Motomu Toriyama, director of Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, has recently spoken about the problems that occurred during the development of those games, and how Square Enix is looking to avoid them in the future.
At it’s peak, the development team of Final Fantasy XIII consisted of over 200 members: 30 programmers, 36 game designers and a whopping 180 artists. The problem, according to Toriyama, came in trying to communicate with such a large team:
“How do you communicate to everyone in the department what the drive of the game is?”
Added problems came as the team tried to keep as much about the game under its belt as possible, only revealing details to the press and public as they needed to:
“Because it’s a large-scale project, we had to keep it secret, but this led to user testing happening way too late in the process.”
What this led to was the inability for the development team to address a lot of the feedback player testing offered them for Final Fantasy XIII. This is the reason there were so many little tweaks and changes to the combat and exploration in XIII-2: Square simply didn’t have enough time to address the presented issues due to the problems such a large team offered. Toriyama believes that things went better with the play testing for XIII-2, but that things could be better still.
To that end, Square is looking to make some fundamental changes to its development strategy. The first is that development teams will now play toward a ‘monthly milestone’ style of development. Basically, at the beginning of the month, the development team will set out goals for what it wants to achieve by the time the month ends. This will (hopefully) focus the team, increasing the efficiency of development.
Secondly, Square is no longer partaking in such large-scale internal development. Basically, Square will be focusing on more distributed and outsourced development for larger projects, allowing teams outside of the company to take on some tasks to ensure that the monthly goals (and release dates, one would a.ssume) are met.
Square Enix is pretty notorious for lengthy development times. With this change in their development strategy, hopefully we’ll see these lengthy developments drastically reduced. As an example, this may mean that we just might get to play Final Fantasy Versus XIII before the 12th console generation (we’re in the seventh, now, according to Wikipedia). Of course, it’s just as likely that Versus XIII is the last large-scale internal development project Square will take on, just to ensure that we have to keep waiting. Still, this is heartening. Maybe the next PlayStation and Xbox will see the release of Kingdom Hearts III.