Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania interviews - Translations


Time Traveler
Courtesy of Gwendal (translation), The_Kusabi_ (help on translation), and W_Mark_Felt_Sr (scans) over at GameFAQs.

FFVIII Creator Interview 1 – Graphics Team (pp. 46-47)

"There was a strong feeling that we had to surpass "VII""

FFVIII Creator Interview 1 - Graphics Team

The direction of "VIII"'s maps

Interviewer: What kind of direction were you aiming for with "FFVIII"'s map graphics, seen as a whole?

Naora: First, compared to our time working "VII", which took place in a very dark world, we wanted to convey a brighter feeling. While the last game was tied together by shadows, we paid close attention to the light this time around. Another thing is that on the last game, there were parts [of the game] where we felt we could safely place many parts on top of the maps, since we were now able to create a more detailed presentation.

This time, we worked hard on the design, which gave us the confidence to place large parts [on the maps]. Then there's how each country has its own particular feel. We also tried to give them that feel through things like the kind of paint seen in each town, or the kind of written characters used. Hmm, when it comes to map graphics, there's no turning back now, or...maybe we overdid it on the last game, we often talked about that in the beginning. In any case, there was a strong feeling that we had to surpass "VII" this time around.

Nakatani: Back in the "VII" days, the characters were rather small, don't you think? This time we wanted to try making them bigger from the beginning, so we wanted to make the backgrounds more realistic to match that, and had to figure out various ways [to do that].

Naora: As the characters' head and bodies grew longer, their faces became absurdly small when we zoomed out the camera to match. We also paid attention to things like making the area transition cuts bring about the right feeling. [A little unsure about this part, sorry]

Interviewer: Compared to "VII", you almost never end up in the situation of not knowing where your character is, right?

Takahashi: I was yelled at quite a bit for that on "VII", so I really worked hard to make it easy to understand for this game.

Interviewer: Regarding the maps, what kinds of new ideas did you include for this game?

In Balamb town and some maps in Deling City, we had the focus change as the character walked away from or towards the camera. It was kind of experimental, but we wanted to more of that sort of thing.

Interviewer: Did you run out of ideas for the map design itself as the process went on?

Naora: I usually just draw things depending on what I come up with on the spot, so I didn't really have any problems with running out of ideas. FOr example, I'd look at my iMac and think that those kinds of (transparent) skeleton parts might be nice, be told I'm being stupid by Takahashi and Nakatani, then decide to use those skeleton parts for Esthar, things like that. (Laughs)

Numerous secrets revealed for the first time

Interviewer: Now that I finally have the opportunity, I'd like to ask you to share them if there are any "secrets only you know" in any of the maps you were in charge of...(Laughs)

Takahashi: On the screen just before you escape from the D-District Prison, if you proceed inwards, there's a passage, right? The word "CAUTION" is written on the handrail on the right side, but on the inside of the handrail on the left side, "Takashin" is written in the same font. That's Shintaro Takai's (staff in charge of battle effects) nickname. The division head (Director Kitase) was pretty mad at me, but it somehow remains in the game anyway. (Laughs)

Nakatani: In Timber, there's a house with a TV in one of the rooms. When I had to make an image to put on that screen, I used things like a picture of my wife and a baseball scene, since I like baseball. I don't really understand how it works, but the images show up even on that round TV screen in the actual game. I was given a tentative OK from the planners to do that, but I the division head will probably get mad at me when he finds out. (Laughs)

Naora: It's the first time I'm hearing about this. (Laughs)

Kanzaki: Mine is in Ultimecia's castle. In the picture gallery there, there's a painting of a woman, so I thought I'd take the face of a woman I know and draw an enlarged version of it. While I was working on it, I was called to the division head's office and told to "do it properly", so I changed it. But there's still a small version of it remaining in the map, in its non-magnified state. I didn't change that. (Laughs)

Interviewer: You all managed to get on Mr. Kitase's bad side, didn't you? (Laughs)

Ikumori: No, I didn't put in anything that didn't live up to [our bosses'] expectations...I guess I wasn't playful enough. (Laughs)
I liked the warm, cozy feel of places like FH and Winhill, so I think I was just happy I got to focus on depicting that.

Interviewer: Mr. Naora, how about you?

Naora: No, I don't have any secrets for you, but there were some interesting ideas I didn't use...
I was in charge of all the Gardens, and early on we planned that all three of them, Balamb, Galbadia and Trabia Gardens, would combine into one. It'd be a "getter" transformation, where they'd be able to combine in any order. (Laughs) [Think I'm missing something here, maybe a reference to an anime or something?]
To an extent, we even made their silhouettes with this combination in mind. In the end, we stopped at Balamb and Galbadia Gardens each getting their own transformations, so I apologize for that. (Laughs) [A little unsure about the last part from "so", sorry about that]

Interviewer: How did you come up with the designs for the Gardens?

Naora: [The English word] "Garden" means "park", "garden", something like that. So I was thinking about what kind of nickname I should give the students living there, and since it's a garden and they were being raised there, I suggested the name "SeeD" (seed). And once I had [the concept of] a garden and seeds, I supposed the buildings there would be like big trees. Early on, I imagined something like in "This Tree, What Tree" (a huge tree made famous by Hitachi group commercials), but when I tried designing it, it ended up looking like a kagami mochi [a round rice cake]. (Laughs)

After that, I decided to change the silhouette a bit, and that's how the current design was born. For the Gardens, I wanted to really show that there were actual students living there, so I went so far as to include various small details.

Interviewer: I think the hardware is going to keep evolving in the near future, so what kind of changes do you see coming in the world of map graphics?

Nakatani: Right now, when we place objects on the map, we use a flashing light effect to help the player notice them. I think we'll still need to use visual aids like that, but I'd also like to try more things like having the camera follow important objects and other visual effects, that kind of "movie to map" [transition].

Ikumori: As the hardware becomes more advanced, I think the boundaries between movies, field and battles will go away. With the games we have today, I think most people just put down their controllers and watch when there's a movie sequence, but I'd like to try making a game where movies, maps and battles flow together so well that players will determinedly keep gripping their controllers [at all times].

Naora: Along with the evolution of the hardware, as the polycount count and our ability to show things improve, don't you think the kind of images we choose to depict will change too? Because of that, I've been thinking about whether we can find slightly different ways to do art lately. That's not just about moving to 3D, but also about slightly different ways to show our art. I think I might have found some hints [for how to do things] in that area now. No matter if we'll be able to turn them into reality or not, I look forward to the challenge of trying.

Big caption: "Early on, there were plans that the three Gardens would combine into one"

Staff profiles

Art Director
Yusuke Naora
Responsibilities: General art direction. He also assisted with concept art and the like.

Lead Field Designer
Yukio Nakatani
Responsibilities: Graphics for Balamb, Timber, Tomb of the Unknown King, Galbadian Missile Base, Esthar, etc.

Lead Field Designer
Kazuyuki Ikumori
Responsibilities: Graphics for FH, Winhill, Ragnarok, Ultimecia's Castle, etc.

Lead Field Designer
Kenzo Kanzaki
Responsibilities: Graphics for Balamb, Deling City, Centra Excavation Site, Lunar Base, etc.

Lead Field Designer
Tetsuya Takahashi
Responsibilities: Graphics for Fire Cavern, [Dollet] Radio Tower, Esthar City, etc.
FFVIII Creator Interview 2 – Battle Team (pp. 74-75)

"All of the real-time polygon motion was handcrafted"

FFVIII Creator Interview 2 - Battle Team

The reasons the system changed

Interviewer: This is the first time monsters have had levels in the "FF" series, isn't it?

Harata: Back when he'd just started development, we planned to have monsters actually walking around on the maps, leading to a battle if players touched them. To realize that, we couldn't have too many different monsters due to memory issues. We gave the monsters levels so that they could change their moves and strategy in stages according to their level, letting players fight the same enemy in different ways. [Monsters having levels] is a remnant [of those plans]. We also had the idea of making each battle more meaningful, since the number of battles was very low at that point [in development].

Interviewer: Commands that were always usable by every character in the older games, such as "Defend" and "Item", are now individualized as abilities this time around. What were your intentions with this change?

Harata: In the beginning, the entire bottom part of the screen was a window, kind of similar to the previous game. To change this feel, and to let the player see more of the scenery, we decided to make the command window smaller. This led to us making even basic commands such as "Defend" into abilities.

Interviewer: Compared to the previous game, the camera work during battles is more varied, wouldn't you say?

Yasui: That's right. For instance, there's 24 kinds just for magic casting [lit.: chanting parts], and we prepared about the same number of viewpoints for the actual attack coming afterwards. For this game, we made the camera work editor early on, allowing us to edit the camera movements while seeing the actual game screen. Thanks to this, we were able to create some effective camera work in a fairly short period of time. Since there were fewer restrictions on how we could move the camera this time, we were also able to include some camera angles we'd been dubious about.

Interviewer: You were also responsible for the card game, Mr. Yasui?

Yasui: Initially, the plan for the card game was that the player would just be collecting cards, without the element of turning them into items. But there wasn't really anything unique to be gained from the card game that way, so after requesting it I was allowed to include the feature to turn the cards into items. I'd like players to quickly put it to practical use. [Slightly unsure about this last bit, sorry]

Interviewer: When you lose a rare card to an opponent, he or she will start using it against you. That felt very realistic to me.

Yasui: I wanted to make it so that you'd want to keep fighting that opponent over and over until you won it back, instead of just resetting. I like to think I came up with something relatively fresh with the spreading rules and other systems, so I'd be happy if players would take the opportunity to have some fun in between the [main story] events.

Staff profiles [Left to right, top to bottom]

Character Modelling Director
Tomohiro Kayano
Responsibilities: Character modelling for field maps and battles

Battle Effect Director
Shintaro Takai
Responsibilities: Battle effects and graphics, including the GF summoning scenes

Battle Programmer
Hiroshi Harata
Responsibilities: Main battle programmer. Also contributed to internal budgeting.

Motion Director
Tatsuya Kando
Responsibilities: Battle and field motions for characters

Battle Programmer
Kentaro Yasui
Responsibilities: Battle image [lit.: painting] system, card game systems

Selphie's XXX

Interviewer: Since you decided to give the characters a head-body ratio of 8 this time, what influenced you in creating the real-time polygon models (the characters the player controls and so on)?

Kayano: Thanks to the increased head-body ratio, we were able to give the characters more natural-seeming hair and things like that, but the amount of polygons we could use for the characters was slightly lower than for "VII", so that was a bit tough at times. Another thing is that compared to the last game, we made an effort to make sure the sub-characters (townspeople, animals) would match the main characters without feeling out of place.

Interviewer: When it comes to the polygon models, what would say is the biggest improvement from the last game?

Kayano: This time around, it was very important to us to unify the appearance of the characters in movies, battles, the field and on the world map. In a way, every model is different. Then the next two steps are to apply a texture and skin processing (a technique to make sure there aren't any gaps in the joints). But this is the same way we're doing it for "Parasite Eve", you know.

Interviewer: This is just something I heard, but even the inside of Selphie's skirt supposedly had a texture applied...

Kayano: Yeah. (Laughs)

Takai: All the way up to the last version before the final one, it was possible to rotate Selphie on the Scan screen. Everyone tried that at least once. (Laughs)
But we cut it from the final version.

Interviewer: What aspects of the modelling do you feel confident about for this game?

Kayano: It doesn't appear in the actual game, but there's a dummy monster [we made]. We had to test the other models to get them right, but [for this one] I was able to reproduce the rough sketch Nomura had drawn, with crooked lines and all. (Laughs)

Kando: We really gave it our best shot when it comes to motion, too. Five minutes. Again, I'm glad we have that reputation. (Laughs) [Really not sure what this part is about, sorry]
Thinking about it now, maybe we passed that on to Pupu...

Interviewer: So, who or what is Pupu?

Kando: It's basically an alien. It looked like it was going to be cut at one point, but thanks to Nomura's resolute decision, we kept it. (Laughs)

Takai: In a way, that's how we clear up the mysteries of the world. The Moai, crop circles, cattle mutilation, it was all the work of an alien. (Laughs)

Interviewer: In this game, the real-time polygon motion is very realistic, not just in battles, wouldn't you say?

Kando: There were some things we [had to] omit from our work process on the previous game, and the concept this time around was to do all of these properly and reproduce human motions faithfully. We didn't use [motion] capture, so all of the motions were handcrafted. The movie team looked at footage from a motion capture studio and tried to create something matching those motions. We did it that way to ensure there wouldn't be any gaps in behavior between the movies and the real-time polygon [parts].

Takai: To explain the motions, Kando would be acting them out in real life behind the staff. To someone passing by, it'd have looked like some kind of strange dance. (Laughs)

Interviewer: What, even the pose where Rinoa is walking around acting cute...?

Kando: Yep, I did it. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Next, speaking of battles, one that that definitely leaves an impression is the GF summoning sequences. I thought they were very well done, and it felt like you always had so many different ideas for them.

Takai: The ideas for the GF summoning demos came from Nomura, but there were quite a few times where they just arose naturally when we were talking. For example, with Brothers, while we were chatting we just suddenly decided to "let's have them play rock-paper-scissors, and have one of them cheat". (Laughs)

Kayano: And then I had to scramble to come up with "a hand model for playing rock-paper-scissiors". (Laughs)

Interviewer: In the previous game, you had summoning demos lasting as long as a minute and a half. Did you want to top that for this game?

Takai: We heard quite a bit about that subject (laughs), so this time we decided early on to shorten them for this game. So in this game the GF [summoning sequences] last about the same time, a standardized 20-30 seconds or so. Eden is the only one who goes way past that, but that's a hidden GF, so it's okay. But we didn't specifically set out to go over one and a half minutes [for Eden]. ...but it might be about 10 seconds over, I don't know.

Interviewer: You've really given this some thought. (Laughs)

Takai: Yeah, but in this game we've also got the "Boost" command, so they're not just something you watch...
Then there's the Draw effect. That one was way too long originally. Since I made it, I decided to test play it myself. I found it was too long and that it wasn't working, so I shortened it. It also uses the same motion meant for the "Defend" command, which is the quickest one. You'll notice the change if you look at the demo version.

Interviewer: Speaking of the demo, Selphie's "Slots" had Percentage and Catasto magic in that one, right?

Big caption: Selphie had magic based on 4-panel comics

Takai: That's something we had to cut for time reasons. Percentage was a spell that would have a weight drop down on enemies from above. For Catasto, Selphie would draw a rought 4-panel comic that would slide by magic, then she'd get attacked by the enemy and counterattack with a mighty "yaah!". (Laughs)
Selphie can pretty much do whatever she likes, so it was fun coming up with ideas for her. (Laughs)
FFVIII Creator Interview 3 – Sound Team (pp. 184-185)

Staff profiles

Nobuo Uematsu
Responsibilities: Composing all the background music for the game

Sound Programmer
Minoru Akao
Responsibilities: Creating the sound drivers (program) to play back the background music and sound effects

Sound Editor
Eiji Nakamura
Responsibilities: Creating all manner of sound effects

"I think there's a definite power in live sound"

FFVIII Creator Interview 3 - Sound Team

An evolved sound

Interviewer: In making your second "FF" game for the Playstation, were there any evolutions on the sound front compared to the previous game?

Uematsu: Thanks to [Sound programmer Minoru] Akao's hard work, the sound quality improved, with an especially marked improvement for the sound effects. The sound effects we used for the movie sequences were also improved ten-fold.

Nakamura: For this game, we created the sound effects for the movie sequences and other parts in Dolby Digital (a three-dimensional sound format), which the Playstation could then play back in Dolby Sound. In this way, the player gets a quasi-3D experience. Even though they're in front of the speakers, the sound comes from the sides and from behind in various ways to create the best possible sound environment...but we'd like players to try using a headset too.

Interviewer: Moving on to the music itself, on the last game you said you felt the music that played along with the projected image parts [=FMV sequences?] was slightly subdued. Would you say this trend continues in "VIII" too?

Uematsu: Basically, yes. I heard comments here and there back in the "VII" days that the melodies were weaker compared to the games up to "VI", but there are still times when I wonder myself if the melody should stand out more or be more subdued, and I have to resort to trial and error. Also, if the whole production had been a movie, I feel that it'd have been okay for the music to fade more into the background, but as long as that isn't the case, I think the music should be present to a certain extent. But it could be that there's more emotion and that the music stands out more in "VIII" compared to "VII". And "Eyes On Me" was the first time we used live recording for the "FF" series.

Interviewer: Did you plan on using Faye Wong (a very popular female musician in Asia) for that song?

Uematsu: I didn't know anything about her apart from her name. We planned on including a song [with vocals] in this game and I composed the melody on its own early in the process. When we got to the point where we neded to find out who we'd hire to sing it for us, everyone on the staff sat down and listened to CDs from various singers. Celine Dion, Mariah Carrey, and so on. Among those, (Scenario writer) Nojima lost himself in Faye Wong's CD, and when I listened to it, it was the one that made the biggest impression, and we decided to go with this person.

Interviewer: In my opinion, the scene where "Eyes On Me" plays on board the Ragnarok evoked images that had never been seen in the "FF" series until then. But even if it was a live recording, you didn't just have her sing the song live exactly as it was on the CD, surely?

Akao: That's right. We turned her live performance of the song in its entirety into sampling data and sent it to the Playstation, so it could be reproduced in real-time with the same sound quality as a CD. We did that because one of our initial concepts for "VIII" was to use that method to play the entire soundtrack in CD quality.

Nakamura: They're not songs, but we used the same method for summon magic sound effects and things like that.

Interviewer: Does the presentation you were able to achieve using that method mean that the idea of making a game where all the music and sound effects are based on live recordings is no longer just a dream?

Akao: That also depends on [memory] capacity, you know. If we were to fill an entire CD with data using this method, we'd get about 240-250 minutes' worth of sound playback. But we obviously have to put program data, graphics and other things on the discs too, so that limits the amount of playback time we can have.

Uematsu: But we do want to try to realize that vision, of having fully live sound. I think there's a definite power in live sound. Speaking of [how that was used in] this game, when there was a close-up of Rinoa's face while she was floating in outer space, did you hear the "haaa, haaa" sounds of her breathing? That sent chills down my spine.

Nakamura: Yeah, that was painful to listen to. We were helped out there by some professionals who specialize in live sound.

Uematsu: You went all the way to Los Angeles to record sound effects, didn't you?

Nakamura: I received all kinds of backup over there from those professionals, who regularly work on movies. There were people there who'd worked on the movie "Armageddon", they're world-class, so that was definitely a plus.

Asking about the individual songs

Interviewer: I wanted to ask you about the individual songs, and as promised, this game features a new arrangement of the chocobo theme. What would you call this version?

Uematsu: [The title for] this one might be particularly hard to understand, but I called it "Mods de Chocobo"...
It's short for "moderns", [a subculture who were] in London around the end of the '60s. Well, they were a sort of group of hip young men at the time. Those "Mods" had a certain kind of music they liked to listen to, and I tried to incorporate the image of that music into the song, but I'm afraid not too many will pick up on that. (Laughs)
I actually planned on using a song called "Voice de Chocobo", constructed from a person's voice, but I kept redoing it over and over again and it didn't work out. I also composed various songs such as "Ali Baba de Chocobo" and "Go Go de Chocobo", but I'm saving those for later. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Mr. Uematsu, what are some of your favorite tracks in "FFVIII"?

Uematsu: On the record, I should probably say "Eyes On Me", but to be honest I quite like the card game music. (Laughs)
That kind of music is nice, since I made it without thinking too much and just had fun with it. When I listen to it, I don't feel any kind of bitterness. But if I'm going to speak seriously about my favorites, I have to go with the ending [theme]. After the credits and staff roll, there's a space of about 8 [musical] bars during the scene where Squall and Rinoa are looking at each other. That's my favorite bit in the game. The sound and image just match up so well.

When I'm making music for the movie scenes, I'm always just attaching sound to the video, but there was a melody I strongly wanted to include in that one scene. So after I'd finished composing the music, I asked them to please include those 8 bars in that scene as a favor, and that part is the only one that's exactly how I decided it should be.

Interviewer: I've been interviewing many on the development staff this time, and there's quite a few people who're saying that the ending is the one thing they most want to see.

Uematsu: It has to be seen, definitely.

Interviewer: I was also moved when I heard the classic "FF" series "Prelude" playing alongside the staff roll.

Uematsu: As you might have noticed, that track didn't appear in the game at all this time. (Laughs)
But I arranged it to work with the ending, and I thought it fit well there, as a good note to go out on. Doesn't it just fit so well there? (Laughs)

Interviewer: Also, the intro to the battle themes from the games up to "VI" can be heard as part of the final boss theme, right?

Uematsu: I thought it was nice to bring back that old "da da da da", "da da da da" again. That, and to be honest, I also had a bit of trouble coming up with anything. (Laughs)
I used a chorus for Sephiroth's theme in "VII", so I couldn't do that two times in a row. Another thing with the intro to the final boss theme is that when I placed the speakers so that they formed a triangle with me and listened to it, it sounded like the music was coming from the outside and quickly proceeding towards the center in a clockwise direction. It gave the impression of a strange voice speaking behind me, and of various religions being rolled together into a big jumble. Don't you think it has a kind of twisting feeling?

Interviewer: Speaking of voices, Edea's theme has a chorus too. What language are they speaking?

Big caption: "The chorus in Edea's theme is actually an anagram"

Uematsu: It's a made-up language. I planned on explaining it somewhere, but "FITHOS LUSEC WECOS VINOSEC" is actually an anagram. If you line up the letters, carefully...
This is something I don't even think the development staff knows about. I haven't told anyone. (Laughs)

Interviewer: So what does it mean?

Uematsu: I think I'll keep that as a secret. It's a wonderful meaning.
FFVIII Creator Interview 4 – Movie Team (pp. 304-305)

"The work that's done by hand after motion capture is absolutely essential"

FFVIII Creator Interview 4 - Movie Team

Staff profiles [Left to right, top to bottom]

Movie Director
Motonori Sakakibara
Responsibilities: Supervising all the CG movies. The movies he personally worked on consist of the SeeD inauguration party, Edea's parade, the ending and more.

Movie Character Director
Hiroshi Kuwabara
Responsibilities: Character modeling, facial expressions, etc. He also contributed to the scenery surrounding the characters in the movie sequences.

Limited time and fixations

Interviewer: There's more than an hour's worth of movie sequences in total, so how many people were involved in making these splendid movies all in all on your team?

Sakakibara: Including those who joined us partway through, we had about 30 people interally...there were about 15 working on "VII", so I think you can consider it a doubling. But [on the other hand], we probably didn't use quite as many external staff [this time]. For "VII", we had a relatively higher number of movies building up the background [scenery] and presentation of the world, while we had more movies depicting the characters in this game, and we created all the sequences with people in them interally. So that probably means it was inevitable that we'd have fewer parts done externally [for this game].

Interviewer: Roughly how long did it take you to create them?

Kuwabara: For this game, we did nearly 700 cuts, and there's about 100 places in-game where movie sequences play, so it took us about a year to make it all.

Sakakibara: But that figure of a year includes things like turning the initial illustrations into CG, considering the total image and things like that, so making the actual movies took a little less time. But, well, we were told to finish up within that length of time, so we did. (Laughs)

Interviewer: It sounds like you had quite a variety of tasks to get on with. The quality of each movie was obviously high, but did any details change from the movies included with the demo that came with "Brave Fencer Musashi"?

Sakakibara: They're the same scenes, but it had Rinoa instead of Selphie, things like that. Squall and Zell had different clothes, too. If they were wearing SeeD uniforms, the characters wouldn't really stand out in the demo, so we decided to have them wear their personal outfits instead. It's probably a bit of a shame that only those who played the demo get to enjoy those movies, don't you think?

Interviewer: The scene in the intro where Squall and Rinoa embrace each other is different from the cut used in the game too, isn't it, with a different background and slightly different movements.

Sakakibara: There are several secrets hidden in the intro, things that start to make sense as hints if you watch them after you've finished the game at least once. The scene just before Squall and Rinoa embrace each other is one of these. When you watch that movie for the first time, you won't be able to tell what kind of scene it really is. As you proceed in the game, you finally come to understand the meaning behind it. I also thought it was a bit boring to just use the in-game movies exactly as they were for the intro, so we tried remaking them for the intro.

Interviewer: This was the second "FF" you've made for the Playstation, so were you able to take advantage of any know-how you gained from the development of "VII"?

Sakakibara: Frankly, we didn't really get too much use out of those techiques. Since we're doing new things every time, you could say that whatever [problems] we solved in the past are behind us now and don't really apply to this game. We might have been able to use some of that know-how if we were doing the same things we were for "VII", but the tools were completely different this time around, as well as the content we were trying to realize. Also, in my opinon the best way to think about it is that the staff themselves grew [in skill], and that the quality of the work became correspondingly higher as a result.

Secrets of the ending movie

Interviewer: What is the one thing you'd like to see the most with "VIII"'s characters?

Kuwabara: When it comes to presenting the characters, this is is a little abstract, but what I'd most like to see is for the characters designed by Mr. Tetsu (Character Designer Tetsuya Nomura) to be overflowing with his [particular] feel, rather than being [overly] realistic. There's a trend for CG images to move towards photorealism, but with "VIII" we tried to unify the feel of the illustrations and the CG as much as possible, and I'd like players to see them as a cohesive whole. The question was how the characters Mr. Tetsu had drawn by pen would blend seamlessly into a realistic world. I also hope players won't overlook how lively and expressive the characters are in the heart of the drama.

Interviewer: All the movements of the characters during the movie sequences were realized using motion capture (a technique where the movments of humans in real life are translated into data), and I'd say the dancing and hand-to-hand combat scenes are particular highlights.

Sakakibara: For this game, we held an audition for the actors (the people who would serve as models for the motions). We watched them, thinking things like "this person moves like Squall would", or "that's probably the way Rinoa would walk". Since these people would be working as motion models, whether their faces resembled the characters didn't figure into it at all. Rather, we thought it was very important that they should have the right feel to suit the character, so we emphasized that when we hired the actors. We also considered age. The main characters are teenagers, so it was tricky to get those movements right when we were going to use actors in their thirties.

Interviewer: The entire second half of the ending staff roll seems to consist of the categories [ACTORS], [ACTION ACTORS] and [DANCERS], with the names of all those people who worked to bring those motions to life.
Sakakibara: We'd spend one or two full days per month in the studio with those actors, recording motion data. But there's a lot of different tasks involved in doing motion capture after the data recording, so it'd take about two months before we could show the actors the finished movie sequence. WHen users hear the term "capture", they might think of it as an automatic process that takes no effort, but that's a complete misunderstanding. Some might say that "FFVIII" has great character motions because we used motion capture, but I think the work that's done by hand afterwards is absolutely essential. The result wouldn't be as good as it is if that job was done by just anyone.

Interviewer: One of the movie scenes from this game that left a lasting impression on me was the part during the SeeD inauguration party where Rinoa raises her index finger...

Sakakibara: Did you pick up on the significance of that pose?

Interviewer: Well, I thought she was asking Squall, "are you alone?".

Kuwabara: Seems like everyone interprets it that way.

Interviewer: Oh, is that the wrong way to look at it?

Sakakibara: Rinoa strikes the same pose during the ending, and in that case she's definitely not asking if he's alone. (Laughs)
To answer your question, she's pointing at a shooting star during both scenes. But since there's so many people who believe the "are you alone?" explanation, it seems like that alone was enough to give the scene where they meet a strong impact, so in that sense we achieved our intention anyway.

Interviewer: I also found the movie that plays during the ending staff roll breathtaking, the one that looks like it was shot with a handheld camera. The idea to recreate the camera shaking as if held by hand in CG was a very nice touch, and work very well.

Sakakibara: I'll reveal the trick for that one. When we did the motion capture, we put capture points on the camera too. That way, we were able to capture the movements of the camera along with the actor's performance. Don't you think the realistic camera shaking really helps make the whole scene feel more real? That was an idea we had in mind ever since we started development.

Interviewer: The characters give very convincing performances in that sequence.

Kuwabara: That really is an all-star performance, relatively speaking. We wanted the characters to move around in a lively way, even up to the very end.

Sakakibara: To give some behind-the-scenes detail on that movie, there were some limitations with the motion capture, so we couldn't get data from more than two or three people at the same time. When we had scenes filled with many people, we had to capture many times and then mix it all together afterwards. It was pretty hard to get the timing right.

Interviewer: By the way, the person next to Zell in that video really is the librarian with the pigtails, right?

Sakakibara: Yep. The event team asked us to make sure she was put in there no matter what. (Laughs)
Apart from her, we created quite a few characters for the ending who appear in FMV form for the first time there. Such as Ellone, or Raine. The same goes for Laguna, too.

Interviewer: For "VII", there were some complaints from fans who thought it was a shame that Yuffie and Vincent didn't appear in the ending movie. Did you have any thoughts about that on your side?

Sakakibara: Yes, we did. The rest was probably due to Mr. Nomura's emotional attachment to those characters. Kiros and Ward only appear in a short segment, but that comes down to the fact that we had a limited amount of working time again, so...
Even though we did Fujin and Raijin properly, Kiros and Ward had to make do with that kind of treatment. It's sort of sad, isn't it? (Laughs)
FFVIII Creator Interview 5 – Event Team (pp. 354-355)

"Squall and Rinoa probably got about a third of the way towards true love"

FFVIII Creator Interview 5 - Event Team

Staff profiles, from bottom left

Scenario Writer
Kazushige Nojima
Responsibilities: Scenario writing, including the dialogue for each character

Even Script Programmer
Shun Moriya
Responsibilities: Programming to connect the game screen to the movie sequences, as well as event-related programming

Even Director
Hiroki Chiba
Responsibilities: Direction for every kind of event. He personally created those in Balamb Garden, etc.

Map Director
Masaru Oka
Responsibilities: Handling the pipeline to the graphics team. Compiling map layouts.

Map Director
Takeshi Endo
Responsibilities: Map ID management. Also played a big part in linking [gameplay] to the movie sequences.

World Map Director
Ikuya Dobashi
Responsibilities: Setting up the regions, events and draw points on the world map.

An evolution using the previous game as a base

Interviewer: I'd like to start by asking you about the world map. The names for the various regions are really detailed in this game, don't you think?

Dobashi: I actually wanted to go into even more detail with the names. (Laughs)
There are still regions with the same name, even if there's an ocean between them, things like that.

Nojima: We kind of thought that the more detailed we could make it, the better.

Dobashi: We also wanted to make events on the world map that would use the names of the regions. Things like the Obel Lake sidequest. Apart from that, we also wanted to engange players' imaginations and construct the world by giving names to the regions.

Interviewer: Mr. Moriya, you worked on programming to integrate the movies, and in this game it was hard to see the boundary between regular gameplay and movies.

Moriya: Yes, in the last game it was easy to tell whenever a movie started. Everything changed, from the tone of the colors onwards. To deal with that, we did things like making the colors of the map and the movie overlap for about the first 5 frames (30 tenths of 5 seconds). [I think, but I'm not the best at Japanese numbers and numerical terms, so could be off]
During that overlap, we'd match the colors of the map and the movie, making them hard to tell apart.

Interviewer: There's also quite a few scenes with polygon characters moving around on top of movie sequences, right?

Moriya: We did a little of that on the last game for testing purposes, so we all knew it was possible to handle something like that. From one to the other, it felt like the characters were riding around in those scenes...(Laughs) [A bit unsure about this part, sorry]

Interviewer: Mr. Oka, you were in charge of map layout. Were there any changes from the last game?

Oka: In the last game, the majority of the buildings were deformed. But since the characters had realistic proportions in this game, we had to make everything bigger this time around. And in the last game, we often had a complete town in one map, while we made towns in this game by having single streets as one map and tying them all together to form a city. We paid a lot of attention to getting those connections right.

Endo: There was also some content related to maps we had to cut. We were going to make something like the competition screen in a racing game, separated into an upper and a lower part.

Interviewer: Upper and lower part?

Endo: To explain it in more detail, the lower screen would have an image like an observational camera, while the upper screen would follow the player character in the usual way. But since the player could go outside the range of the observational camera when moving to his or her destination, we couldn't implement it due to memory capacity problems. We planned to use it for the scene where you're going to the secret area inside the Garden training facility.

Chiba: Also, the fact that the characters had realistic proportions didn't just affect the maps; it had an influence on the events too. Since their movements became so delicate, it took a lot of work just to make one event scene. But even so, I still kind of think it wasn't enough. (Laughs)

The reasons for choosing Faye Wong

Interviewer: So, Mr. Nojima, the theme for this game is love.

Nojima: I'm 35 years old, while Squall and Rinoa are 17. To this day, I'm still asking myself what love is, and while the two of them probably do experience love in the course of the story, I'd say they probably only get about a third of the way towards true love.

Interviewer: I thought it was a nice touch how you made [Squall] gradually show more goodwill over the course of the story, instead of being all over Rinoa from the beginning.

Nojima: Early on, once I heard that "this game will have a deep love story", I braced myself for the worst. (Laughs)

Chiba: Whether or not you bring Rinoa to the missile base has a significant effect on the events following afterwards.

Nojima: When you're playing the game, don't you feel tempted to use the all-girls party of Selphie, Quistis and Rinoa that's only possible at that point? (Laughs)
But on the other hand, if you insist on sending Rinoa to the missile base, the Garden part becomes a bit dull. (Laughs)

Endo: In that case, Rinoa won't wake you up with her "Morning!". You get Zell coming to wake you up instead. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Mr. Nojima, one thing that's changed about the "FF" series in my opinion since the earlier games you've worked on is that the games now depict the inner lives of the characters more in various ways. Isn't that right?

Nojima: Yeah, and I think it's probably a change for the better. But even I want the characters to just get on with things sometimes, instead of worrying about it like they always do.

Interviewer: It might just have ended up being silly if you'd tried to do that kind of portrayal of the characters' inner lives in the games up to "VI", since they were 2D RPGs with a head-body ratio of 2.

Nojima: Back in the days with that head-body ratio, we kind of wanted things to proceed at a brisk pace. Now that we can give the characters various motions and have them perform more like actors, it's possible for us to include longer dialog sequences. I've always thought that the dialogus could get shorter as the characters became better at "acting", but we've effectively got quite a few long dialogs. (Laughs)

Big caption

It's been a while since we had such a challenging final dungeon.

Interviewer: By the way, Mr. Nojima, is it right that you were the one who discreetly handed out the Faye Wong CD when you all on the staff were choosing the singer for "Eyes On Me"?

Nojima: Yeah, I was already a fan. (Laughs)
But even if the others on the staff would come to like her, I never imagined she'd be the one to do the song for us. She's not really that big here in Japan, and I personally thought we might get Mariah Carey, that's basically how I felt at the time.

Interviewer: Either way, the event on board the Ragnarok where "Eyes On Me" plays is rather powerful.

Nojima: Powerful, powerful, absolutely. (Laughs)

Chiba: It's powerful all the way from the "hug me!" event, I'd say. This one was a bit embarrassing when we were putting the event into the game. (Laughs)
When I read Mr. Nomura's writing, I can imagine all the motions, so it became kind of like, "yeah, let's do it this way!". (Laughs)

Interviewer: Also, while we're on the subject of events, the difficulty of Ultimecia's castle, the final dungeon in this game, really left an impression on me.

Oka: Since we made the world more realistic in this game, we didn't really get a chance to include some of the typical RPG tropes, like doors that open when you press a switch and so on. It kind of feels like we took our revenge for that in the final dungeon. Well, since it's a witch's castle, it makes sense that there's all these contraptions to guard against intruders, right?

Endo: It's been a while since we had such a challenging final dungeon. [A little unsure about the exact term here, should be something like that]

Oka: That's basically because you get no hints. We made it with the intention that it'd be a place to overcome opposition, to be the hardest final dungeon in the "FF" series, so I'd definitely like players to try unlocking all the seals.
FFVIII Creator Interview 6 (pp. 464-467)

"Thinking of the promise, from a defenseless position, we all tried to make an love story that would be intense to the end"

FFVIII Creator Interview 6

Staff profiles, top to bottom

Yasunori Kitase
Responsibilities: Direction for the game as a whole, directed some individual event scenes
"The development of "VIII" took roughly a year. All the way to the very end, I kept working so hard I thought I'd die, but when it was over, there were still things I wished I could have included. But that's one of the best things about game development. That way, you've still got something to do for the next game."

Main Programmer
Ken Narita
Responsibilities: Supervising all 12 programmers
"I often hear people saying how hard it must be to unify the code with so many people involved, but I try to committ myself to an effective way of doing things. Or at least that's what I've been trying to do since "IV".

From "VII" to "VIII"

Interviewer: If you play through all the content, this game is bigger than the previous ones, isn't it?

Kitase: Early on, we made the whole game rather compact in terms of length, and it'd feel short if you just played through it once. But we decided to make it so it could be played through many times, which made the content go a long way. Also, as we included various elements such as the scenario, movie sequences, battles, item data, the card game and so on, the whole thing effectively grew to be really big. When we came to the second half of development, I was surprised myself to see how big the game had become. But that doesn't mean all this content was forced. We were able to genuinely advance the story, and looked at every nook and cranny to find enjoyable things for the player to do. I think we succeeded in creating that kind of game.

Interviewer: Were you planning to use four discs from the beginning?

Narita: That's what we were expecting. We barely managed to scrape by with three discs for the previous game. But once we knew this game would have four discs partway through development, we had some pressure on us to make sure it wouldn't end up being five, so that was tough. As a programmer, I worried quite a bit about whether it'd all fit or not during development.

Interviewer: When development ended on the last game, and you knew you'd be making "VIII", the next one, what was the first thing that went through your mind?

Kitase: When we did "VII", we switched hardware to the Playstation, we started using polygon characters and beautiful CG, and the whole look of the game changed completely. On the other hand, going from "VII" to "VIII", the hardware was the same, and we could use the same techniques to to handle polygons, CG and so on. For "VIII", we had to focus our efforts on how do give the CG the appeal of a cohesive painting, how to make the scenario as good as it could be, how much we could do with the game systems, things like that. I'd say those were the real changes. Those were the first things I thought about.

Interviewer: Every game in the "FF" series changes the game system in some way, suggesting new ways to play. Was it hard to come up with a way to change the system for the eighth time?

Kitase: It's hard, but on the other hand, we tried to keep some of the interesting elements from earlier games in the series, and changing the system doesn't mean we get rid of everything...but it might be a good thing not to be absolutely tied to specific parts either. When we've put the game together, we always do a bit of playtesting among the development staff, but since the system is different every time, it's enjoyable even for us. In my opinion, it's very important to the game whether or not we enjoy that playtesting.

New programming techniques

Interviewer: Programming-wise, what parts improved compared to the previous game?

Narita: The 3-4 head-body ration for the characters in the last game was well received in Japan, but it was apparently seen as a bit odd by people in Europe and America. Since we wanted to target the entire world, we decided we'd definitely increase the head-body ratio this time around. So we decided to make the connections between the characters' joints look better, things like the last game, you couldn't really see how the different parts were connected at all, right? We wanted to improve this to reach the same quality level as a fighting game. To do that, we had to spend a lot more time on computer management for character use. So I did a lot of things to that end, such as completely rewriting the programs I'd written in C language for the previous game in assembly (a programming language allowing for rapid processing), or coming up with a way to improve processing speeds.

Kitase: For this game, our main requests to the programmers were to increase the characters' head-body ratio, apply textures to their bodies, and also to have all three characters in the party walking on the field at the same time. It was quite a tall order.

Narita: Having three characters on the field at once was the hardest part, and in terms of programming I kept asking myself "are we really doing this?" all the way to the very end.

Kitase: Early on, we also had plans to have the monsters walking around the field maps.

Narita: That's right. We were quickly able to put a huge polygonal dragon in the first town, lumbering around blocking the road and leading to a battle if the player touched it. It wasn't really the kind of enemy you'd fight at that point in the game, but more something where the player would think, "Hmm, guess I'll come back and fight this guy 50 hours down the line". You sometimes see these kinds of enemies in the early parts of games, I think. But we were able to implent it in the final game due to the workload involved and problems with processing speed.

Kitase: As a kind of replacement, we did some other interesting things on the programming side for this game instead.

Narita: Ah, that thing...unlike in the previous game, during movie sequences in "VIII", the polygon characters can walk behind objects shown in the movie.

Kitase: We had real-time characters moving around on top of movie backgrounds several times in the previous game too, but this time they could also walk behind the movie backgrounds...for example, we could have the characters walking between the pillars in a corridor shown in a movie sequence. I also think we have more places where you can keep control of the characters during movies compared to the previous game. Don't you think we managed to get across the feeling of the characters stepping into the world of the movies rather well?

Narita: Maybe other people developing games for the Playstation will think "huh, how did they do that?". The movie sequences are basically like a picture-show story, where you want to show the pictures one at a time, and there's no depth to it. If you're doing it the usual way, it's not possible to do things like hide the characters beind parts of the movie scenery. A quick and easy method of doing this would be to cover the characters with a picture of the same part of the movie, but that would be way too slow in terms of processing time. In "VIII", we use a secret technique instead. (Laughs)

The true meaning behind "a fusion of games and movies"

Interviewer: Mr. Kitase, when you were working on the previous game, you said that "you wanted to bring together the interesting aspects of games and movies respectively". With "VIII", do you feel you were able to achieve that goal?

Kitase: Well, talking about a fusion of games and movies could lead to a lot of misunderstandings. What I want to say is that I'd like to take the good parts of movies and incorporate them in games. For example, the screen might show a mountain off in the distance, and then the camera suddenly gives us a close-up of it. We should be able to do that kind of thing on current hardware. Up until the current generation, games have only been shown from what you might call a god's point of view, with a series of maps seen from above strung together. But these days, we're able to use cinematic techniques, with things like camera angles and compositions. With that being the case, I want to learn from movies and use those things in the best possible way.

Interviewer: Still, having the game actually be fun to play as a game has to be the most important thing, right?

Kitase: Yes. We want to paint a beautiful picture with the graphics, but that absolutely doesn't mean we're going to neglect the core parts of the game. I'd rather say that we're now finally able to bring the graphics up to the level of the audio and the core game, since they're not held back by hardware limitations as much as they used to be. There really has been a remarkable improvement from before, so the graphics might stand out in particular compared to the rest of the game.

Interviewer: I see.

Kitase: Oh, and one more thing. Let's say it takes 50 hours to play through the game from the intro to the ending, and suppose you were able to play through all those 50 hours without interruption. In that case, what I'd like is for you not to experience it as a collection of various videogame-y things strung together digitally, like, "this is a world map scene", "there's a battle scene", "oh, here comes a mini-game", and so on. Rather, I'd like to you experience all the elements, from the intro to the ending, as a single cohesive work. If I were to try to explain that vision in simple terms, you might possibly call it a fusion between games and movies. With this game, I think we managed to come one step closer to that ideal.

Cut affection values

Interviewer: So, the theme for the scenario in this game is "love".

Kitase: It's a difficult thing, isn't it, love? I actually think there's been a lot of love on show in earlier RPGs too. You're gathering a party, there's usually men and women there, and somehow, something like a love story tends to pop up, almost as if promised. With this game, we thought we might catch everyone off guard with the [explicit] "promise" part...we thought we could do a natural love story that way, but on the other hand, we also had a concept that we wanted to do it properly and thoroughly. Even if we'd had straightforward love stories before, we wanted to take it further into territory we hadn't explored yet.

Interviewer: Were you set on that concept from the time you started planning?

Kitase: No, it was slightly different in the beginning. In the last game, we had hidden affection values called "love parameters" for three of the female characters; Aerith, Tifa and Yuffie. Depending on the actions of the player, they'd get a different partner for the date event, and different characters would show affection for the main character, things like that. For this game, Nomura (Character Designer Tetsuya Nomura) wanted to do the same thing, giving these values to Rinoa, Selphie and Quistis, and have their reactions changed according to the activities of the main character. However, after a lot of discussion, Nomura and Nojima (Scenario Writer Kazushige Nojima) decided that Rinoa had a special significance for the story they wanted to do.

For example, Nomura had the idea that he wanted Squall and Rinoa to have a fated meeting at the SeeD inauguration ball. When he heard that with affection values, Squall might dance with Selphie or Quistis depending on the player, he said that Rinoa should be the only possibility. It's clear that he had a special attachment to Rinoa. So we scapped the affection values and limited it to Rinoa only. By focusing on her this way, we could do something different from what we'd done before...that's how we persuaded Nomura and Nojima. We requested that Nojima, who would be actually writing the scenario, should make it a rich, deep story about the love between the two main characters. But that means the story in this game was a bit of a risky gamble. I've also talked to Nojima about this, but people's impression of "VIII" will be totally different depending on whether or not they like Rinoa.

Interviewer: Among the party members, Squall and Rinoa are the only ones whose names the player can change, right?

Kitase: That's right. When it comes to RPG characters, I think there's a lot of people who like naming them after themselves and the person they like, and since Quistis is the first female character who shows up in this game, it could become problematic later in the game if player gave her their girlfriend's name. In that case, they'd end up hooking up with a different woman from the one with their girlfriend's name. (Laughs)
Because of that, we decided to make Squall and Rinoa the only ones whose names you can change.

Interviewer: This game definitely had a very happy ending. Were there any particular parts where you tried to make a contrast with the much sadder ending to "VII"?

Kitase: To be honest...yes. This goes for the way it ended too, but the setting was also dark and oppressive in "VII", from the beginning in Midgar where you couldn't even see the sky. We wanted to do something very different for this game...we wanted to make it a brighter tale. At first, I didn't know if he was joking or not, but Nomura said he wanted to do a story in a school setting. Early on, we didn't really know how to do it, but with the keyword of a school setting, we all eventually decided on going with a bright image, and we got the green light. That was really the point where we decided on the direction for "VIII".

Towards the next game

Interviewer: For the two of you, what are your favorite scenes in "VIII"?

Kitase: I worked on lots of events myself, so I'm fond of all of those, but leaving them aside...I'll have to go with the ending.

Narita: I also think the ending in this game is very good.

Kitase: With the movie where the characters are having a good time and waving a handheld camera around, I think we managed to convery the excitement of the characters well using a combination of CG technology and good ideas.

Interviewer: I suppose it's a scene you really want those who bought the game to see.

Kitase: That's right. I think their appreciation of "VIII" might change depending on whether or not they get to see it.

Narita: When I saw it for the first time, I got goosebumps, and it's been a long time since a game did that to me. It's just that kind of scene. Maybe we can have this kind of direction in the next game too, seeing a move towards that.

Interviewer: Since you mentioned "the next one", I want to end by asking if you have any particular goals in mind for the development of your next game?

Narita: If the characters keep getting more realistic, I think it'll become harder to control them using the control methods we have now. Even if everything else gets more real, the controls still work just like a radio-controlled can we make them move more through their own will? That's the question.

Kitase: I'm not saying it's necessarily because the graphics have become more realistic, but there used be all these symbolic things you could only get away with in games...for example, having one character walking around on the world map by himself, then turning into three people when you enter a town. I want to make these special rules a little more acceptable again. But since they can ruin the feel of the game too, I don't want to end up with a game that's full of nothing but them. You have to find the right balance. Game, story, direction, you have to make sure not to neglect any of those parts, and decide how to balance them correctly. For our next game, I think we have to focus on paying even more attention that we have been doing until now to get those things right.

Screenshot caption: Scenes where the characters are walking behind the movie scenery. It's hard to notice due to the natural processing, but this is an aspect that's been improved from the previous game.

The Twilight Mexican

Ex-SeeD-ingly good
How did I overlook this thread until now? What a treasure trove!

Interviewer: Still, having the game actually be fun to play as a game has to be the most important thing, right?

Kitase: Yes. We want to paint a beautiful picture with the graphics, but that absolutely doesn't mean we're going to neglect the core parts of the game.
I'd like to introduce today's Kitase to himself from 14 years ago.
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