Welcome to this first article of Secrets of a Realm. A series diving deep into the mysteries of Final Fantasy XIV; be it unused content, Easter eggs, or content hidden in-game – it’s all welcome in this series! We were originally going to cover the unused Sand Caves dungeon from 1.0… But then a certain piece of content became relevant, the 1.0 Opening Cutscene.
“How the hells did this opening cutscene become relevant in 2017? We have Stormblood!”
“No one cares about that old sad opening cutscene!!”
Okay– Okay, chill. We’ll get to that. But first let’s take a look at how this cutscene played out.
It begins in an adventurer’s guild. The lovely 1.0 aetheryte glowing softly in the background. The soon-to-be Warrior of Light is stacking up on the game’s key feature at the time– Leves. An elezen male spreads a weathered map of an old design. (That map version was never actually used in-game by the way.) After some banter exchanged by the party members we cut to the Mor Dhona fight. However, that’s not relevant to us. Afterwards Derplander selects the leve and we’re off! But hold on. This is Eorzea… So where are we?
Think about it. This is the opening cutscene for Final Fantasy XIV. This should be a location in Eorzea that we’ll visit at some point in the game. But we don’t. This location has an aetheryte smack bang in the middle of the room. Nothing like any of the adventurer’s guilds in the game. The simple answer would be that Visual Works, Square Enix’s CGI animation studio, simply had to start making the cutscene long before the final game was ready for release. Which makes sense – CGI animations take forever to create. But that doesn’t invalidate the location. The CGI team must have worked from a finished design that was intended for the game.
So let’s say this is supposed to be in Eorzea. An early version of a city-state. First of all, let’s take a look at that map. If this was a very early point in FFXIV 1.0’s development, it’s interesting to see that pretty much every single location on the current release of FFXIV’s map was present and named on this map. We can clearly make out Aldenard and Vylbrand. Even Dravania and Gyr Abania! I am noticing a few interesting points here, though. First of all, none of the City-States have their coat of arms above them. Second, we can see the locations having been decided on. Ul’dah, Gridania, Ala Mhigo, Ishgard and Limsa Lominsa are all placed more or less in the same locations as in the finished release of XIV.
When the scene returns after the Mor Dhona debacle, Derplander places the leveplate on the map. The map has now changed slightly and everything is much more clear. We are now able to perfectly read Ala Mhigo, Gridania, and Xelphatol. But sadly we don’t get to see anything else on the map. This sudden change in map quality could be the result of the world getting closer to completion when this part of the cutscene was created.
Okay, so we’re in a very early version of Eorzea. Definitely a place in Eorzea that was intended to exist. But WHERE in Eorzea?
Let’s take a look at the general layout of the place. We know that there is only one entrance to this building, a massive archway. The arch has what looks like an iron gate. For orientation’s sake, let’s make that entrance South. On the east side of the room is the Guildleve counter, and a bit further up from that, we find what looks like a hallway leading into… something indiscernible. We can also tell that there are two floors in this building, there is also a person using the stairs leading up to the second floor. Seeing as the perspective we’re looking from here has us facing away from the entrance, the stairwell must be located slightly to the northwest. Behind the Elezen we can also see what looks looks to be a fruit stand, implying that there might be a food market in that direction – to the west of the room.
Now we have produced a rough map of the building. Looking closer at it, it doesn’t actually help us at all. It simply doesn’t line up with any of the 1.0 Adventurer’s Guilds. It has features that don’t belong in a location like this.
Studying the architecture; the building has a large ornate glass dome in what looks like a very classic Eorzean style. Pretty hard to distinguish exactly where in Eorzea this pattern is from, but it does seem like a pattern we’d find in areas like Gridania or Limsa Lominsa, although it could really be found anywhere.
The plants mostly consist of ferns of a decent variety, and are native to the Thanalan and La Noscean regions. However, the most reliable detail that could help in discerning where this is taking place is the stone block used in the building material. Gridania’s buildings are all mostly made out of wood, which makes it unlikely to be anywhere within The Black Shroud.
Looking more closely we can spy black cast-iron fixtures resting on top of the pale white stone. This detail alone makes it clear where we are– this kind of design is unique to a very specific city-state in the game. Not only that but also the railings surrounding the Aetheryte, and the lamps hanging down from the ceiling.
Yes, the opening cutscene of Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 takes place in a very early version of The Drowning Wench in Limsa Lominsa. Whatever the reason, the dev team scrapped the idea of having the aetheryte in the middle of the adventurer’s guilds and redesigned the whole place.
It is possible that Visual Works was handed a very early version of Limsa Lominsa between 2006-2008 which had to be done by 2009 for the game’s trailer and release in 2010. Supporting this hypothesis is also a very early concept video for Final Fantasy XIV released all the way back in 2005, codenamed Rapture.
This is a very clear prototype build of Limsa Lominsa; the boardwalks, the cast-iron, and of course the fact that it’s built on the water. These are the main clues that confirm this is a primitive version of what would later become Limsa Lominsa. And what is this? A massive glass dome. Safe to say they quickly went away from the whole glass encased building deal, but parts of the concept remained in the design of Limsa at the time Visual Works was brought in to make the opening cinematic.
The only actual remnant to point out of the modern Drowning Wench is the large archway leading into the tavern. It has no iron gate, and it seems smaller in scale than what was shown in the opening movie, but still… it’s all we’ve got.
Hooray! Problem solved! Case closed… right? Not quite. In early July 2017 Square Enix released CGI renders of the new classes, Samurai and Red Mage, made by Square Enix’s Visual Works. Notice something interesting here? Notice where this Red Mage is standing.
The glass dome, the cast-iron, the pale stones, the swirly pillars. She is standing in a prototype Limsa Lominsa building! This picture provides the final nail in the coffin. This detail right here. A very clear Lominsan detail. But why would they use this location? What prompted the people at Visual Works to use this old obsolete relic from pre-1.0 as a background for one of the new jobs added in Stormblood? We may never know, but it does leave a burning question… Is this version of Limsa Lominsa being repurposed in a future location?
We hope you enjoyed the read! In the next article we’ll look closer at the Sand Caves from 1.0 so I hope you’ll look forward to that! Feel free to speculate in the comments below about this! We will be lurking in the comments, eager to read your takes on this mystery! See you all in the next one, Eorzeans! May you ever walk in the light of the Crystal!