Everyone Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

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#51 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1611 posts) -

I never thought I'd see such a detailed discussion of Hope's character!

@hailinel: I just don't buy that someone would think that way, and if they did, I'd think they were a sociopath, an idiot, or both. I get that his whole world was turned upside down and inside out, but the point where he abandons rationality in favor of a homicidal fantasy is the point where he's lost either believability or sympathy. I even would have excused it if he had tried to kill Snow right after in a fit of emotional insanity or whatever, but the first time he saw Snow after that, he didn't say a thing about it, he barely even objected to Snow being around. Then he harbored this grudge for days (maybe even weeks) while he was on the road with Lightning, that's plenty of time to consider the alternative even in his state.

Others have made similar points, but just to put in my two cents, I'd argue that a significant number of 14-year-old males are to some degree sociopathic and idiotic. It's been a while since Psych 100 and much longer since I was 14, but from what I remember, the 14-year-old male mind is fairly incompatible with emotional reason. You're (I assume?) an adult and (I assume!) didn't watch your mother die, so you're applying way too much logic to his behaviour.

Hope's character wasn't perfect, but I think there's a case to be made that he's one of the more realistically-portrayed teenagers in gaming in the sense that, from an adult perspective, he's often exasperating to watch fumble his way through life. It also helps make his eventual maturation more apparent -- he undergoes the largest transformation of any character in the game, and that wouldn't be possible if he didn't start off as immature as he did.

@slag said:

@hunter5024 said:

@slag: I can definitely acknowledge that your interpretation of the events is totally valid. I just don't think that's how they were trying to portray him. I don't think the writing in any other part of the game is indicative of that level of competence, vision, or cohesion. If they actually did intend for Hope to be an unbalanced teenager deluding himself into believing something as a coping mechanism, then I think the eventual confrontation with Snow would have gone quite a bit differently. As the scene eventually goes, it's actually much more about Snow's character arc, Hope barely says anything, it's all about Snow learning how to apologize. Maybe it's due to some cultural difference, but it seems to me like the developers genuinely felt that Snow was the one in the wrong, but personally I don't think Snow had anything to apologize for, in fact it they did everything in their power to make Snow come across blameless right from the get go. It's because of this clash between what happened and the way the characters perceived the events that the whole arc felt totally fumbled to me. It just seemed like they weren't willing to compromise on Snow's heroism whatsoever, and this made Hope's reaction just kind of ridiculous. Like I said though, I think your interpretation is totally reasonable, I wish I shared it because I'd rather enjoy the game then criticize it, but it just didn't come across that way to me.

As for the likability thing, I'm totally with you that a character doesn't have to be likable to be good. The tricky part is in order to get someone invested in a story, you have to make them care about something, and it's very tough to make an audience care about an awful person. I bet this is why you don't see a lot of unlikable protagonists. Those kinds of characters usually just work better in antagonistic or ancillary roles, and that's okay.

Just out of curiosity what did you think they were going for with Hope? I know he's partially in there just there is a young pre-teen for young Japanese boys to identify with, but I never considered that they maybe they were trying for something else entirely and failed that badly.

I wasn't too keen on Snow either, but I felt like mainly that was due to him representing a very Japanese character archetype (cheerful boisterous tough guy)that doesn't really resonate with my western sensibilities. I think @stubbleman nailed the rest of his character, seemed liked a pretty clear cut of case of Survivor's guilt (another thing you see fairly rarely in games).

you're right that's why you almost never see unlikable protagonists. There's too much money riding on these games for that kind of high risk creative choice.There will be times you play as horrible humans (GTA games e.g.), but they usually play them as likable in some fashion (power fantasy, witty etc). If Hope was the only playable character that would have likley been financial suicide for the game.

With respect to Snow, I assumed that the writers were playing on that "cheerful, boisterous tough guy" stereotype, because to some extent, it was a coping mechanism for Snow to deal with his guilt about Nora. They were saying that Snow used heroism and bravado as a coping mechanism just as Hope used resentment and revenge fantasy. Both characters' arcs were about how they reacted to Nora's death, and how they came to realize how facile, irrational, and cowardly those reactions really were.

@hunter5024: I'm not very clear on what you mean by them not compromising on Snow's heroism. It's true that he doesn't shed it, as that selfless bravado legitimate part of his personality that continues into XIII-2, but he and the game do acknowledge that he used it as an emotional crutch. At the same time, because Hope's a child and Snow only just became aware of the extent to which Hope was torn up, I think Snow realizes that he's got to make the more dramatic gesture.

To be clear, I'm not saying FF XIII is a masterfully written game. Not everything I'm saying about the game is conveyed perfectly by the writing, but I do think the writers intended for Snow and Hope's characters to have more depth than they usually get credit for.

#52 Posted by Hunter5024 (5982 posts) -

@hailinel: Well you couldn't possibly be wrong, so I guess that developers just lie about their work in interviews then. Do you think I just pulled that information out of my ass or something? If there's one thing I learned in my trip to GDC, it's that every single developer approaches story telling in a different way, so your insistence that they did it in the western method is a little misguided (no offense). For a game like Fire Emblem, I don't doubt they would approach character design in the way you said, but that's a completely different type of game which requires a completely different approach. If I can find the transcript to the game writing panel I attended I'll send it to you, because the differences between the east and west's writing styles came up which is part of how I know this. Also look up the interview Kitase had, I don't remember where the original source was but I'm pretty sure Destructoid directed me to it so you can find it there.

@grantheaslip When I say they wouldn't compromise on his heroism, I mean specifically in the scene where Nora dies. I believe if that had genuinely been Snow's fault (for example he's actually forced to let go of her to save his own life or something) then that would have solved a lot of the problems I had with Hope, Snow, and that story arc in general, because Hope's hatred would have been justified.

#53 Posted by Hailinel (25205 posts) -

@hailinel: Well you couldn't possibly be wrong, so I guess that developers just lie about their work in interviews then. Do you think I just pulled that information out of my ass or something? If there's one thing I learned in my trip to GDC, it's that every single developer approaches story telling in a different way, so your insistence that they did it in the western method is a little misguided (no offense). For a game like Fire Emblem, I don't doubt they would approach character design in the way you said, but that's a completely different type of game which requires a completely different approach. If I can find the transcript to the game writing panel I attended I'll send it to you, because the differences between the east and west's writing styles came up which is part of how I know this. Also look up the interview Kitase had, I don't remember where the original source was but I'm pretty sure Destructoid directed me to it so you can find it there.

@grantheaslip When I say they wouldn't compromise on his heroism, I mean specifically in the scene where Nora dies. I believe if that had genuinely been Snow's fault (for example he's actually forced to let go of her to save his own life or something) then that would have solved a lot of the problems I had with Hope, Snow, and that story arc in general, because Hope's hatred would have been justified.

The development processes differ from game to game regardless of culture. Some games may devise their characters in the way you suggest, but FFXIII isn't one of them. Either way, saying "East does it this way, West does it that way" is an overly simplistic argument.

#54 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1611 posts) -

@hunter5024 said:

@grantheaslip When I say they wouldn't compromise on his heroism, I mean specifically in the scene where Nora dies. I believe if that had genuinely been Snow's fault (for example he's actually forced to let go of her to save his own life or something) then that would have solved a lot of the problems I had with Hope, Snow, and that story arc in general, because Hope's hatred would have been justified.

Okay, I see where you're coming from there, but those are some pretty fine hairs you're splitting. And either way, I think you're putting to much of an emphasis on Hope's actions fitting within a cold logical framework, which tends not to be how people react to huge life-altering emotional events. Part of his character arc was specifically about him realizing that his hatred wasn't justified.

#55 Posted by Hunter5024 (5982 posts) -

@hailinel: I was speaking specifically about RPG's, not in broad strokes for the entire east and west. If it sounded overly simplistic it's because I was explaining something. Also, I know that Square has used this method in the past, in this franchise specifically, so regardless of your insistence that Nomura had nothing to do with the game beyond a few drawings, there's a precedent for them to use him this way.

@grantheaslip I suppose it's just my own personal story telling preferences, but I like story's better when the characters don't act like idiots. It's sort of like how people groan about horror characters running up the stairs to get away from a monster. Maybe they wouldn't be thinking clearly in that kind of situation, but it still makes me roll my eyes when a writer has a character do something intentionally stupid to serve their plot. Honestly I just wonder if maybe I have a higher opinion of teenagers than all of you, because I don't think most of them are stupid or selfish to the degree that Hope is.

#56 Posted by Hailinel (25205 posts) -

@hunter5024: Well, here are some quotes on FFXIII's development from Wikipedia (which are sourced):

In March 2006, when the structural part of the narrative started to come together, lead scenario writer Daisuke Watanabe joined the team. Toriyama showed him a rough outline of what he had written for the first eight chapters. This had determined cornerstones such as important scenes and when the party members were separated or reunited. He told Watanabe what he wanted to express with the scenario and asked him to flesh out the story and to correct how everything would connect. For example, Toriyama had decided on a scene in which Snow and Hope would reconcile. Watanabe had to think about how this reconciliation should play out and then proceeded with writing the scenario that way. To emphasize what the story tried to express, Watanabe adjusted the personalities given to each character. For example, he felt that the party should not have a "reliable and calm leader type" at the beginning of the story to more accurately show the confusion and unease after the protagonists' transformation into l'Cie. Toriyama described the despair of the characters and the many points at which they are seemingly cornered as one of the storytelling challenges. He mentioned the scene where Sazh tries to commit suicide as one such example: Although Toriyama felt it was "almost a little too dark", he wanted to include something like it in the game. In contrast, he said that lighthearted elements such as Sazh's Chocobo chick helped maintain a good balance.[46]

Also:

Toriyama wanted Lightning to be a new type of female character with an athlete's body and a less feminine nature than some of the previous female characters of the series.[47][60] His guideline to Nomura was to make her "strong and beautiful", and she was intended to be reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII's Cloud Strife.[47][61] Fang was initially meant to be a male character, but the gender was changed to coincide with the updated character designs during the latter part of development.[62] The game's villains were intended by the team to have "their own motivations and beliefs" and act realistically.[63] The graphics capabilities of the PS3 and Xbox 360 compared to previous consoles allowed Nomura to use more complex elements in the character designs than before, such as Lightning's cape and detailed facial features.[64] This in turn meant that the art team had to do much more work for each character or area than in previous games.[65] Nomura did not take an involved role in the creation of the non-playable characters.[64]

Generalization and precedent are not the same as current specifics.

#57 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4501 posts) -

Hope and Vanille?

Yo fuck this game!

#58 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4501 posts) -

Hope and Vanille?

Yo fuck this game!

#60 Posted by Slag (4903 posts) -

@slag: I doubt their thought process extended very far beyond "cute angsty young boy." Maybe I'm underestimating them, but every interview I've ever seen Tetsuya Nomura in suggests that he doesn't put a whole lot of thought into the character concepts beyond the visual elements. So when I look at Hope I see them trying to take a stab at a Ken, or a Sasuke type character, attempting to use the source of his angst to tie him to the other party members and produce some drama. Only unlike the targets of my examples' revenge, with Snow they weren't willing to dive into any morally questionable territory. That's what caused everybody's disconnect with the character I think.

Hunh, well honestly I don't know what the creative processes work flow are like in the Nomura era FF games (I'm a more of a Sakaguchi era fan) so I can't say if that's right or wrong regarding authorial intent. I don't know if the FF Square Enix were somewhat inspired by Sasuke, but I'm sure they were hyper aware of Ken. If they cribbed some inspiration/storyline from another source, that'd be par for the course for video game development. I'm sure Atlus does the same.

They certainly didn't go nearly as dark as PE3 did, but I'm not sure I buy that makes their story of less value or that they really could have gone that route. I think the FF games (T rated) are intended for a slightly younger and more general audience than the Persona ones (M rated), given their development costs they probably have to be to recoup their budget.

In any event that your feelings makes sense to me in the context you explained them. At this point I'll just say , I'll agree to disagree about the quality of the writing. :)

I never thought I'd see such a detailed discussion of Hope's character!


With respect to Snow, I assumed that the writers were playing on that "cheerful, boisterous tough guy" stereotype, because to some extent, it was a coping mechanism for Snow to deal with his guilt about Nora. They were saying that Snow used heroism and bravado as a coping mechanism just as Hope used resentment and revenge fantasy. Both characters' arcs were about how they reacted to Nora's death, and how they came to realize how facile, irrational, and cowardly those reactions really were.

Well Hope is a divisive character alright, actually I'd go so far as to say he's downright unpopular.

I completely agree that's what they were shooting for with Snow and they largely achieved that. And in 13-2 he basically runs away instead of actually confronting the real problem. I just thought the execution was a little off, just some mannerisms, dialogue, body language and such that felt noticeably off to my western sensibilities. It's hard to quantify and it certainly wasn't egregious. Could entirely be a matter of taste too.

OTOH Sazh was executed brilliantly imo, they just didn't have any storylines for him after chapter 9 unfortunately.

#61 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1611 posts) -

@slag said:

OTOH Sazh was executed brilliantly imo, they just didn't have any storylines for him after chapter 9 unfortunately.

Yeah, I really liked Sazh, and oddly enough, Vanille grew on me a lot. That scene at the amusement park where she comes clean to Sazh might be the emotional high point of the game. Sazh seems to play a bigger part in Lightning Returns than he did in XIII-2.

#62 Posted by Slag (4903 posts) -

@slag said:

OTOH Sazh was executed brilliantly imo, they just didn't have any storylines for him after chapter 9 unfortunately.

Yeah, I really liked Sazh, and oddly enough, Vanille grew on me a lot. That scene at the amusement park where she comes clean to Sazh might be the emotional high point of the game. Sazh seems to play a bigger part in Lightning Returns than he did in XIII-2.

I'm glad I'm not the only one to feel that way about that scene. It's amazing how rare that kind of emotional nuance is in games.I don't think many shared our opinion about it though, for similar reason to the Hope reactions.

And I certainly hope so about Sazh, hopefully they will actually give him a meaningful storyline other than Mini game DLC and comic relief. He feels a bit like a great character being written out of a TV drama.

#63 Posted by Hunter5024 (5982 posts) -

@hailinel: Yeah dude, 95% of what they said in the first quote is talking about events and scenes he wrote, there are only a couple of parts where they talk about him influencing the characters, and even then, all it said was that he "adjusted the personalities given to each character." The only quote in the second part that's actually relevant to the concept is the first sentence, where they said Nomura was given guidelines (which sound pretty vague to me). I never said they were responsible for 100% of the character duties, I was just saying they have far more influence beyond the art.

I can concede that Tetsuya Nomura might have played less of a role than I was aware of, though you also ought to consider he had greater influence than you realized. Neither of us have concrete proof one way or the other though, so I don't see the point in arguing this any further to be honest. I think we've both spent too much time on this.

@slag Yeah and just to be clear, I'm not knocking them for Hope being similar to Ken, and I don't mind that the story isn't darker. I only wanted a little extra justification for Hope's behavior. And yes, respectfully agree to disagree. Good discussion!

#64 Edited by Hailinel (25205 posts) -

@hailinel: Yeah dude, 95% of what they said in the first quote is talking about events and scenes he wrote, there are only a couple of parts where they talk about him influencing the characters, and even then, all it said was that he "adjusted the personalities given to each character." The only quote in the second part that's actually relevant to the concept is the first sentence, where they said Nomura was given guidelines (which sound pretty vague to me). I never said they were responsible for 100% of the character duties, I was just saying they have far more influence beyond the art.

You also implied that Nomura was somehow the key person responsible behind the story and characters, which was just false. Toriyama wrote events and scenes and passed them to Watanabe, who fleshed out and rewrote those scenes, adjusting character personalities in the process as the story evolved. That's nothing unique; it's what a good writer does. He took what he was given and looked for ways to make it better. Characters are given personality as they're written, and those personalities change as the story evolves.

#65 Posted by Hunter5024 (5982 posts) -

@hailinel said:

@hunter5024 said:

@hailinel: Yeah dude, 95% of what they said in the first quote is talking about events and scenes he wrote, there are only a couple of parts where they talk about him influencing the characters, and even then, all it said was that he "adjusted the personalities given to each character." The only quote in the second part that's actually relevant to the concept is the first sentence, where they said Nomura was given guidelines (which sound pretty vague to me). I never said they were responsible for 100% of the character duties, I was just saying they have far more influence beyond the art.

You also implied that Nomura was somehow the key person responsible behind the story and characters, which was just false. Toriyama wrote events and scenes and passed them to Watanabe, who fleshed out and rewrote those scenes, adjusting character personalities in the process as the story evolved. That's nothing unique; it's what a good writer does. He took what he was given and looked for ways to make it better. Characters are given personality as they're written, and those personalities change as the story evolves.

I used plural pronouns, and used Tetsuya Nomura as only one example when speaking about multiple people. Whatever you inferred from what I said is your fault, because it was neither my intent, nor is it the way that my argument was phrased. That's all I have to say on the subject.

#66 Posted by Hailinel (25205 posts) -

@hailinel said:

@hunter5024 said:

@hailinel: Yeah dude, 95% of what they said in the first quote is talking about events and scenes he wrote, there are only a couple of parts where they talk about him influencing the characters, and even then, all it said was that he "adjusted the personalities given to each character." The only quote in the second part that's actually relevant to the concept is the first sentence, where they said Nomura was given guidelines (which sound pretty vague to me). I never said they were responsible for 100% of the character duties, I was just saying they have far more influence beyond the art.

You also implied that Nomura was somehow the key person responsible behind the story and characters, which was just false. Toriyama wrote events and scenes and passed them to Watanabe, who fleshed out and rewrote those scenes, adjusting character personalities in the process as the story evolved. That's nothing unique; it's what a good writer does. He took what he was given and looked for ways to make it better. Characters are given personality as they're written, and those personalities change as the story evolves.

I used plural pronouns, and used Tetsuya Nomura as only one example when speaking about multiple people. Whatever you inferred from what I said is your fault, because it was neither my intent, nor is it the way that my argument was phrased. That's all I have to say on the subject.

You used one person's comments on his own personal approach to illustrate the entire team's approach, whether that was your intent or not. (i.e.: That Nomura doesn't put a whole lot of thought into the character concepts and that because of that, you see them trying to create a Ken or Sasuke.) You then used the example of Final Fantasy VI, leaving out the fact that particular game's design was unusual in that it was made in a single year and different designers were responsible for the creation of different characters in a sort of melting pot approach as part of the accelerated development schedule, which is not the same as one character design artist creating the appearances of the primary characters based on a set of guidelines as occurred for XIII. You then inferred that the character designer (Nomura, in this case) and the scenario planner dictated different things, when in this case, the designer didn't have a say in the scenario or predominant personality traits of the characters.

#67 Posted by Hunter5024 (5982 posts) -

@hailinel: Nomura's comments were just one example, you're putting words in my mouth if you think I meant "Something Nomura said is obvious proof that nobody on the team gave a fuck." As for my Final Fantasy 6 example, I never claimed that that was exactly the way 13 was developed. I was using it as an example of Square's different methods of production in the past, because you were insistent that it is always done in a specific way, and I was trying to explain that this was not the case. The third thing was just a theory, I never claimed it was fact.

Honestly man, it doesn't even seem like you're actually reading my posts. Either that or you're intentionally misinterpreting it in a way that makes me look wrong. This has gone far past the point of discussion and is just a needless argument. I do not intend to read your inevitable reply to this, so you probably shouldn't waste your time. Have a good night dude.

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