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Why Final Fantasy IV was key to FFXII's AI-driven Gambit system

"Maybe Gambits were a little more complicated, but basically that {FFIV] precedent allowed us to manage the party without micromanaging the characters," Square Enix's Takashi Katano tells Polygon.
"We did look into variations on the party control, and one key here was Hiroyuki Ito. His system for monster A.I. in Final Fantasy 4 was somewhat similar to the Gambit system."

- Square Enix's Takashi Katano, speaking to Polygon about the development of Final Fantasy XII's standout AI-driven Gambit system.

A remastered version of Square Enix's 2006 PlayStation 2 game Final Fantasy XII is due out next week, and to mark the occasion Polygon has published a nice feature on the game's development.

Devs should note the feature draws on interviews with Takashi Katano and Hiroaki Kato, two members of the original XII team who also took leading roles on the production of the upcoming Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age for PS4.

The pair reflect on their earlier work with a good deal of polite humility, but they also open up a bit about the challenges of building some of XII's  more idiosyncratic features -- most notably its unique "Gambit" system, which sees players relinquishing direct control of party members in favor of AI that behaves in accordance with assigned conditional logic statements (e.g. if health drops below 30%, use health potion).

"We did look into variations on the party control, and one key here was Hiroyuki Ito," Katano told Polygon. "His system for monster A.I. in Final Fantasy 4 was somewhat similar to the Gambit system."

"Maybe Gambits were a little more complicated, but basically that precedent allowed us to manage the party without micromanaging the characters," he continued. "With this, the three-member parties, and sometimes having a fourth when a guest joined ... having the player pick out commands for every single one of them would have taken away from what was supposed to be the fun of the game. We didn't want it to be overwhelming, so we went with the Gambit system." 

Katano noted that in his recollection, the Final Fantasy XII dev team never seriously considered implementing a more traditional player-controlled party system, even though the Gambit system brought with it unique challenges like "you have that party member in an active Gambit. So they might wander off over there ...and trigger a cutscene."

For more anecdotes from Katano and Kato about the development and legacy of Final Fantasy XII, check out the full Polygon feature

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