The Last Story And Xenoblade Directors On Developing RPGs

By Laura . February 11, 2011 . 5:43pm

A few weeks back, Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, sat down for a chat with the designers of two very high-profile Nintendo-published RPGs.


This “Iwata Asks” session that brought together the minds of Tetsuya Takahashi and Hironobu Sakaguchi (with the occasional brilliant input from Iwata himself) focused on their recent games — Xenoblade and The Last Story, respectively — and their perceptions of role-playing games.


Interestingly, both Takahashi and Sakaguchi described their vision of their games as “romantic.” However, they both chose to express this sense of romance in different ways.


A Sense of Romance:


With Xenoblade, Takahashi was aiming for a romantic image; one that would “reach and resonate with as many people as possible and get them excited about the game.” Rather than telling Nintendo, “Do what we want you to do,” he said, “Do what you do best.” If you missed out, you can catch up with our extensive coverage of Xenoblade’s development to see how Monolith and Nintendo collaborated on the title.


In contrast, Sakaguchi wanted actual romantic relationships in The Last Story, but as production continued, the game took a direction of its own. Currently, the game greatly focuses on the relationship between friends and allies. To help the debug team empathize with his product, Sakaguchi even visited the Mario Club for four straight days because he wanted to leave a good impression behind. Iwata speculated that this was why the debugging staff started crying after finishing the game after nine days.


According to Sakaguchi, an RPG is comprised of its world, its characters, and the events that happen in that world, which are told through cinematics. Unfortunately, the RPG genre is on the verge of being left behind by the rest of the world, he observes, which is why the definition of an RPG needs to change.


The question, then, is what to change and what not to change. Sakaguchi feels that what makes Japanese RPGs special are the smaller details and the emotions that bring the world to life. So long as creators keep these factors dear, he’s optimistic that one day, Japanese RPGs will be accepted by the world.


Memories of Squaresoft:


Once upon a time, both Sakaguchi and Takahashi used to work together at Squaresoft (now Square Enix). Takahashi had started working on the Final Fantasy series with FFIV as the head of graphics. Sakaguchi recalled being impressed with the cliffs and rocky backgrounds, which were extremely detailed for the time. Takahashi was an active worker, and Sakaguchi remembered “Taka-chan” constantly hobbling around from place to place, always busy with some project or the other.


During the production of Final Fantasy VII, Takahashi broke away and formed his own team. It came as a shock, as he was one of the main staff members working on the series. Sakaguchi remembered his conflicting feelings — sadness to see Takahashi leave the Final Fantasy team, but happiness for his new position — and watching the resulting changes gradually become visible on Takahashi’s desk. Gundams and model guns appeared, and Sakaguchi thought, “Oh, so this was what he wanted to do.”


As you can probably tell, Takahashi was extremely proactive in his work. In Final Fantasy VI, Sakaguchi had wanted to make a magic armor for the opening sequence. When he went to see Takahashi, though, he found that the latter had already gone ahead and drawn one that far surpassed the one he had imagined. The design was immediately approved and used.


Sakaguchi always had a vision, but he confessed that he couldn’t draw. He often left the job of being a “brain filter” up to Takahashi, who usually thought along the same lines as him. Like the whole episode with the magic armor in Final Fantasy VI, Sakaguchi didn’t mind if Takahashi outdid him, so long as what he did added to the overall game.


“Some people can draw, and some can’t,” Sakaguchi said to Iwata. When asked why, Takahashi’s response was that perhaps it was because of “imagination.” When he hears Sakaguchi’s explanations of his ideas, Takahashi can imagine the goals and the desired results. This could be also be described as “empathy” because you also imagine what the players are thinking and what others would think of the finished product.


Empathizing with a Vision:


A finished product must not only resonate with the players, but also with the staff.
Sakaguchi added that if all the staff can “empathize” with one vision, then the game becomes all that much better.


For example, ninety percent of Takahashi’s new team was new to 3D. It was a difficult time, since the technology was new and the knowledge undeveloped. Just as Sakaguchi was the pioneer into the world of the Super Famicom, Takahashi was one of the pioneers into the expansion of 3D. Takahashi stated that the greatest lesson he learned was the amount of devotion necessary to “taking mental care” of his team (Iwata’s words, not his).


If people have were having trouble communicating, they would give each other a helping hand, and would always discuss any troubles they had. Sakaguchi related to this…in a way.


Up until Final Fantasy III, most of the programmers at Squaresoft were foreigners, so while their skills were exemplary, they couldn’t speak a lick of Japanese and they had no idea what an RPG was. In order to “take mental care” of his team, Sakaguchi took them out to eat steak every day. Whatever methods the two producers used, they both realized that resonating with their own staff members was just as important as reaching out to the players.


Changing Times, Changing Methods:


Both feel that this becomes harder and harder to do as the years pass, though. Teams work differently nowadays, all three executives (Iwata included) agreed, and sometimes not in a good way. Iwata comments that in the past, a person would have to handle a larger portion of the work — and he would be able to, too, because the different jobs were all related.


This is why he (or she) would treat the product as his baby, and it would show in the cohesiveness of the end product. Everything would “stick together.” Now, team members all specialize, and because each person can only work on one fraction of the overall game, there tends to be a wall between people involved in development.


However, all three feel that with proper communication and “empathy” within the teams, this obstacle can be overcome, just as it was in the case of Xenoblade and The Last Story.

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  • Zero_Destiny

    It always interest me to hear how the industry changes over time. I personally like old turn-based RPGs but I’m glad to see them try to make something different. *fingers crossed* That there “empathy” will reach to the US and Europe without going through importers.

    • Aoshi00

      Even though I was disappointed when I heard “Monado” was real time at first (because I suck at games like Tales), Xenoblade’s battle system is totally turn-based, you still pick commands except “quickly” while different gauges filled (like FF’s ATB), each move’s gauge takes time to refill before it could be performed again. Once the 3 main gauges on the top are filled up, you have many choices and have to pick wisely, sometimes you need to spend a gauge to revive a down ally, sometimes you tell an ally to block when your vision sees an impending deadly attack counting down (or you could do enough damage to intercept that attack), but saving all 3 you could coordinate chaining attacks btwn your party members to do “break” and chain combos which are needed for bosses and sometimes for the more powerful hunts or when mobs are ganging up on you.. anyway, it’s one heck of an evolved real-time turn-based battle system. Sometimes I feel the world of Xenoblade is a tad too big though lol..In addition to how to start a fight to gain the upperhand, for the boss fights in Last Story you need to pause and think of a plan too depending on the boss weakness by combining magic and attacks, use Elza’s gathering or have someone be a tank and block the attacks for the summoners, otherwise a battle could be drawn out for a while if you’re not fighting the right way. Xenoblade’s battle system is more polished though to the point of perfection. Love the music in both games.

      • Zero_Destiny

        Wow now I want XenoBlade even more. XD It sounds like a Final Fantasy XII done right. (not that XII was bad but this sounds WAY better). Thanks for the info. How’s the controls for those two games? Is the Wii responsive enough? Do you have to do stupid waggle or anything? Can I use a classic controller (please tell me I can). Sorry all the questions but now I’m interested even more.

        • Aoshi00

          Yep, you’re in total control of everything, unlike FF12 which you kind of micromanaged in advance (not that I didn’t like it either, it was just different). Even though the battles are seamless and not on a separate screen it actually didn’t feel like a MMO at all, which was what I was worried about at first, every battle feels turn-based and engaging.

          I never used the remote for either game.. but I think the controller would be better, since you don’t have a 2nd analog stick to turn the camera w/ remote-nunchuck, especially so for Last Story. I don’t think there’s needless waggle, that would be to imprecise and break the flow of the hectic battles in both games. But yea, both games use classic, so you should get a pro since the original wasn’t that comfortable w/o the grip..

          Both games are very good (and again different from one another), Xenoblade is a long game that you could play for hours and hours kinda like FF12, but Last Story is a neat package in 30 hrs and the multiplayer is fun from what I heard (I haven’t tried yet). Again, I haven’t finished either yet, I hope to finish Last Story in the next two weeks, and I would tackle Xenoblade every once in a while (just too many games… like Catherine and Investigations 2.. and my favorite Dream Club Zero lol..)

          All I could say for Xenoblade is the graphics/music/battle system are pretty much perfect, while Last Story could use some improvement (sometimes the fight could get confusing and the camera could be a bit more polished.. and the AI in some scenarios aren’t so optimal..) But I consider both are excellent RPGs this gen (on a last gen machine at that…). I know Nintendo had a helping hand in Last Story, but I agree w/ some people and couldn’t help but want HD for Last Story.. looking more like Lost Odyssey…

          • Zero_Destiny

            Thanks. Oh boy you make it sound so great. I’m glad I can use my classic controller, it’s my preferred way to play Wii and I use it whenever I have the option to. It makes games like Arc Rise Fantasia and Breath of Fire 2 (on the VC) way more easy for me to play. And yeah thankfully I have the pro-classic controller with the grips. lol I would love to see Wii do true HD but it doesn’t fair too well. But there are some games that do look great. Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 look pretty good on a HD TV. Definitely better than Arc Rise Fantasia, it was a either jagged mess or a blurry cluttered disgrace of an image. Pick your poison because no matter how you adjusted the sharpness it wouldn’t work. Best just to play it on a tube TV. *fingers crossed even harder* that they can come over to US and Europe.

          • Aoshi00

            No prob :) yea, I need to get back to Arc Rise Fantasia too (the Jpn ver w/o that awful robot dub lol, I’ve only played like ~5 hrs..).. Same here, I use component cable and try to adjust the sharpness, if it’s too sharp it’s too jaggy if it’s soft then the text is blurry to read, oh well.. truth is Wii games look pretty awful on a HD TV that’s why it’s the system that I touch the least and I don’t have a tube anymore (gave the 20″ to my sis).. Galaxy 1&2 do look quite good. Last Story is widescreen by default though, not sure how much image you would lose playing in 4:3 ratio.. Xenoblade actually looks good even on a HD TV (the cutscenes are a sight to behold) and there’s not much loading in such a vast world it’s quite unbelievable.. Maybe if I try to play Last Story on a tube it wouldn’t be as blurry.. I hope they get localized too, these are some of the best RPGs in years, and they better give it a good Eng dub..

          • Ren

            Arc Rise Fantasia came with what I called Widescreen Wanabee Syndrome, WWS for short. It stretched strangely on tube TVs, putting two big black bars on the top and bottom and putting some parts of the screen outside of the actual screen. The truth is, the game exploration render was bad, no matter wich kind of TV you played on it.

          • Pesmerga00

            Awesome! :)

            So want.

          • Guest

            I also hear Dragon Age II has a FF XII like battle engine that looks promising though its a WRPG

          • Aoshi00

            Dragon Age looks like that to me, I got the Ultimate edition, haven’t played it yet. Almost 24 hrs in Last Story now, did several hours of side chapters/quests, so addicting, I love the game/story/chars, and the seiyuu cast is excellent, Ishida Akira as the despicable Jil :) As always, Sakaguchi games are fun and feel more like the old FFs than the last 4 S-E FFs. There aren’t many games that I stayed up late playing until 5am (I lost track of time :) Doesn’t matter JRPG or WRPG, I like RPGs that have a big world and tons of things to do that familiarize you w/ that universe (unlike a certain FF13 w/ its “autolog”…)

          • Dragon Age II’s battle system is actually closer to an action RPG. You hit X, you swing your sword.

            The first Dragon Age, on the other hand, had a battle system very much like Final Fantasy XII’s. While I hated it in FFXII, though, I actually quite enjoyed it in DA:O. It felt refined and, unlike, FFXII, you couldn’t just hide in a corner and let the AI do all the work for you. I’m actually worried about the changes from DA:O to DA2.

  • Aoshi00

    Cool interview. It’s nice to see there are still these two masters who are passionate about their work and have such vision and talent to assemble the right team to carry it out, rather than S-E doing whatever it takes to milk everything and anything, including Sakaguchi’s legacy Final Fantasy. I’ve always liked Sakaguchi games (BD, LO, ASH, and now TLS) because they all have heart, they’re not contrived. Takahashi certainly loves his mechs, the Kishin-hei in Xenoblade are absolutely amazing.

    Wonder if Iwata has any say to have Reggie greenlight localizing both of these (maybe they’re alrdy working on it, but considering the Jpn sales..) Xenoblade and the Last Story are both amazing games in their own ways, Xenoblade has taken turn-based to a exciting new level, while Last Story was fun as well by mixing strategy and action. They are very very different games though and unfortunately I haven’t finished either yet.. (feel guilty for leaving Xenoblade for so long..)

    • Does the last story have multiple endings or something o.O? I’ve seen you can choose between different answers and different stuff happen depending on that?

      • Aoshi00

        I haven’t played that far yet (~16hrs), I got back to Ruli and messed around w/ the colosseum and sidequests before furthering the story. I don’t think it has multiple endings (unlike Catherine), the answers usually are if you agree to take on a quest or not. Like after the pirate ship, I thought you either help Yuris or Manamia, but it’s actually part of the main story so you still end up doing both just in different order. But for the NPCs if you refuse their requests, then you would skip the sidequests to get better items. I’ve tried to fight the old dungeons again (no level up, just better items/weapons/materials), the fights are harder than the first time around. I actually really want to go on w/ the story, but the completist in me can’t leave quests unfinished lol.. I opened up the whole color palette for the attire alrdy :)The screenshot before the jump was pretty funny w/ Seiren in Kanan’s dress (you need to pick it up in Jil’s closet) teasing the naked Elza about an exciting activity :) Maybe I should go back to check out Sakaguchi’s demos now.. or were those the same videos pulled from the press conference?I’m glad the main game overall is not that hard (at least so far). I’m not sure if I’m even half way yet, or just 1/3.. I’m on Ch 21 now, so maybe half..

  • fallen




  • Croix

    As someone cursed with the desire to develop games which would be considered JRPG in genre while living in the West, I am glad to see that some of the great minds of game development in this genre think in many of the same ways that I do. I guess when you follow a particular genre pretty much all your life, you actually start to pick up on what works and what doesn’t.

  • Jirin

    I agree that an RPG is more or less defined by the world, the characters, and the story, but there’s two vital components that leaves out: Fun combat, game flow.

    RPGs should bring back fun, strategic, fast paced combat. Also, you don’t need half an hour of cutscene for every hour of gameplay to tell a good story. You can tell just as much story with less excess dialog, and have better game flow. I think cutscene overload and lack of freedom to explore are two of the big reasons JRPGs are declining in popularity in the West.

    All that being said, I’m really hoping Xenoblade and Last Story get announced for localization soon. (Tales of Graces has raised my localization optimism back up a little.)


      exploration is boring and is a waste of development resources (imo)

      *creating multiple towns, cities, islands, worlds, etc is a waste of development resources (i mean)

      • OVERUSED

        *creating multiple towns, cities, islands, worlds, etc is a waste of development resources (i mean)

      • ShinGundam

        I disagree, the best thing about JRPGs is varying the world.

      • Guest

        I agree. I do understand the need to create a vast ‘world’; I just don’t see any fun in exploring world maps and each town talking to random NPCs of each. I wish more games would devote more time on stories taking place in a well developed area instead of a whole world you don’t care for. Thinking on it now, I have realized all of my favorite RPGs are this way and yet they still touch on saving the whole world.

      • Jirin

        I disagree. I think JRPGs benefit from making you feel like you’re part of a larger world that isn’t just designed to fit the needs of the main story. I also think walking around the world on your own terms is a more fun diversion from the main storyline than quest systems where you go off to kill some monster in exchange for some set reward.

        One of my favorite RPGs is FFVI, and the rearrangement of the world that you explore while searching for all your old allies wouldn’t have been half as cool if there weren’t the whole map to explore, and if it weren’t the same map that you explored in the first half of the game.

        • I’ll tell you. I love exploration, but World of Ruin absolutely ruined (no pun intended) FFVI for me. It felt like there was no story anymore. I was loving the game up until that point.

      • Bakuryukun

        Yeah your right, it must be a waste of resources. That’s why FFXIII that did away with most of those things is unanimously loved by all Final Fantasy fans and praised as the best in the series right?

    • Ren

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but very few RPG do ‘strategic’ right, principally the old ones, most of the times it’s just a question of grinding. And the reason why JRPGs don’t do well with the West is because they normally lack immersion (most of the times you just fell like you are watching a story, not that you are part of it, and very few make you actually fell like you can affect the story or syncro with the character feelings), they have a different type of writing, and most western gamers are FPS or sports game players, wich aren’t interested in WRPGs, much less in the exotic and different JRPGs.

      • ShinGundam

        Hold up! so some games “do strategic right” and others do them wrong?
        So what is the problem then, both well end up strategic, right?

        • Ren

          It’s not like do it right ot wrong, but doing it or not. Most of the strategy found in RPGs are fake strategies, on the idea they give you a sense that you are making a strategy, but you are simply doing what the game wants of you or using your common sense between doing something that will kill you for sure or something that will let you live. And when you can just bulshit the strategy and do what you want and still win, it’s not strategy anymore. I’m not saying that every single RPG don’t have any kind of strategical ability, but very few actually implement ‘true'(I use the term lightly) strategical play, and most don’t even reward you for playing like that. This is the reason why Disgaea isn’t a SRPG in my eyes but a GrindRPG. It doesn’t make it a bad game, but you can’t say that game focus on anything resembling a strategy.

          • ShinGundam

            I have never ever heard of things like “fake and real strategies”. This analogy is weird because “doing what the game wants of you” means the player understand all game rules and challenges. What are you talking is nothing more than a degree of obscurity that makes you wander which skill/Armor/weapon to choose, right?

            So far, what said is nice on paper but there isn’t any game in the market where i make a compelling choice in every freaking battle, we are talking about games which have 100+ encounter, there is always going to be an obvious solution.

          • Bruce

            i realized the same thing after i started getting into the Megaten series , the games focus on strategy a lot more than FF series in my opinion .

      • Jirin

        I agree very few RPGs do ‘strategic’ right. I stick to the ones that do, and I avoid grinding at all costs. (Actually, a lot of JRPGs only become strategic if you *refuse* to grind, and try to play through underlevel.)

        I’m not going to get into the whole linear/nonlinear debate. It’s a matter of preference, and I prefer games that feel more like interactive novels to games where ‘MC is avatar for you’. Most of the times when you do get choices, they’re very shallow good/evil choices anyway. And that’s not why they don’t do well in the west: That’s why the particular niche of the West that play WRPGs don’t like them. FFVII did very well in the West with a linear story.

        You don’t need to appeal to every Western gamer to do well in the West. You just need to appeal to the right niche.

  • PrinceHeir

    “In order to “take mental care” of his team, Sakaguchi took them out to eat steak every day. Whatever methods the two producers used, they both realized that resonating with their own staff members was just as important as reaching out to the players.”

    this ^^ team leaders should really have a good relationship with everyone with the team :D

    im glad sakaguchi tried to unite the team. i really love his dedication with his work. same as Tetsuya Takahashi :D

    i would love a collaboration between Monolith Soft and Mistwalker to make a one big dream game. i’ll buy 3 copies day 1 :P

    • puchinri

      Exactly, it just makes me love Sakaguchi more that he went (and still does) go to lengths to unite everyone.

      That be so fabulous. I’m going to be wishing and waiting for that now. >u<'

  • vadde939

    Very interesting behind the scenes look into the development of these games. This article makes me want them to be localized more than ever. ^_^

    • AnimusVox

      The Last Story is the reason I will buy a Wii (I don’t own one yet), that is of course if it’s localized. I don’t feel like hacking my Wii to play a game that’s presented in a language I don’t understand, also because I don’t like the whole hacking in idea in general.

  • Its getting sadder and sadder as days goes by… Younger generation and even the older one in western countries love speed and guns… Story does not necessary need to be very very “unique” as long as it makes sense…

    Sometimes, you do not even need any story in the game… Slight repetition and cliche in stories especially JRPG become unforgivable and intolerable.. But, people do not mind it in FPS…Anything that deem childish and lack adrenalin stimulating gameplay, will be tossed aside even they act as a reminder of certain morality in the story..

    Hence, from what I can see…Thing that causes the change in gaming is the lack of empathy of overall gamers especially on subtle things… Friendship becomes an old boring story and family is a very superficial concept..

    Beside, people are getting too casual or too hardcore.. And they start to not believe in the wold of fantasy but in blood and gore… I think gamers these days lack the love and compassion that most people needed like in old days, where people are more sentimental in many ways..

    I do not know what will happen in the future, and certainly do hope that JRPG will goes on and that the Japanese developers will not give up or that someone else will save them from their dilemmas.. Or else it will mark the end of my gaming hobby… Sigh.. I just love JRPG…

    Can’t help but to think.. If only china would support original things..

    • RupanIII

      I agree with you and I think it goes beyond gaming too, like movies/general culture. I certainly don’t have anything against darker stories, but it does seem like a sort of slick nihilism has become most trendy nowadays. Things like you mentioned subtlety/story/empathy/friend/family/moral/sentiment.. all this stuff seems to be considered ‘old-fashioned’ or somehow naive or simple :

      This notion of a unified vision, I think it really comes through in Takahashi and Sakaguchi’s games, a certain polish and warmth. You can tell everyone working on classic FFs, for ex, had similar goals in mind and were on the same page, so to speak. Like others said, interesting interview, but also a bit sad when you think back on how different Squaresoft was from SE.

      Also, c’mon and localize these already!

      • puchinri

        I agree with you both, and it’s very disappointing. We were kind of discussing that in my creative writing class too. It’s a shame really, because everyone now typically views and expects mature to be ‘gore, depressing, anger, etc’. And even if that’s not all mature things should be, it’s what makes anything worthwhile anymore. (Thinking about it, I’ve seen it discussed in a few places in relation to TV too.)

        I’m hoping that things will shift again so that even if those types of themes aren’t all that matters, they’ll be equally if not more so important.

        Very true too. It’s interesting and sad (and now I’m feeling terribly nostalgic and melancholy).

        • RupanIII

          That’s a good point, the definition/approach to ‘mature’ has become very narrow. Yea, hopefully there will be a shift. I’m glad other ppl feel similarly, though I hope I didn’t bring your mood down too much haha

          • @RupanIII and puchinri: Yes.. I couldn’t agree more than I had.. Also, even if it pains me to say it, but I have no choice but to agree with the Squaresoft change too… Sigh.. I hope one day such thought will not bring tears to my eyes… Sorry for getting too sentimental..

          • puchinri

            Yeah, that especially. I’m so sad when I look back and everything, but I suppose it’s all for the better.
            It’s okay, I get sentimental about it too. It’s nice that we can have such passion and feeling over the games and companies we like. In a way, it’s almost like the love and devotion the devs have to them. They seem to get sentimenal too at times.

          • puchinri

            Definitely, it’s always nice to know you’re not the only one with the same thoughts and feelings. It was nice but sad (bittersweet, I suppose?) to see your guys’ comments.
            Haha, no, not at all. (Although Nintendo announcing these for NA and/or EU would make me feel 1000% better~!)

  • Tokyo Guy

    Well this is an interesting story, though rather sad as well for it recalls the lost days when Squaresoft was this untouchable company that churned out hit after hit.

    • Yea Square’s lost a good portion of the old developers that used to be with the company (including these 2 who where critical parts of the FF development team). Its honestly not surprising that FF has kinda dwindle every since a good portion of the team has left.

  • cool interview and all, but i want xenoblade and the last story in english, kkthxbye :/

    • AnimusVox

      Yeah I was really hoping they’d mention something along those lines aswell.

  • “…he’s optimistic that one day, Japanese RPGs will be accepted by the world.”

    They should bring their games overseas faster or make an international realeses or something like that because we cannot accept if we can’t understand D:

  • Guest


    Now let’s talk about localization

  • puchinri

    Wow, that was a fantastic read. I like both senses of romance, and it’s interesting to see who aimed for which kind, though that makes me more eager to see both games localized.

    I love Sakaguchi’s thoughts and feeling on RPGs, what they are now and should be (or at least, shouldn’t change). I think that’s what made his titles so wonderful and I agree with him on his view.

    It’s also pretty intriguing reading from Sakaguchi’s POV about Takahashi. And somehow, it makes me feel fluffy that he felt that way.

    Knowing that all of them recognize that kind of matter in development and feel it can be overcome is nice though, and it’s also something I was thinking of recently and so it’s nice to see how (at least some) devs feel about it.

    How exciting and cool. I think this was one of the best Iwata Asks yet. I’m seriously considering importing both games if we don’t see them, even if I don’t understand them as much.

  • noxian

    “Iwata comments that in the past, a person would have to handle a larger portion of the work — and he would be able to, too, because the different jobs were all related.”

    interestingly, and probably unsurprisingly if you think about it, that is a statement that has often been echo-ed by old developers in the West as well.

    the ’80s and earlier, the team for a single game was a frequently less than 10 people total for your average project.
    going into the early ’90s, teams were still only maybe 2-3 dozen. and that was a “big” project.
    it really wasn’t until the late ’90s and into the 2000s that these 100+ man teams became not just common, but now the norm.

    few people were really skilled writers, and few were highly skilled programmers.
    generally everyone was a little bit of everything, and they had to be because no one got to sit around and do a tiny specific job.
    the teams were just too small.

    but these days you hear of big money major project after project that the developers admit (generally after it fails) that one of many problems, but a huge one amongst the many, was communication within the dev team was broken (APB is a recent game that comes to mind. one of the staff on that game later said that communication was so broken in that studio that the game tester department wasn’t even relaying the game tester feedback to the programmers/designers. literally negating the whole point of the testing).
    a single project “team” these days is more like dozens of teams.
    and getting them to all talk to one another is a huge challenge.

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