FEATURE: PAX Prime 2015 Report - Day Two!

Baker checks out the Pokemon booth, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and exclusive interview with FFXIV's composer!

Hello everyone, and welcome to Day Two reporting from this year's Penny Arcade Expo! Yesterday, Nate had some hands-on impressions of upcoming games, and today I'll be reporting from panels I visited as well as an exclusive interview with Final Fantasy XIV's composer, Masayoshi Soken!


Exhibithallfloor

Lines everywhere~!


While I have had the chance to get my hands on several games, the majority of my time has been spent attending panels! I would like to give a big shout out to the folks who are in charge of Penny Arcade Expo's programming. There has been a tremendous amount of worthwhile topics covered and it has been amazing to see how forward thinking this community feels.


LARA CROFT GO

I had the opportunity to sit in on a panel with Square Enix Montreal, the team responsible for Hitman GO, and the very recently released Lara Croft GO.


LaraGo1

The amount of depth the team has incorporated into the game is impressive!


Being given a very candid look behind the scenes was a lot of fun. The panel featured Daniel Lutz (Game Director), Antoine Routon, (Lead Engineer), and Thierry Doizon (Art Director). Hearing the approach to a new game in the 'GO' universe was very insightful. The challenges that come along with trying to treat an existing IP with respect while adapting it for a mobile atmosphere seems pretty big. Everyone on the team though was happy with the atmosphere of creating for mobile games and mentioned the shorter dev time as a benefit.


LaraGo2

The painterly style that is presented is gorgeous.


With a glance at pre-production art up to a live demo while the talk continued it became pretty apparent that they had made something pretty special. I ended up buying it... and it's really fun.


POKEMON~!!!

I'm a pretty big Pokemon fan so I was incredibly excited to check out the Pokemon booth here at PAX!


BigPikachu

The giant Pikachu floating above is actually rather menacing.


There were trailers playing for the upcoming Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon, whose release date has been announced as November 20th, 2015! 


The other big draw was Pikachu! Attendees were able to line up and snag a photo with the star of the booth!


Pikachu

Yes... I have a few photos of myself with Pikachu now...


XENOBLADE CHRONICLES X

Another panel I was able to attend was for the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles X. This panel was exploring the art and world of the game, with tons of concept art being shown that had never been shown prior!!


NewLosAngeles


Homebase for Xenoblade Chronicles X is New Los Angeles. For those unfamiliar, Xenoblade Chronicles X is an upcoming openworld RPG releasing in the US on December 4th, 2015.


This panel touched on many different aspects of the game. From environments and structures, to the many different races, and characters who inhabit the world. One of the things I found most interesting was the approach of having new races you encounter be hostile. After working diplomatically to ensure friendship with each race you'll notice that small factions will move into New Los Angeles and affect how the town develops. For example, the following armor sets become available when you befriend the Wrothian and Orphean peoples respectively.


WrothianArmor
This looks so cool!!


WrothianArmor2
Again, an amazing armor set that you can only get by being friendly!  BE NICE!


OrpheanArmor
Also... dress up like Guyver!


Announced during the panel... pre-orders are now open!! Make sure to snag yours now, especially if you're after the collectors edition! What's in that collectors edition? Well, I'm glad you asked!! This was also revealed during the panel. The game, which will have reversible box art so you can have it match the collector's edition box, a matted art card, a custom created USB stick with a selection of the games score available on it, and a 100 page art book that measures in at 7.5" by 11".


Want to watch this panel?? Well, it's live on Nintendo's Youtube page now!


 

INTERVIEW: Masayoshi Soken - Sound Director & Composer Final Fantasy XIV

Baker: Unfortunately I missed your earlier panel. By the time I’d gotten to the line (30 minutes prior) attendance was already hardcapped. Is there anything that I missed? 


Soken: We're planning to have a video of the panel online soon, so please keep your eyes out for that. What wevcovered were the new primals from the Heavensward expansion - Bismarck, Ravanna and Alexander.


B:  Ah! Okay! That works well, since most of my questions are about the score. So first, Coerthas Western Highlands (Day) - Does it have an alternate name? I feel like this ended up being the main theme for Heavensward? Can you talk about writing this piece(This is the FFXIV teaser trailer featuring the piece "Heavensward," which is echoed in much of the score for the Heavensward expansion.)


S: There is no formal name for that piece yet, perhaps you would like to give it one! The recurring theme from the piece Heavensward, that melodic line, you can hear it in many different places. There are four different iterations in Ishgard alone - upper, lower, day and night. They all contain parts of that song, each in their own way.  It also appears in the dungeon boss theme as well as in the music that plays during the final fight against King Thordan. Another aspect, and this is more a general overview, each new field piece is incorporated into the dungeons for that specific area. For example the field music of Azys Lla is arranged and recurs in the Fractal Continuum dungeon. Likewise, the Sea of Clouds music is then rearranged for Neverreap.


B: That makes a lot of sense! As far as the score goes there’s a much greater sense of urgency and sorrow in the music of Heavensward. Where were you pulling your inspiration from? 


S:: First and foremost, we were taking direction from Naoki Yoshida. He knew that the story would be taking a darker direction so he wanted the music to reflect that. The Dragonsong War brings with it a darker feel and much sorrow, so that definitely colored the music. Yoshi-P would meet directly with me and give his thoughts on how things should flow... usually over a cigarette. We would often joke that these conversations should happen in the meeting room, but everything seemed to happen more casually in the smoking room. One last note, with the city state of Ishgard being a religious capital I wanted to incorporate the pipe organ as well as more piano into the music.


B: So... I just heard the music for flying mounts yesterday, I had disabled mount music due to a little too much Chocobo Theme. Can you let me know your approach for this piece as well as the alternate mount music that pays with non-chocobo mounts in A Realm Reborn


FlyingMounts


S: Well, the request will come in from the development team. I then work to fulfill that request. With the flying mount's music I wanted to pay homage to the Midgardsormr battle. The reason for this is because when you finally get to ride Midgardsormr, I wanted the player to experience the exhilaration of flying with such a powerful beast. As far as my approach, if I were to try to create something that were to become the Chocobo Theme people could get tired of it, so there has to be a balance.


B: On the topic of classic Final Fantasy themes, Matoya’s Cave. Can you talk a little on getting the opportunity to take on a piece like this and if your approach for tailoring it to the game was any different than normal? 


S: As mentioned, it starts with the development team sending in a request. In this case the team felt set the priority for this arrangement as 'High'. That means that it was marked to be as important as the songs used during the new Primal Battles. Because the development team had set such a high priority, and I felt it was so important, I made sure to pay extra attention to the story, setting, pretty much any detail that could influence my arrangement to help work out exactly how to incorporate it into Heavensward. I made sure to pay attention to key elements when creating the track. With Final Fantasy, many of the previous songs have been created by Uematsu, so to me Final Fantasy music equals Uematsu. When working on my arrangement I didn’t want to take such a familiar piece and break it up. There’s already an emotional attachment as well, so I paid close attention to make sure I could keep the integrity of the original song but then make it contemporary. So in that sense, creating an arrangement of a familiar track is very difficult, because we don’t want to trample over anyones fond memories of an existing song. 


B: Okay! Let’s step away from the score for a minute and talk about your other role as Sound Director. For you, when is it that you feel like the world of Final Fantasy XIV really comes alive? 


S: Definitely when creating sound effects. With sound effects it’s incredibly difficult to create environmental sounds that don’t sound forced into the game. To recreate sounds that we would think as just normal ambient sound is very difficult, even more so in an MMORPG. The reason why its harder in an MMO, well... take a standalone game you don’t have to recreate realistic sounds. However, in an MMORPG you have many different people coming in and out at different times, you have sound moving when characters move, you have weather. So it’s very challenging to create sound effects that help with immersion but don’t feel awkward. In order to accomplish that sound we’re using the latest technologies and pushing boundaries in order to achieve that. By using these technologies we’re able to create that immersion. Also, by using that technology to help, it just feels Final Fantasy. In the Final Fantasy series we pursue a high caliber of graphics, special effects, score, story and so on. Just to give an example of how robust the technology is, during a one-on-one fight up to 80 different sound effects could be going off simultaneously. Take that to 8v8 and you can see just how impressive it is!


B: That really is impressive!! Since we're running out of time my last question is pretty easy. Are you currently watching any anime? 


S: *laughs* I haven’t watched any anime in awhile, however if you were to ask me what my favorite anime was... Well I don't know if you'd know it, but Zillion is my favorite anime.


Zillion

He was right... I hadn't heard of it...


Okay~! That wraps up day two! We have some really cool demos set up for today, so make sure to check back tomorrow at the same time for our wrap-up of Day Three of PAX Prime!

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