The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Back in March 2015, Ryan put together a master Google Doc of all the text in Trails in the Sky Second Chapter for the start of internal QA on the project. As I watched cells being added in real time my first thought was one of pity for the other testers who would soon have to comb through these lines. While everyone knows about SC’s near-legendary size, it’s another thing to actually have to work on it. The Kiseki series is not for the faint of heart, and as the document passed 89,000 rows (nearly three times the number of rows for Story of Seasons) my computer blue-screened trying to load it. This was to set the tone of the QA cycle for the next four months.
Things started off well enough. Working from Australia I was unable to see the text as it might appear in game, but combing through the files allowed me to sweep for issues quickly and double-check notes I’d made during the editing phase. When the first English PSP build became available at XSEED, however, things were looking a bit…off.
Text-wise, a lot of issues that came up were of the garden variety ‘lost in display translation.’ Ellipses would revert to zenkaku ellipses (a single full-width character) instead of their intended three single dots, heart marks and music notes showed up as blocks, tildes would float like tiny seagulls, and unable to use quotation marks in the game (as it was an unsupported character), single quotes were instead eaten in almost every cell where they began a sentence. What seemed fine in file did not necessarily transfer cleanly to either PSP or Steam windows. Grimly, QA poured through file after file to yank things into line with how they actually displayed on screen. One even decided to go through all 1400 files and wipe any and all instances of extra spacing off the map. “Pretty or Death,” was their rallying cry against these aesthetic annoyances.
Another dreary, unexpected chore included realigning text when it turned out that some of the limits we were working with were not quite right. For example, since a number of items, monsters, and system text messages were used in both FC and SC, their descriptions had been duplicated for consistency in SC. Unfortunately, SC’s limits proved to be slightly more conservative than FC’s, and a frustratingly large number of these lines had to be reworked.
[Three character spaces less = a lot of rewriting or adjusting]
Spacing issues aside, text would also randomly inflate, windows refused to share space with each other, and for reasons no one was ever able to understand, a single letter was shaved in half on an innocuous quest.
[In a just world, ‘weirdo’ would be blown up here as it refers to Olivier]
[Capel window fail]
Such a large game also made for a devil of a time when it came to consistency. Naturally, terms that crossed over from FC had to be matched, and terminology had to be internally consistent as well, but even the most casual-seeming words/stylistic choices had to be checked to make sure they lined up. Was it “O-okay” or “O-Okay” for stuttering? *Pant Pant* or *pant pant* for SFX? Did Private Brahm give Faye gloves or mittens in that entirely optional and forgettable NPC quest in FC?! A great deal of effort was put into confirming that these lined up across the board.
The sheer weight of all that text also had a telling effect on the QA testers. It wasn’t unusual to find tiny pleas for help worked into the margins of the Google Doc, blunt exchanges on name choices regarding fish, or jokes so bad that you could be 100% certain the bug had been logged well after work hours.
[This wasn’t even the worst one] <CLICK HERE FOR LARGER SIZE>
[We are professionals] <CLICK HERE FOR LARGER SIZE>
Stability-wise, the PSP version also wasn’t without a few hiccups. Our trusty outsourced QA team vetted the game for the usual compliance, graphical, crash, and collision issues, but one glitch refused to go away. While it took some effort, an external QA member found that if he tried hard enough, he could wedge Estelle into a narrow space in the Central Factory Archives. When he asked whether or not it was possible to not be eaten by bookshelves in this section of the game, we checked with the dev team. After much deliberation, their consensus was that it seemed best to leave this one be rather than mess with the code. Belatedly, I waived the bug on the master list, noting, “It’s a feature.”
[Friday challenge? Friday Challenge!]
While the PSP team was drowning in text checking and carnivorous shelves, the PC team was embarking on their own adventures. Sara, our PC wizard, has been waging something of a rolling battle against random menu crashes, warp zones, and mysterious enemy behavior. She’s had to adapt the code in a number of places to fix control issues, and even Frankenstein FC code onto SC to make things function properly. In Chapter 1, one of the Beta testers found out that when quartz was equipped in the seventh slot of any character’s orbment it would fall out of the inventory once you entered battle. This resulted in a crippled playthrough of the chapter that affected all party members. An entirely new setting of difficulty was spawned from this bug before Sara was able to fix it. The Beta testers slogged their way through in the meantime, but they soon encountered amazing new graphical anomalies and deadly purple mists to hinder their progress.
For the PC QA team during this stage, checking text or actually playing the game as intended and not some kind of RPG version of Dante’s Divine Comedy wasn’t possible a lot of the time. Bosses would appear mid-conversation and refuse to move, black voids would swallow whole parties, and unseen enemies would attack you in the unlikeliest of places.
“I was amazed at how many invisible monsters tried to kill me in the Central Factory.” – Beta Tester
[Seems like it’s a deathtrap for everyone, really…]
[The Bracer Guild in Bose became a gravitational singularity]
For Kelly, one of the in-house QA testers, just progressing through a single chapter became an exercise in futility as she found herself imprisoned in buildings populated by glowing purple doorways to nowhere. In particular, she found that EVERY door in the foreign embassies had the strange purple mist effects.
“After playing, I realized the truth,” she related somberly. “The embassies in Grancel were actually portals to hell, and I was stuck there for all eternity.”
[There is no escape] <CLICK ME FOR MIST IN ACTION>
Other glitches were harmless, but defied logic, and have been frustratingly difficult to root out for our long-suffering programmer.
[When glowing balls of light start coming out of the backsides of NPCs, you know you have problems]
[Everyone on this project went loco]
[I couldn’t even begin to tell you what happened here]
Random wormholes and glowing balls of light aside, it’s not all bad. We’ve had two dedicated teams consisting of a mash of internal XSEED QA, an external QA house, and series experts throwing themselves at the tide of text that have contributed endless hours to making sure that when you guys get SC it’ll be a memorable experience for the right reasons. Of particular note is the extra effort that’s gone into updating and connecting the games (FC, SC, and Cold Steel). As work was drawing to a close on the editing side of SC, a lot of discussion was also being had on the direction of the series as a whole. This was always in the back of our minds, but it became especially important as work on Cold Steel began. After all, with the Trails series, even the most innocent of terms can become incredibly significant in later games.
To nail down the most important of these (some 2000+ key terms, items, people, etc. at a rough count), the team consulted with Falcom and a number of series experts. The outcome of this was that some things from FC proved to have greater meaning than previously known, and some current SC terminology would have to be updated. It was also decided that, moving forward, the original Germanic naming conventions would be used. Such was our in-house Kiseki nut’s determination to normalize all conventions that even location names barely mentioned in passing like “Hemel” from FC would be updated to “Hamel.” These changes were applied both retroactively to FC’s Steam version, and incorporated into SC before and during the QA period, and we hope that fans will nerd out as much as we have over the rich lore that has been lovingly poured into this game*.
*We also overhauled the military structure of the entire Liberl Royal Army to make it functionally correct. Just because. Dedication or madness, you decide.
“Do ducks exist in Trails?” – QA Notes Attached to Bug #309
In addition to the overarching series updates, the removal of typos was also a priority. A sincere thanks must be given here to Danielle and the external QA team for their dedication to adding missing punctuation, fixing bad cut and paste jobs, and doggedly running an endless regression cycle to check everyone else’s changes. Some typos found during the QA were truly inspired, though, and it was almost a shame to fix them:[Queen Alicia: “I am counting on you…to balance hose scales.”] [Zane: “Yes…the end of the unavoidable path, if you use any marital art purely for combat.”]
Overall, it was a grueling few months, and in just a couple more we’ll be at the finish line. Please, please let us be at the finish line…
And…that’s pretty much it. You’d be shocked to realize that a pretty big part of the wait now involves us waiting around for things ourselves. For those not in the know, XSEED as a publisher is purely in charge of the text and reporting bugs we find—creating graphics, inserting the English text, and fixing the bugs we report during QA are all on the developer’s side. That’s not something exclusive to us, but fairly normal for the game publishing industry as a whole. The developers know their own source code best, after all! We do program the PC version on our end, however, and it’s worth noting that our programmer loves to add things like HD graphics, widescreen, content previously unavailable for the PC version, and other such quality of life improvements. Trust me, the magic she works up on our PC titles is always worth it.
– Jess (XSEED Foreign Correspondent, @HProtagonista)
And finally, an actual glimpse of the future. Please look forward to it.
Steam Achievements (Tentative List)
Odyssey of Anton
Baby, Come Back
League of Extraordinary Bracers
Penguin de Samba
That Damn Recipe
If our Steam icon artist gets too busy to continue her role, Kelly has offered to assume the duties. Pray to Aidios, people. Pray like you’ve never prayed before.