In the wake of Granblue Fantasy‘s biggest year ever, we caught up with creative director Tetsuya Fukuhara (FKHR) to discuss the year’s events, changes under the hood of GBF, and what the future has in store for us. Check it out!
Home Sweet Moon and the 7th anniversary
Granblue_en: Home Sweet Moon was the most ambitious story event in Granblue Fantasy to date, with a huge cast and a story spanning 4 parts. How did you decide to treat it like this, and what were the new challenges in the production process from a normal event?
FKHR: Since it was set on the moon, which is a whole separate world that is a huge distance away, the story required a large number of characters. And to create a well-balanced drama, the amount of time needed was likewise great. As a result, we divided it up into four parts. For the past few years, the anniversary event has been open for three weeks, much longer than our normal events, so we made sure to pace it so the players didn’t get bored.
Granblue_en: The role of producer can be vague to those who are not familiar with the game industry. Could you describe what your responsibilities include, and how they might differ from a director?
FKHR: We had Home Sweet Moon in mind when we were putting together the plans for Spaghetti Syndrome. I believe it was around the summer of 2019, or maybe autumn.
Granblue_en: There were plenty of comedic moments in Home Sweet Moon, whereas previous anniversary events were mostly serious. Was this a conscious decision? Or did the writers naturally include them?
FKHR: It wasn’t something we did consciously, but the members of the Society cast lean more toward comedy than the primarchs or the Eternals, so I think it just naturally ended up that way.
Granblue_en: Yatima caught everyone’s attention in Spaghetti Syndrome, particularly how similar she was to Lyria in appearance. Can you talk about how she came to be, in terms of her role in the story and design?
FKHR: At a glance, Yatima’s abilities, role, and appearance are similar to Lyria’s, which sets them up as equals. This was done intentionally to make people consider these points when they think about what will be revealed when Lyria’s true identity comes to light… This was a request from the writer in charge.
Granblue_en: How have the players reacted to the length and scope of the event? Are you using that feedback to lay the groundwork for future story events?
FKHR: While it was long, we tried to divide the event into four parts so the players wouldn’t get bored. The reception to that has been good. But creating an event that has even more content than this would be difficult, both in terms of the amount of work and time it would take and the burden it would put on the players.
Granblue_en: Will we see more events with longer chapter structures, or is this reserved for anniversary events?
FKHR: We currently have no plans to do so. Between the extra resources required to make an anniversary event run for this long and make an anniversary’s worth of content, it would be pretty difficult to do more.
Granblue_en: The Data Files section was a new addition as well, introducing new players to the cast and summarizing previous events. How did this affect event production and planning? Do you plan on doing this again for upcoming events that are sequels to older stories?
FKHR: It was a suggestion from the UI designers. It came out wonderfully, and I believe that it received a lot of praise. We are currently investigating doing something similar for events that have a lot of previous backstory, like fate episodes and such.
Granblue_en: There have been 3 anniversary events now: What Makes the Sky Blue had a global scale, Seeds of Redemption was a much more personal story, and Home Sweet Moon felt like a mix of the two. Do you think you have a firm grasp of what qualities an anniversary event should have? What do you think they are?
FKHR: We take the scale and the specialness of the event into account precisely because it is for the anniversary. Because Seeds of Redemption was after What Makes the Sky Blue, we avoided making the event unnecessarily flashy or grandiose. Instead of the overall scale, we focused the story on the internal struggles of the characters and their relationships.
Since Home Sweet Moon takes place on the moon, its scale had to be larger by necessity, and we feel that we were able to really make it feel that way. For the 8th anniversary event’s story, we are considering yet another, different approach from what we’ve done before.
Granblue_en: Looking back on the first Society event, it’s hard to imagine back then that we would eventually be fighting the Moon with Automagods and being a full blown sci-fi mecha series. Were these elements already in the writers mind back then, or did it come about later on?
FKHR: In the original draft that I wrote for Home Sweet Moon, I had already included very specific details on traveling to the moon. Getting there without any protection would have required too great a suspension of disbelief, and in addition, it wouldn’t be possible to get to the moon using the current technology available in the Sky Realm, so the automagods acted as a bridge to show the difference in technology levels between the sky and the moon.
Granblue_en: With Home Sweet Moon, this is the first time we’ve been able to view the whole introductory fate episode for characters featured in a draw banner. Was this a special occasion for anniversary, or can we expect future gacha characters that are related to a current story event to be viewable as well?
FKHR: We may, depending on the event. But if we do this every month, we are concerned that it will increase the amount of preparation the players have to do before every event. So it may end up only happening once in a while.
Granblue_en: Were there any lessons you took from the 6th anniversary event when working on the 7th?
FKHR: They might not count as being based on our previous experiences, but we tried a lot of new things this time around, like having the new class be a part of the story, and having the raid bosses change when the story updated. We also included the Gold Brick and Sephira Evolite rewards, Eustace’s 5-star uncap, and SSR Cassius, all of which had us wondering if maybe we had gone too far.
Granblue_en: Do you think you’ll ever go back to year spanning anniversary events like the WMtSB trilogy?
FKHR: The 9th and 10th anniversary events are pretty much in place now, and are likely going to be standalone stories.
When we created What Makes the Sky Blue, we didn’t have Paradise Lost in mind, and even if we created another set of events as a series, we would be concerned the players might be disappointed that the anniversary stories were just sequels to the previous event.
Granblue_en: The animations for all of the Home Sweet Moon characters were amazing! Did they take longer than usual to animate? Can we expect more of this quality in the future?
FKHR: The more elaborate they were, the more time they took to create. But we were mainly concerned with making sure the animations fit the character they were for, instead of just making them flashy for the sake of being flashy. As such, I think you can look forward to what the team will be creating with their improved techniques and know-how.
Granblue_en: How long does it take to animate a character, from concept to storyboard to sprite and CA animation?
FKHR: It takes about three months on average, two if we hurry.
GBF’s main story chapters
Granblue_en: When you prioritized regular content in 2020, how did that impact the pace of the main story chapters?
FKHR: It ended up taking us longer than we originally anticipated. Our hope is to create a structure where we can maintain a constant pace of content updates.
Granblue_en: Should we expect one arc of main story per year in the future?
FKHR: For a while, yes.
Granblue_en: Children of Utopia, while definitely linked to the main story, had a self-contained plot similar to a story event. Is this what we can expect in the future?
FKHR: The islands that are home to the viceroy of Oarlyegrande all have very different cultures and sensibilities, so we decided from the beginning to have the stories progress in an omnibus format.
Granblue_en: One popular joke among players has been how Gran and Djeeta have not aged, despite some events happening years between them, like Robomi. Will Gran and Djeeta ever get older?
FKHR: There are some unwritten rules that people understand and accept. Consider how Chun-Li has stayed young this whole time.
7th Anniversary questions
Granblue_en: What made you choose Vyrn as the dance partner in Masquerade’s animations?
FKHR: The idea came about because the theme was the main character at a ball. Lyria wasn’t considered because she can be included in the party.
Granblue_en: Is there any plan to integrate Vyrn or Lyria into more future class animations?
FKHR: We’ll make a decision based on the look and theme of each new class.
Granblue_en: With outfits no longer being in a gacha and instead obtainable via login points, is the mirage system where you can put a different skin on Gran/Djeeta still being worked on?
FKHR: Please wait for more information in a future announcement.
Granblue Fantasy Versus
Granblue_en: Belial’s first theme “Parade’s Lust” was a sex drugs & rock and roll anthem – what made you decide to make his second theme, “Morning Light Hymnus”, an epic operatic duet?
FKHR: We wanted to illustrate the difference between Belial’s feelings for Lucilius and his feelings for everything else in creation. At first, we planned on having the song be an instrumental with no vocals. But Narita-san requested lyrics and I wrote them for him. This was different from our usual process.
Granblue_en: Previously you stated that Beelzebub came to be as a request from Arc System Works. Was Eustace their request or your own?
FKHR: Generally, Cygames chooses. But every season, we propose characters, then we get ASW’s opinions when it comes to those characters and how suitable they are when it comes to the battle-planning. The final decisions made are ones where both companies are satisfied.
Granblue_en: How did you decide on Eustace as the gun character in GBVS?
FKHR: Eustace was selected because we wanted the 5th character of season 2 to be one whose release timing would suit the 7th anniversary. The decision had already been made when GBVS was released, and production work for Eustace began in the spring of 2020.
Granblue_en: What were your requests of Narita for Peace and Quiet, Eustace’s theme? Did you request any of the instruments or the use of Khoomei, or were those all Narita?
FKHR: The requests for the sound direction and the instruments used all came from me. Eustace’s theme as a character is “peace and quiet,” so we discussed ideas for sounds that would maintain that theme while also fitting his image as a lone wolf.
Granblue_en: It’s been a year since the release of GBVS. Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would change if you could?
FKHR: We had no idea that the coronavirus would have this much of an impact, but I would have liked to have smaller online tournaments than Rage. We are currently investigating how to handle things from here on.
Granblue_en: Did any characters this season exceed your expectations in terms of usage or popularity?
FKHR: They pretty much met with our expectations.
Granblue_en: The feature of rollback netcode has taken the spotlight recently, due to the pandemic causing many tournaments to be online only. Arc System Works had also mentioned recently that they were looking into adding rollback to their older titles, thanks to the positive reception of Guilty Gear Strive. So has the possibility of rollback being added to GBVS changed from when we asked you last year?
FKHR: We want to add it, but there are circumstances that prevent us from easily changing something that was originally designed for a delay-based system. There are some recent examples of older titles that have had rollback netcode implemented in them, but every game is different, so we cannot say that the cost to do so would be the same for us as it has been for them.
But with the current trend being rollback netcode, and with Strive garnering good reviews, we feel like it’s practically become a must-have.
Although we may feel that way, we cannot comment on whether or not it will be implemented for GBVS.
Granblue_en: Are collaborations with other Cygames properties easier, harder, or the same compared with external series?
FKHR: Kimura-san is the producer for most of these titles, so they’re pretty easy. However, they’re only “easy” when it comes to getting approvals. Otherwise, they’re about as difficult as other collaborations, since we can’t be sure what the production and supervision costs will be.
Granblue_en: Some final words for the international audience for GBF in 2021 please.
FKHR: In January of last year, we had plans to attend several overseas events, but due to COVID-19, we had to cancel those plans, which we regret.
We are going to do our best so that you can fully enjoy both Granblue Fantasy and Granblue Fantasy Versus, and we are looking forward to the day when we will be able to meet everyone overseas once more!