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What it’s like to be the ‘Final Fantasy’ World Lore Creator

If you’ve played Final Fantasy XIV, you’ve experienced Banri Oda’s writing. He tells us what it’s like to be the series’ World Lore Creator, among other things.

On paper, writing for a world as expansive as Final Fantasy XIV seems nearly impossible. The MMORPG currently sports over 20 million players, and the storylines range from high fantasy epics to inter-dimensional sci-fi adventures, each more grand than the last.

But somebody’s gotta do it – or rather, a team of somebodies. Banri Oda is among that team, holding the title World Lore Creator which means he prepares storyline overviews, names items, structures quests, and heaps more.

With Patch 5.4 flying and Final Fantasy XIV deep in the midst of Starlight Celebration, we took five with Oda to find out a little more about his concept-to-creation process and what else goes into creating a Final Fantasy story arc.

Final Fantasy XIV Banri Oda Interview patch 5.4

HAPPY: When you’re starting on something fresh, what’s the ideation process? How do you put initial concepts on the table?

BANRI: As a first step, I set out by considering each of the requirements behind the purpose why the content or quest in question is being implemented. Even in the same category of battle content, there is likely a difference in the setting and scale of the story, along with expectations towards it, for an instanced dungeon that appears in the middle of the main scenario and highly difficult raid content geared to the top players of the game. Let’s take the healer role quests as an example:

  • In a story designed for healers to play, it’d probably be good to feature elements of curing and soothing.
  • Let’s put the spotlight on Ardbert’s companion, the healer Lamitt, and depict what she wanted to cure.
  • In the depiction of Lamitt, it’s necessary to convey her sense of right and wrong to the player.
  • Let’s feature stereotypical dwarf characters to get the player acquainted with the characteristics of the tribe.

In such a fashion, I’d flesh out the ideas for the basic requirements of this quest series designed for healers.

HAPPY: How do you balance writing something you believe to be the right direction for a story, and what you think fans will enjoy?

BANRI: The only thing I can do is learn from failures made in the past!

HAPPY: Final Fantasy XIV Online has this incredible expansive world where it seems like anything is possible story-wise. Are there any rules the writers set for themselves, or is it anything goes?

BANRI: At the very least there are common rules for elements concerning the core of the story that must be followed. Take for example the ability to see into the past with the Echo. If we were to use it whenever and however we please, we’d be able to identify the culprit no matter how complicated the incident, right? It’s for this very reason that we have clear rules set out to stipulate what can be done and what can’t be for profound abilities such as this.

In addition to these rules, we must also stay in line with ethical requirements and ensure our depictions comply with the ratings boards. In the case of a commercial title to be distributed generally, I believe the same applies for any game. Regardless of that and beyond what has been explained above, each scenario writer is very much tasked with the challenge of using their imagination.

HAPPY: Between larger expansions, what do yourself and the other writers work on, on a day-to-day basis?

BANRI: We work simultaneously on the content for the “.X” patch release and the next upcoming expansion. It’s a constant process of drawing up plans, creating plots, writing out scene overview documents and text, after which we coordinate with each team in proceeding with the implementation. With my role as World Lore Creator I also have additional tasks such as preparing draft summaries of the lore for each content, deciding the naming for each item, action and region, writing flavour text, supervising designs, PR-related work, and supervising for collaborations.

HAPPY: Do you have any favourite writers yourself? Either in video games or books, comics, film, or tv?

BANRI: I love games, books, movies, TV shows… everything really. So if I were to go through each of my favourite writers, there might not be enough space to cover them all. In particular I’m fond of science fiction, fantasy, and historical works. In terms of game scenarios that have influenced me the most, I’d say Mr. Yasumi Matsuno, who is well known for Return to Ivalice and Save the Queen.

HAPPY: Lastly, what’s the game you wish you wrote?

BANRI: I have been working in the realm of fantasy for almost 10 years now, so I’d like to try my hand at another genre. Perhaps a cyberpunk tale along the lines of Cyberpunk 2077! I simply cannot wait to play this game.

 

Final Fantasy XIV players are currently enjoying Patch 5.4 and the holiday seasonal event, Starlight Celebration. Find out more about FFXIV here.