Final Fantasy XIII took a large toll on the Square Enix’s fighting spirit. The well-documented five year development period for the game hit countless roadblocks along the way and suffered because of an outdated development process, director Motomu Toriyama told Gamasutra.
“At the peak, there were over 200 people working on it. The breakdown there was 180 artists, 30 programmers, and 36 game designers. With a large-scale development team, we didn’t use our time well.”
Communication suffered because the central team required secrecy around a game being driven by story and aimed for a single goal of completing the title. From now on, Toriyama claims Square Enix’s development process will outsource a large portion of development to other companies and aim for monthly milestones focusing more on gameplay.
“We are also thinking that we will not do large-scale internal development any longer. We have a lot of great creators in Square Enix, but for larger-scale development we will be doing more distributed and outsourced development to reach our targets on time.”
Many Japanse development teams have been turning to Western development ideas such as outsourcing, and Square Enix now has Eidos helping them tighten their schedule. Using this new approach, Toriyama was able to cut down the developmental period of five years down to Final Fantasy XIII-2‘s two year period, proving the example was a good test run for future projects, but there is still much room for improvement.
Square Enix is still one of the big dogs of Japanese video games. If they are finally showing a little reluctance towards the old ways of doing things, perhaps many others will follow in line. Japanese RPG’s have always been driven by their story and not so much their gameplay, so it remains to be seen how effectively Square Enix can use this new system while keeping their reputation as storytellers intact.
Both Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 received lukewarm reception from fans of the series despite using both development styles. Square Enix obviously needs to find a balance between the two.