Details from Iwata Asks: The Last Story

Posted under News, Wii
February 3, 2012 by (@NE_Brian)

Nintendo of Europe has published the translated version of the Iwata Asks discussion featuring The Last Story. Satoru Iwata, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and Kimihiko Fujisaka participated in the interview.

Head past the break for details on the game world, graphics, and a while lot more.

Directing Again After Eighteen Years

– Iwata gets the feeling that a lot of people consider Sakaguchi as being far removed from all things Nintendo
– Iwata believes there may be a point in the past when that was true, but doesn’t consider him as being distant from Nintendo
– Sakaguchi was with Iwata when ASH was unveiled
– Sakaguchi left Square in 2003
– He took a break, and then worked on the development of numerous titles
– Sakaguchi started to reflect as he finished these projects, feeling that he might have been a little out of step with the times/was at a slightly different point from everyone else
– The Last Story came about at around this time, and so he feels a great sense of gratitude towards the game
– Sakaguchi is grateful to have worked on a really large-scale project and it gave him a chance to get away from his usual formula for making games
– Sakaguchi was searching for a new challenge, so he was grateful for the opportunity even though he was nervous
– He was worried how people would respond to his ideas
– Sakaguchi strongly felt that he should enjoy working on The Last Story
– As director, Sakaguchi felt he had to really lay himself bare
– Sakaguchi hadn’t worked as a director since Final Fantasy V; first time in 18 years as director
– According to Iwata, Miyamoto occasionally joins the dev team; although it seems like grueling work, he’ll get a spring in his step and say “You can’t beat working with the dev team!”
– Sakaguchi is the same in this regard
– Things you couldn’t see before become clear when you join the dev team
– The staff started out with the story and worldview when starting out
– Sakaguchi has always attached great importance to the story
– Delivering the story was difficult back in the day since they had to consider how to convey the story to players under big restrictions
– Sakaguchi: “Now that high-quality graphics rule supreme, you can reproduce what you want to communicate visually, but at the same time, I don’t know how to put this, but there’s an element that’s slightly excessive about it all… You end up communicating too much to the player.”
– With The Last Story, Sakaguchi “pressed reset and returned to the basics of what a game is”
– The team repeatedly experimented with the system side at the prototype stages of development
– They knew they wanted something that differed from the way things had been done before
– They also wanted to express the game world + story in a whole new style
– Sakaguchi feels the team gave it absolutely everything they had
– Sakaguchi joked that if he missed it up, he’d be forced to retire

A Woman You Could Really Fall For

– Sakaguchi considers the look in a game and its characters to be extremely important
– Fujisaka helped flesh out the graphic images for The Last Story and helped make the gameworld possible
– Fujisaka was given a lot of leeway in doing things his way when coming up with the graphics
– Sakaguchi and Fujisaka have only known each other 3-4 years (at the time of the interview)
– Fujisaka was involved at the very start
– Steady progress was made once development was under way
– Sakaguchi is a big fan of Fujisaka’s female character images
– Sakaguchi would “be completely bowled over” if a woman like the one in The Last Story logo existed
– There were instances in which the game world + character personalities were adjusted to fit with Fujisaka’s character images
– Sakaguchi feels that it was in large part due to Fujisaka’s abilities that the graphics in The Last Story turned out the way they did
– Fujisaka thinks of Sakaguchi as “a lot like the nice older kid who lives next door”

A Prototype With Moving Blocks

– The plot emerged as Sakaguchi, Fujisaka, and a programmer were in a heated discussion about the philosophy/style differences in Japanese and Western RPGs and the images shown in promotional videos
– The team spend a long time playing around with the prototype initially – about 1.5 years
– This stage took longer than Final Fantasy VII, which took about a year
– For the initial prototype, characters were square blocks milling about on the screen
– There isn’t a need for beautiful graphics when thinking about the fundamentals of how the game will function
– Although the prototype stage was tough at times, it was mostly fun according to Sakaguchi
– They made a Test Dungeon, which is still on the game program used for final production
– The dungeon is a square, dull, and featureless
– When they were working on improving the system, everyone would go to the dungeon room and everyone would play
– The Test Dungeon was a big help from the early stages since they could gauge how much progress they had made
– The team rejected ten times the amount of ideas that they chose to use in the final game, in terms of the game system
– Sakaguchi jokes that they could probably make another couple of games using the material they discarded
– Sakaguchi on the game system: “This may be a rather highfalutin way of putting it, but I would say it’s all about ‘order’ and ‘chaos’. In battle, the side that manages to impose ‘order’ on the battlefield will secure victory. Or to put it the other way round, disrupting the ‘order’ of your enemy so it degenerates into ‘chaos’ is the key to victory. That’s something I wanted to express in the battle scenes in the game. But I didn’t want this to be achieved in a logical, methodical manner like Japanese chess. I was looking for a more intuitive battle system in which you can feel the flow of time.”
– Sakaguchi was aiming for a realistic and vivid system
– There was a UFO that would show up at the spot where enemies would appear – like a floating disc
– They discarded the “UFO”, but the system kept going through lots of modifications
– Fujisaka had to keep making images to fit with the changes
– Fujisaka got the impression that Sakaguchi likes to get the game system elements in place first and foremost
– Sakaguchi feels that the story is very important, but the new gameplay won’t function well if the storyline takes priority
– Sakaguchi believes that a story’s real drama comes out during battle
– With The Last Story, the staff made the system first, and then added the dramatic story sequences to fit with the system
– When Iwata saw The Last Story, he felt it was unlike any game he’d seen before; he was taken aback by the fact that there would be a story scene, but the camera wouldn’t automatically focus on it
– Sakaguchi thought that this would add to the richness of the game world

Set In A Single City

– The action in The Last Story takes place in one city, Lazulis City
– Sakaguchi wanted players to like this city since they’ll spend lots of time there
– Lazulis City reminded Iwata of Wuhu Island
– Iwata: “Iwata: Wuhu Island originated in Miyamoto-san’s belief that it would be fun to play games in a place everyone was already familiar with. In other words, by visiting the same place again and again, you’d see more and more of its features and learn more about it.”
– One of the passers-by will barge into you with their shoulder early on and say “Hey! What are you doing?”; when the hero becomes a little established, he’ll later say “Oh, I’m terribly sorry”
– Since Lazulis City is huge with so much going on, Sakaguchi sometimes gets lost when going down some out-of-the-way backstreet
– There is a lot of graphical content specific to the city, including people dancing in the streets, playing the accordion, or sitting at the edge of the fountain
– Sakaguchi thinks people will find that there’s a certain “feel” to the game that runs throughout the adventure
– Fujisaka says that you aren’t given clear signs while playing
– Enemies move in a similar way to you
– You might get an enemy skeleton leaping right over your ally’s head
– The enemy’s movements and camera angle add to the general feeling of freedom
– Characters can be dressed
– Fujisaka put a lot of effort into the clothes
– Fast forward feature lets you watch cutscenes at twice the normal speed
– Even if you use the fast forward feature, you can still see the subtitles and follow the story
– Fast forwarding is Sakaguchi’s favorite feature
– Sakaguchi came up with the idea at an early stage
– Sakaguchi didn’t want to force people to watch the story

A Beauty That’s Almost Photographic

– Sakaguchi on making a game for Wii: “Sakaguchi: Okay. When I worked on hardware platforms with HD displays that were higher resolution than Wii, I placed a lot of importance on the workflow and the ‘pipeline’. This is something that is standard practice in the movie industry – ensuring that your work ‘pipeline’ is solidly in place, thereby ensuring you’ll create higher quality images. But this time round on Wii, I started by creating the prototype, and then worked on analysing that. That meant using a totally different method than I did for the hardware I’d worked on up to now.”
– Sakaguchi feels that HD images that have become mainstream in the TV industry are still over the top for video games
– Sakaguchi was averse to allowing the graphics quality to drop just because they were making a Wii title, which isn’t HD
– He believes they made something that can hold its own against other hardware
– They implemented rock and water textures and focused on motion
– Sakaguchi: “I made some of those calls myself, and of course the 3D art directors, including Fujisaka-san, also weighed in. We’d often have a drink and discuss the theory behind the game, deciding just what direction to take things in. People do tend to get the wrong idea about me if I don’t ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength.”
– Sakaguchi feels that people often think what he really wants are beautiful still images
– Sakaguchi looks to entrust as much as he can to other people since this will lead to good ideas you didn’t expect
– Sakaguchi still makes comments/suggestions, but the young staff does things under their own steam without Sakaguchi knowing about it
– Fujisaka initially wanted a slightly higher resolution to work with, but eventually realized that there was no real problem with things as they were
– Fujisaka came up with higher quality graphics than he thought possible
– Sakaguchi thinks the visuals have a beauty that’s almost photographic
– Not everything is sharp and clear; there are shadows in the background and slightly blurred elements that lend the graphics the feel of a photograph
– Sakaguchi believes they were able to achieve the perfect balance because The Last Story was on Wii
– Wii was easy to program for according to Sakaguchi
– The team was able to implement things down to the finest detail
– If you pass under a bridge, you’ll be bathed in sunlight; if you’re coming out of a dark area and pass under a bridge, everything around you will be bright in a soft way
– There are lots of touches like the above in the game
– Sakaguchi “couldn’t start limiting ourselves just because of the resolution of the Wii console”
– The 3D art directors gave it their all

A Game That Gives You Energy

– Fujisaka says making the city was a turning point since things gradually started coming together on the system side
– The team felt that if they keep this up, they’d get the job done
– City started coming together at the start of 2009
– Sakaguchi didn’t think the city would end up with so much life in it
– The staff pulled together to surprise Sakaguchi
– Lots of changes made throughout development
– There was a turning point when the game was in its final stage, and Sakaguchi made a request; he can’t just leave something alone if it’ll make it more fun
– If something will improve the game, he’ll change it, and won’t compromise on that
– Sometimes Sakaguchi would be somewhat demanding and want things his own way; he was specifically harsh on the programmers
– Everyone’s morale remained high even with the changes
– Sakaguchi says this was possible because they started with a prototype; ” it was always a work in progress, rather than the finished article”
– Everyone shared the feeling that they had to keep working at things until they were satisfied with the results
– There was a point where Nintendo didn’t approve of the scenario
– This was the first reset point for the project
– Fujisaka thought this was tough since he had already made a lot of the graphics
– The world Fujisaka originally made was bleak, so he’s happy that it turned out as it did
– Characters were given more depth by simplifying the world and giving it a fantasy setting
– Sakaguchi feels that the world has a real depth to it
– Adjustments made to the scenario was beneficial to the game system
– The player fights with their allies, and this connects to the story and helps to flesh out the characters
– All of the characters are likable in the game

You can read the complete Iwata Asks here.

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