With the release of Heavensward, Final Fantasy XIV is finally ready to stop retracing its footsteps (with better footsteps) and venture out into new territory. E3 2015 was the final stretch of pre-release promotion for 3.0, and it was there that we got a chance to sit down with Michael-Christopher Koji Fox (aka Fernehalwes) to talk about how the world of Hydaelyn continues to develop and dig into some of the unanswered questions and frequent debates from Versions 1 & 2 that yet vex the loremongers. (Okay, we admit it, we also asked a few things just to see what they’d come up with.)
Every question I’ve been asked since Fan Fest (that I couldn’t find an answer to) was on this list, and at the simple cost of sounding (even more) ridiculous (than I actually am), I return to you with answers. Read on, and don’t forget to pass along your thanks to Koji Fox and Banri Oda for never passing up an opportunity to support and encourage this community.
The following transcription has been truncated and paraphrased in many places for the sake of conciseness and clarity. If you’d prefer to listen in on the full interview (which includes follow-up comments and casual discussion), we conducted it in such a way that you can become a fly on the wall by listening to the audio as an episode of Lorecast at the bottom of this page. No pertinent information has been removed from this write-up (in fact, some has been added), but everyone has a preference.
Fusionx: First things first, we haven’t talked since Fan Fest, before the closing ceremonies, and hell of a job on that, by the way. But now that we’ve done a little bit of praising… Did you have a hand in killing Nanamo!?
Koji Fox: <laughs> As much as I wanted to… No, no. I had nothing to do with it. They actually had that in mind back at 2.0 launch, that they’d eventually take the story there. Yoshida-san and the other guys wanted something that was really dark and would shock the players.
Anwyll: In a recent interview, Yoshida mentioned the possibility of tie-ins with XV and perhaps, one day, even something like Blitzball. What’s the process like for integrating something into XIV that has an origin somewhere else?
KF: That’s really difficult. Usually, they’ll come to us and say, “Yeah, we want to do a tie-up with this, we want this in. Figure out a way to do it.” and we’re like <screams> Blitzball!? But it’s a challenge. Yoshida-san has said that he doesn’t want to use something because it’s been used in another FF; he wants to make it part of that world and feel natural in that world. If Blitzball ever comes, I’m sure he’ll come to us and say, “Okay, we got this thing where you’re in a big pool, throwing this ball around, and the controls are really wonky…” Hopefully the controls will be better in XIV … if there ever is a Blitzball.
F: Way back in 2010, Yoshida floated the idea of a reptilian demi-beastmen race – I think it was in one of the player surveys – and the Au Ra seem to be the eventual result. The concept art showed that they were referred to as draconian, but now they’re said to be demonic. What’s some background on that? Was this changed to prevent association with Shiva’s … relationship?
KF: The original concept was that we wanted to do something different than what we have in the game currently. We have our five races and they’re all fairly humanoid. Even the miqo’te – you have ears and a tail, but take them away and it’s still humanoid. We threw around the idea of the Viera, but, again, take out the ears and it’s humanoid. They wanted something that was a little bit more beastlike. So, you have the ideas of the dragons, and the wolfman art, and then you have the demon look. It went through a lot of different stages, and we tried to take the best of all of them. Of course, when you get the reptilian or draconian design, and you have the story of Heavensward focusing on Ishgard and the Dragonsong War, if you bring in something that is a dragon, you have to wonder how that player fits into the story. We didn’t want there to be that mess or alienate the players that choose that. Once we knew where the story was going to go, we were able to meld it all together and fix the design for what we have now.
A: You’ve mentioned in the past that Japanese players don’t really get as into the story and lore as the English-speaking players do. It seems like a shame since you’ve also said that Oda-san does, like, 95% of the raw creation, which we’ve talked about more lately. Does he have an idea of how deep we dig into it over here? And has he expressed any sentiments about that?
KF: He does! He’s not that good at English (his brain is so filled with other important knowledge that I don’t think there’s room for English), but I tell him what’s going on. He checks the sites; he sees your speculations, where you’re right on some things, where you’re wrong on others. He loves it, but he’s a very humble person. That last Niconico Chokaigi was his first time on camera, and he was so nervous, but a lot of the Japanese fans love that. You could tell he was trying really hard and they fell in love with him. He’s a great guy – so knowledgeable you can talk with him forever. He loves Western fantasy (and Japanese fantasy) and he’s always asking what to read next. Even when he’s busy, he says he tries to read about a book a week. In fact, he just built a new home with a reinforced second floor because the actual floor of his old one was about cave in under the weight of thousands of books. But he’s got these great ideas and working with him has been great. Recently, now that he’s starting to get out there, the Japanese fans are getting a little more into it. There’s more people craving that knowledge; they’re coming to the forums and asking questions, which is something we didn’t see before. We lit the fire on the American side and now it’s spreading to the Japanese side. Hopefully for a future Fan Fest I can try to drag Oda-san with me so you guys can meet him as well.
F: Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the Battle of Silvertear Skies, but there’s one thing we’re still not really sure on…
KF: Here it comes!
F: Agrius hit the ground and we saw primals flying out of the explosion. Was it literal? Metaphorical? What was going on there? Has the time come for us to know?
KF: I’m going to give you a direct answer from Oda-san:
Why do Calamities occur on Hydaelyn?
Why was Midgardsormr protecting this lake?
What was beneath it?
3.x! You will find out the answer.
KF: We have plans for revealing some more about Calamities and what Midgardsormr was protecting.
A: At Fan Fest, we had some people very interested in the nature of faeries and we got a lot of information about that. I thought we might talk about Egi this time. We know the story is that you’re tainted by the aetherial mist that comes about in a primal’s defeat. Can you be more specific about how that works and how that comes back out in the entity you summon?
KF: Basically, every being is made up of aether. It’s your own aether, and that is you. By taking your aether and splitting it, you create an egi, but you still have yourself. The thing is, you’re maintaining both of these at the same time, which is why summoners can only do this with one egi at a time. If you split yourself too much, your grip on yourself is gone and you fade back into the Lifestream. That’s not to say there aren’t certain beings in the world that have a larger pool of aether; some beings can split into multiple egi, while maintaining that balance, before they die. As for how to create an egi, as you said before, you get that mist – that taint – by defeating it; it goes into you. You are creating an image of what that primal was, so without ever having seen it, you cannot create it. By attuning with their aetherial remnant, you know that primal and can attune an egi in that image. There are no new egis in 3.0, and the reason why will be explained in a way that ties back to this information, as well.
F: Throughout A Realm Reborn, we’ve seen these “soul orbs” from peple, from primals, from Ascians, and even from Midgardsormr. Are these orbs of the same origin? Are souls part of primals, too, or does this just represent any living aether?
KF: Yeah, it’s representing living aether. It’s not connected to anything we haven’t explained; it’s just aether manifest.
A: Ifrit is the only primal that did not end up with a vocal track. Did you ever go back and write some lyrics on your own time, just to complete the set?
KF: Nooo, I don’t have time for that. I would love to if I did, but when tracks are created, they know what they want to have done. Primal Judgment was made as an instrumental and we kept it that way. If Soken ever comes back and says, “Hey, I need some lyrics, I want to do another version,” I definitely would. But… he’s given me other songs to do… in recent weeks…
A: With the Blessing of Light, the Warrior of Light is able to manifest of Crystals of Light. Most are thematically connected to their acquisition, but the water crystal just sort of appears. Is there any reason the water crystal was chosen for that or any kind of connection we can make?
KF: Oda-san just said, “Ehhh, don’t think too deeply about this one.” We can leave it at that. <laughs>
F: Back at Fan Fest you talked about how some mobs float with a second bladder – how does fat chocobo fly? Does he have a second bladder? Is his cake magic?
KF: The cake is motivation enough. Oda-san even wrote it in English. It just says,
A: Back in 1.0, we saw Darnus use Allag tech in Coerthas to raise the Rivenroad. Were all of the floating lands made in this manner, or is some of it natural? What about that mountain with the floating peak in Dravania?
KF: Most of it is not Allagan technology; it’s all just wind crystals gone wild. Over-aspected crystals wreak havoc on the land, even on that mountain in Dravania. We’ll talk about it a bit in the story, but that’s not to say some places haven’t been raised with Allag technology… you might see that, too…
F: In the dungeon video that was released we see an Allagan dungeon (presumably on the floating continent) and we see some tubes with… Winged Ixal! Anything you can tell us about them and why they might be there? Looks kinda like a museum…
KF: Check it out with your own eyes; you’ll find out all about it in just a few days…
A: The Second Coil of Bahamut seems to imply that the Lamia were Allagan chimeric bioweaponry. Sastasha HM, however, seems to imply that are “over-drowned” pirate wenches. What are Lamia, and can this give insight into the background of other enemies, as well?
KF: This one goes back to deliberate misinformation. It’s in both versions, in English a bit more so. In many games, NPCs tell you exactly what’s going on in the world. They just know everything about the lore and everything is true. In the real world, people don’t always have the answers, even though they talk like they know what they’re talking about. We wanted Eorzea to have that feel, as well. There are lots of different theories, but not everyone has the right answers. People sometimes assume things that are relative to their own lives; if a Lominsan sees these Lamia with their scimitars and they think pirate, what else could it be, for them? They don’t know about Allagan technology.
F: We know that Scylla is the result of genetic experimentation by Amon. In the World of Darkness, however, one of the enemies we encounter is Queen Scylla. What’s that about? Is there more to her story?
KF: In the Crystal Tower series, you learn a lot about the Allagans and how they were really into cloning; they’re cloning everybody. In the World of Darkness, we’re dealing with sacrifices made to the Cloud of Darkness. Xande’s not going to sacrifice himself. He’s just going to say, “Here, sacrifice that clone.” We’re just looking at clones, there.
A: Throughout the Coil storyline, we explored some of the Ragnarok and Neurolinks, but not all of them. For example, we’ve got a broken Neurolink in the Nail and, not far from it, a Ragnarok in Boulder Downs that is quite conspicuous. Will we ever enter these lost hulks, or do we simply assume they didn’t survive the fall?
KF: You’re correct in your assumption that a lot of them didn’t survive the fall, which is part of the reason Bahamut was able to gain so much power. There are some that aren’t as destroyed as others and there might be a chance in the future to re-explore them, but you’ve spent enough time in these coils for now.
F: A lot of the Allag gear had draconic symbolism on it, a trait it seems to share with the Garlean Emperor’s regalia. Perhaps House Darnus was not the only connection between Empires? Galvus does look kinda buff …
KF: This isn’t as exciting as you might be looking for, but if you think back to medieval times, a lot of noble houses would choose regal beasts for their sigils – you’d have wyverns and lions, and such. When you need a symbol for strength, what do you choose? The Allag and the Garleans both just knew, “Dragons are kickass. Let’s go with that.”
A: We’re finally going to get to see some of Abalathia’s Spine! That sounds a bit like there’s some mythology involved… Is Abalathia an entity?
KF: Mr. Oda doesn’t want to talk about the mythology just yet, but we wanted to talk a bit about the makeup of Abalathia’s Spine so you get a better idea than the map might give you. There are four different regions. Northern Abalathia is where the Hellsguard come from; the caves are close to the magma sleeping beneath the mountains, so they believed themselves to be the guardians of the entrances of hell. Right now, you can’t go there. In southern Abalathia, you have Coerthas. Western Coerthas is basically the foothills and lower Abalathia. In the west, you have Dravania, the forelands and hinterlands. This is all controlled by dragons, and the hinterlands are where Sharlayan was, and yes, you can go there. Of course, then you have eastern Abalathia, which is connected with Xelphatol, the Ixal’s main area, and also Gyr Abania, where Ala Mhigo is. You can’t go there, yet. Floating above all that, though, you have the Sea of Clouds and the Churning Mists and all that.
A: Long ago, Yoshida-san mentioned that Niellefresne’s story would be resolved, but we got so few references to it in A Realm Reborn. With Lolorito’s ascension, might it have been saved for Heavensward – and might we see Heartstrike again?
KF: Another Oda-san answer:
Do you remember Nielle’s younger brother?
He will be making an appearance in a crafting questline…
F: Exactly how canon is the Hildibrand storyline? Godbert is on the real, actual Syndicate, but much of the storyline is clearly exaggerated, if not out-right one-directionally canon. Even the NPCs claim some things make no sense.
KF: And those of us working on those quests might think, but this doesn’t make any sense! Oda-san would like to say that it’s up to the reader how much sense they want to make of it and how they want to look at it.
F: A long time ago, we asked Yoshida-san about minions and how they came to be. He mentioned that one person was actually responsible for most of them and that we’d someday meet them. Is it a safe assumption that this person is Godbert Manderville – crafter extraordinaire and habitual spreader of joy?
KF: No, it’s not Godbert – we can say that. Currently, the only thing we know for certain is that the first mammets were based on that prototype, Mnejing, from the goldsmith storyline. All the minions that are clockwork automatons are people just building on that work. As for things like floating gigantpoles, you’ll have to go by the help text…
A: At the mid-point of every one of these interviews, between the bigger, more interesting questions and any rapid-fire leftovers we might have time for, we like to just ask: Is there anything interesting going on that you find exciting and might want to talk about, even if we don’t know it, yet?
KF: Oda-san wanted me to talk a little bit about the Great Gubal Library that’s coming in. It’s not as expansive as some players were hoping for, certainly not as big as I was hoping for, but it’s a start – and this game comes with expansions. We have a starting point, which means we can only build on that. I know people were thinking of a place you could just go in and read books all day. It’s not going to be that… but it is going to have a lot of interesting content in it, and hopefully content we can expand upon. Check it out! There’s a lot of stuff you probably don’t know in there.
Another thing he wanted you to know about is Tataru. She has a big role in 3.0. They did a lot of detailed branches in her small talk; she has tons of lines based on what you’ve seen and haven’t seen. Go back and talk with her all the time, she’ll have lots of things to say and lots of ways to act Lalafellin and cute. If you’re a Tataru fan, don’t rush those exclamation points, go back and talk to her. Oda-san was a big part of getting those ideas in there.
A: We’re told that the Sharlayans helped rebuild the aetherytes in A Realm Reborn, but a long time ago, like 2010, we were told that those aetherytes were there when people arrived and perhaps that’s why they chose to settle. Who made those?
KF: Nobody knows! Even the Sharlayans don’t know. Maybe it was the Allag, maybe it was people before that. It could have been a lot of people. They were there, they were useful, and after people come back to rebuild after Calamities, they rebuilt around these useful things. Sharlayan was able to adapt it, but they have no idea who created it. In the Dravanian hinterlands, there’s actually an aetheryte factory. I don’t think it’s named on the map, but go look for it.
A: Long ago, you mentioned that 1.0 took place in a “Simpsons Time Bubble.” Are we still in a bubble? Or does time move now that we know Patch = Canon?
KF: It’s still a bubble; you have to have a bubble. There are players joining in Heavensward that are starting at the beginning. The bubble’s just gotten bigger.
F: So… Triple Triad cards. I’m in Eorzea, so who the hell are Cloud, Squall, and all these guys?
KF: Heroes! From … times of yore! Who knows if they were real. Was Ulysses real?
F: There’s a silhouette visible from Monument Tower in Coerthas that looks exactly like Castrum Marinum, but the size and angle seem to be all wrong. Does Marinum have a twin out there?
KF: Oda-san says that this is a place called Castrum Aquilonis. The Empire started building it, but it was way too cold; the climate was way too harsh. They stopped halfway through, it’s now abandoned. That’s all I can say, because that’s all that’s been written.
A: Version 1.0, way back, the old Gelmorran ruins had these little statues made out of the same stuff as Amberscale Rock. What were those? They looked kinda like Tonberries…
KF: They were not tonberries. That’s all we can say.
F: Was Midas nan Garlond (Cid’s father) tempered (like Nael van Darnus), too?
KF: Even the Garleans don’t know. In-World, they don’t know. There have been assumptions both ways.
A: A lot of places that were damaged in the Calamity have since re-opened, but is Milvaneth Sacrarium closed for good?
KF: The last one was inside of the world, this one is outside of the world. We don’t know!
A: We have the names of two other members of the Ul line – Sasabal and Nanasha. Were either of them Nanamo’s parents?
KF: Yep! That’s them.
F: Swallowtail Roam got a quick mention in ARR. Is it still relevant?
KF: <cackle> All of you out there that wished to learn more of Swallowtail Roam… You will find out in 3.0, and in a way you will not expect.
A: In one of the early quests, you see other people in the aetherial realm flying around the Mothercrystal. Who are they? Other adventurers?
KF: Yeah, the Mothercrystal talks to many people. You’re the Warrior of Light, but she has to have other options. Not everyone is Warrior of Light material and there are lots of other things going on.
F: Will Anonymoose actually share a picture of himself from E3?
A: I’ll think about it.