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Hiromichi Tanaka joins GungHo Online EntertainmentFollow

#1 Sep 19 2012 at 7:07 PM Rating: Excellent
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In an interview published in Famitsu magazine this week, Hiromichi Tanaka, announced that he was joining Japanese game publisher GungHo Online Entertainment in a freelance advisor position.

I was personally surprised that he essentially blamed the crew for FF14 flopping while he was in charge and essentially taking credit for where FFXI is today lol.

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In an interview published in Famitsu magazine this week, Hiromichi Tanaka, former producer on online titles Final Fantasy XI and XIV, announced that he was joining Japanese game publisher GungHo Online Entertainment in a freelance advisor position.

The last time the Western world heard from Tanaka was a couple years ago, when he stepped down from FFXIV (along with most of the main team leadership) after the multiplayer online RPG launched in a buggy and generally incomplete state in September 2010. Afterwards he went back to working on FFXI full-time before announcing his departure from Square Enix this July.

"The trigger for me thinking about leaving was getting removed from the Final Fantasy XIV project," Tanaka told Famitsu. "I helped mold Final Fantasy XI into one of the best MMO formats on the market, and I wanted to respect the wishes of the team as much as possible when they wanted to make something different with FFXIV, so I tried my best not to meddle too much with development. In the end they weren't able to realize what they were aiming for, which is a shame, but I wish them the best of luck with the reboot."

(Tanaka has also been dealing with some sort of long-term illness, although he didn't specify what in the interview. "I'm going along fine now," he said. "It's not the sort of thing that can be completely cured and I'm going to have to deal with it for a while to come, but I'm visiting the hospital every week and it's not a particularly big problem.")

GungHo Online, a relatively unknown company outside of Asia, is a Japanese publisher involved with a wide variety of MMOs, console games and smartphone apps. They're probably best known as the Japanese provider for Korean MMO Ragnarok Online (above), still one of the biggest-grossing PC titles in Japan. Tanaka got involved with them via several ex-Square staffers who currently work for the company, including Ken Narita, longtime programmer on the Final Fantasy series and GungHo's current head of development.

"I was still heavily involved with FFXI, so I couldn't leave immediately," Tanaka said. "First there had to be a good roadmap laid out for FFXI in terms of development structure, expansions and the user interface. Once I was sure that the team would continue doing their best on the title, then I could think about myself and take the next step forward."

So what is that next step forward? Besides getting to know GungHo and providing development advice, Tanaka has at least one idea for a game he'd like to work on. "There's a project that I've been letting simmer up to this point," he said. "Right now I'm in the midst of putting it all together. Assuming it goes well, I'm hoping that I can make it into a GungHo project. It's an online game, but it won't be an MMORPG this time. Unlike ten years ago, smartphones and tablets are perfectly usable game platforms, and in addition to that, gamers are spending less time playing each individual games. Instead of just trying to get money out of users [via microtransations], I want to provide convincing gameplay which provides an experience that's actually worth paying for."
#2Zenoxio, Posted: Sep 19 2012 at 8:21 PM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) How do we know this "TheVerge" site is reliable? :/
#3 Sep 19 2012 at 9:06 PM Rating: Good
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So... he couldn't work for SE because of health reasons but he can work at GungHo despite still having the same health issues?
#4 Sep 19 2012 at 9:49 PM Rating: Default
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Didn't read the Article but I am just going to leave this.

As much as some of you dislike Tanaka If it wasn't for his direction this game would not be what it is today. He is the entire reason this game even still exists. It should have died with ToAU but somehow he manged to scrape enough crap together to tide people over until Abyssea. Which was likely in development while he was there, and only finalized and released after he moved to 14.

Tanaka is FFXI, love him or hate him, this game is his legacy, and it has lived for 10 years because of him.
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#5 Sep 19 2012 at 11:21 PM Rating: Good
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rdmcandie wrote:
Tanaka is FFXI,

Not anymore, he ain't. Akihiko Matsui is FFXI now.
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#6 Sep 20 2012 at 12:31 AM Rating: Excellent
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lol so saw this coming, the whole "illness" nonsense was typical JP company behaviour to simply be fired or quit without losing face.

His post about XIV failing due to the rest of the team and XI being where it is today (lol) due to him is rather guiling, what an asshat.
#7 Sep 20 2012 at 1:16 AM Rating: Good
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Now I think that a freelancer position has much less responsibility than a producer and probably less to do. Sort of surprised he didn't just retire entirely.
#8 Sep 20 2012 at 2:52 AM Rating: Excellent
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Well, i always thought Ragnarok Online needed some Balance anyhow.
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#9 Sep 20 2012 at 3:29 AM Rating: Excellent
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Now I think that a freelancer position has much less responsibility than a producer and probably less to do. Sort of surprised he didn't just retire entirely.


That's what I was thinking. It sounds like a very light position. And his illness didn't seem made up because he went into some detail (incurable) whereas when it is used to save face, they just cite a generic "health" excuse, not to mention Tanaka aged considerably from 2010 to 2012. This new info indicates weekly hospital visits.

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"The trigger for me thinking about leaving was getting removed from the Final Fantasy XIV project," Tanaka told Famitsu. "I helped mold Final Fantasy XI into one of the best MMO formats on the market, and I wanted to respect the wishes of the team as much as possible when they wanted to make something different with FFXIV, so I tried my best not to meddle too much with development. In the end they weren't able to realize what they were aiming for, which is a shame, but I wish them the best of luck with the reboot."


What's this "the team wanted" bit? He was in charge (producer). From what I understand, the producer deals with the whole production, all the coordination and development, the timeline, the game as a product while the director handles all the creative content. They do have input though, as Sakaguchi did for the PS1 FFs and as Miyamoto did on many games he was director on. Komoto was the director. Maybe he was "the team" whose wishes Tanaka was respecting, but come on, if Sakaguchi or Miyamoto (going on with my example) were director and they sensed a project was going off the rails, they would strongly intervene. And the production side of FFXIV was as horrendous as the creative side too (6 years development, little to show for it, reinventing the wheel only replacing it with a Square with all the changes they made to the world), which is what he was directly responsible for. Tanaka doesn't strike me too much as a pushover, so it seems odd for him to be so passive as producer unless (as I speculated) the illness was starting to affect him, especially his judgment, and let Komoto do what he want (he was director of FFXI from 2003-08. Most of that time was good so he didn't managed to ***** everything he did up. He was director for Chains of Promathia, which its haters blame, though it had a **** good story and for those who beat the missions before the nerf, they tended to feel it was invigorating). He's hard to get a read on. CoP was very old school with some classic NES hard (or Genesis hard) brutal difficulty whereas FFXIV is some avant-garde abstract Post-Modern stuff. Maybe Komoto is all over the place, hit (FFXI) or miss (FFXIV).

As I said earlier when he retired, he needs to be looked at across his entire career, with its many successes and not just get scorn from the online FF gamers, but he also gets the blame for FFXIV 1.0, which he was in charge of. The buck stops with him and unless he can prove the higher-ups ordered the game to have those horrendously bad elements, it was his fault.

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"I was still heavily involved with FFXI, so I couldn't leave immediately," Tanaka said. "First there had to be a good roadmap laid out for FFXI in terms of development structure, expansions and the user interface. Once I was sure that the team would continue doing their best on the title, then I could think about myself and take the next step forward."

So what was his last fingerprints on FFXI? Did he actually put Seekers of Adoulin on the development schedule? If he gave the order to "get out of this Void-this Void-that ****", he deserves credit for that, for putting FFXI back on something resembling a normal course.
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#10 Sep 20 2012 at 3:49 AM Rating: Excellent
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lol so saw this coming, the whole "illness" nonsense was typical JP company behaviour to simply be fired or quit without losing face.

His post about XIV failing due to the rest of the team and XI being where it is today (lol) due to him is rather guiling, what an asshat.

Have to agree with this.

Yes Tanaka built the foundation of XI but lets face it, it had far too much wrong with it but because we (well me) loves Final Fantasy we just couldnt leave it. It took forever to do anything, forever to get anything and the first message "Dont forget about your friends and families" even though you needed to be a hardcore gamer to play it.

The game become much better when Tanaka went to XIV, become much more accessible and now you dont need 5/6 hours just to get 1 thing done. If you think back, content wise there wasnt much to do - with the level limit removed you can go burn through it all so quickly. Only reason why it took forever to do anything was because you usually needed full party/Alliance setup, compete for pop items, compete for everything just to get that 1 single item.

Ask your self this if it wasnt final fantasy, how many would have jumped ship a long time ago. I for one was close to quiting, gave up spending hours just to get 1 item or that 1 level - **** 5 hours seeking says it all.

Tanaka helped build a foundation which had too many flaws but we all accepted it. Now though the game is much better and if it was released in this style would probably of done better. As for the XIV, he was the big boss of it. Its his responsibility to make it work and his fault which is why he got booted.
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#11 Sep 20 2012 at 6:18 AM Rating: Excellent
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rdmcandie wrote:
Didn't read the Article but I am just going to leave this.

As much as some of you dislike Tanaka If it wasn't for his direction this game would not be what it is today. He is the entire reason this game even still exists. It should have died with ToAU but somehow he manged to scrape enough crap together to tide people over until Abyssea. Which was likely in development while he was there, and only finalized and released after he moved to 14.

Tanaka is FFXI, love him or hate him, this game is his legacy, and it has lived for 10 years because of him.

Correction, this game as it was is his legacy. VW is his legacy. Doing dynamis with 30 people for 2+ years to get 1 person 1 weapon is his legacy.

His vision for online gaming was...pretty intense. He helped make some of the best offline games out there and I give him credit for that, but I took off the beer goggles for ffxi a while back. This game had more then a few pretty serious flaws that were left to stink up the place for far too long. Abyssea made it better, but VW made it worse. I sincerely hope the new producer can bring back some Abyssea like qualities in the new expansion and other aspects of the game as well.
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#12 Sep 20 2012 at 9:19 AM Rating: Excellent
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So what was his last fingerprints on FFXI? Did he actually put Seekers of Adoulin on the development schedule? If he gave the order to "get out of this Void-this Void-that sh*t", he deserves credit for that, for putting FFXI back on something resembling a normal course.

I'd assume Meeble, new 2 hours, and Neo-Salvage. To what degree Matsui comes in, looks at the proposal, and is like, "Yeah, ***** this, this, and this..." we don't know. There could also be some degree of "respect" in just getting out his last remnants before moving on to their ideals. At best, he might've said, "Hey, new expansion with 2 jobs!" he'll be far too out of the cycle to determine much more than that. And given the "***** RDM!" vibe behind those two jobs, that's probably the truth. After all, Avesta ate his babies.

Otherwise, I find it a bit brash to not only praise CoP, but imply he was practically the guiding light behind it all. Putting aside the bad, I sincerely doubt he was the author of the script, let alone the cut scene animations. On the other hand, this is the kind of stuff that's hard to Tanaka up beyond spreading it out over long periods of time/JP midnights. And as I've said before, XI expansions have been horrendous regarding releases and plot distribution. Related events aren't far behind. In the end, his vision hasn't evolved much from the days he first started on XI. And for the time, they might've been okay, but not anymore. It just makes him sound like a crotchety old man ******** about how he used to go uphill in the snow both ways barefoot when we or SE just don't "get it" as may be said.

Given his history of blaming the western media for misinterpreting things he's produced, I just want to call him a @#%^, bluntly. It's one thing to ignore haters, but another to ignore critics. That's what gets him in trouble.

Edited, Sep 20th 2012 11:38am by Seriha
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#13 Sep 20 2012 at 9:50 AM Rating: Excellent
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Good to know the Tanaka meme can live on for some other game.
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#14 Sep 20 2012 at 10:03 AM Rating: Good
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rdmcandie wrote:
Didn't read the Article but I am just going to leave this.


You should. It says a bit about his character or lack thereof.

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As much as some of you dislike Tanaka If it wasn't for his direction this game would not be what it is today.


Very true, but what it is today isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Only relatively recently did it begin to become something more than Japan's answer to Everquest. It should have evolved past that years ago, but our stubborn old devs just wouldn't budge.

Quote:
He is the entire reason this game even still exists. It should have died with ToAU but somehow he manged to scrape enough crap together to tide people over until Abyssea. Which was likely in development while he was there, and only finalized and released after he moved to 14.

Tanaka is FFXI, love him or hate him, this game is his legacy, and it has lived for 10 years because of him.


If Tanaka vanished from the face of the earth at any point during FFXI's existence, it would still be here and probably better than ever. I know he's done good work in the past, but he shouldn't be anyone's hero and he's not the sole savior of FFXI. Yeah, he kept the game running, but he didn't keep it running particularly well.

One thing I wonder about is this; If people hold Tanaka in such high regard for his past games, why did they hold him to such a low standard on this one? Shouldn't they have expected the absolute best from him and been pretty disappointed whenever he failed to deliver?
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#15 Sep 20 2012 at 10:17 AM Rating: Excellent
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And suddenly Gungho games started having PS2 limitations.
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#16 Sep 20 2012 at 10:23 AM Rating: Excellent
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Otherwise, I find it a bit brash to not only praise CoP, but imply he was practically the guiding light behind it all. Putting aside the bad, I sincerely doubt he was the author of the script, let alone the cut scene animations. On the other hand, this is the kind of stuff that's hard to Tanaka up beyond spreading it out over long periods of time/JP midnights. And as I've said before, XI expansions have been horrendous regarding releases and plot distribution. Related events aren't far behind. In the end, his vision hasn't evolved much from the days he first started on XI. And for the time, they might've been okay, but not anymore. It just makes him sound like a crotchety old man ******** about how he used to go uphill in the snow both ways barefoot when we or SE just don't "get it" as may be said.

I agree, Komoto didn't write the CoP script. FFXI's main story from Vanilla to Zilart to Promathia was mapped out beforehand. As a director, he could have big sway over the prominence of the story. He could have pushed the story to the wayside, but he did at least put it in the front and center. He was responsible for how the whole package went together, not necessarily for the design of individual pieces.

Tanaka was an old school game developer. He was at it since the 8-bit days and got into a new medium (online games). Someone had said FFXI was their grand vision of what they dreamed an RPG to be in the future back in the NES days (not sure if it was Tanaka or Sakaguchi who said that). It plays in some ways like an old school game for good and bad. Tanaka had a closed-off, offline/console game developer's mindset when it came to communication, which rubbed fans the wrong way, particularly as MMOs in the West were developed from PC gaming companies who were more used to interaction with internet-connected fans. And he never seemed to learn. It's definately where FFXI's roots as a PS2 game show through. I'm not sure how much was Japan lagging behind places like the US/CA and Korea in regards to MMOs or how much was just Tanaka (though I've heard Phantasy Star Online's team was slow to react to many things).

About expansions, how do other MMOs do it? Do they have everything ready at launch? The difference between FFXI and most MMOs is the story. Except for WotG's horrendous pacing and mismatched launch, expansions seemed to be reasonable, with most updates coming every 2-3 months and being substantive except 1 weak patch at the end and 1 week patch during the course of things (though some of that could be having a too-small dev team to produce comment in the window of time). Otherwise I can understand the pacing to not have everything at launch because some people blitz through all of a patch's comment then complain not enough was there. If a whole expansion was there, people who breeze through it in hours then complain about having paid $30 for all that. It strikes me like the equivalent of making a whole season of episodes, one way paces it out over stretches (with blocks of reruns sometimes) vs. just airing 1 new episode every day until the season is done.

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#17 Sep 20 2012 at 1:24 PM Rating: Excellent
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It's not just video games that changed, it's programming attitudes across all industries that have changed. The waterfall model has given way to the Agile model, for better or for worse, and waterfall style developers like Tanaka were unable to transition gracefully into the new world.

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#18 Sep 20 2012 at 2:15 PM Rating: Excellent
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I'll just be blunt and say most of the plots in FFXI weren't revolutionary affairs, and I include CoP within this critique. The only thing XI scored over most other other games was the presentation of the story between cutscenes and music. Just because a lot of other games flat out wall-of-text you doesn't mean they lack plots, they're just not... thrown in your face the same way. Some have tried dabbling in CS to varying success. Some simply have the game engine script shorter blocks of text with NPCs doing whatever. It may not be as cinematic in comparison, but our characters were also often mostly spectators to what we watched going on with the fights and such happening elsewhere in the game.

Basically, I feel like anyone who claims they played FFXI solely for plot was lying to themselves. There's more to it. Maybe they liked the job system, being a tarutaru, their linkshell, hoarding HNM loot over the plebians, or whatever, but actual consumption of the plot was exponentially shorter in total required time than even putting something like an Emp weapon together. It's just the unfortunate truth that reading/watching something is far quicker without more heightened levels of interaction.

That said, this is a medium that thrives on effort generating reward. For some, story tidbits are a reward, but those story tidbits won't help you kill an HNM like a good ol' Sword of a Thousand Truths could. And such loot has to come from something. Those somethings are important. Not having them on launch of a game/expansion sucks. Them being buggy sucks. People being arbitrarily held out of participating sucks, and you can add a layer of player preference if something requires specific jobs someone may not have. If it isn't obvious, I really hate being told when I can and can't participate in something, and I hope I'm not alone in this sentiment. Difficulty is one thing, but not being able to try is another.

As for people who speed through content just to ***** there's nothing? F-CK THEM. They will always exist no matter what types of hoops you try to throw into the system and will never be a majority of the players. They're simply more vocal and far more likely to be the types who do visit fan sites regularly. I don't find 3-4 month waits between content releases to be too unreasonable, especially with P2P games. FFXI's long term problem, however, has been money FFXI generates not going into FFXI first. This is partly why people give Tanaka so much grief because he utter failure with XIV also cost XI so much in possible resources during and post-launch. This is something I'd absolutely love to see SE fix, and maybe things will head that way once XIV 2.0 is out the door, along with Adoulin, but they've also burned a lot of bridges with people having more casual friendly gaming options out there. Basically, this effort:reward in another way. Our RL effort for cash wants reward in fun content. You don't give the latter, you don't deserve the former.

Personally, in speaking of MMOs, Rift would be the only one I could fairly comment on at the moment. They're about 1.5 years in now with their first expansion slated to come out mid-November. Prior to this, they had added new zones, new raids, new quest lines, new PvP systems, and new events with all you'd expect to follow all for the usual monthly fee. I may not agree with all the balancing decisions Trion has done during this process, but overall, they've been doing it right in my eyes. From what they've presented of the expansion thus far, it's pretty much what they've been doing, but on a grander scale building upon what's been established with some newer things like personal housing/dimensions. Some have ******* about the level cap increase, particularly in invalidating current gear. We saw that complaint in XI. Some aren't happy souls (their job system) are getting overhauls with more points to spend in them as expected of the cap increase. In some ways, such can mean relearning a class. I can sympathize a little with this, but the game's learning curve isn't steep. Some are unhappy that PvP is also losing some emphasis with the plot dictating the two factions come together to face the new threat. I don't give a rat's *** about PvP as it's too often an open world gank fest in practice, but some twisted people enjoy being both the predator and prey there, so whatever. Those are pretty much the only real major gripes people have against Trion with what they know, but it's also a bit indicative of simply fearing change. MMOs are meant to evolve, and to some level, arguing against these is like arguing against the philosophy of the genre. Unsurprisingly, FFXI has seen similar complaints over these past few years with some fearing it's veering away from what it was to others feeling it's not been keeping up with the times well enough.

But enough rambling for now. x.x
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#19 Sep 20 2012 at 3:26 PM Rating: Excellent
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Blaming the crew is a ^&*hat move no matter what you do. People at the top get paid to make sure it all goes well and catch it on the chin when it hits the fan. Really doesn't matter if he gave them most of the say the fact that FF14 was released with all the bugs and copy pasted world and just crap. As the captain you don't get to blame the crew while you watch drill a hole in the bow with out saying anything.

He may have help in making FFXI what it is, but lets be frank just as much was brought in and kept by the Final Fantasy brand. Something he was counting on when he let 14 out the door.

Edited, Sep 20th 2012 7:13pm by RavennofTitan
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#20 Sep 20 2012 at 5:00 PM Rating: Excellent
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All the "they did this," "they weren't able to do that" talk when talking about FFXIV. Classy as ****, Producer.
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#21 Sep 20 2012 at 5:50 PM Rating: Good
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Well....that explains the steaming pile of dog **** FFXI has recieved since he was removed from FFXIV.

Not only did we get Tanaka back, we got Tanaka bitter after getting Fired "Removed" from the FFXIV project with one foot out the door.
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#22 Sep 20 2012 at 7:14 PM Rating: Excellent
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Hmmmm, I wonder... After Tanaka made so much money for Square with FFXI (most profitable game in Square/SE history), did he go into FFXIV's development thinking "I wonder if I can make a game so absolutely horrible, it will lose more money than any other Square-Enix venture. Spirits Within will be a trifle to the abomination I can create. Mwa ha ha HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!"? FFXI in the 00s and FFXIV 1.0 are strong opposites in many ways.


And yeah, that interview wasn't classy (instead of lol-pup or lol-drg... lolTanaka?). As producer, it was his project. It dragged on and on and on with nothing to show and then saw release with little to show (that's his fault for not keeping the game anywhere near on time. I wonder what caused it- illness affecting judgment, SE's development culture losing focus [seen with long dev times for FFXII, XIII, XIV, 2 of those having other producers & directors], or a little of both, or something else). And if Komoto was Mr. Crazy coming up with the godawful world and gameplay seen in 1.0, Tanaka was supposed to be the gatekeeper that said "What the **** is this ****?! You expect this to sell?" and send the game back to the drawing board. Tanaka wasn't responsible for 100% of its failure, but he was 100% responsible for FFXIV's failure due to his position and no real excuses or world passes.
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#23 Sep 20 2012 at 9:24 PM Rating: Excellent
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RavennofTitan wrote:
Blaming the crew is a ^&*hat move no matter what you do. People at the top get paid to make sure it all goes well and catch it on the chin when it hits the fan.


This. I feel like the buck always stops at the top and anyone who tries to shrug off that responsibility loses a lot of credibility in my eyes. If you're in charge, you have to accept the responsibility along with the glory.


Edited, Sep 20th 2012 8:27pm by Olorinus
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#24 Sep 20 2012 at 9:46 PM Rating: Excellent
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I don't know if the Director / Producer relationship is the same in Video Game Production as it is in Theater, Movies, or Commercials, but the Director has complete creative control, and the Producer is subject to his command, basically making things that the Director wants to happen, happen. (I work in Television/Film)

In my 10+ years in the business, I have personally seen a lot of mistakes made by the crew (Art, Electric, Grip, Camera, even AD and Director) blamed on Production, because mistakes cost money, and the Producer is in charge of handling the money. Not that the Producer could tell one of those departments what to do, and even if the Producer said something to the Director, odds are it would get blown off. Each of the departments has a head (Production Designer, Gaffer, Key Grip, DP, 1st AD) and they all answer to the Director, not the Producer.

Like I said, I don't know if it is the same in the video game world, just wanted to throw that out there.

ETA: Poor word choice

Edited, Sep 20th 2012 8:48pm by stupidmonkey
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#25 Sep 21 2012 at 12:19 AM Rating: Good
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Typically in video game industry the Director answers to the Producer. The director has creative freedom and the Producer oversees everything and makes sure all the sectors of the team have a unified vision.

Good directors typically get promoted, as with the case of Yoshinori Kitase in the X/XIII universe or Hiroyuki Ito in IX/XII universe. (The latter still wanted creative freedom, so he was promoted to Producer/Director, a role also given to Naoki Yoshida when he took XIV over.)
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#26 Sep 21 2012 at 2:02 AM Rating: Excellent
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Thanks for the info, like I said, it is outside my bailiwick.

UltKnightGrover wrote:
The Director has creative freedom and the Producer oversees everything and makes sure all the sectors of the team have a unified vision.


I could see that making it difficult for the Producer to do the job that you have described, a very unenviable position.
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