Every so often, Final Fantasy XIV throws me a curveball. Case in point: the Lore forum. This was one of those things that was mentioned an eternity ago that I (and quite possibly everyone else) assumed would happen around the fifth of never. But it’s a real thing, it exists now, and you can go over and get a lovely rundown of all that racial naming conventions, a primer on Roegadyn language, and assorted other threads detailing important lore tidbits.
If you need more proof that things are different at Square-Enix these days, this would serve as exhibit A. This is the sort of thing that I love. But at the same time, it’s something I’m not completely happy about.
I should clarify; I’m entirely happy that it exists. But I’m a little perturbed regarding the timing, and I think there are ways in which its release now is kind of awkward. So rather than unmitigated gushing over the new forum, this week saw a lot of gushing and a lot of frustrated squinting.
Let’s get the squinting and frustration out of the way because it all comes around to the same premise: I’ve been living in this world for a while.
My character has a name, based off of something that sounded roughly right for her race and nation of origin. Because I’m a roleplayer, her mother also has a name, and she’s pretty well-established at this point. It’s only now, two years on, that I find out her name doesn’t match the conventions that were apparently already being followed by the development team, rules we had not been told about before now.
The point is that it feels uncomfortably like having the rug pulled out from underneath you. I’m happy to have additional information about the game world, but it’s coming after people have already played the game and gotten accustomed to the way the world worked. It’s especially disconcerting for roleplayers, who are fairly invested in the setting to begin with.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, although I know I do. It’s a great thing that the forum is here! I just wish it had been here several years ago and that players could have worked with this knowledge from the beginning rather than be forced to fill in the blanks. Some uncomfortable retcons arrive as a result, and that’s sub-optimal.
Right, that’s the complaining done. Let’s move on to the rest.
The fact that we now have a full dictionary for Roegadyn language is great both because it allows players to come up with thematic names and because it gives more flavor to the world as a whole. We’re told that it’s been a very long time since anyone actually spoke the language, so the grammar is lost, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no space for others to try in the future. Dead languages do get the occasional resurrection.
We also get a sense from these posts that while Roegadyn are welcome, they may not necessarily be integrated with the whole of society, and that the Hellsguard in the middle of Ul’dah is still an outsider in some ways. These are, of course, subtle things; after all, we’re talking about hundreds of years after the fact. But it does add a potential point of interest to the game’s lore after 1.0 really kept race as more of a secondary concern.
The emphasis on names also explains some interesting bits we saw before the end of the world, such as why Merlwyb was almost always referred to by her given name. Family names don’t have the same importance as they do for other races, and Merlwyb’s name would not be inherited by any children she might choose to have. Building one’s own reputation is apparently the most important thing to be considered.
But wait, there’s lore!
The lore forum isn’t just about names. It also already contains some important posts, like this extensive sequence from lore aficionado Fernehalwes discussing some of the more subtle tidbits that non-lore fanatics could easily miss, or this list of existing books in the game, or this potentially headache-inducing discussion of ligatures — all very useful bits of reference for anyone looking to add a bit more verisimilitude to the game.
Fernehalwes deserves big props for this in general; the idea of a lore forum has been his baby, and the fact that we have it now is the result of much hard work. And it’s just the beginning of what I imagine will be a great deal more lore for those interested in such matters.
Final Fantasy XIV has always had a lot of lore, of course, but it’s also been hidden here and there. Some of it isn’t necessarily accessible in English, due to a longstanding tradition of Japanese players getting more bits of official text than we do. Translating that stuff is time-consuming and it’s not necessary to play the game, right?
Except it gives us more of a grounding to play the game. If you care about the world your character inhabits, it helps to know that the designers care as well. A casual player could easily get lost in 1.0′s storyline because a surfeit of important terms were never actually defined or explained, which ironically is the exact opposite of the problem many single-player installments of the series suffer from. By contrast, the addition of a whole forum solely regarding the game’s lore implies that we can get hard information about the setting almost on demand.
I do wish we’d had all of this several years back, though. At least my miqo’te already had an aitche in her name.