Why did the original PC port suck so bad?


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Version: 1.1
(March 26, 2007)

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Why The FF7PC Port Sucked

I feel sorry for Square because it was the best they could do under the circumstances. It was a really good idea on paper. FF7 had broken all kinds of records and Square's stockholders wanted the company to diversify. FF7 was a PSX console exclusive, so they had to go to PC. Looking around Square saw that Edios has successfully managed the port of "Tomb Raider" to the PC and was scoring Core a lot of cash. They decided to try that formula for FF7. Edios bought the rights to publish FF7 for the PC for a cool million bucks. Square contracted out the port team in Honolulu. (Unlike what people think, Square did the port, not Edios. Edios was just a publisher who gained the rights to the game.)

That's when the problems started.

After the PSX version of FF7 went gold, Square shut down the FF7-PSX project. When I mean "shut down" I mean they set a firestorm and blew apart the entire team. Think of it as a mass-firing. All the coders, artists, managers, and equipment were either transfered to the FF9 project, moved to other parts of the company, released from their contract, or simply deprecated. The version control software that Square used was crap. When the Honolulu team finialy got the code, they were in about a month before the realized they got a non-final and non-functional version. Development stalled for a few weeks and the final code was given over. The word from above was to port it. That's it. No fancy improvements over the director's vision. (The director having moved on and was not able to be consulted). Some concessions were made on resolutions and input. Sadly, the only thing that the port team had as far as artwork was concerned was the original pre-compiled PSX data. The computers used to render the original backgrounds and movies were all gone. The 3D models for the cinimatics were no longer available. Many of the original artists and animators were contract workers and were no longer with the company. It would also seem that the original MIDI music was tweaked by audio engineers after it was complied into the PSX SEQ format. The original MIDIs that the PC received were not the final versions.

The budget for port was also very meager.

Not only this, Sony's development libs (PSY-Q) were only authorized to be used on the PSX, so they had to rewrite the graphics libs and change the art formats.

The programmers had also never done a PC game before, and made all kinds of architectural mistakes. One big one was compiling only for a particular CPU type, the first release didn't even run on Cyrix chips. (I don't know if that was a bad thing or not.) That's the equivalent of only compiling for Intel, and if you had an AMD, you were assed out. The port was also bloated and they left their debug information in the executable(!) (Now you know our secret! Drat!)

In a nutshell, the game was never designed to be a PC game. That's why the PC version sucked so badly.

So what did Square learn? Well, after the FF7 PC disaster, Square realized that *ALL* their code, which they had been neglecting, was a pretty valuable asset. They started a very long-term project to "up-port" all their core games. They used standard C code, and made them portable to generic embedded systems. The new re-releases are the end result of the FF7 fiasco. They have a new kickin' 2D engine. The secret is that the new engine for FF1-6 (excluding 3) are not ports... They are pixel-perfect Total Conversions. (Pretty slick, huh?) Now, all the data is standardized and a port can happen as quick as the engine team can port it to the new CPU/GPU.

So, don't knock the PC engine... It reminds me of something a friend said.

"The secret to success is not victory, but failure. Only in failure do you learn from your mistakes. After that, you can go on to fail a bigger and bigger things."

And now you know.