Square Enix shared its latest Final Fantasy XIV Localization Team interview. This time, the focus was split between work on NPCs and determining which terms would be used in which language. In particular, it explained how the people working on the game’s localization manage to maintain the voices of the FFXIV NPCs. Part of it involves the tool, and the other half is legwork.
Kathryn Cwynar, who works as an English translator for the game and assists with lore consultation, explained exactly how people keep FFXIV NPCs sounding consistent.
Our translation tool does allow us to search by character, thankfully, but a lot of the consistency in characterization comes down to old-fashioned human work. Usually when we’re writing a character, we search them up and read a bunch of their old text to remember how their speech “sounds.” If it’s a character we’re not particularly familiar with, we’ll get one of the translators who has done a significant amount of work with that character in the past to check our translations and point out any elements we might be missing.
The team also talked about why certain terms are chosen for different FFXIV localizations. Cwynar noted that names are discussed in advance, and sometimes the English name might be decided on first. Issues to ensure things are easily understood and sound cool also come up.
To be specific, Cwynar said:
Regarding why the English that appears in the Japanese version and the localized English is sometimes different, there are a couple of reasons. One is that the fundamental localization philosophy of FFXIV─as established by Yoshida-san─is that all languages should offer an equivalent experience to the players. If something makes the Japanese audience go “Cool!” it should not make the English audience go “Okay, I guess.”
Words in foreign languages sound pretty cool! They just do. When anime was taking off in the U.S., people would say kawaii and neko even though we of course already have the words “cute” and “cat.” But when you start taking those words and putting them back in the original language, they often sound more boring than anything. That’s not going to give us the equivalent player experience we’re looking for, so we indeed do deviate from the Japanese for this reason, sometimes.
Another thing that people may not consider, though, is that in some cases we come up with the English names for things first. Coolness problem solved! But the name might still be difficult for Japanese players to understand, or look like a keysmash when transliterated into katakana. So there are cases when the Japanese side is like, “cool English, be a shame if something…happened to it,” just as we do at times when localizing Japanese terms.
Final Fantasy XIV is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC. The PlayStation 5 open beta will begin on April 13, 2021. Part one of the 5.5 patch will appear on April 13, 2021 as well.