During the Tokyo Fan Fest, Gamer Escape staffers Ritsku, Shishikura and Marko had a chance to sit down and chat with Koji Fox about the lore book, performing with the Primals, and sneak a few game related questions in.
The interview (below) was transcribed and edited for ease of reading. Make sure to check out the episode itself (embedded at the bottom of this post) to hear it all- straight from a cafeteria table at the Tokyo Fan Fest.
Ritsku: The Encyclopædia Eorzea is finally out, how has the reception been so far?
Koji: Wow, uhhh It’s been way, way bigger than we expected. We went into it and you know, we probably you know should have done a little bit better you know with guessing the number and stuff, but we didn’t think it was gonna be that popular. We thought there was gonna be a core group of people that were like “Oh, we waited for it!” but everybody else is gonna be like “Eh, you know. I’ll just wait for the digital version.” Or “I can get that stuff from the lore forums!” But then, all of a sudden, it was like BOOM Sold out! Easter: BOOM, sold out! Waiting list: Arrrrgh, thousands of thousands of people and it’s like… My gosh! This is great! Yeah, I’m really, really excited! The Japanese version seems to be selling really well. They have an English version here in Japan. Everyone’s like “I can’t read it, but I bought the English version!” and I’m like, “Thanks!” It’s selling, really, really well! And now, I’m just worried they’re gonna say “We should make another one!” And I’m like “I’m going to write it!” Oda-san and I spend a lot of time… And while it was really fun, it’s like, we’re doing patch work, and 4.0 work, as well as Lore Book work and it’s just gotten really ridiculous there towards the end, but… Yeah, I love doing it though. It was so much fun. Oda-san loved doing it as well. We’re both really, really proud of it. And we’re glad that it’s selling, and that everyone’s loving it. Thank you! Thank you everyone who’s bought it and I’m then I’m sorry everyone who hasn’t been able to buy it! We’ll get one ready for you…! I promise!
Ritsku: The Encyclopædia seems to have an “Eorzean author”, what made you decide to go that route?
Koji: Well, again, when the world that we have in Eorzea… When deciding “Okay, how are we gonna do the characterization in Eorzea? What kind of world are we gonna make?” This was back in 1.0, discussing it with the director then, Tanaka-san, discussing with the lore director back then, Iwa-san, he’s like “What kind of world do you want to make?” The whole idea was, you know, dark, high-fantasy. Maybe around medieval times, maybe a little bit after that. 1600s-1700s. Ahhh, what are we gonna do? We had a lot of discussions about it. We decided, at least for the English, we wanted to give it that feel, that it was something that was pre-Victorian. So we thought “Okay, let’s take a look at actual bestiaries and Encyclopædias and things like that, that were written back then. And a lot of them seemed to be written by like, you know, it was a scholar of whatever, was writing to those few people that could read; other scholars probably. And we thought it would be kinda cool to have it be something that felt like that. Something that didn’t feel modern, something that felt like it was actually something that someone in Eorzea wrote for other scholars. And that’s why we decided to go with that type of, I don’t know-
Ritsku: It kinda incorporates it more to the world,
Ritsku: instead of “Here’s the game team giving you the book!”
Koji: Exactly! And so we went out of our way to not talk about anything game related in that book. So if you go in there, it’s as if a person who lived in Eorzea is writing that. A historian, a scholar, is writing all of that. And there are a couple parts in the Japanese where it just kinda straight— there are a few parts that talk about game concepts, and things that felt very gamey. And so we decided “Okay…” I talked to Oda-san, and asked “Is it okay if we kinda shift away from this or this?” and he was like “Oh, that’s fine.” As long as you get the content straight and we’re not giving any new content, which we weren’t. It was just a characterization issue. He said it was okay, so… We also pushed— I think I mentioned this at the Lore Panel back in Las Vegas; Getting the Square Enix logo removed from the book. It’s just because it’s one of those things. We wanted it to feel like a book that was something from Eorzea, and if it has “Square Enix” and the Square Enix logo in that font on the edge, it’s just like “Oh, no! When you put it on your shelf and you see that, it just kinda takes you out of the whole…
Koji: Yeah! And the thing is I guess in Japan, they’re required by law, if you want to sell the book in a book store, it has to have the Square Enix logo on it. And so, on the Japanese version, it says “Square Enix” on it. But the English version doesn’t have that on it. So… Yeah!
Ritsku: You said that you moved away from some things, you know, to kinda make it fit the universe better. So, the rules are fudged a little bit, I suppose, to finally put an end to certain debates?
Koji: Yeah… yeah…(laughs)
Yeah… This was— I mean, we know that there are a lot of things that were left open ended. We kinda did that on purpose on a lot of things. I’ve always, I said this at previous fan festivals and previous talks is that we kind of leave a lot of stuff open to interpretation in the game; we do that on purpose. So we put a lot of misinformation in. One thing that both Oda-san and I have always thought is that “You play an RPG and everyone tells you the truth!” It’s like, in what world does everyone tell you the truth and know everything about everything? It’s like, people hear things second-third-fourth hand. Things changed as they get passed on. So of course the story is not gonna be exact from every single you hear. So, to make the world feel a little bit more real, we wanted to have people talking about one thing, but everybody have different interpretations of it. And then the players will talk to a bunch of different people, get the same story from four different people, see what parts overlap, and then try to gleam the truth from that. And we wanted to do that. But! By doing that, we get a lot of people saying “Okay… But what is it really? I wanna know what’s going on! Is Nael Van Darnus a woman or a man?” Things like that. And so, we felt that this lore book would be a great opportunity to go in and wrap somethings up. However, because, again, it is written by a person in the world… and scholars, you know, they have their interpretations of things and “I studied this, it must be this!” but they’re not always right. And so there’s stuff in the Lore Book as well that still is open to interpretation. We wanted to leave that. We didn’t want it to make it 100% percent definitive, but wanted to make it mostly definitive. Because, again, it is the scholars of Eorzea getting together, putting all of their information together and “This is what we believe!” But then you have parts like the Origin Myth, which is, again, one scholar put together all of the stuff and “This is probably what happened”, but depending on who you ask, you know, maybe Minfilla felt different about this god and so… But yeah. That’s how we handled that.
Ritsku: And so that kinda explains about how the author knows about characters like, Eula Darnus, and how Eula Darnus knew about the warriors of light and coils and stuff. If we speak about Darnus—
Koji: And the thing is, the writer, its…the…the…the Eorzean… the Encyclopædia Eorzea is not written by one person, it’s a compilation of a lot of different scholars putting their stuff together. And so, there are—we also went out of our way to make the style for certain sections a little bit different so it would feel like it was a compilation of things written by three or four different authors. We didn’t want to have it be in the exact same voice. we wanted the over-all voice to be something that was, again, would fit in 17th century type of English. But we didn’t want it to be the exact same person ‘cuz we wanted it to feel like, okay, this is this guy that knows about, you know, he’s a naturalist, so this guy’s writing this part, this guys a historian, so he’s writing this part, this guy knows about, you know, organizations so he’s writing this part. Okay, yeah.
Ritsku: Now that there is an end-all, be-all, final truth on the matter. Do you have any comment about how the backstory unfolded along the way? Fans are speculating about the causes of the discrepancies, but we know how accurate speculation can be…
Koji: Yeah… Well, kinda like, I don’t know if we mentioned it. Was it mentioned in the book? But again, Darnus had everyone fooled. Everyone fooled, to the point that Gaius was fooled as well. No one knew. And so if no one knew, then pretty much everyone is gonna assume. Because she didn’t tell anybody. She didn’t confide anybody. She just decided to do it herself and put on the armor and faked out everyone. So everyone’s just thinking “Oh, Nael’s gone crazy!”
(laughs) And so, that’s why, again, pretty much that comes— even people that are supposed to know Nael very well were just like, they didn’t know. And they didn’t know till the end. And then finally the truth came out. And now, here we are. (laughs)
Ritsku: And of course the scholars didn’t know her very well, either.
Koji: Yes, of course the scholars didn’t, yes.
Ritsku: So they’re gonna speculate about what she was in the first place.
Koji: Because— Yeah, exactly! And the thing is, the whole reasoning behind why she did is, again, that’s all just speculation of “Oh, that it was probably this, it was probably this…” The whole, you know, sword Bradamante as well … Sad, sad story.
Ritsku: Your book reminds me a lot of the D&D books, how they have little clips in there from the characters and stuff like that. The way you’re describing the scholars describing the history of the universe and stuff like that. I just wanted to mention, did you get any inspiration from say, D&N and Masquerade or any other kind of Role Playing books like that along those lines?
Koji: We did look into a bunch of different books when deciding what we were gonna do with the Lore Book in general, back I think it was about February or March-ish and we’re like “Okay, how are we gonna do this?” We got a bunch of different Lore Books from other games. We got a bunch of D&D books as well, looking at “Okay, how are we gonna do this?” There were ideas to kind of, maybe have it less like an Encyclopædia and more like a “We’re gonna get a bunch of essays from a bunch of different authors and put them together to give an overview of the world.” But then that was like…okay… That’s probably gonna be harder to write, let’s make it a little bit easier. Also, in Japan, I guess the whole kouryakubon, the guide book culture over here [Japan] is a little bit different from it is in America, and they have their certain format that most of these guide books have. It is very, I know— From my perspective, it’s very text-bookey, but it seems like what a lot of users over here just enjoy. And so, the Japanese versions like “Okay, we wanna do it like this.” I’m looking at it, “Uhhh, that’s cool…” but I don’t know… Maybe we can, you know… change it a little bit to keep maybe that feel but something that feels a little more authentic. One of the things that we did again, being the whole character profile thing that Japanese guide books love. Oh, what is their hobbies and their age, gender, and their race, blood type…and I’m just looking at it and its just like, “Yeah, that doesn’t feel very Victorian, does it…” So, we just decided to incorporate all that into the text. So it’s all in there, but instead of the profile, we put in a quote from in game. We chose something that we felt represented the character and put that in. That’s one of the biggest differences between the English version and the Japanese version.
Ritsku: I just think that’s a really nice touch. Like, how they used to do that in Magic Cards—
Koji: Yes, exactly! And that’s— Magic Cards was definitely where we got that from. It’s like, you have that really cool flavor quote in there, and it’s like “Why can’t we do something like that?” And most of the characters had quotes already, but the Knights of the Round didn’t, so we got to think up those. Completely new. The English team got together, we decided on some quotes based on…the characteristics of each of the characters. We went to Oda-san and said, “Okay, we have these quotes. Do they sound like things that this guy would say?” He okayed all of them, and so those are all official. But they actually don’t exist in the Japanese, so that’s one cool thing, I guess.
Shishikura: Did you hear the chants for Brute Justice in Vegas? That was a lot of passion coming out of left field. Think The Primals might go back for it one day?
Koji: Hmm! Well, it’s not a— I mean, it already is a rock song, so you think it would be perfect for The Primals, right?
Shishikura: Right, right!
Koji: And so… Soken is a really busy man, but this is gonna be our second big gathering with The Primals, the first being in 2014. I would have this one and we’ll be getting together for Duality. The band members love doing this. I mean, they’re all pros and they have other work and they’re working with actual, big artists in Japan. But, they come together for this and they seem to really, really enjoy it. We go to the rehearsals and it’s just like… “I love this! This is great!” It’s like, “Wow, really!” And so they want to do more, and [Also] Soken. The CD seems to be selling really well. I think one of the days, we got like fourth on the Oricon chart, which is the Japanese music charts.
Shishikura: Top charts?
Koji: Top charts. Yeah, it was number four for that day, which is amazing!
Ritsku: That’s incredible!
Koji: Gaming music! And so, I mean if people are buying it, and people are liking it… There’s been maybe some talk about maybe doing more concerts around Japan, maybe bigger venues, things like that. And if that works out, then of course, you know, you can’t go into another venue and be like “Hey we have six songs!” “Okay” and then you’re like “Okay, 30 minutes, we’re done, bye!” And they’re like “Whaaaa?!” So there has been talk about bringing in more songs, and yeah! Soken did definitely hear the “Brute-Jus-tice Brute-Jus-tice”, and we’re just like “O-oh! Maybe we should do something about that…!” So I would say that, yeah, there is a really good chance, probably.
Shishikura: Very good! Speaking about the concert in Las Vegas, we heard that was great and we can’t help but wonder though how your voice is fairing with some of these songs. What kind of toil do these performances take on your voice?
Koji: Ohhh man! Oh man. Literally, after Las Vegas, the next day, I could not speak. But the thing is, after the performance, we all went to dinner that night for a “We’re finished, yay! Congratulations!” And I was just like :Sounds of a man who’s lost his voice: aauuuuuauuauuuuauhahhh! (laughs)
I couldn’t order my beer! I had to like, poke the person next to me… :Voice-less: Beeeeeeer. It was terrible! I’m not a singer, I’m a translator. I do enjoy doing this, but I don’t know to… train my voice, so I just “Okay, I need to do it! AHHH!” I’m a hundred percent all the time, and they’re like, “It’s practice! You don’t need to go one hundred percent!” “But if I don’t go a hundred percent, I’d eeeeh!” And so, this time I’ve been very careful. But last night, we had a rehearsal from…what was it, we started like at eleven thirty at night and went to about two-thirty in the morning. We had to wait until everything was finished. And because they were doing the real escape game, that like went over. I think that like finished around 10:30, from there they have to set up everything on the stage. We didn’t start actually playing until about eleven-thirty. It’s like, you know this is Christmas Eve, and we’re up there on the stage going RAAAAWRRRR!
Shishikura: MERRY CHRISTMAS
Koji: Merry Christmas! (laughs)
But, you know, trying to hold back. This time also is better because [during] Japan fan fest, I don’t have to be on the stage interpreting everything, and so, I mean Las Vegas was like every panel, I’m there! Then I have my own panel! Then I’m down on the floor! This time, at least I have time in between to rest my voice. But I think probably tonight I’ll just BLAARRRR! Blow it out! Well, I mean that’s what you have to do. I don’t have anything to do tomorrow. I just have to go to work. I have to go to work tomorrow! They’re making me go to work tomorrow!
I should probably get some tea and honey and learn how to hold it. But I mean, you know, its once in two months, so might as well. 120%. It’s fun!
Shishikura: Alright! So next question, obviously Soken is the one in charge of the music but do you have any say on the set lists for the shows you do?
Koji: The set lists? No. That’s all Soken. He get’s—they decide— Actually, it’s not just Soken, it’s Soken and The Primals, and the lead guitar, Gun… Uhh… GUUUN. And they decide what we should play. They decide…okay, for Las Vegas we did this, Japan, let’s do this… They go on the forums, check to see what songs are popular in certain areas. I guess Las Vegas/Americas are at a disadvantage because they’re first so it’s kind of more speculation. I think the American public will like this! And then of course, BRUTE JUSTICE! It’s like “Whoops!” But at least for this one then we had a little bit more time ‘cause Las Vegas was done so we got to see “Okay, how Japan reacted to that, what they wanted to hear outside of that.” and we were able to change up the set list. There’ll be some songs that we did in Las Vegas, but then some new ones as well tonight. So we’ll have a different set list. Then we’ll probably have a different set list for Europe, as well. So that should be good.
Shishikura: Speaking about the set list, do you have any favorite tracks you would like to perform?
Koji: Oooooooh! Well, I personally… The most fun to sing is…
Koji: Yeah, Fiend; Sepiroth. That’s… I know, I wrote the lyrics and, you know, me singing it is kinda like “Heey!”, patting myself on the back, but I love those lyrics. It’s so much fun to sing and just you know, “Say my name! Say my name!” Aw, I love that part! And, yeah, that’s fun to sing. Of course, Titan is fun to sing. That’s the first one I really go to—other than Good King Moogle Mog. But I mean, Titan was the one where I really go to… It wasn’t a… “Hey, look at me dance and wear hats!” It was actually “I get to sing it!” That’s fun as well! I’m looking forward to the day where I get to do Rise. But! I’m just gonna have to figure out how to sing that without tripping over myself! Because… It was a challenge recording that. ‘Cause he was like “I wanna do like, fast! Rap!” “O…Okaaaay? How fast?” “Yeah, just write something!” and I get in there and he’s like “This is the tempo!” [Tempo: 160BPM] do-Dun-do-Dun-do-Dun-do-Dun. And I’m like “Ahhahahahaha…” And it took probably about twenty takes…
Marko: Oh wow!
Koji: To get to it where I’m not tripping over myself to the end. Even then, it was like we cut it up. We took a couple lines, cut it, then the next couple of lines, cut it, and yeah… Currently, I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off from start to finish without tripping over myself. But! It’s a fun song. I know we haven’t released the lyrics for that yet. The lyrics are absolutely ridiculous! We have like the Brute Justice metal where it’s like the Gobbies singing it so it’s just a bunch of Gobbie speak. This one, also, we wanted to do in like, Gobbie speak. So there’s a little bit of Gobbie speak in this one, as well. But it’s just, it’s even over the top. I think I swear in it as well. (laughs) I don’t know if I should say it here, but… I don’t know. If you listen closely, you might be able to hear me say a certain…
Shishikura: Certain words…?
Koji: Certain words, but hey! We have… Our descriptor; Teen, but we have language, mild language, suggestive themes… I think I got all of those into the lyrics to Rise…(laugh)
Marko: Is it before “Rise with me, Rise with me”?
Koji: Yes, it’s before that.
Marko: Okay! I got it, then!
Ritsku: Yeah, nice!
K: Heh… That’s not any innuendo! Rise is actually not… you know… (laughs)
Shishikura: Speaking about the lyrics, the Lore Forum seems to be getting a bit antsy with some of the new lyrics that have not been released. Do you have plans to put them out of their misery?
Koji: Yeah. Rise and also the other Alexander track… Which is called Exponential Entropy. We haven’t released them yet, and we will be releasing those soon. The reason there’s a delay on those, is because the English is finished, but when we release it, we want to release both the English and Japanese at the same time. And right now, Oda-san is the one who does the translation for the Japanese, and he is currently 100% working on 4.0 script and so basically, the upper echelon; this is some director like, “Until he finishes the script, you’re not allowed to give him any other work.” And so if he does it, then I get busted for asking him to do it. So we’re currently waiting for him to finish. He should be finished. I think we’re in the process of wrapping up the script right now, getting into recording stuff. So it should be pretty soon, I would think, once he’s got it translated it. It usually takes him a little bit to translate them anyway. I mean, I’ve given him lyrics, I’ve given him a Japanese translation so he could go off that. Get something a little bit more, you know, beautiful than my broken Japanese. But yeah, it should be soon. It should be really soon. I know everyone’s getting antsy, everybody wants to know. I saw the Youtube video of the fans who was like “I think they’re saying this!” and it’s just like nothing but nonsense. Actually, that’s really funny though because I was like “That’s… Holy… I should’ve said that instead of what I wrote here! I kinda… I don’t wanna actually reveal the real lyrics, because the ones on that video were… and in a couple parts “This is actually way better!” But uh… Yeah!
Marko: Between the Encyclopædia and recent patches, we’ve gotten a lot of clarity about the core conflict of Final Fantasy XIV. And it’s obvious that some names and designs were chosen to hearken back to the franchise history, but are things more or less back on track with the original plan now that Dalamud’s taken care of. Was it always mean to be “The Crystal, a banished Darkness, it’s servants and a fractured universe?”
Koji: Uhh… I don’t know how much I can answer of this… I can answer this in a very vague sense that there was a story in 1.0 and it was supposed to go in a certain direction. There was even a last boss that we had that was something completely different than what we have now. It had a name, it had art, everything. We knew where the story was gonna go, it’s just that the story kind of, you know… Got derailed a little bit? Yoshida-san decided to come in and said “Instead of going down this trail, let’s first fix what we have.” Went off in a completely different direction. Had to change a bunch of stuff, add a bunch of new stuff to make sure that he could get things back on track. I mean, sometimes you have to destroy something to create it and fix it, and that’s pretty much what he did. But again, getting back on track, going to Ala Mhigo in 4.0, that was, again, a place that you were supposed to be able to go to in the original.
Some of the themes there, some of the themes that we have… I know Yoshida-san has mentioned, that we already have a rough outline of what we want to do for 5.0. Some of that stuff in 5.0 is things that we were planning on doing back on… Well, at least I don’t know if we was planning on doing them in 1.0, but he was planning on doing them as an extension of that 1.0 story. Whether that came in a different timeline as 2.0. I don’t know, but some of that story that I remember from that first year that I was on XIV I was like “Oh! This is where we’re gonna go?” It’s actually… There might be some of that in 5.0— It looks there’s gonna be some of that in 5.0 as well.
Koji: So… Things are kinda coming back. Some things probably will never be realized. Some of those ideas that we had in 1.0. So, there might be a couple things that were hinted at in that old/original story that players will be like, “Ah! When are we gonna find out about this?” Probably never…(laughs) But! Things are kinda moving. And then of course there’s all new stuff as well. Yoshida-san has a lot of his new ideas. Oda-san, now that he’s— and Ishikawa-san, now that they’ve taken over as main scenario writer, they have a bunch of their own ideas as well. Again, it’s very … There’s always something crazy that’s gonna happen. I mean, XIV always has a great serious story, but then there’s always something that’s like “What the— What was— Oh my WHAT?!” And there’s gonna be one of those in 4.0 . People are gonna be like, “Eep, buh, dehhh?!” [Flabbergasted facial expression] And then, 5.0, same thing. So I think it’s a good blend. I mean, if it’s all just crazy, then it’s just like, “I can’t take this seriously!” But if it’s all too serious, then it’s like “It’s not FF, because FF is always about having that fun!” So it’s got both of those and I think it’s… Yeah! It’s gonna be great. So yes! There’ll be some things, but not everything. I do really miss that 1.0 boss, though. I thought that boss was gonna be… Epic. I can’t say anything, I can’t say anything!
Koji: But anyway! (laughs) Sorry! I know you’re looking at me like “If you’re not gonna tell me, then don’t even say anything! Because now you’re gonna be all like… Hehehehehe…”
Marko: We’re about to enter 4.0, and while the Niellefresne story arc from 1.0 seems to have been put on hold again again, we’ve had several other 1.0 characters pop up recently such as Rostnsthal, Travanchet, familiar faces in the Palace of the Dead, and now even Damielliot with the holiday event! Think there might be a few more to come?
Ritsku: And apparently they can’t get their own food. (laughs)
Marko: The warrior of light needs to collect food! That’s the point!
Koji: We do, that’s because it’s dangerous out there! With those low level one and two lady bugs… they’re not even… They don’t even aggro you! C’mon! Anyway! There’s a lot of top— And again, from all over the world, Japan, Europe, North America… I mean, it’s different depending on the region, but there’s always a little bit of cross ov— I mean some overlapping parts and there’s like “Yeah, we want to learn more about this! What happened this person?” Bringing characters back. Also the development team as well. A lot of the people on the development team have joined the development team since the launch. And a lot of the people are like “I played XIV and I wanted to work with Square Enix!” So a lot of them were former players. So they finally get to be planners now and writers and they’re like “I loved this character when I played the game seven years ago, and now can I write this character in?” So there’s a lot of that. Everybody has their favorite characters. Everybody wants to go in, I’ve personally… I loved the lambs of Dalamud. I go to create that, that first quest back in the 1.X series, and I was like “Pleeeeeease, for 4.0 can we bring them back?” And they’re like “Ehh… That’s a good idea!” So hopefully, I might get to do some more Lambs of Dalamud stuff! I think those guys are great!
Shishikura: Would you like to say anything else to the rest of the listeners/readers?
Koji: Yeah! I know that you know that you’re probably sick and tired of me saying “Buy the Lore Book!”, but Buy the Lore Book! And then probably those people who wanna buy the Lore Book but can’t because it’s not on sale that are like “Er muh ger I can’t believe you said I WANNA BUY IT! WHY CAN’T I BUY IT!?” You’ll be able to buy it soon. You’ll be able to buy it soon. The people in merchandising know. If it was up to me, we’ve have printed like, thirty million copies of it and I would’ve just built a house around it… And… handed them out to everybody on the streets… But…that’s why I’m not in charge of merchandising. But, yes! There are plans to do additional printings and hopefully everybody that wants one will get one. I mean it’s a great book, it’s so…heavy and…leathery and…it smells good!
Marko: It’s beautiful!
Koji: It is! I love it! I love it! And I really hope everybody gets a chance to get it! Please just wait a little bit longer, you will get one! I’m sorry, I deeply, deeply apologize to everybody who hasn’t had the opportunity to get one yet, but there will be a day when everyone has one in their homes. Your refrigerator, microwave, Lore Book…
Shishikura: The essentials!
Koji: The essentials!
Ritsku: Koji is taking over the world, guys! You heard it first!