Interview with Eric Pavey, Cinematic Artist from Final Fantasy IX

Hey, Y’all!

Sorry it’s been a while – I’ve been spending the last few weeks preparing for a Pathfinder campaign that I’m about to begin GMing (and, admittedly, watching a TON of Yu Yu Hakusho, which I just finished up last week.  It’s my favorite TV show, by the way.  Highly recommended.  I’ll be doing a post about its similarities with FFIX at some point, I’m sure, as I feel I love both pieces of media for the same reasons).

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Eric Pavey, who worked on Final Fantasy IX back in the day.  I asked him about the game design industry, the Final Fantasy series, and assorted tips and tricks for you graphic-designers-in-training out there.  (Also, he told me that he had some cool exclusive FFIX-related content, and I’ve been trying to get in touch with Squeenix’s legal department, and they have not returned any of my calls.  Annoying).  Here we go!

FFIXBlog –  Do you play video games?  If so, did you play FFIX?  What did you think of it?
EP – I’ve played games my whole life (starting with the arcades in the late 70’s early 80’s).  I did play FFIX.  Honestly I wasn’t a huge fan of the series at the time:  I’d played quite a bit of FFVII, and some of VIII, but having to wait for the spell sequences over and over got really tiring for me 😛  While working on FFIX, I actually convinced the designers that the “American consumer didn’t want to see the same pre-rendered sequence over and over”, so they actually let you skip them after the first watch.  I was pretty proud of that 🙂
FFIXBlog –  I’ve witnessed that there’s still a thriving community of FFIX fans out there – why do you think that is?  What’s so special about it?
EP – Personally it seemed much more ‘fantastical’ than other others, that seemed more futuristic:  The whole look (more stylized\cartoony) and setting (fantasy world) was more approachable to me.
FFIXBlog –  How long have you been working with video games/video game art?
EP – I started professionally in 1995, so that means this is year 18.
FFIXBlog –  How did you break into the industry?
EP – I got my degree in Graphic Design, but grew up playing video-games, and had dabbled in CG for a while.  When I finally figured out people actually get paid to make video-games I went back to school to be an ‘animator’, and never looked back.
FFIXBlog –  On MobyGames, where I found the credits, it says that you were part of the “Field Map Graphics” team.  What exactly does that entail?
EP – I actually have no idea 🙂  I was part of the cinematics department:  We worked on all the pre-rendered sequences in the game.  Specifically I did a lot of the intro movies, and worked on one of the big climax movies.
FFIXBlog –  What programs/languages did you use to do your work?
EP – At the time, Alias PowerAnimator, v7 StudioPaint, and Maya v1, all SGI machines.
FFIXBlog –  I know that much of the work on FFIX was done in Hawaii.  Was that where you were?  Regardless, what was working with Square like?
EP – Downtown Honolulu, across from the Aloha Tower Marketplace, at the top of a beautiful skyscraper.  The whole game team was there, along with the film team working on “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”.  Working at square was an amazing experience:  90% of the team was from Japan, and to be immersed in that culture was a big enjoyable eye-opener.  Plus, to be paid good money to work in Hawaii was a deal of a lifetime.
FFIXBlog –  Any advice for aspiring video game artists?
EP – There is so munch competition, you need to love this line of work.  You need to do it all, day, every day.  Find who is better than you, strive for that level of quality, and then crush it.
FFIXBlog –  Do you still have any art/anything from that era that you would like to (or have the rights to) release via FinalFantasyIX (dot) com?
EP – I do, but I have no idea about the legality of releasing it 🙁
Many thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions!  If y’all have any questions for him, I could definitely get in touch with him again 🙂
See y’all soon!

Interview with Cidolfas, FFCompendium Mastermind

Hi All!

I got in touch with Cidolfas, who organized the Final Fantasy Compendium from its origin in 2000 until 2009.  I wanted to ask him a few questions about his website, his thoughts on the series, and FFIX in particular.  It was a lot of fun, and it was great to hear his insight!

–  How was FFCompendium inspired?

As far as I can remember, it was mainly just my obsession with cataloging things at the time. I particularly appreciated how the various Final Fantasies intertwined with each other – common enemies like the Bomb or Behemoth, for example, or even weapons with the same name – and had an urge to put it all in one place. All the other information just expanded from there while I was at it. I had a lot of spare time; I’d written a bunch of FAQs before that, as well as shrines for RPGClassics.

–  Which is your favorite Final Fantasy?  Why?

FF6 was the first one I ever finished and hence the game that got me started on the series, so it will always hold a special place in my heart; and FF7 was just so amazingly cool at the time. I also loved FF12’s localization. However, they all suffer from a variety of flaws. I have to say (and I swear it’s just a coincidence) that I feel FF9 is the most solid game in the series.

–  Who is your favorite character/What is your favorite part of/about FFIX?  Why?

I’m not going to say that any individual character is my favorite, but I do really enjoy the interactions between characters. FF9 is excellent (with the exception of Freya) at giving characters a fully rounded personality, and illustrating that by having plenty of dialogue between them; it’s not just “let’s get to the next goal”. Zidane is generally the catalyst, of course, and is a very fun character; Steiner’s feelings about him grow throughout the game in a way that arguably is more satisfying than Zidane’s love for Garnet. I also enjoyed Eiko’s self-imposed love triangle with herself, Zidane and Garnet. Even Amarant’s continual confusion about Zidane is entertaining. I thought Kuja was a dumb protagonist to start with, but the last ten hours of the game turn him into an extremely tragic figure.

In general I just liked the variety of the gameplay, the surprising maturity of the plot, the perfect challenge level (not too frustrating, not a cakewalk), and all the various nods and references to other Final Fantasy games.

–  I’ve found that there is still a thriving community of fans for even the older Final Fantasies.  Has this been your experience?  Why do you think that might be?

I’m sure they’re out there, but to tell the truth I haven’t really been part of a video game “community” in quite some time. I resolutely stick to single-player games, none of my “real life” friends play RPGs, and the one site whose forum I do read regularly (RPGamer) is more centered around news than discussing old treasures. I personally don’t enjoy, in the immortal words of Joss Whedon, “opening up to see the tick-tick-tick of a heart” of any work – who’s your favorite character, what if this guy went up against that guy in a fight, alternate interpretations of the story – so that kind of thing doesn’t appeal to me.

I feel that while some Final Fantasy games have stood the test of time (FF5, 6 and 9 in particular), some of the older ones (FF1-2) are almost unplayable in their original form, while for others, particularly FF7-9, the jagged graphics may turn others off. Still, there’s plenty of goodness and fun in many of them. I particularly enjoy the sprite graphics of FF5 and 6 – “retro” gaming is very in, now, on iPhones, Android, Flash games, indie games, etc. – and there’s a simplicity to it that new fancy games don’t have. The video game industry – particularly the RPG industry – seems to be stuck on learning all the wrong lessons, so it’s definitely nice to go back to a simpler time with more solid offerings than the flashy, ADD-causing products of today.

–  How was interviewing Richard Mark Honeywood?  How did you get in contact with him?  Do you have any other contacts from that era at Square?

The interview was a lot of fun. My memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I think I got in contact with him via a freak coincidence – someone who read the site actually happened to know him. We had to go through a Squeenix publicist, but she was really laid-back and didn’t bug me about any of my questions. Richard was very frank about things and gave me a ton of information – he even roped in some of his other localization co-workers to offer their insights. Doing interviews by e-mail is a very freeing format, since there’s no time pressure.

Unfortunately that was the only contact I ever had with Square Enix, and of course Richard no longer works there.

–  FFCompendium has stopped being updated as of June 2009, and your other blog, “The Role-Playing Jew”, is on indefinite hiatus at the moment.  Do you have any other projects in the works?

I’m afraid not. It’s one thing to start a website at 19, or a blog at 27 when you’re still single, but another thing entirely to do so when you’re 33 and have a wife and baby daughter. 😎 I was contemplating doing something similar to my blog but in much smaller format (say a paragraph or two) but I couldn’t find a good platform for it. There are always ideas percolating in my head (I’ve always wanted to try to write a book of some kind), but it’s the lack of time and energy that does it for me.

Thanks so much to Cidolfas to answering my questions!  Let me know if you have questions for him, and I’ll see what I can do!