Final Fantasy 15’s Hajime Tabata on gaining the ‘trust and acceptance’ of PC players
After several months of console exclusivity, it was revealed at this year’s Gamescom that Final Fantasy 15 is coming to PC. With Hajime Tabata in the director’s chair, the desktop port marks his first Final Fantasy main series entry—having previously lead the PlayStation Portable’s Crisis Core and Type-0, the latter of which eventually made it onto current gen consoles.
In partnership with NVidia, what we’ve seen so far looks lovely but questions remain over what the PC port is capable of. With this in mind, we sat down with the man himself and pressed him about what we can expect from the open world JRPG’s PC iteration.
Hajime Tabata is a game director at Square Enix. His previous works includes Monster Rancher 2, Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core, Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy Agito. Tabata is the director of Final Fantasy 15, having taken over from the FF7 Remake director Tetsuya Nomura in 2014.
PC Gamer: How important is it for you and your team to bring Final Fantasy 15 to PC?
Hajime Tabata: What we’ve really paid attention to and what we’ve really valued in the announcement is not just what we could announce, the content of the game, how we adapted it to be great for PC gamers—but also the way that it was announced too. We were very careful to do that in a specific way.
We understood that if we did a simple port of the console version, the kind of people who only play games on PC really wouldn’t be interested, they wouldn’t be so excited by a version that’s just like that.
Final Fantasy is a big name, but it’s one more associated with console gaming. Do you think it will take some convincing to get players not necessarily interested in the series to want to play it on PC?
Yeah, I think that’s very the much the case: we need to try hard, to approach those players and get the message out there. It was also difficult at first to work out what sort of things we had to be doing to get PC players interested too.
I think the very first step towards that, we’ve exceeded. With our technical partnership and joint-development with NVidia—I think we managed to convince them that we are serious about the PC market. The fact that they worked together with us and helped us do that announcement is a big sign of that.
Is there anything different in the way the PC version plays over the existing console game?
The biggest thing is that the core mechanics and contents of the game basically the same thing. Because of the switch over to the keyboard and mouse control scheme—it’s very different. A first-person perspective where you don’t see the other characters is something that works really well with that proper keyboard and mouse control scheme too.
The ability to select the technical specs and adjust the settings [relevant] to the hardware you have it home is obviously very important. And another important thing is being able to provide mod support and play the game your way.
And modding is confirmed?
Yes, we’ll have an official modding tool.
Certainly traditionally Final Fantasy has a bit of an image that everyone has the exact same experience and shares that experience with everyone that plays the game. With Final Fantasy 15 we went in a slightly different direction, right from the start the way the whole game is structured and created gives each individual player their own individual and unique FF15 journey. I certainly think the modding community is going to resonate with that and the idea that you can change it any way they want is exciting.
Certainly one other thing—at the minute the core game is obviously single-player, but later on this year for the console version we’re releasing a multiplayer expansion. We’re hoping to have this available at launch for the PC version. In addition to Steam, FF15 is going out on Origin. I think the customers there are people who are moving away from the traditional Final Fantasy fan base—we then thought really quite seriously about how these people would want to play a game like this and how they’d relate to it and we obviously want to prepare thoroughly to give them what they want.
Will FF15’s Steam variation have Steam Workshop support?
Yes, it will.
Have you tied down minimum and/or recommended specs yet?
We haven’t fixed that down yet—the optimisation is still going on at the moment.
What about frame rates, can we expect 60fps?
Supporting it will be possible, but considering the spec you’d need to get that level—with native 4K, HDR, and a good 60fps—the machine we’ve got here couldn’t do that at the moment. That’s a GTX 1080 Ti, and even with that 60 frames is not possible.
The thing about it is: we can’t use an SLI in there, we can’t incorporate that. So, multiple cards, there’s the loading of the previous frame and you have that little bit of delay. It doesn’t allow for that proper 60 frames. In order to get that really smooth 60 frames, you need a higher capacity base in order to do that. All the physics simulations as well need to be refreshed in every frame—if you have two cards running in tandem there’s that little bit of delay between the sending of data between the two cards and that’s what makes it impossible.
The reason I press is because it’s something that’s very important to a lot of PC players
No, I know what you mean. As I mentioned, we’re working with NVidia and they are really looking at that kind of stuff.
What you’ve shown off so far looks wonderful, but not every PC player has access to top of the line hardware. Will FF15 support less capable machines?
PCs that are up to spec similar to the current generation of consoles will have no problem. That’s probably talking about a three of four-year old PC with no problem at all. Obviously we’ll try and expand even below that and see how far down we can take it and make it still playable. That’s obviously something we need to take a little more time to work out exactly how far we can go.
Obviously FF15 comes first, and you may not be involved in the next Final Fantasy, but do you expect future games to appear on PC?
Certainly if my team were going to be in charge of the next Final Fantasy game, we probably would set up the basis of development on that high-level PC architecture—I think that’s something that we’d do. But looking into the future, you have to consider cloud-based games—the answer might be different depending on how far down the line we’re talking about.
One of my own favourite Final Fantasy games is the PlayStation Portable’s Crisis Core. If you ever remade that would you bring it to PC?
[Laughs] If I remade it? There’s no plans to to remake that, no.
I think you should.
I think that’d have to be after the seven remake. I think once that’s out, that might create some kind of chance for that. But at the moment, before that, I can’t say if that’s likely. I’m very happy to hear you suggest that, though.
That’s not a no, then, in light of the FF7 remake.
No, I think as far as Final Fantasy 7 is concerned, the remake of that is top priority for now. At the moment, because we’ve changed our internal structure, we’re not the team working on the seven remake so I really can’t say anything about it.
You like Final Fantasy then, I take it?
You like 7 particularly?
Yes. And 8. And Crisis Core. Those are my favourites.
Our team love people who love Final Fantasy but I think, with our team, the next thing we do will be something completely different. A new challenge.
[Long pause] We’ve haven’t got round to release yet so we’re certainly not out of the woods with that. Certainly thinking back on how far we’ve come so far, with the project and how we started—we really didn’t know anything about how to start, what we needed to do, we needed to search for a partner to help us in doing this properly. And a lot of it was the first time we’d ever done this, so pretty much everything was required to be sorted out from scratch. I’d say the whole process till now has been one big challenge. The huge positive reaction we got when we announced was so motivating, it made us so happy to see that.
Before we finish, there’s one thing I was to ask you, actually: from your perspective as a dedicated PC journalist and part of the PC world media, how do you view the console game coming to PC? From our perspective we really want to bring this big surprise and this big wonderful new thing to PC gamers, but how do receive that from your side?
I would say that I’m in the interviewer here and therefore I’m the one asking the questions.
[Laughs] I’m sorry, I really don’t get many opportunities to say this.
No, I’m joking. I think from our perspective as PC players, it’s the chance to visit a widely lauded console game that’s most appealing—assuming it’s represented to similar standards on PC. I should say I’ve already played over 80 hours in the console game, so I’m perhaps biased. That said, I’m looking forward to giving it another run on my prefered platform.
Yeah, I think this is for us a great opportunity in getting the game out to the PC market that the latest Final Fantasy game is serious about the PC market and its players. We’re taking on that challenge with everything we’ve got and it’d just be great to get some kind of feedback on that, players’ reactions and understand what people are expecting towards our game.
I think in order to get the trust and acceptance of PC gamers there’s still a number of things left for us to do. Whether it’s [good or bad], we want to accept everything PC players have to say and take all of their reactions on board.