The Copied Factory, a Final Fantasy 14 raid based on Nier: Automata, has only been live for a few days, but it already has fans looking under rocks and poking at walls for secret truths. Nier: Automata was a tricksy game, with multiple endings and various themes hiding under the surface or wearing black leather in plain sight. As the new raid takes on some of the aesthetics of Nier, the influence of creator Yoko Taro—who helped with the construction of the raid—is looming over everything.
Speculation kicked off when one player tackling The Copied Factory with his crew noticed a creature on his screen that no one else could see. The creature itself was Dying Dragon, a red dragon associated with the Dark Knight job quest series. The screenshots even showed the creature delivering dialogue from the questline. The user questioned whether it was a glitch, or a really specific reference.
***NIER FFXIV RAID SPOILERS*** No one in this raid is seeing this red dragon at the last boss Yoko Taro explain yourself pic.twitter.com/TTMcR0HABPPonch Xrd: Rev Core Plus (@SporadicAtBest) October 30, 2019
That reference involves the past of the Nier franchise. If you only jumped onto the series with Nier: Automata, then you likely missed the series it spun off from, Drakengard. Yoko Taro directed the first Darkengard, which carries many of the hallmarks of Nier, including a focus on mature themes and multiple endings. The main character of that game is Caim, a deposed prince, and his companion, a red dragon named Angelus. The fifth ending for Drakengard saw the pair heading through a portal to fight a monster, only to end up in modern day Tokyo. Following their defeat of the monster, they're shot down by a fighter jet—which kicks off the worldwide decay that underpins the first Nier.
Angelus' death in Drakengard's fifth ending leads into Nier. Nier's fourth ending leads into Nier: Automata. That makes Angelus an important historical figure in Nier, so to have a glitch that shows a dying red dragon seems maybe too coincidental.
Players were originally focused on the inclusion being a bug that was also a nice easter egg. Others noted that with Yoko Taro's involvement there was no way the inclusion wasn't happening on purpose. "This has to be intentional. It's just way too convenient. I've never seen a bug like this happen in FFX14 before and it's a dying red dragon that more or less says what Angelus says when Caim finds her in Drakengard 1. There's no way this isn't Yoko Taro gaslighting us with an easter egg disguised as a bug," said one Reddit user in the first thread on the topic.
The community decided that it was time to dive a bit deeper into the glitch. It turned to Advanced Combat Tracker, a plugin for Final Fantasy 14 that allows players to pull detailed information from game. With ACT, you can see data for characters that are meant to appear in a region, even if they're not immediately available. Some use the plugin to speculate how quest lines will evolve. The Dying Dragon does appear in the ACT data according to one user, leading some to believe more fully in this being a Drakengard reference.
Alas, Square Enix stepped in to shut all that down. The company confirmed today that the appearance was purely a bug related to pre-launch testing.
"After defeating the final boss, a specific object is displayed, and in order to do this we used a process in which a dummy NPC is placed to make the object untargetable. However unfortunately, the patch was released with this test data left in place, which resulted in this issue," said Square Enix.
"Through sheer coincidence, the appearance of the NPC happened to be from the Nier series cross over content, YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse, and the fact that the NPC was a red dragon caused much speculation and anticipation in the community. For this we sincerely apologize. We will reevaluate our testing procedures to ensure this will not occur in future."
The fact that it's a bug is a bit of a shame, because the random inclusion adds a bit more mystery to The Copied Factory. Part of the magic of MMOs are the shared moments within the community, when a number of people come together to overcome an obstacle or crack a code. Right now, the raid is pretty easy to overcome, and most questions involve where the storyline will go in the future. The dragon represented something unexpected, which is why fans were so excited. And that excitement was so big that Square Enix had to address the glitch directly.
So while the Dying Dragon isn't real, I think making other Nier references in the same vein is probably the right idea. It's fun for the community to not have the entire meal placed directly in front of them. Hide things, make the unlock process a little more obtuse, and let the community come together to figure things out. That feels like it would be a proper homage to the 26 endings of Nier: Automata; something not just in aesthetics and music alone.