Interview

A rich game for a casual market: The making of Mobius Final Fantasy

A rich game for a casual market: The making of Mobius Final Fantasy

While it may not seem like a natural home for the classic RPG series, there have been a great number of Final Fantasy games that have found their way to mobiles.

That said, there haven't been all that many original titles - until 2016.

But while Final Fantasy Brave Exvius took the 2D route, the more recent Mobius Final Fantasy pushed for console-quality 3D graphics - a move that ruffled a few feathers at Square Enix.

To find out more about the game's development, we spoke to Producer Yoshinori Kitase about using Unity, bringing the game to the West and why Japanese games are so generous with premium items.

PocketGamer.biz: Where did the initial idea for Mobius Final Fantasy come from?

Yoshinori Kitase: As our goal was to create a game for mobile devices, there was actually a time when we considered developing a more casual puzzle-type game with simple game mechanics and rich graphics.

But after some trial and error, we came to the conclusion that if our target was dedicated players who usually play console games, we should make an app with a solid level of strategy in addition to vivid graphics, which would differentiate itself from other smartphone games.

Another factor that led to this decision was that the dev team consisted of members that had helped develop past Final Fantasy titles. This gave us confidence in bringing a game with solid gameplay and graphics to life.

The combat is more like a card-battler than a traditional Final Fantasy turn-based experience. Why did you decide to break away from the usual formula for this game?

As Mobius Final Fantasy has a turn-based style battle system, I don’t believe it breaks too far from tradition.

Having abilities set up as cards is an idea that aims to have players become more attached to their abilities.

Having Cait Sith on the card rather than just Cure can serve as a form of motivation for players. For example, a player may think: “This is a cool-looking card! I want to get this and level it up!”

That is why we had both internal and external staff work on art illustrations. I hope players can appreciate the drawings on the cards as well.

The most challenging aspect was ensuring a level of stability for all devices while offering console- like graphics.

How long did development take, and how many people worked on the game?

Development started in 2014, and the Japanese version was completed in a year and a half. The Western version took an additional year.

I cannot go into detail about how many people worked on the game, but the team is comparable in size to that of a project for a high-definition console game.

The game took an extra year to make it to the West after being released in Japan – what was the reason behind the delay?

We originally wanted to offer the Western version at the same time as the Japanese version.

This is a first for Square Enix, but we wanted to maintain direct control over the development and operation of the title instead of outsourcing the Western version as we normally do.

As such, the localisation for the West was delayed because operations in Japan were running in tandem.

Direct operation enables us not only to ensure quality, but also to directly take player feedback and reflect it onto the service.

What was the main draw for using Unity to develop the game?

This was the first time the development team was working with smartphone hardware, and since we were aiming for graphics that were close to HD-game quality, we wanted to visually confirm our approach on screen as fast as possible.

It also helped that the Unity team was supportive of our concept of creating a rich console-like experience for the smartphone.

We were able to build a relationship with them in which they would implement our opinions into Unity 5 at a very early stage.

However, while we were dependent on the Unity engine, we also customised most of the game editor portion by ourselves. The team’s engineers developed the tools necessary to build a complex system on par with previous Final Fantasy titles.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during development?

In a market where there is such a variety of mobile devices, the most challenging aspect was ensuring a level of stability for all devices while offering console-like graphics.

In Japan, we have an adage: 'Don’t learn it; get used to it.'

We did everything we could. We would change data formats depending on the device’s GPU, or switch display options depending on the device’s specs... You name it, we’ve done it.

At what stage in development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?

To be honest, when we started development, there were some nervous voices within the company that questioned the need for such a rich game in a market full of casual games.

But by the time the story, graphics, and strategy came together on the smartphone in ways that long-time Final Fantasy fans would expect, we were confident that we could deliver a new game based on the concept of "a rich gaming experience, anytime, anywhere".

The game is initially very generous with premium items that would otherwise require real money. Why did you choose to reward new players so well in the beginning?

By increasing the depth of strategy in the game, the rules became somewhat complicated, which can be seen as both a strength and weakness.

But in Japan, we have an adage: "Don’t learn it; get used to it."

This led to our belief that rather than explain the rules, it would be more effective to have the player experience the game, which is why we are generous with premium items at the start of the game.

How happy are you with the game's worldwide launch so far?

I think we’re off to a good start.

On one hand, it is true that we received customer feedback that was beyond what we had anticipated over slight changes in game balance and other differences from the Japanese version.

This is largely because expectations for the game were bigger than what we had imagined.

But the development team took advantage of the strengths of direct operation by taking in the community’s feedback to make improvements quickly.

This process really allowed us to experience firsthand the enthusiastic feedback we are receiving from players.

How soon can we expect the next episodes of the game to be released globally?

The story will go on hiatus for the month of September because we will be implementing multiplayer mode, but it won’t be long before we pick back up with the story.

What can you tell us about your future mobile projects?

Although I’d love to tell you about our future mobile plans, I am still giving my all to Mobius Final Fantasy!


Deputy Editor

Ric has written for PocketGamer.biz for as long as he can remember, and is now Deputy Editor. He likes trains.

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