Greetings and salutations to my adoring public (all 17 of you!) and welcome to another longwinded and meandering journey through the damaged psyche of a localization lackey. Once again let me, Mike02 (my official designation here in the Aksys salt mines), take you through the twisted, chaotic process that transforms an incomprehensible collection of runes and mysterious alien palaver into a wonderfully whimsical and perfectly understandable work of entertaining escapism. So, without further ado, allow me present to you:
Despite the admittedly overwrought agonizing I tend to inject into describing the whole thing, in reality it really is pretty straightforward and somewhat mundane, with the condition that everything goes as planned. First, here is a basic outline of the whole localization process:
1) Get the rights to the game. This in itself is worthy of its own series of posts.
2) Set up a schedule complete with drop dead dates (not hyperbole folks, people are usually dead inside by this time) for text and voice recording, QA testing durations, approvals, manufacturing, and marketing campaigns. The schedule for any project is written in melting butter as it is in a constant state of flux akin to the principles of Bistromathmatics.
3) If we don’t have it already, get a hold of a playable version of the game. Spend a few days grinding through it in order to get a feel for characters, settings, etceteras.
4) Get the text files and have the translators start plowing through the Japanese. Something to note here is that the translator’s job is to get the literal meaning out onto paper without any real regards to character limits, characterization, or cultural differences. Basically the translators are more concerned with “what is says” rather than “what it means”.
5) Here’s where I get let out of the closet and start working, and the part of the whole deal that most people think about when talking about localization. Here’s where the dumb jokes, characterization, and agonizing over character limits comes in. I’ll go more into this later on in the program, but for the time being, if you want to live my life, bang your head against your desk while screaming “It’s still one fukkleducking character over the limit!”
6) If the game is to be dubbed into English, a recording script has to be prepared. This involves yanking all of the spoken lines out of the main text and creating a separate file (always in Excel. If you plan on becoming a localizer, learn to love Excel). Then someone (me, in this case) has to listen to EVERY SINGLE LINE (in this case, 3434 total lines. The 8000 thing came from looking at the loop numbers…my bad) and then jot down basic voice direction for each line as well as note any effects used on the voice such as echo, distortion and whatnot. Also, this is the time when the first round of tweaks happens, as what looks great on paper won’t work when spoken due to length.
7) Head into studio and bang out the voices. At Aksys, we normally have two people go into the studio when recording; the producer and either the translator or the main editor on the project. While there is a director running the session, they generally won’t know the game as well as any of us, so we’ll occasionally chime in to offer background on a scene or ask/beg/demand alternate readings. This is also where the second round of script tweaks occurs as time constraints really come into play.
8) Once all of the text and voice files are finished, we send everything off to the developer and will start putting all of the English stuff into the game. This is also the time when we find out that all of the character limits they gave us were wrong, the voice files won’t fit, or that the head of the team went completely insane and now thinks he’s a fluffy pink cloud. Oh, and QA/debugging also starts around this time. I’d like to take this time to give a shout out to the fearless testers who had to grind through the game repeatedly. So Tsunabu, Wesley, and Zack, if you’re reading this just let me say: I hope the nightmares have gone away…
9) Once QA is done, we send it in for approval, manufacturing and then package and ship it.
Blazing Souls more or less followed the above timeline, but with the added fun of incomplete text, unlabeled lines, unidentified voice files, and of course the constant insanity that was BlazBlue. Another wonderful event that happened right in the middle of voice recording/editing was of course Anime Expo. Since Aksys usually has a fairly major presence there, the entire office basically shut down as we were all working our booth and trying not to die. While people often dream of becoming a zombie, I can speak from personal experience that joining the ranks of the undead is no es bueno.
Let’s seeing each the other time!