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  1. FINAL FANTASY VII: REMAKE, EPISODE 1 [Taped, Recorded Written Transcript] Interview 1
  2. NOVEMBER 8, 2017, Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
  5. Q: Who are you and how are you connected with the SE?
  7. A: I was employed at a company called HexaDrive and I now work at Division 1 in the company.
  9. Q: At Square-Enix?
  11. A: Yeah.
  13. Q. What do you do?
  15. A: I'm mainly involved with helping the UE4 development suite in doing what they want it to do. Specifically streaming and resource management. I was previously with EPIC with Unreal3.
  17. Q: Can you be more specific.
  19. A: No. [At this point, the individual showed me his badge, and slide card-like checkin pass and credentials to confirm all of what he was about to confey was authentic. For privacy purposes, nothing will be revealed. He also showed a few other materials that cannot be discussed in the interview.]
  21. Q: Understood. Is it ok to ask about the game’s plot and what we can expect?
  23. A: I'll answer what I know. I like to talk, and I like to talk if what I’m working on is actually good, so I’m hyped to go. Let’s do it
  25. [At this point the individual lit a smoke, offered me one, and opened a can of some sweet smelling Japanese soft drink.]
  27. Q: How far along is it?
  29. A: Advanced in many areas, although they haven't even finished recording voice over work yet, but the first Episode is playable in pretty much what would be called a pre-beta stage. It's playable all the way through. The game is now simply being polished up as pretty as it can become graphically and easily has some of the most impressive visuals at least I’ve ever seen on a home console. In terms of how it looks on the high end development rigs, it’s fucking ridiculous. Practically an interactive movie. The game is fully playable at this point from beginning to end, but you’ll see where there’s literally gray models and areas where they’ve clearly not added in any of the final textures are assets. Over than that, you have a game.
  31. Q: In terms of Episodes, can you go further into that and what SE's plan is with the game?
  33. A: Three episodic releases, all full games. They are just calling them episodes so people understand it one huge story. The initial goal a few years ago was part 1 and 2, with no episodes, but it quickly became evident that they wanted to push this further than any FF ever; they wanted a repeat of the way FFVII changed the way games were viewed and they are going to do that again. This is the game they want to be remembered by 50 years from now, their legacy. Each episode also has a subtitle.This is SE’s Star Wars.
  35. Q: How long is each episode and what can we expect?
  37. A: Right now the first episode, beginning to end, not including any side play is clocking around the 50+ hour mark. That also doesn't include the additional content that will be released between each episode for free to make the wait more bearable and relevance high.
  39. Q: Wait, episodes within episodes, like what they are doing with FFXV?
  41. A: No. They were very unhappy with the way FFXV turned out narrative and gameplay wise. It's nothing like that. Imagine playing characters from different points of views while the story is happening, including the Turks and another new enemy faction that is against pretty much everyone. They are extremely cool. A threat from the stars.
  43. Q: Is this game open world?
  45. A: Yes and no. With the scale of everything being what we call 1:1, there's really no way to have characters on an overworld map without them being taller than the actual cities. Right now the overworld is identical to how FFXV did it, with loading only taking place between cities, towns, and dungeons. It’s all actually quite transitionally seamless really, and that is specifically why UE4 was chosen. It just works.
  47. Q: What does that mean exactly?
  49. A: You won't see a classic OVM like older FF games. Think of it similar to the way the map worked in the Arkham Knight series. Nomura was a big fan. He even did a Batman figure based on the FF style around the time the game was being conceptualize, if I remember. He still has the sculpture for that in his office.
  51. Q: Can you describe the beginning of the game? Do you see the logo splash followed by the train sequence? Is this the FFVII we grew up with?
  53. A: No. The game as of now begins with a bit of lengthy exposition describing the world and its setting. The Shin-Ra company has a monopoly on all power, which is used from vehicles, trains, to aircraft and military, pharmacy and entertainment. It has been this way for close to seventy years now, unlike FFVII's original plot. Moreover, Midgar is actually not the Empire's capital city anymore, with it actually being an older city that was built over a Maho rich node. The importance of Midgar is based on the fact that it is used to produce new, more efficient reactors and military hardware. Imagine a dirty, yet futuristic version of New York. Not Bladerunner levels of futuristic, but it has a cool mixture of older and newer technologies that gives the city a unique look and flavor.
  55. Gameplay actually begins with a yet to be revealed young male character, who you’ll learn with a phone call is clearly to be the resistance group calling themselves Avalanche. You are tasked with making sure your party, which consists of a girl with a headband, a tall, skinny male, a short pudgy guy and Cloud's being the last to join, where he is first listed as "Soldier" upon joining. The meetup location is at a dig site called SR Site 3, with a train inbound with processed Maho tubes for Midgar. The raw Maho is extracted as a type of glowing green gas, much like the comical depiction of Uranium or something, but then it has to be refined at more advanced Reactors into giant, tube looking things. Like the thing you put your check in at the bank teller, only bigger. These refined Maho batteries are what power everything, from cars to trains to giant versions that power Reactors for entire cities. It’s pretty much the lifeblood of their planet. This is still FFVII, but it is FFVII how you would imagine it if say someone like James Cameron or Steven Spielberg got their hands on it, and also had an unlimited budget. Also throw out at least 99% of the anime cheese and you have FFVII they way it looked in all our dreams.
  57. Q: This sounds incredible. Has this much detail really been put into showcasing the story in such a way? This sounds far more in-depth than the FFVII I remember.
  59. A: As I stated, this universe has pretty much been created with some of the best talent out there today, period. Almost every senior position, creator, or tech has either been a part of previous works like Weta, Industrial Light & Magic, we have some people that worked with Halo at MS when it was really big years ago. It is a completely international team. There’s more foreigners in high roles than Japanese people for the first time ever, really. Everything has been motion captured at a place called Pinewood Studios in Europe and the Atlanta branch in America. Everyone is under NDA, but casting calls for anything has been under various bogus names, but everyone doing anything knows what they’re working on once you’re brought in. It’s kinda difficult to mistake Sephiroth and Cloud, even if you’ve never played the games.
  61. Q: Are you worried that saying too much could put you in serious legal danger?
  63. A: Not unless I flat out say what it is I’m doing exactly and where. There’s too many people working on the project, even though final testing and rendering has now been pulled in-house at Tokyo, assets and media are still being produced all over the place, and it’s impossible to not see what you’re working on when you have to work with others doing their compartmentalized part…..and besides, everyone talks. The excitement is electric on this game, most people grew up with this as their fondest gaming memory, and now they are sitting there making sure Tifa’s hair flows correctly when she’s riding a Chocobo or a character’s skin properly flares up and changes color when they’re hit with fire ‘magic’. It’s really an exciting thing to see come to life.
  65. Q: Can we please go back into the story for a moment. Without going into specifics for obvious reasons, can you give us an idea what to expect? Has the world’s current political climate and the changing times affected the way the story is presented.
  67. A: SE made it clear from the start that politics and “SJW bullshit” is not touching the original vision as they want to tell it now. Not to go off into a tangent, but this is a large reason as to why FFXV’s story at times would completely fall apart and make no sense, because upper management was so afraid they Cindy’s nice tits or the way she shook her ass at the boys would cause SJW faggots to have a stroke. Tifa still has her glorious melons, but every character has a much more streamlined, real world look to them.
  69. This is not FFVII the anime or even Advent Children, characters are going to be instantly recognizable, but look like they could walk straight out of the screen and not look like anime convention cosplayers. They look like they are living breathing beings that exist in this world that is both fantastic yet also grounded in an authenticity to it. What I’m saying is you could believe this world exists. It is relatable. When you see a flashback sequence of of them trying to save Barret’s hand, and him saying fuck it and choosing to go with a military issue chaingun for a Mako infused border drone instead, that is when you can say “fuck yeah, makes sense”.
  71. Everything has a purpose, everything is explained, even why Cloud uses a sword that size is explained in a non-cheese and understandable way. Maho infused soldiers are expected to be able to wield tree sized chunks of steel to slice through tanks, that’s the entire reason they allowed themselves to be infused with a Krypton like element of radioactive shit that makes your eyes glow green, even if you have to have your daily Maho fix to survive from now on, you’re no longer human, you’re a Magitek, Maho Infused killing machine of the Soldier Project, and you’re not to be fucked with. Hell, even Aeris will get her Dark Phoenix moment on a highway of Midgar. We’re going all out on why FFVII’s characters are immortalized even now, and letting the new generation know what made them all so great. Now their personalities, powers, and abilities can be fully realized, both graphically and narratively.
  73. Q: This really is for real, isn’t it? I can see the passion in your face as you’re speaking.
  75. A: Yes sir, it really is for real. Tetsuya Nomura directs like a kid who had just downed a bottle of Adderall and wants to create a retelling of The Matrix with Terminator. Love the guy or hate him, his vision is enviable. I love working when he is in the building and drawing on the meeting room boards. The burnout the team experienced with FFXV was the most soul crushing shit I have ever seen. Meet mates would not make eye contact with one another, people were sitting with their hands holding up their heads at their desk, and Tabata would sometimes not be seen in the work environment for literally up to four or five days at a time. We actually lost a bunch of good people simply because they thought they failed themselves and the company. Imagine it, people were literally putting in their two week notices less than two months before the game was scheduled to go gold. Now, people are standing over each other desks in awe, laughing, cheering, and literally being blown away in progress report meetings as we see everything come together. SE as a whole is fired up.
  77. Q: You were discussing this a bit randomly before we officially started the interview, but would you go back into the way you were describing the Summon System, and also, you had mentioned the Materia and Menu Systems being all integrated and unique?
  79. A: That’s right. The Summons are absolutely fucking bad to the bone in this game. They nailed the balance between an overly drawn-out cinematic introduction and how they would be used. FFXV made it a sort of special event type deal when Summons could be used, which has never been in the spirit of FF. Here, the are not god or whatever they previously were, but massively powerful elemental and ancient monsters of lore that can be called on by “those who fight for the planet”. Some summons are stationary, meaning there will be a massive summon animation where they will plant themselves in cinematic fashion and launch a plethora of warheads, Alexander being an example. Other Summons are actually much more engageable, some with limited control where their attacks can be directed by the player for a limited amount of time while your other three party members, sometimes four, are doing their thing.
  81. Some of the smaller more tactical centric summons witnessed so far as Ifrit, Shiva and this new one called Crusader, which is a golden knight looking character that will literally allow the camera to go into first-person mode and laugh spears of light at enemies while hovering around the battlefield. Odin actually has an amazing mechanic where you must charge the blade while controlling the horse like in the game ICO and attempt to hit your target with a “Zantetsuken” attack, which is an instant kill with no actual damage on regular enemies. I won’t go into some of the bigger summon spells because they’re simply too awesome to spoil, but I will say plainly here and no that each Summon is playable, unique, and has its own form and mode of control. They are a super weapon on the field in play, and you’re literally in-charge of them. Out of every FF, this is by far the best way I have ever seen the design implemented, and it is simply fun as hell. It also looks exquisite on UE4.
  83. Q: After I’m done hyperventilating, I want to ask something else.
  85. A: Let me get a smoke break at this point to if that’s cool.
  87. Q: Is Aeris still gonna die.
  89. A: I don’t know, she is fully playable in Episode I and nothing bad has happened yet.
  91. Q: How are you able to have such knowledge concerning the story? I’ve noticed some parts you’re willing to give detailed descriptions and others are kept intentionally vague or short….is it not to spoil?
  93. A: Honestly, it’s none of that. I simply have experienced whatever parts I have been paid to watch the engine’s memory usage, bandwith, processing power, streaming and loading. I’m specifically tasked with watching how framerate dips occur, when they do, how, and what can be optimized, moved, or reallocated to fix them. It’s strictly technical, and the gameplay experience is none other than going through the actual product to do my job. So far it is running beautifully, and I see why Square had licensed UE4 mandatorily companywide for everything, including The Philosophy Project that is actually the next mainline FF headed by Ito-san.
  95. Q: Whoa, wait a minute, hang on there a second. Can you go into “The Phlosophy Project”?
  97. A: No.
  99. Q: Is it really Final Fantasy 16?
  101. A: Next question, move one, please.
  103. Q: Understood. How long can we expect between each episodic release and how is this going to be done?
  105. A: You’re going to expect at least a year between each game, I don’t even like saying Episodes, because they’re honestly full blown games in every sense of the word. These are full scale, multi-million dollar productions. No different than something like a SW or Infinity War. In the meantime, and without directly going into it, you can fully expect something like the Kingsglaive or Spirits Within movie to be in the FFVII Remale-timeline universe and fill the gaps. I cannot go into that however, as it is not a game division but rather a movie production company that is simply using materials from what we internally call the Visual Works Advanced Technology Department. They are the true lights and magic that makes the crystals shine, so to speak.
  107. Q. You paused when you worded “FFVII Remake and timeline” in an odd way. Was that intentional or were you simply trying to explain the universe better.
  109. [pauses] he shifts back in the chair and I noticed he put his fag out at this point.
  111. A.I’m a bit impressed you kinda caught what I was saying there, no offense to your intelligence intended.
  113. Q. Non taken, care to elaborate?
  115. A. Honestly, not really, but I’ll give you this one because your answer kinda surprised me. OK, let’s see, how can I [long pause]
  117. A. I have to be careful with this because I could possibly give some people away. OK, do you remember how JJ’s Star Trek actually used a little trick to connect the classic Star Trek trilogy with the new one? The wormhole or whatever, the big ship that came through and fucked up the timeeline.
  119. Q. I do. I actually thought the movie was amazing.
  121. A. Well, let’s say that the new timeline of FFVIIR….well, what I mean is, it’s timeline and the timeline and universe of the game are clearly different….realities, as it were, you follow me?
  123. Q: I do. Continue, please.
  125. A. Let’s say there’s a plot element, well, let’s say, a third faction if you will, that could possibly connect those two, in a sort of way. This would throw out Crisis Core and all of that stuff, yet still also make the expanded universe of that FF valid by the time all of this is over. If you wanted to, there is a plot device that can connect every Final Fantasy game in some form or another without also completely breaking the mythology of another. That’s about all I can elaborate on.
  127. Q.. This has truly been an honor.
  129. A. We’ll do it again, but I would honestly publish this completely anonymously on a fucking fan fiction board or something if I were you, bud.
  131. [smile]
  133. End interview Part 1. Final Fantasy VII: Remake, Episode I
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