By John Wheeler (Localization Manager)
Hello and welcome to our first localization blog about Rune Factory 4 Special! I know that there are a lot of people who have been waiting patiently for this game ever since it was announced on Valentine’s Day 2019, and so we’re excited to finally announce the release date of February 25 for North America.
Rune Factory 4 Special is a remastered version of the classic 3DS game that features updated graphics and brand new content. As this game is very near and dear to our hearts at XSEED, I wanted to provide some insight into the localization process for this version.
An All-Star Cast Returns
The Western release of Rune Factory 4 Special has been in development for about a year as of this writing. For most of us at XSEED Games, this is our first time working on the game in any capacity (though some of us had played it, of course!), so throughout the localization of the game’s new material and the QA process, we’ve had the chance to fall in love with the world of Selphia and the game’s many wonderful characters. Working on a title with such a strong localization has been a humbling experience, and we wanted to make sure to do it justice for all its fans.
To this end, we were very fortunate to have two members of the original localization staff back to work on the new content—translator Adrienne Beck and editor Jessica Chavez. Adrienne and Jess worked on “Newlywed Mode”—episodic adventures starring the marriage candidates that are unlocked after you get married in the main game—and the fully-voiced, storybook-like “Another Episode” feature. (The “Another Episode” stories will be made available as DLC but, as in Japan, they will be a free download for everyone in the first month following launch.) With these two experienced localization professionals in charge of the text, we could be confident that the new content would have the same wonderful voice and humor as the original 3DS game.
We were also able to bring back most of the original voice cast for the new content. While most of the voiced lines in Rune Factory 4 are one-off greetings such as “Good Morning,” “Newlywed Mode” features longer story-specific lines, and the “Another Episode” stories are fully narrated by each of the 12 marriage candidates (and Ventuswill). This kind of long-form voice performance introduces a whole new dimension to these characters, and we were amazed at how easily the actors slipped back into their roles after six years.
Localizing Rune Factory 4 Special for North America and Europe
A question that I’ve seen a lot on social media is “Why is this taking so long to come out in English?” While it’s true that the game was already localized into English in 2013, in addition to the aforementioned brand new content, there were some unique challenges in bringing it to Switch. I know this doesn’t make the wait any easier to bear, but I wanted to expand on some of the nuts and bolts behind the localization process for an HD remaster with additional content.
One key reason for the lengthy localization period is related to how XSEED and Marvelous’ localization programming tools have changed in the six years since the original was released in North America. Rune Factory 4 Special was developed by a different studio than the original 3DS version, and one challenge in localization programming for any new version of a game is adapting the text files to a system that works for the development team and within the specifications of the console.
A fundamental way in which our localization programming works now is through the use of unique IDs tied to each string of text. The game determines which text to insert based on these IDs, and they make processes such as comparing files and creating changelogs much easier. The text files for Rune Factory 4 on 3DS predate the use of these IDs, so a challenge for the programmers working on the localization was to determine how to get the right English to display for each of tens of thousands of Japanese strings. This was worked out through painstaking work by the developers and the localization experts at Marvelous.
A snippet from a text file for Newlywed Mode, which has text IDs.
⓵ The text ID
⓶ Text code for “Arthur” that will substitute whichever name you’ve chosen to call him.
A snippet from the main script for Rune Factory 4 after it was adapted for use in the Switch version. You can see the absence of text IDs.
⓵ Text code for the player’s name. Note that it is different from the Japanese-language text code in the Newlywed Mode example. The text codes used had changed for Rune Factory 4 Special. The program used to process the text files will automatically substitute the correct text code.
Additionally, our localization team here at XSEED took care to review the entirety of Rune Factory 4’s massive script to adjust text breaks and other formatting to account for the additional space created when moving from the 3DS to Switch. The original 3DS version featured manually entered line breaks, whereas the Switch version was processed with a macro program that adds line breaks automatically. This necessitated a painstaking check of the script by in-house team to ensure that the new line breaks worked as intended and that all hyphens, manually entered when words were broken up in the 3DS version, were removed for the Switch version.
In addition to issues caused by text file formats, the schedule was also extended by the addition of French and German text. Beyond the struggles of having to adjust UI to accommodate the sheer length of some German terms, adding these languages adds major localization programming challenges such as implementing gender tags, which are variables that call different words depending on factors such as the gender of the speaker.
These are all par for the course for French and German localization, but still add extra time to localization and QA on top of the sheer amount of resources and time required to translate a base of some 750,000 English words (originally 1.7 million Japanese characters) into two languages. We’re really excited about bringing Rune Factory to French and German players for the first time.
Adding features such as dual Japanese and English audio also added time to the localization QA schedule, as did addressing some issues present in the 3DS version. If you compare the Japanese and English audio in the 3DS versions, the English voices are noticeably quieter than the Japanese voice track. Our very understanding recording studio adjusted the volume for all English voices in Rune Factory 4 Special, even those recorded in 2013, to match that of the Japanese voice track.
We also worked out some bugs left over from the 3DS version, such as Pico saying “Happy birthday!” when she means to say “Congratulations!” to Dolce, upon Dolce learning she’s pregnant. The word for both sentiments is the same in Japanese, and there is a separate Japanese voice file for each use, but our 3DS version calls the wrong one. This was a relatively easy fix once found, but represents just one of the many variables that make checking this game a very time-consuming proposition. (Each update email I received about this issue caused my email client to fire off a day-brightening shower of confetti.)
Sometimes bugs can be something to celebrate.
All of these factors led to a long, challenging localization for what was already one of the most massive titles that we’ve ever published. We’re confident that we are delivering a polished, definitive version of Rune Factory 4, and we’re excited for fans and newcomers alike to get their hands on it on February 25.
The standard physical and LE “Archival Edition” can be pre-ordered from the XSEED Store and other retailers, and digital pre-orders are available via Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch. If you purchase the Archival Edition LE or pre-purchase the game digitally, you will receive the “Swimsuit Day” DLC, a special Order that allows you to decree that all marriage candidates in the game wear their swimsuits at all times.