Aksys Roundtable Interview Pt. 1 – About 999, Anime Expo, And Choosing Games

By Spencer . June 21, 2011 . 5:00pm

image8

Before E3 started, we asked Siliconera readers to send us questions to ask Aksys… and we have an army of Aksys staff to answer them. This interview was so gigantic it’s split into two parts. Today, we’re going to focus on publisher relations and their "sleeper hit" Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

 

Aksys started out by releasing many Arc System Works titles, but now you branched out and localized games from Acquire, Idea Factory, Cave, and even Chunsoft. How do you pick games to localize.

 

Frank "Bo" deWindt II, Director of Production: Basically, our boss will go out and talk to other developers in Japan to see if there are any titles they are interested in letting us publish. He’ll bring them to us and we’ll evaluate to see if we’re interested in pursuing them or not. Depending if we’re interested or not we’ll get the ball rolling or say no thanks.

 

Mike Engler, Editor: Also, if we see a title in the wild we’ll also bring it up like ‘hey this would be a great idea, is it available or not?’ We’re all gamers, as well, so if there’s stuff that catches our eyes and we want to do it we’ll look into it as well.

 

Aileen Viray, Assistant Marketing Manager: Yeah, we all have our fav. games that we look at. We have our opinions and give them our boss.

 

How do fan requests and what they say on the Aksys forums and other sites affect what games get picked up and do not?

 

FW: They bring it to our attention if we don’t already know about it. Most often, we already know about it.

 

ME: From the fan side of it, it’s mainly awareness because there are certain titles that are ‘ah! that would be interesting to do.’ From the most part it’s more from our side just because fans tend to be very vocal. There will be fans and certain people who really want a title, but they will be the only ones who really want that title. Some of the stuff we can’t talk about because the censorship in our heads kicks off and we’ll start talking about dogs. [Laughs.] There’s a lot to it. We don’t ignore fans, by any means, but it’s very, very complicated. If there’s a game that we might have overlooked and a request comes up like ‘hey how about this’ at the very least we do take a look at it.

 

Ben Bateman, Editor: There are a lot of other factors that contribute to whether we do something apart from interest. We pay a reasonable amount of attention to what people are saying, but if there is something a bunch of people saying ‘we would really like to see this’ and it doesn’t happen; it’s not necessarily because we’re ignoring what those people say. There are a ton of different factors that determine whether or not we can get a game. Fan interest is one of them, but, you know, we can’t do everything.

 

AV: We try though.

 

FW: We try hard.

 

So… about those otome games…

 

FW: [Laughs] Funny you should mention that…

AV: Otome games? You should come to Anime Expo, maybe attend our panel.

FW: You could learn a lot there and might be of interest.

BB: It will be of interest of someone who might be interested.

FW & AV: Keyword otome.

 

deaths 

Aksys has relationships with so many publishers. Cave has started to do things on their own now, but is Aksys planning to work with Cave on any future projects?

 

FW: There is always a possibility, but as of now we don’t have any plans.

 

ME: I mean just getting a game there is so much around it that we can’t predict the future. So, it’s not one of those things that ‘we’ll never do it again’ on the other hand we can’t say ‘we’re definitely going to do this.’

 

FW: It’s a myriad of factors.

 

What about shooters in general. G.rev has titles that perhaps you could bring over too…

 

FW We’re not against shooters, obviously, we brought Deathsmiles, Castle of Shikigami III, and Cho Aniki. Everyone forgot Cho Aniki – you should buy it on PSN! [laughs] We’re interested in all genres, shooters are definitely up there, but nothing in our immediate future.

 

Cho_Aniki_Zero_07 

What about your relationship with Marvelous?

 

AV: Come to our panel! [Laughs]

FW: We love Marvelous! If you like Marvelous, as much as we do, maybe come check out Anime Expo… [Laughs]

 

And when I say Acquire?

 

FW: We loved working with them on Gladiator Begins. We would love to work with them again, but unfortunately we don’t have any titles as of yet. Possibly in the future something maybe will come afloat, but right now nothing is planned.

 

gladi 

Chunsoft has been more active in Japan self-publishing games now. Have you thought about picking up Shiren or one of their quirky games like Loveable Zombie?

 

FW: There’s always potential for that, but we haven’t pursued any of those at this time.

 

Let’s talk about 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. I think was a breakthrough for the visual novels in North America since it got the genre on the radar. How has it lived up to Aksys’ expectations?

 

FW: I think it was a **** hit, it definitely did well for us. It sold pretty well and I’m happy with it.

Did you say… super hit?

FW: [Laughs] "sleeper hit"

ME: If it was a super hit we’d all be wearing money hats right now!

BB: It worked pretty well.

Thanks in part to you [Ben]. [note: Ben Bateman was the editor of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.]

BB: Not all thanks to me, I didn’t write the game.

James Xie, Community Manager: You just gave it life.

BB: That’s very kind of you.

 

You gave life to the English words. The best localizations, in my opinion, are ones people don’t notice because they’re so natural even though they were originally in a different language. When you’re looking back at the fan reactions how do you feel about your work?

 

BB: I think it turned out pretty well. Like, anything that anybody does, I’d like to go back and change it. If you ask anyone who makes movies or works on video games and you can get an honest answer out of them they’ll tell you I’d like to go back and fix X and Y. Overall, yeah I was pretty proud of it.

 

image1 One thing I thought that was good was there are moments in that game – there’s a lot of text in this game, I don’t know if you played it. There are a lot of words there. [Everyone laughs.] Even though I technically wrote all of them, I didn’t remember all of them. So, when I was reading things people said about the game I would come across things and people would be like ‘this part was great!’ and I’d be like I don’t remember writing that at all, but yeah that is hilarious!

 

There was one part with toilet paper when you examine it – ‘there are two rolls here one for pleasure, one for fun.’ I didn’t remember writing that at all, but I’m ;ike that’s great! [Everyone laughs.] Yeah, I’m pretty proud of it. It’s one of the best things I’ve done so far at Aksys.

 

What would you change if you had a chance to go back?

 

BB: There are no specific things – part of it is when I’m edited I’m looking at an Excel file. I’m not looking at the game. When you go and play the game and see how things actually appear in the game you realize things by how it flows and how it would make sense in a way when you didn’t before. There are some things like that I would change, that would have do deal with pacing. I would probably like to go back and, I don’t know how to explain it, but make it a little less wordy? For one, that’s how visual novels are to begin with and for two that’s how I read because I like to hear myself talk.

 

image100708_1452_000 There are a lot of things because you do it on a cell by cell basis, it’s easy to loose track of the larger picture. So, you’re thinking, all right, they said about this much in this cell so I need to say that much. But, a lot of times, instead of just that cell you need to look at the whole conversation that’s going on. You need to think about how much really needs to be said? Who’s saying what? What’s the information being communicated? That’s something I’d like, if I had the opportunity and obviously I don’t, to tweak that sort of balance. I feel like that’s one of the things that’s really important to a quality localization. I’m pretty sure there are people out there who will disagree with me on this, but my feeling is that what’s most important with a localization is the meaning of what you’re saying. And that doesn’t always mean a direct translation – direct translation is a weird thing to say anyway because you can’t directly translate from one language to another, especially with languages as different as Japanese and English. When you were talking about having life in what you’re saying, in order to have life in what you’re reading it has to sound like something someone would say in English. If you write it directly from Japanese it won’t sound that way.

 

ME: I agree whole-heartedly.

 

BB: There are a bunch of things I could say like Japanese people really like to use names when they talk, Spencer, but in English, Spencer, we don’t do that, you know? I talk to Bo all the time, but I not to his face. That’s not how people talk. There are other things, I don’t know how to put them because they aren’t necessarily sentence constructs, sort of turns of phrases that don’t really make sense in English like ‘I’m going to go where Itachi is.’ I mean technically that makes sense because I’m going to go where that other person is, but you would never say that in English, but that’s a phrase I see a lot in Japanese translations. You see it a lot, but it doesn’t work in English, that’s the kind of thing in my mind that you need to change because it doesn’t sound natural.

 

That’s all for today! Tomorrow, we’ll talk about visual novels, Record of Agarest War Zero, and… ladders.


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  • http://www.aksysgames.com/ Akselziys

    Haha, good times doing the interview and meeting up with Spencer :D!

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      Thanks for doing the interview! It was a lot of fun :)

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/EnvyMizuhashi Garyuu

        Sometimes, Spencer, I really want your job. xD

        Likewise, this is a great interview.

        • SetzerGabbiani

          I say that too, but I wouldn’t want to do the transcription for an interview like this.  Good Lord!

  • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

    Nice, I cant wait to see what they have on the table for game releases and announcements.

  • http://twitter.com/manasteel88 Mana

    great interview.  they really started to open up there at the end and really get talking.  Can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    Ben, you talk a lot xD

  • http://twitter.com/thesupersakura Kristina Wright

    I’m so pumped for AnimeExpo, here’s hoping to some otome games!

    • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

      OHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO

      • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

        IM SCARED ABOUT OTOME GAMES D:! Bring one with a nice and pretty MC girl and i might consider it xD

        • http://twitter.com/thesupersakura Kristina Wright

          Don’t be scared! They’re fun! I really want the Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side series and Love Plus to be localized!

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            I will not be scared now just because i love your last name :D!

          • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

            I wasn’t talking about the dialogue, but more so the system. Localise != translate. It’s an easy game to translate, it still does have A LOT of text files. But what’s more the problem is the whole “talk to your virtual girlfriend” – you’d have to rewrite the system so it recognises English words/sentences and if they were gonna release it in the US a lot of dubbing would have to be done, as stuff in the love plus mode has no subtitles at all, so either you add subtitles or you dub the whole game. (And in either case, you’d still need to make the system recognise English… or learn Japanese phrases which you can shout at your gf… tho, just saying random stuff makes her happy too.. XD)

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            Oh but that talk to your GF system, is really basic, and doesn’t have that many stuff, also, its not part of the game itself, so they could just remove that part xD.

            As for the dubbing, there really arent many voices, especially because the MC is speechless, i still feel there is not much variety at the end of the day, so i dont really think this part will be harder than an 30 or 40 hours of rpg

          • AnimeRemix

            If Love Plus gets localized, I will 100% buy it…XD.

          • http://twitter.com/thesupersakura Kristina Wright

            Same here!! I’m more so looking forward to Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side though.

          • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

            I don’t think Tokimemo is ever gonna happen.. and Love Plus might be able to sell, but also would be a huuuuge load of work to localise, so I don’t see that happen either. 

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            Nah, i’ve seen more dialogues in RPGs, also, the dialogues arent complicated at all, the sentences are pretty much normal life stuff lovers stuff :3, but nothing complicated, actually, i think it might be an easy game to localize xD (in terms of difficulty of japanese-English)

          • http://twitter.com/thesupersakura Kristina Wright

            I can always dream, right? ;A;

            But WildArms is right, the most complicated thing they say in the game is “What are you going to do for New Years?” hahaha…it’s like baby talk compared to visual novels and RPG’s.

    • Roses4Aria

      Amen to that!  I don’t know about you, but seeing the answer to the otome question in its entirety made my hopes for the possibility go up even more.  That sounded like a “yes” to me… :)

      • http://twitter.com/thesupersakura Kristina Wright

        I know! That totally sounded like a yes to me too! I really hope they bring over TMGS or Love Plus to start, I will worship Aksys if they do! I’ve been dying to play both series.

        • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

          Play the fan translations. Tokimemo 1 & 2 are done by now and I think they’re already busy working on the 3rd. :) Love Plus isn’t anywhere near done, but already playable.

          • http://twitter.com/thesupersakura Kristina Wright

            I have played the fan translations of TMGS1 & 2, they’re not working on the 3rd right now they’re actually working on an action RPG. They said they’re all taking a break from TMGS. I hate playing fan translations, not because I’m afraid they’ll translate it wrong, but because I want to support the company who makes the game and also play the game whenever I like, not on my PC.

          • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

            Buy the game anyways then? Play the game on a flashcard? That’s what I’m doing. Buying the games I want to support and playing the fan translations on my flashcard. Or I just play the original.. XD

            Last time I talked to the main translator she said she’s working on the 3rd, but I do know she’s also working on Blood of Bahamut (I’m not sure if I spelled that right..) but then again, we haven’t had a chance to talk much lately, so yeah, might be that she (and the others) are taking a break from Tokimemo.

        • Roses4Aria

          I’m hoping for Hiiro no Kakera or Will o’ Wisp, but I’d be happy with anything at this point.

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    Out of my inside joke with aksys comment xD.

    I really loved Gladiator, it turned out to be 100 times better than i expected (i remember i even went to the forums and made a thread just to give lost to Aksys) The story was really epic, and it had different endings WITH WOMEN mwahahaha!

    LOVED 999 TO DEAD, and of course agarest on my ps3 and saving money to get the prequel~!

    And seriously, WHY ALL TO ANIME EXPO T___T

    • Kris

      Gladiator Begins was fun, and it was also the second game I playtested for Siliconera! Good times :)

      • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

        Yeah, i was totally expecting a normal action game, but it was really deep, awesome fights, enemies, and the story was so cool, seriously, this is why i love Aksys, are the games they choose always have something different :D.

        I also loved looooved Mimana Iyar chroncicles :D

        • http://www.aksysgames.com/ Akselziys

          Mimana Iyar Chronicle rocks <3

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            And Tinon <3

          • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

            Tinon for life.

  • Ladius

    Great interview, can’t wait to see what they have in store for us at Anime Expo :D

  • AnimeRemix

    “So… about those otome games… FW: [Laughs] Funny you should mention that…AV: Otome games? You should come to Anime Expo, maybe attend our panel.FW: You could learn a lot there and might be of interest.BB: It will be of interest of someone who might be interested.FW &AV: Keyword otome.”Alright everyone! Let’s mark it as CONFIRMED that Aksys has licensed 1 or maybe 2 Otome games! =D Anyways, I really enjoyed this. The most interesting one was kinda the part on how they choose/decide localize games.

  • Yukito

    “What about your relationship with Marvelous?
     
    AV: Come to our panel! [Laughs]
    FW: We love Marvelous! If you like Marvelous, as much as we do, maybe come check out Anime Expo… [Laughs]”
     

    You know what first came to mind when I saw this? Malicious.

    Edit: Whoops, I thought Marvelous had something to actually do with Malicious. Seems it was Alvion full on. Whoops.

    • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

      Im really excited to see what they gonna do with marvelous

    • Hraesvelgr

      I thought you were going to say “Marvelous”…

    • Rarutos

      I immediately thought Grand Knights History myself!

  • Caligula

    I haven’t played anything they’ve worked on, but I’m glad they’re more focused on the overall meaning than translating literally.  That to me is a sign of quality work.  Too many times I’ve read fan translations or poorly done localizations where the dialogue sounds stilted, unnatural and lacking in personality, even though everything is technically translated correctly.  I’d rather take a translation that takes some liberty with the original script to create something believable and readable over one that translates word-for-word any day.

  • http://twitter.com/gespenstmkII Akai Ringo

    ooo ooo…if they bring in some kind of otome game, thats 2 items purchased right there! one for my good female friend that i cannot convince to play Da Capo or Kira Kira or Higurashi or anything…and one for me! as a heterosexual dude who buys legal copies of eroge (mangagamer or importing or whatnot), i will proudly play an otome game regardless! if Katsuragi Keima could get into it at one point, well i too shall follow that same path! WAHAHAHAA. girls or guys…it doesn’t matter! as long as they make me feel the burning of moe!

    • Mister_Nep

      You’re an inspiration. I might try this path as well….maybe.

    • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

      I approve of that way of thinking! 

      I as a girl do enjoy dating games and even eroge aimed at guys a lot myself, so why shouldn’t it be possible the other way around? To me it’s just a cute love story (preferably with lots of mystery, fantasy or sci-fi mixed in) and if it’s told in a great way it doesn’t really matter if it’s from a guy or girl perspective. :) (Tho, I can very much understand that moaning guys in otome eroges can be VERY WEIRD to a male player. Especially since most games don’t voice the heroine, which I myself find very annoying btw..)

  • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

    Aksys, I wouldn’t mind another Jake Hunter. Loved the second (or should I say 1.5)

    • http://www.aksysgames.com/ Akselziys

      <3 Jake Hunter :D

    • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

      You and me both, buddy. I would kill a man in cold blood if it meant we could do another Jake Hunter game.

      • raymk

        Me too man me to,I want jake hunter.  I also like your avatar its the same one you use on the aksys site =P.

  • Zero_Destiny

    Nice interview. I don’t have much to say that everyone else hasn’t already said but 999 is still one of my favorite DS games ever. :D Great translation, and an already amazing game and story.

    On a side-note I think the questions have turned out well. I know some people have been abusing these fan Q & A’s and just asking for [X] game so I’m glad to see that this interview was still able to have some focus and depth to it. It’s nice to hear everyone from Aksys outside of Twitter. Some times I forget their actually professionals. lol Thanks for still doing these. I love to read all the Fan Q & A interview. It makes me feel that the community is nice and close. ^_^

  • http://twitter.com/ChestnutBowl Chestnut Bowl

    I care not about otome games, but it’s really nice to see at least one niche group of fans getting games that they want. Meanwhile, people like me won’t ever get a chance to play games like Love Plus or Tokimeki Memorial in English, officially.

    A fun interview and a reminder that I haven’t played 999 yet. Wasn’t it written by the guy who wrote Ever 17 or something?

  • PrinceHeir

    Aksys Rocks :P

  • http://twitter.com/nozomi429 Nozomi

    I came here hoping it was an article about a galaxy express train.

  • http://twitter.com/Xuiz enorka miho

    Animeexpo is impossible for me to go… Please have full coverage on otome games please Siliconera team~~!!! thank you~!!! xoxo

    • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

      Yeah, I can’t really fly over from Germany to get there either, tho I wish I could. XD

  • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

    So Marvelous & Otome games at their panel at Anime Expo… I know of one Otome game by Marvelous called Hanayoi Romanesque, but I don’t think anyone will localise PS2 games anymore.. ;>

    Maybe there’ll be a PSP port which they will localise? (But actually I don’t believe their Marvelous and Otome game revelations at Anime Expo are linked in any way.. ;>)

    http://pwned.com/gamecovers/playstation2/758a85eedf7f3bc8895ce157ae0bfa11-Hanayoi_Romanesque__Ai_to_Kanashimi.jpg

  • http://twitter.com/sakurairomemori Alphabet Soup

    This was really interesting!  Looking forward to whatever comes out of Anime Expo.  One question I meant to throw in that wasn’t so on-topic – Ben did an interview with Nintendo Power and talked about RPGs and mixing Western and Japanese archetypes/ideas etc and I was just wondering if he had ever played a game he felt did that effectively. Thanks again for the interview, Spencer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685251645 facebook-685251645

    Now Aksys, bring over Earth Seeker for Wii, please & thanks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P5Z27RVWQD6EL3N6EGA6ETHU7Y Samara Jackson

    Interviewer: So, what about those otome games?
    Aksys: trollface.jpg

    Lol, can’t wait for Anime Expo, don’t screw with my emotions, Aksys. :P

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