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Development history of FNC titles FFXIII & Versus XIII (and a bit of XIV)



Dec 8, 2019
Some people asked me to make this thread last year but I didn't have the time back then and I had to refuse. Now I am free of real life obligations, so here it is (although I doubt many people care at this point lol). The people who approached me were mainly interested in the development history of Versus XIII but I have no choice but to include XIII's development history because it plays an integral role to the development history of Versus XIII. Let's start then, shall we?

Where to begin? Well let's start with a quick timeline as the prologue.
January 2005 - June 2005: Development of FFXIII begins on PS2. It is then interrupted to allow the team to make the Final Fantasy VII PS3 tech demo shown at E3 2005
(FF7 tech demo).

July 2005 - September 2005: After the positive reception of the tech demo the company decides to move the development of FFXIII on the next gen consoles. Development starts from scratch.

October 2005 - June 2006: Developers create the first trailer of FFXIII and officially announce the game at E3 2006 (
). Once again, their work is then interrupted, this time to create a graphics engine for the PS3: The White Engine (Later renamed Crystal Tools engine).

July 2006 - September 2007: The team is downsized to allow the scenario team to work on the story, world and characters of the game. In June 2007, development of the White Engine, renamed Crystal Tools engine in the meantime, is now complete. It is also made to support PS3, Xbox 360, PC and to a lesser extend Wii.

October 2007 - June 2008: The development of the game itself officially begins

July 2008 - September 2008: Alpha version completed. SE announces the game will also release on Xbox 360.

October 2008 - December 2008: The title is planned to be a PS3 exclusive in Japan, so priority is given to that version. The team creates a demo to be included in the Japanese edition of FFVII: Advent Children Complete which was to be released in April of 2009.

January 2009 - December 2009: Development of the Xbox 360 version begins in January. Demo releases alongside ACC in April and from April until June 2009 the team makes changes to the game based on the feedback received from the demo. December of 2009, FFXIII is released for PS3 in Japan.

As you can see from this timeline, the engine of Versus XIII and XIII was completed in June of 2007. We can safely assume that both games were stuck in pre-production/conceptual phase until then, both waiting on the engine to be completed despite both having been announced an entire year earlier. Basically SE announced both titles before they even started developing them (crazy I know).

Let's proceed with the development problems FFXIII faced which in turn affected Versus XIII.

oh the engine. Crystal Tools was... for lack of better words, a big expensive turd. Minor side note here: This same engine was also being used for FFXIV 1.0 (it will come into play later so keep it in mind).

Crystal Tools was designed to cater strongly to the demands of Square Enix's developers. In a list of requests from Square Enix's developers that Murata presented, “Extensive use of character close ups” and “Stylized expressions” topped the list. Murata noted that the engine was tuned to deliver a very “cool” look or “anime-like” look to its visuals.
Accurate physics, for examples, were expressly not a priority of the tools, but the ability to create “cool looking” motion was.
(this is also important for later)
Another issue was the universal engine. Because we were so focused on creating an engine for next-gen hardware that could be utilized across all platforms, we made the mistake of trying to accommodate every single project that was in progress at the time. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that it would be impossible to fully satisfy all of these needs. As a result, we spent a considerable amount of time prioritizing all the different requests and ended up not being able to determine the final spec requirements. This created a standstill between the engine and game development teams, because if the engine’s specs couldn’t be finalized, neither could the game’s. As the debates continued without resolution, the timetable was also affected. Furthermore, as separate groups were working on the individual tools of the engine, there was no comprehensive software documentation to ensure usability and compliance. As all of this was going on, the staff involved directly with the actual data construction had no choice but to start working before the specs were finalized. Their main concern was that they could not be able to keep up with the schedule if they continued to wait for final decisions. However, the lack of specifications resulted in these assets being incompatible with the engine.
Although the game was announced with an elaborate trailer, the team had little direction beyond this proof of concept, which led to problems as development ramped up. "Final Fantasy XIII was first introduced through a concept trailer shown alongside the announcement of the Fabula Nova Crystallis project at E3 2006. The trailer was merely a visual concept, and we had not yet created anything playable at that point. I felt that this trailer set the bar for the quality we were aiming to achieve, in terms of battle speed and cutscene imagery, and believed that this sentiment was shared by the rest of the team. However, it became clear that, at the time, there were actually very few members who saw the trailer as a representation of what we wanted to achieve with Final Fantasy XIII. This lack of a shared vision became the root of many conflicts that arose later in development. Even at a late stage of development, we did not agree on key elements of the game, which stemmed from the lack of a cohesive vision, the lack of finalized specs, and the remaining problems with communication between departments.
As the project's scope increased, the traditional development style of dividing the team into specified roles, such as character modelers or texture artists, started to present issues as well. This problem of over-specialization presented itself in each discipline. The biggest problem was that the project became bloated with the increase in staff within each department. And because roles were so specific, the communication flow became faulty and information was not being shared properly. With the changes that were being considered, because of the lack of a clear communication line, the development team was not receiving clear instructions. This resulted in conflicts within the team on whether it was worth forcing certain changes into an already tight schedule."
The demo was not in our original plan, so we had to make adjustments to the overall schedule to accommodate it. Whatever effects creating the demo had on the schedule, once it was complete we realized it was just the panacea we needed. With a tangible version of the game that could actually be played, internal debates transitioned from theoretical discussions based solely on abstract concepts to concrete dialogue.
The demo not only unified the vision and understanding of the game’s direction across the entire development team, but it was also the first time that everyone could see exactly how the assets they worked on would function within the game. During the internal postmortem, many team members noted that the demo was what finally allowed them to truly realize and embrace the vision for Final Fantasy XIII. Although a vertical slice is commonplace in Western development, this was never actually practiced with our teams unless there was a company requirement. In retrospect, the demo acted as our vertical slice, and its effectiveness was felt full force by each and every member of the team. This was an essential key learning point that affected how we approached game development moving forward."

The issue with the universal engine was seen as something that would affect the progress of all related projects within the company, and in the end, it was decided that the needs of the flagship title, Final Fantasy XIII should come first and foremost. Final Fantasy XIII was to be the principal focus of Crystal Tools and the game's team began cooperating with the Research and Development Division more closely to receive the required tools and specifications.
After the game's release Final Fantasy XIII producer Yoshinori Kitase stated that developing an engine from scratch to go with a new game may have been a mistake and a likely cause for the long period between the title's announcement and release.

Now we can finally start talking about Versus XIII. We already established that until 2007, both projects were stuck in pre-production/conceptual phase as both projects didn't have an engine. We also established that after the engine was completed, FFXIII was given priority internally over every other project that was to use the engine including Versus XIII. Finally we established that the engine wasn't very well made, lacked documentation and the engine's developers had to help XIII in order to finish the game.

Nomura in 2006 states
"Nomura went on to comment that although he would like to bring out the early PS3 titles, they are still very early in development. From his point of view as director of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, things are moving slowly, but the slow pace is unavoidable because necessary software (likely referring to the White Engine) is not yet finished. He does, however, hope to show off the game sometime next year.”

Nomura in an interview with Japanese video game magazine Famitsu in 2008 states
"Versus is waiting for XIII. Right now XIII is prioritized so the Versus team too is there helping them, that's the situation right now. While the planners and programmers are all working on Final Fantasy XIII, the Versus project is getting the artists to work on a lot of image illustrations and conceptual visuals while I am working on the story and scenario of the game. We're doing progress on whatever part of development can be worked under these circumstances"

This statement creates a shitstorm across the internet as people get extremely pissed off and major publications are having a field day at the prospect of something going extremely wrong within SE.
SE's PR machine in full panic mode, immediately releases a statement that pretty much makes Nomura look like a fool.
"Square Enix has rubbished suggestions that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is on hold.
“Reports that development for Final Fantasy Versus XIII is on hold are false,” the publisher said in a statement passed on to Eurogamer.
“The truth of the situation is that when free, some staff from the Versus team have been helping with the XIII team on development of Final Fantasy XIII. Development for both titles is continuing as originally scheduled.” (Sure thing Square)

Nomura being Nomura, proceeds to give no fucks about SE's PR statement and a couple of months later during Square's DKS3713 event doubles down on his original statement and says
"Currently, the Cinematic Team is heavily involved in FFVIIAC Complete (ACC) and don't have the luxury to work on other projects. The console development team is also heavily focused on FF13 so the number of people in the FF Versus 13 team is extremely limited. Because of this, we're unsure if we'll even be able to present the current status of FF Versus XIII at this point in time."

Late in 2009 during TGS (couple of months before XIII released in Japan), SE showed a short FF Versus XIII tech demo behind closed doors.
"The new Versus XIII footage showed the game's main character running around in a town at various points during the day, then out in a field that was populated by large monsters. The footage was filmed with a camera, presumably by the game's staff whose commentary could be seen in text shown below the footage."
Later Nomura triples down on his 2008 statement as he again confirms that Versus XIII staff are busy working on XIII and that this footage is just a glorified tech demo created out of FFXIII assets and made within 2 weeks.
"According to Nomura, the footage wasn't actually from a development version of the game, but was rather part of a technology test. It's not the case that everything shown during the clip will be used in the actual game. The clip was quickly made in an effort to show that Versus is in development and ease fan anxieties.
NPC characters who populated the town during the daytime were actually borrowed from Final Fantasy XIII.
The map that was used for the following field scene was made in two weeks
The "behemoth" creature from the clip was without textures, he also said.
According to Nomura, the development team has been working on tests since last year. Since the Spring, they've been gradually increasing staff. With FFXIII's development winding down, staff from that project are coming over to Versus, so he expects development to accelerate from here on out."

As you can see, things weren't going well. More than 3 years after the announcement of the game at E3 2006, Versus XIII had most of its team held hostage by XIII, its engine held hostage by XIII and the focus of the company on XIII all the while VsXIII was being left to rot, still doing "tests" 3 years after being announced and having to borrow basic ass assets from FFXIII to be able to make a tech demo.

February of 2010 rolls around, with the release of XIII in late 2009, things for Versus start looking up. Pre-production begins for realzies this time and we start getting our first small updates from Nomura using The 3rd Birthday's twitter account (don't ask me why he was using the T3B account, it's Nomura we're talking about).
"The team stopped using Crystal tools as its main engine and started using a heavily customized game-specific engine for the gameplay mechanics with the lighting being done by the Luminous.
Versus has had many difficulties, and past methods of production have been completely inapplicable (keep this in mind for what Yoshida will say about SE's way of developing games back then later), but these are the difficulties of birth, so we are working hard. We have a lot to announce, but because we’re going in order, I can’t say too much yet. There have been many questions regarding fields. It’s not complete open world. It’s like the 2D FF games in HD. That is to say in terms of looks it’s not a top-down view it’s like the screenshots that have been released. You’ll move through the world from that view."

Spring 2010: It is reported that Versus is currently undergoing voice casting.
June of 2010: Dengeki reports the scenario is now fully complete. Story and script are written and finished.
September 2010: SE starts hiring for Versus XIII, mainly looking for battle planners and level designers.
October 2010: Nomura says development is now progressing smoothly but currently only being worked on by core staff and are now experimenting with a lot of challenges and are in the midst of preparations.
January 2011: we get our first trailer that has actual gameplay in it (
June 2011: Nomura says Versus XIII still hasn't yet entered full production. He went on to say the date for the next showing of the game has been set.
August 2011: Nomura states Versus XIII was original planned to be shown at TGS in September but had a change in schedule and won't be there.
September 2011: Kitase states Versus XIII is now in full production and has advanced to "100% development power"

BOOM... After this Versus XIII goes vaporware. Now we need to look into what could have caused this. Everything looked fine. You can see from the above timeline that, once XIII released, Versus XIII's development started advancing rapidly. So what happened?

Well... FFXIV is what probably happened.
The original release of Final Fantasy XIV began development under the codename Rapture between late 2004 and early 2005, and was officially announced in 2009. This version was directed by Nobuaki Komoto and produced by Hiromichi Tanaka who was also serving as the producer of FFXI, and employed the Crystal Tools engine, which had previously been used for FFXIII. Following a bug-laden, abbreviated beta test period, the game released in September 2010 to near-universal negative reception. After two extensions to the initial free trial period, then-Square Enix President Yoichi Wada issued a formal apology to players and fans in December 2010, and announced a dramatic overhaul in the development team, most prominently the removal of Tanaka from the project and the demotion of Komoto from Director to Lead Designer. Monthly fees for the game were suspended until further notice and the previously planned PS3 version was canceled. After the change in development team, Naoki Yoshida, who had worked as planning chief of Dragon Quest X was brought in to supervise the project as both producer and director.
YoshiP, quickly realized that Crystal Tools engine was.. well garbage and decided to ditch it. He also concluded that the source code was also.. well shit. https://web.archive.org/web/20150115111013/http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/teaser/index.html
"However, outdated and cumbersome programming choices in the source code prevented the more radical modifications necessary to enhance the game. Thus, planning for a brand new game built from scratch started in January 2011 and development began in earnest by April, with work on a new game engine and server structure."
In 2014, Yoshida reflected on the herculean task of maintaining and updating an MMORPG while simultaneously developing a new one over the course of just two years and eight months. He identified three main reasons why the original launch failed: an over-emphasis on graphical quality (remember when I said to keep in mind the engine's emphasis on graphics instead of physics and other things?), a lack of modern MMORPG expertise in the development team, and a mentality that all problems could be fixed in future patches. These evolved from the team's prior experience on Final Fantasy XI, the previous MMORPG in the Final Fantasy series. As the series has been renowned for its state-of-the-art graphics, the original development team gained an unhealthy obsession with maximizing graphical quality at the expense of server performance, which was unsustainable for an online game with tens of thousands of high definition assets.
In the above documentary Yoshida states

"This may be at risk of being cut by corporate PR, but a middleware by the name of Crystal Tools was in the process of being developed company wide and a lot of the really talented programmers were pulled from all different projects and game lines. So many different projects were missing their lead programmers, their main programmers (cough VsXIII cough). So I feel that is one of the reasons that led to the failure of 1.0 as well. And then 2 large points that were involved in that short of problem. One of the problems was that because SE in the PS2 generation had produced games that were revolutionary with very high graphic quality that it was regarded as perhaps on top of the line of the world, the corporation itself became very arrogant, so to speak. We had that extraneous sort of confidence that, oh we have the world's number one graphics, and only we are able to accomplish that kind of quality. And I feel that way of making games and its success had become a sort of shackle and I think we had become very arrogant, very prideful. Back then we had swordsmiths, artisans that make katanas. We compared them to swordsmiths creating katanas one by one, by hand. And they would create world-class quality, but meanwhile the world is developing technologies so that they can cover that sort of tedious manual labor through technology. And so going back to the gaming industry, once PS3 came out, technology finally had caught up and you are able to cover those tedious tasks through technology. But Square Enix did not change our old methods of creating assets. And then we didn't have the resources (manpower) to catch up on the technology to cover for that as well. And then the top programmers we knew that we had and that we needed to catch up technology-wise, were wrapped up in creating middleware (Crystal Tools engine). And of course the artists were still in that outdated sort of artisan mindset thinking that, oh, I make the worlds best graphics. And so it was a very laborious and time consuming way of creating our assets and I believe that that is one of the large problems that we had in terms of the original 1.0. The second problem relates to, of course pride is very important, but with great success they started thinking that because they are great, they don't need to look at other games.

In November of 2012 there was a rumor at Neogaf.
The rumor stated
"1) FF Versus XIII is on hold and all staff have been moved to FFXIV: A Realm Reborn until it gets released.
2) FFXIV: A Realm Reborn will release in July 2013.
3) FFXIV: A Realm Reborn releasing in July 2013 is much later than the originally planned Q1 2013. It's safe to say that Lightning Returns: FFXIII is now a Q4 2013/Q1 2014 release at the earliest. FF Versus XIII is looking likely to be a Q4 2014/Q1 2015 release." (aka late 2014/early 2015)

This info came supposedly from a trusted twitter user named Hasemo who lived (and still lives) in Tokyo and who had apparently leaked more stuff before this one and had all come true. I tried to contact this Hasemo in the past, but he deleted all my twits to him and never replied. The moderators of neogaf back then seemed to trust that guy and also they locked the thread because Hasemo himself didnt want this info to be published.
Personally I think this rumor was 100% factual as it got almost everything right.
A Real Reborn released in August of 2013 so Hasemo was only off by a month, Lightning Returns released in November 2013 so he got that right. As for the rest of this rumor... let's see if he got anything else right shall we?

Roberto Ferrari in 2016 had a mini metldown on his Facebook page. One of his posts (which is now deleted since he got in trouble with SE and publicly apologized for these posts) stated this.
From 2010 till the end of 2011 I worked on the designs I got assigned with, without any big issues. That’s why when the team got resized from 200 workers to around 20 in 2012 (right before the arrival of Tabata and the Type-0 team), I was still there and then worked with the newcomers till 2013. Then I left because I followed mister Nomura.
Newcomers is likely referring to Type-0 team that joined the Versus XIII project in July of 2012 when it was on the verge of cancelation as stated by Tabata later. Roberto Ferrari also said
"the definitive delivery date for the game was for the end of 2014, who would have thought it would have been pushed back to November 2016?"
Lastly when Ferrari was asked if he designed Ravus he answered that it wasn't him but a different artist, Mihara Nobuyushi who designed Ravus but left the Versus XIII team in 2012 to join the FFXIV team.

So... We have confirmation from Roberto Ferrari who worked on Versus XIII until December of 2013 (which was when Nomura left the project according to Tabata) that the team
1) Got resized from 200 people down to 20 people in 2012
2) The game was set to release in late 2014
3) An artist that was working on Versus XIII, joined the XIV project in 2012

November 2012: Yoichi Wada (CEO of SE at this point) in his annual business report said
" "The unsuccessful launch of FFXIV caused a negative chain of events in other areas across the businesses. One notable example is the significant delay in the development of new HD games titles"

This is in no way a confirmation but evidence points to Hasemo's info being correct and that Versus XIII's team really was pulled off the project (again) and worked on FFXIV 2.0 instead. We're approaching the end of this thread so bear with me for a little while longer.

I will skip the details about Tabata and his Type-0 team joining the Versus XIII team and the game being rebranded as FFXV since most people know about that stuff and I will jump straight to how FFXV stopped being Versus XIII beyond just its name change and how Tabata took over and Nomura ended up leaving entirely, although there is not much info about this and we can only speculate with whatever we've got.

Just a month after FF Versus XIII's grand re-reveal and rebranding to FFXV at E3 2013, Yoichi Wada steps down from his position as CEO (read: got fired) and Yosuke Matsuda replaced him. First thing Matsuda does? "Review and reconstruct the company with great urgency"
“After having succeeded the important role as the president, I plan on reviewing all Square Enix duties, business and assets on a zero-based budgeting standpoint. Due to the radical change of environment, I’d like to fundamentally review what works and what doesn’t work for our company, then cast all of our resources towards extending what makes us successful and thoroughly squeezing out what doesn’t.
As far as a concrete plan on what to expect from us, I will further explain it on another briefing session in the near future, so I kindly ask for your patience. Thank you for your support.”
In an interview soon after
“Past gaming generation changes took roughly three to five years. Nowadays, released titles are updated every day, and it only takes about three months for a situation to completely change. In order to react with such speed, it is urgent for development and sales to be unified as one.
“The former core was ‘standardization’ and now it has become ‘personality’. An especially important index is ‘asset-turnover ratio’. When making something, developers want to spend more time and money. However, that can be related to lowering the asset-turnover ratio, so the key point is to find a good balance.
“In fact, one of the factors of the final deficit is the delay from the development to release. Such time-lag means a decrease of contact frequency with the players. It is necessary for us to set up a system that allows us to meet the demands of our customers in a more timely manner. We can’t just have a year of leniency. We must reform with urgency.”
"The DNA of providing high-quality content is in us," he continued. "We will continue to honor this, while changing what needs to be changed."

All this led to the company being restructured from the ground up and to the creation of what we previously knew as "The 11 Business Divisions", now known as "The 4 Creative Business Units" after the latest restructure in 2019 which saw the smaller divisions being absorbed by the bigger ones.

My own thoughts on what might have happened
Now we know Nomura had plans for Versus XIII. Plans that were very similar to the path FFXIII took. It is probable that Matsuda decided against a second trilogy of
games set in the fabula nova crystallis mythos, especially since the 3rd game of FFXIII hadn't even been released yet at that point. The FFXIII trilogy also had a very divisive reception and even Agito XIII distanced itself from the FNC by getting rebranded as Type-0 to avoid being related to XIII in the eyes of the fans. We know the first thing Tabata was tasked to do was remove all FNC references from FFXV and condense the story in order to make sense into 1 game. So I feel these 2 reasons (FNC and a planned trilogy) are what ultimately decided the project's fate and led to Nomura leaving the project, taking Ferrari with him to work on FF7R and later KH3. According to Ferrari, he had a falling out with Yusuke Naora, the art director of the game. Ferrari has also expressed his dissatisfaction with how the story of FFXV changed compared to when he was still working on it and has expressed his annoyance at the fact most of his character designs were either scrapped or changed and I believe that Nomura's reasons for leaving are very similar, especially since Versus was his own creation and would have wanted to most likely keep it as it is and not change it. Considering he had to wait years to get his chance at making the game and he saw it being shelved multiple times because of the company's own issues, he probably felt fed up with all the bullshit and bailed. Lastly SE and Matsuda himself probably didn't give a shit about Nomura's vision and only cared about making money, and I am sure that pulling Nomura off FFXV and putting him to work on KH3 and later 7R was better than delaying those projects for the sake of Nomura's FFXV dream game. Of course, this is my own interpretation of the events and you're free to reach your own conclusions
I will end the thread with this quote from a Nomura interview he gave during E3 2013, posted on Famitsu.
"There's a line of narration that reads, 'A World of the VERSUS Epic', suggesting that Final Fantasy XV ushers in one climax of a planned, continuous story." Famitsu noted that it sounds like there's the possibility of a sequel, Nomura replied, "If you make something this dense, it becomes an extraordinarily grand thing. There was an idea to drop the sheer volume and the density, but, in that situation, desired elements undoubtedly die, too."
Continuing, Nomura said, "That's why, I'm thinking of completing a successive work."

If you managed to read to the end, thank you for taking the time. I hope it was an interesting read.

Goodnight sweet prince.


Dream eater ally.
Dec 23, 2005
Excellent thread. Funny how the two people that left (Nomura and Ferrari) are still at square while Tabatt and Naora left.