Apparently the reason SE is reporting that FFXIII feels more linear and lacks town is due to technical reasons. At least that's the excuse they're throwing around.
In an interview with Ultimania, Kitase and Toriyama claim that rendering towns in high definition is difficult.
I think this may also explain some other questionable factors in FFXIII, such as the choice to shift into a battle scene as opposed to fighting mobs in the open world ala FFXII.
Personally, it sounds a bit like a cop-out to me. In my mind, I know they didn't want to take an extra year to get towns in the game and make everything look as good as it does now in FFXIII (keep in mind, this is arguably the best looking game to date), but I also feel like if they had taken an extra year, they could have gone that extra distance.
I do think they underestimated how big of a part of the FF experience towns and exploration really is, though, and sacrificed it in order to get a product out faster. Which is not a good thing.
I've seen a few vocal people discussing Final Fantasy XIII and how it's gone in a "bad direction". I've even seen one person blaming the merger with Enix for the direction FFXIII went in. I couldn't disagree more. It seems to me, given the history of Final Fantasy, that FFXIII is the result of sales trends, which is also, of course, the simplest explanation for why it is the way it is.
Basically, I propose that sales trends in the series are what has driven FF in this direction.
Hironobu Sakaguchi, the original creator of FF, left Square to create Mistwalker after the bomb that was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and the poor performance of Final Fantasy IX, which was his baby and which was overshadowed by FFVIII in both reviews and sales. FF:TSW was an utter bomb and remains one of the biggest cinematic financial losses of all times while FFIX remains on the bottom half of most "top FF games" lists and remains as one of the poorest selling FFs of the post-16bit era (actually, I believe it had the worst sales of the post-16bit era).
Here's how things went with Final Fantasy:
After FFVII was a success, Square decided to break the FF team into two groups that would simultaneously work on the next two games in the series. This was well before the Enix merger.
The team that created XIII is the team that brought you VI, VII, VIII, and X led by Yoshinori Kitase, and I think it's pretty obvious that XIII is the spiritual successor of these games. Look at the character archetypes and the style (both graphically and gameplay-wise)... the characters are almost uniformly taken from FFVIII, and the battle system is clearly inspired by these past games with a blend of VIII and X's systems. The Crystarium is just a new version of the Sphere Grid from X.
In The Gooch's (read: Sakaguchi's) absence, Yasumi Matsuno of FFT and Vagrant Story fame took over FF12 only to relinquish production to Kawazu of the even less well known SaGa series when he fell ill. Despite all these problems, the game turned out pretty well and was critically acclaimed, but the sales fell pretty far short compared to VII, VIII, and X. That said, even though Team 2 headed up production of FF12, it was inspired by the original desires Team 1 (again, led by Kitase) had for FFX in regards to an open-world approach.
Now take a look at sales historically and you get an image of why FF has gone this way. For reference, sales peaked with VII and were nearly as high for VIII and X, and X-2, a game that cost almost nothing and had a very short development cycle, did fairly well also . Meanwhile IX and XII had significantly lower sales.
Is it any wonder, then, that FFXIII is basically a natural evolution from these particular games? Of course not. It's not surprising at all that the open-world nature of XII, for example, was abandoned after the game had low sales despite high critical praise. In its place is a world that's at least as constricted as that in FFX, which had just as high critical praise but significantly higher sales, with battles and characters more akin to that of FFVIII's, which had even higher sales along with high critical praise.
I'm not reviewing the game yet because I haven't finished it. I can already say it's not my favorite in the series. But I predict sales of FFXIII will be quite high despite the complaints from many of the Hardcore Jaded Old-School Lamers (HJOSLs) out there that it's a bad game. After all, if nothing else, everyone basically agrees that the visuals are some of the best in a videogame ever, that the music is good, and the gameplay is at least tolerable. Plus, it's the first FF of this generation--you know it's going to be a big seller just because of that.
I think the real interesting caveat to FFXIII is the decision to co-create FFvXIII simultaneously, and to see how well FFvXIII sells once the dust settles from FFXIII. This is the major change made in FFXIII over the past games. FFX-2 was SE's first foray into this kind of development cycle, and it actually worked quite well for them, so we'll see how it pans out with this game.
So, tonight in Ulduar, I tested out a little bug I had heard about where you can blink through the floor in the entrance to Freya's room. Basically, after you teleport to her room, you run forward to the middle of the lip in the doorway and then blink. It took a bunch of tries, but eventually I ended up shoulder-deep in the floor just inside her room. Then I ran forward and started falling, and falling, and falling. Then I used Slow Fall and landed in one of Yogg-Saron's nightmare rooms. Honestly nothing to do in there, and you get trapped, but it's something to do if you're bored waiting for a disconnected Shaman to come back.
Probably won't sell my Wii. I'm still working through their "core" games from their first round of releases, and there are other games coming out for it that I'm interested in, so I will keep it at least until I finish those up.
The Wii doesn't appear to have a dearth of good games coming out in the future.
Awesome question of the day, by the way. MAKE IT LONGER NEXT TIME!
10,000 words, 2 weeks, 16 pages, and 70 references later, my hypothetical proposal is DONE. Or at least the third draft is. I'll be reading through it tomorrow, polishing it and sending it to my committee. Wish me luck!
So that means as of Thursday when I present it, VIDEOGAMES ARE BACK, BABY!
I'm tempted to do the following:
1.) Finish up Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
2.) Start and actually finish a new game of FFXII
3.) Practice Taki and Yoshimitsu in SCIV and play it with my friends... maybe even convince my g/f to try to learn it?
Last night, my girlfriend had to stay at her apartment because she had to get up very early to go to Anaheim for an exam, so I was sleeping alone. For some reason, I dreamed about Team Fortress 2. But not like I was playing it, like I was in it. It was pretty much awesome. I was Spy, then Scout, then Spy again. Yes, those are my favorite two jobs in the game. So... here's to hoping I have another TF2 dream tonight, and that Valve updates the Scout or Spy in their next update.
And yes, apparently I dream about videogames. Dorky? Yes. Do I care? No. It's schweeeeeeet!
(See, I just quoted Super Paper Mario, doesn't get much dorkier than that.)
All trophies deserve to be as phallic as this one.
What is the need for people to have trophies? I've seen 360 fanboy after 360 fanboy acting like their "achievements" and "gamerscores" are something other than gauges of how big a lifeless slob they are. Congratulations, you're "achieving" at a videogame! You are truly awesome!
Do you know why you get trophies when you're a kid? Because your parents want you to think this physical activity they forced you to do is both something you're good at and something you enjoy. But you don't enjoy it, and you're not even particularly good at it. Videogame trophies are the same crap. The companies want you to play their games, so they give you little carrots on the ends of meaningless sticks that you can "show off" to your online cohorts. Hey, if you weren't so busy rubbing one out to your "gamerscore", maybe you'd actually have a girlfriend to rub one out for you.
But maybe I'm being too judgmental (and certainly too crass). The whole trophy/achievment/whatever thing really isn't a bad idea. I admit, I get a kick out of "achieving" in a game I enjoy, and I don't mind if other people know it. But I don't feel compelled to rub it in their faces. "OH LOOK, I GOT THE BIG BOSS EMBLEM IN MGS4!" Yeah, you and a million other people. Nobody cares. These achievments aren't impressing anyone but yourself.
But there it is. Ultimately, they're there to boost your self esteem, and getting one makes you feel like you accomplished something (even though it was something meaningless in a time-wasting videogame).
So will I go back and replay my old games just to get trophies? No. I'll replay MGS4 because I love it, not because I want to prove something to everyone. So there.