Hi, everyone! Thank you very much for sending in your questions to Twitter so that we could put together this blog! There was no way that we could answer everything this first time around, so we’re definitely going to revisit the questions that we got so we can do a second (and maybe even a third!) part.
Here’s who we’ve got participating this time around:
Tom – Localization Producer
Brittany – Localization Producer
Ryan – Localization Lead
John – Assistant Localization Manager
Nate – QA Tester
WARNING: Potential spoilers and naughty language!
Question: What’s the funniest blooper you’ve heard while recording VO talent?
Brittany: Our voice actor for Gaius in Trails of Cold Steel misread “Thanks for having my back, Jusis,” as “Thanks for having my back, Jesus.”
Tom: Clue Hunt
Ryan: The time the voice of HQ in Earth Defense Force 2 closed out a rousing speech with, “I’m gonna go get a ham sandwich. Good luck not getting killed by the insects.”
Question: What was biggest discrepancy b/t JP ref and ENG text?
Brittany: Oh, man, I could go on forever about this. Not quite the same, but here’s a great mistranslation that I fixed:
Original line when I received the script: “It’s my belief that technology’s something you can steal just by looking at it… When it comes to girls, I just can’t help but talk…”
What it means/What I changed it to: Most skills are easy enough to pick up just by watching, if you ask me. Girls, though? Hah! Haven’t been able to pick them up to save my life.“
Ryan: In Trails FC, when the player opened the same chest twice, the second message just read, “The chest is empty” in the original text. Since each chest had its own line in the text files that said the same thing, the original editor, Jess, decided to spice it up by adding a unique message for each empty chest, and it became a series tradition.
Question: I’m curious about what gets chosen to get dubbed and what does not. I remember seeing a statement made a while ago that you…guys had decided to put forth for a dub for Akiba’s Trip because it has lasting appeal, but something like Extella isn’t. Despite the fact Fate has a pretty long standing cult following in the west. Sorry for splitting this into 3 posts, was curious.
Tom: Basically, every time we license a voice-acted game, we try our best to also license the Japanese voices. If we can’t, the game gets dubbed for sure.
If we CAN license the Japanese voices, then we do just that, and the game is either presented dual-voice (like Akiba’s Beat) or Japanese-only (like Corpse Party). What determines whether we dub the game at that point is basically… well, all the business stuff that goes into localization. How expensive would it be to dub? And would the presence of a dub be expected to add enough value to make up for that cost, or would we end up losing money on it?
It can (and often does) get more complicated than that (like, with Corpse Party, the logistics of dubbing the game binaurally to preserve the 3D sound of the Japanese made it kind of impractical to even consider a dub), but that’s the long and the short of it.
Ryan: It’s not always a question of whether or not English dubs would appeal to the audience – we usually find that they would, at least as an option for the player – so much as a question of logistics and/or cost. Sometimes, for lengthier projects, an English dub just isn’t in the budget; we looked into doing one for Shinovi Versus, for example, but found it would have been too expensive. Sometimes, the devs or other license holders have certain rules about the usage of their Japanese VOs, which means bringing the Japanese VOs over isn’t always an option. Sometimes, there are complications in the industry that make it tricky to get all the actors we’d want. Ideally, of course, we’d love to have full Japanese and English VOs in every game, but unfortunately, that’s not always in the cards.
Question: which character(s) in both Trails of Cold Steel games were the most difficult or most interesting to cast actors for?
Brittany: I thought McBurn would be very difficult, honestly. I thought his Japanese voice was incredibly sexy, and the English needed to have texture that didn’t sound “anime forced” while simultaneously sounding equal parts apathetic and dangerous. I love the juxtaposition of natural deliveries/tones in an anime environment, so I mean…you know. There’s “I’ve smoked a few cigarettes in my day” texture and then there’s “I’m reeeeally forcing my voice to have this gravel sound and it sounds like I’m choking on dirt” texture.
I was shocked to find our McBurn in the first round of auditions–he was pretty much exactly what I always pictured in my head, and his acting ability nailed the boredness without ever sounding like a bratty teenager–McBurn always had a way of sounding in control. The voice seemed to be quite hard on the voice actor, though… If you need to know why, the other character he voices in Cold Steel II is Lechter, and that’s much closer to his natural voice. Going as low as he did with McBurn and adding texture while keeping his acting on point and not sounding forced could not have been easy, I think! We’re very lucky to have had Max for McBurn.
Question: what is considered before deciding to localize a game?
Brittany: Main factors are:
1. Does anyone in the office like the game? If no one does, there’s no point in working on it.
2. Can we justify the costs involved to localize the game?
Other details change from game to game, but passion and costs are the main factors. Our Trails lead loves Trails, our Story of Seasons leads have played the games since they were kids… And if it’s a new IP, we consider who has the personality for the game. If a game has lots of wacky shenanigans and puns, I would absolutely hate working on it because my writing style tends to be informative and direct, dry, and I suck at humor. I’m not a fan of inserting internet memes in games, either, so I can’t even do that kind of “humor.” Nick in our office absolutely loves puns and can come up with some pretty snappy, original ones on the fly, though, so that kind of project would suit him perfectly.
John: We have a thorough review process for potential titles. One of the best things about working at XSEED is that everyone is encouraged to give their opinion during this process. I learn a lot from hearing other people’s impressions of different titles we look at.
Naturally, we consider factors like the difficulty of localizing (amount of text, etc.) and sales potential, but also whether or not the game fits with our brand as a publisher.
Question: How does the process of getting a game Rated by the ESRB go exactly? Does it cost time/money to resubmit a game for rating?
Brittany: It costs money. A lot of money. A loooot of money. Sometimes it’ll cost more money depending on how many platforms the game is being localized for. If you submit a game and have to resubmit it for some reason, it’ll cost more money. The only time it doesn’t cost a lot is when it’s digital only.
As for the process…we play our games once we have a significant enough build, we record the footage with pertinent content, and then we detail the pertinent content for the ESRB so they can give an honest evaluable, except we make it sound really dry and boring. I don’t know if other companies do that, but holy shit, we make it sound soooooo boring. We don’t say some dude’s head was sliced off and blood was spraying mad everywhere and he screamed and stuff, we say, “The upper portion of the character model is removed by a long, sharp object, resulting in a red splatter effect. The character cries out briefly. Because sound effects and voice acting can be turned off in the game’s options menu, the crying out can be avoided or the player can press the start button the skip the cutscene entirely.” Oh, boy. That sounds super exciting.
Tom: It does cost time and money, yes. Quite a bit of both. That’s why a lot of companies – ourselves included – often consult with the ESRB prior to ratings submissions and ask them if a certain piece of content would put the game at serious risk of receiving an AO rating… and if they say yes, that piece of content gets removed before submission.
So far, that hasn’t happened since I’ve been here, and I don’t think it’s particularly likely to happen with any of the games we release. But it certainly has been known to happen at other companies, and I absolutely sympathize with the publishers for whom it does.
Note from Brittany: To expand upon that, AO titles can’t be stocked on store shelves and wouldn’t be allowed to go up digitally, so people with AO titles are kinda SOL.
John: Creating an ESRB submission can be complicated depending on your game’s content. The ESRB has a form that publishers submit along with a “highlight reel” of relevant content. The project lead will list examples for each content category and make sure that the corresponding footage is captured and assembled together. There is a fee to submit your game.
Examples of footage I took for the Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns submission:
-Characters using bad language (the worst was “crap”)
-One of the bachelors, after becoming your husband, suggesting that you take a bath together to relax. (In this series, it seems like there’s always a bachelor who has a line like this.)
-The main character hitting their cow with a hammer over and over :’ (
Question: Does the localization process for a game only begin once it’s out in Japan?
Brittany: Depends on the game, the dev team, the company, etc. Some dev teams are large enough to do near-simultaneous launches while others prefer to do things one at a time. Some are targeting Japanese audiences specifically and others want to consider both Western and Eastern audiences together.
Tom: Nope! Increasingly, we’ve been working on a lot of in-development titles. We actually started work on quite a few of our recent titles well before they were released in Japan, including both Story of Seasons titles, Akiba’s Trip and Akiba’s Beat, Corpse Party: Blood Drive, and Return to PopoloCrois. Heck, we’ve even influenced the development on occasion – the encounter rate slider in Return to PopoloCrois was a suggestion we made, as was the optional King difficulty.
Ryan: It varies by project. Marvelous will usually send us games to work on while they’re still in progress, with the goal of bringing them out as close to simultaneously as possible. With some other games, particularly those from other developers, we’ll often take notice after the games are already out (or just when they’re about to come out), approach the developer, and go from there.
Question: What’s a good way to get started and get involved in the game translation/localization business?
Ryan: The best way to get started is to write, both to practice and to have a body of work you can show people. For me personally, I’ve never learned much about coding, but I’ve always loved writing, so I picked up an easy-to-use “make your own game” utility (Klik-n-pay, which was the big new thing for non-code-inclined homebrewers back in the early 90s) and made a little game adaptation of a fantasy story I’d written. I used that to get my foot in the door as a QA tester back at the old Konami office in Redwood City. I wanted to get into localization, so I made all the friends I could around the office and took every chance to show them what I could do. After about a year there, during which I helped out with a couple of proofreading projects, they gave me a localization test and brought me on for Suikoden V. I couldn’t have asked for a better first project.
Fluency in Japanese is certainly a big plus, but it’s not necessarily a requirement. Generally, the way localization works is that a native Japanese speaker will translate the original script into English, usually in a very literal way, after which a native English speaker will revise that translation into something that sounds more natural in English. I’ve learned some Japanese on the job, but I and some other editors here still rely on our Japanese translators, and work very closely with them.
Another way to get yourself established in today’s gaming market, and this is more common now than it was when I got started, is to collaborate on an indie title. It can be difficult to stand out in the indie crowd these days, but even if your game goes largely unnoticed, just having that game available for people to see will help your chances of getting a bigger job immensely.
Nate: From a guy that decided to just get up and go for it, get up and go for it. You may not get the exact job you want at first, but what do you have to lose?
Question: Any crazy typo stories? (like hitting “i” instead of “o” in “dock”) Bonus points if they made it through release!
Tom: John? John, get over here! Tell the nice person about Calros!
John: When I was working as localization editor on Valhalla Knights 3, I let the sidekick character Carlos’s name get through to an early build as “Calros.” (Hence my username on the XSEED forum.) We caught the typo when I took some press screenshots, but my colleagues from the time will never let me live it down. (I can’t remember if we actually sent those screenshots out to the media, but needless to say this was all a few months before the game was completed.)
Brittany: I’m pretty sure Calros is in VK3’s digital manual somewhere. I could be wrong, but you know. Can someone check?
(A note from today, 12/22/16!)
Ryan: One near-master build of Fate/EXTELLA crashed in the opening cutscene because one line, with function tags in it, had an extra space in the middle.
Question: How much coffee do you guys consume in a work week? Is there ever any drama over coffee? Are there any anti coffee drinkers?
Brittany: I hated coffee before joining XSEED. Absolutely hated it. Now I can’t start my day without it. This… This happens to everyone eventually.
Ryan: I’m mostly a Diet Coke guy, myself.
Tom and the rest of the XSEED crew:
Question: Do you guys have little office parties on launch days?
Brittany: We drink.
John: We’ll often pop a bottle of the finest corner liquor store champagne.
Ryan: That we do! We sit down in the meeting room, hand out copies of the game, drink beer, and sometimes eat cheesecake.
Question: Who came up with the wild idea to post all of those crazy skeleton tweets on your twitter last October?! Those were great!
Brittany: A certain office employee who would break into wild fits of laughter any time we sent her a picture of a skeleton.
Ryan: That was Kelly, who loves skeletons. She’s moved on now, but we’ll try to spam more skeletons next year in her honor.
Question: about localization process: beer or wine, wich one is the best?
Brittany: Why go for the appetizer when you can skip straight to the hard liquor?
John: They’re the same in the eyes of the ESRB.
Question: Will you make me a hot dog
will you make
Tom: Presto! You are now a hot dog.
Nate: I will make you a hotdog.
I will not make.
Question: Why does Shiki speak French?
Ryan: I saved this question for last on my end because it’s the most complicated. For those who haven’t played Shinovi Versus or Estival Versus, part of Shiki’s background in the Japanese version is that she’s learning English, and occasionally speaks it, but in the English version of the game, the text has her learning and speaking French there instead.
Since the early days of English localization, there’s always been the question of what to do when a character in the Japanese text makes a point of speaking English. Over time, a sort of tradition developed whereby the English localizers would, as befitted the context, speak another language (usually French) instead. Mitsuru, from Persona 3, is one example. Why French? Partly because many English speakers are already somewhat familiar with the language, at least in terms of loanwords and interjections, somewhat similar to how Japanese speakers are already somewhat familiar with English (though of course, English is more commonly used and studied in Japan than French is here, so it’s not a perfect match). For Shiki specifically, the reason she’s learning another language is because her master/adopted grandfather Kurokage wants her to travel the world as an ambassador and representative of her shinobi ways, and French, for a long time, was considered the international language.
Of course, that whole tradition was established before it was common for every line in the game to be voiced over, and it does get awkward to hear the character speak one language while the text and other characters react as if they’re speaking another. So it might be time to revisit that approach in future titles.