Final Fantasy XIII As Rated By Focus Groups

By Spencer . March 12, 2010 . 2:51pm

You’ve played Final Fantasy XIII, read reviews, maybe even user reviews from Amazon Japan. Before those came out, Square Enix had focus groups (you know, the opinions Square Enix listens to while the game is in development) rate Final Fantasy XIII’s story, characters, and game balance. This is what they thought.




This slide came from the Director of Final Fantasy XIII’s, , GDC presentation. From left to right Motomu Toriyamathe ratings are: story, character, game balance, battle, field, movies, and sound. Opinions from Japan’s focus group are in blue and US focus group data is in yellow.


The Japanese group enjoyed the story and characters more than the US focus group. Perhaps, this may be due to the story design, which was has an undercurrent of elements from Japanese culture. Toriyama compared the theme to Japanese society where if you drop out it’s almost impossible to come back. However, there is hope to recover. Lighting and the fal’cie share a similar trail where they need to fight against how people percieve them. In the USA, the focus group rated the battle and field elements higher.


Check back next week for a detailed interview with Motomu Toriyama where he answered (most) of your questions.

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  • mFrog

    Field=0 in Japan, Sound=0 in US?
    I got all excited reading about the GDC presentation of the FF13 sound engine “MASTS”. I’m now intently listening to every foot step!

  • Ereek

    Rather than Japanese society, I got “vibes” of 1984 coming all off of FFXIII’s story. That’s a very good thing.

    • TOTALLY! I thought I was the only one drawing this parallel, but I get that same chilling sense of paranoia in this game.

  • I just hope SE doesn’t tap Motomu Toriyama on the next FF15 project, i’m currently on the 2nd disc 18 hours in, and i still think the story sucks.

    And wow so low score in the sound??? I’m wondering if its because people automatically give it a low score because its “not-Uematsu”? Hamauzu is an awesome composer! Hate Dirge of Cerberus all you want, it had an awesome soundtrack.

    • Aoshi00

      I just rec’d my US copy tonight and played the beginning (the trophies and unlocked themes are shared w/ the Jpn ver) , I must say the English localization is very well done and the script/datalog well translated. The dub is nice too, loving Sazh and Lightning’s voice, I think she’s Liara T’Soni from Mass Effect. I’m not very familiar w/ US voice actors.

      Yeah, my sentiments exactly, I hope Toriyama Motomu would be off the main FF team and won’t go near FF15.. the initial scenario/concept by Nojima Kazushige I don’t have problem w/, it’s the execution of the narrative was shallow at best..

      Hamauzu’s soundtrack is amazing, some Uematsu wouldn’t hurt, their collaboration (w/ Nakano Junya) on X was so good and so was Lost Odyssey’s, it just felt something w/ missing w/o his unique contribution. That’s why I would like him to return on FF15, but now w/ him doing FF14 Online 2, I’m afraid it might not be happening… I mean let the main do a real FF soundtrack, not just a theme song or an MMO game..

    • thebanditking

      Personally I really like the story and cast for FFXIII, though I would like them to use someone else for FF15 (just to keep things fresh). Im also not understanding the low score on the music, from what I have heard so far its brilliant.

  • JeremyR

    Also, to be blunt, one of the characters would be considered a very tacky stereotype in the US out of 1920s-30s Hollywood. Indeed, I’m shocked there hasn’t been more outroar about him, other than some grumbling here and there.

    • Aoshi00

      You don’t mean Sazh by any chance right? I thought he’s one of the best characters among the bunch (not hard when you compare to Snow and Hope), he’s both mature and funny. So he has an afro, why not. So to have a black guy on the team is too sensitive? I’m glad people didn’t go bananas and make an issue out of this like RE5. How about Barret’s &#%^.. unless you don’t mean Sazh then I complete misunderstood.

      • mFrog

        I wouldn’t think it’s Sazh if Jeremy’s talking about 1920-30s Hollywood stereotypes. He would have made Gone With the Wind much more lively and intelligent. Could it be Hope, as the Lion in Wizard of Oz? Or Vanille with Charlie Chaplin’s lively reflexes? Perhaps Lightening can be so silent at times that she could appear in a silent film.

        I guess the only person who might really appear in films back then would be Snow as some action hero. Me Tarzan! Roar! (And Hope as Jane)

    • outroar about Sazh? why would there be?

      • Jirin

        The same people who are saying that Avatar is racist. The knee-jerk PC people who demand every character with an ounce of pigment in their skin be a socially progressive ‘example’ for their entire ethnicity.

        But video games seem to be immune. I mean, if they’re not mad about Cole Train they’re certainly not going to whine about Sazh.

  • mach

    Wow. So these focus groups are representative of what exactly? I mean, how could you even conduct a focus group for a game this long? Do you force participants to play through the entire thing in some condensed period of time? If so, that’s hardly representative of the average player and their experiences, moreover, the type of people who have the time to do such a thing (and are willing to do it) are also not likely to be representative of normal gamers or people in general.

    Most marketing firms are actually moving away from focus groups, because they realize just how useless this type of research is. Moreover, in entertainment, they can create an endless cycle of post-production hell where producers are constantly retooling their product again and again just to meet whatever silly demands the focus group du jour has come up with. Maybe if Square just let it’s creators develop the game they wanted to develop (instead of wasting time soliciting useless consumer feedback like this), the game wouldn’t have taken so damn long to finish.

  • metonymy

    The guys who rated the sound low are pretty much idiots. This game is both a visual / audio feast, as with most FF games. The video and stage designs is fantastic and meticulously done, again, as with most FF games. The music is pretty well done and the sound FX aren’t bad at all. But I haven’t played the game without 5.1 at all yet, so I can’t say for sure.

  • thebanditking

    I think it goes without saying that using focus groups as a part of game design is a bad idea. Game design, like any other created media (movies & music), is at its best when its about free thinking and collaboration. There is something lost when you take feedback like this and use it as a means to tailor or change elements of a game, rather then just letting creativity flow naturally.

  • Jirin

    For me the story is pretty average for a video game, but the production value is high enough that it’s okay. I couldn’t stand FF7, 8, and 10 because I couldn’t stand the characters, with their obnoxious attitudes, teenage angst and entitled whining.

    But the thing I appreciate most about FF13 is the speed of combat. Combat has moved so slow in Final Fantasy since 7, and in 13 it moves even faster than the SNES ones. The increased combat speed alone might make it my favorite numbered FF since 6.

    Though 13 really, really needs to open up all the options of the combat system faster!

  • Jirin

    The story is cliche, but it’s not any *more* cliche than every other FF. And the characters are a lot better than we’ve seen in FF for a long time. None of the entitled narcissism of Squall or whiny daddy issues of Tidus. Also no pointless characters who are just tagging along like Vaan or Penelo.

    But what I like the most about FFXIII is the speed of combat. Ever since 7, combat has been so slow. Regular attacks have taken upwards of five seconds, summons over a minute. FFXIII is even faster than the SNES ones! That’s something RPGs badly need. Based on the speed alone FFXIII might be my favorite numbered FF since VI.

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