Last weekend during PAX East we had the chance to sit down with Koji Fox himself to talk about a whole bunch of lore stuff. If you haven’t read it already, make sure to check out the written-up excerpt from this episode regarding the upcoming Lore Book, as well!
If you’re unfamiliar with the format of a Lorecast interview, it’s conducted live as a conversation and streamed as a podcast which you can find at the bottom of this page. We also transcribe the questions and answers in an easily skimmable format, sans some of the small talk and cleaned up for presentation. Usually, an interview takes place in two sections. The first contains larger questions with more impact on the understanding of the game world, and, if everything falls into place and nobody’s strapped for time, the second is a rapid-fire round of smaller clarifications and trivia, often collected from other players and the Official Forums. As luck would have it, this is exactly what we were able to do this time! So listen in or read on for a lot of new information about life on Hydaelyn and, if you read carefully enough, perhaps some hints to upcoming content…?
We’ve seen Oda-san out and about more often since last we spoke! Is he enjoying the interaction with the JP base, and might that lead to some involvement with Fan Festival, either there or here with you?
Koji Fox: I asked him about this, and he just had this scowl on his face, like arrrgh. He really doesn’t like speaking in public; he’s not a public speaker. But he said that he really enjoys interacting with the fans. Through Final Fantasy XIV is actually the first time he’s gotten to interact with the people who use the work he does, and having people come up to him and ask questions or ask for signatures has been really, really cool. He enjoys that … but, “If I never had to do it again, I’d never do it again.” <laughs>
As for whether or not he’s coming to Fan Festival, either in America or Japan, it’s pretty much up to the team. “If they tell me I have to do, I have to go!” It would be awesome if I could do a panel with him, but it’s up to Yoshi-P. If people on the forums are like, “Oh, my god, we wanna see Oda-san!”…
Fusionx: It’s a really weird list of threats. “We want bunny costumes, peaches, and Oda-san.” <laughs>
KF: You’d just have to force Yoshi-P into a corner where he’d have to decide, but I think we would be seeing more of him in Japan. It used to be, again, that lore was pretty much a North American thing. The North Americans and the Europeans were really into and the Japanese fans weren’t so much, but now, because of how big lore has become on the North American forums and they’ve seen how I write these really long replies, there’s people like, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! We like lore, tooo!” So there’s a lot more interest in it.
Anwyll: It’s revenge for five years of Famitsu! <laughs>
So far, we’ve faced three enemies with the “surname” Prime: Bahamut, Atomos, and Ascian. Does “Prime” have a standardized meaning that tells us the nature of what we fought in each case? In Turn 13, especially, the nature of the battle inside the crystal heart is left rather vague.
KF: Okay, this is not a “cool” answer, but “Prime” does have a meaning … It’s “Prime.” <laughs> There’s no connection; it’s a simple marking of that entity as the first and foremost of its group. So… Ascian Prime, what you’re looking at is <hand gestures> Asican Prime.
F: So they’re all related to Optimus.
A: Ahhhh… OH! Wait—
KF: “Ahhh!” right! I think you have another question here…
So! Speaking of Ascian Prime, Heavensward saw the return of the long-lost “Reaper” Ascian model. Was this just a fun throwback, or does it provide context for what the Reaper actually was?
KF: This is a bit of a two-part question. The reason that we couldn’t directly use the old model ties into China. In China, the government has very strict rules on certain designs, bones and skeletons are one of those. In America, Japan, and Europe, there’s things like Mature Content, Sexual Content, etc. They have something in China that’s called Fear, and one of those things is bones. Bones are not allowed in games. So, we had this awesome Ascian, but it’s just bones, so we couldn’t use that model, anymore. But we decided, “Okay, it’s still pretty awesome that we have it, so let’s tweak it.” So if you look at the model that we have in ARR now, it’s a little bit different. The bones have changed into sort of, like, accessories. We cleared the regulations.
So why did that model come up again? Asicans can take the form of other beings. That’s how they trick them. In the 1.0 stories you have…
KF: Yeah, his true form is closer to that of Ascian Prime, but he takes on this form to trick everybody. (Note: The name by which this Ascian is known comes from the Elezen he possessed during this time.) It’s the same with Lahabrea.
A: Oh, this suddenly makes more sense…
KF: You’re seeing the form that he wants you to see so he can communicate with you without you freaking out because <laughing> there’s this giant skeleton. Once the Warrior of Light knows what you look like, there’s no reason to use that form anymore, for some of them. That’s why we get Ascian Prime. It’s just one of their truer forms. One of… their truer forms…
A: <to Fusionx> That actually explains why they’re all Hyur. We never get to hear that question again, yesss. It’s a bit of what they really look like, a bit of what you’d expect them to look like if you lived in this world. <to Koji> What would China do with the Wights? Like, the Skeletons?
KF: Some stuff they remodel, some stuff they remove, in the sense that they update them. It takes a lot of time and they don’t want to do too much of that, though, so we try to design it knowing what to expect. In 1.0, we didn’t really know what to expect or where it was going to be released, but now it’s all worked out and we know—because Yoshi-P always has that roadmap of the next two years in advance.
Ramuh seems to have access to information that predates him, and seemingly accurate information given what we learned in 3.2. How did he know about a time when Light and Darkness were one?
KF: There is… a definite a reason…
F: It’s because his beard is as old as—
KF: No, nooo… Yeah, no, the beard just lives on and grows a new person. No. That’s not true. Do not clip that so I’m saying that! <laughs> There is a reason for this, but Oda-san doesn’t want to go into detail on it because we’re going to be, very soon. Ramuh is a very intelligent person; he has lots of knowledge, and he knows things, and we’ll know why soon. (Please look forward to it.™)
A: Yeah, but now I’m just overwhelmed with the urge to make a webcomic where the beard is, like, Zantetsuken and <laughing> just latches onto whoever beats him—
F: Like the Facehugger from Alien. <laughs>
In the Holy Vault, we saw new models of Dullahan and Vodoriga, and these “Light” vodoriga seem strange; they even heal the cherubic golem when they turn up again in Amdapor. Does the church consort with voidsent, or did they just carve golems in their image?
KF: Oda-san says to look closely, because they’re not Dullahan, these are—
A: Right, right, “Face of the Hero.”
KF: Right. These are the knights; it’s coincidence that they look similar, though Dullahan do also look like knights because they’re using that armor. But those statues are of knights that once existed in Ishgard, and they cast magic on these statues to being them… not to life, but to animate them. There’s no life there. As for the other void-like beings, the Vodoriga, you can look at them as Gargoyles. Not, like, Gargoyes in XIV—
A: Like on a church?
KF: Right, like on a church! The void has always existed on this other plane while Eorzea has existed. Certain calamities will rip open these tears in the void where more voidsent can come in, most of the time it’s closed—again, sometimes there’s small rents where things will come out—and people, not knowing what those are, see them. They end up in mythology and people think, “Let’s take something like that and put them on the churches.” They get tied up with the church hundreds or thousands of years in the past when people think of evil and these things just happen to be voidsent. They carve these effigies and put them on the church to scare people. So, no, the church does not have contracts with or consort with voidsent.
A: <holding up hands like scales> More interesting for backstory, big problems for the bestiary… I’m gonna have to split the whole… ugh. <laughs>
Speaking of voidsent, everyone on your team seems to have a one as their avatar. What made you choose the Ahriman?
KF: When you think about it like, my team—the Localization Team—we’re from all over the world. We’re not from Japan. We’re not from the realm where the game is being created. We came through a portal; a plane – I don’t think anyone came by boat – to this new land and now we’re talking on these forms of people who kind of speak the same language of the people of that realm. <laughs> We don’t feel like outcasts, or anything, but that’s the reason I chose a voidsent, and then I basically told everyone else, “You have to choose a voidsent”.
So Oda-san have not one, himself? Or does he?
He does not. He doesn’t even have an account; I was surprised. He doesn’t like talking in front of people, so he’ll actually write up an answer and send it to CNS and have a rep. post it like, “Oda-san says…” rather than posting it himself. It’s just the way he is.
East of Ala Mhigo, there’s a land-bridge leading into what has been identified only as Garlean territory. The other continents are oft spoken of, but in vague terms. Some interpreted the land-bridge as leading into Ilsabard, which both continues north but connects to Othard in the east, while others have interpreted it as Othard itself, continuing east with Ilsabard connecting to it directly north. Can we clear that up?
A: <pronouncing Othard as Oh-thard>
KF: First, I want to clear up your pronunciation of Oth-ard.
A: Oh, no! <laughs>
KF: I don’t think we’ve ever really said it anywhere.
F: Funny that pronunciation comes up, back when we did that pronunciation thing you told us Dzemael was closer to Zay-mail but in Heavesnsward it’s ze-My-l.
KF: That‘s wrong! That is wrong! <laughing> I need to … go and burn … It’s Zay-mail!
A: Now that you mention it, though, when Gaius first lands in Vylbrand, the voiced guy does say Othard. It stuck in my head because in another language he says he’s from Rabanastre.
KF: Guess where Rabanastre iiis! <laughs> There’s also a line in the Japanese version where they name-drop Dalmasss—<throat clearing> It’s not in English, but that’s where it is and maybe someday we’ll be seeing some of <heavy throat clearing>. But yes, that land bridge connects directly to Ilsabard. You cannot get to Othard from there without going through Ilsabard. So there’s the land bridge and it goes into Islabard <emphatic hand gestures>.
A: That’s what I thought at first, but someone asked in the forums and I was like, “Actually, no, I can’t say for sure…” But I went back and watched this old panel and you were doing the same <laughing> hand gestures and I was like, “Oh, man, it could be.”
KF: They got mad at me! They were like, “Don’t do that thing with your hands, people are looking into that!” Nooo, they’re nooot. “Yes, they are!”
F: And that‘s the guy <points at Anwyll> Right here.
A: Speaking of! We finally did find the other thing there with the uh, the Demon Tome. The hidden vertical “Cthulhu Fhtagn”. Took a while, but we got it!
KF: Thank you! But, yeah, in the end, think of [Aldenard into Ilsabard] as like, a LEGO brick with another one stuck onto it.
When Louisoix was transformed into a primal, he had a vision of being surrounded by the aetheric spires conjured from the prayer stones. What was happening here?
KF: As you know, he’s basically trying to—not directly 100% summon the Twelve, but summon their power. Summoning the Twelve would cause true chaos, but he wants enough power to harness it and send Bahamut back. So he’s gathering the energy from the prayer stones with the help of Eorzeans, and the prayer feeds that summoning process while he’s trying to keep it down without bringing out the Twelve. He hits Bahamut with that, and he shrugs it off, but the power is still there. He’s consciously bringing those [aetherial spires] back for one last push, which is what you’re seeing.
When last we spoke, at E3, you told us that the Great Gubal Library would be added, but that, while it was a foot in the door, it wasn’t what we were expecting. We now know that it’s a dungeon, so we see what you meant. It’s a library, but not exactly a place you can hang out. Does the phrase “foot in the door” imply that perhaps Gubal’s use might be expanded, someday?
KF: There are… reasons—system-side reasons—where you can’t have endless text in an instance. But, again, we wanted a place where players could get a hint of what could have been and hopefully in the future we’ll be able to overcome those limitations. It’s like chocobos in dungeons, you can’t do it, but we want to do it, so we keep working and hopefully we’ll bypass it and get it into the game. That’s what we did here; we have this and hopefully someday we can re-work it and get more of an area where players don’t have to go just to fight. As a band-aid, though… LORE BOOK!
How do Orchestrion rolls work? Rather, what are these songs to the adventurers within the game? Do they hear the music during their fight with the Primals for example? Who is playing or singing it? Is this the Minstrel’s doing?
KF: You know how they work mechanically, it’s kind of like a player piano; that’s why they have the rolls. You’ve got the parchment with the holes punched it in and you put it into the orchestrion and it plays the song based on where it hits the holes. Are we hearing them in battles? Nooo. It’s not some special effect of the Echo. Lore-wise, there are bards and minstrels and there is this wandering composer. He hears these stories about adventurers and their grand battles and he composes music. The music that he thinks up is on the orchestrion roll.
F: And they just happen to turn up in a treasure chest in the Navel.
KF: A lot of people like music in Eorzea. Not everyone has a place to put their orchestrion rolls. So it’s like, “I’ll just put it in this chest here! It’ll be safe!” and then some adventurer comes along and steals it and it’s like, “Oh, no, where’s my orchestrion roll!?” <laughs> “I tilled fields for three seasons to afford that!”
A: That’s what I joke about whenever armor is moved around. How does Darklight end up in this dungeon!? You know, people bought it from Rowena… and then they went out to raid these dungeons and… they died. <laughs>
KF: And then a monsters comes along like “Grrr. Adventurers leaving crap all over my dungeon…”
F: “I’ll just collect it in this neat little pile, put it in this chest, clean up a bit.”
A: Alright! Rapid-fire round!
Was Avalonia once the name of the settlement now called Anyx Trine?
KF: This is actually, like, area versus city. So, Avalonia was the name of that whole region and there were settlements and farmland there, and Anyx Trine was the main city in that region.
Tiamat said that Midgardsormr “came to this star”. Did he come from somewhere or is that just a fancy way to say he was created at that time?
KF: That’s a really good question and it’s the only line that’s written like that and we did write it that way for a reason and I’m going to leave it at that, so <evil laughter>.
F: <laughs> Do you need a minute?
In 1562, was the Battle of Silvertear Skies before or after the Starshower (1.0 flashback arcs)?
KF: The starshower that appeared in all three openings (Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, Ul’dah), they’re all the same starshower and you’re seeing them from different perspectives. That one happened directly after the Battle of Silvertear Skies. But that’s not to say there aren’t multiple starshowers, there are. Whenever Hydaelyn thinks she’s found somebody, it’s like, “Okay, this guy, I need to give him the power.” <angelic choir> Starshower! They happen all the time in isolated spots. But those three were the same one when you were in the flashbacks and that all happened right after the battle.
Dewlala hinted that Damielliot’s father invented the sleeping potion that put Nanamo under. Did he use his own son (who spent most of 1.0 fighting sleeping sickness) as guinea pig?
KF: The son was sick, and the dad was trying to cure that sickness. While trying to do that, he tried a lot of combinations, and one basically turned into what was used on Nanamo. It was a by-product of testing all of these things trying to bring his son back; the whole time the dad was trying to help. Oda-san wants to say thank you for asking this, because that’s his favorite quest line and he put this in because he wanted people to notice this and <laughing> nobody noticed it.
A: Oh, no!
KF: So he was really happy when he got this, like, “Yeeessss, vindicatiooon!”
A: I usually avoid asking about Damielliot because we never got any answers and it doesn’t seem like it’s coming back, but if he loves it, could it come back?
KF: If you asked Oda-san, he’d say yes, because he loves this arc, but I don’t know if it is or not.
Why do Mamool Ja warriors and mages look so different? This has been on my mind since XI!
KF: It’s because Mamool Ja is not a race, it’s a nation made up of multiple races. It’s like “American”. It was the same in XI. So there’s the New World in the west and there’s a nation made up of multiple races and there’s only two that we’ve seen that come to Eorzea to work as mercenaries.
A: These two are just closely related?
A: Alright, that makes sense, ’cause <to Fusionx> Remember, XI, the uh, Mamool Ja Sahagin? Just regular old… it’s all comin’ back!
F: It’s all comin’ together! <laughs>
Ahriman, Nagas and the “Floating Head” of Avere Bravearm are very similar. Are they all inhabited by the same voidsent entity?
A: Alright, you know about possession. Ahriman, they go into an animal eye, that’s why they take that shape. So what did Edda’s possess?…
A: So, yes! Got it! <laughs>
“Familiars” are created from regular animals (e.g. Poroggo from frogs; Skatane from owls). Does their taxonomy change once they’ve been enchanted?
KF: No. They stay the same and if the magic cuts, they go back. We have that quest with the Poroggo like, “Nooo, I don’t want to be a frog again!” So they’ve only reached sentience because of the magic; they haven’t changed at all. The magic gives them the ability to think and reason, but once that’s gone they go back.
Aside from Coil, what role do phoenixes have in the world? Are they just tall tales, or did they exist at one time?
KF: It’s based in myth. So a long, long, long time ago there was something like this, whether it was a very red toucan in a jungle somewhere that decided to take off as the same time this guy with an arrow in his gut that everyone expected to die stood up and didn’t die… I’m not saying that’s what it is. <laughs> But a long time ago, something happened that led to the myth and it grew over thousands of years and spread all over the world. And people change it into something that fits their culture better, it takes on different forms. Sometimes it’s a story to tell children at bedtime, sometimes it’s a god. It takes on its own life from there. The myth has been around Hydaelyn for a long time, but you’ll get a different story by region and it plays a major role. If we go to different areas, we might even see a different iteration…
You mentioned on the forums that the summoning of Bahamut reassembled a specific entity that was amongst the Lifestream. Since something specific is answering the beacon of prayer, is that why, once captured (a la the Ultima Weapon, for example), another copy cannot be summoned?
KF: Yes. <thinks> … Yes! But as I mentioned with the Phoenix, depending on the culture, there’s a different perception of what it was. Was it a god? Was it a savior? Was it evil? Let’s use Ifrit as an example, though I’m not saying this is really the case with him. The Amalj’aa look at him as an angry god that wants to purify the land with his flames. When they summon him, they pray to that type of Ifrit, and it forms. Say, in the New World, thousands of miles away, there is also the legend of Ifrit, but in the thousands of years since that original seed of myth, he’s grown into a very benevolent god that… <laughs> gives flowers to children and is the fire that roasts your marshmallows… that’s a different essence, even though it’s the same Ifrit. Those two could exist simultaneously. But if Amalj’aa summon one Ifrit and some other Amalj’aa who worship the same Ifrit try to do the same thing, they could not.
The Heart of Sabik seemed very important, but it was never mentioned again. Is it out of play?
KF: It’s gonna come back. And before the expansion. That’s all you get!
What is the origin of the Illuminati’s nickname, the Blue Hand?
KF: So, we know a bit about the Illuminati story, where they got the manifesto that leads them to believe what they believe. It’s all based on the writings of an Au Ra. And that Au Ra had … blue hair. The goblins are taking <hand gestures> with their hands, the thinkings of that person and <hand gestures> made them their own by touching the mind of that Au Ra. Their hands have become blue.
A: Never would have gotten that. I saw the blue glove grafiti showing up more and more and got curious but… nope. Never would have gotten it.
Sastasha (Hard) contains one pugil. It is, as far as I’ve been able to find, the only silver pugil in all of Eorzea … I mea— Wha— … Why!?
KF: We actually tried to figure this out and… we couldn’t. <laughs> We think maybe they made that pugil for that dungeon and then populated the dungeon and on playthrough decided it was way too hard or took too long and they took out some monsters and now there’s only one and once he’s dead… he’s dead. That’s the end of his species. So know that every time you kill that pugil, you know, you’re a horrible person.
A: I say, for Hullbreaker (Hard), you just have one golden pugil.
How did stories of Bismarck appear in both Vanu Vanu and Sea Wolf mythology? How old is this story?
KF: It’s very old. It goes back to what I was saying with Phoenix, there’s one seed and it spreads and there are some similarities but in some places it’s different. Some places he’s in the sky, some places he’s in the sea. He might show up again soon, someplace. Where it’s beautiful. And hand drawn. I’m not gonna say anything else. <pauses for a moment> They’re gonna kill me for that.
As of Amdapor (Hard), have the Lambs of Dalamud effectively been destroyed?
KF: My boys! No! They have not. They had, really, until I said, “Oda-san, no.” <laughs> And he’s like, “Well, okay, if you want to write a quest—” “I will write a quest!” So in the expansion we’re gonna do something with them. I already have a great story in mind. The Lambs will never die! I want that on, like, a T-shirt.
There are 14 small flags on the Ironheart map released with 1.0. Are they all just filler?
KF: Basically, when Mr. Ironheart went out on his journey to map the realm, he didn’t do it alone. He went alone, but he needed funding; it was a great undertaking. In addition to the large city-states, which he got approval from, he contacted guilds and lesser houses and asked for money. Those little markers are from certain houses and banks and other places that funded him, so they got a little spot on his map.