At this year's PAX East we got to talk to Final Fantasy XV's producer Haruyoshi Sawatari and global brand manager Raio Mitsuno, acting as a translator for Sawatari, about the upcoming Episode Gladiolus DLC. We started our interview talking about the perception of the main game and how fan feedback influences the approach when it comes to bringing a bit of fresh air with the additional content.
"We got a lot of players, from everyone around the world who has played the game, and I think that's something that the dev team has really accepted and is really been touched by, and something we are proud of," explained Mitsuno. "But yeah, we are constantly looking for the fan feedback and see what they have to say."
"In Episode Gladiolus, the spotlight is on Gladio. You can control him and we designed a system and a story around him," he continued. "But what we drew from the main game is the reception that the battle system had. The battle system was something that everybody really appreciated and enjoyed playing, so what we want to do it is take that, but adapt it for Gladiolus and say: 'OK, if Gladiolus were the playable character, this is how he would fight and how his battle system should be like.' So we want to make sure there is still a connection there, but there is a difference between how Noctis will be played and how Gladiolus will be played."
What impressed us the most in the main game here at Gamereactor was its vast and sprawling open world, which encourages players to spread out with their squad and tackle various adventures. Our first impression of the DLC was that it was very narrow and focused on narrative, however, so we ask Sawatari for the reason behind this different flavour.
"The main game - Final Fantasy XV - had a sprawling open world, but Episode Gladiolus is set in a particular ruins and this is by design," he explained. "Something happens in the main story, but I don't give you too many spoilers, where Gladiolus feels like he doesn't have enough power to be the rightful shield of the king, which is Noctis. After that event happens Gladiolus wants to get more power. He is like 'I got to be good enough to protect Noctis.' There is a trial that takes place in these ruins that has been passed down by history. A lot of previous crowns guards and shields that the king have undertaken this trial, and by taking this trial there is a clear mission, a clear objective, which is why we decided this location is by design the mission that Gladiolus needs to do, to feel like and retain the power necessary to be the rightful shield of the king."
As we delved even further into the development process in Final Fantasy XV, we also talked about Sawatari's approach when it comes to expanding such a rich universe, as well as his motives and reasonings behind these special themed Add Ons:
"[Haruyoshi Sawatari] is the producer for the Final Fantasy XV's DLC, so wasn't on Final Fantasy X or [FF] XIII [and therefore] he can't really talk about the differences in approach for those titles," Mitsuno explained. "But for [FF]XV the dev team has a continuous goal in challenge of continuing to expand on the user experience of the main game. For Episode Gladiolus that brings out the most of his character: What would a battle system for Gladiolus look like or feel like or play like? We design a story and a tempo that tells that story the best. It was our mission to just expand on the overall experience, for people who enjoy Final Fantasy XV but still want more, this DLC gives more with a different light and a different character."
At the Game Developers Conference Square Enix showed us some kind of a technical demonstration for Final Fantasy, and our next question was regarding whether we expect a PC port or even a Nintendo Switch version any time soon, to which we received the response: "As a general approach that we take as a whole, the dev team is always open minded to different platforms and different possibilities. What you saw on GDC was just a technical test that we been [trying]. Whether it's PC or whatever platform it is, we're open to testing it around a little."
Sawatari also summarised some of their ambitions and plans for the future (something we've previously heard about) and what we can expect from it: "Speaking just purely for Final Fantasy XV, I mean we have Episode Gladiolus for March 28, we have Episode Prompto scheduled for June, we also have Episode Ignis and an online multiplayer expansion scheduled for later this year. In terms of expanding on the experience of Final Fantasy XV, this is our approach for it. So yeah, just hopefully everybody stays tuned for more information."
"Without going to deep into the setting, because it might be spoilers for people who haven't finished the main game, but for like Episode Prompto - just like we did for Episode Gladiolus - we are going to design a system that caters to that character. We're going to bring up what that character stands for and what that character represents. So both Episode Prompto and Episode Ignis are going to put the spotlight on them, and the game experience as a whole is still going to be one complete Final Fantasy XV experience, but individually those are separate experiences for the main game. It is just a different way of enjoying the world of Final Fantasy XV with different characters and a spotlight on them, to get to know a little bit more about them, but it all comes together in one experience."
We also tried talking about the highly-anticipated multiplayer DLC, but the two developers can't talk about it just yet. "All the DLC for later on this year, are moving along the schedule," they said. "There is not much we can say at date, in fact that we are working on it and we hope we are able to release information soon."
To finish our interview we asked the pair about how it feels to be part of a team that works on an experience of the scale of Final Fantasy XV, not to mention preparing additional content and lots of side lore even after launch. As Raio Mitsuno explained, all their work is due to the fans, who have yet to experience all their gratitude.
"There are so many games out there and for consumers to pick Final Fantasy XV out of a sea of games and to play it and love it [it makes us proud]," he said. "Something that we want to do, is just give it back to them. The DLC is about, whether it is the DLC or the main game updates, it is about giving back to community, giving back to the fan base, that made [FF] XV such a success. [It's] not just for the players that have already played Final Fantasy XV. By introducing DLC and additional content for the game, we think that maybe there are opportunities for people who, for whatever reasons, have not been able to play the main game yet, they might be able to see it and say 'Oh my god, there is so much content, maybe I try it now.' So it isreally just about more for the people, more for the fans to enjoy and this is our stance."
Final Fantasy XV's Gladiolus DLC is coming on March 28, so there isn't long for fans of the series to wait before they get to experience a slightly different FFXV experience.