There’s a mountain of Final Fantasy lore out there, and it’s up to the writers to fulfill an impossible amount of criteria with any new entry. It has to fit the style, support the nostalgic value, yet also feel fresh and innovative. Dauntingly, it has to be fleshed out enough to fill all loopholes, yet also not contradict anything that came before it.
We recently got the chance to fire off some questions to Koji Fox, a translator and loremaster on Final Fantasy XIV. He was able to talk about some interesting aspects of the process — for example, we didn’t expect that some lore creation might actually occur during localization.
We were unable to get a definite answer as to whether there will be a Stormblood lorebook, but his answer of filling 300 pages does seem very… specific, don’t you think?
FANDOM: How did you make the switch from translator to lore creator? How is your day-to-day different?
Koji Fox: There hasn’t actually been any switch. I’ve been doing both jobs since back before 1.0 was even released, it’s just that my help with the lore creation wasn’t officially recognized until Yoshi-P decided to reward (?) my work in that area of the game by adding my name to the opening credits (which, I have to admit, is the single coolest thing that has happened in my 15 years at Square Enix).
That said, my contribution to XIV’s lore still only constitutes about 10% of my workload, the remainder being mostly allocated to localization duties, as well as to assisting the team in various fun and exciting (and not exciting) ways such as interpretation, text checks, media relations, fan fests, promotional events, etc.
Though, a lot of the actual lore creation I do actually comes during the localization process. The main scenario writer, Banri Oda, will send me rough ideas for place names, monster names, character names, and whatnot, and I will oftentimes come up with backstories for those while I’m doing my translations and send them back to him for implementation in the game. Two birds with one boulder.
What’s your process for handling pivotal moments in FFXIV lore? Can you give any examples?
While we have a pretty extensive internal bible that covers a lot of stuff (history, lore) that players have never seen, it is by no means complete. While we try our damndest not to change the bible, a lot of times we find ourselves in a situation where we need to add to it. The problem with adding things to the bible is that a single addition can result in critical contradictions with existing lore.
I would say at least three or four times a patch, the localization team (mostly the lead, John Crow) and the script team (mostly Banri Oda and Natsuko Ishikawa) will have intense back and forths regarding how info introduced in a new quest is causing continuity problems with past content. Most of the time, this communication is enough to quash most of the inconsistencies and fill any newly sprung plot holes, though sometimes we just have to take the craziness and run with it. (I did not retcon. I did naaaht. Oh hai, Gaius.)
On the Eighteenth Floor in the 2015 The Rising event, you’re pictured with writing materials. Are you doomed to never escape the quill?
The quill is the best part of my job. If anything, I’d love the opportunity to wield it more!
In a series with such a long history, how do you make sure the lore you’re working on has its own feel? How can you make sure no event is repeated?
History is bound to repeat itself… but yeah, we try to keep things as fresh as possible. On the other hand, Final Fantasy is also about keeping the nostalgia alive. Yoshi-P has often compared XIV to an amusement park where you can experience past Final Fantasy games, but in a familiar, yet unique environment.
Fortunately, when working with a series that has over three decades of stories — ranging from high fantasy to science fiction; from saving the planet to fishing in leather — there is a lot to choose from.
How do you go about deciding pillars for storytelling?
Most of this is done during clandestine meetings between Yoshi-P and the main scenario writers (for Stormblood, this was Banri Oda and Natsuko Ishikawa). Our job on the LOC team is to bedazzle and bedeck those pillars in silly pastel colours after all the hard work is done.
The Stormblood expansion had a decidedly different style to it… Did you aim for a different style in the lore and storytelling as well?
The opportunity to leave Eorzea and explore an entire new region, one upon which Eorzean culture had very little influence, allowed us to try some new things. This ultimately included everything from speech patterns to naming conventions to complex character motivations based on cultural background (background we also got to create from the ground up). The FATE, achievement, and quest title puns however stayed the same (if anything, they got even worse better).
How much do you allow the community to shape your decisions and influences?
When in the lore creation phase, I try and avoid the forums (well, at least the speculation threads) until after the text is solidified. There is definitely no concerted effort underway to check the forums and then try to do something completely different because we are somehow beholden to creating stories no one has ever imagined.
Creating something unexpected and watching as players mop up the viscera of their blown minds is just as rewarding as seeing players getting excited when their far-fetched theories actually turn out to be correct. The best way to get both, is to keep that distance at first, then lurk in the shadows later.
Will there be a Stormblood lore book anytime soon?
EXCELLENT QUESTION! There’s certainly enough lore lying around to fill another 300 pages or so.
When, if ever, will the wolf men in Yanxia be an official beast tribe?
For all intents and purposes, there are no beast tribes in the Far East, and this all comes down to the definition of “beast tribe.” The term is one of Eorzean/Garlean origin used to describe those dastardly “spoken” (the scientific category of living beings that possess a distinct language) living in Eorzea who feel the need to not play by the rules and run about doing all manner of forbidden nastiness like claiming ancestral land as their own or summoning false deities (eikons/primals).
While an Eorzean may look at the Kojin or the Namazu, the Lupin, or even Dalmasca’s Bangaa and assume they fall under “beastmen,” the denizens of the Far East simply see them as another race amongst many, and you should never hear someone from Doma or Hingashi refer to those races as beast tribes. (And if you do, it’s probably a bug and should be reported on the Lodestone LOC forums!)