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.
Zwei: The Arges Adventure is the most fun I’ve ever had translating anything, owed entirely to the wonderful Japanese writing from Falcom
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!).
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.
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.