Square Enix to avoid large-scale internal development after Final Fantasy XIII-2
It is well documented that the development of Final Fantasy XIII was fraught with difficulty, and that Square Enix wished to get its franchise back on track. While the game sold very well, it came at a much higher cost than the company would have liked.
"The development time was quite long," admitted Motomu Toriyama, director of FFXIII and FXIII-2, at GDC Taipei. "Within our company, developing on PlayStation for Final Fantasy XIII we required a huge amount of graphical data. ... 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," he said. "How do you communicate to everyone in the department what the drive of the game is?" The company had previously been using the story as the basis for development, but as it changed, it was tough to keep that many people abreast of the changes. "We decided we needed to create more practical milestones, not story-based ones."
"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," he said. "We heard a lot of feedback about things we needed to fix, and we decided we would do that with FFXIII-2. ... We decided that we would have a milestone every month, and realized we needed to applied more Western technology and production techniques. We learned this not only from GDC, but also from Eidos [now owned by Square Enix]."
"We are also thinking that we will not do large-scale internal development any longer." he said. "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."
Moving to this monthly milestone-type development, "In the beginning of a month we decide the achievements for that month,” he said. “We decide the core of what we need to do, and plan for that."
Development went well for XIII-2, but he still feels it could be better. "We feel like we need to add more buffer time for player testing in the future," he added. "We improved for FFXIII-2, but it's still not enough time to add everything we learn back into the game."
Toriyama also touched on the success of the Asian launch, meaning all parts of Asia that are not Japan. The Chinese and Korean versions were made with the assistance of Sony, helping them achieve a worldwide launch for FFXIII-2.
He further revealed that Final Fantasy XIII sold 350,000 units in Asia, making it the number one third-party game on PlayStation 3, while FFXIII-2 sold 200,000. "This may not seem like a lot," he said, "But compared to other games in Asia, this game even beat our numbers for other markets like Germany and France."