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The second part of our in-depth discussion with XSEED's team leader Ken Berry and localization producer Thomas Lipschultz is now here.
Learn more about the challenges and delights of bringing beloved JRPG series into the western market, as well as why Tom loves Zwei: The Arges Adventure so darn much!

Make sure to catch up on Part 1 here.

Last week we released Zwei: The Arges Adventure, and it feels like you had a great time working on it. Can you tell us more about your work on the game and how you approach localizing its brand of humor?

Tom: I’ve been talking about this quite a bit over on our Tumblr (/shamelessplug), but that’s mostly because I can’t shut up about this game! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s the most fun I’ve ever had translating anything, owed entirely to the wonderful Japanese writing from Falcom. You can tell the devs just let loose here, casting away all their inhibitions and just writing whatever the hell they wanted, and the end result is a beautiful cacophony of bad puns, blunt proclamations, pure snark, and fourth-wall-breaking.
It’s funny, too, because Arges Adventure’s story is actually pretty minimalistic, when you get right down to it. There’s really not a lot that happens over its course, as far as earth-shaking events go. Instead, it focuses pretty squarely on its cast of characters, bringing every NPC to life and giving each one of them his/her own tale to tell. In a way, it’s very similar to the treatment the NPCs get in the Trails games, but because of the “podunk floating island with one main village” setting, there are far fewer NPCs, meaning each one gets to have a lot more screen time to tug at your heartstrings, make you laugh, or anything in between, really. As for how I approached localizing all of this, I just kind of… dove in head-first. Which may have been a slight mistake, in retrospect, as it turns out this is a game that had numerous prior iterations with totally different stories and very different character personalities, seemingly all of which still have some rather significant remnants left over in the game’s text files. And… well, I started translating the game before I realized this, and without playing it at the same time (having played it only once before around 12 or 13 years ago). So for the first little while, I was... really, really confused!
Once I realized what was happening, though, I started doing the “play, translate, and edit at the same time” thing, which isn’t always possible but IS always a good idea. And that’s when things really started to come together. Pokkle’s puns and Pipiro’s snark all had a certain comedic timing to it that I couldn’t really hear in my head when I was just combing through Excel files, but which came through loud and clear when I was actually playing. This allowed me to edit the text in such a way as to ensure the humor really worked in English (“worked” being a relative term, but hey, bad humor is still humor!).
I also was able to get a little creative with it, adding some puns to Pokkle’s repertoire to ensure he lived up to his groanworthy reputation in English, while also adding some snippy remarks to Pipiro’s repertoire for the same reason. Being a punster myself, I understood Pokkle’s struggle, and localized him in a very “honest” fashion, remaining true to my own life experiences… whereas with Pipiro, I channeled a couple of my coworkers, ensuring she was as charmingly blunt as humanly possible.
As a result, Pokkle’s got some bad jokes that I imagine people are going to screencap and groan about for a long time, but Pipiro’s just… got some of the best lines in the entire game, without question. Pipiro is basically everyone’s spirit animal, saying what we’re all thinking – but crucially, even when she’s saying horribly mean things, she’s never mean-SPIRITED about it.
Anyway, this is getting kind of long now, so I’ll let our localization blogs on Tumblr do their thing and answer some of these questions in a little more depth. Hopefully, though, I’ve convinced those of you who’ve bothered to read this wall of text that Zwei: The Arges Adventure is a game worth playing, because… seriously… this game is a hoot. If it doesn’t make you laugh with some degree of regularity, then I’ve failed at my job… and I really don’t feel like I’ve failed at my job!

Ys VIII is the first game in the series that you did not publish – and which prompted an official apology for the localization (which is getting completely redone for the PC release). What's your take on what happened there, and what can developers do to avoid those mistakes in the future?

Ken: Based on the very active release schedule that publisher had at the time, one can only guess that the localization team wasn’t given the time and resources needed as they were forced to meet a hard deadline for most likely financial reasons (since September is the end of a fiscal quarter for most companies). That was likely compounded by them shipping a total of four titles within four weeks of each other, one of which was the absolute localization beast Danganronpa V3, which would have required tons of their resources and have taken priority as it’s been one of their top-selling franchises for years.
The localization team over there is capable of putting out good work if given the proper support, as I’m sure they will prove once the new localization patch is released. This is true of most teams and projects, but sometimes harsh financial realities don’t afford people that luxury, so I’m not really sure there’s an easy answer on how to fix it when time and/or budgetary constraints get in the way of passionate people trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Finally, have you thought about expanding into other languages (i.e. Chinese, French, Russian, German, Polish)? After all, jRPGs have a dedicated audience all over the world.

Ken: We would like to localize into as many languages as possible in addition to English, especially for our PC releases which are worldwide, but the large amount of text in JRPGs can make that quite challenging.

It’s definitely something we’re looking into, but we can’t make any promises just yet.
Post edited January 31, 2018 by maladr0Id
low rated
Fuck off, smartass. You know what I meant.
Please bring Senran Kagura PBS and Burst Re:Newal on PC. :)
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Tehnloss: Please bring Senran Kagura PBS and Burst Re:Newal on PC. :)
Senran Kagura won't happen, they wanted to release it on gog but ran into some issues. At least that's what they posted on twitter.
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Tehnloss: Please bring Senran Kagura PBS and Burst Re:Newal on PC. :)
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NuffCatnip: Senran Kagura won't happen, they wanted to release it on gog but ran into some issues. At least that's what they posted on twitter.
Too much competition with TW3 and Huniepop? XD
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Fenixblade33: If you feel you have business telling the creators of the source materials you localize that *you* feel they should change their works to accommodate your tastes and preferences, or merely encourage that, you speak on behalf of your fanbase who can't speak for themselves to the people you have connected with, and that fanbase is not 100% behind the changes you suggest, at least as I can say for myself.
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wyrdwad: I don't understand how anyone interpreted THAT from my answer yesterday. We don't tell developers what to do; we have no influence over them whatsoever! The most "meddling" we ever do is to suggest things they can ADD to the game; never things to take away.

My answer was purely a personal response from me, of things that I WISH I would see more (or less) often from developers. That's it! Just my own, personal wishes. Never once did I say that these are things I would tell or even ask developers to change, nor would I have any means with which TO ask developers to change these things -- I am, in the simplest terms, a text monkey, who rarely gets to speak to the developers of games directly at all.

Additionally -- and perhaps most pertinently -- I AM 100% ANTI-CENSORSHIP. Somehow, this fact seems to have gotten lost, despite it being the crux of my entire answer!

Censorship is still possible in our games, though, as it has always been, because I don't represent the entire company -- and no one else there is as firmly anti-censorship as I am. And while I don't agree with it, I do understand my coworkers' desire to ensure that if something in our games is going to upset a good chunk of the players, they'd prefer that be removed from the English version, because the last thing we ever want to do is upset our fans.

I realize that removing content in order to avoid upsetting some fans is just going to upset other fans, however -- it's basically a no-win scenario. Which is why given the choice, I'd rather work on games where we aren't faced with that dilemma at all!

For any games where we are, however, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep them censorship-free -- and if I lose that battle, as I have in the past, I will make sure you fans at least KNOW about it, so you don't feel duped into buying something that's been censored without realizing it.

...Now, can we all please move on? ;) I'll admit, I never in a million years expected the anti-censorship contingent (my people!) would turn against me in these comments! I don't know how much clearer I can make it that I AM ON YOUR SIDE. And I always will be! I hate censorship, from the very pit of my soul. The fact that I can sympathize with those who don't agree with me doesn't change that fact, and you don't ever have to worry about me flip-flopping on this -- I am resolute in my opposition to content alteration or removal.

-Tom
I'll take your word for it for now. I know you are against censorship, but this is about buying games from Xseed, not you alone, Tom. The language you used in the interview got my bristles out. I don't think anything in my post was "turning against you". I thought I was polite and respectful, all things considered. I merely gave my thoughts and opinions about Xseed's direction as a company based on the words of this interview and what I've seen on your blogs, and the potential worries I had. Xseed isn't as valiant a bastion of anti-censorship I was hoping for. It seems like you're one of the main people against it over there if anything.

Like it or not Tom, you've become one of the big faces for Xseed over time somehow. Even if you just describe yourself as a "text monkey", that's not the case anymore.
Either way your answer reassures me to an extent, though you didn't really address any of my other points. It might be your opinion as a regular user, but problems arise when you're a noteworthy face of the Xseed team and you make statements like this in an interview. Not saying *you* should self-censor or anything, that'd be ironic and hypocritical but... just be aware that you and your teams have more power than you realize.You are one of the main gateways from Japan to the U.S. and Europe as localizers, and it feels like you don't either know or express that.The big thing I wanted to point out there was self-censorship, possible self-censorship from your suggestions, but I don't know how much weight you or XSeed carries overseas, Just be aware that what you say does have power even abroad if you decide to make your voice loud enough, and that's one of the main things I feel people are worried about. Not too many people are worried about direct censorship from Xseed, its unlikely (but it might happen) but self-censorship... that's a lot harder to quantify and detect, and if it did happen a lot of people would never know, but we would lose out on new experiences because of it.

Anyways I'll let you be, you seem to be stressed out from all this; I've said my two cents already.
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wyrdwad: ...Now, can we all please move on? ;) I'll admit, I never in a million years expected the anti-censorship contingent (my people!) would turn against me in these comments! I don't know how much clearer I can make it that I AM ON YOUR SIDE. And I always will be! I hate censorship, from the very pit of my soul. The fact that I can sympathize with those who don't agree with me doesn't change that fact, and you don't ever have to worry about me flip-flopping on this -- I am resolute in my opposition to content alteration or removal.

-Tom
I think "Passionate" is the right word here, a good number comments might come out a little more confrontational than intended, as always, people mean well for the most part but nuance tends to get lost on the internet.

The current landscape when it comes to translations feels somewhat bleak at the moment, just look at the manufactured outrage over the Catherine re-release or the mere existence of Threehouse, but at least I find comfort in the fact that there are people out there willing to bite the bullet and say "nope we are not going to censor this".
I feel like thats a brave stance to take these days.

I will take you any day of the week over that certain someone who (in)famously said of twitter "thank god I can fix this"
Screw that guy.
Post edited January 31, 2018 by lunaticox
high rated
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JackDandy: Don't look at our posts on the subject as hostile please, Tom.
Instead, just understand that we're all about as passionate about the subject as you. Should explain enough. ;-)

(Know that I've always notified people far and wide across the internet about your previous acts and deed when it comes to anti-censorship. Me and probably 95% of the dudes here still appreciate you a lot for it!)
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dtgreene: Just a little reminder: Not everyone here is a dude.

Edit: Why do people have such a problem with corrections like this that they feel the need to downrate this post?
because everybody knows that there is not only dudes here, but also dudettes, and whatnots. it was a matter of natural speech which is culturally grounded, same as some some languages have gender specific subject, which is to do with grammer and not politics.

there was no correction needed here, this was only pedantry. or, in other words, loosen up a bit and you would not be downrated, it is all part of the social glue.

(and no, I did not downrate you)
Post edited January 31, 2018 by amok
high rated
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JackDandy: Don't look at our posts on the subject as hostile please, Tom.
Instead, just understand that we're all about as passionate about the subject as you. Should explain enough. ;-)

(Know that I've always notified people far and wide across the internet about your previous acts and deed when it comes to anti-censorship. Me and probably 95% of the dudes here still appreciate you a lot for it!)
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dtgreene: Just a little reminder: Not everyone here is a dude.

Edit: Why do people have such a problem with corrections like this that they feel the need to downrate this post?
Off-topic? Bullying? Your repetitive naïveté (thereby appearing feigned)? Your non-acceptance of varied vocabularies in a forum filled with multi-lingual members? Purposeful ignorance of pragmatic context? Attention seeking by means of derailment? Uninteresting?

(Does a rhetorical question have absolute answers?)
Post edited January 31, 2018 by thomq
Fenixblade (and others): I'm not really stressed, and I was more referring to yesterday's comments thread with my initial remark -- not to any one person specifically. Apologies if it came across that way, as there was definitely no offense intended!

But yeah, you needn't worry about overseas companies taking much stock in the things I say in an interview, as that -- simply put -- will never happen. For one thing, unless this interview is being translated to Japanese, they'll never read it; and for another, even if it were translated to Japanese, it would be marketing and PR people at the development studio who'd read it, not the original creators. And I sincerely doubt they'd ever pass that kind of information along.

Unless we straight-up emailed a developer and said "we don't think you should do this," the chances of our words influencing their work is like, an infinitesimal fraction of 1%. And even if we did email a developer and say "we don't think you should do this" (which I don't believe we've ever done), I don't think our chances of influencing them would be much higher -- in my experience, by the time a Japanese developer comes up with an idea and starts talking about it, that idea is pretty firmly set in stone.

That's why I noted the fact that we've successfully lobbied to have things ADDED to games before (like the male strip portraits in Akiba's Trip, or hard difficulty and the encounter rate slider in Return to PopoloCrois), since that's the kind of change we CAN influence. And I can't imagine anyone has any objections to added content!

On the flipside, if by some utter miracle my words DID influence a Japanese developer in some stray corner of the country to reconsider adding something gratuitous into their game... selfishly, I'd be pretty happy. Because like it or not, that is legitimately something I, personally, would love to see happen.

It ain't gonna, though. I wish I wielded that kind of power and influence... but I just don't! Fortunately for you guys, I guess. ;)

-Tom
Post edited January 31, 2018 by wyrdwad
I personally would have asked:

"Will you ever decide to port (remake?) the Rune Factory games for PC?"

But I guess that's really, Marveleous's place to decide?
Post edited January 31, 2018 by Dartpaw86
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Dartpaw86: I personally would have asked:

"Will you ever decide to port (remake?) the Rune Factory games for PC?"

But I guess that's really, Marveleous's place to decide?
Man, we would be all over that! That would be awesome.

-Tom
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Dartpaw86: I personally would have asked:

"Will you ever decide to port (remake?) the Rune Factory games for PC?"

But I guess that's really, Marveleous's place to decide?
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wyrdwad: Man, we would be all over that! That would be awesome.

-Tom
My selfish question (which I don't expect to be answered) would be thus:

"Is there a chance for more PSP ports to PC of translated titles (like Brandish: The Dark Revenant & the PSP version of Corpse Party)? What about PSP ports to PC of previously untranslated titles (Nayuta no Kiseki, Zero no Kiseki, Ao no Kiseki, Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga)?"

or alternatively phrased...

"Would it be possible for more PSP to PC ports of games that we've never seen in English before? Especially the Falcom ones? :3"

PS - All Falcom games must make it to PC :)
Post edited January 31, 2018 by FlamingFirewire
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wyrdwad: Man, we would be all over that! That would be awesome.

-Tom
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FlamingFirewire: My selfish question (which I don't expect to be answered) would be thus:

"Is there a chance for more PSP ports to PC of translated titles (like Brandish: The Dark Revenant & the PSP version of Corpse Party)? What about PSP ports to PC of previously untranslated titles (Nayuta no Kiseki, Zero no Kiseki, Ao no Kiseki, Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga)?"

or alternatively phrased...

"Would it be possible for more PSP to PC ports of games that we've never seen in English before? Especially the Falcom ones? :3"
It's possible, but is there demand?

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wyrdwad: That's why I noted the fact that we've successfully lobbied to have things ADDED to games before (like the male strip portraits in Akiba's Trip, or hard difficulty and the encounter rate slider in Return to PopoloCrois), since that's the kind of change we CAN influence. And I can't imagine anyone has any objections to added content!

On the flipside, if by some utter miracle my words DID influence a Japanese developer in some stray corner of the country to reconsider adding something gratuitous into their game... selfishly, I'd be pretty happy. Because like it or not, that is legitimately something I, personally, would love to see happen.

It ain't gonna, though. I wish I wielded that kind of power and influence... but I just don't! Fortunately for you guys, I guess. ;)

-Tom
It could also be seen as pandering. And imagine the backlash from the Japanese audience: "They got something i didn't!"

It's not like they don't already say the same things about games that don't get localized to Japan, just as we do when we don't get a game we want. Honestly, though, i'd like to see more games without region locks. 日本語も話せるので、日本語でもできますよな。
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FlamingFirewire: My selfish question (which I don't expect to be answered) would be thus:

"Is there a chance for more PSP ports to PC of translated titles (like Brandish: The Dark Revenant & the PSP version of Corpse Party)? What about PSP ports to PC of previously untranslated titles (Nayuta no Kiseki, Zero no Kiseki, Ao no Kiseki, Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga)?"

or alternatively phrased...

"Would it be possible for more PSP to PC ports of games that we've never seen in English before? Especially the Falcom ones? :3"
Of course it's possible! (At least theoretically, anyway.) And it's not like we haven't had the same thought.

I can't speak for XSEED as a whole, but I know that personally, I would be thrilled to work on Falcom's back catalog pretty much forever! Sorcerian, Dinosaur, RINNE, all four Brandish games, the Legend of Heroes Gagharv Trilogy, VM Japan, Nayuta no Kiseki... the list goes on and on!

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kohlrak: It could also be seen as pandering. And imagine the backlash from the Japanese audience: "They got something i didn't!"

It's not like they don't already say the same things about games that don't get localized to Japan, just as we do when we don't get a game we want. Honestly, though, i'd like to see more games without region locks. 日本語も話せるので、日本語でもできますよな。
Er, most games these days don't have region locks! I believe every current console and handheld is region-free, and PC games certainly are.

Also, not to worry about adding content: the Japanese developers will usually rerelease the game themselves later on with all of our suggested content included -- and even one-up us by adding another thing or two for good measure, on occasion. ;)

The classic example of this from a couple decades ago is Final Fantasy VII. The Western release of the game had more content than the original Japanese version (like the Zack scene with the truck), so Square rereleased the game in Japan as "Final Fantasy VII International," including all of that plus an encyclopedia thing!

-Tom
Post edited January 31, 2018 by wyrdwad
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FlamingFirewire: My selfish question (which I don't expect to be answered) would be thus:

"Is there a chance for more PSP ports to PC of translated titles (like Brandish: The Dark Revenant & the PSP version of Corpse Party)? What about PSP ports to PC of previously untranslated titles (Nayuta no Kiseki, Zero no Kiseki, Ao no Kiseki, Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga)?"

or alternatively phrased...

"Would it be possible for more PSP to PC ports of games that we've never seen in English before? Especially the Falcom ones? :3"
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kohlrak: It's possible, but is there demand?

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wyrdwad: That's why I noted the fact that we've successfully lobbied to have things ADDED to games before (like the male strip portraits in Akiba's Trip, or hard difficulty and the encounter rate slider in Return to PopoloCrois), since that's the kind of change we CAN influence. And I can't imagine anyone has any objections to added content!

On the flipside, if by some utter miracle my words DID influence a Japanese developer in some stray corner of the country to reconsider adding something gratuitous into their game... selfishly, I'd be pretty happy. Because like it or not, that is legitimately something I, personally, would love to see happen.

It ain't gonna, though. I wish I wielded that kind of power and influence... but I just don't! Fortunately for you guys, I guess. ;)

-Tom
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kohlrak: It could also be seen as pandering. And imagine the backlash from the Japanese audience: "They got something i didn't!"

It's not like they don't already say the same things about games that don't get localized to Japan, just as we do when we don't get a game we want. Honestly, though, i'd like to see more games without region locks. 日本語も話せるので、日本語でもできますよな。
The idea of japanese fans being peeved they didn't get the benefits of a localized version of a game amuses me a bit too much
I don't think the japanese fans follow the western releases that much for there to be a backlash but that's just hilarious to imagine
>A japanese fan tries to learn english to play the best version of their game