Heroes of Arkesia,
We invited Gold River, the Director of Lost Ark to go behind-the-scenes of Elgacia, Lost Ark universe lore, and his passion for crafting new narratives. We’d like to thank Gold River for joining us for the interview, found below.
Hello, this is Gold River, Director of Lost Ark at Smilegate RPG.
To begin, let me express my gratitude to all the adventurers who expressed love and support for the Elgacia Continent and Kayangel Dungeon which were released in the June Update. In many ways, I feel both apologetic and grateful toward the adventurers who wanted to know more about the behind-the-scenes stories from me. I will answer the questions with all my heart.
For someone new or returning to Lost Ark, what is Elgacia?
Elgacia, the fourteenth continent of Lost Ark, is the sky island created by Regulus, the God of Order. It is a paradise for Lazeniths. Lazeniths, the creation of Procyon, the God of Honor, are a race who once soared through the sky with their beautiful wings. But they were banished to Elgacia with their wings were torn away for their sin of stealing the Ark.
Ever since, Lazeniths repented their sins in the paradise full of light. All of Elgacia— such as the city of Ereonnor, Mount Phylantos, and Hestera Garden— are filled with yearning and praises towards the gods. You will embark on the journey to the last Ark here in Elgacia, and discover the true meaning of the Lost Ark.
In a past Loa On, Elgacia was reportedly the first region to be created during the development of Lost Ark. Out of the three parts of Lost Ark story, what made Smilegate RPG choose this aerial city as the highlight of the first part of the story?
To me, it looked like Elgacia and Kayangel could be a major highlight of the game, so I began developing them first above all else. Some of you may know that Kayangel was once revealed as a video clip before the game’s official launch in Korea. Considering most games develop content in the order of release, you might find it peculiar that Elgacia, which gets introduced at the later stages of the game, was developed first.
However, because Elgacia would need complicated animations/cutscenes and technology, I thought if we finished Elgacia first, we will be able to utilize the technology we established during development for other content development. The features that were created during Elgacia development are objects with various functionalities, various character movements via objects such as zip lines, and pulling landmasses towards the character.
While developing Elgacia, we were able to expand our scope by learning how to move camera view freely in a quarter-view angle of the game. In-game scenes that you may be familiar with such as two Gigantic statues putting the swords down, and landmasses being pulled were all created during the early stages of Lost Ark development. By making and testing these scenes, we were able to consolidate the direction for in-game cutscenes/animations. In the end, Elgacia is a highly meaningful continent in terms of both lore and establishing game’s developmental mechanisms.
In terms of lore, Lost Ark lore consists of three chapters, and all the continents disclosed so far belong to the first chapter. Lore-wise, South Vern, Elgacia, and Kurzan (which will be added in the future) play a key role in the first chapter.
Follow-up: Was there any difficulty you experienced when developing?
It is difficult to pick one case, as everything was not easy. The rest of the continents of Lost Ark, while they each have diverse concepts, are lands rooted on earth. On the contrary, Elgacia is the highlight of the lore. This is because I wanted to give a visually distinctive look to the continent, and so much effort was put into Elgacia.
I wanted to have a different direction in terms of concept design from other earthly continents even when deciding concepts for a library or a temple for Elgacia. I also made Elgacia-exclusive language called “Elgic” to give a clear difference between earthly continents and this sky island. Due to this, the volume of the concept design got bigger than that of the other continents. Not to mention that more effort was put in when developing and testing the continent.
Follow-up: Reportedly, the entire story has been developed for a decade. Is the lore of Lost Ark pre-written to the end? Do you make unplanned changes of the story or concept during development?
The general storyline until the end of Chapter 3 is complete. While the overall order and flow of the continents, sea and other lore updates have all been planned, detailed stories are still being developed by our Scenario Team.
So far, most of the detailed storyline for Chapter 1 has been decided. Still, time is needed for me to deliver and discuss the story I came up with to the Scenario Team, and more time for actual development. The same process remains for the second and third chapter as well. So many secrets that are yet to unfold exist in the lore, and only a select few members of the Scenario Team knows the full storyline of the second and third chapters. In reality, much of Smilegate RPG’s staff found out the true meaning of the game’s title after the Elgacia Update.
Of course, there are cases where the storyline changes spontaneously. The overall storyline has never changed, but the importance of certain main characters and the main focus of the story changes as the game updates. Sometimes, some characters get much support from the players unexpectedly. As lore is one of the many factors that consist Lost Ark, sometimes the focus of the story gets adjusted based on the game system, contents, and order of the update.
For example, there was much more planned for Blackfang lore. But as content other than sailing content became more important to the game, the focus of the story and the character Blackfang got adjusted a bit. Meanwhile, I am embarrassed to say that I never expected Jederico to be that popular among the adventurers. After realizing his popularity, his role got bit bigger in the overall lore.
In conclusion, partial portions of the stories change based on the comments of the adventurers, but the general flow of the lore is being updated as originally planned.
Lost Ark’s extensive lore is delivered through in-game cinematics/animations. Glorious Wall, Feiton, South Vern and more in early gameplay gave strong impression to the adventurers. Elgacia has about 90 minutes of cutscenes. How were they developed? How did the story come together? What inspired the story creation and the team’s development process?
Usually, you can get to the ending relatively quickly when playing console games. In contrast, the storytelling of MMORPG is conducted long term. For example, you need to spend a lot of time to keep up with Lost Ark’s story in real time. Because of this, some adventurers express frustration when story unfolds slowly. My heart sinks at times like this, because even if I want to show all the storyline at once, it’s a shame that I cannot do that.
For those of you who have been paying attention to the lore of Lost Ark, I wanted you all to have a special experience in Elgacia so that your past adventures in Lost Ark will be worthwhile. To do this, all the staff got together and put in so much effort. All of the staff such as Designers, Scenario Team, Cinematics Team, Graphic, Sound, Devs, QA and so on put extra effort to effectively deliver Elgacia lore to the adventurers.
A fun fact about the Studio is that an immense number of people participate in the cinematics meetings. Many monitor the progress, review, and put much effort in bringing up the quality. The whole process does not only entail participation from the Scenario Team, but also other teams such as Combat, Sound, etc.. For example, when designing Lauriel’s skills and skill effects, our staff needed to understand the concepts in order to come up with results fitting the lore and universe.
Lauriel’s skill reminds you of “Heavenly Punishment”, and his theme song has a sense of awe, but not in a demonic or demon-worshipping way. The staff’s understanding of the universe and lore leads to such a lore-fitting creations, so much of the staff are striving to convey the concept in to their results.
We develop many cinematics/animations so that the adventurers can experience the lore in decent quality. Especially, as I had high ambitions for Elgacia, I had to request much more cinematics/animations tasks. Despite this, the members of the Studio were willing to take on the extra work, and they themselves polished the results saying “a little more polishing, a little more polishing” for the best outcome.
I am always grateful for the members of the Studio, and I believe their efforts to understand, immerse, and enjoy brought up the best result. I will keep working with these great members to continuously deliver great-quality cinematics/animations.
To all of the Western adventurers out there, I would like to thank you all for continuing to enjoy Lost Ark despite the game not being perfect. I am aware of both the recent community sentiments regarding some inconveniences, and the many positive comments for Elgacia. I am once again touched and also feel apologetic at the same time. I express my gratitude to all the adventurers who love Lost Ark, and will strive to fix other inconveniences as fast as possible. Many discussions are happening between us and Amazon Games, and we will continue to improve the game.
With Elgacia’s angelic theme, many of the raids and bosses have mechanics that play off of ‘light and shadow’. How were these ideated and created? What was the creative process?
Light and Shadow that appears in Kayangel is the main theme of Elgacia, and it was designed from the concept development stage. It is also a place where both Light (absolute good) and Chaos (absolute evil) coexist. This concept had a big impact on the designs of Kayangel dungeon. Naturally, there is a mechanic using the shadow in the dungeon. The concept of light and shadow is not only opposition, but also coexistence.
After the update in Western territories, I also heard that many adventurers liked the mechanics because it was not unpleasant. Speaking of the combat mechanics, I want to bring this up. In truth, there were many unpleasant combat mechanics in the Brelshaza Legion Raid. Co-op mechanics can be fun, but we used this in rather incorrect ways. We tried to adjust the issues, and Kayangel is a culmination of these adjustments.
Dungeons/Raids created after Kayangel are also carefully developed not to tread the same path as Brelshaza. I wonder, rather nervously, if they were delivered as intended. We will try to be careful with mechanics in the future raids, and will continue to revamp the unreasonable mechanics in Brelshaza.
Reportedly, Elgacia is the update content that you put most strength in. What is the significance of Elgacia, and why is it monumental to Smilegate RPG? Why were players so receptive and excited when it first released in Korea?
Because Elgacia Update itself was a moment of creating the vision that I’ve been dreaming for more than 10 years, I daresay that it was my best moment of fulfillment. When I re-watch the Elgacia episode, I feel so touched that I cry, and even when it’s been a while after I finished developing it, my heart still flutters/throbs as it did when I first started developing it. This kind of feeling is not just about the accomplishment from development. It is rather about the connections I felt with the adventurers.
When Elgacia first went live in Korea, I was deeply touched when seeing the players reactions and comments such as “The adventure I kept on in Lost Ark has not been in vain, after all”. This was truly an amazing experience for me. I never actually said this to the adventurers out loud, but I have always thought this in my mind: “You did great, adventurers. Thank you so much for staying, believing, and enjoying the game for more than 3 years of both good and bad memories of the game. Thank you for coming all this way.”
To all of the Western adventurers out there, I would like to thank you all for continuing to enjoy Lost Ark despite the game not being perfect. I am aware of both the recent community sentiments regarding some inconveniences, and the many positive comments for Elgacia. I am once again touched and also feel apologetic at the same time as I was not able to provide more on other content. I express my gratitude to all the adventurers who love Lost Ark, and will strive to fix other inconveniences as fast as possible. Many discussions are happening between us and Amazon Games, and we will continue to improve the game.
What is your favorite character and continent?
Actually, I did receive this question many times before, but never really gave an answer. It was only when Lost Ark was launching globally (in Amazon Games’ Western version) that I answered for the first time in the live interview. My favorite character is Kadan. I put extra effort when creating Kadan. Multiple character illustrations were drawn for Nineveh and Kadan. In the future, you will have a chance to meet Kadan in different ways. We are currently preparing something, and hope you will look forward to it.
My favorite continent is, without doubt, Elgacia. It means a lot to me. All of the continents have a special place in my heart, but Elgacia is my first love and naturally it takes up the largest place in my heart. Elgacia is my comfort zone. At times, I place my character at Ereonnor just listen to the soundtrack of Ereonnor and meditate.
Elgacia is not only famous for its lore, but also for its soundtrack. Could you tell us the meaning and background story of its main theme “Sweet Dreams, My Dear”?
In terms of lore, the lyrics are themselves what Beatrice wants to say to the adventurers. You adventurers have endless support and trust from Beatrice. I hope you can understand how Beatrice feels for you through the lyrics. Additionally, it’s my personal message to you all.
What I wanted to say through the song is this: keep on dreaming. I heard this many times when I was young, but as I became an adult, I realized it has been a while since I heard anyone tell me to keep following your dream. While the contemporary world provides more convenience to people with its technological innovations, I believe that many things have been lost along the way. One such thing is passion, as many people compromise with reality in everyday life.
In a nutshell, the song holds my small wishes that you adventurers will be able to recall good old memories, bringing back warm recollections of pure youth as well as making new good memories and dreaming on in Lost Ark.
The song was co-composed with a composer that also worked on “Phantom Astalgia” and “Romantic Weapon” with me. She expressed my wishes and intentions through the songs so well. Moreover, Sohyang, one of the top vocalists in Korea, recorded the song. She is famous for singing “How Far I’ll Go” in the Korean soundtrack of “Moana”.
You may remember that there is a phrase, “crystal melody” in the lyrics. Just like this phrase, Sohyang had a crystal-clear voice befitting the lyrics. That is why I wrote the song with Sohyang in mind, hoping she would sing my song. After finishing the song, I sent a sincere letter to her explaining the meanings in the song, and she agreed to sing the song. She sang incredibly well, and I believe there will be no one else who could have brought the song to life. I hope her voice has reached your heart as it did me.
What do you hope the players take away from the Elgacia story?
I cannot wish for more if the adventurers will think that all of the adventures they had in Arkesia were not in vain, as they play Elgacia. Moreover, nothing would make me happier if the adventurers will be able to recall a precious piece of their memory at Elgacia through soundtracks such as “Sweet Dreams, My Dear” or “Ereonnor” in the far future. In your real life, some hardships might find you, but I wish that you will make good choices without regrets in the end.
Before Elgacia, the main angle of opposition was Good (Order, Light) versus Evil (Chaos, Darkness, Demons). In contrast, as Elgacia Lore unfolds, the line between good and evil seems to have become vague. The original belief that Regulus being the Good, and Ark being salvation has been shaken a bit. What fate will await the adventurers in the future?
At the beginning, Lost Ark’s scenario was intentionally rather simple. This is because, we believe that the casual players will find it hard to concentrate if we start to unravel the complex stories from the beginning.
With this in mind, some scenarios were written in more linear and typical way. But still, we put focus on delivering the gist of the story such as who Armen, Thirain, and Kharmine are like, and also let players remember main allies and enemies such as Ninaveh, Azena, Brelshaza, Kakul-Saydon, and more. After all, MMORPG is a game, not a storytelling genre. Our plan was to have ice-breaking moments(or introductory phase) for the players and the game characters first, and then develop the relationship between them step by step.
From now on, as the introductory phase seems to have passed, we might be introducing more complex stories. Using cinematics to help players understand the storytelling of Lost Ark easier is still our aim.
Until now, the adventurers’ biggest goal was saving the world from the demons. From now on, however, an agonizing journey of discovering what it truly means to save Arkesia and what the Arks really are is awaiting you adventurers. You will begin to see if the gods that were deemed as absolute good and you yourself is truly on the right paths of saving the world, and also start to understand the real meaning of darkness and chaos that were deemed as the root of the evil.
The lore of Lost Ark grows along with you adventurers. Please stay tuned to what we have in store!
How does it feel to be closing this chapter of Lost Ark’s story? What’s next?
Actually, the first chapter hasn’t been finished yet. A true highlight of Chapter 1 is yet to come. Elgacia is just the ignition point of the highlight. The Amazon Games’ version will see continuous updates which add the Elgacia Epilogue, Pleccia, and Voldis, while in Korea, the tempo of Lost Ark’s story will pick up pace. More and more secrets will unravel, finally leading to the true pinnacle of the Chapter 1. I cannot wait to deliver this interesting story to all you global adventurers out there.
Meanwhile, I hope you will all enjoy everyday stories in the Music Box of Memories, added in the July Update. You will find the stories of ordinary people - not just special heroes – in Lost Ark. As each story was woven by different team members, each story will be unique with their characters, and filled with joy in many different ways.
The Lost Ark universe has been honed for such a long time. We will continue to do our best in preparing both the universe and lore that compliments each other, to avoid causing any issues to the great adventures you will embark on. I wholeheartedly appreciate your support and love for Lost Ark. All of our staff will do our best not to disappoint you. Thank you very much.