(Translator’s note: This is the interview with Kinoko Nasu that came with the April 2016 issue of Type-Moon Ace. Enjoy!)
Fate/Grand Order’s seven-part story has finally reached the second half. Kinoko Nasu shall reveal his thoughts on FGO, from the game’s launch, to future developments, and even core secrets within the Fate/ universe!
A Deep-Seated Mystery of the Fate/ Universe Revealed by FGO
Fate/Grand Order has finally reached its fifth chapter. Let’s start this interview with a basic question. What are your thoughts on FGO, having played it since the start?
Nasu: First of all, it’s simply a lot of fun. At the same time, I would think, “hey, this would be better if it were done this way” at several places. There are a lot of parts that clearly needed more work, but put another way, it’s very obvious where the game needs more improvement, so I’m confident that if those problems were hammered out one by one, it’ll be a lot more fun to play. As both creator and player, it’s a lot more fun when there are a lot of areas to improve on, and I get happy seeing my work get closer and closer to the image I had in my mind. I think that FGO always has that feeling of expectation. I also think, “Oh, I like this character’s animation,” or “I like messing around with this Servant”. [laughs]
Why did you make FGO a story where you get to travel to many different eras?
Nasu: I wanted players to experience world history in the form of a game. Before we got to where we are now, the world had undergone a lot of eras, and within those eras were revolutions and breakthroughs. If those revolutions and breakthroughs never happened, humanity as we know it today wouldn’t exist. I wanted to make FGO a stepping stone for people to realize that. World history becomes a lot more interesting the more you learn about it, and I think the story up to Chapter 4 has done a great job in showing that.
The eras up to Chapter 4 were chosen because they were periods of advancement for the human race, weren’t they?
Nasu: Yes. Of course, I picked the eras so they could be as fantastically “Fate/” as possible, but they’re basically all periods where “if these didn’t happen, history would look completely different.” Everything up to Chapter 4 was written to feel as if we’re “tracing the journey of humanity up to now.” On the other hand, from Chapter 5 on, it’ll start to feel like “the real FGO starts here,” and the fantasy elements start becoming stronger. Chapter 6 and 7 will just be plain “the world is in a huge crisis!” [laughs]
From the start of the planning phase, I thought, “FGO has to be this grand story where every single character from all the Fate/ series until now would show up, or else it would be pointless.”
The release of Chapter 4 at the end of last year came as a shock to fans as it touched upon a core question of the “Fate/” series, that question being, “what exactly is a Servant?” How did you decide to slip in this very important piece of lore into the story?
Nasu: From the start of the planning phase, I thought, “FGO has to be this grand story where every single character from all the Fate/ series until now would show up, or else it would be pointless.” To put it extremely, “even if I die, I have to pass this on to the next person… Actually, I should just pour all of my wealth and assets into this” – that was how I felt, so I had to put in everything up until the core setting of the Fate/ universe. So I brought out the very first setting that I made way before Fate/stay night, the one that was supposed to be Fate/Prototype, and used it as the core of FGO. Fortunately I had already slipped in hints in many different places as to what Heroic Spirits are, so the reveal at the end of Chapter 4 is something that should’ve come naturally.
It’s a setting that’s different from all the Holy Grail Wars until now, that Heroic Spirits exist to prevent the destruction of humanity.
Nasu: Yes. I wanted to put the question “what is the Hero Summoning System, even?” as the centerpiece, something that would be revealed right at the middle of the story. By doing that, I hope to get the people who think that FGO is just a fanservice game for the Fate/ franchise to feel that this is a cool game, that this is an honest-to-goodness Fate/ title. That’s why I absolutely wanted to get everyone to play Chapter 4 before the year 2015 ended.
Wasn’t it very troublesome to have Chapter 4 released before the end of the year?
Nasu: It was, but it was something that I definitely wouldn’t have budged on. It was something like the Grand Order of Kinoko Nasu. I wanted everything up to Chapter 4 released by the end of the year no matter what. If I didn’t, FGO would be just another Fate/ spin-off. I wanted all the Fate/ fans out there to say “If this is how it’ll be, I’m satisfied” within the year this game came out.
Is there some deeper meaning to the “Grand Order” in the title that will be revealed later on?
Nasu: “Grand Order” is exactly what it says – there’s no deeper meaning other than “the greatest command given to Magi” that’s been talked about up until now. It’s the first command given to the first ever Magus, a duty that must be kept by all Magi.
At the end of Chapter 4, Solomon shows up as the mastermind behind all of FGO and introduced himself as “Grand Caster”. Would it be right to say that there are other “Grand” Classes out there?
Nasu: Of course. Part of the fun is having everyone try to guess who the remaining six Grand Classes are.
I see. When speculating on the nature of the Fate/ setting, I think I’d like to consider the bigger whole that is the TYPE-MOON multiverse. For example, when talking about a being that will lead the humanity to destruction, it’s easy to think of Primate Murder , so does this mean that it’s possible that we’ll see the 27 Dead Apostle Ancestors  come into the story?
Nasu: Ahh… [laughs] The only thing I can say right now is “it’ll happen when it happens”. Originally, TYPE-MOON fantasy is supposed to be “the story of a person or a city,” and doesn’t involve large-scale stories. I would even say I was trying to avoid “epics,” since I was writing based on fantasy tales  from the 80s and 90s. That being said, FGO is no longer the story of an individual, but a story that can easily reach the scale of the entire world. So it wouldn’t be strange at all to bring out Primate Murder. Throughout all the settings, there are a lot of things where I’d think, “I can’t bring this into the story. That would be like bringing in Godzilla!” but if it’s FGO, it’s not out of the question. So if the time is right, even the 27 Dead Apostle Ancestors might show up.
By bringing in something as huge as “the core of the Fate/ universe” into a mobile game, do you foresee huge troubles that haven’t shown up before?
Nasu: Before the game was launched, the scenario up to Chapter 7 had already been completed, but at that point, none of us knew what kind of game FGO was going to be. For mobile games, it’s common sense to think, “No one would read a scenario this huge,” and there were people in the staff who thought that. But after the launch, we found out that players were actually reading and enjoying the story. So from Chapter 5 on, we adjusted the game balance so that, between every battle, it would be okay to have nothing but conversations for 10 minutes. In a sense, it’s a bit of a relief for us on the scenario writer side.
For the scenario writers, was it unexpected for mobile game players to actually read and enjoy the story?
Nasu: It was. For a mobile game, we were expecting that players would be skipping the story, and that there’s nothing we could do about that. But to write a good story is something where the creator’s pride, the scenario writer’s honor is at stake. To write a story also means to write something that we could be proud of. By putting that in mind, even if no one ends up reading it, each writer would put out something that they would be satisfied with. Actually, up until Chapter 4 I had been supervising the scenario, but I was planning to leave the scenario from Chapter 5 onward to the writers, except for the parts where Chaldea was involved. From Chapter 5 on, Higashide and Sakurai had already grasped “their own way of getting along with FGO.” To be honest, from there, I was thinking, “this is a new Fate/ story, so it’s okay even if it no longer feels very ‘Fate/’, right?” But everyone was earnestly reading the story, and they all feel that it’s still a ‘Fate/’ game. The response to Chapter 1 was so huge that I said, “I’m sorry, please let me supervise Chapter 5 onwards too!”
So, for the sake of the players who read the entire story up to Chapter 4, you wanted to put in more effort from Chapter 5 onwards?
Nasu: Yes. I think it’s a huge thing for me that all the fans who have loved TYPE-MOON over these 15 years are also enjoying FGO. I have this renewed feeling of wanting to write more for the people who love the stories we make, and it’s thanks to all of those fans who have stayed as fans over the years. My workload has increased thanks to that, but I’m still glad.
All of TYPE-MOON’s games until now have been completed games released and sold in one package. How different does working on FGO feel, it being a single game where the contents are released part by part?
Nasu: It’s very different. In particular, the aspect of releasing new Servants periodically is a big difference with packaged games. It takes a lot of time for a Servant to get released, so early on four Servants a month was our limit. The plan before launch was to use the year to make around 60 or so Servants, and then just slowly add more every month after the game was released. But now there’s a lot more staff working on the game, so development speed is faster. It’s faster, but… The staff and personnel of Delight Works are all very passionate, even giving reassuring quips like, “now we can make something that’s even better than before!” but somehow things still end up finishing just barely before the deadline. [laughs] The improved animation quality of Servants released starting from October last year is all thanks to all the staff who work hard on the game. It doesn’t get easier because of more staff, but rather the more staff there are, the more they’re willing to sink deeper into the pits of hell. It’s very reassuring to see that kind of passion from them every day.
I have this renewed feeling of wanting to write more for the people who love the stories we make, and it’s thanks to all of those fans who have stayed as fans over the years.
What will collab events be like in the future?
During the Kara no Kyoukai event , a slightly different Shiki Ryougi had appeared, which the fans enjoyed.
Nasu: The Shiki in the event is the Shiki after the events of Kara no Kyoukai. But even if the characters of Kara no Kyoukai show up in the world of FGO, the whole city would’ve already been in ruins. But Shiki is special – she’s dead, but not quite. Her body had burned, but it’s yet to completely burn up. She’s there, just right before dying, asleep. The Ogawa Apartments that we see is the dream that Shiki is seeing. During the event, Shiki would say things like, “This is an awful nightmare,” or “I can’t wake up, so come with me,” and if she does wake up, she, like everyone else, would die out along with the time period she’s in. But if she doesn’t wake up, she’ll avoid the destruction of humanity as long as she’s in that dream, and she’ll be able to return to her original world. If she’s in that situation, Shiki Ryougi can show up in the scenario. The collab is between FGO and a previous TYPE-MOON work, so I wrote it so that it’s still FGO without ruining the core of the Kara no Kyoukai series.
The event story stepped pretty deep into the story of Kara no Kyoukai, didn’t it?
Nasu: I think I hit a good balance with the story. Actually, when it was first decided that we were going to have a Kara no Kyoukai collab event, I said, “Oh, but there aren’t a lot of people who’ve read Rakkyo. Everyone’s just gonna give us blank stares.” [laughs] So I didn’t touch on the events of Kara no Kyoukai’s main story, so that the people playing FGO who haven’t read Kara no Kyoukai would say, “This new Servant is pretty fun!” while the people who know Kara no Kyoukai by heart would say, “Ah, everything this Servant is saying is about Shiki.” In the end, I was able to write a TYPE-MOON fantasy while also sticking to the festive style of FGO. The way missions were unlocked throughout the event was also very “detective-like, mystery-like,” so it was very Kara no Kyoukai. That’s all thanks to FGO’s game designer, TYPE-MOON’s very own Azanashi.
The animated CM by ufotable for the Kara no Kyoukai event also became a hot topic. A lot of characters showed up in the CM. Why is that?
Nasu: The implementation of the event in-game took about two months to prepare for. ufotable made the CM alongside that preparation period, during their incredibly busy schedule. The two-month schedule was also very tight for ufotable, so instead of matching it to the event’s content, we’d rather have something that looked cool, and something that the staff would enjoy working on. I think the most important thing needed to overcome a tough schedule is “fun.” Though, at the start of the production phase I was asked, “What’s the story going to be like?” and I said, “I think the story will be something like ‘a lot of Servants have started living in Ogawa Apartments, so Shiki will be going around collecting their rent.’ It’s not a gag story.” and then they replied with a straight face, “Kinoko, what the heck are you saying?” [laughs]
So that’s the backstory that the CM was based on?
Nasu: Some amazing storyboards were finished, but it wasn’t possible to match them to the actual event content. But since we let the ufotable staff’s passion do the work, the final product was very high-quality, and I think it became a dream-like collab event that the old Rakkyo fans enjoyed a lot. Yes, dream-like.
Do you think that FGO would get story-centric collaboration events like this one in the future?
Nasu: The Kara no Kyoukai event was special. The original author was involved, so I think it’s natural that it became a rich story. On the other hand, I also think that it’s because it was originally a TYPE-MOON work that it became that way. If this were a collab with a completely different franchise, I don’t think we can get that deeply involved.
Nasu: The Fate/Zero event will be fun, of course! Actually, during the planning phase a year ago, there was a character that we were writing as a surprise for players, and when I asked (Gen) Urobuchi to write a story with that character as protagonist, he gladly accepted it. But during the plotting stage, even though I said, “Write something with a happy ending for once,” first he asked me, “Can’t I have this character kill this other character and end it there?” and he gave me a plot that was even darker than Fate/Zero. [laughs] I said, “What kind of festival do you think we’re making here?! Gen, you should believe more in dreams, aspirations, and the bonds between people!” and had him revise the whole thing. Urobuchi also plays FGO, so the meeting was pretty simple. It went like, “Urobuchi, I want you to write a Fate/Zero collab event for FGO. Actually, just do it.” “Understood. I’ll burn through it with my 3☆ party. Though I did Kintarou  during the New Year.” There was absolutely no need to explain the system, so it was all just “I’ll leave it to you!”
Other than collab events, I get the impression that the seasonal events are very detailed.
Nasu: I think that out of all the seasonal events, the “Almost One-Week with Santa Alter”  event was the most enjoyable. The present system for that event was also really fun. Actually, when I was writing the event scenario during October last year, I got ideas from the responses of the players. I think that the first event where I got to use that knowledge was the Christmas event. Put another way, from the service launch to the Halloween event , everything proceeded as we planned. But after the Halloween event, we already had – to some degree – an idea of how players enjoy FGO, so we started making events with that in mind. As a result, I think our efforts were rewarded by players who enjoyed those events.
Is updating and revising based on the user response also part of the big difference between FGO and a complete package game?
Nasu: For the latter, I think it’s like a long marathon. There’s already a preset goal, so you know how many kilometers you need to run every day to get there. So it feels like you just have to work little by little to get there. On the other hand, for mobile games, of course there’s a goal, but it feels more like you’re sprinting short distances over and over again. You know where to run next, but you don’t know how far you need to run after that. The only thing you know is that you have to run. Your goals change depending on the situation. And as long as there are players, the sprint will never end. There’s a strong real-time feeling to it. And because of that, we get to feel the affection of the players directly. The staff of TYPE-MOON and Delight Works can work hard because they can feel the heat and warmth from all of the players.
Episodes and Mysteries to be Revealed in the Second Half
I’d now like to ask about the scenario writing. Yuuichirou Higashide and Hikaru Sakurai have said, “Nasu’s supervision has increased the Fate/ feel of the story”. How exactly do you put in more of that Fate/ feel?
Nasu: There’s basically nothing that I left untouched. Fate/Apocrypha and Fate/Prototype: Fragments of Blue and Silver are Higashide’s and Sakurai’s own stories, respectively, so anything they do with those is okay, except for setting mistakes. But FGO is a poster game for TYPE-MOON, so Kinoko Nasu has to put in his word into this scenario. I have to harden my heart and supervise this game. Both Higashide and Sakurai have said, “We submitted 100 kb of text to Nasu, then it came back as 180 kb of text.” But that’s not just simply adding 80 kb of text; it’s also revising the original 100 kb so that it becomes more Fate/-like.
So you did the same adding and rewriting process for all of the chapters?
Nasu: I would basically add and rewrite while checking everything from start to finish, and also adding some plot points related to the overall setting, but I think I had been a lot more involved with Chapters 1 and 3. Chapter 1 was the entry point so I had to put in everything I could, and Chapter 3’s heroine was Drake, so I was really fussy about that. “Supervised by TYPE-MOON” just refers to management of the setting, which is a job for someone at the digital rights management department, but “Supervised by Kinoko Nasu” means that it’s all up to me, and that I get to intervene until it becomes a work I’m satisfied with. That said, at first I was all, “I’ll be supervising everything for the first half, but once the game launches I have to work on some other things, so I’ll leave the second half all to you two!” but even now I still can’t leave my seat. How did this end up happening?! [laughs]
When you say rewriting, does a lot of that involve the background behind the world and the characters?
Nasu: Simply put, it’s filling in the gaps and fixing the scraps. FGO is basically a conversation theater, so if there’s a chance to make a Servant shine, I’ll add it, and if I can mess around with dialogue trees, then I’ll do it. On the other hand, I rarely interfere with the flow and structure of the scenario. I’d just make places which end in two words 10 words long, make conversations denser, and if it’s a Servant that’s already showed up, put in references to their original story in their lines. I do my revisions thinking that readers would enjoy it better this way. Early in development, we were planning to keep the text at a low volume. But that’s not very Fate/-like. All of the characters are heroes; in other words, none of them are mob characters. I want them to be written such that players will go “hey, this character is a legendary hero” when they show up, and when they exit the story, I want the player to end up loving that Servant.
Is that connected to the Fate/ feel that Higashide and Sakurai refer to?
Nasu: That’s right. I’m sure everyone has their idea of what “Fate/-like” means, but this is what “Fate/-like” means to Kinoko Nasu, and that’s what I add to the scenario. I believe that making those kinds of judgments is the responsibility of the supervisor. If Higashide and Sakurai were put in the role of supervisor, I’m sure they would do the same thing. “Let’s make this part serious.” “Let’s make this part comical.” At first it’s the writer that gets to write with that sense, but in the end it’s the role of the supervisor to adjust things as they see fit. It’s like taste-testing and adding more salt as needed.
An important part of the scenario is introducing the characters and picking the scenes where they show up. That said, for characters that have shown up in previous Fate/ works, are there any characters that are easy or difficult to write into FGO’s story?
Nasu: In the end, all of the characters introduced will become FGO characters, so I think there are no problems introducing them into the story. For example, characters that show up in Fate/EXTRA are coupled with Hakuno, but in FGO it’s inevitable that their affection for the protagonist will increase. Nero Bride is an example of that. By writing them into special circumstances, it’s possible for them to approve of them as a partner or comrade. As a result, for cases like Shiki Ryougi where it’s absolutely impossible for her to become a heroine to “any other protagonist,” she’s able to become one just for this story. We’re planning to introduce more characters like that, so even if they weren’t able to reach a good ending before, in FGO I’ll write them as if I’m writing a condensed gal game heroine route for them. No one says this out loud, but it’s nice having everyone be happy, isn’t it? Good Smile.
Speaking of the Fate/ feel, most of your previous works have protagonists with special powers, which result in them being given important roles in the story. On the other hand, up until now we still don’t know who or what exactly FGO’s protagonist is. Will this be touched upon in the story later on?
Nasu: No. Everyone seems to think that the protagonist might be Character XX, but we decided that, as a mobile game, the protagonist would be the players themselves, a person who had been living a normal life up until now. We avoided turning the protagonist into “someone who actually had this backstory behind them.” I want everyone to think of FGO’s protagonist as someone who just happened to see a recruitment flyer at a station, applied and got accepted into the job, and somehow ended up getting taken into Chaldea. I wish I could live a life like that too.
I see. Next I’d like to ask about the screentime of Servants in the future. Are there still any Servants that have already shown up, like Asterios in Chapter 3 or Andersen in Chapter 4, who will get another chance to shine in later chapters?
Nasu: Of course. In the first place, there are characters who have been in the game since the start who will get their chance to shine in much later chapters. Originally I wanted to introduce the characters along with the chapter they debut in, but we had to put in a set number of characters by game launch, so players would have to wait and look forward to their turn in the spotlight later on. Which characters they are and which chapters they’ll show up in have already been decided while writing each chapter.
So it’s possible for Servants already in-game but still have yet to get any screentime to show up later on.
Nasu: There are also some exceptional cases where we couldn’t quite get them into the story. If I had to give an example, there’s Kojirou Sasaki. He doesn’t get any screentime in any of the seven chapters, but in Chapter 1’s battle portions, he shone as the premier dragon slayer , so in a sense he got his time under the spotlight. It’s those little, coincidental things outside of the scenario that add a different layer of fun to games.
Speaking of games, in all the Fate/ series since Fate/stay night, each Servant would get these status sheets that give an RPG feel to the visual novel. Since FGO is an RPG-like system with command input, how did you put this into consideration?
Nasu: If we put those status sheets into consideration and play them straight, in the first place, it would be impossible for Servants to get killed by three Roman soldiers. [laughs] But as long as it’s made into an RPG, it would be impossible to include all those settings that are in the story portions, so we had to make some sacrifices. Because of those, FGO became a “playable game.” I had mentioned Azanashi earlier, who’s in charge of the game balance. At first he argued, “The game balance is too plain! Kids these days won’t be able to stick with this!” But when we saw that the game balance was just right, he gave in. Azanashi had said from the start that “If you’re writing the scenario to cover a whole year, then you also have to think of the balance over the span of a year.” The story doesn’t cover a span of just one or two weeks. If it covers a whole year, the gameplay should also cover a whole year. If we had set it to be too easy right from the start, then by the time we got to the second half the game would already be dead. That’s why even if staff like Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi would complain and say, “Make it easier to get Ascension Mats!” he would, with a resolve of steel, keep protecting the balance settings.
If players keep on supporting us and the game keeps on going, we have plans for what comes after.
I’d like to ask about the end of that one-year span, once we’ve sprinted past Chapter 7. Please tell us about the future of the game once all seven chapters are released.
Nasu: To tell you the truth, the original plan for FGO was to have it be a two-part story. I wrote the settings and backstories while dreaming sweet dreams like, “If this game becomes popular…” This hasn’t changed since Fate/EXTRA’s inception. So if players keep on supporting us and the game keeps on going, we have plans for what comes after. Honestly, working on FGO is incredibly fun, if only I didn’t have any other work on the side. Unfortunately I can’t just keep on focusing on FGO since I have other titles that I have to work on, and it’s a lot of hard work to find the right balance. Right now, the only thing I can say is that we do have plans for what comes after.
Thank you very much. To end, now that FGO is entering its second half, please give a message to all the fans who have been enjoying the game until now.
Nasu: The story has finally gotten to its main plot and is geared to head towards the finale. I want to surge towards the climax of Chapter 7 without forgetting to make a game that everyone can enjoy, and all the way being excited as a player. Right now all of the staff are working hard every day so the story can head to its finale, so everyone, please look forward to the second half of FGO!
 Primate Murder (プライミッツ・マーダー) – seat #1 of the 27 Dead Apostle Ancestors (see note ). The Beast of Gaia, said to possess the absolute right to kill humans.
 27 Dead Apostle Ancestors (死徒二十七祖) – regular vampires in Tsukihime are called Dead Apostles (死徒/shito). The 27 original, highest-level Dead Apostles gain this title. The title can be passed on by killing the previous holder of the title.
 Fantasy tales (伝奇物語/denki monogatari) – a specific genre of stories that were popular in the 80s and 90s that involved fantastic elements like youkai, demons, and monsters. Distinguished from fantasy literature by being small-scale (involving individuals interacting with the supernatural rather than embarking on an epic adventure), and distinguished from horror stories by the supernatural creatures not strictly being there to terrorize humans. See also urban fantasy. Throughout this interview, “fantasy” is used in this context.
 Kintarou (金太郎) – another name for Sakata Kintoki.
 Kara no Kyoukai event – a collaboration event between FGO and Kara no Kyoukai that took place from 25 Feb. to 9 Mar. 2016. Shiki Ryougi was given away as a free 4☆ Assassin-Class Servant. The scenario was written by Kinoko Nasu himself.
 Almost One Week with Santa Alter – the Christmas event that took place from 16 – 25 Dec. 2015. Notable for being the first event to implement the prize lottery exchange system.
 Halloween event – Singing Pumpkin Castle Adventure – Mad Party 2015, an event that took place from 21 Oct. to 4 Nov. 2015. The reward was a 4☆ Caster-Class Halloween version of Elizabeth Bathory.
 Dragon slayer – during the early days of the game, there were very few Servants that could handle all the dragon enemies in the first chapter. Kojirou, being an Assassin-Class Servant strong against the Rider-Class dragons, gained memetic status as a dragon slayer.