy next month.