Design Notes

February 01, 2024

Yokai New Year - Behind the Scenes

Cylisse here with another behind the scenes look at our latest release!

It's the Year of the Dragon which means big things for us this month. A whole new four-parter story featuring the Yokai Isles is on the way.

Don't worry if you missed the other releases featuring recent events about the Yokai Isles and Ai No Miko's lineage, both /YokaiPirate and /YokaiTreasure will be available to play later! You can also check out the scroll next to Yue in /YokaiHunt, which is also in /TerminaTemple's library. In the future, we'll keep updating that library to hold other relevant books. If fortune favors us, maybe we'll even have a tab in the Book of Lore that can make finding books easier.

Last year, we returned to the /YokaiHunt map with some major lore updates that are leading up to this larger story. Back then, I kept a lot of my notes on X (previously known as Twitter). Seeing as Tweets get lost so easily, I'll compile both the Year of the Rabbit and the Year of the Dragon's notes here. It turned into more of a dev journal, but I guess that's what Design Notes are for.

Year of the Rabbit 2023

2023's Yokai New Year introduced Yue Huang 月煌, Descendant of the Wuji Rabbit Princess. She's a clothing designer, and a cousin of Empress Ai No Miko. Yue's quests are heavily inspired by real life myths and legends.

Rather than lifting real life folklore from real life and pasting them into AQW, the aim is to make a Lore equivalent basis and leave out the truth until it becomes relevant in other, more major stories.


The legends of the moon differ between Yokai and my ancestral homeland, but they all involve a rabbit. No matter where you go, bunnies and the moon just click. Though my day job is designing clothes, I have some skills in medicine making just like the moon's companion. 

Like the Moon Rabbit from our ancestral legends, I'm quite good with a mortar and pestle - but that's for dry medicine. I wanted to try my hand at fish oil. It's greasy, but it's good for your skin and hair. Ai no Miko came up with this idea and I'm glad. My family's since abandoned medicine-making for fear of our magic leading us to creating an immortality elixir. So most of what I know is bare bones compared to my ancestors. - Yue

In real life, this quest and its subject is inspired by legends of the Chinese Moon Goddess, Chang'e, who is kept company on the moon by a rabbit. This rabbit crafts the elixir of immortality.

Chang'e and her story is too big of a deal to go into detail with just a one design notes post, but check out this exchange about her during the real life Moon Landing between a flight controller and an astronaut during NASA'a Apollo 11 Mission:

Ronald Evans: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, is one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says the girl named Chang-O has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese Rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.
Michael Collins: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.

Link to an article with a recording.

The Moon

Stories passed down through my family tell of how my ancestor was a beloved companion of the Moon. Every time I take a midnight stroll to drum up some design inspiration, the clouds always part and the Moon lights my way. This year, would you help me send blessings to the Moon? It is the Lunar New Year after all, and the people of the Yokai Isles love a good moon viewing party! - Yue

Within the Lore of AQW however, what Yue Huang's ancestor's relationship with the Moon is being kept shrouded in Myth and Legend. 

Those legends do differ greatly with the Yokai Isle's legends about moon rabbits. In Japanese versions of the rabbit on the moon legends, the rabbit makes mochi (rice cakes) instead of the elixir of immortality. So, the Yokai Isles' legends would be different from those brought over from Wuji. 

Fill'er Up

Those ingredients are huge! Personally, I prefer sweeter desserts, so while you were away, I prepped the egg tarts. I thought I'd splurge since you're helping me, but I'm going to need more pastry to hold those eggs. As for the lotus seeds, I'll track down a cauldron for Tong Sui - sweet soup. It really is sweet, I promise! The lotus seeds, dates, goji berries, and longan give it some chew. - Yue

Yue's next quest moves on to non-immoratliy-inducing food, Tong Sui.

I asked my cousins what they'd like to eat for LNY when we were celebrating. One of them said mooncakes and another told the no, that's for autumn festival. But there's Tong Sui, and I have to be honest, the kind my family makes gives me toothaches.

Tong Sui can be used to refer to any dessert soup, so chè is similar. What Yue is making is the type that's way too sweet for me. I don't understand why it's way too sweet for me cause it's just berries and whatever else grandma yanked off the store shelf.

Mirror Flowers

Have you ever heard of the proverb "like flowers in a mirror, and the moon reflected on the lake's surface?" When Ai no Miko approached me and my cousins to release us from secrecy, we talked for a while, and this proverb came up.

The moon viewing party for the Lunar New Year would feel more festive with flowers around. I've traveled to the mainland before, but never too far, so I wanted to see flowers from places you've been. And with these fresh seeds, I can use my magic and make them bloom into peonies and golden chrysanthemums. These came from hard work and friends. The flowers in the mirror can't compare. - Yue

On that previous note about my grandma, "Like flowers in a mirror, and the moon reflected on the lake's surface' wasn't the original proverb I was going to go for either. I was going to go for a proverb my grandma knew, which was "to boil the moon in the water with the spring flowers."

It's supposed to be a saying that means that when you see the reflection of the moon in water outside, it's like you're boiling the moon.

Grandma says this but I can't substantiate it anywhere on the internet to make double sure, so I went with something easier to back up with sources.

Moon's Reflection

Right, I didn't explain what the ‘like flowers in a mirror, and the moon reflected on the lake's surface' proverb meant yet. Both the flowers and the moon are beautiful, but you can never touch them. They're not real, just mirages.

Empress Ai no Miko is a special person to my cousins and I. We can see that hearing about our lost home makes her sad. That's when she brought the proverb up. So, take a look at the water in my cupped hands. With the elemental magic and mine, I can make the Moon appear in my palm. It's just as real and beautiful to me as the one in the sky. I am wistful over Wuji, but Yokai is the home I made here. - Yue

鏡花水月 or Jìnghuā Shuǐyuè is the original proverb. The quest text basically explains what it means, though Yue applies it the specific situation she and Ai No Miko are in as the children of a people who were forced to flee their homeland.

Shifting Faces

I hear that the moon holds special significance to the people of Darkovia too. Hmm, is there time for us to go over there for a peek? I know it's a long way… but I'm so curious. It's eternally night there, but it isn't pitch black. The moon shines on beings that supposedly shun the light. Oh? Going to Safiria would be safest? Then if I put on a disguise and cover my ears, could we look for souvenirs? 

Boy, I was shocked when they started speaking with real words! But they took the presence of a stranger very well. Even the lovely Vampire Queen. Their Moon is so…comforting! Sometimes it's bright, and on other nights it's cloudy. It's round, and it's bumpy. Just like how people come in all sorts of shapes. This trip was enlightening, and fun of course! - Yue

Full disclosure, I wrote that quest unsure if Yue would have real rabbit ears or not.

Alina went ahead and made adjustment's to far0's design for Yue, and I ended up liking it so much that okay! Yue just has those ears all the time and I'm all for it!

Rabbits and my zodiac animal get along very well. But they don't get on well with roosters. I love this sort of horoscope, I read them all the time regardless of if they're true or useful. It's just fun! And helps me figure out qualities for different characters.

My mom used to love reading horoscopes too but had me in a year that had bad compatibility with hers, so she dropped believing in it. So it really depends on who you ask. Even though my compatibility is low with certain animals, I still have them as good friends or family.

Elixir of the Moon

Uh oh. I turned around for a moment and the Etokoun got a lot more…wet. Because I touched it, the Etokoun became imbalanced, and now resembles a Water Rabbit in full. Its body became fluid, and the bugs wriggling in the ground it walked on became immortal. A few bugs is fine, but if anything else partakes in its bodily elixir, we will literally never hear the end of it. - Yue

This quest - where you fight the Elixir Etokoun (made by Darkon) - relates to that first one, where Yue was trying out making remedies. Her family's connection to the moon and immorality is in her blood even though she's first and foremost a designer by trade

But one or two immortal bugs isn't that big of a deal, maybe.

Year of the Dragon 2024

Now, we're establishing a pattern. Back in September, the descendant of the Jade Dragon Prince, Baoyu Lin 寶玉 林, was introduced as the dutiful Captain of Ai No Miko's royal guard.

Like with Yue's quest, we integrated real life symbolism and folklore into AQW's lore and quests. Compared to last year's notes, these are shorter because we're beefing up the coming four-parter featuring dragons from the East and West.

Art of Resilience

I didn't want to burden you with menial tasks so I took care of the major preparations myself. But, the Empress and Yue are encouraging me to decorate the red envelopes we'll be giving out. Would you collect plum blossoms for me to use as inspiration?

Thank you, I haven't picked up a paint brush in ages because of my innate magic. Maybe this year, I can overcome my mental barrier and at least enjoy art again - so long as I keep it a secret and not let my parents know about it.  - Baoyu

Plum blossoms, or 梅花 Meihua, are a symbol of resilence and hope in the face of adversity because they bloom during the Winter. For those of you born in the Year of the Dragon - if we go by the books - you're going to have to face some challenges. Everyone does when it's their 'origin year' or 本命年 Benmingnian. It's not that you'll definitely have bad luck, but you'll need to overcome some hurdles. If you can emerge triumphant, which you will and we all believe in you, then this will be a great milestone and turning point in your life! All of this is just horoscopes but it's fun.

Lucky Red

The Hong Bao we'll be giving out to the people of Yokai are empty so they can fill them with their own gifts. Most appreciate gold in those red envelopes.

Always give gold in even numbers, and never in fours. It'll ward away evil. Hong Bao are usually given to children, or family members who aren't married so I have a cousin who's been getting them into his thirties. For Chen, we've been sending him Hong Bao with raisins. - Baoyu

Hongbao (Mandarin) or Laisee (Cantonese) are red envlopes, often with pretty gold designs, given out during holidays like Chinese New Year. You can also get them during weddings, birthdays, or graduations. It's not traditional but when my family gets together for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we also give out envelopes since we're all there anyway. Usually, its parents giving envelopes to their kids, nieces, and nephews.

Like Baoyu says in the quest text, money given in even numbers but never with the digit 4 (because the character  used for this number sounds similar as the one  used for death), but people have their quirks.

I know some people who give mean gifts, like how Baoyu sends passive aggressive raisins to the cousin that ran off to the Shadowscythe. On the other hand, my aunt keeps repackaging my gifts in the same envelope I gave to her daughter the year before. She can't be bothered to waste money on buying new ones so it has become a cycle of reused red paper. Don't try this at home, it might be unlucky.

Pictured - A red envelope I'm about to regift to my cousin again, and this succulent plant I've been growing.

Palm Soot

I got a bit carried away with decorating the envelopes, and used up all of the ink. Fortunately, I know how to get more. On the Isles, we make our ink from pine soot- but let’s make the next batch special. - Baoyu

Ink used in calligraphy is made from mixing pine soot with a binder or glue, before pressing it into a mold. They're either stored as hardened clay-like cakes or as sticks. The artist or calligrapher would mix it with water before using it in paintings or to write with.

Baoyu painted a double headed dragon, the Hong or Jiang, that had been haunting his dreams. His innate magic caused his art to come alive. Since the ink is made from the soot of trees, it's in essence a Wood Dragon.

Crulon designed the Mutuo Hong with that in mind, where the Hero manages to catch it as it transforms from ink to an actual dragon. Huge brain move, it literally is a work of art come to life.

The same themes were used for the new background art, which was also made by Crulon. The bamboo stalks are made of ink are growing yellow forsythia flowers (another popular flower during the Lunar New Year), and the red paper the dragon emerged from lays in shreds on the ground. it came together to make a scene straight out of an ancient scroll.

Baihong Guan Ri

The bright rainbow threads the sun…The Hong is a dragon that appears after a storm like a rainbow. In Wuji, this is a warning of great upheavals yet to come. - Baoyu

The Hong, a monster that haunted Baoyu's dreams, is a two headed dragon that appears after a storm like a rainbow - Darkon made some very flashy animations based on that too. In very basic terms, they're the opposite of a typical Long. Instead of being an auspicious symbol, the Hong is seen as the emodiment of cosmic disaster, a bad omen, and a warning from the heavens. Baoyu having dreams about one can only mean that trouble's on the horizon.

白虹貫日 (Baihong Guan Ri) reads as "the bright rainbow threads the sun," describes the Hong and how you can see its apperance as a warning that someone will be assassinated, per Zhan Guo Ce - a book about strategies used during warfare.

And that does it for this behind the scenes look at /YokaiHunt's latest additions, which will lead up to a big Year of the Dragon story coming in two weeks! I don't usually make Design Notes for bigger story releases unless it's something like the finale of Voice in the Sea where I can go over a completed saga. So, this was a 'for-fun' post i put together in the interim.

If you've read this far, thank you! if I don't end up posting again in the coming week, have a happy Lunar New Year!

The rest of this post will go into a more serious topic.

There were important statements that were discussed on X (previously Twitter). We've seen feedback about the Yokai Isles in general being a blend of Asian cultures without paying careful attention to their distinctness. 

The blending of cultures, in this case equating Chinese and Japanese traditions, is a sensitive topic. Yokai Isles' lore revamps and expansions in 2023 were done to better respect the real life history behind these countries, and others that were lumped into one.

To elaborate on the Yokai Isles, they are now a landmass where immigrants from the Wuji Empire traveled to for refuge. The Wuji Empire, where stories of the animal zodiac and the carp jumping up the waterfall originated, is inspired by the Qin Dynasty.

Meanwhile, Taira is an area where certain humans from the Yokai Isles immigrated to long ago - in order to claim land for their own instead of depending isles infested by Yokai. Taira is inspired by the tail end of the Haien Period, and the beginning of the Kamakura Period.

This will all be expanded and highlighted in the coming four-parter story.

Ignoring problems or pretending they don't exist is never something we want to do. I will be doing my best to fix that, and encourage anyone who has felt that there were insensitively handled topics to tell me where they are.
In the Summer, we're planning to return the Sandsea for the continuation of the Doom Triad story (but no promises, we're still months away and plans may need to shift between now and then), and I've seen a fair amount of criticism towards the handling of its cultural inspirations too. 
I'm always researching and reaching out for feedback, so if you have any comments or concerns, don't be afraid to speak up, and reach out on X (getting tired of formerly Twitter), or our official Discord Server!
Thank you so much for reading, and we're looking forward to you joining us for the rest of the Year of the Dragon!


Tags: Cylisse,
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