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Localized Wheels
  October 18th, 2013

10/18- 7:00PM EST

Welcome to another episode of Q&A! A ton of great questions this week so I'm going to skip my normally wordy intro and get right to it.

On to the questions...

The Letters
Tales form the Script

Long time no speak! How is everything?
I read Travis Lucius' thoughts on localization and I just HAD to reply.


Everything is good! I've been wondering what happened to you. I figured localization talk would get someone to write in.

"The purists want translations that are as literal as possible, as well as the Japanese voices. The pro-Americanization ones want their English dubs, as well as a text that uses easily-understood English (usually fifth-grade English). Last of all, the not-so-picky types just want the games to come over, in a language they can understand."
Getting translations done as literal as possible is (in my humble opinion) going to create an incrompehensible mess at worst, frustrating at best. Like he said, there is the cultural barrier and pretty much half of the context will be lost in translation. I have watched quite a couple of animť dubs, even helped in translating a JRPG, and it dawned on me that the Japanese have a very, very prosaic (and wildly different) way of speaking.


You can pick up on this to some extent even without any real knowledge of Japanese. The best localizers can get around this, but it's tough to do. I'd love to read a deep analysis of Japanese culture to figure out the origins of our speech differences.

A good example of a pretty literal translation (I think) was Trails in the Sky. While I was very thankful to have won the game (thanks again), the script was... a tough cookie to swallow. Pretty much every other sentence started with a variation of "Having said that". I've seen this in animť dubs too, and this has lead me to believe it must be a Japanese manner of speech, but it doesn't work in English. Honestly, how often is this used?


No problem! I can understand your issues, but remember just how much text is in that game. Unfortunately I don't think it's realistic to expect a brilliant translation out of that game. I think what we got does the job well enough. Perhaps the sequel will attempt to alleviate some of these issues?

Then "Just getting the game over here". The SNES era is a good example of how this worked. We can't fault the translators for doing the jobs they did, because it was more a question of technical limitations than it was money or time, but if you take a game like Breath of Fire (1 and 2) and play that now, you will see how poor the translations really were. For me, having English as a secondary language, it wasn't much of a problem in my early teens, as it did a great job of making me understand the game, but if I look at games like FFXII, with its almost Shakespearian language, I prefer the latter, even if some words won't be understood by all... (not even native speakers)


Yeah, it didn't always work out well for sure. I'd much prefer having some version of games like 7th Dragon over here though, and I'd be happy with a quick and dirty translation. It was easier in the pre-internet days when we were less aware of all these cool games we were missing!

So I would rather the translators localize than translate, but even there, they have to know their job. The aforementioned FFXII is a GREAT example of a localization done RIGHT! I can't give an immediate example, but there have been JRPGs set in medieval-esque worlds where the protagonists were bratty spoiled American teens, which is in my mind a hideous "localization". The translators were probably thinking "Hey, that's what American teens nowadays speak like." to which I reply "Perhaps they do, but they don't live in the dark ages, do they?".


Final Fantasy XII was a brilliant localization involving the talented Alexander O. Smith. I saw a panel at the second PAX East with him and his associate (whose name I seem to have forgotten) talking about localization and it was very enlightening. Needless to say that you want those guys localizing your favorite game.

So a localization where the script is not only put in the context of the target's audience culture, but also the context of the game (you know, like... medieval style) is the way to go. The perfect example is the PSP version of Final Fantasy Tactics. Granted, that script too was a tough cookie to swallow, but at least the characters spoke like you would expect them to speak in the context of the game world.


Guess who also worked on that localization?

One last thing! In this day and age a lot of games have spoken script. I can personally do without, but if it is in there, I'd rather the characters spoke in a believable manner. One game I thought did this quite brilliantly was The Last Story for the Wii. Each character had a different accent, and this gave me the sense that these characters all came from different parts of the world, which fit the story really well.


I've played it a good deal but have not finished it quite yet. Everything you say is spot on. I'm not sure who worked on it, but kudos to all at Nintendo Europe involved in the localization process of that game. Of course, very glad XSEED brought it to the US as well. I can't imagine missing out on that game!

Well... That was my two cents! Hope all is well with you!


Everything is good (other than some games I've reviewed since we last talked) and I hope all is well with you!

PS: If you haven't yet played The Last Story, it's well worth your time. It's not a very long game (I think it averages at around 20 hours) so you can finish it in a couple of days, but the feeling of Lazulis Island is great and the gameplay is really fun!
Best wishes,
Daniel Brouwer


Like I said, I haven't yet finished it, but I think it's now time to correct that!

Q&A Mobile

Where do I find the good mobile games (iOS or Android)? So far my best source is The Humble Bundle with Android. Incidentally, a new one is on sale now. Which sources am I missing?


Not too familiar with Android, so not sure about that. For iOS the only answer is obviously the App Store, itís just a matter of finding the right games. Iíd imagine the same is the case with the Google play store for Android. Finding mobile games that are good, or at least good for us pickier gamers, is a tricky business. Thereís a lot of bite-sized stuff for your average consumer and finding the meatier games can be difficult. If you're wary of sampling stuff from unfamiliar developers, try some downloadable items that familiar faces originally created for the console and PC. Wayforward has done Shantae on mobile, thereís plenty of mobile Worms games, and I think even Runner 2 from Gaijin Games is headed to iOS at some point. As for RPGs that can be tough. Thereís some Zeboyd ports, Dragon Fantasy, and Square Enix stuff and beyond that lots of clones to wade through. Thereís no real easy way to find good stuff, but I think if you narrow down what you are looking for and identify some developers that you trust, youíll have an easier time tracking down some good games.

Is good mobile game an oxymoron?


Good mobile games are definitely not an oxymoron, the horribly crowded marketplace just makes that difficult to see.

I have a 2006 PC (working). I'd like to be rid of it. Compensation optional. Best way to get rid of it?


A PC that old? I think you would be best off looking into donating it somewhere. I doubt youíll be able to get much for it. You could always dump Linux on there and turn it into an experimental server box if youíre so inclined. Unless of course itís some kind of rare PC model that a collector would want?

I'd like to be rid of my PSX / PS1 and games. Compensation required - I think they are worth something based on a cursory eBay search. Best way to get rid of them?



Well that best way is probably eBay depending on what you have. If you donít want absolutely top dollar, undercutting the competition is always a good way to sell your copies quickly. Iíve also had good luck selling games on Amazon, though I think the selling fees may be a bit higher there. You could also try, or even all three at once if you want to maximize visibility and have a better shot at selling them. Of course if you have anything rare Iím sure you can find plenty of buyers around RPGamer!


What game series did you think you would hate but ended up liking? What made you think you'd hate it? What made you like it?


A very good question, and I may have a few of these. The big one in recent days was Devil May Cry. I played the original back in the day and never really cared for it. Years later, with more refined tastes, I was able to really enjoy it once I stuck to it and proceeded to have a blast with the most recent entry, and I've enjoyed the time spent with the fourth title so far alo. This of course led to enjoyment of Bayonetta so I guess it even made me a fan of hard action games in general (though I havenít really enjoyed Ninja Gaiden outside of some of the original)? As far as RPGs go, I think Ys would have to be the big one. Looking at pictures and trying a Japanese ROM of Ys I for the Famicom back in the day I couldnít see at all what the series' appeal was even about. Listening to a podcast about Falcom made me curious again though, despite high reservations about the bump combat. I decided to give Ys I&II for Turbo Grafx-16 a try on the Virtual Console a try, and the rest is history! I think I could also throw in .hack G.U. as an example, though thatís more a case of being a bit burned by the original series and originally ignoring the follow up without giving it a fair chance. What would be your examples of series you never thought youíd get into?

I'm currently experiencing horrible customer service from the NIS store regarding my Disgaea D2 order. Have you ever experienced bad online customer service? What sites do you typically avoid buying games from and what sites do you always use?


Man have I ever experienced bad customer service before! This happened when my original Xbox 360 started scratching game discs. First the customer service representative wanted me to try some kind of troubleshooting (which I naturally refused given it was EATING DISCS). Eventually we got to the point where I could setup the repairÖ only to be told their system was down and Iíd have to call back tomorrow! So the next day it went OK and eventually I got the repair setup. However it had eaten either disc 1 or 2 of Lost Odyssey so I wanted to get that repaired too. Eventually they said they could only offer me some game (forget the name) or ďthe racing gameĒ (what they actually called) and Iíd have to contact the publisher of Lost Odyssey to get a replacement. So yes, I had to take on the task of informing Microsoft's customer service that she was already working for the publisher of Lost Odyssey. Asking for a manager I finally got that debacle finished and my Xbox repair was finally all set up. Not sure what kind of issues youíre having with the NIS Store, but I hope it all works out. Iíve had good luck with them in the past, though I donít think I ever ordered anything near the release of a Disgaea so I probably missed their busiest times. I hope everything works out in the end! Disgaea D2 is a lot of fun.

Are you playing Pokemon X or Y? If not, you should. Also, if not, why?



I finally gave in and bought Pokemans X yesterday, so Iíll be playing it soon. I really liked Black, but couldnít quite totally commit to it. It's the first game in the series I wasnít completely apathetic about after awhile since the original duo of games. So if X is better, I may be back in (finally)! Perhaps I can do some trading with you Q&A readers or whatever it is you kids these days do with your Pokemans (damn peer pressure). Get off my lawn!

Tales of Localization

In answer to my previous letter, you mentioned the tendency to leave anime jargon and the like untranslated in less serious jrpgs (the specific one you mentioned was Disgaea 4).  Otaku jargon such as tsundere (people - not just girls - who act harshly toward people in order to hide the fact they like them) create a somewhat unwelcoming environment for someone not interested in that kind of thing.  I was originally tempted to say that in the Disgaea series's case, it made sense because so many people who love the series are otaku in the first place... but I rethought that when I considered it seriously.  Lots of people who play the NIS srpgs are only casual anime fans or not fans at all, but they happen to love the over the top antics, weird game elements, and leveling that make up the series. 


Exactly! As much as the Otaku crowd may make up a large portion of NISA's fan base, the Disgaea series has a higher profile than anything else they've done, perhaps partially due to Atlus' success with the first game in the series. It's an SRPG series first and anime-themed story second, so you can't alienate people like that. Thankfully the word wasn't overused, but it makes me very wary of their localization decisions.

I'd say that the localization crew probably fell into the same trap.  It's very easy to make a generalization about what the fanbase is used to, but in this case it probably wasn't accurate... or rather, it isn't accurate about all the people who play these games.  Heck, Square made similar mistakes when considering what fans wanted in new Final Fantasy games any number of times, making assumptions about what people would like that were way off the mark. 


On the one hand it can be pretty hard to make such decisions, but no doubt Square Enix made a number of assumptions about the Final Fantasy series they probably didn't need to. I don't think this resulted in bad games mind you, but is there really no place for a turn-based game with lots of spectacle and such? The continued popularity of Final Fantasy X as the HD collection approaches seems revealing. Still, the Final Fantasy series has always been about experimenting, so it's not completely out of place. Sorry, I went a bit off track. Localizers shouldn't pander to the largest possible audience, they should make something that stands on its own!

That said, Disgaea is infamous for breaking immersion and the 4th Wall simply for cheap laughs, and they are also one of the biggest perpetrators of the offenses against good translation that I mentioned in my previous letter (the act of reducing a more complex greeting such as 'good morning' to 'hello' is just one example of this, lol). 


You know, they could have done something cool with the tsundre stuff had the done just that and have a character ask "does the player even know what that word means" or something along those lines. The humor in the series gives localizers a lot of breathing room I'd imagine, but they still need to be careful. I wonder why they would change a lot of little things like that?

However, my original example was Valkyria Chronicles, which had a number (dozens) of really simple sentences that were mistranslated throughout the game, and while most were not vital to the story (usually in line with greetings or asking what someone was doing being turned into something else), it repeatedly broke immersion in the game for me, which was a waste considering how good that game is. 


Sounds like many of us were probably saved of this frustration not knowing of these changes. Ignorance is bliss? Would be interesting to find out the reasons behind these changes.

Oddly, it's easier to be more forgiving with complex lines.  The more complex the line is, the more likely it won't translate well, no matter how you twist it around.  Linguistic awkwardness is unavoidable in such cases, so they are often simplified.  Of course, sometimes that simplification results in loss of an important bit of content needed for understanding a character's personality or attitudes, but such cases are relatively rare in comparison to ten years ago.  Not only that, the simple limitation of space in the text box will often necessitate the simplification of lines.  So, I'm more or less resigned to that kind of problem.


Yeah, sadly it's not always an issue of a simple mistranslation. Some fans probably aren't even aware of some of these technical issues that can pop-up. It's gotten a lot better since the earlier days with many games often being developed with localization in mind, but it isn't completely gone. Hopefully this will eventually become a thing of the past.

Cutting corners is just fine... it's inevitable in fact.  However, needless cutting of corners (as I mentioned before) needlessly lowers the quality of a localization.  At least some of this is probably due to a lack of quality control on the translation, but I'm pretty sure you are also correct that time constraints cause a good amount of it. 


I'd be very surprised if time wasn't a big factor there, especially in text heavy games. A casualty of these games being niche releases I suppose? We can always hope for better, but I don't think we can ever expect the problems faced by people under a deadline to go away. As you say though, finding ways to improve quality control is vital  (just look at what happened to Ar Tonelico 2).

That said, the likelihood that people will even notice these problems is pretty close to zero, so I'm aware most people won't even consider them to be problems in the first place.  So, in the end, this is just a personal rant dealing with built-up frustration, hehe.



I'd say it's more than a personal rant. Some people may call you a perfectionist in some respects, but I think localization has gotten good enough that we can now start nitpicking at smaller issues to help improve things across the board.

I'd still take an awful translation of 7th Dragon over the nothing we got of course :).

I should just end each week with funny pictures of cats or something. Q&A will be off next week for a short fall recess, so get those questions in! There's already some more on the forums and I'd love to have a backlog for once...

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