Square Enix announced yesterday via a press release that this Saturday will see yet another Active Time Report. The company was excited to announce that we would get a glimpse at magic, stealth, aerial attacks, and Magitek Armor in Final fantasy XV. This is all cool stuff, and the accompanying screenshots of Noctis casting fire and battling robotic-yet-medieval foes do tickle the nostalgia nerves of this Final Fantasy fan. I’m sure that is just what they are intended to do. Yet, I am almost dreading this Saturday’s stream.
Ever since Versus XIII was re-branded as the next mainline entry in the Final Fantasy series, Square Enix has made a concentrated effort to prove to its audience that the project was not vaporware. In addition to changing up the team by taking Nomura off of the game and replacing him with Hajime Tabata, there have been a number of these Active Time Reports. While the notion that a game publisher in this day and age is trying to be transparent about a big release is admirable, these videos tend to showcase things like the team touring Europe for artistic inspiration as opposed to tangible information that fans want to see.
Tabata and his team have also been active in the forums for Final Fantasy XV, but have been just as cryptic in their responses. Though the latest from the developers hinted at a choice between tactical and action oriented gameplay (which would be a huge deal), the rest focused on details like being able to ride gondolas through a city. Those types of little things were a great part of the charm of old-school Final Fantasy, but this is something I would rather discover for myself in-game, and I suppose that is my point.
I understand the necessity to keep fans interested in a game they have been waiting for a decade. But, at the same time, being fed breadcrumbs straight from active development every month or so is almost as painful. As with most game development, things have probably changed-a lot. These Active Time Reports are a lot like behind the scenes documentaries, before a movie has been cut and premiered. Much of what we have seen may not even make its way into the final product. Granted, at this stage, Tabata claims that the game is going into the beta stage for debugging, so hopefully any cuts big cuts have been decided. This is doubly true considering we are supposed to get a release date in March. If that date is pushed for any reason, heads are certain to roll (along with jobs). That being said, throwing all of the ideas you had during development out into the public is a dangerous way to set unwarranted expectations.
Besides the issue of expectations, it has simply become agonizing to see news break about Final Fantasy XV. Every time, I think that perhaps the day has finally come where we learn some significant details, and every time I am wrong. Thus, we Final Fantasy fans are strung along month by month, waiting for the next “hit”, so to speak. The truth is, I would rather have none of it.
Everything we have learned over the course of the past six months could have all come with the release date announcement we are anticipating in March. Hell, everything since the debut of the Episode Duscae Demo could have been saved, because that announcement needs to be an event. Square Enix has to impress. We don’t need to debate the efficacy of short marketing campaigns, because Bethesda just proved they work with Fallout 4. It may not be the same situation (we’ve known about this title since the last generation), but the “deep breath before the plunge” technique is often more effective than sharing the daily development process with your fans. There is another game, with a very similar predicament, taking that route: The Last Guardian. Despite having learned next to nothing about it since the E3 re-reveal last summer, I am still insanely excited.
While there were some apparent flaws, the Episode Duscae Demo sold me on the potential in Final Fantasy XV. Please, don’t show something unless you actually have something to show.