2017 End-of-the-Year Q&A Extravaganza Blog! #4

It’s that time again! Our fourth 2017 End-of-the-Year Q&A Extravaganza is here! I lied about there being more next week in the last blog, because it is clearly still this week. This time, we have some answers from:

John Wheeler, Assistant Localization Manager
Ryan Graff, Localization Lead
Nick Colucci, Localization Editor
Brittany Avery, Localization Producer
Thomas Lipschultz, Localization Producer

Question: Is XSEED responsible for inserting the voice and text to a localized game or is this done by the Japanese counterpart? If it is the latter, how do you ensure integration works seamlessly―especially working on translation without looking at the game play? – @Sugoi_Lang

Tom: Typically for console titles, it’s the developer who actually inserts the text and voices (we just supply the files), while for PC titles, it’s all us. There are exceptions to this, though.

Either way, there’s no way to ensure the text and voices are seamlessly integrated without playing the game after they’ve been implemented, and that’s a big part of the reason why there’s always a lengthy QA period between the completion of a game’s localization and its release: we need to make sure everything fits in the space available, all the right voices are being played at the right times (and match the text perfectly, since we don’t like when there’s different wording used in the text box than what players will be hearing spoken), etc. Invariably, we’ll get a new build of the game every few days (or at least once per week) during QA, constantly tweaking things until the very end.

Question: How soon will XSEED reveal a game which is currently in the process of localization to the general public ? – @Sugoi_Lang

Brittany: This depends on the game. We used to announce titles pretty early into localization, but then something unexpected would happen and it’d push the game back, and it makes it look like we’re taking too long on something to fans when the unexpected is really par for the course in this industry. But if we keep quiet about it and privately deal with those problems before announcing anything, then it looks like we’re working really fast. I prefer that method.

Question: Does a localization company like XSEED provide active feedback to their Japanese counterpart on the games they release for improvements, or is  this a one-way process? – @Sugoi_Lang

Brittany: If we evaluate a game, we’ll provide feedback on what we liked or things we’d like to see improved. Whether these changes go through depends on the schedule of the devs, the potential of the title, and a bunch of other stuff.

I was super happy when Falcom changed a certain part of Cold Steel II’s ending for the English audience (trying to avoid spoilers here). I proposed it well in advance thinking they wouldn’t accept, but they seemed so happy with the idea that they went above and beyond for it. I didn’t know they gave us exclusive content until the build came in, and I had to tell them how excited I was when I saw it as a fan. It also received tons of positive feedback from not only English Trails fans, but Japanese, Korean, and Chinese fans as well.

Edit for clarification: If you’ve beaten CS2, look up the difference between the Finale credits in the Japanese and English versions of the game. That’s the change. – Brittany

Another great example was in Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed. It’s a game about stripping vampires, and it’s less sexy and more ridiculous. However, when you fought female bosses and they were stripped, they had an over-the-top sexy portrait while male bosses had nothing. We asked the devs if they would consider adding sexy portraits for the male bosses, too, and they got the original game’s artist to draw them for us. It was such an awesome thing to see our feedback taken so seriously.

Tom: We provide feedback all the time, particularly when we’re working on a game that’s still in development. And although our feedback isn’t always taken, it does sometimes result in some considerable improvements to the gameplay experience – like the inclusion of an encounter rate slider and King difficulty in Return to PopoloCrois, or the inclusion of male strip portraits in Akiba’s Trip. When we’re working on PC titles especially, we have a direct line to the programmer(s), and can thus add all manner of improvements, such as turbo mode in Trails of Cold Steel, or… well, an entire blog’s worth of quality-of-life improvements in Zwei: The Arges Adventure (see this blog for further information!).

Nick: It’s worth noting that due to developer production schedules, it’s often hard to get suggestions implemented in already-finished console versions of games, versus when we’re doing PC ports, where our programmers are more often than not up to the task of adding features or making improvements, within reason.

Ryan: Some developers are young and eager, with their games still in progress as they work with us; others are set in their ways, or have already finished every other version of the game by the time they send it our way. We do our best to pass along suggestions, though, both from ourselves and from our fans, for possible improvements to be made in future patches/sequels. For example, we got a lot of fan feedback saying that the cutscene text in Peach Beach Splash was difficult to read, so we passed that along to the developer, and they added a darker backdrop to that text in the latest patch.

Question: Is there any game/franchise you want to work on personally, no matter how impossible? – @MizuUnNamed

Brittany: E.X. Troopers and Dai Gyakuten Saiban. E.X. Troopers is baller as hell, and Ace Attorney is one of my favorite series. I don’t think my editing could live up to the current AA localization team, though, so if anything, I’d want to work with them to see to it the game is up to their standards of quality. Please @ me, Capcom.

Tom: La-Mulana, Owlboy, Freedom Planet, Ghost 1.0, Goonies, Sorcerian, Dinosaur, Popful Mail, more PopoloCrois, more Brandish… I could go on, but basically, awesome retro-styled indie titles, classic Falcom, PopoloCrois, and the Goonies franchise are my dreams.

Also, it’s no secret at this point that I’ve become a full-on gaming hipster and been playing a ton of games for the MSX line of Japanese computers over these past three years, and I keep hoping I can one day convince management to let us release an MSX collection of some sort. Maybe old Falcom games (Xanadu, Romancia, and Dragon Slayer IV/Legacy of the Wizard?), or a collection of titles from Konami, or T&E Soft, or Compile. Or even some of the mid-‘90s European homebrew games. Tons of great options, almost all of them ridiculously unlikely to ever happen! 😉

John: I never thought I’d end up in this industry, let alone working on a series as important to me as Bokujo Monogatari/STORY OF SEASONS. I feel very lucky to be a part of it.

Nick: No matter how impossible? Well…as a longtime enthusiast of the Suikoden games and their long-running, interconnected storyline, I’ve always dearly wished I could work on a new mainline-series entry (or somehow go back and re-localize some of the earlier games). As things stand, though, this is basically just a feverish pipe dream. My co-worker Ryan actually got to help with editing on Suikoden V back when he worked at Konami, and I’m jealous! That world and those stories are begging for a rich, textured localization effort, and I would work at the peak of my powers to bring its mysteries to life. Be on the lookout for my and Jess’s x-treme bake sale to raise money to buy the rights to the series. 😛

Moving into the realm of “at least technically possible,” I think everyone in the office knows that I’d absolutely jump at the chance to work on a Vanillaware title. Being able to collaborate with Kamitani-san and his crew and pen the English script that would bring one of the studio’s beautifully-realized worlds to life would be one of those career-defining milestones for me. I’ve been a huge fan of the studio and their aesthetic for years, and I’d like to think I’ve become a skillful enough editor to do one of their games justice.

Thirdly, I’d really enjoy being able to work on a new Wild Arms game. Does anyone know what’s going on with that series? I don’t know, but if Media Vision decides they want to do Wild Arms 6 someday, I hope they remember the stout-hearted publisher who released Wild Arms 4, 5, and Crossfire in the West. When it comes to a sci-fi fantasy RPG where people wield magical guns, trust in our rootin’, tootin’ American sensibilities to bring you the very best in fanciful firearms.

Ryan: I’ve mentioned this once or twice before, but there’s an old Super Famicom RPG, published by Enix, called Dark Half, in which the player spends half the game playing as the heroic knight out to stop the devil, and the other half playing as the devil. It’s had a fan translation already, but I’d love a chance to sit down and work on it myself, just to bring such a unique game to more people.

Question: Whose idea was it to cake Rean, and did you already have that speech ready or did you specifically request it for that event? – @MizuUnNamed

Brittany: I messaged Rean’s VA with the following and he got back to me with the audio literally two minutes later:

Our next blog, blog #5, will answer:

– Does working on a game affect your enjoyment of it in any way? Do you anticipate playing the full package after it is done or do you play through it beforehand anyway? Have you ever been spoiled on a game through work and if yes how severe was it?
– When you brought over Rune Factory 4 to Europe, what difficulties did you encounter? How was the process?
– What process leads to additional content in localized releases? Things like additional voices for Trails of Cold Steel on PC. How do you decide which titles get “a little bit extra”?
– Have you ever considered localizing otome games? It would be nice if you can bring us some handsome boys.

See you next time!