Fan Site for Valkyria Chronicles 3

Archive for March, 2013

The trials and tribulations of localization

Long time no see, comrades…

Some of you may or may not realize that for about a year and a half, I have been a part of a group that has spent what little free time we have between work, studies, and family, to create an English fan translation of the Japanese game Senjou No Valkyria 3. In my case, I have had to balance out all three areas, and with the recent birth of my son, I have taken an extended hiatus.   Just before he was born, I spent what very little spare time I had to finish up some of the menus and do some editing play-testing.  It took an extraordinary amount of effort and time, but I knew that for the next couple of months I would no longer have any “free” time.  Even now, I find that I have more studies to do, coupled with my full time job and child-rearing, it is next to impossible to to find any free time. Yet somehow because I love this game and want to honor the original makers with an “international” version, I do my best.  The fight to find and spend the time working on something like this is not a sole person’s endeavor.  Our whole team faces this time management issue and it is not easy to co-ordinate so patience is needed.

I have been pretty instrumental in the gameplay aspects of translation. This includes game screen menus, game medals and their descriptions, character/battle potentials and their descriptions, orders, tank and personnel equipment, character and enemy names, and the list goes on.  I have also done some re-writing/editing of both my work and some the excellent work of my fellow translators.

I know many gamers out there wish to play this game as soon as possible, and I truly believe we can have something to present this year.  I have read some pretty arrogant posts saying that we would not last, or that translating such a game could be done in someone’s basement and that it is not a big deal.  These statements do nothing to keep our morale high I assure you, but at the same time for every negative comment I read, I know there are at least three other people who are patiently awaiting the fruits of our labor.

So aside from the very important personal real-life responsibilities that everyone on our translation team experiences, please let me explain what some of the challenges of doing a (fan) localization are, so that you may better understand why it takes us so long.

Technical and screen alignment limitations

The technical limitations we face are often a result of either the original coding, or the natural event of trying to squeeze a comprehensible and accurate English text into what was originally only a limited number of Kanji characters.  The fitting of the English text into the Japanese text is at times difficult as some screens the longer English text fits but in others it overlaps in a jarring manner.  Certainly, I would prefer to write “Accuracy” instead of “Acc.” but when the Japanese text has only 2 characters I don’t really have a much of a choice but to use abbreviations.  I try to ensure that my abbreviations are understandable at least, as compared to VC2 which seemed to remove vowels from the words so that the various equipment names could fit in a small text-box.  I have also used acronyms that are based on “real military” or game-relative terms. For example, I use “MG” to represent Machine Gun, “S” to represent Special(ized), “U” to represent “Universal, AT to represent Anti-Tank and “AP” to represent Armor-Piercing.

While I prefer to use a UK version of spelling, the US version often means less characters and this is important when you have a limited number of characters to use in your translations.  I have also used pre-existing acronyms like APC which stands for Armored Personnel Carrier.  I have done my utmost to follow the original naming conventions in my translations whenever possible, although you will find that my current VC3 translations are a nice “blend” of VC1 and VC2 naming conventions.  Whenever possible made the weapon names, medals, and certain commands follow the VC1 original terms, but for items like swords which were introduced in VC2, they follow those particular naming conventions.  I hope that you will find my translation as a nice bridge between the languages of the two games.

Some text files that we need to translate are cannot exceed a certain byte size.  This is because the original game code and disc layout expect it to be a certain file size. As a patch we really cannot exceed this total byte size, but luckily the Extra Edition removes *some* of these limitations for certain files.  What this means is, that some words need to be altered, some descriptions need to be cut altogether, and most of our original translations need to be edited and revised multiple times to fit into memory.  For game menu items I must have changed many of them at least three times, as I begin to see what context the text is used in, and what what screen space is available to me.  Technical limitations even occur when we must make a word or line the color “red,” as the command to do so, uses memory normally reserved for the precious characters used in our translation.  It is easy to say just skip the color code, but truth be told, the game relies on color coding as UI element.

So often we have a situation where it is a fight between screen space, memory, and word choice.

For example, in the game there is a menu when you can choice what emblem you want on your tank.  In Japanese it is written “ステッカー” or “sticker.”  Each 
SJIS character is 2 bytes and each ASCII based alphabet uses 1 byte.  This means in terms of memory we have a maximum of 10 bytes to use for the translation.  Using the direct translation of “Sticker” seems too cheap to me — as if it is some sort of sale sticker. “Tank Emblem” seems great but that would use 11 bytes. In the end, I chose “Tank Seal” which ends up as only 9 bytes, and still fits within the text box nicely. 

“Seal” can be defined as “The design or emblem itself, belonging exclusively to the user: a monarch’s seal.”(The Free Dictionary) or as “a decorative adhesive stamp.”(Oxford Dictionary).  I judged that this would be a nice translation, and because it uses less memory, it also helps us when that same word needs to be used in other text files that are limited in terms of their  file size.

Graphics limitations

While the tank name Lydia uses is “Jackal” in English, the Japanese term “ シャカール” is actually based on the German term, “ Schakal” which also means “Jackal.”   As the in game graphics already use “Schakal,” I decided it was best to stick with the German term despite our patch being an “English” translation. Likewise the term “Ehidona” is used throughout to remain consistent with the original one screen text you see when you first fight the huge battleship.

Stylistic word choices / Editing

In VC2, all of the Ace obtained equipment all used the prefix “Cptd.”  Did you know this was supposed to mean “Captured?” — I didn’t realize this until I checked my translation of VC3.  Instead, I decided to use the full word “Looted” which I feel reflects both the equipment terminology and retains a certain “pirate” or “black-ops” kind of feel to it.  When writing/editing dialog there are a lot of decisions to make as to what is the character trying to say, what is the important message, and is our original translation reflecting the character’s personality and intent. 

So there you have a brief glimpse as to some of the challenges we face when doing a fan based localization.  An official one, might allow us more freedom but at the same time could restrict us in terms of what words we are allowed to use.  Ultimately,  the translation team needs to rely on our technical side to get our translations into the game.  Once done, and played through we can then better see if our translations “make , so this aspect is also an important thing to remember. So this team effort really should be stressed as everyone has different daily life responsibilities.  I humbly thank my team, the fans and most importantly my family for allowing the time to work on this project.

Feel free to post if you have any questions.