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Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata talks leaving Square Enix – and those cancelled DLCs

Final Fantasy XV Director Hajime Tabata has spoken out about his departure from Square Enix – and the inauspicious end to his FF title’s time in the limelight with the cancelation of final downloadable add-ons for the game that had previously been announced.

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In comments made at a Taiwanese event to gaming outlet Bahamut and then picked up by Japan’s 4Gamer, Tabata expressed disappointment in how the Final Fantasy XV project came to an end – but also spoke of his pride at what the game achieved, and the lessons from it he is now making use of at his new studio, JP Games.

“The general gist is that I had a different policy from Square Enix’s president at the time, but the company naturally had to follow the president’s policy, so we couldn’t do what I thought we needed to,” Tabata says of the end to his time at Square in comments translated by RPG Site. Tabata’s Square Enix career spanned over a decade and culminated with his Director role on FF15 and the founding of the ill-fated Luminous Productions studio.

“I felt that it would be impossible to continue working under that situation for many more years, so I decided to go independent. When I had only just gone independent it was difficult to honestly say that, but now it should be alright.”

Part and parcel with Tabata’s sudden-feeling departure from Square Enix was a shift in direction and change of priorities. After founding Luminous Productions in March 2018, Tabata departed just a few months later, in October of that same year. RPG Site understands that as part of this process, the project Luminous was developing – which would eventually become this year’s Forspoken – massively changed in scope.

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Additionally, three previously-announced DLC add-ons for Final Fantasy XV were unceremoniously canceled after Tabata’s departure – though their stories were revealed in a novel.

Original plans for a series of four DLCs focused on Ardyn, Noctis, Luna, and Aranea were cut short – only the Ardyn DLC released.

“Canceling the DLC wasn’t my decision to make, but I couldn’t stop it, which made me even more depressed at the time,” Tabata tells Bahamut. “However, the sense of frustration that I felt gave me the motivation to produce better games from a freer standpoint. I also have partners who share the same feeling, and so I want to take on new challenges with this team. We want to redeem ourselves by providing new and interesting games to all players we let down back then.”

JP Games is Tabata’s vehicle to attempt to achieve that redemption – a new, independent studio. In the interview, Tabata notes the studio is made up of many veterans of FF15, and also reveals that it is currently working on two projects – a console-based RPG in partnership with another company, and an MMO-like project. The studio began its life by developing a new development middleware they’re calling the ‘Pegasus World Kit’ – a technology with many tools designed to help make RPGs.

It was this technology that Tabata was in Taiwan to promote – which led to his reminiscing on the earliest days of his fledgling studio.

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“I explained to the earliest members of the team the direction I felt future games are heading into, and what we can do in the latter half of our careers as game creators. I invited them to try creating an RPG unlike anything before,” he says, lacking none of the promise and flair for the dramatic he showed during FF15’s exhaustive media blitz.

“I want to create a new RPG with a different method from before, while still making use of the development experience and skills amassed from Final Fantasy XV. I fell like the RPG is a genre with a great potential, and I also have a long history in developing RPGs, so I want to create a good title while pushing the genre further and evolving it. I also had a desire to create a development team with more freedom, and it feels like people that share the same thought gradually gathered here.”

The cancelled FF15 DLC storylines were ultimate revealed in a novel.

The cancelled FF15 DLC storylines were ultimate revealed in a novel.

A huge part of Tabata’s vision for his studio involves young staff from places including recruitment outside of Japan. This feels like a quite natural continuation of development of FF15, which had a number of prominent figures working on it with origins outside of Japan. Tabata describes finding like-minded people – wherever they’re from – as a key goal.

“There are a lot of things I want to do, and I’m proceeding on all of them one by one. One of them is related to my current trip to Taipei. FF created opportunities for me to get to know game creators from not only Taiwan but the whole Asian region, as well as people from many game media outlets like Bahamut,” he explains.

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“There had been many people who like the FF series and Japanese content back then, and even now there are still a lot of such people in younger generations. Now that my career is about to enter the latter half, I have a strong desire to create new games with these young Asian people. I wouldn’t have been quite able to realize this if I were still working under Square Enix. It was the one big reason that guided me to independence. Before I create a game with freedom, I want to create a team with freedom. This is only possible because we’re independent.”

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