It’s good to see you all again! XSEED’s localization programmer for PC games here. I come to you today in hopes that you might join me in a look back on the journey we’ve had leading up to Trails in the Sky Second Chapter’s release, as well as answering a few questions about the PC versions that I’m sure you’re all curious about.
Looking Back – Trails in the Sky First Chapter, July 2014 to the present
As many of us will recall, the PC release of Trails in the Sky’s First Chapter was a bit bumpy. I was actually out on a trip at the time of the release, over 8 hours away from my work PC. It was an adventure trying to fix bugs with just an antique laptop and my raw determination, but somehow we made it through okay, and I’m glad for that. That said, I know that some bugs are still left behind in the original game, “FC”, and I would love to go back and fix them as time allows in the future, especially now that SC is finally out of the oven and steaming hot, ready to be served onto all of your plates in wholesome slices.
A while after the release, I began adding the high-definition assets we’d received from the PS3 version of Trails in the Sky. This made the game look a lot more modern, and I really like how it turned out. I was even able to implement some that weren’t in the PS3 version at all, making the PC version by far the most high-def. In SC, you can rest assured that these are in right away, and they look fantastic. For those of you who didn’t play FC after the changes, you are in for a massive visual treat. For best results, I recommend playing the game at 1024×768 or 1280×960 resolution if you’re using an old-school 4:3 monitor, and 1280×720 or 1920×1080 resolution if you’re using one of those new-fangled HD whatsits.
The next little adventure happened with the game’s Monster Guide feature, a feature that was surprisingly more demanded than I would have imagined. I had a rough time implementing it, since the way in-game windows work is completely different between the PSP and PC versions of the game. It was fun, though, and I think the results ultimately spoke for themselves. A few of you filled in the Monster Guide only to run into a bug where the last entry would not complete, though, and I can assure you that’s finally fixed. SC has an impressively significant amount of monsters compared to FC, and I can’t wait to see you guys agonizing over how to fill it all in without wasting playthroughs!
Another feature I ended up adding after release was the Boosted Font feature. I originally considered this an accessibility feature for players playing on HDTVs, but I’m now realizing this feature really helps some of you, and while working on SC, I realized the feature had a few bugs whenever font size would change during dialogue. This has been cleaned up, and further little corrections to the feature are forthcoming. You don’t have to worry about it being absent – I assure you, I wouldn’t dare forget.
Borderless Windowed mode was a pretty demanded feature, and I added that during FC’s development as well. The way to activate it was always a little obtuse, since you simply use Windowed Mode at whatever resolution your desktop is set to, but I was glad to have it. This is one of my personal favorites, letting you have the best of both worlds with quick and easy alt-tabbing with visuals that fill the entire monitor. I highly recommend trying it if you never have before!
Last but not least, we ended up adding 1080p videos to the game only a few weeks ago. These were created from the original files to get the best quality I could possible squeeze out of them. They use a new codec to reduce file size, the amount of errors we’d been seeing from DVD encoder software, and other oddball things. I understand that some of you have had video crashes. My advice: Use the Borderless Windowed mode. They seem to behave a bit better in that situation. Until then, I’ll continue looking at ways to improve and fix this post-release, but look forward to the same quality in all of SC’s movies, of which it has quite a few more than FC! There are several that pop up during gameplay!
Second Chapter – The journey to get a behemoth of a game working
You’ve probably seen our previous blogs detailing the trouble we’ve had along the way. It felt like every bug I squashed made another rear its head. There were also issues with various scenes in widescreen – so many issues. I know I haven’t weeded them all out, but we’ve tried to catch some of the most obvious ones and will continue to hunt them down. I’ll be starting some fresh threads on the Steam Forums for reporting standing issues in both games, hopefully a bit more categorized and orderly than we had with FC.
I first began work on SC the same day that I began work on FC. I remember it well. The games are quite well-coded, and while I can’t discuss the details, I have to appreciate how hard Falcom worked on them. Unfortunately, both games did take quite a bit of work to adapt to modern tools, however, and SC was the real problem child in that regard. From the very beginning of the game we were running into invisible walls, disappearing characters, and general chaos the likes of which the game’s villains would likely be proud of. Even as FC proceeded, I tried to copy all of our fixes over bit by bit, slowly working SC into a more stable and workable game than it had been after the initial conversion. This proved difficult, as SC had many of its own problems, and more seemed to pop up with every day that passed.
To detail some of the biggest challenges I had working on SC, the game adds a huge amount of new visuals and cut-ins, far more than FC ever had, and I had to account for each and every one’s proper display – with a couple stubborn cases. After that, I had to look over the PSP and PS3-exclusive features of the game, as it contained far more of these than FC had! I was surprised, and the more I got into it, the more trouble I had, even having to work around technical limitations that made it difficult to insert the English item names and descriptions for quite a while. Time went on, however, and I conquered these, one at a time.
The most obvious feature for some would be the New Game+ feature. This was featured in FC as well; however, I couldn’t copy as much of the code as I would have liked. Whereas you must load your Clear Data to begin New Game+ in FC, in SC all of this data will be prompted for when you begin a new game. New Games can start on any difficulty, and you can use any combination of FC Clear Data and SC Clear Data that you’d like. Even Japanese saves will load just fine, so if you’ve been a Falcom loyalist all this time, you won’t feel penalized for starting a New Game and checking out all the things we’ve done for this release!
The question most people have asked, however, is whether I managed to add the two exclusive characters from the PSP and PS3 versions of the game into our PC version of the game. The answer is yes. They are completely implemented and you shouldn’t run into any trouble using them. All I ask is that you please enjoy them! This was -definitely- the hardest feature for me to implement, and countless hours were spent banging my head into my desk trying to get each and every Craft to function just right – including when playing in widescreen. Even in an imported Japanese endgame save, these characters can be obtained; just go back and trigger a certain event, and they’ll be ready to knock some heads!
The PSP and PS3 versions also added new ultimate weapons for each character, whereas the original PC version only had two. These are definitely in, and you’ll find yourself obtaining them quite the same way as you would have in the PSP and PS3 versions. A fact few mention is that the original two ultimate weapons were also rebalanced, making everything just a bit more fair and in line with each other. Everything matches up, just as you would hope for. In summary, the PSP versions and the PC versions are feature equivalent. If anything, the PC version has quite a few more features due to all the changes I’ve made over time!
Exploring the Galaxy
One of the newest things to come with the release of SC is support for a rather recent service GOG has been introducing: GOG Galaxy. If you want to buy the PC version, but don’t want DRM, GOG Galaxy would be a great option for you. With GOG Galaxy, we’ve been able to implement achievements while still providing what can be considered a DRM-free version of the game. FC is also getting GOG Galaxy support, so if you want to play the GOG version of the game but haven’t yet found an excuse, now’s your chance to hunker down and play to your heart’s content.
Looking Ahead – The Future of FC and SC
Even now, we continue to work constantly to find issues and improve everything we can. Just a couple of hours before writing this blog, I put the last touches on a new build of the game, containing the latest and greatest translation adjustments so that we can provide the utmost quality after these hard, long years. A small update went out for FC as well – you might notice that the revival Art has a new name, and this will be carried forward into SC as it launches. That said, bugs are the programmer’s undefeatable nemesis. I’ve named my bugs Frederik. I don’t know, they just seem like a Frederik to me.
Because bugs can never truly be defeated, I hope you’ll understand that this launch won’t be completely without them. I’m working my hardest, though, and hopefully together, we can all defeat these nasty Frederiks, one after another, until the only ones that remain are the ones we have fun with or couldn’t possibly notice. There are some standing issues I’ll discuss briefly before I close things up, and hopefully it will be helpful in training those who encounter them to defeat their insecty foes. Sorry in advance, though!
One of the strangest bugs is a crash that only seems to happen in Full Screen Mode with HD Assets enabled. It’s a rather minor bug, generally only happening when you open the menu too quickly, or when you stay in the Orbment screen for a long time, but it can be worked around by playing in Windowed Mode. I’d suggest the Borderless Windowed mode I’ve mentioned before, as it’s pretty similar to Full Screen, and that should work around the bug if you’re experiencing it, for the most smooth game experience you can get. Until then, I’ll keep chipping away, hoping I can find a permanent solution soon.
Another bug that’s been noticed at times is disappearing menu descriptions, also occurring in FC. If this happens, just close your menu and re-open it; they were just a bit shy, so they went into hiding. I’m still working on this, and definitely expecting a fix before long. Lastly, there -are- still some widescreen issues in cutscenes, as mentioned before. Just ignore them and maybe they’ll go away. Nah, but seriously, there will be a lot of little patches to address these, as well as fixing the stragglers in SC.
On a brighter note, I’ve been looking at native XInput support and I’m hoping I’ll have something to report in the next couple months. This would mean your triggers would finally work on XInput controllers, as well as the addition of accurate and precise button labels, though the controllers themselves do work fine as-is otherwise. Cross your fingers that it all goes according to plan, ‘cause with the so-called “Curse of Kiseki,” just about anything that can go wrong usually has, ahahah.
Phew! That was a lot of text. I suppose I may have rambled a bit, and I apologize for that. I’m sure you guys will enjoy the game, and please be patient with me as I work hard to fix as many of your issues as I can following the launch. As the in-joke goes, “Winter 2014 is finally here.”
Sara J. Leen
Localization Programmer, XSEED Games