Question Extravaganza Blog #2
Hi there! Remember, back in December, when we had an “End-of-the-year Question Extravaganza Blog”? And how there was going to be a second part? Well, FINALLY, here it is! Round two of our answers to the questions that you sent to us via Twitter, so long ago.
Who’s playing this time:
Tom – Localization Producer
Brittany – Localization Producer
Junpei – Assistant Product Manager/XSEED’s Garbage Disposal
Ryan – Localization Lead
Nick – Localization Editor
Alyssa – Product Associate
Liz – QA Tester
Danielle – QA Tester
WARNING: Spoiler alert, just in case! And maybe some language.
Question: which character from Senran Kagura New Wave would you most like to see become playable in a future game
There are so many! Kasumi, Kumi, Fuga, and Bashou
Kasumi - shy girl that can code her way into your heart? aw yuss.
Kumi - ngl I like foxes. I’m also hella curious what her animations would look like…
Fuga - dude it’s fireworks coming from a shamisen who doesn’t wanna SEE THAT. AND THOSE PLATFORMS. DAMN.
Bashou - paintbrushes: creation, destruction, or the beauty that comes from their combination? tune in next time on quiet girls that can artfully kill you
Fuga. I’ve loved her design ever since I first saw it and I’ve actually begged Takaki-san in person to put her in one of the core games.
Picking just one is hard, so these are the ones are the top of my list:
Meimei – She fights by throwing bombs shaped like steam buns. Just. Yes.
Ukyou – For some reason, I really like the idea of a machine gun shaped like a bass guitar. She’s also a cutie, I like her design.
Seimei – I like the fact that she rocks pajamas. I wish I could wear pajamas all the time…
Question: What is your most favorite game that you have localized And why?
Trails of Cold Steel II. I cried so much while working on it, haha. It was the game that made me feel like I was really growing up as a writer, and I was so proud of the effort I put into that during every step of the process. Everyone knows I love the series, but for now, that game has a particularly strong place in my heart because I feel like I grew as a person together with those in Class VII (is this too cheesy? lol).
Definitely the EDF series. I’ve been a big fan of the series since the first EDF came out in Japan, but also I learned a lot from the producer and the dev team. It was a very exciting to work on, and luckily, EDF2: Invaders from Planet Space was selected as a D.I.C.E Award nominee.
Also, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity was a favorite, too. The game is very fun and pretty. I didn’t really know about the Touhou series at first, but this was a good title for Touhou beginners like me to learn what Touhou is. The dev team is very passionate and professional. I was always impressed by them while working on this.
I have a few personal favorites: Estival Versus because I love the character banter, Deep Crimson for the same reason, and Suikoden V because it was my first real localization project and I still have a soft spot for it.
I have a soft spot for Ys: Memories of Celceta. It was published before I started working here, but was the first XSEED game that I played.
Even though we didn’t really localize it (just published it physically), I’m a big fan of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Working with WayForward was an absolute treat and I’m so glad that we have a chance to do something with them.
I think anyone who knows me knows my answer to this, but in case you don’t: RETURN TO POPOLOCROIS, BABY!! ;) The very first game script I ever translated was part of the script to PopoloCrois Story II on the PS1, which I translated in play-script format and uploaded to GameFAQs as a translation guide. After that, the very next thing I translated was all 51 episodes of the two existing PopoloCrois anime. I am a PopoloCrois super-fan, and when the opportunity came along to work on a PopoloCrois game, to say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. Getting to officially write English dialogue for Prince Pietro Pakapuka, Narcia the forest witch, the White Knight, and the GamiGami Devil was an absolutely amazing experience, and getting to sit in on voiceover sessions and help shape the way they sounded in English was the icing on the cake.
Corpse Party is a close second, though, because I was able to get much more graphic than I’m used to, and it was a bizarre amount of fun describing some of the most horrible acts of mutilation and torture imaginable. It was weird working on Corpse Party and Fishing Resort at the same time, as I had to keep stopping myself from inserting extremely graphic language into the Fishing Resort script.
And Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed gets an honorable mention, as the three weeks spent in voice-recording for that game may be the most fun I’ve had in my seven years at XSEED.
Question: Where do you face the most unexpected challenges during the localization process?
The thing about unexpected challenges is that they’re…well, unexpected. The things we run into the most frequently are things we know to be watchful for based on past experience (which is why we usually catch the major stuff). A good example of an “unexpected challenge” would be realizing partway in that we don’t actually have all the text files for the game, even though the developer said they gave us everything. Working on games that are still in production also has the tendency to turn up a lot of unexpected issues, particularly when the developers change things and neglect to mention that they were changed. If you learn that a localization was being worked on while a game was still in development, know that it was probably a huge headache for the translators and editors compared to working on something that has been finished and more or less finalized.
Sometimes it’s because there’s an honest mix-up and they thought they’d given us everything. Other times there’s a breakdown in communication along the way, as can occur when information has to pass through too many hands. So…ultimately, miscommunication is where we stand to face the most unexpected challenges. It varies from project to project, and we know to be mindful of it, but we can never fully predict when this sort of issue will pop up.
Question: Where do you try to draw the line between remaining loyal to the original and changing to fit the region you are localizing for?
Every editor will give you a different answer for this, so I can only speak personally, but here’s where I stand on this issue. When I localize a game, I absolutely want the intent of the original to come through. That’s what people are coming to the work for - what they want to experience. However, sometimes, truly conveying the spirit of the original work necessitates departing from the exact language of the original.
If one facet of my job is about accurately conveying information and character relationships, another facet is to ensure people who buy our games are entertained and engaged. That happens best with a script that feels fairly natural in its English phrasing. A quick example is how, if you listen to people converse, most people make frequent use of contractions. They’re a natural linguistic shorthand for English, so it feels natural to make broad use of them in character dialogue. But I often see dialogue written without them (like, where it doesn’t strike me as an intentional editorial choice). Without contractions, at the most basic level, you’ll get dialogue that sounds wooden and has less flow to it (Tom and I often compare it to the speaking style of Data, from Star Trek: TNG), but in some cases, using or not using contractions can subtly alter the way we perceive a line, especially if there’s no voice-over to clue us in. “I cannot believe he said that about me” carries a bit more of a testy tone than “I can’t believe he said that about me.”
There are also cultural differences that, when translated over on a 1:1 basis, won’t elicit the same response from an international audience, so some tweaking is necessary to make sure Western players of a game experience enjoyment similar to what Japanese players would’ve felt. This is admittedly a touchy issue, since a lot of this involves getting a good feel for the characters’ personalities, and so is inevitably colored by an editor’s own interpretations of them. In a blog I wrote before the first Trails of Cold Steel was released, I laid out some cases where I basically felt that the characterizations provided in some places by the original script were lacking, so Kris and I embarked on a mission to strengthen characterization not through any sweeping gestures, but just by bringing certain traits more clearly to the fore in scenes specific characters were in. It’s something you might notice if you had the Japanese and English scripts side by side, but it never stood out to most players, and from anecdotal accounts I’ve read many places online, I think this initiative of ours was very successful. Certainly, I think it brought a lot to Rean’s character in particular.
Ultimately, I want a localization to keep all the information the original script gave, but sometimes I re-frame how that information is conveyed because I value entertaining/engaging writing and want our games to feel, as much as possible, like the English scripts could just as well have been the original scripts.
“So, where do I draw the line? As someone who always wants to push for better writing, I generally won’t make an edit - even if it would sound great - that would result in dropping factual information conveyed by the original. Not necessarily on a line-by-line basis, but definitely on a scene-by-scene basis. Ultimately, I want a localization to keep all the information the original script gave, but sometimes I re-frame how that information is conveyed because I value entertaining/engaging writing and want our games to feel, as much as possible, like the English scripts could just as well have been the original scripts.”
This question is too broad and no one should have one answer for it. It depends on the game itself, the context, the importance of the topic in question in the scope of the story, the emotional impact it’s supposed to make. The most generic answer I can give is that we should always remain loyal to the spirit/intent of the original game, and if anything comes under question, we should consult the dev team and get their perspective on it.
I guess an example that’s happened a few times throughout Trails is one where Japanese honorifics are dropped as people become closer. A big deal is made out of it, but that sort of thing doesn’t exist in English. At the same time, there’s no reason to force it in the English version because the name-dropping isn’t necessarily the focus–it’s the result of characters becoming closer. The intent is the bond, and as long as you write the scene so that English players understand these characters have become closer thanks to what’s going on, then I believe we’re still loyal to the Japanese while still properly localizing the scene.
Question: outside of trails in the sky sc what was the hardest game to work on you’ve released?
It’s a toss-up between Unchained Blades and Rune Factory 4. RF4 was a joy to work on because I’m a big fan of the series, but it also contains so many complex algorithms that even the Japanese version of the game occasionally had random bugs that just couldn’t be reproduced. Those were everywhere during QA, and then we also had had all that text that needed to be checked for context…
Unchained Blades is far shorter with less text, but it was plagued with bugs during QA to the point where I once ran to the bathroom to cry from losing my save data for the umpteenth time. We had no debug mode for that one, either, so anything I had to test, it had to be done by playing through like a normal player. Hopefully the effort was worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of players experiencing the issues on that game that I had!
Probably Fate/EXTELLA, which had a lengthy, lore-heavy script with a long history behind it, plus a writing style that was both abstractly poetic and strictly technical.
I would say the Story of Seasons series, mostly because of the sheer volume of text and variables to test.
Question: which sort of cultural references do you try to keep rather than rewriting for localization?
Generally, all of them. It’s always better to keep a reference, and just maybe insert a brief explanation, than to get rid of it. People who play our games know that they’re playing Japanese games, so I figure, why try to disguise the Japaneseness of them? Better to celebrate it.
Depends on the medium and context. Fate, in general, is known in part for drawing lore from all over the world, so we did our best to keep its references to world history and literature intact. Akiba’s Trip was chock full of Japanese-language anime references, some of which had only unofficial translations, so we did our best to cobble together appropriate translations from Japanese and English fan sites. SENRAN KAGURA drops references to well-known anime now and again, well-known enough that we can keep them intact, with an English take on their wordplay (such as when Katsuragi’s play on “a great era of sexual harassment,” referring to the “great era of piracy” from One Piece, became “a great invasion of privacy.”) Occasionally, we’ll run across Japanese proverbs that don’t have direct translations, so we’ll do our best to find English proverbs or wordplay that match the general sentiment of the original.
Question: What was the situation in a game that gave you trouble? Joke? A conversation? Interactions? Items? Names? Tell us the worse!
Shiawase no Sachiko, in Corpse Party. To this day, I’m still not 100% satisfied with my translation there.
See, in the Japanese, there’s supposed to be a distinction between 幸せのサチコ (“Shiawase no Sachiko”), which roughly translates to “Happy Sachiko,” and 死合わせのサチコ (a different way of writing “Shiawase no Sachiko”), which roughly translates to “Sachiko Aligned with Death.”
The English I came up with for this is “Sachiko Ever After” vs. “Sachiko in the Everafter.” And even that vaguely acceptable solution took far, FAR too long to come up with.
Sometimes, Japanese linguistic references are just really tough to work with!
The first example that comes to mind is a certain “My Room” conversation from Fate/EXTELLA, where Nero and the Master have a back-and-forth conversation about different kinds of bathing. The original Japanese script had an entire conversation tree about misreadings of kanji, which had no direct translation. This is one of those rare times where we were tempted to, as we sometimes call it, “Go full Samurai Pizza Cats,” after the old anime dub where the American dub team never received the original script and had to make up a whole new one, but we stuck with it, and eventually came up with some reasonably close wordplay in English.
Question: Do you have friends in other localization teams/companies? What could you learn from them? Do you reach out to them?
I’d love to hang out with some of the localization people I’ve interacted with via Twitter, because I’m actually pretty ignorant of what goes on in other companies. I’m pretty much XSEED only, but I’d love to learn the process in other places or just bond with others who do the same work that I do.
Absolutely! Other companies are “competition” to an extent, but they’re also colleagues, and we’ve met with people from numerous other nearby companies for lunch, karaoke, etc. many times since I’ve been working here at XSEED. I don’t know that we really learn much from them, nor they from us, but we always “talk shop” when we meet up, discussing localization challenges we’ve faced, fun stuff we’ve done recently, etc. It’s just good to sometimes talk with other people who fully understand what we do.
We’re good friends with the Aksys team down the street, a lot of our staff have Atlus experience, and most of the original senior staff came from Square-Enix. For Fate/EXTELLA, the Aksys guys were kind enough to share their notes and script from Fate/EXTRA as references. One of the best bits of advice I can give people looking for work in the industry is “Make friends wherever you go,” and that’s as true once you’re in as it is when you’re getting started.