After years of struggles and hurdles that practically spanned across two console generations, Square Enix finally completed Final Fantasy XV. Speaking with IT Media, director Hajime Tabata talked about two rules that helped make its completion possible.
IT Media Business: In what ways did Final Fantasy XV’s production team change?
Hajime Tabata, Director: Final Fantasy XV’s production staff started out with less than 100 people, but as the project advanced we had a big team of several hundred people, including those from outside the company. Rather than individual tasks, it became necessary to reset the peculiar culture on decision-making and tendencies on what was deemed important.
There are two points that had major changes. First is “to not put a brake on the work of others.” When working on a project for so long, there are times when work would be done after simply criticizing something that appears during a meeting. So things such as personal advice that one may have thought was a good thing ended up being a burden to another, or personal feelings clouding judgment. So I simplified decision making matters by saying “I’ll be the one to decide if it’s good or bad,” and emphatically checked each task, for each person.
The second point is “to reset the hierarchy.” I always felt uneasy about the idea of a team having “the same members as leaders.” Development starts out with a vision at the beginning, the creation of a prototype in the early stages, mass production in the middle stage, and raising quality in the final stage.
In order to match those stages, the team must change to become more flexible, but the larger a development scale becomes, the more stagnated things can get. Looking at staff, there are some, for example that I might say “this guy is good at working on the setup, but not for the middle stage,” or “this person isn’t the best for the opening stage, but puts in good work for the final stage,” and there are many differences when it comes to abilities; however, we were in a situation where once someone had become the leader, they remained the leader. And that’s what was reset.
Were there any signs of dissatisfaction within the team from the rest? Surely there were some people that felt an identity of “I’m this team’s leader.”
Tabata: We’re only human, so I believe that there are some things that just come with emotions. So I had to tell such members “This is about reason. So shut down the right side of the brain [emotions] and I want you to think with the left side of your brain [logic].” Changing the organization and the way things were done was a necessary inversion to meet the goal. I had to ask “Are we reaching the objective by extending the way you’re doing things now?” By actually practicing new ways of going about things, we saw better results from before, and those results are always a plus for one’s career. So from there, they gradually had a better understanding.
Final Fantasy XV is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.