Square Enix will be introducing a round of new content for Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae, the company announced today during a new pre-recorded Active Time Report detailing the results of various feedback surveys following the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. Set for release as a free downloadable patch from mid to late May, players will be able to extend their playtime with the demo through new enhancements to the current gameplay systems.
Game director confirmed the following changes will be available in version 2.00 including Active Cross Battle enhancements, improved camera and targeting system, additional combat actions and rebalancing along with more joint attacks as well as the addition of dodge rolls and adjustments to MP usage and the range of action for each weapon.
The team also hopes to add in changes such as a stabilized framerate, full HD resolution and quest adjustments. Tabata said they’re still aiming for 1080p, however, framerate takes a greater priority over resolution as it impacts gameplay directly. Ultimately, the solution will be to optimize the final game at the end. They won’t be reducing the number of objects or limiting the AI to achieve those results.
The full report, which includes commentary on user feedback as well as the changes the development team are making in response to them has been summed up below, thanks to our friends at Gematsu.
Hear My Cries! Raw Unedited Feedback from the Players
#1 – The lock-on is useless.
The issue: The lock-on itself is too difficult to use, and there’s also the issue of it not keeping the targeted enemy in the center of the screen, or if the locked-on enemy moves, the camera doesn’t follow it properly.
Tabata’s comment: “I see. Honestly, there were many instances where we also felt that the targeting system wasn’t behaving as we had envisioned. We do take it seriously that this was the #1 criticism. Right after the demo was released, our team was able to play it from a consumer standpoint, and concerns about the targeting immediately came up. The most common internal criticism was that the targeted enemy would go off-screen.
“There are two rationales for this, and for the first one, regarding the targeted enemy getting lost off-screen, this was due to an imperfect implementation of the system. We’ve already begun addressing it.
“The other thing, for example on the PS4, I think it’s the R3 button. The lock-on can be triggered by pressing R3, but that was not specifically explained in the demo, so there were many people who weren’t aware of this feature. Even internally, a lot of us weren’t aware of this feature, so there were problems trying to stay locked on to a single target.
“we’ve already started working on fixes to the issues regarding players not being aware of this feature and the feature not being up to par with our expectations. The issues will be thoroughly addressed, so please rest assured.”
#2 – The camera is too close. I can’t tell what’s going on.
The issue: Because the camera is too close, it makes it difficult to understand what’s going on. Especially during frantic battles.
Tabata’s comment: “When fighting a herd of garulas, there are times when the player keeps getting hit, and I agree that it’s difficult to understand what’s going on when that happens. And, near the entrance to the dungeon, there’s an enemy called the saberclaw. When facing saberclaws, it gets pretty difficult to see what’s happening.
“There’s also issues with the terrain. In the woods, the camera movement is limited, so it’s even tougher when fighting there. It’s the same with goblins, too. Especially when you’re in a confined space. So these issues, we need to make sure the camera pulls back in these situations to make it easy for the player. The system is designed to do so, but it wasn’t functioning as well as we had hoped. There were also times where it wasn’t functioning well because of the terrain, and we’ve made note of it already.
“So it can definitely be improved, and we will improve it. Not being able to tell what’s going on in a game is unacceptable, so much like the previous criticism about not being able to target enemies, basic functions such as these will be addressed, so that you won’t feel the game is difficult to play.
“Ideally, we would have one camera programmed to adjust to every situation, but in the demo, we noticed many instances where the camera wasn’t able to fully adapt to various terrains. So ultimately, we may consider allowing the player to choose from different camera distances.”
#3 – Camera control was poor and felt heavy.
Tabata’s comment: “We’ll make sure the camera is smoother. Simple as that. It’s the result of a lot of things, but we’ll examine the variables one by one and make sure the camera controls are smooth.”
#4 – The AI is dumb and allies get in the way.
The issue: For example, a party member would barge in and get himself in critical condition, or when you actually want them to do something, they’d just be standing there. The most common feedback was that they’d get in Noctis’ way when trying to move around.
Tabata’s comment: “That’s a pretty direct way of putting it. First, in regards to getting in the way of the player, that’s a hindrance to the game’s experience. So we will properly address it from the programming end so that the party members avoid getting in the way of each other.
“On the ther hand, as far as the AI being dumb, I don’t think that everything about the AI is dumb. There should have been times in Episode Duscae where you felt both camaraderie and a sense of self-awareness from the AI characters.
“Our goal is to be able to really feel each character’s personality and the feeling of being with friends, but we’re not quite there yet. Some of that is there, but the demo is just a glimpse of what might be possible. I’d like to take the time to really polish this aspect.
“So we’re fully aware that the AI is dumb. I get upset, too, when they go and get themselves knocked out.”
#5 – The jaggies and the even more concerning frame-rate drops.
Tabata’s comment: “The frame rate was the most common feedback from North America and Europe, wasn’t it?
“The jaggies and frame rates are two separate issues, but in regards to the jaggies, we weren’t able to implement anti-aliasing in the demo. That’s why the jaggies stood out a bit, but anti-aliasing will be implemented in the full game. The amount of jaggies will be reduced, so for the demo we apologize. They shouldn’t be in the full game, so please rest assured.”
(Will upcoming trailers have anti-aliasing implemented?)
“Well, in terms of whether it can be immediately implemented… We’re currently in the midst of determining how we’d address it and the engineer working on the real-time rendering is looking into this. So it’s hard to give a definitive answer on when it will be implemented.”
(Back to frame rate.)
“As for the frame rate, that is a serious matter. We consider it a high priority issue. If we simply reduce the number of objects that need to be rendered and computed, like reducing the number of monsters or limited AI behavior, we can reduce the processing load on the CPU. Reducing the number of processes would naturally result in a stable, higher frame rate. But achieving a high frame rate by doing so isn’t going to satisfy our fans.
“So the only option is to persistently optimize. Currently, the bottleneck during battles is the VFX and UI. As we head to mastering, we’ll probably repeat the process of optimizing as much as we can and re-evaluate how objects are being rendered.”
(Is the goal still full HD, 30 fps?)
“We are working towards full HD. It’s not just me. The engineers and artists are all aiming for full HD. But from hearing the honest feedback from players who tried the demo, it becomes apparent that the frame rate is more important than the resolution. It’s pretty easy to understand, actually. Prioritizing resolution by sacrificing frame rate is presumably unacceptable for our game, so our highest priority will most likely be the frame rate. Based on that, our approach will be to increase resolution as much as we can. So, ultimately, this may be the order of priority on which our decisions will be made. But we’re not raising the white flag just yet. We are aiming for full HD.”
#6 – The motion is realistic, but because of that, it feels slow.
Tabata’s comment: “First, I think some of this has to do with weapon actions. If you’re using a heavy weapon, then the movement is consequently going to feel sluggish. It is a little difficult to determine whether the sluggish motion is the result of a weapon, or something else. So we are working on trying to increase the dynamic range of the action by differentiating the sense of speed when using a light weapon and the sense of weigh when using a heavy weapon.
“But in regards to basic movements… we are highly focused on footing, or feeling connected to the ground. This isn’t just about the contact between characters or aiming to make every and all movements realistic, but more importantly, it’s about making sure the player character truly feels like party of the Final Fantasy XV world, as that will in return allow the player to immerse themselves in the game, and experience everything in the game as something that truly belongs.
“With that being our goal, it has been trial and error for us to get it just right.”
(Some of this criticism might come from wanting the speed of the E3 2013 trailer.)
“Ah, well we did make that because we ant to be able to do that, so I think that’s so.
“I think people who played the demo will know that when activating Armiger, movements become warps, and general movement is faster. However, a problem came up while we were designing that Behemoth battle for the E3 trailer as a prototype. It eliminates the need for a party battle. Basically, Noctis becomes unstoppable. So if this game was designed around Noct alone going all out at all times, then we can probably set the default speed to that level. But that’s not the design. We want players to face various situations and use Noct’s full power in moments of need, but under normal circumstances, it’s about fighting with your party members and using joint attacks. That’s how we want to differentiate the gameplay.
“But as I said earlier, when it comes to lightening the motion here, or letting you move more swiftly there, or automating this so that the CPU doesn’t have to read motion data, all of that is ever-evolving, so we’ll work on optimizing so that the motion doesn’t feel sluggish.”
#7 – Can you at least add a mini-map or compass?
Tabata’s comment: “Ah, yes. We will.”
(How about a radar? Being able to tell where your party members and enemies are during frantic battles.)
“So normally when you think mini-map, it’s there so that you don’t get lost in the field, to identify which direction you’re facing, to know where your objective is, and to get a rough grasp of the relative position and distance. Now, within that, the request is to include detailed high resolution information about your surrounding enemies, right?
“We’ll look into it.
“To be fully transparent, there are plans to include a mini-map in the final release. A radar was not in our plans. But once all the battle elements are finalized, like the formation of enemies and the number of enemies in any given battle, our idea was to make sure the player can have a good understanding of their surroundings, like the position of your enemies and party, within the 3D environment without the need for a radar. So that’s why it hadn’t been considered. But feedback is feedback, so if there is a need for a radar, we will think about how we’d implement such a feature.”
#8 – I want a dodge action that doesn’t rely on MP.
Tabata’s comment: “You’re talking about something like a dodge roll, right? So, there actually is a dodge roll. I think it was in the E3 trailer, too. That’s the default dodge, and the warp-dodge that was in the demo is a higher level dodge action.
“So why was there only warp-dodge in the demo? There are two reasons. First is, we couldn’t prepare the UI elements for switching up abilities. So it came down to dodge roll, or warp-dodge. Second, we were nearing the memory limit, so we had to really watch the resources so that things wouldn’t be too sluggish. It was at the last minute, but we decided to go with warp-dodge since it doesn’t require as much of a load as dodge roll. So we had to axe the dodge roll, but if you want a dodge action that doesn’t rely on MP, it exists.”
#9 – It’s a game about hiding behind rocks and replenishing MP.
The issue: When you run out of MP, you can’t do anything, and you have to hide behind rocks to replenish.
Tabata’s comment: “The amount of MP that recovers, and the time needed to recover is something we balanced within the context of this demo, so I think what you’re seeing is a result of that. For the final release, before even worrying about MP use, there are other features that will be included. There will be various features to shorten the time or each battle. Whether it be magic, or combo-ing with joint attacks, there will be a lot of tactics at the player’s disposal, so the amount of time spent recovering MP will probably go down in proportion to that.
“Since you have full control over everything, it’ll be about how you construct your battles with the available MP. So if you’re in a pinch, then there will probably be situations where you need to distance yourself and recover MP, but I think the need for that will decrease. We’ll be sure to balance all the features so people won’t think this is a game where you just hide behind rocks waiting for MP.
“I actually think hiding behind rocks and waiting for MP, or warping to a high point and waiting before going back into the heat of battle is a pretty fun tactic, and I don’t want to completely lose it. I think just the right amount…”
#10 – Battles are too difficult or too easy.
The issue: A lot of Japanese players said it was too hard, while a lot of western players said it was too easy.
Tabata’s comment: “Before we mastered, we had our L.A. and London offices play it and had them fill out a survey, to see if the current battle balance is right. We got the same exact responses from them, too. I felt like I was being asked to look right while looking left. So I think the best solution is to include difficulty options.
“There’s no difficulty option currently in the works for the final release. But since we’re working towards releasing the game simultaneously worldwide, instead of releasing first in Japan and then to the rest of the world, we do feel there is a sense of obligation to fulfill lots of needs. And as one of those needs, we understand that difficulty options may be important.
“So I think we’ll include it. We will.”
(There’s a lot of difficulty option requests on 2ch, too.)
“Even in Japan, there are players who are good at action games, and those who prefer to slowly level up before beating the game. So I would like everyone to play in a way that matches their style.”
#11 – The overall controls weren’t good, many felt battles became repetitive were “too monotonous.”
Tabata’s comment: “When you say controls are bad, I think one way to look at it is that the response is bad, and another is when you thought you did something, but nothing happened on the game side. So either it’s not doing what you wanted to do, or soething feels like it’s not working the way it should.
“I think there are multiple ways to look at this, so I’m not sure which is the right one. But one thing we were thinking about is allowing players to remap the button configuration to their liking. But there is probably more to it, so I would like to dive deeper into this and get the full picture.
“It did stand out a lot earlier in that earlier diagram…. so we will look at each one.
“Now, about the ‘too monotonous’ criticism… The monotony is probably due to battles feeling long. (Like the hiding behind rocks?) Yes. That probably also contributed to making the battles feel long. And also, for players who are seasoned action gamers, the demo didn’t include a lot of situations to take advantage of your skills, so you probably couldn’t carry out battles the way you wanted to, thus making it feel too monotonous overall.”
(There’s no magic and only one joint attack…)
“As I said earlier, resolving the issue of battles being too long will also resolve the issue of battles feeling too monotonous, so I think it’ll change things a lot. Especially because you’ll have the tools to shorten battles so that’ll have a great effect on the experience. In that sense, I feel like it will become less of a problem. And then, if we were to add the difficulty settings, maybe it can bring out the more technical skills.”
(Ah, like perfectly timed evades…)
“Yes, currently perfectly timed evades even use MP, but it will make it easier to do things like making the gameplay significantly difficult, but eliminating the need for MP.
“I think we should allow the option of players choosing an easy mode.”
#12 – The stamina needed for dashing is annoying. You can’t even run that fast.
“I see, but you know… Instead of being able to run to the ends of that world while ignoring stamina, I’d prefer to see them get tired… So I think it’s better to have ups and downs. As long as we place importance on treating them like living characters. But in terms of dashing distance and speed, well… Improving both by eating certain foods, I think that would be a neat feature for Final Fantasy XV.
“So if you procure the right ingredients to strengthen your boost for the next day, then you can make that meal. If people were stressed out by the dash in the demo, I think this will take care of it.”
(So in the final release, you could choose your meal if you have the necessary ingredients… so you could specifically choose to eat a meal that will boost your dash?)
“Exactly. So if you’re planning to travel far the next day, then you can boost your dash if you know which meal will give you that status effect. In Episode Duscae, there are two states, I think they were Fresh and Prime. You get buffs from the meals. The dash distance was actually lengthened under these states, but the speed wasn’t affected.
“In the final release, it’s perfectly possible to have meals that can boost both speed and distance, and I think that’s the way it should be. So hopefully we can meet players’ expectations in that direction.”
#13 – I want to warp as a regular means of moving around.
Tabata’s comment: “Yes, yes. So, until some part of February, this was actually possible. That was our plan. But it caused so many bugs. So ultimately, we felt it would be pretty tough and prevent us from mastering. That’s how many bugs occurred as a result of this feature. So we decided to limit it to just battles. This isn’t something I want to tell our players. Although I just did.”
(Is this something you can achieve with enough QA time in the final release?)
“Well, here’s the thing. Since this is an open world and we’re seamlessly reading data, to be able to warp through that would be a pretty outrageous feature. So honestly, at this point we haven’t found a breakthrough to be able to achieve that without resulting in bugs. If we did find a way, it would’ve been in the demo, but we didn’t. I can’t say with absolute confidence that we’ll be able to manage it in the final release. If a breakthrough happens, I’m sure we’d implement it so you could use warping as a means of getting around, but there’s a good chance it will be left as is.
“But, well, even if we had to limit warping to just battles in the final release, I would like to find a way to open it up a bit in some fun way. That, at least, I think would be possible. Warping does feel good, and I want players to experience that as much as possible, so if you could allow us to be more flexible with how we could possibly allow warping, then we would like to come up with something.”
(Players want to see more blue-marker warp points.)
“There will be many more. The final release will have many more warp points, and there will be fights where there are numerous warp points, making you take advantage of them to clear enemies. It will become part of your strategy.”
(Can you warp directly up?)
“Yes, there will be a need for vertical warping. Dynamic warping will be an essential part of battles, whether you use it to your advantage or to avoid enemies. There was a little of this in the Behemoth battle, but we’re trying to incorporate it into normal battles, too, so that it’s not limited to specific sequences. I think players can look forward to it.”
#14 – Please let me cancel my attacks by evading. Please.
Tabata’s comment: “I was actually screaming inside for this, too. ‘I totally just dodged!’ But I’m still attacking, and I get blasted away. We’re going to let players evade mid-attack, right? Right? (Tabata is talking to the staff sitting behind the camera.) Let’s do it. Let’s make sure you’ll be able to evade mid-attack.”
(So if I press evade during an attack…)
“So it’s not whenever, wherever. We did have plans to make attack-canceling evades a feature. Um, why didn’t we put that in the demo again? (Tabata is again talking to staff.)
“So simply put, we would’ve had to work in action cancellation frames into that motion and fine tune that, but for various reasons, we couldn’t invest that much time into the demo, and that’s why it wasn’t included. Now that we have delivered the demo, we’re already able to cancel attacks. It’s already in that for sure. We were dodge rolling mid-attack, right? (Again at staff.) Yes.
“But you can evade out of every attack? (Tabata questions staff.) No, right? I see, so you can’t cancel out every single attack. So this is going to require some strategy and technique. I’m not fully aware of all the details at the moment, so I’ll go over this once we’ve locked in the final features.”
#15 – Lots of bugs.
The issue: I didn’t think it’d be possible to ride an NPCs car. Who would’ve thought you could get to the Titan like that?
Tabata’s comment: “My apologies. If only we could say this was intentional (the Titan visit). But we were completely blindsided. ‘What? You can get to the Titan?’ One day we came to work and everyone was talking about it. It got us good. We all saw it. ‘Yeah, we can get to him.’
“At least we can laugh about the Titan bug, but jokes aside, we heard about bugs where players lost their save data and needed to start over. There were those kinds of bugs, as well. So in that regard, we sincerely apologize. As we work on the final release, bugs like the aforementioned ones caused by warping in the the field, our know-how isn’t quite affluent yet when it comes to action in an open-world environment, so we are honestly faced with many unforeseen bugs. So we’ll be very thorough as we head towards the final release. I sincerely apologize for an inconvenience.”
Western Bonus Round
#1 – Noctis’ voice is weird.
Tabata’s comment: “Ah, that. He sounds like Batman, huh?”
(You totally just agreed!)
“Yeah. I really wanted to include voiceovers in this demo, but we cut it very close in terms of the schedule. We recorded, got the data, implemented it, then we went straight to testing, so by the time I realized that Noctis’ voice direction wasn’t quite right, we were already checking the ROM. But it was too late to re-record, so while it wasn’t ideal, we had to release it this way.
“So yes, we’re aware that he sounds strange. The character’s charm isn’t coming through with the current acting, as he feels a bit older. So we’ve actually already done more takes that feels a bit younger, while also bringing out Noct’s sense of ennui, and I think we’ve found the right direction.”
(So you’re basically re-recording with that new direction?)
“Yes, the voice acting is already different than what’s in the demo.”
#2 – Cindy is too sexy. Also, I want a female party member.
Tabata’s comment: “So do these go together? ‘Put Cindy in the party.’ ‘But she’s too sexy.’ I don’t get it.”
(So a lot of feedback from Europe was that Cindy is too sexy, but a lot of people also want a female party member. It does feel a bit contradictory.)
“About Cindy being too sexy, she’s actually not meant to be an erotic character. Her character is very energetic and outgoing, a very active character. With those traits paired with her appearance, we feel it wouldn’t be too problematic even if, say, she shows up on screen while your parents are in the living room. We feel it wouldn’t be too problematic. I just repeated myself there.”
(I think it’s more about the amount of skin she shows for a mechanic…)
“Oh, I see. But she is a very cheerful and active character, I don’t think we want to change the current concept. So maybe it’s about moderating the way she’s presented, where it appears as though overly sexual themes are being brought to the forefront, because that’s not who she’s supposed to be. Maybe as long as we maintain those boundaries…
“Nakaaki-san, who’s been working on Cindy, is here with us. Should we ask him?”
“So what Nakaaki-san said, just like what I just just explained, is that her character is not about sex. She is not supposed to be too sexy, but the male members on the dev team did their best to create her. As a result, perhaps too much of their heart and soul went into her… So if we put too much into her, then we should remove the excess heart and soul, and make sure she’s a character you’d be completely comfortable seeing while in the living room. That’s where our line will be, so please be assured.
“In terms of adding a female character to the party, our concept is that this about following the foursome’s journey in an environment where they can be themselves, and thereby allowing the player to feel like they are traveling with them. So removing Prompto, who was the least favorite, and replacing him with a new female character just doesn’t sound right…
(I guess people are anxious because you said there would be guest party characters—like General Cor—so I think there’s a certain level of expectation coming from players…)
“I see. We won’t be letting anyone down. Normally, it’s just the four guys, so the tent’s probably not in tip top shape, but if a female character gets thrown into the mix, you can expect things to be a little different than usual.
“They’ll probably clean and say things they wouldn’t normally say around her. Things like that. I think it’ll be fun to see the differences when the guys are being themselves, and when it’s not just the four of them. That’s how I want the players to journey with them. We’re working hard to make sure this really gets across. Please look forward to seeing the differences when a guest character joins your party.”
Development Team Moving Forward
Tabata’s comment: “From today’s preliminary report, we have a general idea of the areas that need to be carefully examined, and right after the demo was released, we had also started thinking about the improvements we’ll make for the final release. We’ve already made plans for improving certain things, and we’ve begun implementing things that used to be unknown for us. For starters.
“And if possible, instead of presenting a master that will be like the final release, I really want everyone to see and feel how the game is improving toward the final release as we take in all of their feedback.”
(So you’ll let them play at an event?)
“Yes, that’s what we initially planned. We first thought it would be good to constantly upgrade Episode Duscae across various events. But it would be more ideal from the dev team’s perspective if we could distribute Episode Duscae version 2.0 to everyone who played the demo.”
(Patching the demo, then?)
“That’s right, an update… That being said, from a first-party perspective, there’s been no precedent of applying patches to demos, so we’re currently discussing with them to see if it’s feasible.
“As of today, April 10, the dev team has already begun moving on it [Episode Duscae 2.0]. But we cannot say if we can actually distribute it. If we can’t distribute it, then we’ll probably have it at some event, even though the number of players will be limited. But ideally, we want to distribute it to everyone.
“We hope to update it between mid to late May. Similar to an online game patch, the April features will be tested and we hope to release this in May. That’s our ideal schedule.
Episode Duscae 2.0
- AXB enhancements
- Camera and targeting system enhancements
- Additional combat actions / overall re-balancing and bug fixes
- More joint attacks (the current demo has one) and in terms of triggering it, it might be different currently available one.
- Possible dodge roll inclusion.
- The range of actions for each weapons has been improved.
- MP recovery and usage has been adjusted, like not using MP for perfectly timed evades.
- Titan bug will be fixed.
- Individual quests – These are quests where all four party members may not partake in. The mechanics are already in place and working, so Tabata thinks it’s possible to implement along with the quest data. For example, when the player decides what to do in the morning after camping, depending on the choice, Noctis and Prompto will be paired for that day. Or three of the party members might go together. Those days might have different conversations because the number of party members are different from usual. In battles, there will be situations where all four members aren’t present, so it’ll bring out different situations. Then, at night everyone gets back together to camp, and each character might bring what they acquired, or something like that. The final release version will be much more in-depth.
- Frame rate stabilization – Not sure if this one can be added, as they’re still reevaluating data allot-age and how objects are being rendered. A decision will be made once they get a better sense of timing.
E3, Gamescom, and Promotion for the Main Game
“First, by releasing Episode Duscae, we think we reached one of our major milestones. I mentioned that we’re working on an update, but we feel we were able to properly execute what we consider the prologue leading up to the big release. So moving forward, with the release of the demo, instead of an extension of how we’ve been releasing information up until this point, we would like to begin releasing pertinent information about Final Fantasy XV to all regions where the game will be released.
(To start promoting the main game?)
“That’s correct. That’s what we are preparing for. Because of this, E3 doesn’t give us sufficient time to fully prepare. So I have been discussing with our marketing teams, and we’ve actually been considering Gamescom in August, instead of E3, as the target for our next major reveal.
“That’s our line of thinking. So we’ll be taking a break from E3 this year.”
(I think we’ll have a short trailer for E3, but it will serve as a segue into what we’re preparing for Gamescom.)
“I think so. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that the promotion for the main title will officially begin at Gamescom.”
(After that, there’s PAX Prime at the end of August to early September, then TGS in Japan in mid-September. This group of events will be the platform of our reboot, or re-start, towards the release of the main game.)