At the end of 2016 IGDA – Localization SIG announced on their Facebook Page a competition to translate a Japanese video game in 17 days.
On the 9th December 2016 the first ever LocJAM Japan began!
The winners were announced last week and I won an HONORABLE MENTION! Which was basically joint 2nd place in the professional category.
I first came across LocJAM early 2016. They held a world wide for-fun competition to translate a board game from English into a variety of languages. Sadly I couldn’t partake in that event but then Alain Dellepiane mentioned a Japanese video game version in the near future.
The LocJAM (localization jams) are held to celebrate the localization of a variety of games, for people to get creative and to meet others. This first ever LocJAM Japan was no different and it was interesting to see the community’s interactions.
As the competition itself was small, and the first one ever, there were only 118 entrees for professional and amateur. But the IGDA Facebook page and other forums had a lot of conversations in regards to translation choices and technical issues people had.
Everyone was competing again each other yet working together at the same time. I even managed to make a few localization friends from it which I wasn’t expecting!
About Ikinari Maou
The game we were set out to translate was Ikinari Maou (which directly translates to “A Sudden Demon Lord”). It was inspired by classic JRPGs but approaches it with a twist. The hero is only level 1 and must find a way to defeat the final boss. So the came itself is more like a puzzle/tactics game than a classic RPG.
Ikinari Maou is by NICE STALKER, Crystal.Originate and STUDIO OVER DRIVE. It was a collaborative entry to the Tyrano Game Fes JAPAN 2016. Contestants of the jam had to create a short game using TyranoBuilder (using TyranoScript) which is used to create visual novels.
Ikinari Maou won 2nd place for it’s clever and original use of the TyranoScript’s capabilities.
IGDA received special permission to used the game in its own localization jam.
Localization Choices & Challenges
When translating Ikinari Maou it wasn’t just a matter of having the text in a document like word and then translate. The great thing about this challenge was IGDA had developed a tool you could test the translation on. That way the localization could be seen in context of the game.
In the past when I’ve worked on games (mostly visual novels) they were missing the “visual” part. Meaning I often had to imagine the situation to choose the correct wording. So it was great being able to not just see the game but play it too!
When translating a game it’s not just a matter of translating the in-game text, but the menus and other information too. Item names; the loading screen; options, etc., all needed to be localized. Each one had to be approached in the most appropriate way.
I went through this game about 10 times checking I’d accurately gotten the original meaning while making it not sound too translated. There were times when the perfect localization jumped out at me (I.e 「きたない やつめ！ “Were you raised in a barn?!” which reflected the original ‘dirty’ image while also saying he was rude.) But then again times where I went over a sentence several times to get right wording. And even then there were times I wasn’t happy!
Master – ししょう
The first character you come across is the disembodied voice of your “Master” who explains what the game is. Although he didn’t have a sprite in the game he was probably my favorite character. I could easily imagine an old, mostly toothless man who’s a bit too cheeky for his own good.
The original Japanese had him speak with a Kansai dialect. This was clear with phrases like 「ええか？」 instead of 「いいか？」. This would have certainly been a challenge for beginners not familiar with the Kansai dialect. Luckily I lived in Osaka for a year and learnt how to speak Osaka-ben while there… Might be why I really liked this character…
So the first challenge was finding the best way to translate this old geezer. As I am British and spent a large portion of my life in the West Country I decided to use a country bumpkin-esk dialect. This meant dropping “your” and “you” and a few “h’s” and turning “ing” into “in'” here and there.
Demon King 魔王
I was originally going to translate 魔王 to “Demon Lord” until I saw his sprite had a crown. Demon King it was! And as a king I imagined he’s have a very regal voice, high and mighty.
まおう「はっはっは！ Demon King: “MWAHAHAHA!”
「ばかめっ！ “You fool!”
「そんな ひんじゃくな からだでは “Do you really think you can defeat me?”
「おれさまを たおす ことなど “You couldnʼt beat your way out of a paper bag!”
「ぜったいに ふかのう！ “A futile endeavor!”
The Hero was a bit of an arrogant whelp and so that’s how I wrote his speech. There is one point where you can read his diary and he’s saying how great he is, but how lazy he is too. It was pretty fun and gave a quick context into why he’s only level 1 despite being the “Hero”.
「おれさまは ゆうしゃ さまだ！ “I am the greatest Hero of all time!”
「まおうは おれさまにしか たおせない！ “Only I can defeat the evil Demon King!”
「だが しゅぎょうなんて かったるいことは “But I canʼt be bothered to train…”
「したくない！ “I mean, whatʼs the point?”
I really enjoyed playing around with some of the wording in this game. For example I translated “まおうは おどろいている！” to “The Demon King is surprised!” giving off a Pokemon-esk feel.
Some others included the letters and diaries that were in the characters’ inventories. Such as the “Rules for a Great Demon King”.
「１．だいまおうは にげない “1. A Great Demon King never flees.”
「まおうが にげる のは “If a Demon King were to flee”
「かっこわるい ので やめましょう “it would be super lame.”
These items were written in different characters voices. So I found it amusing that the Demon King would be incredibly regal when he spoke, and then sound like a condescending teenager when he talked to himself.
Items and Spells
Having grown up on Final Fantasy my instinct was to use terms from that game which people are familiar with. Potion, ether, etc. But also the “４てんのう” which has been localized in many different ways in the past, but I decided to go with “The Four Fiends” from Final Fantasy IV.
４てんのうのてがみ The Four Fiendsʼ Letter
ゆうしゃのにっき Heroʼs Diary
ししょうのてがみ Masterʼs Letter
たたかいのおうぎしょ The Mysteries of Fightinʼ [Written by the “Master” which is why the “g” was dropped.]
げっかんまほうガイド Guide to Magic
I actually went with very straightforward translations for items and descriptions. I didn’t want to take from the original feel of a JRPG too much. Which is why I played more with the spoken text rather than items.
Changes I’d Make
Even after submitting my entry I still felt there were changes I could have made to improve the translation. I made the mistake by going onto forums to see other people’s localization choices and they sounded so much better!
That and I missed a few references and hints in the game that others picked out in meet ups. Including the one on the right where the first letter in each line spelled 「おまえがまおう」which means “you are the Demon King”.
If I had know that I would have approached this section a little different.
I also couldn’t tell at times who was where. There’s a trick to this game where characters switch bodies but it was hard for me to find those times. I think I should have worked on the distinct character voices more to help the player work out what was going on.
This competition wasn’t just a matter of localization, it was also a test of gaming skills. Being able to pick up the hints to completing the game and then localizing those hints into English was part of the challenge.
Which is why Cassiel Kelner won first prize for professionals. Her translation shone out from the others because she managed to work out who was speaking when. She dropped hints in the localization to help plays work out the puzzle. Cassiel and David (winner of the amateur rank) both deserved first place!
I am thrilled that I received an honorable mention out of 118 participants though. If we were to have a LocJAM 2017 I would defiantly participate!