#85: “Dad of Light: Square Enix Side – Part 2”
Published in 2017/06/08 issue
I am writing this manuscript on May 15th, 2017. The TV drama series Dad of Light has broadcast its fifth episode, and I’ve departed on our media tour for FFXIV’s next expansion pack, Stormblood. As usual, I’m facing my laptop on an accursed airplane… This week’s column is a continuation of Dad of Light production stories from Square Enix’s side.
When “Pii-san” proposed his plan to turn the story into a TV drama series, I immediately said “Go ahead!” and for a while, Square Enix didn’t do anything on our side. We chose a representative from our company and communicated regularly with Pii-san, but our primary role was to receive progress reports and meet with people or company representatives when needed. In fact, no matter how much progress was made, our cautious representative would prevent me from getting involved whenever I tried.
Now, this wasn’t because I was trying to act all important. As the representative, he had to consider when to play the “Yoshida card” and observe how the planning was coming about. No matter how rotten I am, I’m still a Square Enix executive, so I should apparently be cautiously scrutinizing the project instead of showing up to meetings on a whim. (I’m pretty oblivious when it comes to these things.)
FFXIV actually gets approached by external parties with project proposals or talks of adaptations fairly often. A big part of it is because FFXIV is an online game with an existing community. Over 6 million people have paid to play FFXIV at least once, and if you include people who have tried the free trial, we’ve reached well over 10 million players. Since we always have active players, it’s easy to see how a project relating to us would achieve commercial success. So, we get a lot of proposals.
Consequently, there are a lot of proposals that fizzle out before going anywhere, so we really can’t afford to give each and every one of them our full attention. It’s not that we’re cutting corners on them; we’re just observing the possibility of success and gauging the right time to get involved.
This “Dad of Light TV Drama Adaptation” project started amongst several other projects, so at first, we had no choice but to take a wait-and-see approach. However, what distinguished this project from the others was the incredulous speed at which they got staff and businesses on board. Each time our representative gave me his report, it was shocking how rapidly they were progressing. “It looks like it’ll be MBS”, “They’re deciding on the production company”, and so on.
It was the kind of project where any company or person would think, “That sounds really interesting” and be eager to take part. It was decided fairly early on that they would proceed with a production committee structure, and in the end, I sped up the internal adjustments on our end so that Square Enix would become part of that committee. The internal response was on the skeptical side: “What? They’re seriously going to make a TV drama!?” “Eh, they’re definitely going to hit a wall somewhere.” I do recall it getting approved ridiculously quickly, though. The idea of a TV drama based off of a video game had people thinking, “If this succeeds, it’ll be like winning the lottery.”
And so, the Dad of Light TV Drama project moved along with extraordinary speed. Three months after the project had been approved, our representative requested that I meet with Pii-san. When I met with him in the reception room, he seemed extremely nervous and talked a mile a minute. How many people were supporting this project, what progress they had planned, etc… I never got a chance to interject. He was overflowing with passion. I had to tell him, “I’m not going to tell you to stop after all of the work you’ve done, so please calm down” with a laugh.
During this meeting, Pii-san brought out his laptop and said, “There’s something I absolutely need to show you, Yoshida-san. There are so many people who support this drama adaptation, but no one is taking that final step forward.”
Yoshida: “Indeed; since it’s a true story from a blog, and it’s about a parent and child repairing their relationship through an online game, I think that people with keen senses will find it interesting.”
Pii-san: “But it seems like everyone is struggling with the new filming techniques…”
The Dad of Light TV drama isn’t just actors playing the protagonist and his dad in the real world with CG depictions of the game world created separately. The real-life part is combined with real in-game footage from FFXIV. It was a really interesting setup, and I could imagine how it would go since I worked on the game, but it was certainly an unconventional experiment. I could definitely understand why they would hesitate to make the final decision on financing.
Pii-san: “So, we created a pilot version of the ‘Eorzea part’, and I want you to watch it. This was created by Maidy-san and his friends alone, with no outside help.”
The unprecedented style of footage that they called the “Eorzea part” was played for me, and it felt incredibly polished. It was amazing enough how everything shown was accomplishable in-game, but on top of that, the camera angles, scene composition, and timings looked like the work of a professional. It was astounding how the work could stand on its own as an established film. Honestly, I was a bit jealous of their workmanship.
Yoshida: “Did you show the others this?”
Pii-san: “Yes, I’ve already shown it to several companies today.”
Yoshida: “Did they immediately approve it?”
Pii-san grinned happily and said, “Yes, everyone was extremely excited about it.” And thus, the Dad of Light project was easily carried through the final barrier by the pilot version (though an immeasurable amount of effort must’ve gone into it).
I think that this pilot version was the deciding factor for the project. It’s hard to put it into words, but it was so well-made that it feels unfortunate that it wasn’t used for the real thing. I wish the world could see it one day. It’s been a long time since a work has made me feel that “seeing is believing” the way that this one did.
To be continued in Part 3.
 The total accounts across all 5 regions: Japan, North America, Europe, China, and Korea. Including free trials, we’re at over 10 million players.